Anti-Gay Campaign In Indonesia Leads to Arrests; Mexico’s Religious Right Wars Against Secular State & LGBT Equality; Muslim Preacher Sparks Controversy in UK Re Death Penalty For Gays; Global LGBT Recap

Indonesia: Arrests Reflect Impact of Ongoing Anti-LGBT Panic

Two men, aged 22 and 24, were arrested after people complained after they posted a photo of them kissing on Facebook. Religious and political leaders have pushed a campaign of homophobic rhetoric and policies this year;  according to AFP, “Activists believe the backlash was triggered by widespread coverage of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States last year.”

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder and Rin Hindryati reported on two other men who were arrested in March in their Central Javan mountain village as friends and family gathered for a wedding ceremony. The story connects the incident to the increasingly anti-gay atrmosphere:

“The police are concerned that an LGBT problem occurred in this village … this case, in fact, confirms our prediction that LGBT is spreading,” Suharwoko, deputy commander of the local police subdistrict, told BuzzFeed News. (He, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.) Tegeswetan, like Indonesia as a whole, is overwhelmingly Muslim and they were worried, the local police’s public relations director said, that a same-sex wedding would create “social unrest.”

“For a man to marry a man … is haram. Allah created only male and female.”

Since that March day, this tiny village has been sucked into a moral panic over homosexuality that swept Indonesia in the first half of this year, with gangs on the streets attacking LGBT organizations and the highest government keeping up the drumbeat. Homosexuality is not criminalized in the country and the term “LGBT” was barely known outside activist circles, but in January lawmakers began describing the movement as an existential threat to the country. It was a new front in a long-running culture war over the place of Islam in a country that is 87% Muslim but officially enshrines freedom of religion.

Anti-LGBT activists portray LGBT presence online as a sinister force:

Though Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other nation on earth, the faith has historically lived comfortably side by side with belief in ghosts and spirits with roots in Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions that dominated the region before Islam arrived in the 12th century.

There were armed militias that wanted to establish an Islamic state when Indonesia won independence in 1945, but the military regime that consolidated power by 1965 drove them underground. They sprung back to life after the dictatorship of President Suharto fell in 1998. Islamist organizations also grew on university campuses. Generations of students returned from years abroad — especially in Egypt — inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and other international Islamist movements. Recently, conservative voices have grown louder with the explosion of social media, which has also opened channels for appeals from hardline Islamic groups overseas.

The internet is also where conservatives see the greatest threat. Lawmakers first responded to the LGBT crisis by calling for a ban on LGBT “propaganda” online. The government, which has been locked in a much broader regulatory battle against foreign tech companies, moved in September to block Grindr and is reviewing more than 80 LGBT apps and websites….

“All news and information is dominated by Westerners, by outsiders — they intentionally aim to influence our mind, our way of thinking,” warned Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, the 91-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said during an August speech.

Reuters reports that the intensifying anti-gay sentiment could “hamper efforts to combat fast-rising HIV infections” and threaten the country’s goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Mexico: Rising Religious Right Takes on Secular State Along with LGBT Equality

The Washington Post’s David Agren has taken notice of the Mexican religious right’s “rising as a political force, with conservative Catholics and members of the growing evangelical community attempting to influence the National Congress and mobilize the masses.”

“This is a clash between the secular state and the sectors that don’t accept the secular state,” said Ilán Semo, historian at the Jesuit-run Ibero-American University in Mexico City.

The modern Mexican state was created byrevolutionaries at odds with the Catholic Church, and they sought to curb its authority through measures such as introducing a secular school system. For decades, Mexico was considered the most anticlerical country in Latin America outside of Cuba, despite the fact that the country is overwhelmingly Catholic. Census data shows that 83 percent profess the faith.

But politicians have punted the old protocols over the past 25 years as they have sought the blessing of bishops, appeared publicly with prelates and kissed the pope’s ring — unthinkable a generation ago…

Church-state relations appear to have become especially close in recent years on the local level. Governors have given bishops vehicles, allowed them to ride in their helicopters, donated properties for building churches “and turned a blind eye in cases of accusations against priests,” said a politician with the traditionally Catholic-friendly National Action Party (PAN), who was previously involved in maintaining its relationships with bishops. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. The PRI in Congress did not respond to interview requests.

Bishops in turn have tended to stay silent on issues such as insecurity and corruption, even with the decade-long drug war claiming more than 100,000 lives. They have, however, actively pursued social policies such as prohibitions on abortion — achieved in at least 18 states since 2008.

LGBT activists affiliated with the National Pride Front protested outside the Chamber of Deputies on Thursday in support of the presidential initiative on marriage equality, a proposal that sparked huge anti-equality protests in September. Members of the group also met with legislators. According to Blanca Juarez at La Jornada, a spokesman for the group said it “will enter a period of reflection” to discuss how best to organize against the “union of the extreme rights: churches, political parties and entrepreneurs.”


United Kingdom: Controversy Over Preaching About Islamic Death Penalty For Homosexuality

LGBT activist Peter Tatchell called on the Home Secretary to revoke the visa of Shaykh Hamza Sodagar, an American-born Muslim “preacher” who spent 14 years studying Islamic law in Iran and appeared in a 2010 video discussing five different ways gay men could be executed. As a result of the controversy, Sodagar was prevented from delivering the lectures he had been invited to give.

Sodagar defended himself in an interview, saying individuals have no right to harm homosexuals, and that he was discussing the punishments that could be carried out by the government of an Islamic country. He went on:

In the 1960s the gay rights movement began and they made it sound like they were an organic movement akin to the black rights movement or the women’s movement, but it’s not like that. Homosexuality is something that is unnatural, and this corruption is being forced upon us.

There is a war on religion, whether it be on Christianity, Judaism (real Judaism, not Zionism) and Islam. People of these various faiths are not even allowed to express their views, even the Pope is made to make various compromises and comments which verge on accepting homosexuality. But this is such a severe matter based on what Allah (SWT) has told us in the Quran that an entire nation was wiped off the face of the earth because of it. So if this becomes widespread it will hurt all of us; I am responsible to prevent this evil, this wrong and this corruption from spreading.

I feel not only for the Muslim community, I feel for the non-Muslim community getting involved with this corruption. It destroys society, it destroys the family. Although previously everyone considered this wrong, lobbyists have worked so hard that now it’s difficult to even say that it’s wrong. But let’s be clear: Islam is categorically against this.

Islamic Insights also defended Sodagar, saying, “Selective coverage of Shaykh’s remarks towards Islamic law and jurisprudence in homosexuality has fueled sensationalism and division.”

Catholic Church: What Do New Cardinals Portend for LGBT Catholics?

At New Ways Ministry, Bob Shine reflects on the recent group of cardinals named by Pope Francis and what the appointments might mean for LGBT Catholics:

First, the three U.S. bishops named each have very pastoral reputations. Archbishop Cupich has previously called for the church to respect lesbian and gay people’s consciences and said every family deserves legal protections.  A participant at the 2015 Synod on the Family, Cupich told Bondings 2.0 that hearing from same-gender couples would have benefited the assembly. Admittedly, Cupich’s record on LGBT issues is not perfect.  He has not overturned the firings of two music ministers in his archdiocese, Colin Collette and Sandor Demkovich.

Archbishop Tobin (not to be confused with the highly LGBT-negative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island) joined Cupich and other bishops last year in criticizing priorities set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which focused on marriage and religious liberty, because they were inconsistent with Pope Francis’ vision. When a referendum banning same-gender marriage was proposed in Indiana, Tobin’s response avoided the hyperbolic and pastorally harmful language of so many bishops; indeed, the archdiocesan spokesperson said Catholics “have the right to make their own decisions on these issues.” He also defended U.S. women religious when the Vatican launched its investigations against them, in part for their support of LGBT equality.

Bishop Farrell, originally from Ireland, developed a pastoral reputation while in Dallas. He is now charged with merging and managing the many offices now formed into the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, a central focus of which will be the reception of Amoris Laetitia. He could greatly impact how the church responds to and pastorally cares for LGBT Catholics and their families in the many global contexts in which the church exists.

Worth noting, too, are the affirming words from Belgian Archbishop Jozef De Kesel, who last year said he had “much respect for gays. . . [and] their way of living their sexuality.”

Shine also says it is significant that some of the most conservative U.S. bishops were not named cardinals, including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who he says “have sprearheaded the U.S. bishops’ campaign against marriage equality and LGBT rights, neglecting issues valued far more by this pope.”

At Believe Out Loud, Shine rounds up Catholic reactions to recent comments by Pope Francis on gender.

Israel: Single Female Legislator Announces She’s Pregnant, Gay Friend is Father

Marav Ben-Ari, a member of the Knesset, announced that she is pregnant via in vitro fertilization and the father is a gay friend of hers. Ben-Ari told Haaretz that the response has been overwhelmingly positive, telling a story about an Orthodox Jewish woman who recently stopped to offer congratulations:

Ben-Ari was nervous about announcing her unconventional pregnancy, but she said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. The nation’s celebration of childbearing seems to have trumped, or at least tempered, any discomfort with Ben-Ari’s nontraditional choice of family, even among the Orthodox.

“It’s not easy here because most people know how a family is supposed to look: a mother, a father and children who live together,” Ben-Ari told JTA. “But that woman [who approached me] is not the first, even today. I got really, really good comments about the article, from politicians, from people I know, from people I don’t know.”

Haaretz quotes Alexandra Kalev, a sociology professor at Tel Aviv University, saying Israelis are not as wedded to the ideal of the “traditional family” as Americans: “There’s way more tolerance of different types of families,” she told JTA. “What’s most important is that family serve the Zionist value of procreating.”

… Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a prominent moderate among religious Zionists, said most Orthodox rabbis would not support Ben-Ari’s decision to have a baby outside a Jewish marriage. If a woman is worried about not getting married in time to have a baby, the standard advice is to freeze your eggs, he said. That is the policy of the Puah Institute, a Jerusalem center that advises infertile couples based on Jewish law, or halachah.

On the other hand, Judaism is very understanding of a woman’s need to have babies, Cherlow said. In the Torah, the Jewish matriarch Rachel tells her husband, Jacob, to give her a baby or she will die. Rabbis draw on the Bible’s emphasis on fertility to craft fairly liberal positions on assisted reproductive technology.

Cherlow said he is among a minority of Orthodox rabbis that recommend older single women try IVF — partly because frozen eggs are known to not be a reliable option for them. From the perspective of Jewish law, he said, it is positive that Ben-Ari’s baby will have a father…

“I would prefer like every rabbi in the world that babies would be part of a Jewish family according to halachah. But she made the decision not to miss being a mother, and the baby’s father is known and will be involved. These are positive things,” Cherlow told JTA.

United Arab Emirates: Lebanese Gay Man Faces Death Penalty

Earlier this month a 21-year-old gay man from Lebanon was arrested after posting a photograph in drag online and is facing the death penalty for charges that include offering sexual services to other men.

France: New Gender ID Law, New Anti-Marriage-Equality Protests

The Associated Press reports that tens of thousands of people protested in Paris on Sunday against a law allowing same-sex couples to get married and against use of assisted reproduction and surrogate mothers to help same-sex couples have babies.

The French National Assembly adopted a law that included new gender identity provisions that mean trans people no longer have to provide proof of medical treatment or be sterilized in order to change their legal gender, but they will still have to go to court.

Australia: LGBT Advocates Block Plebiscite, Seek Marriage Equality Vote in Parliament

As LGBT equality advocates declared they would rather wait longer for marriage equality than be subjected to a nationwide plebiscite and debate, members of the opposition Labor Party killed the government’s plans for the national vote and called again for a free vote in the parliament. CNN has profiled some of the couples who are waiting, among them a man and woman who pledged four years ago not to marry until their gay friends could.

BuzzFeed’s Lane Sainty reports:

Many conservative commentators have characterised the LGBTI community as childish, petulant, and anti-democratic for opposing a national vote on marriage. But Greig sees it differently: he thinks the community has matured.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom McIlroy reports that if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were to back a free vote, conservative backbenchers said they would abandon him  because that would be “an apparent breach of the secret Liberal-Nationals Coalition agreement.”

Switzerland: Poll Shows Supermajority Support For Marriage Equality

A new poll found that seven out of ten people in Switzerland believe gay couples should be allowed to get married. Same-sex couples have been allowed to enter civil unions since 2007, but they do not grant couples all the same rights as married couples.

Lebanon: Profile of Trans Women

At Middle East Eye, Federica Marsi writes about the experiences of some transgender women in Lebanon, which one activist describes as “Swiss cheese, with areas that are more open minded and others that are more conservative.”

Guam: Visitors Bureau Wants To Become Gay Wedding Destination

Ken Quintanilla at KUAM reports that 139 marriage licenses and certificates had been issued to same-sex couples as of October 7, and says the Guam Visitors Bureau is looking to market the island as a marriage destination for same-sex couples.

United Nations: Anti-Gay Countries Block Mention of LGBT People in New Urban Agenda

Belarus, Russia, and more than a dozen other countries reportedly blocked any mention of LGBT people in a document on a “New Urban Agenda” to address the challenges of rapidly growing cities.