Australian Church Nixes Straight Couple’s Wedding Over Their Marriage Equality Support; and More in Global LGBT Recap

Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai lawyer and diplomat, cited health problems in resigning effective October 31 as the United Nations’ first independent expert charged with investigating violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The creation of his position by the Human Rights Council last year was fought bitterly by anti-equality nations and nongovernmental organizations.

The Chinese language version of “Advancing the Human Rights and Inclusion of LGBT People: A Handbook for Parliamentarians,” which was developed by the U.N. Development Programm and Parliamentarians for Global Action, is now available.

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reviews the status of the transgender rights movement in Latin America:

Marcela Romero, regional coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People, which works throughout the region, told the Blade earlier this month during a telephone interview from Buenos Aires there have been “setbacks in regards to human rights” in Argentina and other countries in “which the LGBT community has gained very strong visibility and (trans-friendly) laws.” Romero added the Roman Catholic Church, gangs, conservative lawmakers and governments and other groups continue to influence people’s transphobic attitudes that she says contribute to violence and discrimination.

Australia: Churches Split on Marriage Vote; Straight Couple’s Wedding Nixed For Supporting Equality

The Presbyterian Church of Ebenezer St. John’s cancelled the wedding of a heterosexual couple that had attended the church for 10 years after they posted their support for marriage equality on Facebook. More from the Guardian:

“After the premarital counselling that you attended and the sermons delivered at Ebenezer on this subject, you must surely appreciate that your commitment to same-sex marriage opposes the teaching of Christ Jesus and the scriptural position practiced by the Presbyterian church of Australia and by me,” he reportedly wrote in a letter to them.

“By continuing to officiate it would appear either that I support your views on same-sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter. As you know, neither statement is correct.

“Also, if the wedding proceeded in the Ebenezer St John’s church buildings, the same inferences could be drawn about the Presbyterian denomination. Such inferences would be wrong.”

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said he thought “we would have moved beyond that sort of prejudice”, but the prime minister defended the minister’s actions.

“Churches are entitled to marry or not marry whom they please,” he said. “That is part of religious freedom. My own church, the Catholic church, will not marry someone who has married before.”

According to Fairfax, the couple, who had attended the church for 10 years, told North his decision was “disgraceful”.

“You were made aware from the beginning of our proceedings that we had gay friends and also that people in our wedding party were gay. How could you assume that we would abandon them or degrade them with regards to same-sex marriage?”

The Guardian notes that the Presbyterian church has urged members of its congregation to vote against marriage equality and to encourage friends and family to do the same.

But two major churches in Sydney have distanced themselves from the anti-marriage-equality views of the Australian Christian Lobby. From

In letters to their congregations, the bishop of Parramatta, Vincent Long Van Nguyen, suggested that Catholics vote according to their conscience and Reverend Andrew Sempell of the St James Anglican Church warned that “slippery slope” arguments employed by the no campaign “betray the gospel of grace”.

Reverend Sempell argued that same-sex marriage is “not principally a faith issue”, adding that religious groups do not have a universal position on it.

“The Australian Christian Lobby … is neither representative of the churches, nor is it a religious group … it is a political lobby group that represents the interests of its members,” he said.

The official Catholic and Anglican view of religious marriage is that only a man and a woman can wed. The Catholic archdiocese of Sydney and the Anglican diocese of Sydney are both partners in the no campaign’s Coalition for Marriage.

The Bishop of Parramatta Vincent Van Long Nguyen said that LGBTI people had “often not been treated with respect” and asked the church to “respect their dignity”. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia

But Philip Freier, the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, has said there will be no “whole of church” position on the controversial plebiscite.

Last Wednesday, Bishop Van Nguyen wrote that the postal survey concerns “the legal definition of civil marriage” and is therefore “not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church”.

He said that, like legalising divorce, the Catholic Church can hold to its religious conception of marriage “whatever the outcome of the survey or the eventual legislation by the government”.

Bishop Van Nguyen described the issue for many Catholics as “deeply personal” because they are same-sex attracted or have friends and relatives who are and are therefore “torn” between their love of the church and their loved one.

“It should not be a matter of a simple answer yes or no to the postal survey. It should be an opportunity for us to witness to our deep commitment to the ideal of Christian marriage.

“But it should also be an opportunity for us to listen to what the Spirit is saying through the signs of the times.”

Bishop Van Nguyen also said that LGBTI people had “often not been treated with respect” and the church should commit to treating the gay community with respect, whatever the outcome of the survey.

Frances Abbott, daughter of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, one of the leading opponents of marriage equality, has publicly declared her support for marriage equality, saying, “I don’t really care much for politics. But I do really care a lot for love. All love is good. Let’s celebrate it.” Tony Abbott’s sister, who in a same-sex relationship, is campaigning for marriage equality.

Anti-marriage-equality forces outspent marriage equality supporters by about five-to-one on television ads as of last week, reports the Guardian.

Reuters reports that the parliament responded to the “alarming volume of hate-speech” over the marriage equality campaign with emergency legislation strengthening hate-speech laws that target intimidation or threats of harm.

WPA Intelligence, which “bills itself as one of the top two Republican polling firms in the US,” is suspected of engaging in push polling to promote anti-equality campaigners’ claims that legalizing marriage equality “may lead to negative consequences such as radical gay sex education being taught in school, threats to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”

At Crikey, Amy Coopes responds to critics within the LGBT movement who dismiss the marriage equality movement as a form of assimilationism:

Some in the Yes camp wish to paint this as, quite simply, a question about amending the Marriage Act to allow two consenting adults to marry, and in a sense, of course, that is true. But as with any political exercise — and make no mistake, that is squarely what this is — there is much more at stake. The hysterical, vitriolic, sometimes violent (see: “gay people should be shot“, “that Hitler guy was onto a good thing“) and certainly bellicose rhetoric from the opposition camp exposes very plainly that there is a great deal more than a legislative amendment bound up in this exercise. They see a rampant secularism and humanism, which long ago displaced them from ascendancy everywhere except the halls of power, where they continue to enjoy a peculiar stranglehold. They see a rejection of the paternalistic demagoguery that insists, still, in 2017, that the confessional seal has more authority than the law in matters of child sexual abuse. They see this, and perhaps they are right.

What I see, and what we must embrace, is that this is about galvanising a popular movement towards equality, dignity, empowerment and self-respect. …

Whether you like it or not (and many of us do not), this most vanilla and patriarchal of institutions has become a proxy for our equality. For those who oppose any progress of our rights, of course, it has assumed a similarly talismanic quality. …

If you object to marriage, an inherently conservative ideal, being the imperative for this march, you must, perversely, take part. Because victory on this front is the only hope we have of bringing our country a step forward on the things that truly matter, whatever you believe those things to be. We cannot advocate for our kids to be protected or for their classmates on that anguishing road to self-acceptance to see that it does get better if we cannot draw a line under everything that’s currently being said in the public domain with a message of hope and acceptance.

Malawi: Muslim Leader Calls For Execution of Gays

The Maravi Post reported on controversy over an article quoting Muslim Association of Malawi spokesperson Sheikh Dinala Chabulika saying that the death penalty is needed to curb homosexuality. Human Rights activist Allie Mwachande challenged Chabulia’s remarks, saying, “As a human rights campaigner, I meet different people and I know some of the Muslims who are within the LGBTI Community. Some are even from Mangochi where him and I all come from…will he be happy to see his brothers and sister killed?” Asked about the controversy sparked by his comments, Chabulika responded:

“Look the issue is not Malawi Muslim but it’s about the teachings of Islam. So what I said is about some of the opinion of Muslim scholars but Malawi is not an Islamic country to implement that,” wrote Chabulika.

Brazil: Christian Groups’ Complaints Lead to Cancellation of Queer Art Exhibit

Queermuseu, or Queer Museum, an exhibition at Santander Bank’s cultural center in Porto Alegre was closed a month early after protests by anti-gay Christian groups. From the Guardian:

Supported by evangelical Christians, protestors from the Free Brazil Movement accused the exhibition – which included 263 works from Brazilian greats such as Candido Portinari and Lygia Clark – of promoting blasphemy, paedophilia and bestiality, charges its curator vigorously denied.

“They are passing the limits of tolerance and we are giving them a response,” said Silas Malafia, a leading evangelical pastor.

Brazil’s artistic community has attacked the protest as dangerous censorship in a country that lived through 21 years of military dictatorship.

“It is an exhibition that deals with issues of identity,” the curator GaudêncioFidelis told the Guardian. “This is a frightening moment in Brazilian life.”

The exhibition had been open almost a month when protestors from the Free Brazil Movement – a group of free market liberals known for organising street demonstrations calling for the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff – began picketing its doors.

The show’s curator, Gaudêncio Fidélis, asked, “What kind of similar incidents are we going to have when, so quickly, a far right and reactionary group can close an exhibition of this grandeur?”

Liberia: Presidential Candidates Reject Marriage Equality As Counter To God’s Will

The Daily Observer reported that nine presidential candidates who took part in a presidential debate all rejected marriage equality:

All the candidates out rightly said NO to same sex marriage, homosexuality and gay rights and would not entertain Same Sex marriage under their administrations.

They indicated that same sex marriage is against the will of God and, if given state power, they would oppose it because God never instructed man to marry his fellow man or a woman to marry her sister woman.

Chile: Some Church Leaders Protest Legislation on Marriage Equality, Abortion

Conservative Christians protested the introduction of marriage equality legislation and the decriminalization of abortion in some circumstances. From La Tercera:

Marked by the value agenda, bishops and pastors of the Evangelical Church presented themselves before President Michelle Bachelet, members of her cabinet and some parliamentarians to show their rejection to the approval of the decriminalization of abortion in three grounds and the dispatch of the draft Equal Marriage to Congress.

However, prior to the beginning of Te Deum, the president was received at the ceremony with shouts of protest outside the cathedral. Several people shouted “Murder!” After the decriminalization of abortion was approved in three cases.

During the ceremony, the governing pastor of the Pentecostal Institute, Eduardo Durán Salinas stated that “Gender identity, equal marriage, decriminalization of abortion are laws that do not represent our values.”

Jorge Méndez, President of the Council of Pastors of Chile said that “it is very important that the family reflects the design that God planned. God created mankind as man and woman made in the likeness, constituted marriage as a covenant of love between two genders “and” do nothing more than destroy the values ​​of society. “

Indonesia: AG’s Office Withdraws Job Notice Describing Homosexuality as Mental Illness

The Attorney General’s office withdrew a job notice that barred LGBT applicants and suggested homosexuality was a mental illness, a rare positive sign amid the anti-LGBT atmosphere that has been fostered by Islamist political and religious leaders. Human Rights Watch reports:

Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission had urged the attorney general to withdraw the job notice. Its commissioner, Muhammad Nurkhoiron, denounced the “mental illness” argument, saying that, “Such a policy should not be used by any state institutions, including the Attorney General’s Office.”

This shift in tone was an important reversal for a government that for the past year and a half has taken virtually no action to stand up for Indonesia’s beleaguered LGBT community.

Beginning in January 2016, public officials fueled a flurry of anti-LGBT incidents across Indonesia with noxious and hateful rhetoric. This has included police raids on suspected gatherings of LGBT people, the restriction of international groups providing aid to LGBT-related nongovernmental organizations, and the closure of public transgender events. Authorities forcibly evicted LGBT people from their homes, and Islamist militants attacked LGBT activists.

There were also subtle bureaucratic shifts – with Indonesian government agencies and health professional associations joining the anti-LGBT chorus. For example, the National Children’s Protection Commission issued a decree against “gay propaganda” and called for censorship of LGBT-related information. The national professional association for psychiatrists proclaimed same-sex sexual orientation and transgender identities “mental illnesses.” And the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, called for criminalization of LGBT behavior and activism as well as forced “rehabilitation” for LGBT people. Several universities also banned LGBT applicants from enrolling as students.

In October 2016, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo broke his long silence on escalating anti-LGBT rhetoric by defending the rights of the country’s LGBT community. He declared that “the police must act” against actions by groups or individuals to harm LGBT people or deny them their rights, and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone.”

But until the attorney general corrected its job ad this week, no government agency had taken action to dial back the anti-LGBT bigotry compromising the safety and freedoms of many Indonesians.

United Kingdom: Couple Threatens To Sue Church School For Accommodating Trans Child

A Christian couple is preparing to sue a Church of England elementary school that is permitting a transgender six-year-old to being attending class in a dress. The couple said that the school’s policy confused their six-year-old son and is “interfering with their religious freedom.”

Serbia: Prime Minister Attends Pride

Ana Brnabic, the first woman and first gay person to lead Serbia, became the first head of a Balkan country to participate in a gay pride march, reports BBC. This year “only a few dozen people turned out to protest, carrying Orthodox icons and Russian flags.”

More from Associated Press:

Brnabic was elected earlier this year amid Serbia’s efforts to improve its image as it moves toward European Union membership. Gay rights activists in Serbia have hailed her ascension as an important step in their struggle, but say much more needs to be done.

“Today we walk together and together we will stress that problems still exist and that we want to work together to solve them,” said activist Goran Miletic.

Serbia’s embattled LGBT residents face widespread harassment and violence from extremists. Violence marred the first pride march in 2001, and more than 100 people were injured during an event in 2010 when police clashed with right-wing groups and soccer hooligans. Several pride events were banned before marches resumed in 2014.

Despite the hundreds of riot police stationed in downtown Belgrade and the helicopters flying overhead, activists said the atmosphere on Sunday was more relaxed than in previous years.

Tanzania: Mass Arrest Continues Anti-Gay Crackdown

In “the latest incident in a crackdown on homosexuality,” authorities in Zanzibar arrested 20 people suspected of engaging in homosexuality. From AP:

Twelve women and eight men were arrested following a police raid on a hotel where the suspects were attending a workshop, said regional police chief Hassan Ali.

“Yes, we rounded them up because we suspect that they were engaged in homosexuality in Zanzibar, which is illegal in Zanzibar and is against the law of the country,” he said, adding that police “will intensify (their) vigilance against those groups.”

Homosexuality is criminalized in Tanzania, and sex among men is punishable by jail terms ranging from 30 years to life imprisonment.

Tanzanian authorities recently have cracked down on homosexuals. In September 2016, the government temporarily suspended HIV/AIDS outreach projects targeting gay men.

Romania: Legislators Move Toward Referendum on Marriage Ban Promoted by Orthodox Church

Legislators reportedly plan to take steps toward a referendum on a constitutional ban on same-sex couples getting married, an effort that “emerged on the initiative of the Coalition for the Family (a group of associations supported by the Orthodox Church).”

Canada: Government Forming Advisory Council on Apology for Anti-LGBT Actions

The Canadian government is forming an advisory council “charged with crafting an apology to LGBT Canadians who suffered in the past at the hands of federal officials.” From the Globe & Mail:

After the Second World War, and right up until the late 1980s, federal officials sought to identify homosexuals in the public service and military who were seen as untrustworthy and at risk of blackmail by foreign powers.

Those targeted were subject to interrogation, harassment and dismissal. Many quit rather than submit themselves, friends and family to such harassment.

In 1989, Michelle Douglas was discharged from the military for being, as the regulation put it, “not advantageously employable due to homosexuality.” Her subsequent lawsuit helped end the practice.

“Now that the prospect of an apology is a reality, I realize just how much it means to me,” she said on Thursday. “I would like to hear the Prime Minister sincerely apologize for what was done to so many. … I want to hear the words ‘I am sorry.’ I think that will be an important turning point for our healing and as a way to fully recognize our service to Canada.”

Russia: Human Rights Activists Sound Alarm on Activists; Queerfest Starts Peacefully

Human Rights First called on the U.S. State Department to take action in the cases of Zelim Bakaev and Evdokia Romanova. Bakaev, a singer who as living in Moscow, was detained by men in Chechen military uniforms when he returned to his hometown to attend his sister’s wedding more than a month ago. Romanova is an activist set to stand trial for violating Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law.

“These two cases exemplify the danger the Russian LGBT community faces,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “LGBT individuals have been targeted by law enforcement and denied fundamental rights, and they are looking to the international community for support. The State Department must step up and take action to protect those who have been subject to these abuses.”

At the Advocate, a trans woman who now lives in Chicago  tells her story of leaving Cechnya, situating stories of anti-gay persecution within the actions of the brutally repressive regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Putin ally who rules Chechnya, and the Putin regime itself.

Queerfest is under way in St. Petersburg. The educational and cultural festival runs until September 24. Organizers reported a peaceful opening event on September 14, with police helping provide “an atmosphere of security and celebration.”

Philippines: Anti-Discrimination Legislation Advances

Legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was approved by the House of Representatives on its second reading, the furthest such legislation has advanced in 11 years.

Ivory Coast: Carnival a Rare Vehicle for Self-Expression

DW reports that at Carnival in Bounoua, “the men’s costumes can’t be flamboyant enough.” DW has a video report on the Carnival, which is “a vehicle for otherwise stigmatized sexual minorities in the country.”