Conservative Anglican Bishops Threaten To Split Communion; Malawi Opposition Leader Says Gays Should Be Killed; Anti-Marriage Effort Makes European Union Question Initiative Process; Global LGBT Recap

A four-day conference convened by the Gay Christian Network is under way in Houston.

The Advocate’s current print issue includes a photo essay including interviews with LGBT Muslims, featuring the work of Toronto photographer Samra Habib.

 “Mainstream Islam isn’t always welcoming of LGBTQ Muslims, yet a lot of the Muslim traditions and rituals bring queer Muslims comfort and provide a sense of belonging,” Habib says. “I wanted to show everyone the creative and brilliant LGBTQ Muslims I identified with the most and would hang out with at art shows, queer dance parties, and Jumu’ah prayer. So I picked up my camera and decided to photograph what I was witnessing.

Anglican Communion: Conservative Bishops Threaten Split

“The issue of gay marriage is threatening to split apart the Anglican Communion ahead of an important summit in Canterbury in England next week,” according to the Christian Post, “with African and Asian leaders threatening to walk out on Archbishop Justin Welby.

Welby has been hoping to preserve the communion in the face of conservative outcry over the backing given same-sex marriage by liberal bishops, including leaders of the American Episcopal Church.

The Daily Mail’s Jonathan Petre reports:

The row has torn the Church apart for a decade – with conservatives accusing liberals of abandoning the word of God by backing openly gay bishops and marriages for gay couples – and the Archbishop wants to broker a deal to allow both sides to co-exist peacefully.

But insiders said a hardcore of eight to 12 conservative archbishops from Africa and Asia are preparing to quit the meeting on the first morning unless the liberal Americans ‘repent’ or the Archbishop throws them out.

In what would be a massive challenge to Archbishop Welby’s authority, the conservatives, who represent some of the biggest of the 38 individual Churches in the worldwide ‘Communion’, are then likely move to their own headquarters nearby for the rest of the meeting.

While they are unlikely immediately to break their historic ties with the Archbishop of Canterbury – the nominal head of the Communion – they would boycott future official meetings and set up a parallel church, drawing away traditionalists from the Church of England.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that feelings are running so high that the three most powerful leaders, the Archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, were last week on the brink of snubbing the meeting altogether, but were persuaded to attend by colleagues still hoping to force concessions from Welby.

Sources said they have lost patience with the Archbishop’s refusal to discipline the liberals for ignoring official policy urging them to refrain from creating gay bishops or approving gay marriage without widespread agreement.

Malawi: President Backs Gay Rights, Opposition Politicians Says Gays Should Be Killed

President Peter Mutharika wants gay rights protected, his press secretary said on Thursday, signaling that the country may be “one of the few places in the region where there is an opening for political reform of anti-LGBT laws. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reminds us that former President Joyce Banda had asked parliament to overturn the colonial era sodomy law in 2012, an effort she abandoned, while imposing a moratorium on its enforcement. The issue has been brought into the spotlight, Feder writes, “after a couple was attacked and arrested after an alleged sexual encounter in one of their homes; charges were dropped after international outcry.

When asked whether President Peter Mutharika believed the sodomy law should be repealed, Press Secretary Gerald Viola said his “position at the moment is pushing [the question] back to Malawians” for a vote.

“If they say we embrace the new culture, he will say ok,” Viola said. “If he says we don’t agree with this new culture, he is also ok.”

But, Viola added, when the president “sees other people being victimized” he believes “we leave politics, laws aside — we apply human dignity to be respected.”

“God is the best judge and whatever we’re doing on this,” Viola said. “It’s not good to apply punitive laws on people.”

But at Pink News Nick Duffy reports that Ken Msconda, a spokesperson for the opposition People’s Party, responded with violent anti-gay vitriol:

“Arresting them won’t address this problem because sooner or later they are being released on bail.

“The best way to deal with this problem is to KILL them!

“It is pathetic to see our media houses parading these dogs on TV and newspapers hiding behind human rights — human rights my foot! The devil has no rights!”

Catholic Church: Interview with Fired Gay Priest

LGBT News Italia published an interview with Krzysztof Charamsa, the Polish priest who was forced out of his Vatican job after coming out on the eve of the bishops’ family synod in the fall. In the interview by Andrea Miluzzo (with English translation by Flavia Viglione), he calls the Catholic Church “one of the most powerful agencies of irrational hate towards sexual minorities, refusing any possibility of verification and discussion of its retrograde position, which has nothing to do with reality and with the state of modern science as regards homosexuality.”

Charamsa denounced a cardinal for comparing homosexuals to Nazis at the synod, which he said reflects “a mindset which the institution of the Church shapes every day, inciting fear, disdain and in the end hatred of homosexuals….”

Charamsa predicted that at some point in the future the Church will bless same sex unions. “I undoubtedly know that the tie will come when the Church will ask for forgiveness, but only God knows the time.”

European Union: Officials Unhappy With Conservative Initiative Effort on Marriage

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “wants to review a scheme that lets the public suggest new laws after campaigners called for gay marriage to be explicitly unrecognized in EU law,” writes Matthew Holehouse for the Telegraph.

His officials are alarmed that a petitions system designed to make the EU more democratic could boost euroscepticism and have negative “political consequences” for the European project.

Campaigners, backed by Christian lobby groups, have demanded a change to European law to state that marriage exists only between men and women – a “family” should be defined strictly as a heterosexual married couple and their descendants, they argue.

They hope to use a scheme backed by Mr Juncker and established in 2012 that obliges the EU to consider proposed new laws if they get the backing of one million citizens.

EU officials denied that Juncker wants to water down the initiative process, which was introduced in 2012, which did not mollify the religious groups pushing the initiative.

But Paul Moynan, the director of the Christian lobbying group Care for Europe, who helped organise the petition, said he was angered by the Commissioners’ “clearly preposterous” reaction.

“The European citizens’ initiative process was created to give direct initiating power to ordinary Europeans,” he said. “It is regrettable and undemocratic that the Commission seems to begrudge any initiative that does not fit their political agenda.”

The proposed “Mum, Dad and Kids” initiative is backed by a coalition of right-wing leaders and groups in Europe, many of which are connected with the World Congress of Families and American Religious Right groups. I reported on the initiative in October for Right Wing Watch:

The proposal would allow member states to have more inclusive definitions of marriage within their borders, but they would not be recognizes under European Union law, and other countries would not be required to recognize them.

More specifically, the Mum, Dad & Kids proposal would eliminate Article 2 (2) of a 2004 European Union directive on freedom of movement within member states, which includes as part of its definition of family member a person in a registered partnership relationship that one of the member states treats as the equivalent of marriage. Similarly, it would eliminate from a 2012 directive on support for victims of crime a definition of family members that includes “the spouse, the person who is living with the victim in a committed intimate relationship, in a joint household and on a stable and continuous basis, the relatives in direct line, the siblings and the dependents of the victim.”

Islamic State: Teen Executed For Homosexuality, But Not ISIS Commander

ISIS reportedly executed a 15-year-old Syrian boy charged with homosexuality by throwing him off the roof of a building. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration reiterated its call for the U.S. to reserve some of the 10,000 slots for Syrian refugees for LGBT people, a call that the White House has rejected.

The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman notes that ISIS murdered the teen while sparing the life of an ISIS senior commander, named in news reports as Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi, who was “having some kind of relationship” with the teenager but was not killed. “Instead, al-Jazrawi was reportedly flogged, and forced to leave Syria and join the fighting fronts in northwestern Iraq.”

The Sharia Court in Deir ez-Zor reportedly said that Abu Zaid should, like the boy, die for being gay, but ISIS commanders demanded he be sent to fight in Iraq instead.

Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian who escaped the country fearing for his life, and who in a history-making speech addressed the United Nations last year about LGBT persecution in Syria, told The Daily Beast that there were possible cultural reasons behind the murder of one young man and the reprieve of his older sexual partner, described as the teen’s “rapist” in some reports.

“A tradition in which adult males engaged in sexual pleasure with pre-pubescent boys–ghelman–including hermaphroditic boys, has existed before the creation of Islam,” Nahas said. “Because these encounters didn’t result in pregnancies, they became more commonplace after Islam had taken root.”

Teeman notes that some reports describe the relationship between the teen and the commander as rape while others suggest it was a consensual relationship.

“Culturally, post the formation of Islam, people related homosexuality to pedophilia,” said Nahas, now an activist with the Organization For Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM). “No distinction is drawn between the two. If somebody raped a boy they called him a homosexual, not a pedophile. Maybe this commander had a kind of waiver given to him by his peers. They think, ‘He does great things for people. We cannot kill him, but we need a scapegoat, the boy.’

“They don’t call this relationship or [these] men ‘gay,’” said Nahas. “If a man has sex with another man, the two parties are the receptive one and the ‘inserter.’ If you’re the receptive party, you’re doomed. You’re seen as sodomized, someone has done this toyou, you’re the abomination. If you’re the inserter, you are in control, you’re functional, you can reproduce.”

Nahas said the case was also puzzling: He had heard that while ISIS was sparing effeminate gay men “for the pleasure of older men,” the “masculine” men suspected of being gay were being killed.

The U.K.’s parliamentary International Development Committee released a report this week that identified LGBTs from Syria as some of the most vulnerable refugees.

Dominican Republic: Anti-Gay Leaders Say Gay Ambassador Should Be ‘Persona Non Grata’

We have previously noted the war of words waged by some Catholic Church officials against openly gay U.S. Ambassador Wally Brewster; those efforts reached a new level with a letter from two dozen religious leaders and intellectuals urging the government to declare Brewster “persona non grata.”

The Washington Blade reports:

The letter sent to President Danilo Medina’s administration and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically cites the “intent” of the White House and the U.N. “to create the right conditions to morally deprive our adolescents in school by imposing upon them sexuality classes that have as basic text a manual that invites children to begin practicing gay and lesbian practices while in secondary school.”

“This initiative to turn our adolescents gay early on is an initiative of the U.S. government that is run by a homosexual and represented by another homosexual in the Dominican Republic,” reads the letter that Al Momento, a Dominican newspaper, published on its website on Wednesday.

The letter specifically criticizes James “Wally” Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, for “freely” taking part in last year’s Pride parade in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo. The letter also references a picture of “a group” of gay men who were “semi-naked and hugging each other” in the pool of Brewster and Satawake’s official residence that a Dominican newspaper published.

“We view this invitation to public homosexuality as an indecency and a lack of decorum that shames the modesty of the majority of the Dominican population that neither shares in homosexual practices or practices their sexuality in promiscuous environments,” it says.

The Blade reports that dozens of pro-equality activists and advocacy groups released their own statement denouncing the letter.

Nigeria: Impact of Anti-Gay Law After Two Years

Nigeria’s draconian anti-gay Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act was signed into law two years ago this week. In Medium, Bisi Alimi reviews the fallout for LGBT Nigerians:

Nigeria’s government’s victimization and criminalization of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community dates back to the pre-colonial period when the British, in the glory of their empire, left the country with a “sodomy law.”

But the 2014 law took the persecution to a new level. For example, the gangs of homophobic Nigerians were given a legal status that backed their actions. Their boldness could be oiled by the blood of their victim.

The argument used by Jonathan and his people, most importantly his spokesperson Ruben Abati, to justify the new law was that Nigerians demanded it because “homosexuality is not part of our culture and our religion.”

Two years later, Alimi writes, “life is harder than ever for LGBT people in Nigeria.” According to a report by the Initiative for Human Rights, 282 LGBT people w

Nigeria’s law was steadfastly defended last fall at the World Congress of Families, which honored one of the law’s supporters.

Mexico: Marriage Equality Advance Continues

The first same-sex marriage in Cabo San Lucas in the state of Baja California Sur will take place this weekend after two women received a federal amparo, or injunction, that overrides local marriage bans. Journalist Rex Wockner explains and tracks the steady spread of marriage equality, over the objections of Church leaders and many local officials, via Mexico’s complex federal-state justice system.

Guyana: President Expresses Support For Gay Rights

In the only country in South America that criminalizes homosexual activity, President David Granger told reporters that the human rights of individuals should be respected, saying, “I am prepared to respect the rights of any adult to indulge in any practice which is not harmful to others.”

Ravin Singh, reporting in the Guyana Chronicle, quotes LGBT equality activist Vidyaratha Kissoon, who commended the president’s statement but also urged action to bring the country in line with international human rights commitments.

“The lives of LGBT citizens cannot be determined by any citizen whose religious views encourage discrimination. The President seems cautious in his leadership in trying to be cohesive. However, human rights are not the gifts of religious groups to any other group of the society.”

Tunisia: LGBT Group Appeals Suspension Order; Students Freed From Jail On Appeal

An appeals court on Thursday “released six students pending action on the appeal of their three-year prison sentences for sodomy,” reports Colin Stewart at Erasing 76 Crimes. The students were convicted on December 10.

Shams, a group that advocates for LGBT equality, is appealing a January 4 government order that it suspend activities for 30 days for noncompliance with the principles of the rule of law.

In December, Ahmed Zarrouk, the secretary general of the Tunisian government, requested the dissolution of Shams, which had obtained its official registration only recently — on May 18.

On Dec. 12, Shams had called for a demonstration outside parliament seeking recognition of the human rights of LGBT people, but the rally was banned by the government.

The protest was also aimed at countering the statements of Ahmed Zarrouk and of member of parliament Abdellatif Mekki of  the Islamist Ennahda party, who said that official recognition of Shams is dangerous for the “social peace.”

Estonia: Confusion Over Implementation of Gay Partnership Law

The Associated Press reported on New Year’s Day that a law allowing gay partnerships has gone into effect in Estonia, but that “same-sex couples are being advised to hold off on getting hitched until a series of legal issues have been worked out.”

Estonia in 2014 became the first former Soviet republic to approve gay civil unions, but Parliament has not yet adopted laws required to implement that decision.

While couples can enter into unions, the Estonian Chamber of Notaries says there are legal uncertainties related to divorce, inheritance and other practical matters.

For that reason, the chamber has advised same-sex couples to consider waiting until the rules become clearer.

Estonia, which like Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades, is considered the most Western-oriented of the former Soviet republics.

Estonian Public Broadcasting has more details, noting the difficulties in getting implementing acts through Parliament.

India: Human Rights Watch Urges Repeal of Sodomy Law

Human Rights Watch this week said there is an “urgent need” to repeal India’s “archaic” law that criminalizes same-sex relations.

Fiji: Prime Minister Dismisses Marriage Equality As Rubbish, Says Couple Should Move to Iceland

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in response to a suggestion that the country should consider legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, “Fiji does not need that rubbish.” According to Radio New Zealand, Bainimarama said that if two women want to marry, “they should go and have it done in Iceland and stay and live there.”

China: Court Accepts Marriage Case

Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee reports that a court “has accepted China’s first same-sex marriage case, lodged by a gay man against a civil affairs bureau for denying him the right to marry.” Notes Reuters, “While homosexualiy is not illegal in China, and large cities have thriving gay scenes, same-sex marriage is not legal and same-sex couples have no legal protections.”