Conservative Catholics Unhappy About New Book on LGBTs and The Church; and More in the Global LGBT Recap

In India, the city of Lucknow hosted its first queer pride parade on April 9; image courtesy

The Global Alliance for LGBT Education has protested the selection of Saudi Arabia as the site for a forum on youth engagement in social change:

The forum, “Youth and their Social Impact”, is supposed to explore youth engagement and its potential for social change and to educate for a sustainable future. A specific break-out workshop will be about using digital tools for the promotion of social interaction and engagement. In Saudi Arabia, dating sites are one of the few options for LGBT people to socially interact. However, the religious police even tracks gay dating sites actively and convicted two men to 450 lashes for using Twitter to meet in 2014. Even such private use is considered “promoting the vice and practice of homosexuality”. According to the new anti-terrorism law, Saudi Arabia considers any criticism of Islam and even atheism as forms of terrorism against the State. There conditions will make the discussion at the UNESCO forum extremely limited.

Catholic Church: Some Vatican officials embrace new LGBT-friendly book; conservatives unhappy

The conservative LifeSiteNews published a column complaining that the Vatican “has selected a prominent LGBT-pushing Jesuit priest to be a consultor to its communications office.” The priest in question is James Martin, editor-at-large of America magazine, who in 2016 received a Bridge Building Award from New Ways Ministry. The author of the LifeSiteNews story, Claire Chretien, notes that several Francis-appointed cardinals have endorsed Martin’s forthcoming book, Building A Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. Another conservative publication, Crisis Magazine, weighed in with its own critique of Martin’s LGBT-affirming writings.

At Religion News Service, David Gibson writes that Martin’s book “does not advocate for any changes in doctrine nor does it touch third-rail topics like same-sex marriage.” The book, he says, “calls on the Catholic Church to be more respectful and compassionate toward gay people.” Among those with positive things to say about Martin’s book is Cardinal Kevin Farrell, picked by Francis to lead the Vatican office on laity, family and life issues. Gibson says the fact that the book has won praise from senior church leaders “is extraordinary and another sign of how Francis is reorienting the church toward a more pastoral focus.”

New Ways Ministry’s symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” will be held in Chicago April 28-30.

At the ultra-traditionalist Catholic newspaper The Remnant, editor Michael Matt praises Polish President Andrzej Duda for telling a television reporter that the country will not give in to pressure from other European countries to change its constitutional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The Remnant adds a comment decrying the “Christophobic fascists running the European Union.”

Seventh-day Adventists Church: Transgender identity unbiblical

The Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists approved a “Statement on Transgenderism” on April 11. The statement portrays transgender identity as unbiblical. The LGBT-affirming SDA group Kinship released a response that said the official statement “oversimplifies and misuses the biblical texts as grounds for a limited understanding of gender and sexuality.”

Russia: Anti-gay violence in Chechnya condemned, denied

Last week we noted reports of widespread attacks on gay men in the Russian region of Chechnya, of which the BBC says, “The mainly Muslim region is run by Ramzan Kadyrov, an authoritarian leader with a notorious private militia, fiercely loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” From the Economist:

The brazenness of the repression high-lights the extent to which Chechnya has become a fiefdom unto itself under its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. Mr Kadyrov’s spokesman, Alvi Karimov, responded to Novaya Gazeta’s claims by denying that there are gay people in Chechnya at all: “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs would not need to do anything with them because their relatives would have sent them to a place from which they could never return.”

NBC News offers some context:

In January 2016, Human Rights Watch issued a report describing patterns of state-sponsored violence and abuses under Ramzan Kadyrov, the current head of the Chechen Republic.

Ukrainian journalist Maxim Eristavi, who is openly gay and frequently comments on LGBTQ and human rights issues across Eastern Europe, told NBC News that Kadyrov’s forces have “one of the worst human rights records of all Russian regions.”

“What is happening right now with gay men is part of a longtime practice of state violence towards dissenting voices in Chechnya,” Eristavi said, adding that reporters from Novaya Gazeta have been killed in the past after reporting on the region.

But Eristavi took issue with some media reports that referred to the Argun detention center as a “gay concentration camp,” saying the center has been in use for some time to hold and torture various detainees — not just LGBTQ ones.

“Calling it a concentration camp is actually inaccurate. Creating more misinformation can damage and endanger people on the ground and discredit those who are trying to bring more attention to the issue,” Eristavi said.

… Outright International, formerly the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, is asking the UN Secretary General to publicly condemn the anti-LGBTQ campaign in Chechnya, Sjodin said. She added that “it’s important to have several governments speak out.”

Both Sjodin and Eristavi noted that when it comes to human rights abuses in Chechnya, the buck stops with Russia.

“It’s not helpful to look at this through just lenses of religion or culture or regionality,” Eristavi explained, dismissing the idea that Chechnya’s Muslim majority was a factor in its LGBTQ oppression. “It’s a state-sponsored campaign of violence supported by the Kremlin.”

In a commentary for the Guardian, Owen Jones wrote:

Yes, Chechnya is a profoundly conservative society whose bigotries are legitimised by reactionary Islamism. But however extreme its current manifestation in this Russian republic, homophobia everywhere springs from the same place. It is, above all else, about policing what it is to be a man. Being gay is regarded as the most sinful corruption of manliness. The Chechen persecutors may not flinch as they break bones, because they see them as a mortal threat to their own sense of masculinity. That’s why homophobia is so inextricably bound with the subjugation of women. In Chechnya – and all over the world – the struggle for LGBT rights will only be achieved with the liberation of women.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden released a statement on the reported detention, torture and killing. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Chechen and Russian officials to protect the human rights of LGBT people. But Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson said on Friday, “We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area.” The High Assembly of Islamic Theologians and Leaders of Public Opinion in Chechnya” released a resolution calling reports “an absolute lie and slander, discrediting the honor and dignity of Muslims, residents of Chechnya, Russian citizens.”

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which broke the story, says it has since faced threats. An adviser to Kadryov called the paper’s staff “enemies of our faith and of our country.”

In other news, Pink News reports that bloggers using the Live Journal platform are being forced to abide by Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law now that its servers have been transferred to Russia; a Russian media company acquired the service in 2007.

Indonesia: Court shields local Sharia regulations; men face public lashing for homosexuality

The Constitution Court ruled that the national government could no longer force the repeal of local Sharia ordinances that were judged to violate the country’s constitution. Human Rights Watch criticizes President Joko Widodo for not having done more before the ruling:

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday deprived the Home Ministry of the power to abolish problematic local regulations – depriving the government of a check on those ordinances that threaten universal rights to freedom of expression and association. It also exposes the failure of the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to turn its rhetoric about scrapping laws that flagrantly violate the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people into reality.

While Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo claimed to have annulled more than 3,000 problematic local ordinances in 2015 and 2016, he later conceded that those eliminated only impacted investment and did not include abusive Sharia regulations. Those canceled were “problematic regional regulations” for violating the country’s credo of “unity in diversity,” not regulations that violated fundamental rights.

Now, after years of central government foot-dragging, the Constitutional Court has ruled that the central government cannot revoke any of those local ordinances.

HRW reports that lawsuits challenging local regulations can still be appealed to the Supreme Court. HRW had previously called on Indonesian authorities to release two men being detained in Aceh, a Muslim-majority province that is permitted to adopt Sharia-based laws, where the men face up to 100 lashed in public for homosexuality:

Over the past decade, Aceh’s parliament has gradually adopted Sharia-inspired ordinances that criminalize non-hijab-wearing women, drinking alcohol, gambling, and extramarital sexual relations, all of which can be enforced against non-Muslims. Aceh’s LGBT population is also vulnerable to Aceh’s 2014 Criminal Code that bars liwath (sodomy) and musahabah (lesbian sexual action). Aceh province imposed the Sharia punishment of multiple lashes of a cane against 339 people in 2016.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the couple was filmed being beaten by a group of “vigilantes” who had become suspicious of the men and “set out to catch them” having sex. More from the Herald:

Under a local law that came into force in 2015, people can also be punished for having gay sex with up to 100 strokes of the cane.

The recently arrested men – whose identities have not been released – will be the first to be caned for breaking the regulation if the punishment goes ahead.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia but the country’s Consitutional Court is considering to recriminalise sex outside of marriage and gay sex.

But it’s not just homosexuals who face Indonesia’s growing religious conservative movement; last year an incredible 339 people were whipped in Aceh for crimes ranging from gambling to drinking.

Last year a 20-year-old woman was publicly caned for standing too close to her boyfriend. Accused of breaking Islamic sharia law, which forbids couples to become intimate, she was the 14th person to be flogged in her province.

Panama: Marriage equality lawsuits provoke debate; First Lady will attend pride celebration

A marriage equality lawsuit filed last month has “provoked heated debates among religious and LGBT activists,” according to a report in Metro Libre. Sociologist Gilberto Toro is quoted saying that the expansion of evangelical churches has given the Catholic Church competition and pushed it to intensify its opposition on LGBT issues. “People want a loving but punishing God,” he says. More from the story, via Google translation:

The fierce opposition to same-sex unions, says the sociologist, is the same that these sectors of Panamanian society showed a few months ago when Parliament tried to pass a sex education law to impart this matter in schools and try to curb the alarming rate of adolescent pregnancies.

“If we have not been able to agree on something as basic as sex education, how are you going to raise the issue of gay marriage?” Asks Toro. “We have a very conservative society, with strong religious parameters and little culture of human rights, and a fearful political class that does not dare to push these policies because of the political cost they entail,” laments Magalys Castillo, activist and representative of the Network of Human Rights of Panama.

Panama’s First Lady, Lorena Castillo de Varela, announced that she would attend a gay pride march this summer.

France: National Front reaches out to gay voters; still reportedly harbors anti-Semitic leaders

Associated Press reports on the far-right National Front party’s growing appeal among gay voters.

Motivated in part by the deadly Islamic extremist attacks at home and at a Florida gay nightclub, a growing bloc of traditionally left-leaning gay voters has embraced far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the once-fringe National Front party.

“Faced with the current threats, particularly from radical Islam, gays have realized they’ll be the first victims of these barbarians, and only Marine is proposing radical solutions,” said Kelvin Hopper, 25, a gay artist who lives in a hipster district of Paris and plans to cast his ballot for Le Pen.

Among the party’s openly gay officials is Chief Campaign Strategist Sebastien Chenu. “Those who want to fight against freedoms are Islamic radicals,” Chenu said. “They put bombs in gay night clubs in the United States. So obviously, it creates an anxiety for a certain number of gays.”

A Foreign Policy story reported that, in spite of a public relations offensive distancing itself from its anti-Semitic and fascist-sympathizing past, the National Front, “at its highest levels, is awash with Hitler admirers and Holocaust-denying far-right nationalists, including within Marine Le Pen’s inner circle, who could well be poised to work at the Élysée Palace should she win on May 7.”

Hungary: Court overturns town’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT regulations

The Constitutional Court ruled that regulations adopted by the local council of the village of Ásotthalom banning mosques, burkas and chadors and “propaganda activities that present marriage in other ways than the bond between a man and a woman” are unconstitutional.

Italy: ‘Pro-family’ group denounces LGBT center for promoting ‘propaganda’

The opening of an LGBT center in Milan was denounced by the “Gender Observatory” as a center for promoting propaganda to normalize homosexuality. The Obervatory is run by a group called Famiglia Domani (Family Tomorrow), which says its goal is “to protect and promote natural and Christian family values threatened by the cultural and moral degradation of our time.” Its website says it has been encouraged “since its inception by the Pontifical Council for the Family.”

India: Lucknow hosts first queer pride march

The city of Lucknow hosted its first queer pride parade on April 9. According to Pink News:

People came from as far away as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Jaipur to walk the 1.5km parade route hand in hand, waiving rainbow flags and sporting placards saying “I am Gay and it’s okay” and “I am a queer Muslim, babes, get over it”.

Ashock Row Kavi, chairman of India’s oldest LGBT organisation the Humsafar Trust in Mumbai said, “Lucknow was the epicentre of gay culture in the Gangetic plain which was evident in even its literature such as Umrao Jan Ada and was suppressed by the British.

“We are only keeping the tradition alive though the modern Indian political class is ashamed of it.”

Tanzania: Government cracks down on ‘promoting gayism’

At BuzzFeed, Edith Honan reviews the country’s crackdown on LGBT people and any groups deemed to be “promoting gayism” and the consequent threat to public health.

Gay sex has been a crime in Tanzania, punishable with life in prison, since British colonial rule, but there is no record of anyone serving serious time for it. LGBT Tanzanians have always been able to quietly go about their lives, despite stigma and discrimination. But now the Tanzanian government is getting aggressive. … Government ministers have threatened to release lists of LGBT people across Tanzania, and health workers say it’s begun interfering with HIV prevention and treatment.

Tanzania’s crackdown could not have come at a worse time. With the election of Donald Trump and the ascent of nativist movements in Europe, LGBT rights advocates worry that the Trump administration will surrender the US’s role as a global leader in pressuring foreign governments to recognize the rights of their LGBT citizens.

Europe: Human rights court rules against forced sterilization of trans people

The European Court of Human rights has ruled that laws requiring that transgender people undergo sterilization as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender are violating human rights.

Falkland Islands: Marriage equality OK’d

The legislature of this British Overseas Territory passed marriage equality legislation after finding that 90 percent of respondents in a public consultation were in favor of same-sex couples being able to marry.

Mexico: More firsts on the marriage equality front

Two women reportedly became the first same-sex couple married in Nogales after the state’s appeals of a court ruling in their favor was rejected. Two men who received a federal court order became the first same-sex couple married in Guaymas. In Chihuahua, Governor Javier Corral Jurado affirmed that the Civil Registry cannot deny marriage to same-se couples.

Tunisia: Doctors call for end to forced anal exams to ‘prove’ homosexual behavior

The National Council of the Medical Order in Tunisia this month called for an end to forced anal and genital examinations which are used in some countries as “evidence” that someone has engaged in homosexual activity even though such “testing” has been deemed unscientific and a violation of human rights.