Country of Georgia Considers Constitutional Marriage Ban; Hindu Nationalist Leader Surprises India With Call to Decriminalize Homosexuality; No End to Anti-LGBT Propaganda Campaign in Indonesia; Global LGBT Recap

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addressed the Obama administration’s promotion of LGBT human rights around the world in an address to a Human Rights Campaign gathering.

Georgia: Constitutional Marriage Ban Proposed; LGBT Rights Issue in Relations with EU

Eurasia Review reports that Members of Parliament from the ruling coalition have proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman. The move was criticized by LGBT activists as an effort to score political points at the expense of the community, since the law already defines marriage as a “voluntary union of man and woman.”.

“Stop demonizing LGBT community and stop instrumentalising this issue for gaining support ahead of the elections. Not a single LGBT rights group has ever raised this issue of [same-sex marriage] in Georgia,” one of the participants of the rally, Lado Bitsadze, said.

Two lawmakers from the GD ruling coalition have reacted to this small rally outside the Parliament by making homophobic insults.

A member of the Conservative Party said the proposed amendment is necessary because “question marks have been raised” by a lawsuit.

He was referring to a complaint that was lodged with the Constitutional Court in late January in which applicant Giorgi Tatishvili is requesting for the legalization of same-sax marriage. LGBT rights groups immediately distanced themselves from this lawsuit, saying that it was ounterproductive and of a lower priority issue in the country where gay people face much more pressing problems such as “physical, psychological and verbal abuse and violence”.

Activists suspect that some political forces, which try to instrumentalize LGBT issues for political gains, as well as the Georgian Orthodox Church, might be actually behind this “provocative” constitutional lawsuit to use it as a pretext for justifying a need for introducing constitutional bar to same-sex marriage.

EurasiaNet’s Maia Edilashvili reports on an initiative to engage priests of the Georgian Orthodox Church about the benefits of closer ties with the European Union. The Church is the country’s most trusted public institution.

Officially, the Church, which depends on government funding, is supportive of Georgia’s efforts to draw closer to the EU. Even so, many priests and parishioners worry EU integration efforts are compromising their faith, believing that the value system advanced by Brussels is at odds with Georgia’s relatively conservative social mores. They also worry that stronger EU ties could erode Georgia’s national identity.

In one prominent example of the Orthodox faithful’s wariness, Orthodox priests led a counter-demonstration to a LGBT rally in 2013. Dozens were injured in an ensuing riot.

Edilashvili reports that some 1,700 priests, teachers, and students have attended briefings and training sessions highlighting the benefits of EU association.

The World Congress of Families, which brings together social conservative activists from around the globe, will hold its next summit in Georgia in May.

India: Hindu Nationalist Leader Calls for Decriminalization of Gay Sex

Dattatreya Hosabale, a top official with a traditionalist Hindu nationalist group, said on Thursday, “Sexual preferences are personal issues” and that homosexuality should not be a crime “as it does not affect the lives of others.” He later clarified that he considers homosexuality a “socially immoral act” but affirmed that he did not see it as a crime that needed to be punished.

Gabrielle Parussini reports for the Wall Street Journal that the group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is influential within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose leaders have backed the colonial era law criminalizing “unnatural sex” that was reinstated by court ruling in late 2013.

“It’s still a huge improvement,” said Ashok Row Kavi, an activist who in 1990 founded Bombay Dost, India’s first gay magazine. “Decriminalization is the first step. We’ll deal with the rest later.”

The Court’s 2013 ruling resulted in hundreds of arrests. This February, the Supreme Court essentially agreed to some reconsideration of the 2013 ruling, referring a group of “curative petitions” to a five-judge panel. Those petitioners were publicly opposed by the Apostolic Churches Alliance, which declared that “homosexuality is an abomination in the Bible.”

Australia: Government Scales Back Anti-Bullying Program, Marriage Vote Tied Up in Parliament

In response to “concerns raised by Christian groups and conservative MPs, including the former prime minister Tony Abbott,” the Turnbull government announced “dramatic changes” to its anti-bullying program, reports the Guardian’s Lenore Taylor.  Opponents of the original Safe Schools program charged that it promoted queer theory, sexual liberation and Marxism in classrooms.

Simon Birmingham, the education minister, said the changes “left intact the program’s core aims – to give support and guidance to students grappling with questions of sexual identity and to allow them to feel safe at school.” But the program’s supporters disagreed:

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Kate Ellis, accused the Coalition government of giving in to the “conservative bullies” within its own ranks.

“How do we expect any student in the schoolyard to stand up to bullies if Australia’s own prime minister can’t stand up to the bullies within the fringe of his own party?” she said. “What we have seen today is the Turnbull government have overturned the decisions that their own government took just a matter of months ago.”

The Greens’ sexuality spokesman, Senator Robert Simms, said it was “clear that Malcolm Turnbull has thrown LGBTI young people under the bus today by bowing to the rightwing backbench bullies and stripping back the Safe Schools program”.

Meanwhile, the push for a parliamentary vote on marriage equality was caught up in procedural wrangling over proposed reforms to the Senate.

Faroe Islands: Marriage Bill Sent Back to Committee Over Church Weddings

A marriage equality bill was sent back to committee over questions about whether churches should be required to conduct ceremonies blessing same-sex couples. According to (awkward language courtesy of Google translate), faith plays a “major role”:

The issue of same-sex marriage splitter Faroese, especially because of the faith.

Religion plays a much larger role in the Faroe Islands than in Denmark, and it is typical religious arguments to use if you are against gay marriage, says Gestur Hovgaard, associate professor of social sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands, to Ritzau.

Faroe Islands is a country that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, or the Danish Realm.

Dominican Republic: U.S. Rejects Religious Leaders’ Criticism of Openly Gay Ambassador

As we have previously noted, James “Wally Brewster,” the openly gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, has drawn bitter criticism from religious conservatives. He spoke this week with the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers about a recent petition demanding that the Obama administration remove him:

More than 30,000 people have signed the petition since a group of Dominican evangelicals posted it to the White House’s website last week.

A group of Catholic bishops in the Dominican Republic on Monday urged the country’s government to formally complain to the U.S. about Brewster’s “conduct” that includes visiting schools and attending public events with his husband, Bob Satawake.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice last week reiterated the Obama administration’s support of Brewster. A group of Dominican LGBT rights advocates have also posted their own petition to the White House website in support of the openly gay ambassador.

Lavers reminds us of some of the backstory:

A group of Dominican intellectuals and religious leaders in January urged Medina and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare Brewster “persona non grata” because of a U.S.-backed education initiative they contend seeks “to turn our adolescents gay.” Gladys Feliz, who is a member of the Dominican House of Deputies, on Wednesday used an anti-gay slur in a tweet she wrote in response to the vandalism of a banner outside of a school in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo with Brewster’s name on it.

“For the defenders of the U.S. ambassador, the Spanish language dictionary calls you faggot,” wrote Feliz in another tweet. “I hope you are satisfied!”

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs to describe Brewster…The Vatican has yet to publicly respond to López’s use of anti-gay slurs against Brewster.

Indonesia: Police Announce Disruption of ‘Same-Sex Wedding’

The ongoing propaganda campaign against LGBT people by conservative religious and political figures continued this week with the announcement by police that they “thwarted” a “same-sex wedding” in rural Java. According to BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder and Rin Hindryati:

Conservative politicians and religious leaders immediately responded to the report as further evidence of the need for the government to crack down on “propaganda” from the LGBT movement, a measure the Communications Ministry recently announced it would write in response to an uproar over LGBT rights that began in January.

But details of the police account — including the fact that the couple is from a very remote part of Indonesia and appear to have been organizing their wedding with the blessing of their families — suggest that the couple may been organizing their wedding without any concern that it might be controversial.

Neither the couple nor residents of the small village of Wonosobo could be immediately reached by BuzzFeed News to confirm the report, but the police account suggests that this was not a “same-sex wedding.” Instead it appears to be the attempt of a trans woman known as Andini Budi Sutrisno to marry a man named Didik Suseno. Pictures of the pair that accompanied the police report show one of them wearing a suit and the other decked out in full bridal regalia.

Botswana: Court Rejects Government Ban on Gay Advocacy Group

The Court of Appeals, the country’s highest court, “rejected an attempt by the government to ban a gay rights lobby group, providing a rare victory for African gay rights campaigners on a continent where homosexuality remains highly contentious,” reports Reuters.

The president of the Court of Appeals, Judge Ian Kirby, upheld a 2014 lower court judgment that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana should be allowed to register and campaign for changes in anti-gay legislation.

“It is clear that the government’s decision (to seek the ban) interferes in the most fundamental way with the respondents’ right to form an association to protect and promote their interest,” Kirby said.

The ruling is a challenge to an anti-gay agenda pursued by the government of President Ian Khama in Botswana, where engaging in homosexual acts remains illegal.

Reuters’ Tisetso Motsoeneng notes:

Homosexuality remains taboo in many African societies where some religious groups have branded it a corrupting import from the West. Nigeria passed a draconian anti-gay law this year and Uganda is debating similar legislation.

Italy: Catholic Church Ban Fails to Squelch Gay-Themed Film

We noted last week that the Catholic Church had banned the gay-themed “Weekend” from more than 1,100 church-owned arthouse theaters. The movie opened on just 10 screens, but did will enough – breaking into the top 20 box office chart – that it is been shown on 21 screens this weekend.

Mexico: Marriage Equality on the Slow but Steady March

A court granted an amparo, or injunction, to 10 same-sex couples seeking to get married in the state of Baja California, another step in the steady march of marriage equality through Mexico’s complex judicial system. The first public same-sex marriage in Tabasco drew television coverage. Journalist Rex Wockner explains and tracks the shifting legal landscape.

Russia: Calvin Klein Ad Investigated for Violating Law Against Gay ‘Propaganda’

An article by Hanna Jansen in the Journal of Economic and Social Geography by Hanna Hensen examines conflicts over LGBTI issues that arose during the 2013 Dutch-Russian “year of friendship.”

A Calvin Klein ad is being investigated for violating Russia’s law against gay “propaganda.”

United Nations: Human Rights Council Addresses Role of LGBTI Rights in Fight Against AIDS

The Human Rights Council met in Geneva on March 11 to discuss the role of human rights issues in the international response to AIDS:

The panellists agreed that the greatest advances in the AIDS response had been made in areas of the world where public health provision was rooted in a respect for human rights. In his keynote speech, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Luiz Loures, stressed that the AIDS response continues to be an instrument for challenging social injustice. He urged countries and all stakeholders in the AIDS response to place human rights and the voice of those most affected by HIV at the centre of the AIDS response. Participants said that evidence clearly shows that a lack of respect for health-related human rights leads to poorer health outcomes and the transmission of HIV. Discrimination, stigma, violence and other human rights violations continue to undermine efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.

The panel called for rights-based responses to AIDS, universal health coverage to ensure equitable access, availability of medicines for all, an end to discrimination in health-care settings and increased investment in human rights programmes. There were also calls to eliminate punitive and discriminatory laws that lead to violations of human rights and poorer health outcomes by driving key populations away from HIV services. The panellists stressed that without addressing deeply entrenched inequalities, including gender inequality, and ensuring full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, the world will not end the AIDS epidemic.

European Union: Rights Agency on Role of Police, Doctors, Educators on Anti-LGBT Prejudice

The Fundamental Rights Agency released a report on the role of “duty bearers” in the fields of law enforcement, education, and healthcare to address and counter anti-LGBT prejudice and hostility