US President Barack Obama made history this week with what are reported to have been the first appearances of the words lesbian, bisexual, and transgender in a State of the Union address. He also referred to marriage equality as a civil right and “a story of freedom.”
We have reported on the World Council of Families and its promotion of anti-gay policies in Russia and around the world, as well as religious conservatives’ rhetorical opposition to “gender ideology.” This week Political Research Associates released an article on WCF’s global reach and how “a seemingly innocuous definition of the ‘natural family’ is being used as the basis of new laws to justify the criminalization of abortion and LGBTQ people.”
With its doctrine of preserving what it regards as the “natural family,” WCF is waging a campaign at local, national, and international levels to ensure that male dominance, heteronormativity (the belief that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation), and religious hegemony are core tenets of civil society. “The WCF has created a cultural framework, under the banner of the family, that is inclusive enough to appeal to a broad base,” said Gillian Kane, senior policy advisor at Ipas, an international reproductive justice advocacy group. “But it is also so narrowly writ that most of their initiatives and arguments don’t hold up under international law.”
WCF, however, is gradually chipping away at international laws designed to protect human rights, posing a direct threat to LGBTQ people, women’s reproductive freedom, single parents, mixed families, and other family structures that do not fit into the parameters of WCF’s “natural family.” At best, those who are deemed “unnatural” by WCF standards could be excluded from the rights and privileges granted to “natural families.” At worst, they could be fined or otherwise punished by the state.
Philippines: Pope criticizes ‘ideological colonization of the family’
Pope Francis drew massive crowds in this week’s visit to the Philippines, the Catholic Church’s stronghold in Asia. He drew the most attention for an off-the-cuff remark about Catholics not needing to breed like rabbits, but he also made some comments seemingly targeting moves toward marriage equality.
“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” Francis said at a Mass in Manila. “These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation.”
He also criticized the “ideological colonization of the family,” rhetoric that is disturbingly similar to that used by anti-gay leaders in Africa who complain that efforts by western countries to protect the human rights of LGBT people is a form of colonialism.
John Allen at the Crux reminds us this is not the first time Francis has said marriage is meant for a man and a woman:
In November 2014, for instance, Francis defended the traditional concept of marriage to a three-day Vatican conference.
The man/woman nature of marriage, he said, is “an anthropological fact … that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history.”
The comments also came less than a week after a speech to diplomats at the Vatican in which Francis criticized “legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole,” saying that such legislation had contributed to a widespread sense of the family as “disposable.”
Allen writes that there was a “widespread assumption” that Francis “was backing the progressive side” in the arguments over language about gay people at last fall’s bishops’ synod. “In light of the pope’s comments in the Philippines,” we writes, “those conclusions may have to be rethought.”
Islamic State: Gays among execution targets
The Islamic State terrorist organization released photos it said showed gay men being thrown to their deaths off the top of a building in Mosul, Iraq.
The first still image shows a crowd gathered on a square on a cloudy day. The shot is taken from the top of a brown building that appears to be seven or eight stories high. The caption at the bottom of the screen says, “The Muslims come to watch the application of the law.”
The text accompanying one photograph refers to a prison as “one of Lot’s people.” According to Vice, “The reference is to the biblical inhabitants of Lot’s towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose people sinned and were punished by God in the Old Testament for committing sexually deviant acts.”
The execution of the gay men was part of a frenzy of violence carried out by Isis, which included the stoning of a woman accused of adultery, and the crucifixion of 17 young men in 48 hour period.
In addition, the Times of India reported on Tuesday that the United Nations was warning about a new wave of violence targeting “educated women.”
Ireland: Marriage Referendum Language Set; Health Minister Comes Out
It proposes to add to the Constitution a declaration that “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the wording is clear and precise, and gives a right to every citizen who wishes to get married.
The minister said that she believes the referendum is a recognition of the increasing acceptance of people of different sexual orientation.
Bishop of Clogher Liam MacDaid, who heads the Irish Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, calledthe language cold, and said society would be “disappointed” by it. RTE reports, “Late last year, the bishops distributed thousands of copies of a pastoral statement promoting the church’s teaching on marriage and opposing the State’s attempt to redefine it in the referendum.”
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Minister for Health, came out on Sunday, connecting his action with the country’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality. From the Irish Times:
“There’s a referendum on marriage equality coming up too, and I just want to be honest with people. I was thinking about the arguments that I might make, and all the arguments that I was going to make were kind of detached” he said, speaking on his 36th birthday.
“What I really want to say is that I’d like the referendum to pass because I’d like to be an equal citizen in my own country, the country in which I happen to be a member of Government, and at the moment I’m not,” he added.
Another Irish politicians, Dominic Hannigan, revealed that he had married his partner in London on New Year’s Eve.
Ukraine: Foreign Policy profiles ‘dashed hopes’ of LGBT community
Writing for Foreign Policy, Dimiter Kenarov explores the hostility facing Ukraine’s LGBT community. The article starts with the torching of a theater that had been showing a queer-themed movie as part of a film festival, and the arrest of suspects who confessed that their goal had been to express their “contempt” for LGBT people.
Two days after the fire at Zhovten, about a dozen men in camouflage and the insignia of the ultranationalist group Right Sector tried to shut down another LGBT film screening, calling it “amoral.” Asked at the recent Eurocities Conference how he would support human rights after the Zhovten homophobic attacks, Maidan’s hero and current Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said he considered human rights a good thing, but would “not stand up for gays and lesbians.”
It was not supposed to be that way in the new Ukraine.
The February revolution was aimed, first and foremost, at the ouster of the notoriously corrupt president Viktor Yanukovych and his criminal cabal. But there was also hope among many of the revolution’s liberal supporters that Ukraine would choose a pro-Western European course, not just politically, but culturally as well — one that would include a space for the LGBT community. Life has changed radically in Ukraine over the past year: Old attitudes toward politics, history, and national identity have altered beyond recognition and a new civic spirit has taken root among many, revitalizing Ukraine. But conservative attitudes toward people of different sexual orientation have doggedly persevered — and in some cases even worsened.
Kenarov says that even though many Ukranians reject Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its interference in the country’s east,
“At the same time, the ensuing daily chaos and uncertainty, as well as the rising levels of nationalism and militarization in Ukraine, have drawn many to the emotional safety of the traditional family and religious values of the Orthodox Church — an institution that has been often guilty of bigotry and open hostility to sexual difference. Old Ukrainian folk narratives, where men are supposed to be warriors while women play nurturers, have experienced a revival. Ironically, incipient Ukrainian nationalism has closely mirrored its Russian counterpart, along with the emphasis on cultural orthodoxy and prescribed gender roles. As a result, vulnerable groups, like the LGBT community, have been caught in the middle.
“I believe we are in between two evils: Russian homophobic culture and Ukrainian homophobic intolerance,” says Olena Semenova, an LGBT activist….
For years, the Ukrainian state has passively stood by and sometimes even encouraged homophobia. In 2012, a few members of parliament proposed a bill to “prohibit promotion of homosexuality,” fashioned after the notorious Russian laws against “gay propaganda,” but under pressure from human rights organizations and foreign diplomats, the bill never made it past the first reading and has now been permanently shelved. Ukrainian laws also make no explicit provision for protecting from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. In fact, even the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government has actively fought off the EU’s urging to introduce any such legal language, since officially raising the issue of LGBT rights in Ukraine is seen as a huge political liability in today’s highly charged political climate. Much of Russia’s anti-Western propaganda focuses on Europe’s tolerance of “sexual perversions” and “moral decadence” — Gayropa, as the pro-Kremlin media love to call Europe — and the Ukrainian authorities do not want to see any such rhetoric justified, which could help the separatists and alienate local conservative groups.
Chile: Civil Union Bill Passes House
Chile’s House of Representatives approved a “civil union” bill this week granting legal rights to same-sex couples. The bill creates the Pacto de Unión Civil (PUC), a new legal status for couples that live together in committed relationships, regardless of gender. Despite stiff opposition from religious leaders, the bill passed with an overwhelming majority of 86 votes in favor, 23 against, and 2 abstentions. It now awaits approval by the Chilean Senate.
The bill would also grant the same civil union legal status to same-sex couples who have been legally married in other countries.
Mexico: Long-delayed wedding takes place in Mexicali
We have previously reported that city officials in Mexicali had repeatedly found excuses for refusing to follow a court order allowing a gay couple to marry. This week the couple was finally married, and it was reported that criminal proceedings could be launched against the mayor for having refused the order from the Supreme Court.
Victor Fernando Urias Amparo, 37, and Victor Manuel Aguirre Espinoza, 43, took their vows amid a crush of media and supporters outside Mexicali City Hall. “Yes we could, yes we could,” the crowd cheered in Spanish.
The impromptu wedding ceremony came as a surprise to the pair, who had come to City Hall on Saturday morning to participate in a gay rights demonstration, said their attorney, Jose Luis Marquez. They had received hints that a wedding might take place, but were doubtful. They had already been rejected three times, despite an order from Mexico’s Supreme Court last June.
A local judge officiated what the San Diego Union-Tribune described as the “impromptu wedding” of Victor Fernando Urias Amparo and Victor Manuel Aguirre Espinoza that took place outside Mexicali City Hall during an LGBT rights protest.
Aguirre told the Washington Blade that Mexicali Mayor Jaime Díaz Ochoa’s assistant came up to him and Urias and told them that he would like to allow them to marry “at that moment.” The two men and their lawyer, José Luís Márquez, went into Díaz’s office and came out of Mexicali City Hall about half an hour later.
Lithuania: MP warns gays may face Christian version of Charlie Hebdo massacre
Lithuanian Member of Parliament Algirdas Vaclovas Patackas warned that the Lithuanian Gay League is “playing with fire” that could result in “dead bodies.” According to Pink News, Patackas said, “Because in Lithuania, as in every land which calls itself Christian, not everyone turns the left cheek; there are many, who believe in the principle “an eye for an eye”, i.e., the main cause of what has happened in Paris.” His comments were denounced by several members of the European Parliament.
Egypt: Anti-Gay media part of government’s ‘more Muslim than Islamists’ campaign
We have been reporting on the Egyptian government’s persecution of gay men as a political tactic to prevent Islamists from building greater popular support. This week BuzzFeed’s J. Lester Feder and Maged Atef report from Cairo that IbrahimMonsour, the editor-in-chief of the Tahrir News, a leading liberal newspaper, told them, “These are instructions from the state apparatus” to cover sex scandals and other “silly” issues.
Monsour said he believed the government wanted coverage of arrests for homosexuality and other “morality” charges in order to distract from political stories that could expose how the government had betrayed the hopes of the revolution that toppled the 30-year rule of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
“The regime is claiming that they represent the revolution and none of the revolution’s demands have been met,” Monsour said. News outlets, eager to keep their share of the market, have eagerly picked up the government’s line also because it serves their financial interests — sex sells, and it can continue drawing readers when the hot-button political topics are off-limits. “Unfortunately, money talks,” he said. “The problem is that there is no decency, no conscience among the people who work in the field.”
Direct evidence of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office seeking to dictate coverage to the media surfaced this week in the form of a phone call taped during his presidential campaign that leaked online. In it, Sisi’s office manager, General Abas Kamal, is heard instructing spokesperson Ahmed Ali to give orders to journalists about what to say about Sisi.
In another story, Thom Senzee writes for the Advocate:
The current government crackdown on LGBT Egyptians has been amplified by hyperbolic media coverage, helping to foster an increase in antigay sentiments within society — which arguably serves el-Sisi’s need for a scapegoat community upon which to blame Egypt’s woes under his rule.
To be sure, there was never equality or real acceptance of LGBT people in Egypt, or any other staunchly Muslim country in the region, for that matter. But according to sources inside the country and expatriates interviewed for this article, there was a time not so long ago when to be gay or trans wasn’t as terrifying as it is today. That was before el-Sisi’s quest to appear “more Muslim than the Islamists.”
Macedonia: Marriage Ban Put in Constitution
This week Macedonia’s parliament voted to define marriage in the Constitution as a union between a man and a woman and reportedly “created a constitutional hurdle to possible future legislation on same-sex unions.”
An earlier version of the draft Amendment, which explicitly banned same-sex civil unions or registered cohabitation was strongly criticized by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe in constitutional affairs.