Marriage Vote ‘Transforms’ Not-So-Catholic Ireland; Activist to Malaysian PM – ‘Love Is Not Terrorism’; LGBTs Find Growing Acceptance in Colombia, Not At World Meeting of Families; Global LGBT Recap

Islamic State: Nine men reportedly executed for sodomy; UN Security Council hears testimony

Islamic State militants reportedly executed nine men on Sunday “on charges of sexual perversion.” The killings came a day before the United Nations Security Council heard testimony about Islamic State violence against LGBT people, an informal session sponsored by diplomats from Chile and the United States at which diplomats heard the testimony of gay men from Syria and Iraq. According to the Washington Blade, “Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told reporters after the meeting that her group has documented the executions of at least 30 men whom Islamic State militants have accused of sodomy.”

Activist Scott Long criticized the UN meeting, and suggested that the weekend killings were intended by ISIS to send a message in advance:

Nobody has a strategy for ISIS, though some governments serve up feel-good stories that give the illusion progress is being made. And promising “security” when you can’t provide it — provoking Da’ish [ISIS]with publicity when we have no way to deal with the consequences — may be an inadvertent invitation to murder.

In a column previewing the UN meeting, the New York Times’ Frank Bruni spoke with US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power:

 “We’re trying to get it into the DNA so that when you’re talking about minorities or vulnerable groups, you would always have L.G.B.T. people included,” Power said.

There has been a commendable acceleration of that effort since September 2011, when Barack Obama, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly, unsettled many in the audience by declaring: “We must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Power, who was present for those remarks, said that she was near enough to Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, to hear him mutter: “My God.”

There have also been enormous victories for L.G.B.T. people in nations as different as Nepal andMalta over the last few years. This year alone, a popular referendum legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland and a Supreme Court decision did so in the United States.

But, Power noted, “Unfortunately, internationally, those trends are not being paralleled in very large swaths of the world.” This divide is becoming ever starker, creating new diplomatic tensions, challenges and responsibilities for countries like the United States.


Malaysia: Challenge to Prime Minister: ‘Love is not terrorism’

Last week we reported on comments by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that LGBT rights did not fit the country’s Islam- and Sharia-based view of human rights. In response to his comments that gay people and ISIS both pose threats to the “moderation” advanced by his vision of Islam, Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Neela Ghoshal published a commentary in the Malaysian Insider titled, “Love is not terrorism, Najib.”

At an international seminar on August 18 in Bangi, local media reports say, Najib asserted that extremist armed groups and sexual and gender minorities both pose a threat to Malaysian society.

“Groups like the Islamic State and lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT) both target the younger generation,” he said, “and seem successful in influencing certain groups in society.”

Seriously, Mr Prime Minister? Your statement is a far cry from the “moderation” you say you espouse.

Ghoshal notes that in 2012, Najib said, “LGBTs, pluralism, liberalism ― all these ‘isms’ are against Islam and it is compulsory for us to fight these.” And she notes that other politicians scapegoat sexual and gender minorities as a political tactic:

When Nigerians spoke out over government corruption scandals and demanded action in the face of the onslaught by Boko Haram, what did former president Goodluck Jonathan give them? An anti-homosexuality law.

And in Egypt, where dozens of suspected gay men have been rounded up since Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi took over the presidency following a military coup, a gay man told The Advocate, “We are a scapegoat that both distracts Egyptians from the president’s failings and embellishes his rule with the trappings of being more Islamic than the Islamists.”

Ghoshal makes a few points for the benefit of politicians who would equate LGBT people and Isis:

  1. Isis seeks to impose an Islamic caliphate across the world–by force. LGBT people are seeking the right to be who they are, and to love those whom they love peacefully.
  2. Isis does, indeed, forcibly recruit children for roles in armed conflict, in violation of international law, and forces them to commit horrific crimes. Isis released a video in May that shows a group of children, dressed in camouflage, executing Syrian soldiers in Palmyra. LGBT people do not “recruit” children into homosexuality. All children develop their own sexual orientation and gender identity, regardless of whether they have been exposed to LGBT people.
  1. Isis has been responsible for systematically abducting and raping women and girls, forcing them to into sexual slavery. These relations are anything but consensual. LGBT activists are campaigning for the rights of adults to engage in consensual same-sex relations. They are also campaigning to ensure that all rape victims, female, male, and gender non-conforming, have access to justice.
  1. Isis has summarily executed men they suspected of being gay, including by throwing them off buildings. LGBT movements are struggling to keep sexual and gender minorities free from violence – an aim that Malaysia and all governments should embrace.

It makes sense that the “moderate” government Najib espouses would be concerned about violent extremist sects. But a “moderate” government should also respect its citizens’ rights to be free from discrimination and violence, and that is what LGBT people are asking for.

Vatican: Tensions mounting as World Meeting of Families, papal visit, approach

We reported last week that Catholic officials in Philadelphia were refusing to allow advocates for LGBT Catholics to use church facilities for events during the Pope’s visit to the city for the World Meeting of Families. This week, David Crary from the Associated Press reports:

The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the central religious event of Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States, is intended to convey a message of love and joy as it seeks to promote church teaching on marriage.

Yet four weeks from its opening, friction is mounting, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Roman Catholics lobby for a broader role in the event, and organizers move to limit them. The tensions surrounding the gathering will pose a real-world test of the pope’s approach that emphasizes compassion and welcome, while upholding Catholic doctrine that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The only speakers specifically addressing LGBT issues at the Sept. 22-27 conference are a celibate gay man and his mother. Gays and lesbians can attend the meeting as individuals, but groups supporting gay marriage were denied exhibit space and other official options for presenting their views.

“We don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our church,” said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, the meeting’s host.

Crary reports that New Ways Ministry’s events, forced out of a Catholic church by Chaput, will be held in a nearby Methodist church.

He also reports on some of the LGBT-related items on the official schedule:

Of the more than 70 speeches and presentations on the official Meeting of Families schedule, only one explicitly addresses gay and lesbian issues. It’s a joint presentation by a celibate gay Catholic, Ron Belgau, and his mother, Beverly Belgau, addressing how Catholic families can respond when a family member comes out as gay.

Ron Belgau, who teaches at St. Louis University while pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, is co-founder of a blog called Spiritual Friendship that seeks to promote celibacy as an admirable option for gay Christians. He said he believes that a majority of U.S. Catholics now support same-sex marriage, which became legal in all 50 states under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June.

Mr. Belgau doesn’t expect the church to change its teaching, but suggests that there might be ways to make gay couples feel more welcome — comparable to engagement in the church by many Catholics who use birth control or have been divorced. “I’ve always thought the Catholic Church should be as welcoming as it can be to people, even if they’re not fully following the church’s teaching,” Mr. Belgau said.

Another speaker will be Douglas Farrow, a professor of Christian thought at McGill University in Montreal. He has written extensively about what he perceives as the harmful consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage, and says the Catholic Church needs to remain firm, but not antagonistic, in promoting its vision of heterosexual marriage.

“Of course, there is room for improvement in the way the church responds to its people,” Mr. Farrow said. “The church in America needs to be more thoroughly comfortable in its own theological skin, … in order to be more comfortable in these conversations that are so fraught about what marriage is.”

Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, expressed hope that differences on LGBT issues would not spark animosity. “It is very much possible to show Christian charity and love for all, even if you disagree with their point of view,” he said in an email.

Colombia: ‘In Catholic Colombia, LGBT people find growing acceptance’

Chris Herlinger examines growing acceptance of LGBT people in Catholic Columbia for the Religion News Service, noting, “Colombia has permitted civil unions for heterosexual and homosexual couples since 2007. Since 2013, some municipal judges have granted civil marriages to about 100 same-sex couples.”

Herlinger tells the story of a devout Catholic transgender woman who worried about the afterlife, and was told by her priest, “We are all equal in heaven. There is no gender in heaven. It’s all souls.”

Recent polls estimate that two-thirds of Colombians oppose same-sex marriage, but that is less opposition than in many Latin American countries, including neighboring Ecuador. Support for same-sex marriage is highest in Bogota, the nation’s capital, where, in a 2010 poll conducted by local newspaper El Tiempo, 63 percent of residents endorsed the right of same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies.

Gay rights advocates in Bogota say that number would be even higher today in the city of about 8 million, known for its burgeoning gay culture and nightlife. But it’s not just Bogota.

Support for LGBT rights is spreading across the country. Manizales, a medium-sized city in Colombia’s more conservative “coffee country,” recently hosted a gay pride parade with little controversy.

To Sanchez and other gay rights advocates, these changes are welcome. Many say they stem from young people knowing more “out” family members, friends, classmates and colleagues, and perhaps from Pope Francis’ more moderate tone on LGBT acceptance. An estimated 80 percent of Colombians are Catholic.

“Now people can’t say anything publicly against LGBT people without a reaction,” Sanchez said, citing strong criticism on social media when a conservative political figure recently made derogatory remarks about one of Colombia’s two lesbian government ministers.

The country’s highest court is expected to decide this year on the constitutionality of marriage equality, a prospect that has generated religious opposition:

Though some leaders of the Catholic order Opus Dei have publicly opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, Colombia’s Catholic hierarchy has been quieter on the matter. Opposition has been more vocal and robust among the nation’s evangelical Christian community.

The Evangelical Confederation of Colombia filed a brief before the Constitutional Court saying that homosexuality is a choice and that the court’s nine members should not “fall into judicial activism” by issuing a decision for the country’s 48 million people that does not honor the beliefs of “the moral majority of Colombians.”

Despite such opposition, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has voiced support for the legalization of same-sex marriage, which pleases Sen. Armando Beneditti, a prominent human rights activist in the country.

For Beneditti, the issue facing the court is not religious but rather what is fair and constitutional. “Starting from the principle that humans have rights, how can we think that in Colombia a sector of society cannot have the same legal rights as others?” Beneditti told Colombian journalist Juan Carlos Davila Valencia in a recent interview.

Benedetti said he has developed his stance on the issue by “listening to the testimonies of LGBT people as mistreated and discriminated against.” He said there was no reason why, in the 21st century, rights should be “violated and rejected, by a sort of modern inquisition.”

Herlinger also talks to progressive religious supporters of marriage equality:

The Rev. Ivan Dario Gutierrez and Monsignor Haiver Esneider Perilla Caballero, both members of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church, an Anglican denomination that is not formally affiliated with the U.S. Episcopal Church, work with poor, homeless and displaced young gay people. They consider their work an integral part of supporting human rights for all.

“It is a vocation of service to everyone,” said the monsignor.

Ireland: Marriage equality vote ‘transforms’ gay Ireland, no longer ‘most Catholic country in world’

Conor Humphries at Reuters writes that Ireland’s referendum in favor of marriage equality “is having a profound effect on the country’s gay community even though a legal challenge has delayed the first weddings.”

Gay couples holding hands has become a common sight in Dublin and gay politicians have become celebrities after Ireland became the first to pass the measure in a referendum and with a two-to-one winning margin.

“The change has been electric for young gay people,” said Siona Cahill, a gay rights campaigner who works as an equality officer at Maynooth University.

“For the first time it has become something that isn’t pushed under the covers,” she said.

A spokesman for a national gay youth organization, BelongTo, “saw a doubling of attendance in its Dublin workshops as a result of the referendum and an increase in contacts from parents of young gay people in rural areas.”

“What the referendum did was gave permission to allow conversations to take place in places where it hadn’t happened before: working class areas, rural areas. It allowed LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues to come out of the closet,” he said.

The referendum has had repercussions across society, with businesses seeking advice on improving gay rights, while rainbow flags have become a fashion statement for straight young people, popping up outside bars and cafes in the center of the capital.

In a related story, National Public Radio’s Miranda Kennedy reported this week that in the wake of the sex-and-cover-up scandals of recent years, Ireland is no longer “the most Catholic country in the world.” The number of Irish who attend church every week has dropped from 90 percent to 30 percent. Kennedy spoke with a college professor who stopped going to church after the scandals broke; “when she cast her vote in favor of same-sex marriage, she says she was voting against the Catholic Church.”

Kennedy also spoke with Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who she says “admits he’s still struggling to cope with Ireland’s defiant secularism.” Says Martin, “The church hasn’t been able to bring its teaching and an understanding of that to young people – not just about gay marriage but maybe about marriage altogether and many other things.”

Earlier this month, Kennedy reported that 92 percent of state schools are run by the Catholic Church, but that a growing number of parents are trying to find other options for educating their children. It’s particularly hard for parents whose children are not baptized Catholic, because the schools are legally permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Australia: Marriage opponents claim their voices are stifled; former PM shifts to support

The BBC’s Wendy Frew reports from the ongoing marriage equality debate in Australia that Lyle Shelton, managing director of a Christian lobby group, said that earlier legal changes to address discrimination against same-sex couples had allowed “people to have dignity,” but marriage equality goes too far.

His Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) – a grass roots movement of people who want to inject Christian ethics into national politics – does not want the definition of marriage to be widened to include same-sex couples.

And he claims that the views of traditional marriage supporters have been drowned out by gay lobbyists and the media….

Mr Shelton concedes that if a plebiscite was held today to gauge public opinion – Prime Minister Tony Abbott has suggested one be held next year – most people would probably approve of a law change.

However, he says if the public understood all the ramifications of allowing gay people to marry “I reckon Australians might reconsider this”.

ACL is joined by several new groups including Marriage Alliance and the Australian Marriage Forum who claim the national debate is one-sided.

Campaign spokeswoman for Marriage Alliance Sophie York says she was outraged that two commercial television stations and some radio stations refused to run the lobby group’s advertisements earlier this month.

The national advertising campaign supporting the current definition of marriage showed a picture of an iceberg with the catchphrase: “It’s not as simple as you think.”

The ads were run on a large pay TV network and by a newspaper group.

Rodney Croome from the organization Marriage Equality has a different take: “Opponents of marriage equality complain a lot about the public not hearing their case but I think the reality is the public hears and doesn’t care.”

Julia Gillard, who was Australia’s first prime minister and who opposed marriage for same-sex couples while she was in office – saying that as a feminist she did not believe people needed to get married for their relationships to be valued – announced that she would vote for marriage equality as a private citizen. Andrew Potts at Gay Star News quotes Gillard explaining her history and shift:

 “Given the 1970s feminist in me saw much to be concerned with from a gender perspective with traditional marriage, I thought the better approach was not to change the old but to create something new through civil unions.

“However, in the years since, the debate has quickly moved on, and the claim for civil unions has been discarded in favour of a campaign for same sex marriage. In my time post politics as key countries have moved to embrace same sex marriage, I have identified that my preferred reform direction was most assuredly not winning hearts and minds.”

Gambia: Man detained and tortured on charges of homosexuality

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder, who was honored this week by as Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, report on the experience of a man who was arrested and tortured in Gambia before fleeing into Senegal, where he arrived just as a group of men were sentenced there on charges of homosexuality. Feder gives context:

Amnesty International first told BuzzFeed News in mid-November that it had received reports that police were running a “well organized operation” attempting to identify and arrest LGBT people. Fatou Camara, Jammeh’s former press secretary who became a human rights activist when forced into exile in 2013, said at the time that she had spoken to a source in the intelligence service who said the agency had compiled a list of 200 people targeted for arrest. According to one lesbian who fled to Senegal as the arrests began, in some cases police visited their homes in the company of a 17-year-old boy, the youngest arrested in the sweep, who they believe was tortured into naming others.

Even in a country where the regime has arbitrarily detained — or killed — scores of people, this wave of arrests was unusual. Since seizing power in 1994, Jammeh generally targeted political opponents, not specific minority groups. Also unusual was the fact that forces known as “Junglers” or “Black-blacks” (because they dress all in black and cover their faces), which are essentially Jammeh’s personal secret police feared for their role in tortures and disappearances, were involved directly in the roundup.

But as the United States and European powers pressed countries like Uganda to drop sweeping new laws criminalizing homosexuality, Jammeh appeared to see a political opportunity to curry favor internally by burnishing his Muslim bonafides and justify the Gambia’s increasing status as an international pariah. Just weeks after Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the newly adopted Anti-Homosexuality Act in August 2014, the Gambia adopted a law closely modeled on Uganda’s which included a life sentence for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as including cases like when someone repeatedly has same-sex intercourse, when the accused is HIV positive, or when the accused has sex with a minor.

Kazakhstan: NPR reports on plight of LGBTs

National Public Radio’s Corey Flintoff examined problems facing LGBT people in Kazakhstan, many of whom are disappointed that its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics lost to China. LGBTs had hoped that hosting the Olympics would also bring greater international pressure on the government to respect the human rights of LGBT people. The country’s constitutional court rejected a Russian-like ban on pro-gay “propaganda” earlier this year, but activists worry that conservative lawmakers will push another version of the law in the near future.

United Kingdom: ‘Muslim Drag Queens’ documentary sparks controversy

Reuters’ Kieran Guilbert spoke with Asif Quaraishi, one of the stars of a new documentary about Muslim drag queens, a flim Quaraishi hopes “will encourage gay British Asians to come out of the closet rather than provoke a backlash against Britain’s ‘hidden’ community.” The movie aired in Britain on Monday; police promised to protect the drag queens and their families against potential violence.

“I am constantly worried and fearful, but we (gay British Muslims) have the right to be heard, share our stories and not be ashamed of who we are,” said Quaraishi, dubbed Britain’s first Muslim drag queen, who goes by the name Asifa Lahore.

There are as many as 150 Muslim drag queens across Britain, seeking to reconcile their sexuality with their faith, while challenging homophobia and taboos within Islam and attempting to gain acceptance within their communities.

“I’m Pakistani, I’m British, I’m Muslim, I’m gay, and I’m a drag queen… people say these things shouldn’t fit together but here I am – this is me,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Since the trailer for the film was released last week, Quaraishi said he had received hundreds of messages on social media, from young gay Muslims who were unaware of the “Gaysian” community as well as those in their 50s and 60s.

“There is a whole hidden community living in Britain… now is the time to come out.”

Quarishi’s activism has come at a cost:

The documentary opens with the 32-year-old, from Southall, west London, reading several abusive and threatening emails.

“You call yourself a Muslim? You should be ashamed of yourself, and killed,” one says. “You think I don’t know where you live? You think I don’t know who your mum is who your dad are? Carry on and you will be killed,” another reads.

Germany: Lesbian teacher rehired under bishops’ new employment policy

New Ways Ministry reports on the case of a German teacher who is getting her teaching job back after the implementation of a new policy by German bishops that is more welcoming of LGBT church workers:

A German educator fired for her plans to marry a woman will return to her position as head of a Bavarian kindergarten, aided by a new church employment policy released by that nation’s bishops earlier this year.

The policy, which went into effect on August 1, was approved in May by 23 of 27 dioceses, reported the National Catholic Reporter, and will affect 700,000 workers. It cautions against firing LGBT or divorced and remarried church workers, and the policy was warmly welcomed by Cologne’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki at the time…

However, not all bishops will be implementing this new policy, like Bishop of Stefan Oster of Passau who received a letter from twenty priests there “deploring his decision not to adopt the new law.” Civil marriage equality is not legal in Germany, but recent developments are inching the country closer against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s objections.

Puerto Rico: U.S. Conservatives gripe about media coverage of marriage equality

An American right-wing media monitoring group, the Media Research Council, complained this week about media coverage of the mass gay wedding and related celebrations that took place in Puerto Rico after the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. MRC said on Monday that Univision’s coverage focused on the celebrations and shut out the voices of those who are still opposed to marriage equality.

Correspondent Lourdes Del Río framed the report in a way that gave the impression that same sex marriage in Puerto Rico enjoys unified support, including among religious leaders. Specifically, Del Rio spoke of the ceremony’s “wide ecumenical touch” and pointed to the participation of various clergy members.

However, the clergy present at the event all lead religious bodies that are miniscule in comparison to Puerto Rico’s leading religious traditions. The stance on this matter of far more significant Puerto Rican Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders was totally ignored.

For example, Univision ignored the perspective of the leaders of Puerto Rico’s majority Catholic population. Among them, Arecibo Bishop Daniel Fernández called the day marking the onset of mass gay weddings on the island “a sad day for Puerto Rican society.” “Moved by love and compassion for our neighbor, it is necessary to remember to all that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to natural law,” Bishop Fernández added.

On behalf of the Puerto Rican Bishops Conference, San Juan Archbishop Roberto González-Nieves is also on record, saying “same-sex marriage destroys the richness of the complementary qualities of the sexes and deprives progeny of the paternal or maternal figure.” González had previously called for a referendum on the matter, to counter a “dictatorial imposition on the state’s part.”

Evangelical leaders have made similarly strong statements, along the same lines.  Carlos Sánchez, who led a protest of the event that was ignored by Univision, pointed out that the same United States Supreme Court that sanctioned same sex marriage “previously legalized slavery in the middle of the 19th century, prohibited prayer and Bible reading in public schools in the 20th century and legalized the massacre of innocent babies with abortion.”

Northern Ireland: Council rejects Sinn Féin marriage equality proposal

The Coleraine Times reports, “Proposals for the Causeway Coast and Glens council to back same-sex marriage have been voted down by unionists with zero debate.

A Sinn Féin motion calling for the local council to give their backing to the campaign to support the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland was voted down without any debate whatsoever.

Sinn Féin Councillor Tony McCaul, who lodged the motion, spoke about the moment his daughter revealed her sexual orientation as he appealed for support for his motion.

He said the same-sex marriage debate was one that affects many families across both the local area and throughout Northern Ireland….

McCaul said his daughter is gay and should be able to marry the person she loves.

Expressing love by marrying someone is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege. Public opinion in the North here backs same sex marriage by two-to-one.

“I know many people in this room have deeply held religious beliefs. I personally leave my religious beliefs outside that door when I come in here to debate issues that affect people’s lives….

“We need to accept homosexuality as part of what is normal in our society. We have to afford them equal rights. This is the only place on these islands where same sex marriage is not allowed.”

Guam: Anti-marriage equality governor allows law to go into effect without his signature

Governor Eddie Calvo, who long resisted marriage equality, allowed marriage equality legislation to become law without his signature. The legislation was passed to bring Guam law into accord with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

Governor’s spokesman Julius Santos said Calvo has made it clear he would not stand in the way of progress, but his religious beliefs kept him from signing the bill into law.

Calvo is a practicing Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church doesn’t support same-sex marriage….

In a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage in June, Calvo said it was important to acknowledge civil rights of individuals and that of religious organizations.

“It is important that we all remember that love is at the heart of both the arguments to allow gay marriage and those that promote the traditional definition of marriage,” he said.

He also asked the Legislature to consider freedom of religion when moving forward with legislation to reflect the Supreme Court’s decision.

South Africa: Call for inclusive sex education

Advocates for sexuality education in South Africa are urging schools to move beyond the “when a boy loves a girl” narrative that is “totally dominant in sex education.” According to Pink News, “Despite South Africa in 2006 becoming the fifth country worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage, homosexual sex and relationships is a topic completely ignored throughout school teaching.”

United Kingdom: LGBT equality advocates named to House of Lords

Members of the House of Lords are either hereditary peers or life peers appointed by the government. Among 45 life peers announced this week are a number of LGBT equality advocates including the Lynne Feathersone, a former Liberal-Democrat member of the House of Commons who was been described as the architect of marriage equality in England and Wales.

Italy: Venice mayor seeks to ban pride march

We reported last week that Venice Mayor Luigi Brunaro tried to keep LGBT themed books for children out of libraries. This week Brugnaro called Pride parades the “height of kitsch” and told La Repubblica, “There will never be a Gay Pride in my city.”

Senegal: Men sentenced to prison for ‘acts against nature’

A court in the capital of Dakar sentenced seven men to six months in prison for engaging in “acts against nature.” President Obama spoke in support of LGBT rights and against criminalization of homosexuality during a June 2013 press conference in Dakar with Senegalese President Macky Sall. But Sall said at the time that his country is “still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality.”

Cook Islands: Push for decriminalization

Radio New Zealand reported that a sexual diversity group is confident that its efforts to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality will be successful. The Cook Islands are a self-governing country in “free association” with New Zealand, which provides for the Cook Island’s defene. Homosexual acts are currently punishable by up to five years in prison. Valentino Wichman, secretary of the advocacy group Te Tiare Association, said their has been minimal opposition to the recriminalization effort.According to Radio New Zealand, The Prime Minister Henry Puna has said that marriage equality is not an issue in the Cook Islands, and there is no need to deal with it yet.