The Global Interfaith Network on Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression has published an e-book, “Behold, I make all things new: What do the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam really say in regard to human sexuality?” The book grew out of conversations at the 2015 Uppsala Festival of Theology sponsored by the Church of Sweden.
Model and actress Irene Major has launched a new campaign and foundation called “Gay in Africa,” reports Huffington Post, saying she had been motivated by stories about mistreatment and discrimination against LGBT people in Africa. In response to a question about what inspired her to create this new project, Major said:
On the one hand I was inspired by endless stories of persecution in Africa and the other hand my own views on the equality of all humanity underscored by my own experience of what the LGBT community brings to societies where it is not persecuted. In fact, we rightly praise the benefits that people such as Elton John bring to Africans through helping the fight against HIV. But in our very own African LGBT community we have our own potential Elton Johns and Ellen DeGenereses who can be liberated and nurtured and give back rather than staying fearfully in the closet or being persecuted.
My faith also inspired me; I am very spiritual. God is a loving God who would never allow humans to kill other humans and I ask that people show love to all; to see the goodness and potential of all souls.
United Nations: Independent Expert on SOGI releases first report
Voice of America covered the first report by Vitit Muntarbhorn, the independent expert on the rights of LGBT people whose position has been fought by socially conservative countries and civil society groups, including countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, since it was created by the U.N. Human Rights Council last year:
Controversy has followed Vitit Muntarbhorn since his appointment as the first ever independent expert on the rights of LGBT people. The Thai international law professor has come in for personal abuse and received threats from those who are opposed to the protection of gays and transgender people.
His first report to the U.N. Human Rights Council will not endear him to governments and others who shun people with a different sexual orientation. Muntarbhorn reports some 70 countries criminalize same sex relations, particularly between men. And, he says, about 40 countries criminalize same sex relations between women who have sex with women.
Globally, Muntarbhorn says people perceived as having a different sexual orientation and/or gender identity from what is considered the “norm” are subject to horrific forms of violence, abuse and discrimination.
“Violations are pervasive in numerous settings. Killings, rape, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, lashings, abductions, arbitrary detention, harassment, physical and mental assaults, bullying from a young age, pressures leading to suicide,” said he.
Muntarbhorn says discriminatory measures against LGBT are widespread and aggravated by incitement to hatred in many settings. He is calling for mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of people with a different sexual orientation, buttressed by national laws.
Caribe Afirmativo, Colombia Diversa, the Santamaria Foundation and the Colombian Commission of Jurists attended the meeting of the Human Rights Commission and asked Muntarbhorn to urge that states “guarantee a ‘counterweight to fundamentalist discourses’ through respect for human rights.”
USA: Trump silent on Pride, but State Department supports LGBT human rights
While there has been no official recognition of Pride month from the White House, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement:
In recognition of LGBTI Month, the Department of State affirms its solidarity with the human rights defenders and civil society organizations working around the world to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons to live with dignity and freedom.
We also recognize that LGBTI persons continue to face the threat of violence and discrimination. Violence and discrimination targeting any vulnerable group undermines our collective security as well as American values. When all persons are protected on the basis of equality and with dignity, global stability is strengthened. We will continue to support the human rights of LGBTI persons together with like-minded governments, businesses, and civil society organizations globally.
The United States remains committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons. Dignity and equality for all persons are among our founding constitutional principles, and these principles continue to drive U.S. diplomacy.
Some U.S. embassies also recognized Pride month. In Iraq, a member of parliament criticized the U.S. consulate in Erbil for raising a rainbow flag, “saying the action was not suitable to take in an Islamic region.”
Alrassid news website quoted Habib al-Tarfi, an MP from the Iraqi holy province of Karbala, saying that the step taken by the consulate was “shameful” to raise the flag in “ a religious Iraqi province and during the holy month of Ramadan”, saying he “would have burned the consulate” had it been at his constituency.
Randy Berry, a career U.S. diplomat who was named by President Barack Obama a special envoy for LGBT human rights, continues to hold that position, though he has been far less visible during the current administration.
Also in the U.S., a federal judge dismissed the case brought by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against anti-gay activist Scott Lively. SMUG’s case, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, was an effort to make novel use of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute , and Judge Michael Ponsor ruled that his Court did not have jurisdiction over Lively’s actions in Uganda. Ponsor’s dismissal, however, included ringing denunciations of Lively’s rhetoric and actions around the world “to encourage persecution of LGBTI people,” using terms such as “abhorrent,” “malignant” and “crackpot bigotry.” Even though Ponsor’s order dismissed the charges against Lively, his attorneys at the anti-gay legal group Liberty Counsel, have appealed the order based on the “extraneous and prejudicial language” about Lively.
Scotland: Scottish Episcopal Church OK’s gay marriages; conservative Anglicans not happy
The Scottish Episcopal Church has noted to allow but not require priests to marry same-sex couples, a move that is setting off a reaction from the Anglican Communion. From the BBC:
The vote to allow same-sex marriage – which required the backing of at least two thirds of each house of Bishops, Clergy and Laity – has left the church at odds with most of the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
A group of global Anglican traditionalists have now announced that they will appoint a missionary bishop “to serve the needs of those who oppose gay marriage”.
A senior figure in the group, Archbishop Foley Beach, said: “Today’s decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change the biblical and historic definition of marriage has highlighted the need to respond to the cries and pleas of those Scots who today have been marginalised by their leaders.
“The attempt to redefine marriage is not one that a faithful Christian can support.”
Many Christians who live in the global south, where the 80-plus million Anglican Communion is at its strongest, look with horror at what they see as moves to legitimise gay relationships and lifestyles.
The primates of the Anglican Communion meet in Canterbury in October, where they could move to sanction the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Mexico: Human rights chief urges states to legislate marriage equality
Luis Raúl González Pérez, president of the National Human Rights Commission, urged state legislators to update their laws to recognize marriage equality to bring them into alignment with the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Due to Mexico’s legal system, that court ruling did not automatically overturn restrictive state laws and couple are required to seek amparos, or court injunctions, allowing them to marry in jurisdictions that have not yet changed their laws.
In the state of Veracruz, the president of the Political Coordination Board of the State Congress announced that the Congress will vote on a new civil code at the end of the year after a couple of months of public forums on the topic. The National Action party, he said, would seek to promote a civil contract but not a marriage.
Arturo Sandoval, governor of Jalisco, joined Guadalajara’s Pride march and called for respect, inclusion and tolerance. The governor’s Facebook page included a range of comments both in support and opposition, with some citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and criticizing the governor for not having joined an earlier “pro-family” march.
Poland: Opposition to LGBT rights central to ruling party ideology
At EU Observer, Aleksandra Eriksson writes that gay rights are at the heart of Poland’s values conflicts, saying that anti-LGBTI discrimination can be seen as “central to the ideology that brought the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) to power.”
“PiS knows better than any other party to create a cultural narrative that captures the electorate,” says Hubert Sobecki.
He is the chair of Milosc nie wyklucza (MNW; “Love doesn’t exclude”), a non-governmental organisation committed to introducing marriage equality in Poland by 2025 at the latest.
It may seem a brazen objective.
But a poll ordered by the organisation in 2015 showed that a majority of Poles supported giving LGBTI people equal rights in every field other than adoption.
The survey showed Poles aren’t necessarily homophobic, but they are responding to the narrative fed to them by politicians and the Catholic church. …
PiS doesn’t openly bash the LGBTI community. Instead they use cultural ideas and symbols – so called memes – to suggest that Poland is under attack both from internal and external foes.
“People fill in the blanks with anti-Semitic, anti-gay and anti-EU stereotypes,” the activist said.
Romania: Human rights activists urge rejection of marriage referendum
Reuters’ Luiza Ilie reports from Romania that dozens of human rights groups asked the parliament to reject a proposed referendum promoted by the Coalition for the Family that would put a restrictive definition of marriage into the country’s constitution. Opponents of the initiative say it “will push the EU state onto a populist, authoritarian track leading to an erosion of democratic rights and liberties.” The proposal cleared the Senate with an overwhelming majority:
Few politicians openly support same-sex marriage or even civil partnerships in the socially conservative eastern European nation of 20 million, where the Orthodox Church holds considerable sway.
Indonesia: International organizations call for pressure to end anti-LGBT campaign
Dozens of international organizations issued a public call to the people of Indonesia and the international community to support efforts to bring an end to the anti-LGBT campaign that has been waged by political, law enforcement, and religious leaders over the past 18 months.
Cayman Islands: Activists hope Bermudan example will bring marriage equality
The Cayman Compass reports that the first marriage by a same-sex couple in Bermuda after a court ruling there is “sparking renewed confidence among campaigners in the Cayman Islands that the territory could soon follow suit.” According to the story, “The legal picture in Bermuda and the community debate, including substantial opposition to gay marriage from a largely conservative Christian population, is similar, though not identical, to that in Cayman.”
Panama: Lawyers for religious groups file opposition to marriage equality at Supreme Court
Álvaro José López, who married his Panamanian partner in the U.S., has asked the Supreme Court of Justice to declare that the restriction of marriage to a man and a woman is unconstitutional. More than 145 lawyers have registered their support for the restrictive law during a period for submissions of comments. Among the groups commenting, according to La Estrella, are the Panamanian Alliance for Life and Family and the Evangelical Alliance.
Australia: Commenter cites Ireland example for embracing marriage equality over church objections
In a commentary at The Guardian, Kristina Keneally calls on the government of Malcolm Turnbull to “kill the zombie plebiscite on same-sex marriage.” Here’s how it begins:
“When did Ireland get so cool with gay people?” asked my teenage son.
Forgive my Australian child of Irish Catholic descent. In his short life he has only known a federal government easily driven to hysteria over the issue of same-sex marriage. He finds it hard to comprehend that in “Catholic” Ireland same-sex marriage is legal and the next prime minister is Leo Varadkar, an openly gay man (and a political conservative, and the son of an Indian father and Irish mother, no less).
Keneally cites the furor over comments by former tennis great Margaret Court—who has said among other things that “gay lobbyists” are poisoning the minds of Australia’s youth with Nazi “mind control” techniques–to question Turbull’s assertions that a plebiscite would not be harmful to the LGBT community because Australians “can hold a civil public debate.”
Mr Turnbull and co, meet Margaret Court. …
Court asserts that Australia is a “Christian nation”, and because the Bible stipulates that marriage is between a man and a woman, Australian law should do the same.
It is, of course, constitutionally and factually absurd to call Australia a Christian nation.
Also, being a “Christian nation” didn’t work out so well for Ireland. To answer my son’s question, I suspect Ireland got “so cool” with gay people about the time the failings of the Catholic Church were exposed in that country: paedophilia, abuse, forced separation of unwed mothers and their children, and burial grounds full of unidentified babies. By the time the Irish people got the chance to vote on same-sex marriage in a referendum (the only way to change the laws about marriage in that country), the Catholic church’s moral authority to define marriage, family and what is in the best interest of children was in tatters.
Airbnb and other business leaders are working with the Equality Campaign to market a black metal ring with a gap meant to be a visual statement of support for marriage equality. The “Until We All Belong” campaign is designed to keep pressure on government officials who have blocked a marriage equality vote in parliament in spite of polls showing overwhelming public support.
United Kingdom: Elections bring record number of gay MPs, Tory coalition with anti-gay DUP
Voters in Britain’s parliamentary elections not only denied Theresa May’s Conservative Party a majority; they also elected 45 gay MP’s to the House of Commons, where they make up 7 percent of seats, which Pink News says is the world’s highest. Nineteen are Conservatives.
May is drawing criticism for making an alliance with the Democratic Union Party, which has used controversial tactics to prevent marriage equality from being voted on in Northern Ireland. From the Independent:
Ms May will need the Northern Irish party’s 10 MPs to help her pass key legislation after the Conservatives fell eight seats short of winning a majority of their own.
However, the DUP’s opposition to gay marriage and a history of controversial comments about homosexuality led many to question whether they would be given influence over Government equalities policy.
Matthew Green, chairman of LGBT+ Conservatives, said the DUP’s stance on gay rights was “appalling”.
“The DUP and some of its MLAs [members of the Northern Irish assembly] hold some pretty appalling views on LGBT rights”, he wrote in an article for the Huffington Post. “The party’s entrenched opposition to equal marriage has prevented the LGBT population in Northern Ireland from benefitting for the same rights as LGBT people in the rest of the United Kingdom and this is unacceptable.”
The DUP has consistently blocked attempts to introduce gay marriage in Northern Ireland, despite a majority of assembly members supporting equal rights.
It had previously campaigned against the legalisation of gay sex as part of the Save Ulster from Sodomy movement.
The party was founded on evangelical Christian principles and has been denounced as homophobic by critics. One of its former MPs, Iris Robinson, the wife of former DUP leader and Northen Ireland First Minister, Peter Robinson, has described homosexuality as an “abomination”. Another MP, Ian Paisley Jr, whose father Ian founded the DUP, said he was “repulsed” by homosexual acts.
The paper quotes the gay leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, saying she had sought and received assurances from May that the alliance with the DUP would not weaken LGBT rights in the UK.
South Korea: Polling shows massive generation gap on marriage equality
The Hand in Hand festival in Seoul brought together more than 150 singers in eight LGBT choruses from Asia. A survey by Gallup Korea showed 58 percent of South Koreans opposed to legalization of marriage by same-sex couples, with 34 percent supporting marriage equality. The results show a huge generation gap, according to the Korea Herald: “The older they were the more likely they were to hold a negative view.” Two-thirds of people in their 20s support marriage equality.
A majority of Koreans, whether or not they were positive toward homosexuality, advocated equal opportunities for sexual minorities.
Ninety percent of those surveyed said sexual minorities should be given the same job opportunities and 81 percent said dismissal due to sexual orientation is wrong.
Bulgaria: Pride activists, protected by police, vastly outnumber far-right protesters
The leader of the neo-Nazi National Resistance planned a counter-protest to Saturday’s Pride march; last week he urged people to bring “brooms and shovels with wooden handles” to “cleanse Sofia from garbage.” Human Rights Watch has some history:
Sofia Pride marchers have faced hateful rhetoric and violence in the past, and only tepid police protection. In 2011, counter-demonstrators attacked and injured five marchers. According to an Amnesty International report, police at the scene first inquired whether the victims had provoked the attack, and later suggested the victims might have been attacked because they “dressed colorfully.” In 2012, Father Evgeni Yanakiev of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church encouraged onlookers to throw stones at the marchers while the Holy Synod, the highest authority in the church, reaffirmed its opposition to “immoral manifestations” like the pride parade. In subsequent years, nationalist political parties and church leaders have spoken out against Sofia pride, but organizers have persevered.
But the Sofia Globe reports that thousands of people attended Pride while only 50 people turned out for the National Resistance protest, along with a “massive deployment of police to prevent clashes.” The Sofia Globe reports, “A festive atmosphere pervaded Sofia Pride as it got underway, in spite of concerns that extremist homophobes would try to attack the event.”
Sofia Pride chose an emblem for this year of a rainbow mummer mask, of a kind familiar to Bulgarians because it is based on a “kukeri” mask, used to chase away evil spirits in a number of annual customs and rituals.
This irked two of Bulgaria’s largest folklore groups, Gotse Delchev and the Bulgare ensemble, who wrote an open letter objecting to the use of traditional Bulgarian folk symbols in the Sofia Pride event.
Eighteen embassies and a few representatives of international organizations had publicly supported the event. That stands in contrast to the Bulgarian government itself, says the Globe:
Apart from a positive message of support for the LGBTI community in Bulgaria, the declaration is a slap in the face of the Bulgarian government, according to observers. That is because neither the Bulgarian government, nor Sofia Municipality have conveyed one single message of support.
Two radical right-wing coalition partners of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, Ataka and VMRO, have commented on the parade, by saying it was “an assault on Bulgarian values”. Ataka even wants to criminalise participants of the Sofia Pride Parade. So far, not one government official has condemned those scandalous statements.
Malaysia: Government drops ‘preventing homosexuality’ from video contest
After public criticism, the government dropped from a sex education video competition a category on “preventing” homosexuality.
Europe: Governments begin accepting refugees from anti-gay violence in Chechnya
The German government began to grant special humanitarian visas to gay people from Chechnya. Other Chechens fleeing anti-gay persecution by the region’s Islamist government have been welcomed in Lithuania and France. Activists said other countries were considering doing the same. From the New York Times:
Gay men in Chechnya, a deeply homophobic republic, have long been at risk of so-called honor killings by family members and of abuse by the local authorities. But this year, the pro-Kremlin government in Chechnya began targeting gay men more aggressively after a Moscow-based gay rights organization sought permits for gay pride parades in the area.
Canada: Report on gay couple’s marriage in Nunavut
The CBC reported on a gay couple’s marriage in Nunavut, which it said “is believed to be the first time a gay Inuk man has married in the territory.” The BBC says there has been “a least one Inuk” woman to have married her female partner.
A documentary on being LGBT in Inuit communities that premiered last year in Toronto was built around a Pride celebration in Iqaluit, Nunavut. From the CBC’s coverage last June:
“The more we dug, the more complicated and layered it got,” added Woods. “You can’t have Pride in Nunavut without really retracing the history of colonization, residential schools and Inuit being taken off land and put into settled communities. And then there’s Christianization and the writing system being created to teach people the Bible. There’s all sorts of things that really lead up to how and why that celebration is happening there now.”
The filmmakers don’t shy away from any of these issues, and moreover show how the growing embrace of LGBT Inuit is helping the community heal the past. It was colonization and religion that shamed and erased traditional Inuit beliefs about sexuality and family structure, and Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things helps show how a new generation of Inuit are actively “unshaming” their past.
“There’s still a lot of thoughts tied to Christianity and traditional marriage,” Yerxa said. “That all came on the heels of being colonized. It’s nice to see the people actively trying to change their community and that’s really what the film is about: their stories.
In other news, the federal government’s intention to apologize to people who were forced out of the armed services based on their sexual orientation may require “a painstaking review” of each individual personnel file in the archives to determine why people were released from the military.
Israel: Survey says even members of religious party support civil unions or marriage
A survey published on the eve of Tel Aviv’s massive Pride celebration found that 79 percent of Israelis support civil unions or marriage equality for same-sex couples. Even 65 percent of members of Jewish Home, which the Times of Israel calls a “religious-nationalist” party, support either or both. The paper explains that people in Israel must marry through a religious institution:
In Israel, though same-sex marriage is not technically illegal, there is no institution authorized to carry it out. In a system inherited from Ottoman times, people can only marry in Israel through their religious institutions: Jewish couples must marry through the Chief Rabbinate, which refuses to carry out same sex marriages, and Christians, Druze and Muslims all marry through their own state-sanctioned and publicly funded religious legal systems.
Guam: Officials looking to market as wedding destination for Asian couples
Two hundred same-sex couples have married in Guam over the past two years, reports The Guam Daily Post. The story says the Guam Visitors Bureau is researching the potential market for same-sex couples in the Asia-Pacific region.
Taiwan: Local governments embrace marriage equality before Court deadline for national recognition
Tapei Times reports that “six more city or county governments have agreed to recognize household registrations by same-sex couples, with only five local governments not yet amending their policies.” Residents in areas that do not yet offer registration can register a same-sex partnership in other cities and counties:
Following the Council of Grand Justices’ landmark ruling on May 24 that a ban on same-sex marriage under the Civil Code is unconstitutional, and with measures to be taken to legalize same-sex union within two years, the Ministry of the Interior asked all local governments to recognize household registrations by same-sex couples, she said.
However, before same-sex marriage is legalized, the Cabinet has asked government agencies to relax restrictions on same-sex couples to entitle them to rights accorded to married couples, such as signing medical consent forms, asking for family care leave and visiting imprisoned partners.
There are 498 laws and regulations concerning rights and obligations derived from marriage and kinship, and a decision was made to delay the revision of those laws until same-sex marriage is legalized, [Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Mei-ling] said.
Chen said that rather than replacing terms like husband and wife with “both parties” in marriage laws, the government wants to “keep the heterosexual marriage system unchanged and add the same-sex marriage system.”
Hong Kong: Multinational banks back lesbian couple in visa struggle
Twelve multinational banks asked the Court of Appeals for permission to intervene on behalf of a lesbian couple. A woman whose partner has a job in Hong Kong has been seeking a dependent visa based on their British civil partnership. The immigration department rejected the application and a court sided with the government. The case is now on appeal.
Vietnam: Queer artists as democratizing force
Cristina Nualart at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid examines the role that queer artists have had in opening the country to gay culture and encouraging other artists to resist censorship.