London’s ‘Big Gay Iftar’ And More in Global LGBT Recap

London's LGBT and Muslim community groups will celebrate Ramadan with a meal during London’s Pride festival; image courtesy Twitter.

International Family Equality Day was celebrated on May 7 with events in 30 countries.

The United Nations Special Repporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, invited contributions to a consultation on the impact of fundamentalism and extremism on the cultural rights of women. The deadline for submissions is May 19.

The United Methodist Church’s judicial council ruled that a lesbian bishop’s election violated church law which holds that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Foreign Affairs published “The Global Backlash Against Gay Rights: How Homophobia Became a Political Tool” by Omar G. Encarnación. The article examines the pushback against gay rights in developed countries where significant progress has been made toward equality, and a more “preemptive strike” approach in other countries designed to prevent LGBT equality movements from gaining a foothold. One popular explanation, he writes, “is the enduring strength of homophobia, which flows from the cultural heterosexism embedded in most religions.”

Public polls show that societal acceptance of homosexuality is intimately linked to levels of social and economic development and rates of religiosity. The higher the religiosity, the lower the acceptance rate of homosexuality, and vice versa. The polling data also show that among the major religious groups, Muslims are the least accepting of homosexuality and gay rights, followed by Protestant–Evangelicals, Catholics, and mainstream Protestants. These findings would explain why the gay backlash has been most severe in the most deeply religious parts of the world, such as African and Middle Eastern nations, and, among Western nations, more pronounced in nations with large Evangelical populations, such as the United States and Brazil, than Catholic ones, such as Argentina, Ireland, and Spain.

Decidedly less noted, and therefore less understood, are the political roots of the gay backlash. By openly embracing anti-gay violence and extremely homophobic legislation, many autocratic regimes across the world are doing what such regimes have done for centuries to groups as varied as Jews, heretics, and various ethnic minorities: scapegoating a socially despised minority as a way to consolidate power, to justify conservative policies, and to distract from other issues.

Russia: Under fire, Putin says government will investigate violence against gays in Chechnya

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would ask the prosecutor general and interior minister to investigate reports of deadly violence against gay men in Muslim-majority Chechnya, which have drawn international condemnation in recent weeks. The New York Times reports that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, “has enjoyed near unconditional support” from Putin, and that the anti-gay violence is part of his approach to governing:

The regime’s coercive methods are allied with punitive conservative values. Official Chechen ideology is a mix of traditionalism, Sufi Islam and Putinism. The authorities have banned alcohol, enforced dress codes and “moral behavior” for women, supported honor killings and blood feuds, and even closed orphanages as being alien to Chechen culture.

Russian police reportedly arrested about 20 protesters in St. Petersburg on May 1.

The BBC reported on psychological and religious “cures” that gay people in Russia are being subjected to:

Some Russian families turn to religious institutions to “cure” children who have come out.

Maria, 27, was taken to church against her will by her family to “treat” her homosexuality when she was only 13. She had holy water poured over her while others read out prayers.

“I couldn’t hear anything; I was bawling my eyes out. They kept on reading out prayers and forced me to go to church, where I was told that my attraction to other women came from Satan,” she told the BBC.

“They covered me in holy water and forced me to drink it. Sometimes they hit me with rods. I feel like they broke my mind.”

Some gay men are reportedly being killed by members of their own family.

France: Le Pen draws some support from young gays, but is decisively defeated

Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron decisively defeated the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who had drawn some support from LGBT voters, particularly younger gay voters, by supporting restrictions on immigration from Muslim countries and by naming openly gay senior party officials. The National Front’s platform was the most anti-equality. As the Independent noted in April, Le Pen is not the only right-wing candidate in Europe drawing support from white gay men.  Last month Handelsblatt noted that Alice Weidel, an openly gay former Goldman Sachs banker, had been named co-leader of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany Party.

Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board adopts new guidelines on LGBT refugees

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee board announced new guidelines for dealing with cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. A story published the same day, May 1, in The Globe and Mail, addresses the need for the guidelines:

When they reach Canadian soil, gay refugees fleeing repressive, homophobic regimes face a maddening challenge. Fearing being beaten, jailed, tortured or killed in their home countries, they hide their sexual orientation all their lives. In Canada, they face a 180: to secure status as a persecuted minority, they are asked to prove their sexuality on the spot.

This means furnishing refugee boards with detailed documentation of their same-sex relationships – intimate texts, letters, photographs and other romantic artifacts they may have erased, or never manufactured, for their own safety. Other gay refugees have no boyfriends or girlfriends to show at all, having remained single out of fear.

Without proof, gay refugee claimants’ credibility is shot. How do they convince Canada to give them sanctuary?

Indonesia: Governor defends university ban on LGBT applicants

The Governor of West Sumatra defended a university’s requirement that all applicants sign a statement that they are not part of the LGBT community.

Human Rights Watch publicized an April 30 police raid targeting 14 men who had gathered in two hotel rooms; eight were detained and police reported that two “would be charged with organizing the event and providing pornography—offenses carrying prison terms of up to 15 years.”

The arrests in Surabaya follow an unprecedented anti-LGBT campaign in 2016 that featured a series of biased and false statements about LGBT people from government officials and politicians. The anti-LGBT onslaught led to harassment and violence against LGBT Indonesians and death threats by militant Islamists. Government institutions, including the National Broadcasting Commission and the National Child Protection Commission, issued censorship directives banning information and broadcasts that portrayed the lives of LGBT people as “normal,” as well as so-called “propaganda” about LGBT lives.

England: ‘Big Gay Iftar’ planned during London Pride

The Evening Standard reported on plans by Muslim and LGBT community groups to celebrate Ramadan with a meal during London’s Pride festival.

The Big Gay Iftar, at St Andrew’s Church in Southwark, will see participants join in the traditional Islamic sunset evening meal.

Pride in London said the event on June 24, open to anyone, will allow people “to talk to one another, learn about each others’ faiths, cultures and sexualities and spread some love.”

The inaugural Big Gay Iftar took place last year in response to the killing of 49 people in the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando by an Islamic State sympathiser. This year’s expanded meeting is expected to be even more popular.

An openly gay Church of England priest resigned from his parish and suggested that he cannot get a new job because he is “on a blacklist” and bishops are not willing to risk placing him in a parish.

A British gay man escaped extradition to Turkey, where was charged and convicted in absentia of raping a Turkish man, based on the “inherently inhuman and degrading” prison conditions he would likely experience. The defendant has testified that when he had been detained in Turkey before the trial he had been forced to convert to Islam.

Ireland: Church of Ireland rejects call to consider same-sex ceremonies

At its general synod this week, the Church of Ireland considered and rejected a motion calling on the church to acknowledge the harm it has caused people in same-sex relationships and requesting that the bishops investigate “a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples at these key moments in their lives.”

The breakdown was as follows-clergy 56 for, and 72 against; laity 90 for and 104 against. There were nine clergy and 15 laity abstentions.

Almost every speaker against the motion was from Northern Ireland with Rev Trevor Johnston of Connor diocese describing the motion as “impossible” adding that “inbuilt into it is discrimination against those who didn’t act on their same sex attraction”.

Canon Maurice Elliott of Down and Dromore diocese also spoke against, saying he believed passing the motion would be “immensely detrimental” to partnerships with other churches in the Anglican communion, and Rev Barry Forde of Connor diocese said “there is a theological issue at stake” and that the motion “impinges on Canon 31” concerning the church’s traditional teaching on marriage.

Rev Alison Calvin of Kilmore diocese – which straddles the border – said at times “I feel I am being bullied. It’s not fair that my deeply held convictions are portrayed as those of a narrow-minded bigot”.

Speaking for the motion Rev Brendan McCarthy, of Kilmore diocese, said he had come to believe he had been wrong concerning LGBT people and that he had been in part a cause of their pain, “unintended but real”, while Rev Gillian Wharton of Dublin diocese claimed the same arguments which had been used to oppose women priests were now being used on same sex issues within the church.

More from NewsLetter before the vote

Meanwhile, the church has for the past three years had a select committee looking at human sexuality in the context of Christian faith. The committee itself did not bring forward the motion for the general synod, but both the proposer, Dr Leo Kilroy, and the seconder, Rev Brian O’Rourke, were members.

Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, a weekly and editorially independent church newspaper, told the News Letter the motion “ does not seek to change the Church of Ireland’s traditional teaching on marriage”, a position Canon Ellis said he supports.

However, he did say: “I believe the church has to consider how it is going to relate in pastoral terms to churchgoers who are in same-sex civil marriages. I do not believe that such couples should be barred from receiving holy communion.”

Bermuda: Supreme Court says government must let same-sex couples marry

On May 5 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a gay couple who argued that the Registrar-General’s rejection of their marriage application violated the Human Rights Act. The ruling was celebrated by LGBT equality activists and denounced by the anti-equality group Preserve Marriage.

Chile: Government sponsors public conversations on marriage equality

The government of President Michelle Bachelet began a series of public conversations on marriage equality.

Singapore: Local companies step up to replace banned foreign contributions to LGBT celebration

Organizers of the annual Pink Dot celebration announced that they had received financial support from more than 100 local companies, surpassing the fundraising goal they had set when the government banned them from taking money from multinational companies that had been major funders in the past.

Guatemala: LGBT activists rally outside Congress

LGBT activists rallied in front of Congress on May 4 to oppose an anti-marriage-equality bil and to call for hate crimes protections.

El Salvador: Human Rights award nomination sparks threats against trans nominee

Karle Avelar was nominated in April for the Martin Ennals Foundation’s human rights award, making her for first transgender woman to be considered for the award; since the announcement was made public, reports, Avelar has been subject to increasing threats.

Nepal: Country’s advances on LGBT equality reviewed published a brief history of advances in the rights of LGBT people following the establishment of the Blue Diamond Society in 2001.