‘No Room’ for Gays in Country that Worships God [Kenya] | Churches Fight to Keep Sexuality Out of Sex Ed [S. Korea] | Global LGBT Recap

University of Pennsylvania senior Katie Sgarro writes about her involvement with friend Sayid Abdullaev in the creation of a project called Asylum Connect, “born out of Sayid’s personal experiences as an LGBTQ asylum-seeker from Kyrgyzstan now living in the U.S.” Working on the project – which would create an app for LGBTQ asylum seekers and help will small grants to cover living costs – required Sgarro to deal with her own experiences as a closeted Catholic.

As we combined our distinct experiences into a singular effort to advance AsylumConnect, the line separating us from our project faded. What I uncovered during my research — what I was hearing from existing organizations and LGBTQ asylum-seekers — deeply affected me. Because the reality is so sobering, it altered my worldview and rearranged my priorities.

It is still illegal to be gay in 77 countries. LGBTQ people in these countries are imprisoned and subjected to “corrective” action, including rape by government officials, public humiliation and the death penalty. Upon arrival in the U.S., LGBTQ asylum-seekers can face abuse in detention centers. Many have nowhere to go, no social support, and end up homeless. They cannot legally work in the U.S., nor are they entitled to a government attorney without a work permit, which typically takes at least one year to obtain. An estimated 44 percent of LGBTQ refugees suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

I became deeply aware that I had failed to speak out for more than a decade in a country where I at least had that choice. And with this realization came painful memories. My mind traveled back to when I was 15 years old, sitting in mandatory religion class at my Catholic boarding school — my least favorite part of the day. I felt my palms sweat as I nervously glanced around the classroom. A monk stood at the blackboard, equating homosexuality with bestiality and necrophilia. His words, sharp as knives to me, were blunt instruments to the surrounding faces, used merely to convey the severity of the aforementioned “sins.” Shame washed over me. As I pretended to be fascinated by the chips in the wooden exterior of my desk, I silently marveled at how easily my peers seemed to accept our teacher’s words. Oblivious to my discomfort, they vigorously scribbled each homophobic thought into their notebooks to ensure an A. I vowed once again to never come out.

This week the International HIV/AIDS Alliance launched a new global campaign seeking to pressure World Health Organization General Director Margaret Chan and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to make insure that LGBT people are included in the text of a new Universal Health Coverage document so that it “is fully inclusive and protects everyone.” Also this week, The Network of European LGBT Families Associations celebrated International Family Equality Day at the European Parliament in Brussels.

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that while more than 1.5 billion people “now live in countries that allow people to identify as neither male nor female on passports,” the U.S. immigration system has no way to process those passports.

Lila Shapiro writes in Huffington Post this week on “How the Global LGBT Movement Can Keep Up its Stunning Momentum.”

Charles Radcliffe, a human rights adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations, notes that the women’s rights movement has been pushing for change for more than 120 years. Most of the advances for LGBT people have come in the past decade.

“That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to take another 100 years. But it does mean the battle isn’t over, and in some countries it’s barely begun,” Radcliffe told The Huffington Post this week. “A lot of work lies ahead to challenge oppressive laws, demand proper legal protections and to change people’s hearts and minds.”…

Jessica Stern, the executive director for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, says her organization’s strategy is to invest equally in LGBT trouble spots like Iraq (where the Islamic State is reportedly executing men for sodomy) and in nations where equality is gaining traction, like the Philippines (whose government is debating the specifics of an anti-discrimination bill).

“You have to work in the places that are most unsafe,” she said. “But you also have to push the bar higher, because pushing the bar higher benefits all of us.”

Media Matters reviews the anti-LGBT credentials of several legal scholars promoting “religious liberty” laws that would allow organizations and individuals in the U.S. to claim religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. Among those profiled is Helen Alvaré, a law professor at George Mason University in northern Virginia.  Some additional information on Alvaré’s role in the Catholic Church’s international campaign against LGBT equality: Alvare advises the bishops, was the “communications liaison officer” for last fall’s conservative Catholic colloquium on male-female “complementarity”and was part of the launch of a new global right wing culture war group, the“Political Network for Values.”

Islamic State: IGHLRC compiles reported executions

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has published a timeline of reported executions by Islamic State militias for “morality-based crimes” in the past 12 months.

Catholic Church: Francis warns against ‘disfiguring’ marriage, conservatives gripe re LGBT mass

In remarks at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke on “the beauty of Christian marriage” and said the life of the Church “is impoverished when marriage is disfigured in any way.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Continuing our catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the beauty of Christian marriage, that sacrament which builds up the community of the Church and society. Marriage has been inscribed in creation’s design by God, and, by his grace, countless Christian men and women have lived married life fully. Marriage is an act of faith in God’s plan for humanity and an act of selfless love. Saint Paul tells us that married love is an image of the love between Christ and his Church; a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, by giving himself completely for her. When a man and a woman marry in the Lord, they participate in the missionary life of the Church, by living not only for themselves or their own family, but for all people. Therefore the life of the Church is enriched through every marriage which shows forth this beauty, and is impoverished when marriage is disfigured in any way. A couple which faithfully and courageously lives the grace of this sacrament assists the Church in offering the gifts of faith, hope and love to all people, and helps others to experience these gifts in their married lives and their families. May married couples live this mystery ever more fully, trusting in God’s tenderness and the Church’s maternal care.

Meanwhile, the Church Militant complained that this coming Sunday “a cardinal of the Church will hold a Mass specifically for ‘LGBT Catholics’ for the first time in the Church’s nearly 2,000 year history.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England will visit a notorious gay-friendly parish in London and celebrate Mass for what’s come to be known as the “Soho Mass.” This is a Mass consistently catered toward a group of active homosexuals who expressly oppose the Church’s teachings on homosexual activity.

Cardinal Nichols has a shaky history with the Church’s stance toward homosexuality. The group of “LGBT Catholics” in his archdiocese had been operating for years while critics called for it to be shut down. Instead, Cardinal Nichols merely relocated the group to a different parish and officially acknowledged it as a part of the Archdiocese of Westminster.

In 2001, Cardinal Nichols was roundly criticized by faithful Catholics for expressing support for same-sex civil unions. He went on record stating, “[C]ivil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.”

Cardinal Nichols made headlines in the wake of last year’s Extraordinary Synod as well when he announced his disappointment with its final report. The problem? He didn’t think it went far enough in showing “respect, welcome and value” toward homosexuality. He was “disappointed” in the wording of the paragraph that dealt with same-sex attraction and wished to see “much more positive language” in it.

Kenya: Deputy President says ‘no room’ for Gays in country that ‘worships God’

We noted last week that a high court ruling allowed a gay rights group to register as a non-goernmental organization. The attorney general has appealed that ruling. In addition, Reuters reported this week that Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto said during a church service on the day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for a visit that there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society. The Obama administration has criticized anti-gay laws in Africa and elsewhere.

“The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have no room for gays and those others,” Ruto told a Nairobi church congregation in the national Swahili language, according to an online video posted by Kenyan broadcaster KTN.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Kerry was not familiar with Ruto’s remarks but said it was the U.S. position that “all people are created equal.”

Openy gay Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainana criticized Ruto’s comments, saying “Kenya’s deputy president joins an important tradition by Africans in power to spread hate in church on a Sunday.”

Reuters notes that Ruto has been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court “for his alleged role in stoking ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential election,” charges Ruto has denied.

Germany: Catholic Church eases restrictions on employees who divorce or are in gay unions

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany “has decided lay Catholic employees who divorce and remarry or form gay civil unions should no longer automatically lose their jobs,” reports Tom Heneghan for Reuters. The U.S. has seen firings by Catholic schools of teachers who marry a same-sex partner.

Catholic bishops have voted to adjust Church labour law “to the multiple changes in legal practice, legislation and society” so employee lifestyles should not affect their status in the country’s many Catholic schools, hospitals and social services.

The change came as the worldwide Catholic Church debates loosening its traditional rejection of remarriage after a divorce and of gay sex, reforms for which German bishops and theologians have become prominent spokesmen.

“The new rule opens the way for decisions that do justice to the situations people live in,” Alois Glueck, head of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics, said after the decision on new labour guidelines was announced on Tuesday.

Over two-thirds of Germany’s 27 dioceses voted for the change, a Church spokesman said, indicating some opposition.

There is no worldwide Catholic policy on lay employees. German law allows churches to have their own labour rules that can override national guidelines.

But German courts have begun limiting the scope of Church labour laws and public opinion reacts badly when a Catholic hospital’s head doctor is fired for remarrying or a teacher is sacked after her lesbian union is discovered.

Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the bishops conference and a senior adviser to Pope Francis, has been a leading proponent of making the two-millennia-old Church more open to modern lifestyles that its doctrine officially rejects.

According to Reuters, the new version of Church labour law says “that publicly advocating abortion or race hate, or officially quitting the Church, would be a ‘grave breach of loyalty’ that could lead to an employee being fired.”

Nigeria: Student charged with being gay kicked out of theology school

Ododo Sylvester was kicked out of the Ezekiel College of Theology after accusations of homosexuality, reports the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:

Ododo Sylvester sent the Washington Blade a copy of an Oct. 28, 2014, letter from the Ezekiel College of Theology that claims he confessed to Rt. Rev. Williams O. Aladekugbe, who was the dean of the school, inside his apartment with his wife present that he “had practiced homosexuality before while you were in the secondary school” and that he still has “sexual urge for both male and female sexes.” The letter claims that Sylvester masturbates whenever he has a “feeling for sexual urge” and that he is a “TB” (top and bottom) person.

Sylvester, who is also known by the nickname Saintodosly, told the Blade during a recent telephone interview from Lagos that Aladekugbe used his brother and six students to set him up.

“They had suspected before based on the firm belief that people of same-sex orientation should not be discriminated by the church,” said Sylvester. “That is what I always said to this school and it was at this school that people should not be discriminated. When they asked me, I said they should not be discriminated.”

Sylvester, 30, had nearly completed his studies to become a minister within Nigeria’s Anglican Church when the Ezekiel College of Theology expelled him.

A priest told Ododo that he had been instructed that he should not partake in communion.

Russia: Anti-gay lawmaker prevented from disrupting pride event

St. Petersburg police reportedly prevented notoriously anti-gay legislator Vitaly Milonov from interfering with last Friday’s gay pride march.  Milonov sponsored the anti-gay “propaganda” law that he thought should have been used to stop the march. Activists reportedly handed out lollipops with Milonov’s face on them. Last year Radio Free Europe dubbed Milonov “Russia’s Orthodox Culture Warrior.”

South Korea: Human Rights Watch urges govt not to let religious views keep sexuality from sex ed

Human Rights Watch has urged the South Korean government to halt the roll-out of its new sex education policy in order to revised it to include information on sexual minorities. The Ministry of Education began training district education officers on new sex education guidelines that “exclude any mention of homosexuality or sexual minorities.” The new policy contradicts South Korea’s support for Human Rights Council resolutions calling for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

South Korea has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The treaty bodies that monitor these three international covenants have all called to uphold the right to accurate information, including about sexual health.

Some religious groups, however, have pressured the government to exclude information about LGBT people from the sex education curriculum. For example, in 2014, the Korean Association of Church Communication, a religious group, issued a statement condemning the contents of the draft sex education policy for teaching students about homosexuality openly and mentioning “diverse sexual orientations” which, the group claimed, may lead young people to “fall into temptation” and a “wrong” sort of sexual culture.

“For South Korea to grapple with its HIV epidemic and maintain its integrity in international human rights forums, the government needs to ensure accurate and inclusive information is delivered to students as a matter of policy,” said Reid. “That includes information about LGBT people. Erasing a population from the curriculum under pressure from religious groups is only going to sanction shame and cause harm.”

Luxembourg: Openly gay prime minister reportedly plans quiet wedding

Luxembourg’s openly gay Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is reportedly planning to wed his partner next week, but is keeping quiet about the details in what AFP calls “the tiny, conservative and mostly Roman Catholic duchy.” The two have been in a civil union since 2010.

Mexico: Abundance of patience and pesos needed to get marriage ‘amparo’

We have been reporting on the ongoing spread of marriage to same-sex couples in Mexico, where federal courts have ruled that marriage bans are unconstitutional, but due to the structure of the Mexican justice system, requires couples to sue their local states and receive a federal injunction or amparo allowing their marriage to go ahead. A new report in Libertad de Palabra explains the system as well as the fact that the process costs couples 15 to 20 thousand pesos (around $1,000 to $1,300) and a seven or eight month wait.

Australia: CEOs speak out for marriage equality; gay ambassador in protocol flap

A group of CEOs including the leaders of Qantas and Carnival Australia urged the country’s business sector to speak out publicly in favor of marriage equality. Australia Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome “said that if the upcoming referendum in Ireland and Supreme Court decision in the United States decide in favour of marriage equality, Australia will be the only developed, English-speaking nation in the world where same-sex couples cannot marry, writes Lane Sainty at BuzzFeed. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is openly gay.

Australia’s openly gay Ambassador to France Stephen Brady, who was awarded the Order of Australia in January for his long service to the country, offered his resignation this week after a flap over Brady’s partner of 32 years, Peter Stephens, but it was not accepted.

According to the Herald-Sun, Ambassador Brady was waiting with Peter Stephens, his partner of 32 years, (photo right) on the tarmac of a Paris airport for the arrival of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, when a protocol officer told the ambassador that the prime minister should not be greeted by Mr. Stephens. Ambassador Brady was ordered to have his partner “wait in the car.”

To his credit, Ambassador Brady refused to follow that order. Peter remained by his side as the Prime Minister and his delegation disembarked.

Stephen Brady, who made history as the world’s first openly gay ambassador when he was appointed Ambassador to Denmark in 1999, was angry enough at the snub that he offered P.M. Abbott his resignation, which the prime minister refused to accept. The situation has since seemed to have been smoothed over, evidenced by the observation that Ambassador Brady hosted drinks the next evening, after which he and Peter, along with senior embassy staff, went out to dinner with P.M. Abbott before he returned to Canberra.

A spokesperson for P.M. Abbott did not deny that the incident took place, but downplayed the error as the fault of the protocol office, saying in a statement:

“The prime minister was very happy to be met by Ambassador Brady and his partner when he arrived in Paris last month.”  

 

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