Global LGBT Recap: Catholic Polling, Religious Violence, International Advocacy

Catholic Opinion: International Survey

A massive survey of Catholics on five continents shows a wide range of support for marriage equality.  The survey, commissioned by Univision and conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International, polled more than 12,000 Catholics on their attitudes toward divorce, married priests, women as priests, contraception, abortion, gay marriage, and Pope Francis.

The marriage question did not make a distinction between civil and religious marriage. It asked, “Do you support or oppose marriage between two persons of the same sex?” A clear majority of US Catholics said yes (54-40). As a region, Europeans oppose 38-56, but country by country differences are huge: Nearly two-thirds of Spanish Catholics support same-sex marriage (64-27), while almost 8 out of 10 Polish Catholics oppose it (15-78). In Latin America, Catholics in Brazil and Argentina are about evenly split (45-47 and 46-48), with opposition higher in Mexico (36-62) and Colombia (23-71). Filipino Catholics oppose (14-84), while Catholics in Uganda and the Congo almost unanimously oppose same-sex marriage (1-99 and 2-98). 

Survey results are presented in an interactive format that makes it easy to view results by country and by topic. It includes demographic information on age, church attendance, marital status, gender, location (rural, small city, large city), and socio-economic class.

Russia: Journalists arrested, but not anti-gay protesters or Orthodox extremists

The Olympics in Sochi got underway with the arrest in St. Petersburg of LGBT activists carrying a banner that read “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic movement,” quoting Principle 6 of the Olympic charter. Protesters were later released. Amnesty International has drawn attention to the case of Elena Klimova, another journalist charged with “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” in her case for her online work to support LGBTI teenagers.

Russian officials did not shut down the Westboro-style protest by Official Street Preachers, a group of anti-gay Americans who held signs that said, among other things, “God Bless Putin for his stand against the sin of homosexuality.”

ABC News reported on anti-gay violence in Russia, saying “Some of the most extreme anti-gay activists are members of a radical Orthodox Christian group called “God’s Will.”

Dmitry Enteo, the group’s leader, said, to them, homosexuality is “filth.”

“To us, homosexuality is no different than pedophilia, necrophilia, scatology,” he said. “It’s a real plague, a real virus that needs to be destroyed. We need to stop this tumor so it doesn’t metastasize.”

The group said it collected signatures to help the passage of the anti-gay propaganda law, and that it was confident it had majority support in Russia, even for its most extreme ideas.

“We want to introduce — with the approval of the democratic referendum of course — death penalty for those who want to promote homosexuality,” Enteo said. “They should be stoned to death, like God ordered.”

Meanwhile, Russian officials’ habit of equating homosexuality with pedophilia continued.  On the eve of the Olympics, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said gay athletes and fans would be safe but said, “Please do not touch kids.” President Vladimir Putin had made a similar statement earlier.

The comments reflect the devastating ongoing impact of a global campaign by American anti-gay evangelicals like Scott Lively, who have spent years telling public officials in Russia, eastern Europe, and Africa that gays are a threat to children. Britain’s Channel 4 produced a disturbing documentary about Russians who use social media to hunt, kidnap, assault, and publicly humiliate gay people, while claiming to be doing so in the name of fighting pedophilia. This week Lively, writing on a website run by Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, dismissed video documentation of anti-gay brutality in Russia as part of a gay-propaganda hoax; some violence might be real, he says, but that is most likely perpetuated by gay Nazis.

American conservative activist Cliff Kincaid published “Putin Poses as Defender of Christian Civilization,” a commentary critical of the World Congress of Families for its embrace of former KGB agent Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. His article notes that Vladmir Yakunin, a close ally of Putin’s is underwriting the World Congress of Families summit in Moscow this year, and accuses Yakunin of participating in massive Olympic-related corruption. Kincaid notes that the Russian Orthodox Church was criticized earlier this year for publishing a Stalin-glorifying 2014 calendar.

El Salvador: Anti-Gay Constitutional Amendment Fails in Legislature

Last Friday, an effort to push an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment through the parliament failed, with only 19 of its 84 members supporting the amendment, according to Reuters. The amendment, which would ban recognition of marriages legalized in other countries and the adoption of children by gay people, was approved in 2012. Reuters reports that under Salvadoran law, a constitutional amendment must pass the legislature by simple majority (43) and then be ratified in the next (three-year) session by a super-majority (56). Campaigns to add a marriage ban to the Constituiton have been waged since at least 2006; in 2009 the Catholic Church presented legislators with 300,000 signatures opposing marriage equality.

Nigeria: New York Times on Deteriorating Situation for LGBT People

The plight of LGBT people in Nigeria continues to worsen in the wake of President Goodluck Jonathan signing a harsh anti-gay bill into law in January. The New York Times’ Adam Nossiter reports that the law not only bans marriage, but makes it a crime to join or support a gay organization or “directly or indirectly” make a “public show” of same-sex relationships. Nossiter reports that the impact of the law has been felt most strongly in the Muslim north:

Rights advocates say they have recorded arrests in multiple Nigerian states, but the country’s north has experienced the toughest crackdown. Mr. Jonathan’s national ban has redoubled the zeal against gay people here and elsewhere, according to officials and residents in Bauchi, where Shariah law prevails and green-uniformed Hisbah, or Islamic police officers, search for what is considered immoral under Islam.

“It’s reawakened interest in communities to ‘sanitize,’ more or less, to talk about ‘moral sanitization,’ ” Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said of the law. “Where it was quiet before, it’s gotten people thinking, ‘Who is behaving in a manner that may be gay?’ It’s driven people into the closet.”

Officials here in Bauchi say they want to root out, imprison and punish gays. Local lawyers are reluctant to represent them. Bail was refused to the gay people already jailed because it was “in the best interests of the accused,” said the chief prosecutor, Dawood Mohammed. In the streets, furious citizens say they are ready to take the law into their own hands to combat homosexuality.

Officials are also inflamed. “It is detestable,” said Mohammed Tata, a senior official with the Shariah Commission here, which controls the Hisbah. He added: “This thing is an abomination.”

According to the report, gunfire was required to disperse a rock-throwing mob that was angry at a judge who sentenced a young man to twenty lashes rather than to death, as the crowd wanted. The entire harrowing story is worth reading.

Nigerian LGBT activists are calling for a global day of protest against the new law on March 7.

 Meanwhile, the violent Islamist group Boko Haram, which is carrying out an insurgency against the government, killed dozens of people in an attack

Ireland: Archbishop denounces homophobia but supports marriage ban

Dublin’s Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin lamented a culture of homophobia and opposed bigotry and violence. “Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that, they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people,” he said. Martin repated the church’s opposition to marriage equality but said same-sex couples shold not be prohibited from celebrating their unions in other ways.

Meanwhile, the Irish government announced that it will recognize the marriages of Irish same-sex couples  who get married in other countries rather than wait for the outcome of the 2015 marriage equality referendum. If the referendum passes, as expected, the government will treat those marriages as legal; until then they will be treated as civil unions.

Dominican Republic: Religious objection to gay Ambassador meeting LGBT advocates

This week U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster and his husband Bob Satawake met with LGBT and human rights advocates.  Blogger Blabbeando reminds us that during Brewster’s nomination process, “a number of religious leaders the Dominican Republic criticized the nomination of an openly gay man for the diplomatic post.  Leading the charge was Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez who called the then-nominee a ‘faggot’ on national television.”  Last month the Cardinal urged church goers to show respect for the new ambassador, but some people aren’t willing to let go:

Conservative religious leaders still fuming about nomination, get support from U.S.-based religious websites: A small number of very vocal conservative religious leaders in the Dominican Republic remain furious that a gay man is now the U.S. ambassador.

On Friday, even before today’s meeting with LGBT leaders, Reverend Luis Rosario staged a press conference to say that the arrival of the new ambassador and his husband sent an “extremely negative message” to the Dominican people.

“It’s a very sad state of affairs we are living at this moment,” Rev. Rosario added, “and it makes our nation seem like a great hospital for the sexually ill.”

Zambia: Regnerus Research Cited to Defend Criminalization     

A February 10 commentary in the Times of Zambia says that children’s need for a mother and father, familiar to US advocates as a primary talking point of the anti-marriage equality movement, is a reason homosexuality should not be legalized in the country. Giving gays the right to marry, the article claims, would be a “catastrophe” that would “demolish fatherhood for good.” The article quotes the infamous and widely discredited New Family Structures Study, carried out by Mark Regnerus at the University of Texas with the backing of anti-gay American religious funders. Here are some of the conclusions it draws from the Regnerus study:

This information shows that men who are effeminate, some of whom are transvestite, are no substitute for a female mother. Effeminacy is a treatable condition which is not a good example to a child.

A generation of children raised by gay parents will grow into adulthood with impaired appreciation of the natural family. By implication, they should grow into homosexuality themselves and, without bearing their own genuine and natural offspring, try to concoct families.

A society that honours sodomy must drink from this barren and sterile brew in which boys will not grow into men and girls will not grow into women. The Zambia that would come out of this will not contain itself and the socio-cultural confusion would simply be unspeakable.

Uganda: Does criminalization bill hinge on whether people ‘choose’ to be gay?

As we have previously reported, President Yoweri Museveni has said he would not sign the infamous anti-gay bill passed by the parliament in December unless he saw scientific proof that gays chose their orientation.  American anti-gay religious conservatives, who back the Ugandan law, have made it a key strategy to deny the existence of a gay identity.

Earlier this month, a letter drafted by Jack Drescher and Warren Throckmorton and signed by more than 200 scientists and mental health professionals was delivered to Museveni by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. The letter says that while the “cause” of homosexuality is only partially understood, sexual orientation is not a choice. The letter also states that homosexuality is not an illness; that efforts to “change” orientation have been largely unsuccessful; and noting that homosexuality is not equivalent to pedophilia. One of the key paragraphs:

For the vast majority of people, homosexual and heterosexual, sexual attractions emerge spontaneously without any prior sexual experience, exposure or recruitment. Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. Furthermore, despite early claims by some psychiatrists that faulty parenting causes homosexuality, there is little scientific evidence that parenting plays a role in directing a person’s sexual attractions. Neither is there scientific support for theories that claim sexual abuse or recruitment causes homosexuality. Most people who have been sexually abused do not later try homosexual behavior nor do they become homosexual.

Some Ugandan scientists are arguing otherwise.

February 10 was a global day of action designed to encourage Museveni not to sign the legislation. Among the protests was one in Nairobi, Kenya, outside Uganda’s High Commission there.

Africa: US Urges End to Anti-Gay Discrimination

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield held an online press conference this week in which she reportedly urged African nations to repeal laws that violate human rights. “We strongly support human rights for all people, and we particularly are opposed to legislation that actually targets the gay community,” she reportedly said, “We are of the view that criminalization against anybody on the basis of their sexual orientation and affiliation is wrong and contradicts human rights law.”

Latin America: State Department invites LGBT rights advocates to visit U.S.

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reported last week that a group of LGBT rights advocates from Latin America were meeting their American counterparts in several cities on a tour sponsored by the US State Department.

Europe: Leaders meet on equality agenda

On Wednesday, candidates for the European Commission presidency and other representatives from five major European political parties met to discuss the human rights and LGBTI equality agenda of the enext European Parliament and Commission. The meeting was convened by ILGA-Europe. It included a debate that served as the Brussels launch of ILGA’s European elections campaign 2014 “Come Out.”

United Nations: Human Rights Chief Calls for Plan to End Gender Discrimination

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called this week for gender equality to be included in the UN’s post-2015 goals. “We believe there should be a stand-alone goal or goals on equality and non-discrimination that addresses all kinds of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said at the opening of the 57th Session of Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) being held in Geneva until 28 February.

Democracy Council launches global LGBT initiative

The Democracy Council, an organization “that helps grassroots organizations around the world support civil society,” has launched a new LGBT global rights initiative.