‘Barbaric’ v ‘Progressive’ Islam; Catholic Church Objects to Mexican Court OK For Gay Adoption; Malaysian Court Weighs Boundaries Of Civil and Shariah Law; Global LGBT Recap

Islam: ‘Barbaric’ and Progressive

The United Nations ambassadors from the US and Chile have invited members of the UN Security Council to an August 24 meeting to discuss the “barbaric treatment” of LGBT people by the so-called Islamic State. Speaking of ISIS, writer Rukmini Callimachi and photographer Mauricio Lima produced an unforgettable, chilling New York Times story about the Islamic State’s enshrinement of a theology of rape and sexual slavery.

Alturi, an organization launched to “educate and engage individual supporters who want to help improve the lives of LGBTI people around the world,” includes on its website an interview by Leah Entenmann with Ani Zonneveld, founder of Muslims for Progressive Values.

Feeling unfulfilled in her traditional religious community, Ani Zonneveld began to re-study the Qur’an for herself after 9/11. Within the Qur’an, she found that the foundation of Islam was profoundly different from what either the sensationalist media or her traditional religious leaders were saying. “What I concluded,” she says, “is that Islam was actually very liberating in its values and what it advocated for. Once I understood that for myself, it was very hard to go back to the traditional mosque.”

An immigrant from Malaysia to Los Angeles, Zonneveld wanted a faith community that took to heart the call to social justice work and critical thinking she found in the Qur’an. She began organizing meet-​ups for progressive Muslims who felt unsatisfied in their traditional faith communities. “I discovered there were other pockets of like-​minded Muslims who had also established communities. So we all came together and formed Muslims for Progressive Values” (MPV).

Zonneveld has led MPV for nearly eight years. “What started out as a personal need for a freer, more liberated, and egalitarian expression of Islam,” has grown into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with consultative status at the United Nations. MPV has chapters and affiliates in many countries across six continents, and will soon open a third office in Tunis, Tunisia.

…There is nothing in the Qur’an that suggests LGBTQI people should be oppressed, says Zonneveld. Islam teaches that all people should be treated with dignity and compassion. “The criminalization of homosexuality is un-​Islamic at its root,” Zonneveld explains, “and the position MPV takes is based on sound Islamic scholarly research.” The Prophet Mohamed never punished anyone for being homosexual. The Qur’an references “men who are not attracted to women,” and there is no punishment for that.

MPV approaches LGBTQI issues differently depending on location. “In the American context, we advocate for full civil rights for all. We rejoice at the Supreme Court decision on marriage​—​we’ve been conducting same-sex Islamic weddings for some years now.” Internationally, MPV is cautious in its approach and avoids focusing on marriage. “We approach LGBTQI issues from a basic human rights perspective,” Zonneveld says. “Because there’s so much animosity and violence we have to be very careful for the safety of people on the ground.” MPV argues that LGBTQI people “should not be criminalized or have to go through corrective therapy, corrective rape, or other awful human rights abuses that run contrary to the values of compassion and understanding.” MPV sticks to the basic message that “LGBTQI people are human beings and deserve basic human rights like everyone else. We’re not making this up: we’re just going back to the egalitarian roots that Prophet Mohamed advocated for.”

Mexico: Court overturns ban on adoption by same-sex couples; Catholic officials protest

The Supreme Court has declared a ban on same-sex couples adopting children to be unconstitutional. The 9-1 vote; according to one report, “The only judge to vote for the ban, Eduardo Medina Mora, a close friend of the president, said adoption should prioritize children, not those who want to adopt them.” The case was brought by the human rights commission of the state of Campeche. According to the Associated Press, the ruling drew “angry protests from Roman Catholic Church representatives.

“Armando Martinez, the leader of the Catholic Lawyers’ Association, said his group will ask for the impeachment of the justices who voted to uphold the Mexico City law, adding “the justices are not God. They make a lot of mistakes.”

… The Roman Catholic Church heatedly opposed the law, and the court voted unanimously Monday to condemn comments by Cardinal Juan Sandoval, the archbishop of Guadalajara, who suggested over the weekend that justices may have been paid off by the Mexico City government to favor the law.

From International Business Times:

The state law was struck down in a 9-1 ruling. Presiding Judge Luis Maria Aguila said the decision was made keeping in mind the protection of adopted children. “I see no problem for a child to be adopted in a society of co-existence, which has precisely this purpose. Are we going to prefer to have children in the street, which according to statistics exceed 100,000? We attend, of course, and perhaps with the same intensity or more, to the interests of the child,” Aguila said, according to Latin American news network TeleSUR….

However, the issue has been contentious in the largely Catholic country, which has faced religious opposition to same-sex marriages and adoption. A 2013survey found that 52 percent of Mexicans supported same-sex marriage rights, but only 24 percent backed the adoption of children by such couples. The Roman Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage and adoption, but it has said that it will not refuse to baptize any children.

Malaysia: Civil and Shariah law boundaries tested

“A non-Muslim woman who trained as a shariah lawyer, and three cross-dressers seeking to have their rights recognized are setting the legal world alight in Malaysia this week,” according to a story at Lapido Media.

Basic liberties are being tested in the highest court, creating precedents that could affect the delicate religious balance in the majority Muslim country.

The two cases will test the Federal Court bench as they pit Islamic enactments against the country’s Federal Constitution which is essentially secular.

At the heart of the two cases is a contest between civil secular federal law, and Islamic shariah law which governs religious affairs at the state level.

At stake is the predominance of the Federal Constitution, bequeathed at independence by the British.  Articles 5, 8 and 10 relating to personal liberty, equality and freedom of speech, assembly and association are under the spotlight.

In one case, lawyer Victoria Jayaseele Martin, who has a degree in Shariah Laws and Practice and a Masters in Comparative Laws from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, is challenging the refusal of the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council to recognize her as a Shariah lawyer on the grounds that she is a non-Muslim. She artues the decision conflicts with federal law.

In the other case, “the Federal Court will listen to arguments as to whether state Islamic laws can criminalise cross-dressing.”

In the State of Negeri Sembilan case, three transgender men were arrested and charged for breaking a state law which can imprison a man who dresses or poses as a woman in public for up to six months or a fine of US$250.

Muhamad Juzaili Mohd Khamis, 26, Shukor Jani, 28 and Wan Fairol Wan Ismail, 30 were arrested for breaking Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment 1992, and filed a challenge in the High Court in 2012.

The trio said that the arrests contravened their freedom of expression and were against the Federal Constitution.

Last November, the Court of Appeal ruled against the state religious council, noting that the law violated provisions in the Federal Constitution.

The judge ruled that transgender males have the right to cross-dress, while the state religious authorities had failed to prove Islam’s position on how those who suffered from gender identity disorder should dress.

Presbyterian Church: Churches in Peru, Brazil cut ties with US Church over marriage equality

One News Now, a division of the right-wing American Family Association, reported/gloated last weekend that Presbyterian denominations in Brazil and Peru have cut ties with the Presbyterian Church USA over the issue of marriage for gay couples.

A strain on the ties was first reported by the Brazilian denomination back in 2011, when PCUSA passed Amendment 10-A to permit presbyteries to ordain openly homosexual clergy, according to a statement that was recently republished by the Presbyterian News Service.

“After a debate that began in 2011 … our church, that had initially decided to continue in partnership, in this last General Assembly, made the decision to interrupt the official partnership with this beloved church,” the IPIB announced in a statement. “Despite this notable contribution to the expansion of God’s Kingdom in the world and especially in Brazil, our church has understood that the recent decisions made by the PC(USA) are against the principle of the authority of Scripture over the life and faith of the Church, as well as the confessional documents of our common Reformed heritage.”

…With PCUSA’s progressive worldview on homosexual behavior continuing to take greater precedence over traditional biblical principles regarding sexual sin, it comes of little surprise to many that Brazil and Peru aren’t the first Latin American countries that have parted ways with the denomination. The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico voted to cease its 139-year relationship with PCUSA by a count of 116 to 22 in August 2011, which came shortly after PCUSA passed Amendment 10-A — preceding Amendment 14-F by nearly four years.

“The Mexican delegates also voted not to re-establish any relationship with the PC(USA) until 10-A is rescinded,”Presbyterian Outlook’s Leslie Scanton reported. “The PC(USA) representatives were hopeful that the Mexican Presbyterians might give the relationship more time ― but that was not to be.”

Mexico, Brazil and Peru might not be the last nations to separate from the PCUSA, as the American denomination has roughly 100 partnerships with Presbyterian and Reformed churches around the globe through its Presbyterian World Mission. Even though many of PCUSA’s other partnerships have not yet ceased, its redefinition of marriage has been condemned by many church partners — particularly in Latin America and the Middle East — giving rise to speculation that more nations will soon sever ties, as well.

Australia: Abbott says his party leaders will be sacked if they vote for marriage

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a socially conservative Catholic, continued to block marriage equality legislation in spite of overwhelming public support and a growing clamor within parliament. Abbott pushed for a decision against allowing members of his ruling coalition to vote their conscience and declared, in the words of one news report, “that Coalition frontbenchers [people with leadership positions] who break rank and vote in favour of gay marriage will be sacked.” Backbenchers would be free to vote as they wished. Abbott is trying to kick the decision into a future national plebescite on the issue.

Mr Abbott said he accepts people may be disappointed over the Coalition’s decision to reject a free vote on same-sex marriage but says the government has to keep faith with the public.

“There is the prospect of change in the next parliament if that is the will of the Australian people,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio, referring to a proposal for a national plebiscite.

The prime minister said it was only the current generation that had thought of gay marriage so “why not give it to the people?”

Guardian analyst Lenore Taylor writes that Abbott’s actions gave him the short-term victory of a “factional warrior” that leaves his party on the wrong side of the public. His tactics, she says, “have inflamed rather than calmed the feelings in his party and made the defeat, for same-sex marriage supporters, even more bitter.”

Some marriage equality advocates who had previously opposed a plebescite have embraced the prospect of a public vote.

A poll from 2014 found that marriage equality is supported by a majority of Catholics, Anglicans, and non-Christian religions. Pollster Mark Textor said at the time, ‘This poll definitively puts pay to some of the myths that married couples or those with religious beliefs are against same-sex marriage.  It doesn’t devalue their marriages or faith, and instead gives everyone equal access to the rights they are accorded’.” That poll also found that 77 percent supported a conscience vote on the issue.

Uganda: Pride supported by US while American evangelicals promote homophobia

U.S. embassy officials took part in Pride activities in Kampala last week and last weekend, reports the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers. Activist Richard Lusimbo praised the Obama administration’s “very beneficial” diplomatic efforts promoting LGBT human rights and slammed American evangelicals who continue to promote anti-gay attitudes and policies.

The U.S. last summer cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials in the African country who are responsible for anti-LGBT and other human rights abuses. The Center for Constitutional Rights in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively, an American evangelical pastor, on behalf of SMUG for allegedly exploiting anti-gay attitudes in Uganda before Parliamentarian David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009.

Ugandan lawmakers have pledged to reintroduce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the country’s Parliament, but they have yet to do so. Lusimbo told the Blade that politicians, religious leaders and those with ties to Lively continue to “drum up support” for the anti-gay measure.

“That chain has not yet been broken,” said Lusimbo, referring to Lively and other American evangelicals who continue to support anti-LGBT initiatives outside the U.S. “In America there is progress on LGBTI equality for all and marriage now. Seeing part of that same population that is transporting homophobia to Uganda and the rest of Africa and the rest of the world is really frightening and uncalled for from such a society.”

England: Pastor prepares to wed partner, be banished from ministry

Jeremy Timm, a Church of England preacher, is “preparing to be expelled, in order to marry his partner,” according to Pink News.

He said he had been forced to “choose between marriage or ministry” when he and his partner Mike were making a decision whether to convert their civil partnership to a marriage.

They entered the partnership six years ago, and plan to convert it to marriage in September, in a move frowned upon by the Church of England.

The lay preacher, Timm, will have his licence to preach, or Permission to Officiate (PTO), revoked, if he goes through with the conversion, says Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.

Despite the threat, he said he plans to go ahead with the ceremony, and he and Mike have bought rings.

He made the announcement on the Changing Attitude blog, saying he had been “living with an ultimatum” since he met with Dr Sentamu.

“I was told that although my ministry was much valued, if we change our status to being married then my PTO would be withdrawn with immediate effect,” he said.

“I was faced with choosing between marriage or ministry.

“This has caused tears and soul searching, but at the weekend Mike and I had a trip to Leeds and chose two new rings to mark this new milestone in our lives together

“I have written to the Archbishop, and informed him of our intentions, and he will withdraw my PTO, and my ministry as a reader will come to an abrupt end.”

Venezuela: First trans candidate for Congress; Evangelicals press Socialist Party on gay rights

According to a Reuters report last Saturday, “The first transgender politician to run for popular election in Venezuela on Friday registered as candidate for Congress as part of the opposition bloc, promising to advance gay rights in the traditionally macho South American society.” The story notes that activisdt Tamara Adrian “Adrian had to register under her given name Thomas Adrian despite a 2002 sex change, because Venezuelan law does not allow anyone born male to legally become female or take a woman’s name.”

Ms Adrian is running with the opposition party Voluntad Popular, which includes some of the most outspoken critics of President Nicolas Maduro. The party is also putting up two gay candidates.

She argued that Venezuela, along with Paraguay, Guyana, Suriname and Peru, has done little to extend equal rights to homosexuals.

Venezuela’s National Assembly, controlled by the ruling Socialist Party, has not opened a debate on legislation proposed by gay activists that would legalise same-sex marriage…

The Socialist Party has come under pressure from Evangelical Christians, who oppose gay marriage. They have become increasingly influential over the past decade even though the country is overwhelmingly Catholic, and marched to Congress this week to protest the proposed gay marriage legislation.

Kenya: Gay Kenyan pastor and partner marry in religious ceremony and prepare to flee country

Gay Star News’ Joe Morgan this week tells the story of Edwin and Ishaiah, a gay couple who held a public wedding ceremony in February and are now living in what they describe as a “cave” while figuring out how to get to Tanzania or Zanzibar in hopes of being given asylum.  The couple held there ceremony “in the compound of a church in the village of Mtitu Andei. “The Kenyan government may not have a law for our marriage, but we were married under Gods law,” Edwin said.

Other Sheep, a Latin American-based Christian group, found out about the wedding and went to Kenya to congratulate them and posted a blog to commemorate it.

Subsequently, a couple days after it had been posted, Isaiah had gone into the city center to buy feed for their chickens. His brother followed him. Someone had told him about the wedding. He had brought friends, and started beating his own brother up.

Edwin came to Isaiah’s rescue before a mob could pummel him to death. He escaped with heavy bruises and cuts on his body.

Afraid, they are now attempting to raise the funds to stay with friends in Tanzania, Zanzibar or elsewhere.

Edwin has no regrets about allowing someone to write about him, in fact, he’s proud of it. He wants people to know and understand what is happening in his country.

‘I know I have to go through this, and I know that some are following me. I will not regret who I am. If it means I have to die, I will die,’ he said.

‘This is my life, why should I hide? If God makes his decision, I will accept it.’

He added: ‘We cannot change the world by staying quiet. We can only change the world by talking, taking action, and speaking out.’

Latin America and Caribbean: New IGLHRC report on homophobia/transphobia in media

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Comission, in collaboration with a number of partners, released a study on homophobia and transphobia in Caribbean media, based on analysis from Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Lucia. The report’s section on Belize refers to the role played by the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches and its vice president, Scott Stirm, who is a U.S. citizen. And from its section on Jamaica:

In addition, politicians and other public figures such as faith leaders use the press to promote a message of intolerance against lesbians and gays. In August 2013, for example, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites stated at a press conference that while new teaching manuals on family life promotes tolerance on all grounds, “We will not be grooming Jamaican children for homosexual behavior.”

More from the report:

The evidence shows that reporting on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people often is sensationalized and demeaning or LGBTI persons are ignored completely by the media. Reporting was also inaccurate with sexual orientation and gender identity regularly conflated. Developments that might have created a more balanced picture were absent in the coverage.

The Caribbean countries covered in this report maintain criminal law provisions penalizing “offenses” labeled “sodomy,” (or “buggery“) “gross indecency,” “unnatural crimes” and so on.” This fact has raised serious, repeated concerns at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in part because these criminal provisions result in the general perception that “the right of association for purposes of promoting and defending the rights of LGTBI persons are prohibited, the argument being that their organizations and activities are ‘illegal’.” Furthermore, the generalized ridicule of LGBTI persons, in combination with threats and violence against LGBTI activists and supporters, lead to a limited pool of spokespersons—that is, individuals willing to be publicly associated with promoting non-discrimination and an end to violence. As a result, the public draws a distorted view of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals and the erroneous belief that not many people are willing to publicly stand up for their equality and rights. This situation has a direct impact on the safety and security of LGBTI people. The fact that prejudice is entrenched against a marginalized group combined with the perception that no one will protect or uphold their rights contribute directly to an environment that encourages discrimination and violence….

In many countries in the region, politicians and faith-leaders refer to calls to overcome entrenched inequality and violence against LGBTI people as the “gay agenda.” This phrase is construed to mean a global gay conspiracy, with a strategy to overtake the world. Even more dominant in the media is the notion that LGBTI people are destroying the nation and, in particular, the family. LGBTI people are seen as purveyors of moral decay. These unfounded conspiracy theories are reflected and reinforced uncritically by journalists, quoting homophobic officials or by editors who write value-based headlines that refer to the so-called “gay agenda.”

France: The downsides of marriage equality – invigorated opposition and assimilation

At Slate, Liam Hoare examines the impact of marriage equality in France. “The introduction of same-sex marriage in May 2013 was, without a doubt, the most important LGBTQ rights victory in France since the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1982,” Hoare writes. But the victory has also had unforsee consequences:

The almighty resistance to the idea of same-sex marriage, with La Manif Pour Tous (a collective of groups opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption) organizing demonstrations that brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto the streets of Paris, took the wind out of François Hollande’s presidency within its first year and halted the momentum behind the LGBTQ rights movement.

Beyond marriage, Roux explained that the issues of vital importance right now are: access to artificial insemination for lesbian couples; making it easier for trans people to change their gender for legal purposes and removing the requirement that they undergo sterilization before their preferred gender identity is recognized; and removing the indefinite ban on blood donation for men who have had sex with men. With Hollande’s popularity at a record low and all his political capital spent, however, no progress on these matters can be expected anytime soon.

The opponents of LGBTQ rights “will never be as visible as they were during the same-sex marriage controversy,” Roux says, but they did enable the comeback of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who won the leadership of the opposition Les Républicains party in part because of his defense of the “traditional” family. Same-sex marriage is “humiliating families and humiliating people who love the family,” the thrice-married Sarkozy said in September 2014; in November he announced that he would repeal the Taubira law, as the marriage equality legislation is known in France, if he is elected again in 2017.

Marriage equality has also hastened the pace at which gay and lesbian people are assimilating into wider French society. There wasn’t much of a culture of queer distinctiveness to begin with, at least not in the way it is understood in the United States. In France, communautés (communities) and political lobbies are considered anti-French and contrary to the workings of an egalitarian republic, while the notion of being queer or fluid isn’t very well developed. The French attitude to sex and relationships as private matters also comes into play.

But Paul Parant, web editor at the French gay magazine Têtu, believes that the struggle to make marriage equality happen—a fight that was “really ugly, really painful, really long” and above all unexpected—caused French LGBTQ people to quickly depoliticize and retreat. Most hurtful were those accusations of communautarisme (communitarianism), the idea that gay marriage represented a special interest and not an attempt by LGBTQ people to enjoy the same rights as everyone else.

“There is a sense that you cannot be completely French if you belong to a community,” Parant told me. “In America, community is a positive word, but for the French, it’s somewhat scary.”

There’s also a “curious relationship” between gays and the far-right Front National.

“Marine Le Pen promises a clear change and everyone wants a clear change—it’s bullshit of course,” Parant says, noting that the FN is currently the only political movement with any momentum. Le Pen has redefined her party as the last defender of republicanism and French nationalism, attractive to those seeking to dodge the charge ofcommunautarisme. Le Pen has also been successful in drawing a connection between Arab and Muslim immigration and the security of other minorities, specifically Jews and gays.

“She said it once, only once, but everyone kept repeating it, that she would defend Jews and gays against the Arabs. But it worked, it just worked. People are buying into it,” Parant said.

Scotland: First gay couple married at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Steven Gray and Paul Hastie became the first same-sex couple to have their wedding blessed at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee. The ceremony was led by Scottish Episcopal Church Rev. Jeremy Auld.

Israel: Legislation named for victim of Pride stabbing

A set of LGBT civil rights bills has been introduced in the Knesset in honor of Shira Banki, the 16-year-old who died after being stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox man at Jerusalem’s Pride parade.

Gambia: President threatens to kill nephew for supporting LGBT rights

Alagie Jammeh, 25-year-old nephew of the country’s viciously anti-gay president, has been threatened by his uncle with life in prison or execution if he ever returns to the country. His crime? Saying on Facebook, “No one should be denied their fundamental basic human rights because of their sexuality.” Alagie Jammeh is a student at the University of California Santa Barbara.