More Mixed Signals from Pope Francis; Church of England Wrestles with Rifts; Faith Groups Lobby Pro & Con on Irish Referendum; Global LGBT Recap

More than 100 million people have viewed a video produced by the Chinese branch of PFLAG urging parents to welcome their LGBT children home for Lunar New Year celebrations.

The website Erasing 76 Crimes published a new map of countries with laws against homosexual activity, which includes four fewer countries than it did at the beginning of last year. Responsible for the decline from 82 to 78 are Mozambique, which dropped its anti-gay law as part of a Penal Code overhaul last year; Palau, which decriminalized homosexuality last year; the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; and São Tomé and Príncipe, which had actually decriminalized homosexuality in 2012.

Human Rights Campaign announced this week that it is joining the Global Equity Fund, a group launched by the State Department in 2011 that has given more than $17 million to LGBT advocacy groups around the world.

Catholic Church: Pope slams gender theory; pro-LGBT pilgrims get VIP tix to see Francis

Francis-watchers continue to get mixed signals. In our “stories to watch” for 2015, we included the Catholic Church’s targeting “gender ideology” as a way of challenging LGBT equality. National Catholic Reporter notes that in “Pope Francis: This Economy Kills,” released in Italy last week, Francis criticized “gender theory” and compared it to genetic manipulation and nuclear weapons.

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” he continues. “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

“With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator,” the pope says. “The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate.”

NCR’s Joshua McElwee reminds us that in remarks to the press in January, Francis had criticized “ideological colonization” by funders he said were tying funding for new schools to the teaching of gender theory, and compared it with the spread of fascist propaganda: “It is not new, this,” he continued. “The same was done by the dictators of the last century. They came with their own doctrine — think of the Balilla [youth groups of Fascist Italy], think of the Hitler Youth.”

We mentioned last week that a group of pilgrims from New Ways Ministry was headed to Rome. The group did not get a private meeting with Pope Francis, but was given VIP tickets to the pope’s weekly audience in St. Peter’s square. Religion News Service reports that several bishops, including “San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone – point man or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ battle against gay marriage – had written a letter to the Vatican on their behalf.” A group of LGBT Catholics from London who met up with the New Ways group received a blessing from British Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

“I feel that the positive reaction that we have been getting from the hierarchy is due to the welcoming spirit of Pope Francis, who wants to welcome everyone,” said [Sister Jeannine] Gramick, speaking by phone from Assisi, the pilgrims’ last stop before heading to Rome.

“It’s very heartening to people who have felt alienated and rejected for so long, so we are feeling very hopeful.”

“While LGBT Catholics hope for changes, they are realistic enough to know that Francis may not make those changes,” said [Francis] DeBernardo. “But he is doing things that will help their spiritual lives.”

In another commentary this week, DeBernardo considered themes from the pope’s Sunday homily to cardinals gathered in Rome, saying that the themes of reaching out to the marginalized, while not mentioning LGBT people by name, “ring true” to those who have suffered:

While in other talks, Pope Francis has revealed that he does not support marriage equality, there was one section from his homily today, which could easily be applied to an argument in support of marriage equality.  Too often, we hear from marriage equality opponents the false threat that extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples will harm heterosexual couples. Pope Francis’ logic in the following section shows that such thinking is inconsistent with Gospel values:

“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the ‘older brother’ (cf. Lk15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (cf. Mt 20:1-16).”

Let me be clear that I do not think that Pope Francis is criticizing the gay-marriage-threatens-straight-marriage argument.  What I am saying is that the logic and Gospel values he extols in this homily contradict the type of thinking that such an argument carries.

And, as I mentioned, I don’t think that the pope was necessarily speaking of LGBT people in this homily. The descriptions he offers, however,  very much apply to the LGBT experience.  I believe that Pope Francis was discussing all sorts of marginalization experienced by a wide variety of human groups.

Pope Francis has not been as forthright about supporting lesbian and gay relationships as was once thought by many.   But his call to new cardinals to reach out to the marginalized can be thought of as making it possible for church leaders to initiate much greater outreach to LGBT people than they have been doing.

UK: Church of England wrestles with rifts; evangelicals abandoning Tories

Evangelical Alliance, a group that claims to represent up to 2 million evangelical Christians, said that a survey of its members found that many of them were planning to abandon their support for the Conservative Party, with the biggest portion moving their support to the right-wing UKIP. Dave Landrum, advocacy director for the Evangelical Alliance, said people were concerned about poverty, inequality, and same-sex marriage. “The marriage issue has certainly turbocharged the shift in people,” he said. “Many commented that the redefinition of marriage had badly damaged their view of politics.”

In a letter from the Church of England saying it is every Christian’s “right and duty” to vote in the May general election, the church challenges the “deep contradiction in the attitudes of a society which celebrates equality in principle yet treats some people, especially the poor and vulnerable, as unwanted, unvalued, and unnoticed.” In response to the letter, which does not mention LGBT people specifically, Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham said,

“I am delighted to read in the bishops’ letter that they are committed to equality as a value, as I was when I read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s words on inclusion and equality to Wall Street. I long for the day we in the church manage to join up the dots about equality. Our words will mean more as we engage with our own issues on the subject. One sign of this process biting will be the full acceptance of LGBT people as equals.”

Along those lines, a commentary by Lancaster University Research Associate Simon Reader discusses Bishop Philip North, a traditionalist who insisted that bishops and archbishops who have ordained women not participate in the laying on of hands at his consecration. Archbishop John Sentamu, who had participated in the ordination of Libby Lane as the Church of England’s first female bishop last month, was among those who exhibited this “gracious restraint.” Writes Reader:

This is, so we are to understand from Sentamu, not to imply a theology of “taint” around women priests, although you could be forgiven for thinking that some kind of theological lurgy must still be lingering in the air.

It is certainly remarkable to be instructed on the notion of taint bySentamu. Just yesterday he preached at the invitation of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali in Uganda. Ntagali is a vocal supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would mean life imprisonment for gay people in Uganda. When this bill was struck down on a technicality last year, he called the decision a disappointment for the church and for religious leaders, urging the Ugandan Parliament to push the bill through to protect children and families from Western-imported homosexuality.

Gay Ugandans are being attacked by mobs and living in fear for their lives under a pernicious culture and climate of homophobia encouraged by their church and their President. Pictures from this weekend show Sentamu warmly greeting President Museveni, who signed into Ugandan law a bill including life sentences for gay sex and same-sex marriage.

As a younger man, Sentamu had to leave Uganda in fear for his own life under the brutal rule of Idi Amin. In response to a recent question on whether he thought Christians are persecuted in the UK, he replied: “I know what persecution looks like. What is happening at the moment in England, it ain’t persecution.”

Well, what is happening to gay people in Uganda plainly is persecution, and Archbishop Sentamu has been to stand side-by-side with the persecutors. If ever there was a time for exercising gracious restraint, an invitation to preach alongside Stanley Ntagali should be high on the list for anyone who opposes inequality and persecution.

The Church of England is preparing a process of “shared conversations” to address the rifts over same-sex couple.

Documents released ahead of the consultation show the Church will hold 13 ‘cluster’ meetings from this April – with between three and five dioceses attending each.

Some of the questions under discussion include: “What is the church’s missionary task today in relation to LGBTI people, and to the culture within which we are called to witness and minister?

“Should the church offer prayers to mark the formation of a faithful, permanent, same sex relationship? If so, what is the right level of formal provision that should be made?”

“More specifically, given that same sex marriages are now taking place, what should our pastoral and missional response be to married same sex couples who seek to be part of the life of our church locally?”

The Church’s papers highlight the overwhelming passage of same-sex marriage through the Commons, saying: “Whilst the Church of England is not required to solemnise same sex marriages, and continues to regard marriage as between one man and one woman, the advent of same sex marriage, widely supported across the political spectrum, creates an acute divergence between the church’s teaching on marriage and the civil law of the land.

“It is likely that the ease with which same sex marriage was accepted in Parliament reflects a more general social move away from the church’s traditional understanding of marriage – and perhaps of social relationships more generally. And, as often happens, legislation both reflects social attitudes and contributes to the deeper embedding of those attitudes over time.”

However, participants are also warned to consider the global Anglican Communion – which includes some anti-gay African Churches.

The document notes: “Balancing the Church of England’s responsibilities to the people of the parishes and local communities it serves, and its historical position within the global Anglican Communion, introduces complex and morally challenging tensions – and the issue of sexuality has become a focal point on which future relationships across the whole Communion may turn.”

The Channel Islands, the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, are “crown dependencies” with autonomy from the UK that have not recognized a legal right to marry for same-sex couples. Liberate, a group formed to lobby for LGBT equality in the islands, turned one year old on Valentine’s Day.

Chile: Government abandoning opposition to marriage equality

The Washington Blade reports that the Chilean government has met to finalize a settlement agreement with an LGBT advocacy group in a lawsuit filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in a press release it posted to its website said the government’s decision to end opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights case is part of a broader agreement that includes the introduction of a same-sex marriage bill in the Chilean Congress….

The meeting took place less than a month after a bill that would allow same-sex couples in the South American country to enter into civil unions received final approval.

Religious opposition persists. More from the Blade’s Michael Lavers:

Javier Soto, a pastor from the resort city of Viña del Mar, is among the most outspoken critics of the expansion of relationship recognition and other rights to LGBT Chileans.

He said God sparked a massive forest fire in the coastal city of Valparaíso last April because lawmakers were considering the civil unions measure.

Soto frequently confronts Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation. The Chilean government last month announced it had filed a complaint against the pastor after he allegedly threatened gay Congressman Claudio Arriagada Macaya.

Ireland: Interfaith group promotes marriage equality, Catholic bishop warns against

As Ireland heads toward a May referendum on marriage equality, an interfaith coalition, Faith in Marriage Equality, has been formed to urge support. Richard O’Leary said the group was created to let people of faith know that they can vote yes, adding that media attention has focused on conservative Christian groups and Catholic bishops.

FIME said that the organisations who have endorsed their group include We Are Church Ireland, Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, and Changing Attitude Ireland.

Their charter states:

  • We are all equal under God, whether we are heterosexual or gay. Faith leaders should not marginalise or exclude people who are gay rather they should promote equality and inclusion.

  • People of faith understand that marriage is based on the values of love and commitment. This is the case for heterosexual and same sex couples, whether the marriage involves children or not.

  • Faith institutions already distinguish between civil and religious marriage. While it is proper that faith leaders govern their members’ access to religious marriage, they should not seek to prevent access to civil marriage.

  • People of faith can exercise their freedom of conscience to vote yes to civil marriage in this referendum, as was done to permit civil divorce twenty years ago.

In contrast,  Catholic Bisohp Denis Nulty warned against “groupthink” driven by the media and parliament. Saying he was speaking in a personal capacity, reports the Irish times, Nulty said, ““The sacrament of marriage reflects the union between Christ and the Church. One woman, one man united in Christ in faithful love. No law or referendum can alter the true nature and meaning of marriage.”

“Marriage has always recognised sexual differences. This is because society recognises the importance of the setting in which new human life, new members of society come into existence.

“It is of vital importance to society that the definition of marriage is protected, sustained and supported.”

India: Couple’s high-profile marriage in defiance of anti-gay law

BuzzFeed reported last week on a gay couple that was married in a religious ceremony at the end of January.

“A Sanskrit teacher conducted the ceremony in a traditional Marathi fashion,” the couple told BuzzFeed India. “And all the ceremonies including Mehendi, Haldi, Sangeet were performed….The couple faced a significant challenge in finding a Pandit willing to perform the ceremony. “Once we found one, he researched a lot and made the necessary changes in the mantras and the ceremonies to suit a man-man union,” they said.

Homosexuality is illegal in India. This week the chairman of the country’s Law Council slammed its anti-gay law as discriminatory, unreasonable, and psychologically damaging.

Egypt: Country invests heavily in unscientific anal exams to ‘prove’ homosexuality

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder and Maged Atef explore the brutal and scientifically bogus anal exams that are used by police in Egypt and other countries that criminalize homosexuality.

Human Rights Watch and other advocacy organizations have long denounced such anal exams — which are routine in several of the world’s roughly 80 countries that criminalize sodomy — as a form of torture that violates international law. Medical leaders in some of the countries where these exams are used have called for their abolition, such as in Lebanon.

The article makes clear that, while scientists find claims by tests’ advocates to be laughable, inspectors and lawyers, even attorneys for people subjected to the tests, often believe that they have a scientific grounding, whether from an 19th Century book from France or more recent experiments purporting “to demonstrate that gay men’s anuses conduct electricity at a different rate.”

Colombia: Court says adoption by gay couples OK only in case of biological parent

Colombia’s Constitutional Court this week ruled that a same-sex couple can only adopt a child I it is the biological offspring of one of the partners.

Nepal: Report recommends marriage equality, gives hope to sexual minorities

Reuters reported this week that “a new report recommending that the Himalayan nation allow same-sex marriage” has given hope to sexual minorities in the country.

Officials from both the ruling center-left coalition and other parties have refused to say whether they will back the recommendations, which were submitted by the government-appointed panel of experts last week.

But the changes, if built into the new constitution in the coming months, will not only allow same-sex couples to marry, but will also legalize gay sex – making Nepal the first nation in the conservative South Asia region to do so.

“They (same-sex couples) will be entitled to pension or any other benefits, inheritance, can register their marriage with government agencies, can receive parental property,” human rights lawyer Hari Phuyal, a panel member, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

If same-sex marriage is allowed, gay sex will no longer be a crime, he added.

Reuters’ Gopal Sharma writes that the Supreme Court ordered an end to legal discrimination against gays in 2007, “but there is still no clear legislation” on the rights of LGBT people. Last month the government announced that it would issue passports with a third gender category.

Mexico: Marriage spreads via federal court orders

The first same-sex marriage in the state of Tabasco was registered this week. Marriage continues to expand in Mexico, with couples in several states requesting and/or receiving “amaparos” from the federal courts. An amparo is essentially a couple-by-couple order to local elected officials to follow federal court rulings in favor of marriage equality. A measure to repeal a state constitutional marriage ban in Baja California was introduced in the state Congress, generating protest from the Citizens Front in Defense of Marriage Between Man and Woman.

Serbia: Liberal Democrats form pro-LGBT Human Rights Council

Last weekend the Liberal Democratic Party announced the launch of a Human Rights Council in Belgrade last weekend, which is committed to supporting LGBT rights in Serbia. The Council was created with the help of Liberal Democrats in the UK and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Israel: Fashion designer marries during NY Fashion Week

The Times of Israel reported on the New York wedding of Israeli fashion designer Idan Cohen to his partner Elad Borenstein during New York Fashion Week. “Homosexuals cannot legally marry their same-sex partners in Israel,” notes the Times. “Civil marriage does not exist in the country, where the solemnization of marriage is entirely controlled by the state rabbinate, and homosexual unions are not in themselves recognized.”

Vietnam: Couple marries on airplane flight

A Vietnamese lesbian couple celebrated a Valentine’s Day wedding on a Vietjet flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok. Pink News notes, “Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Vietnam – but last month the government repealed a law which actively criminalized gay weddings.”





  •' Jim Reed says:

    Someone should tell Pope Frances creation does not recognize the order of creation. It seems to evolve following just one thing, if it feels good do it.

  •' CitizenWhy says:

    Why is a Catholic bishop defining marriage – secular institution – by his church’s perculiar doctrine of the Sacrament of Marriage, Even Protestants do not recognize marriage as a sacrament, so why does he want to impose this view on everyone? He talks as if marriage was invented by the Catholic church. This way of talking is truly myopic and downright stupid.

  •' CitizenWhy says:

    The order of creation is another way of saying that God – here called nature – created a rigidly hierarchical world, with the pope as the supreme moral authority over everyone, not just Catholics. No, this is not an exaggeration. The Catholic church’s peculiar definition of Natural Law, that is, the order of nature, holds that Natural Law is immutable, and binding on all human beings, and that the Pope is the sole and supreme interpreter of Natural Law, thus putting the pope in charge of everyone. Francis may be a nice man but his views on the order of nature are an insult to most of humanity.

  • RE: ‘The website Erasing 76 Crimes published a new map of countries with laws against homosexual activity, which includes four fewer countries than it did at the beginning of last year.’

    Wouldn’t laws outlawing gay marriage and those not protecting LGBT but everyone else be considered anti-LGBT? The people of USA that say “at least its not like” then name an anti-LGBT, sound to me like a racist who says, “im not a racist, i dont support lynching black people”. Until ALL people are legally protected, and have equal rights and privileges under the law of the land, the whole country, then the USA has many anti-LGBT laws in place.

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