The anti-equality World Congress of Families has regional conferences scheduled in Belgrade, Serbia on September 16-18 and Nairobi, Kenya on September 23-25 each featuring an array of speakers from the global religious right. Another regional conference is planned for Cape Town, South Africa, in December. WCF hosted a regional conference in Argentina in June.
The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers published a wide-ranging interview with British activist Peter Tatchell, who spoke about his belief in the importance of LGBT people standing publicly with other human rights struggles. “In all these different places where I work on broad human rights issues — whether it be Russia, Iran, West Papua, Baluchistan, Somaliland — it does provoke an internal debate,” says Tatchell. “It’s a subtle way, but I think quite an effective way to undermine homophobia in many of these cultures.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin published an op ed making the case that the election of Donald Trump as US president would threaten the progress of LGBT rights globally, noting that the Trump campaign has courted Religious Right groups that support anti-gay politics overseas.
Mexico: Conservative Christians seek to amend constitution amid pro- and anti-LGBT organizing
The evangelical organization “For Life and Family” has gathered 300,000 signatures on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex couples from getting married; they were presented to the Chamber of Deputies after a march. Marriage equality has been spreading steadily across the country thanks to a long-term legal strategy by activists who have brought case after case to the federal courts to win injunctions for couples, leading to legal and state-level legislative victories. The initiative would also place bans on abortion and sex ed in schools into the constitution. From a report in El Norte:
On the other hand, with tears in his eyes, Hugo Eric Flores, who is also leader of the PES, considered that God must become the focus of national policy.
“Once a spiritual government for all of us, seeking the face of the Lord asking him to have mercy on this nation is established, you know what will happen? that just be lifted to govern,”he said.
Evangelical leaders added that mobilizing today to San Lazaro was historic because never before has a religious organization had succeeded in presenting a bill.
This, they felt, was a miracle.
Catholic bishops have also been vocal opponents of the initiative, though the Archdiocese of Mexico put out a statement that it is not among the organizers of the anti-marriage rallies planned by the National Front of the Family, though they are giving their moral support to the “natural family” demonstrations. President Enrique Peña Nieto this week reaffirmed his support for his own effort to have marriage equality guaranteed in the Constitution, a move he first announced in May and which some activists believe is responsible for the current backlash.
A national gathering of LGBT rights activists that took place August 25-28 released the “Cuernavaca Declaration,” which calls on the government to protect the rights of LGBT people and preserve secular government. LGBT activists have announced a march on September 11. Another group of activists called on the government to prevent religious organizations from taking actions hostile to human rights.
Qatar: Qatari money funds “traditional values” efforts around the world
At Medium, journalist Brian Whitaker reports that in addition to funding Islamist groups, funds from Qatar also support non-Muslim religious groups promoting “traditional” views on gender and family at the United Nations and around the world. They include the Catholic University of America, a conservative think tank in Britain and a business school in Kenya that is a “corporate undertaking” of the right-wing Catholic organization Opus Dei.
Over the last decade Qatar has been working quietly with socially-conservative elements in the west to promote “traditional” ideas of family life. In doing so it has readily joined forces with Mormons and the more reactionary parts of the Roman Catholic church. It has also helped fund a right-wing think tank set up by a former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party.
In turn, these western groups seem content to accept support from a country where polygamy is legal, where gay sex — and, indeed, any kind of sex outside marriage — is a crime, where loveless arranged marriages are not uncommon, where a husband can divorce a wife simply by saying so three times but a wife who wishes to divorce her husband must go to court.
The story examines the board and actions of Doha International Family Institute, established by Sheikha Moza, one of the former Emir’s wives, and was originally run by the late Richard Wilkins, an American Mormon.
Besides Wilkins, the institute had a board of governors drawn from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Welcoming the institute’s emergence, a Catholic website described its board members as “cross-cultural” and “representing diverse religious traditions”. If their religious traditions were diverse, though, their views on family life were anything but.
Middle East: In much of Middle East, it’s getting more dangerous to be gay
“In much of the Middle East, it’s getting more dangerous to be gay,” writes Jacob Wirtshcafter for GlobalPost. Egypt, for example, “has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of gay men, with as many as 500 behind bars on ‘morals’ charges — and the crackdown is escalating.”
“Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait have all rushed to condemn the crime in Orlando labeling it terrorism while insisting Islam has nothing to do with it,” said a spokesman for Mesahat, an LGBT service organization operating in Egypt and Sudan.
“These same governments keep arresting and torturing gay people and are putting them in jail. Meanwhile they are sponsoring a religious discourse that feeds homophobia.”
The Quran mentions homosexuality only in the context of a retelling of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, he writes.
But gay people in the region say widespread condemnation of homosexuality came about only in the 1980s, when the rise of the global LGBT rights movement coincided with the expansion of ultraconservative Wahhabism sponsored by Saudi Arabia.
Activities and relationships that were considered normal 30 years ago are now described as haram, an Islamic term to describe religiously prohibited behavior like eating pork or consuming alcohol. Homosexuality is now frequently condemned as a “Western” vice and a threat to Arab and Islamic culture.
“Wahhabi attitudes spread to Egypt and took over a more enlightened, liberated Islam,” said Ahmed Hafez, an Egyptian analyst with the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, DC-based LGBT advocacy group.
“Now the police in Egypt are targeting gay people to show the public that they are on the side of morality and are doing a good job in fighting debauchery, as a distraction to hide their failures in the crackdown on terrorism or drug trafficking,” he added.
In Iraq and Syria, the shadow of ISIS adds to the danger.
“Day after day, we read about how the Islamic State, militias and extremists handle the LGBT community in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Morocco,” said Khalid Abdel-Hadi, 27, publisher of My Kali, the only LGBT magazine in the Middle East.
The article calls Lebanon the “exception that proves the rule.”
Pink News covers reports that Egyptian police are using Grindr to hunt gay men.
Cayman Islands: US Christian activist keynoting anti-gay rally
Cayman News Service reports that David Gibbs III, a “conservative Christian lawyer from the United States who has suggested that legalizing gay marriage would lead to a catalogue of social ills will be one of three guest speakers headlining a religious rally in Cayman” on September 11. Organizers say the gathering, “The Future is Now: Preserving Values for a Better Tomorrow,” will promote “a biblical perspective of family.”
David Gibbs III, who takes an anti-gay stand, is not quite as controversial as his father David Gibbs Jr but he has nevertheless spoken out at many public religious events in recent years about what he believes is an agenda or conspiracy by the liberal left to promote gay marriage and alternative lifestyles.
He believes this will lead to a rise in single-parent households, an increase in dependents on social welfare and healthcare. In 2009 he told participants at an anti-gay rally in North Carolina that gay marriage would “open the door to unusual marriage” in the state.
“Why not polygamy, or three or four spouses?” Gibbs asked. “Maybe people will want to marry their pets or robots.”
Gibbs’s father founded the Christian Law Association. Gibbs represented Terry Schiavo’s parents when they were trying to wrest guardianship away from her husband. Since then Gibbs has represented a high school trying to prevent students from organizing a gay-straight alliance club
Other speakers will include Brendan Bain from Jamaica-based Family Life Ministries and Cayman-cased pastor Also Ebanks.
In a release about the event, which may well stir up discrimination, intolerance and abuse of the LGBT community, Gibbs said his presentation will aim to frame the legal debate on the definition and nature of the family, and “navigating today’s increasingly diverse perspectives”.
…Gibbs said that as an observer of legal and constitutional trends, he has been concerned about some major shifts in the western world. “I think it is important that we come to grips with these critical issues before this grand experiment we are hoisting on the next generation cannot be stopped,” he added.
…In the release he said it could not be ignored that “a number of individuals, international groups and governments are exerting pressure on our communities to accept sexual practices that have not been previously accepted in most Caribbean communities”.
… Although the PPM government has made it very clear it has no policy plans to introduce gay marriage or any kind of legal protection for same-sex couples, the fear that it might at some point in the future has seen mounting public intolerance towards the local LGBT community coming from the pulpit and parliament.
Last week yet another private members motion was filed by Anthony Eden in the Legislative Assembly on the possibility of legalised same-sex unions or gay marriage, which was backed by all of the independent MLAs. This time Eden is calling for a referendum. A previous motion asking government to confirm its commitment to marriage remaining an institution between the members of the opposite sex gave rise to some extremely unpleasant anti-gay rhetoric in parliament.
Aruba: Civil partnership vote faces opposition from religious leaders
A scheduled vote on civil partnership legislation was postponed to September 8. Journalist Yörük Bahçeli reports:
Legalizing civil partnerships will grant registered same-sex couples equal rights as married couples.
Although the Netherlands led the way in legalizing same-sex marriage in 2001, LGBT citizens living in its autonomous territories are still unable to marry. The Dutch Kingdom consists of the Netherlands proper and the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, as well as Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, known as the BES islands.
The BES islands were incorporated into the Dutch mainland in 2010 and same-sex couples have been able to marry ever since.
However, in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, which remain autonomous territories in the Kingdom with their own laws, gay couples cannot marry or enter civil partnerships….
Unlike the Netherlands, where the public influence of religion has long been limited, Catholicism plays a big role in the Dutch Caribbean. Religious leaders, such as Pastor Daniel Szpila, have led the way in opposing the move in Aruba. Their influence on voters makes it difficult for politicians to tackle the issue…
Activists in the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean alike are hopeful that a change in Aruba, the largest and most significant of the overseas territories, could instigate change in Curaçao and Sint Maarten. The legalization of civil partnerships there would mean all Dutch citizens would have equal rights regardless of their sexual preferences.
Ireland: Former president criticizes Catholic teaching on homosexuality
Former President Mary McAleese, who strongly supported last year’s marriage equality referendum, responded to a scandal over “allegations of a thriving ‘gay culture’ among trainee priests.” Priests attending the national seminary will reportedly be monitored by make sure they are not using the Grindr hook-up app. McAleese spoke with Irish Times:
The current controversy about a gay culture at Maynooth is misplaced and the church authorities should be focusing on why so few young people are seeking to join the priesthood rather than seeking to make seminaries gay-unfriendly places, according to former president Mary McAleese.
Dr McAleese said that she found the focus on whether there is a gay culture at Maynooth worrying but she traced it to the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality with which she profoundly disagreed and which did nothing to make gay people feel welcome within the church.
“We have the phenomenon of men in the priesthood who are both heterosexual and homosexual but the church hasn’t been able to come to terms with the fact that there are going to be homosexuals in the priesthood, homosexuals who are fine priests,” said Dr McAleese.
“They haven’t be able to come to terms with that because the teaching of my church, the Catholic Church, tells them that homosexuality is, of its nature, intrinsically disordered – those are the words of pope Benedict and that homosexual acts are, in his words, evil,” she added.
Belize: Marriage activist says religious conservatives not giving up in wake of court ruling
At The Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson interviews Caleb Orozco, whose activism led to a historic court ruling overturning the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. Orozco says the victory has brought increased attention, not all of it good, and he is clear that the court ruling does not mean the end of the struggle for LGBT people in Belize:
Changing attitudes in a country with entrenched traditions and gender roles is difficult enough, but Orozco said it is complicated by interference from abroad. “We constantly have to confront American fundamentalists who have been perpetrating lies about the case,” he said. “They force us to mobilize even further with dialogue and engagement work in order to accept the decision.”
For example, the Belize Prayer Network, a Dominionist organization affiliated with the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB), has fervently opposed the ruling. It, in turn, is supported by American pastors including John Eckhardt (Stauron Ministries, Maine), Rick Joyner and Jorge Parrott (MorningStar Ministries, North Carolina), and Nick Harris (Living Waters, Kansas).
Notably, NEAB’s vice president is Scott Stirm, an evangelical missionary from Texas. Its president is Lance Lewis, who works for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, which grew out of the U.S.-based InterVarsity Christian Fellowship…
“Seeing a white evangelical pastor up on my country’s television news made me mad,” Orozco said. “How is it that foreign pastors come to my country, use incendiary language in my country, and get away with it? I thought they were here to build schools. But apparently they’re here to make the lives of LGBT people difficult.”
Michaelson notes that networks of Catholic, Anglican and evangelical churches are still threatening to challenge the opinion:
“We protest this unjust judgment not for our sake,” the Belize Prayer Network said on its website. “We protest for the sake of the little ones. Many little ones will fall into this sin if LGBT promoters push them. And we also protest for the sake of the LGBT promoters themselves. For their sin will be multiplied by every abused child that they push into sodomy.”
Orozco discounts the likelihood of such an appeal, since Belizean law generally bars “interested parties” from appealing if the parties themselves decline. Rather, his focus is on understanding the decision itself. “We have to work very hard to get people to understand constitutional values, basic human rights, and that they exist in a framework of democratic governance process. The fight around the decision isn’t over.”
England: Church of England bishop comes out as gay in celibate relationship
Bishop of Grantham Nicholas Chamberlain “has become the first Church of England bishop to publicly declare that he is gay and in a relationship.” Chamberlain said “there had been no secret about his long-term—albeit celibate—relationship with his partner.”
Chamberlain was consecrated last November, and all those involved in his appointment – including Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury – were aware of his personal situation. During the process of being appointed as suffragan bishop of Grantham, he said, “I was myself. Those making the appointment knew about my sexual identity.” His appointment was made by the diocesan (senior) bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, and endorsed by Welby.
Chamberlain said he adhered to church guidelines, under which gay clergy must be celibate and are not permitted to marry. In the appointments process, “We explored what it would mean for me as a bishop to be living within those guidelines,” he said.
In a statement, Welby said: “I am and have been fully aware of Bishop Nick’s long-term, committed relationship. His appointment as bishop of Grantham was made on the basis of his skills and calling to serve the church in the diocese of Lincoln. He lives within the bishops’ guidelines and his sexuality is completely irrelevant to his office.”
… This week, a group of [Church of England] conservative evangelical parishes held a meeting to discuss their response to what they claimed to be the watering-down of the authority of the Bible on the issue of sexuality, in what was billed as potentially the first step towards a breakaway from the Anglican church. It followed Welby’s recent comments at a Christian festival, when he said he was “constantly consumed with horror” at the church’s treatment of lesbians and gay men.
Catholic Church: New Ways Ministry publishes critique of Vatican sex ed program
At New Ways Ministry’s blog, Glen Bradley critically reviews the Vatican’s new sex education program. A short excerpt:
The Vatican’s negligent program excludes the reality of LGBTQ people in our world today and poses serious threats to all students–LGBTQ and straight-cisgender alike–by potentially negatively impacting their academic performance, personal development and health.
Adds Bradley, “excluding LGBTQ topics from a curriculum teaches a dangerous lie: that either LGBTQ people do nor exist or they do not have healthy relationships.”
Indonesia: LGBT activists receive free expression award in midst of crackdown
Indonesian LGBT activists have endured a wave of homophobic rhetoric from some political and religious leaders this year. The Jakarta Post reported that an alliance of LGBTIQ groups has received the Suardi Tasrif award “given to those fighting for freedom of expression.”
The award was ceremonially accepted by two representatives from the alliance, Abhipraya Ardiansyah Muchtar, who is a transman, and Kanza Vina, a transwoman. The ceremony was also attended by Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who delivered a keynote speech…
The award, organized by the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI), came as several Islamist professors are petitioning the Constitutional Court to criminalize consensual sex among unmarried heterosexual and homosexual people, something which could severely limit people’s privacy and further fuel discrimination against LGBTIQ people.
“During the 71 years of Indonesian independence, LGBTIQ people have never been protected nor helped in Indonesia. But we were not criminalized either,” said Abhipraya.
He then pleaded with the government to help the LGBTIQ community through this hard time.
“Now there is an attempt to criminalize LGBTIQ people through the Constitutional Court. I hope the government, including Pak Minister, will see our difficult situation and support public education so that the public can understand and want to stop discrimination against us,” Abhipraya said.
Africa: NPR asks whether US advocacy for LGBT rights has made LGBT Africans more vulnerable
National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” asked whether U.S. support for LGBT rights in Africa has caused a damaging backlash. Here’s how it starts:
Everyone knew President Obama would say something about gay rights when he visited Kenya last summer. Many American activists were pressing him to publicly condemn Kenya’s colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime.
But Kenyan gays and lesbians were wary. In the weeks leading up to Obama’s visit, Kenyan politicians took to the airwaves to assert their anti-gay bona fides. Deputy President William Ruto gave a guest sermon in a church to announce that Kenya “had no room” for homosexuality. As the vitriol increased, so did the incidents of violence, from assaults to rape.
Among those quoted in the story is Jessica Stern, director of OurRight International, who urged U.S. officials to work for change behind the scene rather than issue “public pronouncements that could be seen as finger-wagging and that could compromise the efforts of local activists” by allowing them to be discredited as “Western.”
Has public advocacy from America to make gays and lesbians more visible also left them more vulnerable?
Probably so, says Julie Dorf, a senior adviser at the Council for Global Equality — but she’s quick to add that the backlash is notAmerica’s fault. The rise of anti-gay violence and anti-gay legislation in parts of Africa, she says, is a response to the success of an indigenous gay rights movement that the U.S. has helped foster. She points to recent legislative victories on the continent: the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights issued a first-ever resolution condemning violence against LGBT people; Mozambique and Seychelles decriminalized same-sex acts; and a draconian Ugandan law (once dubbed by activists, in a previous incarnation, the “Kill The Gays Bill”) was invalidated by the Ugandan High Court, a ruling that many credit to U.S. pressure.
Other African countries have not only cracked down harder on gay people and gay rights groups but used that crackdown to muzzle other human rights efforts. Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, agrees that “politicians manipulate this issue for their own ends using whatever rhetoric is convenient at the time.” Gays and lesbians and transgender people would be political scapegoats whether or not America was involved. But the Western support does add “complications,” he says, for example, when the international community appears to express more outrage about anti-gay violence than about political violence or election rigging. Reid says “it can sometimes be the case that international voices speak out more vocally around LGBT issues than around other human rights abuses and that does create a very skewed perception … that [Western] countries are only outraged about violations against LGBT people.”
Trinidad and Tobago: Advocate for LGBT equality finds freedom in Canada
At Erasing 76 Crimes, Colin Stewart reports on activist David D. K Soomarie, who visited Canada and joined a protest at the consulate of Trinidad and Tobago on August 31, the country’s Independence Day. From Soomarie’s thoughts on the “life-changing” experience:
The “protest” took place outside of the Trinidad and Tobago consulate here in Toronto. I had never participated in such an event before and had no idea what was going to happen.
We set up and stood outside the building while visitors to the consulate’s Independence Day event ate and drank, completely oblivious to us — completely unaware that a lot of Trinbogian citizens are not allowed that liberty because of who they are and love.
It struck me that 54 years after independence we still allow colonial laws to dictate our sexual rights. In fact, these laws have been further strengthened with penalties moving from 5 to 25 years. How do we remove these laws? Who advocates for repeal? More importantly, what is my role here beyond this action?
As we stood there, cars passed and honked their support. I was surprised that there was not even one anti-gay sentiment. Some inquiring Trinis approached us and I decided to engage them. One lady was surprised that I was gay and from Trinidad. She expressed that there are no gays where she lives back home and I laughed.
I simply told her, “I’m sure they are. You just don’t know.” After posing for a picture, she then proceeded to tell me that she had a gay nephew that she would like to set me up with.
Bermuda: Gay couple allowed to pursue marriage challenge in Supreme Court
Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche “have been granted leave to argue in the Supreme Court that they should be allowed to wed on the island.” The couple’s marriage license application was rejected by the Registrar-General last month.
Spain: LGBT activists challenge ‘change’ therapy
The LGBT group Arcópoli has filed a complaint against Elena Lorenzo Rego, a psychotherapist who offers therapy to help people “change” from homosexual to heterosexual.
India: Video aims to help families talk about sexuality