The U.S. named career foreign service officer Randy Berry its first-ever envoy for LGBT rights this week. IGLHRC welcomed Berry’s appointment, saying “The U.S. envoy can contribute to a new era in which the conscience of governments everywhere can be focused on the destabilizing impact of prejudice and abuse that inflicts suffering on millions worldwide.” Also commenting was Ugandan LGBTI Activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera: “We join the US in welcoming the newly appointed LGBTI envoy. It’s not going to be easy inviting Mr. Berry to countries where human rights of LGBTI people are not respected. However, it’s a step in the right direction. Eventually, countries such as Uganda will have to respect their partners’ foreign policies if they are to have great relations. I look forward to working with Mr. Berry.” Also this week, Alfonso Lenhardt, acting director of the US Agency for International Development, “highlighted a new initiative to enhance LGBT rights movements in Eastern Europe and countries within the former Soviet Union during an event at USAID’s headquarters in downtown Washington.”
We have previously noted country reports being produced by the Being Gay in Asia project, which assess social, religious, and political barriers to LGBT equality. This week, representatives from the UN Development Programme, the U.S. and Swedish Embassies in Bangkok, and the US Agency for International Development launched Phase 2 of the “Being LGBT in Asia” regional initiative. During Phase 1, dialogues were hottest and country reports produced in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The second phase will help national and community-based human rights organizations strengthen their capacity to advocate for policies to overcome stigma and ensure access to health services as well as educational and economic opportunities.
The Daily Best posted the latest in its series of discussions with global LGBT activists, this one with Anastasia Smirnova, who fled the country after having been arrested for psoting an LGBT banner at the Sochi Olympics.
Mexico: ‘Quiet marriage equality revolution’ spreads
BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder, with research assistance from journalist Rex Wockner, reports on the wave of marriage equality rulings in Mexico since a Supreme Court ruling in late 2012 in favor of a lesbian couple from Oaxaca: “Courts in more than two-thirds of Mexico’s 31 states have granted same-sex couples the right to marry over the past two years in a series of rulings that will likely make marriage equality a reality nationwide in the near future.” Attorney Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, who has been involved in lawsuits in 19 states, “seems astonished at the pace of change.”
“Imagine, in 2012, we won the first judgment in Oaxaca,” Méndez marveled during a phone interview last week. “In the two years [since], we have succeeded in covering almost the entire country.
Even some LGBT rights supporters are a little mystified that marriage equality rulings haven’t sparked a national backlash. The fight over Mexico City’s 2009 marriage equality law brought strong opposition from the country’s Catholic hierarchy. Yet while some state bishops have condemned marriages between same-sex couples in the past few years, there has been no substantial opposition.
“The church was really concerned with the amendment here in Mexico City,” Geraldina Gonzalez de la Vega, the Supreme Court clerk who helped Méndez bring the Oaxaca case, said. But now, with scores of amparos pending, “they are not saying anything.”
Gonzalez attributes this in part to the fact that there isn’t much history of using the courts to force widespread change in Mexico, and so neither activists nor the media fully understand the scale of the change that’s underway. Méndez thinks this will change as the litigation moves from cases involving individual couples and produces the kind of rulings that will allow same-sex couples to marry in their states without having to file suit.
“The moment that there is an order from the Supreme Court forcing reform we’ll begin to see all kinds of resistance,” Méndez said. “We’re going to have serious problems with protests in opposition.”…
But even if a backlash erupts now, Méndez said, the cases they’ve already won make marriage equality all but inevitable.
“Outside of Mexico, and even inside of Mexico, these advances are not widely known,” Méndez said. “It is very slow, it is very invisible — but it is irreversible.
Dominican Republic: Religious, political leaders criticize push for LGBT tourism
The openly gay US Ambassador to the Dominican Repuiblican, James “Wally” Brewster, criticized comments by Tourism Minister Franciso García’ that the country “is not interested in exploiting the potential” of the LGBT tourism market. More from the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:
García’s comments come less than a month after the Blade reported that a Dominican advocacy group is working with government officials and travel industry representatives on a campaign designed to promote LGBT tourism and gay rights in the Caribbean country.
Members of the Center for Integrated Training and Research, an organization that has fought the AIDS epidemic in the country and throughout the Caribbean for more than two decades, on Feb. 2 met with representatives of the Dominican Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Police at a hotel in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital. Representatives from the Dominican travel industry and Brewster’s husband, Bob Satawake, are among those who also attended the gathering.
Religious groups have sharply criticized the campaign, with one accusing the Dominican government of adopting “an official policy to sell the Dominican Republic as an LGBT paradise” during a recent interview with a local television station.
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo in 2010 described a park in the capital’s Colonial City in which LGBT Dominicans gather at night as “a space where all types of insolences and vulgarities abound.” López during a 2013 press conference described Brewster as a “faggot” after President Obama nominated him with the apparent approval of Dominican President Danilo Medina.
Malaysia: Protectors of Islam use anti-gay document produced by anti-Islam group
At Human Rights Watch, Graeme Reid points out the inherent contradictions in the decision by the Department of Islamic Development distributing a pamphlet with text adapted directly from an anti-gay pamphlet published by the Family Research Council. As Reid notes in “Choose Your Bigots Carefully, Malaysia,” FRC and its spokesman, retired Lt. Gen William “Jerry” Boykin are also promoters of strident anti-Islam messages.
Given the blatantly anti-Islam bias of the FRC, it was particularly surprising to see Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, the deputy dean (academic and research) of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim) medicine and health science faculty, stepping in to defend the pamphlets.
The pamphlet arrives as Malaysian courts have recently ruled on two cases that have a significant impact on the LGBT community. The Putrajaya Court of Appeal ruled last November that a state Sharia (Islamic law) ban on cross-dressing was “degrading, oppressive and inhuman.” Unfortunately, the government has appealed the ruling.
The second case involves the recent conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, sentenced to five years in prison under a colonial-era sodomy law that was once again dragged out for politically expedient purpose. It’s the second time Anwar has been charged under a law that has been invoked only seven times since 1938.
It’s time that the Malaysian government in general, and JAKIM in particular, realize that what the FRC says about homosexuality is as false and unreliable as what they say about Islam. JAKIM should withdraw the pamphlet, and the Malaysian government should stop spreading lies about LGBT people in Malaysia, and worldwide.
Ireland: Marriage referendum campaigns heat up
Catholic Bishop Kevin Doran, speaking at Holy Trinity Church in Dublin, said there is no obstacle to “a person of homosexual orientation getting married, just as a heterosexual person can” – just not to one another.
“Marriage is not an invention of Christianity or indeed of any religious tradition,” Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said.
“The reverse in fact is the case. Primitive societies recognised the uniqueness of the male-female relationship, written in human nature,” he said.
Speaking in Dublin’s Holy Trinity Church, Donaghmede, on Monday night, he said, “You don’t have to be a Christian to recognise the truth about human sexuality; the joy of it and the heartbreak of it….
On the issue of this May’s marriage referendum, he continued: “The reality is that those who wish to change the Constitution are not actually looking for marriage equality.
“They are looking for a different kind of relationship which would be called marriage; a relationship which includes some elements of marriage, such as love and commitment, but excludes one of the two essential aspects of marriage, which is the openness of their sexual relationship to procreation.
“This is only possible if we change the meaning of marriage and remove that aspect of openness to procreation.
Joey Kavanagh, a 28-year old Irishman living in London, has launched a Get the Boat 2 Vote campaign to get Irish people to return home to vote in the May referendum on marriage equality. Pink News reports that another campaign, We’re Coming Back, is also under way.
Northern Ireland: Opposition to “conscience clause” builds
A “conscience clause” bill that would permit anti-gay discrimination in Northern Ireland has attracted the support of the Catholic Church, but a petition campaign by the group All Out attracted more than 100,000 signatures in 48hours, 30,000 of them from Northern Ireland.
Switzerland: Parishioners support priest who blessed lesbian couple; marriage bill introduced
We previously reported that Bishop Vitus Huonder asked Fr. Wendelin Bucheli to step down for having blessed a lesbian couple New Ways Ministry reports this week that parishioners organizing in the priest’s defense have gathered 3,000 signatures, and Fr. Bucheli has declared his intention not to submit his resignation.
The Legal Affairs Committee of the lower house vote to approve a “marriage for all” initiative introduced by the Green Liberal Party. According to Pink News, “Any move to legalise same-sex marriages would require a change to the Swiss Constitution and the approval of Swiss citizens in a national referendum.”
Scott Lively: Global conspiracy theories and end-times warnings
This week globe-trotting anti-gay activist Scott Lively seemed intent on out-doing his reputation for extreme positions. He suggested this week that U.S. President Barack Obama orchestrated a coup to start a civil war in Ukraine to “force Russia into its current no-win scenario there” in order to discredit Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay activism.
In August of 2013 I sent a open letter to President Putin, thanking him for signing the anti-propaganda law. In it I warned him “not to assume that you have fully solved the problem by the enactment of this law. The battle to protect your society from homosexualization has only just begun, and you may be surprised to discover in the coming months and years just how aggressively many world leaders will work to try to intimidate and coerce you to capitulate to homosexualist demands.”
Regardless of where one stands on Ukraine or Vladimir Putin, just for a moment consider where the pro-family movement would be if it hadn’t been for the Ukraine coup. Russia would still be (relatively speaking) a respected member of the international community offering an alternative, genuinely pro-family model for social policy. There would likely be at least a half-dozen nations which would have adopted the anti-propaganda law for themselves (with many more considering it) and there would be a healthy international debate raging on pro-family vs LGBT visions for the future. I believe the tide would probably have begun to turn in our favor, at least on the global scene, if not yet in the US or EU.
Is it really so far-fetched to believe that morally wicked, Imperialistic, Alinsky-ite Obama (credibly alleged to be a homosexual himself) started the Ukrainian civil war to punish Russia for opposing the “core value” of America, the priority of his State Department? Or (more importantly to the “gays”) to prevent the Russians from leading a pro-family counter-revolution in the world?
Lively also warned this week that if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, as many expect, this June, it will trigger “some larger act of God’s punishment on the entire world,” including the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the rise of the Antichrist by late September. From Right Wing Watch:
After weeks or months of global chaos, when the nations are sufficiently broken and the peoples of the world desperate for a return to order, a hero will step upon the world stage to end the crisis. In the human context he will secretly represent the globalist elites who have planned and prepared for this opportunity to impose a new world order: a new global government with a new economic system.
In the spiritual context he will be enacting a Satanic plot to usurp the role and identity of the Messiah and gain the adulation of the world.
Wielding great military power this self-aggrandizing human savior will force an end to war and impose a secular humanist paradigm and religious pluralism as a remedy to the various forms of “discrimination” which he will blame for the world crisis. Everyone will be given the choice (at first) to join the new order and gain immediate integration into its cradle-to-grave socialistic bounty. “Just sign this oath to reject and renounce all divisive and discriminatory beliefs and “supremacist” theologies,” he would say, “and take this mark of membership on your hand to receive free food, housing and medicine and all other benefits under our enlightened new order of tolerance and inclusiveness.”
Finland: Marriage Equality becomes law
Last Friday Finnish President Sauli Niinistö signed into law a bill that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Niinistö signed the measure roughly four months after lawmakers in the Scandinavian country narrowly approved the measure. They considered the bill after supporters of marriage rights for same-sex couples collected more than 166,000 signatures to bring it before the Finnish Parliament.
Kazakhstan: Russian-style anti-gay bill advances
The Kazakhstan Senate passed a bill similar to Russia’s ban on anti-gay “propaganda,” legislation that has been used to target activists and journalists in Russia. The bill’s sponsors promote it as a measure to “protect children from harmful information.” Member of Parliament Aldan Smayil said the legislation’s intent was ““to protect children from information that kills the feeling of warmth and humanity, which is harmful to the health and psyche, promotes violence and is, in short, spiritually devastating to the younger generation.”
Finland: Marriage Equality becomes law
Last Friday President Sauli Niinistö signed a marriage equality bill that will go into effect by March 2017. It is reportedly the first law to be passed by the Finnish government through a citizen’s initiative.
United Kingdom: Turing relatives back push for broad pardons, UKIP LGBT chair quits party
Relatives of the late codebreaker and digitial computing pioneer Alan Turing turned in nearly half a million signatures gathered via Change.org calling on the British government to pardon 49,000 men who like Turing were persecuted under laws criminalizing homosexuality. Turing received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013. “The Imitation Game,” a movie based on Turing’s life, was an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Mirror reports that Tom Booker, chair of the LGBTQ* group within the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), quit, saying he could no longer defend the party. Meanwhile, UKIP leader Nigel Farage was welcomed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, D.C.
South Africa: Owners of gay ‘cure’ camp guilty in murder of teenager
Gay Star News reports that Alex de Koker and Michael Erasmus have been found guilty of murder, child abuse, and assault for the April 2011 death of 15-year old Raymond Buys, whose parents had enrolled him in Echo Wild Game Rangers Camp which promised to “turn boys into men.” When the brutalized teen arrived at the hospital he “was severely malnourished, dehydrated, his arm was broken in two places and there were burns and wounds all over his body.” Two teens had died at the same camp in 2007.
Egypt: Tabloid TV reporter charged in bathhouse raid
Mona Iraqi, the television reporter who led a bathhouse “sting” that led to the arrest of 26 men who were later acquitted, now now reportedly been charged with defamation, libel, and publishing false news.