Clashing human rights visions for LGBTs at United Nations; More Mixed Messages from the Vatican as Family Synod Begins; Timeline of Worsening Homophobia by Turkey’s AKP Party; Global LGBT Recap

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (pronounced iggle-hurk) announced last Monday that it has formally changed its name to OutRight Action International, with a tagline of “human rights for LGBTIQ people everywhere.”

A new organization devoted to global LGBTI advocacy, Alturi, launched on Wednesday, and announced members of its Executive Board and its Global Advisory Board. From a press release:

Alturi is an online platform that enables individuals from all walks of life to take a stand against the violence and discrimination confronting the international LGBTI community and provide direct help for LGBTI advocates around the world. With marriage equality secured at last in the United States, the LGBTI rights movement is turning its attention in new directions, and Alturi is committed to making the worldwide human rights of LGBTI people a priority…

Alturi is designed to help Americans learn about the issues facing LGBTI people around the world and take action in support of LGBTI advocates creating change worldwide. Alturi features real-life stories, accessible analysis, and a curated newsfeed to help visitors make sense of the issues affecting the lives of LGBTI people across the globe. The website also highlights international and U.S.-based organizations doing and funding cutting-edge advocacy abroad and enables donations to them, with 100 percent of contributions going directly to the recipient organizations.

Meanwhile, notorious anti-gay politician Vitaly Milonov announced his own plans to create an international organization, whose mission will be to “save the international community from gays.” He said it will be led by 10-12 people in European politics. The group’s wildly inappropriate name will be “Volunteers for Freedom.” Milonov recently tried to ban Wikipedia and Facebook from Russia, saying that they violated the country’s ban on gay “propaganda.”

United Nations: Clashing visions on human rights for LGBT people

On September 29, 12 United Nations agencies issued a joint call to action against violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

 “This is the first time that so many members of the UN family have joined forces in defence of the basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” said the UN Human Rights Office’s Chief of Global Issues, Charles Radcliffe. “It’s both an expression of commitment on the part of UN agencies, and a powerful call to action for Governments around the world to do more to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination and abuses against intersex people.”

The statement on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People” has been endorsed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Secretariat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Women, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

On the same day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the High Level LGBT Core Group Event to reaffirm his commitment to “leave no one behind.”

When the human rights of LGBT people are abused, all of us are diminished. Every human life is precious – none is worth more than another.

This United Nations I lead will never shirk in the fight against discrimination. We will never shy away from protecting the most marginalized and vulnerable people.

This is not just a personal commitment – it is an institutional one.

Also speaking was, former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, who said that anti-gay stigma and discrimination hamper the fight against AIDS.

As long as these exist, we cannot end AIDS. Africa must break down the barriers and obstacles that fuel discrimination against all groups, especially LGBT. If we do not act now with purpose, urgency and inclusivity, we risk the danger of deepening the divisions in our society, of creating divisive and unjust societies, a legacy of hate and fear for future generations of Africa.

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly that day, saying, “In this country, everybody can contribute, everybody can participate no matter who they are, or what they look like, or who they love,” said Obama. “That’s what makes us strong.”

In contrast, President Robert Mugabe slammed gays at his United Nations General Assembly address on Monday.

“Nowhere does the charter abrogate the right to some to sit in judgment over others, in carrying out this universal obligation. In that regard, we reject the politicization of this important issue and the application of double standards to victimize those who dare think and act independently of the self-anointed prefects of our time.”

“We equally reject attempts to prescribe “new rights” that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs,” he continued, before barking, “We are not gays!”

In an interview with Voice of America, Chesterfield Samba, head of Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe, pledged he would continue to fight.

Two days earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir declared that the country would not follow any rules relating to the U.N.’s new sustainable development goals that reference homosexuality and thus run “counter to Islamic law.” Even though overt references to LGBTs were stripped from the document, Al-Jubeir said that “mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman.”

The so-called Sustainable Development Goals include a target to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights by 2030. Some states like Saudi Arabia and the Vatican are concerned that references to “sexual rights” include rights for gay people.

The United Nations Development Programme published “Something to Celebrate,” a profile of Mica Shahi, who became the first transgender person in Nepal “to receive a passport recognizing her gender identity as unconnected to her biological sex.” The Supreme Court of Nepal recognized the equal rights of LGBTI people in 2007.

Vatican: More mixed messages for LGBT Catholics

After Pope Francis made comments about religious liberty on his way home from the U.S., comments that some people interpreted as an endorsement of the Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses, lawyers for Kim Davis revealed that she had met with the pope during his visit to Washington, D.C. The new unleashed a wave of criticism from LGBT Catholics and their allies and speculation about whether the visit had actually happened and if so, who arranged it.

In a series of releases, the Vatican grudgingly confirmed that the meeting took place, but undermined the account by Davis and her lawyers at Liberty Counsel. Amid questions about whether the pope had engineered the meeting or was ill-served and “blind-sided” by a member or the curia or an American bishop, The Vatican eventually that it had been arranged by the papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The Vatican finally said explicitly that the meeting should not be taken as an endorsement of Davis’s actions – and also let it be known that the pope met with a gay couple in a meeting Francis had sought out with a gay man he had known in Argentina.

Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

RD’s Anthea Butler summarized the situation as a Vatican Game of Thrones.

Liberty Counsel has continued to insist that Davis met privately with Francis, in a meeting that was clearly intended to be kept secret. Liberty Counsel may have leaked the Francis visit as a distraction from the fact that they and their cheerleader and anti-gay pundit Matt Barber were forced to finally back down from claims first made by LC’s Mat Staver at the Values Voter Summit that 100,000 Peruvian Christians had rallied to pray for Kim Davis. ThinkProgress blogger Zack Ford and other online activists worked to identify the photo that Staver had claimed showed a pro-Davis gathering was actually from 2014.

Also this week, on the eve of the bishops’ synod on the family, a high-ranking Polish priest who worked for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came out, publicly declaring that his is gay and has a boyfriend, and telling the church to “stop persecuting the innocents.” Almost immediately, he was fired, with the Vatican saying the timing of his announcement was irresponsible.

“The decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the synod assembly to undue media pressure,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a statement.

In his opening remarks to the synod on Sunday, Francis said the church should be, reports Reuters, “more welcoming, charitable and merciful to all people,” but also that the “true meaning of the couple of and human sexuality in God’s plan” is marriage between a man and a woman.

Brazil: Political push to rollback marriage equality decision

Worldcrunch reported that a special committee in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies passed a statue defining family as a concept beginning from athe union of a man and a woman:

Rio de Janeiro daily O Globo reports that the text was promoted by conservative lawmakers with close ties to the Catholic Church, over fierce opposition from the governing Workers’ Party of President Dilma Rousseff and pro-LGBT activists who spent last week protesting outside parliament.

The parliamentary showdown comes after the May 2013 decision by a Federal Court to effectively legalize gay marriage. Religious lawmakers told O Globo that the decision was a case of the judiciary overstepping its authority, and that Congress had to defend the traditional family structure….

The special committee’s debate was called by Chamber of Deputies President Eduardo Cunha, President Rousseff’s foremost political enemy. The statute represents another conflict between Congress and the President, who have been embroiled in a political battle for months over a massive corruption probe targetting Rousseff’s party.

Turkey: Timeline shows slide to anti-LGBT positions by Erdoğan’s party

LGBTI News Turkey released a timeline showing the deterioration of the positions on LGBT issues taken by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was founded in 2001. That year, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a television interviewer, “Gays must have legal protections in terms of their rights and freedoms.” But in 2004 the government removed language protecting LGBTI people from a draft penal code, with the justice minister at the time saying it was “unnecessary to add sexual orientation because gender already covers it.”

The timeline tracks anti-LGBT statements from columnists and party officials, including one made in 2010 by Aliye Kavaf, “the then state minister responsible for the family”: “I believe homosexuality is a dysfunction, a disease, and needs to be cured.”

Among the incidents from this year, which also include numerous homophobic comments made as attacks on the opposition HDP Party:

Commenting on the 23rd LGBTI Pride Week to be held on June 22-28 [2015], theologian Prof. Hayrettin Karaman who is known for being close to President Erdoğan and who is followed carefully by AKP followers said:

The regime of this country may be laic, secular, liberal-democrat, etc., but lest anyone forget, the overwhelming majority of our people are Muslim and accept homosexuality as immoral; homosexuals cannot join the ranks of pure and honorable people by coming out, their ‘misdeed’ is met with disgust as a shameful act.

France: Official fined for refusing to marry two women

Sabrina Hout, a deputy mayor of Marseille, received a 1,500 euro fine and a five-month suspended sentence for refusing to marry two women in August 2014. She had a borough council member perform the marriage, but since council members are not legally authorized to do so, the marriage was declared invalid and the couple was subsequently legally married by a district mayor. Unlike Kim Davis, Hout is not continuing to claim a religious right to refuse to conduct marriages:

Three witnesses have testified to the court that the deputy mayor is not homophobic, and Hout, who is Muslim, says her religion does not prevent her from performing same-sex marriages. Her lawyer blamed her decision on “clumsiness, ignorance”.

“I’m really sorry. I’m ashamed of what I did, if it was interpreted as homophobia,” Hout had told the court, insisting that the events were due to a “bad set of circumstances.”

Poland: President vetoes transgender rights bill

President Andrzej Duda vetoed the Gender Accordance Act, disregarding recommendations from the Council of Europe and decisions from the European Court of Human Rights.

“I still can’t believe that this has happened” says Lalka Podobińska, Trans-Fuzja’s Vice-President. “I wanted to believe that since Mr. Duda’s presidential campaign claimed he was supposed to be ‘the President of all Poles’, he would ultimately understand that this Act does not harm the majority, but rather helps a small minority, which definitely needs a new law. I wanted to believe that his intentions were to help those who actually need it. For me, the President failed his humanity test. He denied trans people life in accordance with their gender identity”.

The Polish Catholic Church declared war on “gender ideology” at the end of 2013.

Nigeria: Catholic bishops say their anti-gay stance is misunderstood

The Nigerian Catholic bishops conference is complaining  that its firm opposition to same-sex marriage has been mis-characterized as hostility to gay people. It says that the letter praising President Goodluck Jonathan for signing an anti-gay bill was an expression of relief that the country’s leaders had stood up to international pressure in favor of marriage equality, and was not an endorsement of the 14-year jail sentence for homosexuality included in the bill. A statement by Fr. Chris Anyanwu, director of social communications for the Catholic Secretariat of Nigera said in part:

It is an absurdity to accuse the Nigerian Catholic Bishops of supporting and sending people to jail! Our stand was and is “no to same sex union” and “no to spreading of the homosexual culture” which can only complicate our struggle to uphold traditional, religious, moral values in our country. Our commitment to providing justice to those whose rights are unfairly violated is unwavering. The Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis calls us even now to do more.”

It is therefore important to place on record that no amount of calumny, intimidation, lies and name-calling will make the Bishops to change their stand on marriage and family life or abdicate their moral responsibility in speaking out clearly against the same-sex issue.

For the record, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama’s 2014 letter to Goodluck Jonathan for signing the harsh anti-gay legislation included this:

We commend you for this courageous and wise decision and pray that God will continue to bless, guide and protect you and your administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices, that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.

Honduras: LGBT advocates meet in country plagued by violence

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reported this week on the more than 100 people who attended an LGBT equality strategy session in Tegucigalpa, Honduras:

Advocates from throughout Latin America attended the conference at the Hotel Plaza del Libertador in Tegucigalpa that Honduran LGBT rights advocates organized.

They discussed ways to curb anti-LGBT violence and discrimination that remains rampant in the Central American nation. Conference participants also highlighted the strong influence the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Christians have on Honduran society and how they can try to use the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ensure LGBT people in the country are treated equally.

El Salvador: Report on vulnerability of LGBT people

Human Rights First called attention to the vulnerability of LGBT people to discrimination, marginalization, and murder amidst the “maelstrom of brutality” that the country has become.

Israel: Jerusalem’s chief rabbi says homosexuality is an abomination and will disappear

Jerusalem’s chief rabbi Shlomo Amar condemned the murderous attacks at the city’s pride parade this summer, but said he believes homosexuality “will wane and disappear, because most of the public is disgusted by it and detest it.” Amar said, “The Torah called it an abomination and we certainly need to find more considered ways of fighting it.”

Tunisia: After young man jailed for homosexuality, justice minister calls for repeal of legal ban

A 22-year-old man was sentenced to a year in prison this month for engaging in homosexual acts, a sentence that Human Rights Watch called a violation of international law and Tunisia’s constitution.

The country’s justice minister has since called for a repeal of the law criminalizing sex between two men.

Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa said Article 230, which provides for three years in prison for consensual sex between men, is one of several laws that are inconsistent with the country’s new, progressive Constitution…

Kenya: Human rights report say mob violence meets little official response

PEMA Kenya and Human Rights Watch released a report this week saying that mobs in Kenya’s coastal region “have repeatedly attacked people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” and that official response has been inadequate at best.

“President Kenyatta recently described gay rights in Kenya as a ‘non-issue,’” said Lorna Dias, executive coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, an umbrella organization of which PEMA Kenya is a member. “Our response is that being gay or lesbian is a non-issue, but being harmed because of who you are is a serious issue. And the government can’t abdicate its responsibility to address violence against our communities.”

…“While some Kenyan leaders have attempted to paint homosexuality as ‘un-African,’ the African Commission resolution cements what many African human rights advocates have long said – that it is violence and exclusion that are un-African,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Kenya should uphold this resolution and protect, rather than persecute, sexual and gender minorities, at the coast and wherever anti-LGBT violence exists.”

Uganda: Lively faces U.S. prosecution; LGBT activist gets ‘alternative Nobel’

Renee Gadoua at Religion News Service profiles anti-gay religious right activist Scott Lively, who is on trial for promoting persecution of LGBT people in Uganda in a case brought by Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Lively also urged Russia to criminalize the public advocacy of homosexuality and called the country’s anti-gay propaganda law “one of the proudest achievements of my career.”  Lively is represented by Liberty Counsel, the same anti-gay group that is representing Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, founder and director of Freedom and Road Uganda, and LGBT advocacy group, received an International Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.”

Church of England: Married clergymen run for General Synod

Two clergymen who defied church rules to marry their same-sex partners are running to sit on the General Synod, the Church of England’s main governing body, reports Pink News.

China: Wedding proposal video goes viral

Video of a Chinese man kneeling in a crowded subway car to propose marriage to another man has gone viral, reports CNN.