Anti-LGBT Culture Warriors On The March; More in Global LGBT Recap


ILGA published its 2017 Global Attitudes Survey on Sexual, Gender and Sex Minorities, which it calls “the largest investigation of attitudes towards sexual, gender and sex minorities around the world ever conducted.” A section of the survey asks whether people believe it is possible to respect their religion while accepting people who are romantically or sexually attracted to people of the same sex:

Data included in this report shows that knowing someone in sexual and gender minorities’ communities has significant positive effect on attitudes towards them. Findings also demonstrate that a majority of people feel they can respect their religion and their culture and be accepting of sexual and gender diversity – evidence that strongly counters the discriminatory, and often dangerous messages, delivered by religious or political leaders.

A different survey, one that compiled responses from more than 10,000 physicians from 40 countries, suggests that “roughly 1 in every 5 physicians admit their religious beliefs make them feel unprepared to provide care for homosexual patients.”

The Human Rights Campaign called on U.S. Secretary of State to speak out against the anti-LGBT backlash that has been intensifying in Egypt in recent weeks as well as the broader “onslaught of state-sponsored persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Georgia, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.”  The U.S. Senate passed a resolution condemning anti-gay violence in Chechnya.

Speaking of anti-LGBT onslaughts, the World Congress of Families has several upcoming regional conferences featuring speakers from US-based conservative Christian culture war groups:

  • A November 17-18 WCF Caribbean Conference will be held in St. Lucia. In addition to Rebekah Ali-Gouveia, WCF’s regional coordinator, the conference is being organized by Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, a member of the St. Lucian Parliament and founder of the Caribbean Centre for Family and Human Rights (CARIFAM), a group that says it works to “promote fundamental human rights” but criticizes “legislation promoting a permissive and indulgent value system that is destroying our societies.” Other speakers include WCF’s Don Feder, Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton, Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater, and Pastor Scot Stirm, an anti-gay activist in Belize.
  • A WCF African regional conference will take place in Malawi November 28-30. The conference theme, “The African Family & Cultural Colonization,” promotes the Religious Right narrative that advocacy for LGBT human rights in Africa is a form of ideological colonialism. Malawi’s Vice President Saulo Chilima is listed as a speaker, along with Roman Catholic Bishop Luke Msusa. Other speakers include: anti-gay activist Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and the International Organization for the Family; WCF’s Feder and FWI’s Slater making a repeat appearance; WCF Africa coordinator Theresa Okafor; Ann Kioko of the African Organization for Families; Moira Chimombo of SAFE Africa; Rev. Zacc Kawalala of Word is Alive Ministries. Registration is being handled by the African Organization for Families (also described on its website as the African Organization for the Family), which says it was founded “to defend the natural family from various pressures especially from the Western Countries which were imposing among others same-sex unions, abortion and destructive comprehensive sexuality education agenda.”

ADF International, the global arm of the LGBT-equality-opposing Alliance Defending Freedom, recently posted a promotional video portraying themselves as defenders of people being persecuted for their faith. “ADF International has a presence at every major international institution on the planet,” says Executive Director Paul Coleman. In the video, ADF International’s Director of UN Advocacy Elyssa Kor criticizes the United Nations for trying to force countries to champion “false rights, false obligations that really go against their national, their traditional cultures, their religious values.” The video declares that ADF is the only organization working at the Organization for American States on a daily basis to speak for “all those peoples in Latin America that share the Christian values that we fight for.”

OutRight international published a report on the interactive dialogue that took place at the UN around the presentation of the October 27 report of the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Catholic Church: Does shift towards Global South portend greater resistance to pro-LGBT change?

“The Catholic world is about to be turned upside down,” writes Baylor University history professor Philip Jenkins in the Catholic Herald of the U.K. He describes a “historical transformation” of the Catholic Church that is under way, “a decisive shift in numbers towards the Global South—to Asia, Africa and Latin America.” A century ago, he says, two-thirds of the world’s Catholics were in Europe, but by the middle of this century that number will fall “to perhaps a sixth.”

Geography is not destiny, but it is only natural that prelates from one part of the world will tend to speak for the traditions with which they are most familiar, which might well differ considerably from other regions. We saw early signs of this when the family synod was held in Rome in 2015, when the Church’s (mainly European) liberals proposed adopting a more welcoming attitude to gay Catholics and possibly allowing divorced and remarried believers to receive Communion. Those proposals met fierce resistance from African prelates, and the ensuing conflicts between conservatives and reformists were tainted by mutual recriminations and historical prejudices. Africans accused Europeans of imperialist racial attitudes, while some Europeans implied African backwardness.

Obviously, this precedent does not suggest that different regions are rigidly set in their attitudes, and cultural differences may well diminish over time. Significantly, it has been European and North American prelates who have led recent conservative resistance to Pope Francis, while Africans have remained out of the limelight.

Even so, it may be quite some time before African and Asian churches abandon their very rigorous attitudes on matters of human sexuality, and future North-South conflicts are only to be expected. The chief difference from the present is that the southerners will enjoy ever-larger numbers. Divisions within the Catholic Church fall far short of the passions that have driven a North-South schism within the Anglican Communion, but that is a troubling precedent.

Serbia: Far-right politician embraced by IOF for anti-LGBT diatribe calling for ban on pride parades

International Organization for the Family’s Brian Brown lavished praise on a recent parliamentary speech by Bosko Obradovic, founder of the far-right nationalist Dveri Party. Brown calls Obradovic a “close ally” of IOF and “a good friend of mine” and praised Obradovic’s diatribe against LGBT activists as “a true tour-de-force, an incredibly powerful rebuke of the LGBT movement.”

In the speech Brown loves so much, Obradovic called the gay rights movement “a totalitarian cult” and said gay pride parades should be outlawed, saying “What does Pride week even mean? What pride? What are you people proud of? … it is a week of provocation and forceful promotion of the ideology of homosexualism in our society.” He also called for a ban on “promotion of homosexualism to under aged individuals,” warning that LGBT activists want to recruit children toward an “unnatural lifestyle,” saying, “This is not how God conceived the world.”

In “Religious and Sexual Nationalisms in Central and Eastern Europe: Gods, Gays, and Governments,” (Brill, 2015) Marek Mikuš writes, “Dveri was established in 1999 by a group of students” at the University of Belgrade, who “enjoyed exceptionally close ties to the Serbian Orthodox Church whose high dignitaries attended and spoke at their events.” It was one of the groups that organized a violent protest against Belgrade’s first pride parade in 2010 and which successfully pressured the government to cancel the 2011 parade. In 2016, Dveri won its first parliamentary seats as part of an anti-EU coalition that barely passed the 5 percent vote threshold to win representation.

Egypt: Visiting U.S. religious leaders ignore anti-gay backlash; equality activists hijack #WeNeedToTalk

The Alliance of Queer Egyptian Organizations published an overview of a new proposed law that would criminalize homosexual relationships as well as “incitement” of those relationships and advertising for gatherings of LGBT people. “Although the Free Egyptians Party had a clear position against Islamist government in 2012,” the document says, “their representative used the same approach of Islamists to criminalize homosexuality with a clear breach to the party principles.” The Alliance also published a video about the harsh anti-gay campaign that followed social media outrage after a rainbow flag was raised at a concert. The video includes a clip from a televised panel in which a speaker says “We will not cure or recognize them, but we can execute and get rid of them.”

Tony Perkins and other American evangelicals, including former Rep. Michele Bachmann, met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to, in Perkins’ words, “try to repair the damage done by Barack Obama’s indifference to international religious freedom.” Among the topics the group discussed was “the persecution of Egyptian Christians by Islamic extremists.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports:

The FRC post did not address el-Sisi’s dictatorial policies toward his own citizens or the draconian policies currently being enacted toward LGBT people and their supporters, including a proposed law that dictates prison sentences for those who engage in homosexuality, those who support it, and media that “promotes” or mentions it.

A social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedToTalk to promote the World Youth Forum being held in Egypt November 4-10 was hijacked by activists to draw attention to the country’s crackdown on LGBT people and on civil society in general:

The conference’s organizers had hoped the hashtag would encourage interaction among the participants ahead of the forum and promote Egypt as a safe tourist destination. Instead, the activists posted images of security forces assaulting and arresting youths at protest sites and shared portraits of jailed journalists, activists and others who have allegedly been tortured or forcibly disappeared.

Hours after it was launched, the hashtag became the top trending topic on Twitter in Egypt, unleashing a tidal wave of anti-government criticism that observers said had been “provoked by the sheer hypocrisy of the government campaign.”

Human Rights Watch has urged the South African government to “do more to challenge Egypt’s claim to speak on behalf of a continent” by “stating loudly and clearly that when the Egyptian delegate blasted the rights of LGBT people, he wasn’t speaking for Africa but for his own country’s repressive and isolated leadership.”


Australia: As marriage ballot comes to close, conservatives gear up for legislative fight

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke to the US-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian right legal group with a global reach, where he slammed members of the Australian government cabinet for not campaigning against marriage equality in the survey-by-mail currently taking place. The deadline for voting is Tuesday.

From the Guardian:

Abbott suggested that despite the weight of public opinion polling suggesting the yes campaign is on track for victory, the result could “swing either way” because people have been reluctant to identify as no voters in polls.

“Win, lose, or draw, though, starting from scratch two months ago, the campaign for marriage in my country has mobilised thousands of new activists; and created a network that could be deployed to defend western civilisation more broadly and the Judeo-Christian ethic against all that’s been undermining it,’’ he said.

“So far, the campaign to defend marriage in Australia has raised over $6m from more than 20,000 separate donors, and fielded more than 5,000 volunteers to doorknock and phone canvass.”

Abbott warned the lack of conservative representation in the Liberal party would mean in the short term that “the embryonic Australian Conservatives, the only national political party whose leader backed marriage as it’s ­always been” would be the beneficiary of the new conservative movement.

Meanwhile, Penny Wong, Labor leader in the Senate, criticized the “hate and misinformation” spread by marriage equality opponents, and called it “mystifying” that the Anglican church in Sydney donated $1 million to the “no” campaign.

Conservatives in the parliament are preparing to propose as many as 100 amendments to a draft marriage bill if the public votes “yes” and a draft bill is taken up in the legislature. “It is seriously inadequate, as parents, freedom of speech and religious freedom, along with conscientious objection, all need full protection,” said Senator Eric Abetz.

Late-night comic John Oliver mocked the anti-marriage-equality campaign as a “dispiriting” and “pointless” process.

Georgia: Support for gay rights earns soccer player criticism, support

A far-right nationalist group called for soccer player Guram Kashia to be thrown off the national team because, while playing on a Dutch club team, he had worn a rainbow armband to show support for LGBT equality. Eight people were arrested at the protest, reported AP, which said “It was not clear how many of those arrested were members of Georgian March, an anti-immigrant and anti-gay rights group which claims to be protecting the “purity” of society in the Caucasus nation. Its members also called for the football federation’s entire leadership to resign because the federation had supported Kashia.”

Many Georgian Internet users changed their profile pictures on social networks in support of Kashia, who has also received backing from Georgia’s president.

“Everyone has the right for freedom of expression,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in a statement on Facebook on Monday. “We should respect human rights and liberties. I stand with the unanimous support that sporting society has expressed toward Guram Kashia.”

Kenya: “Moral policeman” blames lions’ homosexual behavior on gays behaving badly in parks

Ezekial Mutua, chief executive of the Kenya Film Classification Board and the country’s “moral policeman” responded to a photographer’s documentation of homosexual behavior by two male lions by calling for the lions to be isolated and given treatment. “These animals need counseling, because probably they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly,” Mutua said. Mutua was also in the news for blocking the broadcast on the Disney Channel of the Andi Mack series because the new season contains a story line involving same-sex attraction, content “likely to influence children’s perception negatively on the institution of family.” He previously acted to block musician Macklemore’s “Same Love” from broadcast in Kenya.

Barbados: Activists engage in dialogue with US-backed religious conservatives

Jamaican equality activist Maurice Tomlinson writes at 76 Crimes about LGBT activists in Barbados who turned an anti-gay march into an opportunity for respectful dialogue.

Barbadian newspaper carried a story on Monday, Oct. 23, about a march planned that weekend by religious groups to “take back the rainbow” from the gay “movement.” Ostensibly, the event, dubbed “Stand Up, Stand Out,” was meant to condemn declining morals in Barbadian society. Such alarmist allegations have often been made when there is increased recognition of the human rights of LGBT people.

Tomlinson says conservatives, including “American-backed fundamentalist churches,” have used LGBT people as scapegoats for structural economic problems:

Extremist anti-gay campaigns and conferences have therefore been mounted on the island, with significant U.S. funding, threatening certain societal doom if the small minority LGBT population is given their human rights. This imported rhetoric has caused at least one native university professor to claim that the Barbadian way of life is under threat from right-wing evangelists. And the Anglican Bishop of Barbados and Archbishop of the West Indies denounced the actions of Christian leaders who ridicule and condemn LGBT people.  Earlier this month, at the Intimate Conviction conference in Jamaica, he spoke against anti-sodomy laws like the one in Barbados. (“Sodom and Gomorrah does not support sodomy law, says Anglican archbishop.”)

Spain: Evangelical Alliance proposing amendments to nondiscrimination bill

The Spanish Evangelical Alliance is proposing amendments to an LGBT nondiscrimination bill that has drawn harsh criticism of Religious Right groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom:

It comes after the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal lobby analysed the bill’s text and said ‘the Equality Bill in its current form legislates far beyond what is necessary to ensure equality in society’.

Rubén Navarro, representative of ADF International in Geneva, said: ‘In light of its expansive scope and the legal uncertainty resulting from the vague terminology used, it is likely to have a significant and detrimental impact on citizens’ fundamental freedoms.’

He added: ‘We have come to the conclusion that of all the European Union equality laws, this is the most harmful and damaging we have seen so far.’

Azerbaijan: Analysis of recent anti-gay arrests and persecution

Open Democracy reports on recent harassment and mass arrests of LGBT people, including warnings by police in the country’s second-largest city to leave the city:

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Azerbaijan in 2000. However, public attitudes have yet to change: LGBT people remain largely defenceless against hate crimes and hate speech. In January 2014, Isa Shahmarli, founder of the Azad LGBT network, took his own life by hanging himself with a rainbow flag. In his final note, the prominent activist blamed society for his death. Such are the levels of Azerbaijani society’s revulsion towards LGBT people that the country was declared “the worst place to be gay in Europe” in the 2016 Rainbow Index. …

This much is certain: Azerbaijan’s LGBT community is a group nobody is willing to defend, and a group which nearly everybody hates. They’re a symbol of “western decadence” for conservatives and traditionalists, whom Azerbaijan’s government is eager to appease in its delicate dance between the west and the rest. …

One could well ask whether the LGBT community have any friends in Azerbaijani politics whatsoever. When approached for comment, several of Azerbaijan’s opposition politicians did not seem willing to engage with the topic. Isa Gambar, former leader of Müsavat, the country’s largest opposition party, said that he remained sceptical of both the interior ministry’s statements on the detention and the accounts of human rights defenders (the party’s current leader Arif Hajili made no statement on the detentions). Leader of the National Council of Democratic Forces and former presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli is less equivocal — he sees the detentions as the act of a police state, and states that his political platform has no interest in citizens’ personal lives.

One theory is that a crackdown on the beleaguered LGBT community was a useful gesture in the government’s attempts to build bridges with a conservative Muslim electorate. In 2011, 92% of self-described Azerbaijani Muslims believed homosexuality to be morally wrong (although it is important to note that 93% of Azerbaijani society at large held the same view). Nevertheless, Azerbaijanis of all faiths and none took to social media to support the actions of the police — calling on them to “burn” LGBT people in their social media comments.

Honduras: Candidates challenge news report portraying them as marriage equality supporters

At Patheos, Luciano Gonzalez reports on three women who are running for Congress and who were quoted in the newspaper El Heraldo expressing varying degrees of support for LGBT rights and same-sex unions, under a headline that suggested they were in favor of marriage equality. The candidates challenged the paper’s reporting, with one saying her party has “a clear stance against same-sex marriage, due in part to Honduras’s nature as a nation with Christian values.”

Costa Rica: Conservatives challenge political party support for marriage equality

La Republica reported this week, “The conservative wing of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) demanded that its candidate, Carlos Alvarado, remove from the government program its support for equal marriage and gender ideology.” (Translation by Google.) The paper reports that more than 150 people have signed a demand that members of the party be free to vote their conscience based on personal, moral, or religious reasons.

Bermuda: Government proposes domestic partnerships to supplant court-ordered marriage equality

The government is seeking to replace court-ordered marriage equality with new domestic partnership legislation; a public comment period on the bill lasts until November 15. Minister of Home Affairs said that “same-sex couples who are already married will not have this designation taken away from them.”

Mexico: Favorable review for marriage equality documentary

As marriage equality continues its complicated spread through Mexican courts and state legislatures, No Dresscode Required, a documentary by Cristina Herrera Borquez about the struggle of two Mexican men to get married in the face of obstruction by local officials, was reviewed by Daphne Howland in the Village Voice, who called it a “masterful, layered story of commissar-crossed lovers” and a “grueling emotional saga.”

Hong Kong: Government will appeal lesbian’s spousal visa victory

The government’s immigration department has decided to appeal a September court ruling in favor of a woman who had been denied a dependent visa because her spouse is a woman. The announcement sparked complaints from LGBT human rights advocates.