Mexico moves toward national marriage equality; Greek govt announces civil partnership legislation; Pope warns against ‘secularism and relativism’; Global LGBT recap

Vatican: Pope will meet married gay activist; warns against “secularism and relativism”

A Paraguayan LGBT organization announced that it has received and accepted an invitation to meet with Pope Francis when he visits the country in July. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that the Pope’s meeting with SOMOSGAY’s executive director Simón Cazal will be his first public meeting with a married gay activist. Cazal married his husband Sergio López in Argentina in 2012.

López told BuzzFeed News that the invitation came as a total surprise — the group had not requested to be included in the meeting. Paraguay also is one of the few South American countries where no protections exist for LGBT people or same-sex couples; their marriage in Argentina has no legal force in their country.

The invitation comes shortly after SOMOSGAY launched a campaign calling on the Catholic Church to “abandon the positions of intolerance and insults dehumanizing LGBT people.”

SOMOSGAY made international news last June when riot police violently removed LGBT protestors supporting a resolution supportive of LGBT rights when they clashed with religious conservative protestors before the beginning of a meeting of the Organization of American States in Asunción last year.

López told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that they are counting on the pope to “address the issue” of violence targeting LGBT people “since the OAS repression went completely unnoticed and unrecognized by the church here.” This was especially galling, López said, because “the whole repression happened during a Catholic march.”

Francis met this week with bishops from Latvia and Estonia, taking what David Badash at the New Civil Rights Movement calls “a subtle swing at same-sex marriage.”

Decrying the “insidious dangers” of “secularism and relativism,” the 78-year old pontiff urged the bishops to spread the word of the Catholic Church, though both priests and lay people.

“The involvement of the lay faithful is indispensable for the evangelizing mission,” the Pope said, according to a translation of his remarks. “Thank God, you can count on the commitment of many good Catholics, in various church activities.”

Pope Francis then turned his remarks toward the importance of the traditional family.

He urged the bishops “to promote the family as a gift of God for the creation of man and woman created in his image and that ‘fundamental cell of society,'” of course, excluding same-sex relationships.

The Pope also warned against modern day formations of marriage, lamenting that “today marriage is often considered a form of emotional gratification that can be constituted in any way and change according to the sensitivity of each one,” a subtle strike at same-sex marriage.

Australia: Catholic Bishops ramp up anti-marriage equality campaign

New Ways Ministry reports that “Australia’s Catholic bishops have launched a campaign for ‘the very soul of marriage,’ employing educators and schoolchildren in Catholic schools as their messengers.”

In an 18-page document disseminated through Catholic schools, the bishops call marriage equality a “serious injustice” according to the Goalburn Post.

Titled “Don’t Mess With Marriage,” the document warns against the perceived dangers of same-gender marriages and says it is “unjust, gravely unjust” to allow same-gender couples equal rights to marriage.

The bishops say people “with same-sex attraction” need love and support. “But pretending that their relationships are ‘marriages’ is not fair or just to them. Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve.”

And, warn the bishops, “‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them.” To that comment New Ways’ Bob Shine responds:

This line is particularly curious, given that several bishops are using Catholic schools to distribute the document, with children as young as six or seven being given the document to bring home to their parents. It also messes with the conscience rights and religious liberty of educators and administrators at Catholic schools forced to promulgate such prejudice or risk their job.

In contrast to the bishops’ campaign, more than 150 companies took out a full-page ad in Australian newspapers calling on the government to introduce marriage equality.

Greece: Government civil partnership move opposed by ‘rogue’ Orthodox bishop

The Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights announced this week that it would back legislation to create civil partnerships which would be available to couples regardless of their gender.  ILGA notes that the move comes nearly 18 months after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the country had to add same-sex couples to its civil partnership law. At Vice, Melpomeni Maragkidou writes about “everything that’s missing” from the proposed law:

Yesterday, the Greek Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights proposed a new law that would recognize same-sex civil partnerships for the first time ever in Greece. This is obviously great news for the Greek LGBTQ community, who over the last few years have suffered extreme bullying from members of the Greek Orthodox Church, the right-wing organization Golden Dawn, and even some MPs. Even though the plan seems positive, some gay rights activists have some concerns….

Earlier this year, the Greek office of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (GHM) submitted an action to the European Court of Human Rights because of the exclusion of civil partnerships. In a statement to VICE, their Department of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity said:

“A civil partnership plan that makes no distinction between heterosexual and same-sex couples is obviously a positive development. It means that Greece will be in compliance with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. We are, however, aware that the proposed draft is very similar to earlier failed drafts made by previous governments. Unfortunately, the document does not recognize unions made by foreign authorities. Even if this legislation is pushed through, Greece is still far behind many other democracies, most of which have now legislated for same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples who are married or in a civil partnership.”

In December 2013, Helena Smith at the Guardian reported, “A leading Greek bishop has warned lawmakers that they risk incurring the wrath of God – and will be excommunicated – if they vote in favour of legalising same-sex partnerships.”

In a letter lambasting homosexuality as “an insult to God and man”, the Metropolitan of Piraeus, Seraphim, pleaded with the country’s deputy prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos, not to condone gay unions.

“I beseech you from the heart not to proceed,” he wrote.

“You will deny yourself the blessing of the most just Lord whose help and protection we daily need as much personally as nationally … during these critical times for our country.”

Last week, the 57-year-old former monk, a prominent personality in Greece’s powerful Orthodox church, threatened to excommunicate any MP who endorsed civil unions among gay couples following condemnation of Athens’s failure to do so by the European court of human rights.

“For the church fathers, homosexuality is the most disgusting and unclean sin,” he railed in a nine-page missive made public last week. “[Such relationships] are an insult against God and man … an unnatural aberration not even observed in animals.”

But a couple of months later, NPR’s Joanna Kakissis reported that Seraphim was a “rogue bishop.”

A Greek Orthodox Church spokesman told NPR that the church opposes homosexuality and same-sex unions, but won’t weigh in publicly on the issue.

Only one rogue bishop, Seraphim of Piraeus, has threatened to excommunicate any politician who votes to legalize same-sex unions. The church spokesman says that won’t happen.

Mexico: New court ruling moves country closer to national marriage equality

We have been reporting on the expansion of marriage equality in Mexico, which has been steadily building through a series of court cases in which couples, individually and in groups, have won injunctions from federal courts requiring local authorities to allow them to marry. Under Mexico’s judicial system, those individual amparos do not invalidate the underlying laws until five have been issued regarding a single state, and activists have been following a long-term strategy to accumulate those victories. But earlier this month, a Supreme Court panel ruled that laws that limit marriage to a man and woman or declare procreation the goal of marriage are unconstitutional and said that the ruling establishes a “jurisprudence” on the question. In places with such laws, local magistrates may still refuse gay couples, but the new ruling binds judges in all states to rule in favor of couples who challenge such laws.

his week, an official in the state of Chihuahua ordered that couples no longer need to get an amparo and must be allowed to marry. Also this week, an appeals court accepted a lawsuit against the Constitutional Court of Yucatán for refusing to recognize that the Congress of Yucatán has an obligation to permit marriage and cohabitation between couples of the same-sex.  Currently, in three states and the federal district of Mexico City, same-sex couples can freely wed; in the other 28 states, same-sex couples can marry but may first have to get an order from a judge. Under the June 3 Supreme Court ruling, the judge must grant the request.

Gambia: Government cites ‘sacred religion values’ in rejecting U.S. criticism of anti-gay stance

This week the government of Gambia cited its “sacred religious values” in a televised statement rejecting criticism from US National Security Advisory Susan Rice, who had described President Yahya Jammeh’s threat to slit the throats of gay men “unconscionable.” More from the Washington Blade:

 “The government of the Gambia wishes to observe that the accusations made are the latest in a systematic campaign to damage the good image of the country and demonize its leadership because of its stance against the activities of the gay and lesbian community,” reads the statement from the Gambian government. “No amount of lies, pressure or threats will make us relent on our rejection of homosexuality.”

“The government of the Gambia will always adhere to our sacred religious values and will not be dictated by decadent and ungodly societies, nations or institutions,” it says.

The statement also reiterated the Gambian government’s opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Even insects and bacteria reproduce respecting the order of nature,” it reads.

Guam: Gay couples marry after courts put end to governor’s resistance

In Guam, where the governor had been stonewalling efforts to allow same-sex couples to marry, couples Kathleen Aguero and Loretta Pangelinan and Deasia Johnson and Nikki Dismuke were married by Public Health Director James Gillan. Pangelinana and Aguero had filed the lawsuit which brought an end to the territory’s ban on marrying same-sex couples.

Ukraine: Pride March attacked in spite of police protection

Last weekend’s “March for Equality” in Kiev was attacked by right-wing counter-protesters in spite of a heavy police presence. Nine of the 2,000 officers reportedly deployed to protect the event were injured in the attack by members of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector); 25 people were arrested.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko committed to protecting the marchers on Friday.

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko had said the march should be canceled because it could “inflame hatred” while much of the Eastern portion of the country is still controlled by Russian-backed separatist rebels.

The EU has made protection of LGBT rights a key test for Ukraine and the two other post-Soviet states currently seeking to deepen ties with the bloc. Several other countries in Eastern Europe have gone through similarly violent clashes over LGBT rights protests as they have tried to win EU membership. Brussels dropped LGBT anti-discrimination requirements last year to allow Ukraine to sign a major EU agreement, but expects Kiev to pass them on its path to a visa-free travel regime.

This week American anti-gay activist Scott Lively charged that U.S. President Barack Obama orchestrated the conflict in Ukraine in retaliation for Russia’s passage of anti-gay legislation:

I have come to believe that Obama orchestrated the Ukraine coup to re-start the cold war to prevent Russia from leading a global revolt against his most sacred cow, the LGBT agenda.

While there were clearly important geo-political factors in Obama’s decision to initiate regime change in Ukraine, I am convinced that the primary impetus was to nip opposition to the international LGBT political steamroller in the bud.

Unfortunately, Obama’s strategy has worked and Russia has been forced from its former trajectory toward global cooperation with the west into an increasingly adversarial posture as Obama and the GOP Establishment Neo-Cons (united by perversion) continue to portray Russia as a pariah state while simultaneously attempting ‘regime change’ within its borders.

Uganda: Scientists agree homosexuality ‘normal and natural variation’

Naith Payton at Pink News reported this week that the Ugandan National Academy of Sciences has endorsed the conclusions of a new study on sexual diversity by the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Uganda’s infamous anti-gay laws were justified with a study which Ugandan MPs claimed stated: “Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behaviour which may be learned through experiences in life. In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexuality tendencies.

“The practice needs regulation like any other human behaviour especially to protect the vulnerable. There is need for further studies to address sexuality in the African context.”

It was later found that the study claimed no such thing, and the politicians had been deliberately highlighting phrases which already suited their views.

Diversity in Sexuality is notable as the first pro-gay study conducted by black African scientists, which may help fight the idea that gay people are a result of Western, white influence.

It states: “There is now a wide global consensus among scientists that homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality without any inherently detrimental health consequences.

“In this context governments have a duty to consider scientific perspectives and draw on the most current scientific knowledge when creating policy and enacting laws.”

President Yoweri Museveni had signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act based in part on the bogus scientific report.

Meanwhile, Religion News Service reported that a Ugandan priest, Rev. Anthony Musaala, said in a talk at a Syracuse, NY, Catholic Church that people are beaten, raped, evicted, and fired from their jobs due to being gay, and said a growing number of LGBT Ugandans are feeling for Kenya.

Musaala, 58, was born in Ireland and educated in England and Uganda. He was ordained in 1994 in the Archdiocese of Kampala and began ministering to gays and lesbians in 1999. His archbishop considered that work “not in step with the church,” Musaala said.

In March 2013, Musaala wrote a paper challenging priestly celibacy and criticizing African priests who abuse minors or father children and abandon them. His archbishop, Cyprian Lwanga, said the paper “damages the good morals of the Catholic believers and faults the church’s teaching.” He suspended Musaala indefinitely from priestly duties, which means the priest cannot celebrate the sacraments.

An energetic man who speaks with a British accent, Musaala is also an award-winning musician with a large following in Africa. Uganda’s Daily Monitor called him “a household name performing a cocktail of reggae to R&B.”

Before his suspension, some in the church had criticized the “Dancing Priest” for “desecrating the robes which are meant for the altar,” the newspaper reported.

Musaala now works with Ark Communes, which creates safe housing communities for LGBT people in Kenya, and he used his talk as an occasion to ask for donations for the organization.

Ugandan political and religious leaders say Westerners brought homosexuality to the country. But Musaala criticizes American evangelicals who “parachuted into Uganda and started spreading their message of hate.”

Guatemala: US Church offers sanctuary to lesbian refugee

The Austin American-Statesman’s James Barragan reports that the First Unitarian Universalist church in Central Austin announced on Thursday “that the church would give sanctuary to Sulma Franco, a 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who fled her home country after threats on her life.”

“We’re honored to step into an ancient tradition: the tradition of churches offering sanctuary to someone seeking justice,” said the church’s reverend, Meg Barnhouse.

Franco, who identifies herself as a lesbian woman, told the crowd she fled her home country in 2009 after her life was threatened for advocating in favor of LGBT rights. She said she decided to enter the United States illegally after being denied a visa by the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

She was detained upon entering the country and held in a detention center in Hutto for four months, she said. Afterward she hired a lawyer and began the process of applying for a U visa, a non-immigrant status given to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to government or local law enforcement officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.

For a time, she said, she lived and worked freely in the Austin area, even gaining a license to operate a Guatemalan food truck that provided her with income. But last year, she said her lawyer failed to turn in documentation to immigration authorities and she was detained during a regular check-in to monitor her progress.

She was sent to a detention center in Arizona for nine months. Thursday marked her deportation date, but instead of turning herself in to immigration authorities in San Antonio, Franco is seeking refuge in the North Austin church.

Franco said she had been the victim of violence prior to her immigration to the United States and fears for her life if she returns.

“Fighting for the rights of the LGBT community is not a crime,” Franco said in Spanish. “It is a right that we all have.”

Scotland: Russian Orthodox, Irish Presbyterians Snub Church of Scotland Over Gay Clergy

The Russian Orthodox Church has formally cut ties with the Church of Scotland following last month’s vote by the church’s General Assembly to approve the ordination of gay ministers.

According to Radio Free Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate said earlier this week that “formal contacts” with the Church of Scotland and France’s United Protestant Church – which voted to allow blessings for gay weddings – were now pointless.

It said: “We regretfully acknowledge that today we have a new divide in the Christian world, not only regarding theological subjects, but regarding moral issues as well.”

A reply from Scotland’s national Church said: “The Church of Scotland’s position on same-sex unions has been determined by its supreme court, the General Assembly, made up of more than 700 church representatives from all over Scotland.

“We are saddened the Russian Orthodox church has taken this decision. We remain brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Pink News reports the Church of Scotland vote to allow gay clergy has also drawn criticism from other churches:

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is following in the footsteps of the Russian church by snubbing the Kirk – and will boycott the Scottish church’s next annual general meeting.

The two Churches have long-held historic ties and have previously had a close relationship – but the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly voted by 99 votes to 84 to boycott the Church of Scotland.

A spokesman for Presbyterian Church in Ireland said: “As self-governing Churches, both clearly have the right to come to their own conclusions on theological and governance matters.

“That being said, I’m sure that many ministers, elders and people within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will feel a deep sense of sorrow at the decision to allow for ordination of ministers in civil partnerships within the Church of Scotland.

“In a heart-felt and finely balanced debate at our own General Assembly last week, members judged that they would express this deep regret by taking a symbolic step not to appoint representatives on this occasion to go to Edinburgh in 2016.”

The Scottish Episcopal Church has taken its first steps toward permitting same-sex marriage with a preliminary vote of its General Synod.

Meanwhile, in the first quarter of the year, after marriage equality went into effect at the end of December, one in eight marriages in Scotland were same-sex couples. According to the Daily Record of Glasgow:

“Of 3,889 marriages in Scotland since the law was changed, 462 involved people of the same sex,” the Daily Record reports, citing data from National Records of Scotland for the quarter that ended March 31. The high proportion of same-sex marriages likely is due to pent-up demand from couples who were waiting to marry, and the percentage will likely drop later on, the paper notes.

Still, the numbers are significant, said Stonewall Scotland director Colin Macfarlane. “The fact that nearly 500 same-sex couples have married since January shows just how important equal marriage is to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people,” he told the Daily Record. “There can be no denying that the policy of equal marriage has been a huge success.”

It will take at least two years to change the Marriage Canon.

Italy: Civil Union motion passes lower house of Parliament

On the heels of Ireland’s marriage equality vote, Italy’s Democratic Party leader Roberto Speranza said, “Now it’s Italy’s turn.” From Eric Rosswood at the New Civil Rights Movement:

On Wednesday the Lower House of Italy’s Parliament passed a motion on gay civil unions. Many similar measures have been presented and rejected in the past, but Wednesday’s vote marks the first time a same-sex union motion was passed in the Lower House.

According to ANSA, the motion commits the government “to promote the adoption of a law on civil unions, particularly with regard to the condition of the people of same sex,” and to ”ensure equal treatment throughout the nation.”

Brazil: Massive pride celebration, continuing religious opposition

An estimated 2 million people celebrated pride in Sao Paolo, but in spite of the massive celebration, which has been called the largest pro-gay demonstration in the world,widespread discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identify still exists,” reports Gay Star News.

LGBTI rights groups report that the country sees homophobic or transphobic attacks on almost a daily basis with 326 homicides of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals last year.

While President Dilma Rousseff has promised to support moves to criminalize anti-gay attacks, she says her government faces opposition from evangelical Christian and right wing politicians, some of whose supporters organized a counterparade on Sunday.

China: Couples marry in West Hollywood

Frontiers magazine reported this week on a group of Chinese couples who were married in West Hollywood, California.

Li Tao, 30, and Duan Rongfeng, 38, are one of seven same-sex Chinese couples married in an emotional ceremony June 9 at the West Hollywood Library. The weddings were witnessed by family, friends, members of the public and lots of media.

But perhaps the most important observer was a camera crew from Blued, China’s largest gay social app, which is documenting the couples’ all-expenses-paid trip from landing in L.A. to getting their marriage licenses at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, to shopping at the Beverly Center, to hair & make up before the wedding to a reception at the L.A. LGBT Center and a mini-honeymoon in WeHo.

The film will be posted online at China’s top video platforms, including Youku and Tudou, for all of China to see. Though homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997, it is believed that up to 80% of gay men will marry women to avoid stigma and shame for their families.

…The seven couples are winners out of 400 entries in an online contest hosted by Alibaba, a huge Chinese e-commerce company based Hangzhou, Zhejiang, with collaboration from Alibaba’s online shopping market, Taobao— where the “We Do” contest was first posted last Valentine’s Day—as well as Blued, the Beijing LGBT Center, PFLAG China, China Luxury Advisors, Bliss, a Chinese bedding brand, the L.A. LGBT Center and the City of West Hollywood. Ten couples were originally selected but visa issues held back three of them.

Putin: God made me perfect

Vladimir Putin declared in an interview with an Italian newspaper that he has never made a mistake because God built him to be perfect.

The anti-gay politician made the claim in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

He was asked: “Is there an action that you most regret in your life, something that you consider a mistake and wouldn’t want to repeat ever again?”

Mr Putin replied: “I’ll be totally frank with you. I cannot recollect anything of the kind.

“It appears that the Lord built my life in a way that I have nothing to regret.”

More Pride

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers this week reported on LGBT pride events around the world, including the participation of U.S. diplomats in some pride celebrations:

U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig on June 7 marched in the second annual Pride parade in Nicosia, the capital of the island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, alongside his counterparts from Australia, Austria and the U.K.

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, and other American diplomatic posts have publicly displayed rainbow flags in support of Pride month.

“This is a worldwide initiative,” said Bob Satawake, husband of U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster during a June 2 interview with a Dominican radio station. “Obviously the embassy here in Santo Domingo is going to participate in this initiative.”

Pink News reported that hundreds of thousands turned out for Pride celebrations in Tel Aviv.