Marriage Equality Coming To Taiwan In Spite of Religious Objectors?; Anti-Gay Ruling Sought By Indonesian Islamists Threatens Women & Poor Couples; LDS Church Launches New ‘Mormon and Gay’ Site; Global LGBT Recap


October 30 marked the 30th anniversary of the Vatican’s “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” which New Ways Ministry calls “probably the most influential piece of church teaching on the topic of homosexuality.” Read more for Francis DeBarnardo’s analysis of the letter’s continuing impact.

The Obama administration adopted a new rule banning US Agency for International Development contractors from discriminating against LGBT people in the provision of services. The rule does not bar discrimination in employment; groups working overseas are exempted from a 2014 executive order against job discrimination by federal contractors. Analysis from BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder:

It’s not immediately clear how broadly this rule will be applied, but it could potentially touch on some of the most sensitive areas of US foreign aid. For example, Bromley said, it could be used to argue that US HIV-prevention dollars cannot go to organizations that advocate against LGBT rights, such as the religious organizations that ran HIV programs in Uganda while simultaneously campaigning for a sweeping Anti-Homosexuality Act enacted in 2014. (It was later struck down by the country’s Constitutional Court.)

Some major foreign aid contractors are faith based, including the evangelical Christian organization World Vision and agencies affiliated with the Catholic Church.

“The new Obama administration rule has no impact to World Vision because we do not discriminate in our administration of aid,” said spokesperson Cynthia Colin. “World Vision US programs serve the world’s poor regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation.”

US Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to request for comment.

The World Bank announced this week that President Jim Yong Kim has named Clifton Cortez to a new position as the Bank’s advisor on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity issues.

Intersex Awareness Day was observed on Wednesday, October 26. The United Nations Free & Equal Campaign launched a new video and online platform for intersex people to tell their stories and push for an end to stigma and abuse.

NBC News aired an interview with playwright and director Moisés Kaufman, who discussed growing up gay in Venezuela and challenges facing LGBT youth.

Taiwan: Gay Pride celebrates potential for marriage equality

More than 80,000 people joined one of Asia’s largest gay pride marches in Taipei on Saturday, while a rainbow flag flew over city hall for the first time. Nicola Smith reported for the Telegraph:

This year, more than any in Taipei Pride’s 14 year history, the LGBT community had something to celebrate: same-sex marriage may finally be within their reach, making Taiwan the first country in Asia to grant full equality to LGBT couples.

On the eve of the parade, Taiwan’s Justice Minister, Chin Tai-san, gave marchers fresh hope by pledging that the new government, elected earlier this year, had a clear position on same-sex marriage and backed equality.

President Tsai Ing-wen also reportedly reaffirmed her support for marriage equality on Saturday. Legislation to revise the civil code to include marriage equality has been submitted with the support of 40 lawmakers, reports the Taipei Times.

The China Post reported that the Protect Family Alliance, a coalition of religious groups, had organized more than 2,000 calls to the city government to condemn the march.

According to the Taipei Times, a couple of days before the parade, dozens of Christian protesters organized by the International Christian Torch Vanguard Service and Ministry Association protested outside legislative chambers:

While many protesters held placards and occasionally broke into chants in support of “family values,” raised hands and speaking in tongues were also prevalent, with protesters closing their eyes or looking to the sky in apparent prayer, on one occasion spinning in circles while dancing to a hymn.

“We’re worried because Taiwan needs traditional family values, and same-sex marriage would affect the ethics and morals of the entire nation,” said the association’s director-general Deborah Hsin. “How can two men or two women be called a marriage? There’s no possibility that they can have children and that’s one of the core responsibilities of marriage.”

A lay Buddhist monk, Lin Shu-chuan, rang a bell in counter protest, reported the Taipei Times:

“Buddhism takes a more even view [of homosexuality],” Lin said, “We believe that all sexual love is the same, regardless of whether its heterosexual or homosexual, and just like eating, you cannot go overboard if you want to achieve enlightenment.”

Indonesia: Potential anti-LGBT court ruling also threatens women, unmarried couples

The threat to LGBT people in Indonesia grows; The Washington Post’s Jon Emont reported this week, “Indonesia’s highest court is deliberating whether sex outside marriage should be made illegal in the world’s third-largest democracy, in the latest push by conservative Islamist organizations to restructure the country’s relatively secular legal code.:

If the court revises the law to forbid casual sex, gay sexual relations would become illegal for the first time in Indonesian history, and straight unmarried couples could face prosecution.

The Family Love Alliance, a conservative Islamist advocacy organization, petitioned the Constitutional Court to broaden existing Indonesian law, which makes adultery illegal but does not ban sexual relations between unmarried people. A decision is expected in December or early next year, after the court hearings are completed…

The case is the latest battle in the struggle over Indonesia’s ­social culture, which features a small band of progressives battling to maintain this Muslim-majority democracy’s relatively secular legal system against Islamist forces.

Activists fear that Indonesia’s highly conservative court will be unable to resist the opportunity to strike a blow for traditional morality. In an early court hearing, one conservative judge, Patrialis Akbar, appeared to affirm arguments made by conservative plaintiffs, saying, “Our freedom is limited by moral values as well as religious values. . . . We’re not a secular country — this country acknowledges religion.”

Emont reports that one Muslim scholar and anti-LGBT activist “suggested that the spread of gay rights is the result of a Jewish conspiracy.”

LGBT people are not the only ones put at risk by the case and the rise of a more conservative Islam in Indonesia:

Women’s advocates worry that a ban on sex outside marriage would be used disproportionately to prosecute women, in part because unmarried pregnant women would be an easy target. “It’s obvious this law will be a disaster, and women will be most affected,” said Tunggal Pawestri, a women’s rights activist.

Another worry about the court case, according to Santi Kusumaningrum, co-director of the Center on Child Protection at the University of Indonesia, is that only about half of Indonesian couples have been legally married, meaning that millions of couples with informal and ceremonial marriages will no longer be legally able to have sex.

“This law, when enforced, will immediately exclude the poor, the marginalized, people who live in remote places in the margins of public service,” she said.

Mormon Church: New policy seeks to put friendlier face on church’s anti-gay doctrine

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published a new website called Mormon and Gay, which is meant to put a softer face on the church’s stance toward LGBT people, which has been rendered harshly by recent policy declaring same-sex couples apostate. From Mamba Online:

The new site contains a plethora of material on the subject of homosexuality, including personal accounts from lesbian, gay and bisexual Mormons as well as advice for parents and families, all intended to present a warm and welcoming facade.

“We have given much thought and care to better understanding the experience of same sex attraction and making sure individuals who feel such attraction and their families feel welcome and part of the great worldwide family that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” says church leader Elder L. Whitney Clayton in video on the site.

He goes on to state: “We want you to know we love you. You are welcome. We want you to be part of our congregations. You have great talents and abilities to offer God’s kingdom on Earth and we recognise the many valuable contributions you make.”

While the initial tone is positive, in reality the church’s homophobic position is unchanged. As the site makes clear, the church is prepared to welcome celibate gay members with open arms, but it does still not accept gay sex, which it maintains is sinful.

In another video, Elder D. Todd Christofferson explains: “Homosexual behaviour is contrary to [the church’s] doctrines, always will be, and can never be anything but transgression. It’s something that deprives people of those highest expectations and possibilities that God has for us.”

Romania: Religious conservatives attack president for pro-tolerance comments

Transitions Online Newsletter reports that President Klaus Iohannis is being targeted by the Orthodox Church and the Coalition for Family for making remarks favoring tolerance.

His remarks were not taken lightly by the Romanian Orthodox Church, which issued a press release saying that the proposal for a constitutional amendment aims to “protect the family, parents, and children, and not to condemn other people.” Its reason lies in the “dramatic reality of the demographic collapse not just in Romania, but in the rest of Europe as well.”

Additionally, the press release said, “the civic initiative, which is perfectly legal and validated by the Romanian Constitution, cannot be, in any way, considered an instance of religious fanaticism, or proof of intolerance (…) but a normal and necessary democratic exercise.”

In reply, Iohannis said 21 October that his initial remarks were not aimed at any Romanian church, but that the reactions that followed highlight, more than ever, “the need for conciliation and social peace in Romania,” writes. Nobody has contested the legality of the petition put forth by the Coalition for Family, he added.

Belgium: Conservative Catholics ask Vatican to punish local bishop

A Catholic lay group, Pro Familia, has urged the Vatican to discipline Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny, who, according to LifeSite News, suggests in a new book published Friday that homosexual pairs, divorced, remarried and cohabiting couples should receive a Church blessing as part of a ‘diversity of rituals’ that would recognized the ‘exclusiveness and stability’ of their unions.”

Northern Ireland: Court upholds ruling against bakery in gay cake case

“Court of Appeal judges in Belfast upheld an original judgment which ruled that Ashers bakery had discriminated against a gay activist for declining his order for a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’,” reports the Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK and Ireland which still prohibits same-sex civil marriage and LGBT advocates have been involved in a long campaign to demand a change in the law.

While Gareth Lee, whose order was cancelled, welcomed the Court of Appeal decision, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur expressed his “extreme disappointment”.

“If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes, then equality law needs to change,” he said as he emerged from court surrounded by his family.

“This ruling undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.”

The McArthur family, which owns the bakery, has “been supported by the Christian Institute, which has organized public rallies and garnered financial backing for the case.”

Nigeria: Human Rights Watch reports on impact of law banning same-sex marriage

Human Rights Watch released a report this month documenting the impact of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) which not only prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex but imposes long prison sene3nces on anyone who participates in gay organizations or supports the activities of such groups. From the report:

While existing legislation already criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct in Nigeria, the report found that the SSMPA, in many ways, officially authorizes abuses against LGBT people, effectively making a bad situation worse. The passage of the SSMPA was immediately followed by extensive media reports of high levels of violence, including mob attacks and extortion against LGBT people. Human rights groups and United Nations “TELL ME WHERE I CAN BE SAFE” 2 officials expressed grave concern about the scope the law, its vague provisions, and the severity of punishments. On February 5, 2014, following the passage of the SSMPA, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa noted with concern in a press release, “the increase in cases of physical violence, aggression, arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders working on sexual minority issues.”

… The law has become a tool being used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimize multiple human rights violations perpetrated against LGBT people. Such violations include torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, violations of due process rights, and extortion. Human Rights Watch research indicates that since January 2014, there have been rising incidents of mob violence, with groups of people gathering together and acting with a common intent of committing acts of violence against persons based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gibraltar: Marriage equality wins approval

The parliament of this British overseas territory unanimously approved legislation to permit same-sex couples to be legally married. The Equality Rights Group expressed some concern about a Conscience Clause that allows deputy registrants with religious objections to opt out of providing marriage licenses, but notes that under the law, the government will be required to provide a replacement celebrant.

Australia: US anti-gay group providing materials to anti-equality groups

The Australian Family Association is reportedly distributing an anti-marriage-equality pamphlet published by US anti-gay group MassResistance, which recently announced that it has been providing materials to anti-equality groups in Mexico.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: LGBT people challenged by ‘patriarchal and homophobic culture’

Maya Shwayder reports for DW that, while Bosnia-Herzegovina moves toward joining the EU, many LGBT people are “living in a patriarchal and homophobic culture.” The story recounts a series of attacks on LGBT groups and spaces in recent years, and reports that the country has accepted international conventions without implementing them.

Latin America: Uruguay and Argentina top social inclusion index

The Americas Society and the Council of the Americas released a report that calls Uruguay and Argentina the region’s most LGBT-friendly countries. Uruguay tops the Social Inclusion Index for the third year in a row. From the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:

Gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry in Argentina and Uruguay since 2010 and 2013 respectively. Both countries also allow transgender people to legally change their gender without undergoing surgery.

Argentina and Uruguay are among the countries that contribute to the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership to promote LGBT rights around the world that the State Department manages with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Uruguay in July hosted the first global LGBT rights conference to have taken place in Latin America. Uruguayan Minister of Exterior Relations Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry and more than 150 activists from around the world were among those who attended the gathering in the country’s capital of Montevideo.

Brazil: Rights group creates video promoting respect, tolerance

Grupo Dignidade commissioned a video ad featuring a young man offered an eggplant dish by his other in law:

The young man, after saying that he “hates eggplant”, imagines himself committing a series of atrocities against the fruit: it is cruelly drowned, stabbed, trampled, hunted and exploded.

Coming back to real life, he says a simple “no thanks” and reinforces the correct way to deal with the things we disagree on. “I’ve always questioned the way some people deal with differences, especially regarding sexual orientation. What could justify a person spending their energy to verbally or physically attack someone who prefers different things? Maybe this person is not so confident about their own choices,” Renato Cavalher, creator of the film, wonders.

“Obviously, we can disagree with other people’s way of life. I’m in favor of all rights and justice. We should not discriminate, but respect not only religion and color, but also sexual orientation”, says Toni Reis, CEO and founder of Grupo Dignidade.