Pope Francis Says Teaching Gender Is Nasty; Far-Right Religious Groups Helping Mexico’s Anti-Equality Movement; Colombia’s Peace Deal Killed by Anti-LGBT Campaign?; Global LGBT Recap

Catholic Church: Pope calls teaching of gender theory “nasty”

Pope Francis told reporters that teaching gender theory amounts to unacceptable “indoctrination” of young people. And he spoke about treating gay people with respect. Nicole Winfield reports for Associated Press that the pope distinguished between ministering to individuals and the “nasty” tendency of schools “to ‘indoctrinate’ children with the idea that their gender is something that can be picked and chosen and changed.”

More from Philip Pullella at Reuters:

He said that as a priest, bishop and even now pope, he had ministered to people with homosexual tendencies as well as some who were not able to remain chaste, as the Church asks them to be.

“I accompanied them, I brought them closer to the Lord,” he said. “Some were not able (to obey Church teachings), but I accompanied them and I never abandoned one of them. That is a fact. People must be accompanied just like Jesus accompanies them.”

During his trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan, he told priests and nuns that teaching gender theory in schools was part of a “global war” against marriage.

Gender theory is broadly the concept that while people may be biologically male or female, they have the right to identify themselves as male, female, both or neither.

“What I was talking about was the nastiness that is present today in indoctrinating people in gender theory,” he said when asked to elaborate on his earlier comments in Georgia.

… “Life is life, and things should be taken as they come,” the pope said. “Sin is sin, but tendencies or hormonal imbalances … can cause many problems and we have to be careful.

“But each case must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned and integrated. This is what Jesus would do today.”

He then joked: “Please don’t write that the pope will sanctify transsexuals. I can see the front pages of papers now. But no, it is a moral question. It is a human question, and it must be resolved as best as possible, always with the mercy of God, the truth … always with an open heart.”

Mexico: In-depth look at forces behind anti-marriage-equality movement

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder and Diego Olavarría published an in-depth story on the backlash to marriage equality, which has included rallies across the country over the past month.

This was not simply a spontaneous backlash to the president’s proposal. This was an event more than a year in the making, coordinated by a network of conservative groups who wanted to amend the constitution to reverse marriage equality gains, interviews by BuzzFeed News with more than a dozen activists, political advisers, and members of Congress both for and against marriage equality show.

Among the organizers of the anti-marriage-equality movement were groups that have sought to undermine the strongly secular nature of Mexican government. BuzzFeed reports that the coalition got support from CitizenGo, a global organizing platform for social conservatives:

The Front was also getting some coaching and support from CitizenGo, a kind of conservative MoveOn.org that began in Spain and expanded to Latin America three years ago, including a staffer in Mexico and a list of 500,000 members in the country. (CitizenGo also includes Brian Brown of the US-based National Organization for Marriage and World Congress of Families on its board; he was in Mexico City for the Sept. 24 march.)

The story makes it clear that the president’s decision to push for national constitutional change to guarantee marriage equality caught supporters off-guard and energized opponents, who portrayed summer setbacks for the ruling PRI as a referendum on marriage:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City called the results a “deserved punishment vote” for a “destructive and immoral” proposal in its official publication, Desde La Fe. Former PRI presidential candidate Francisco Labastida called the marriage equality proposal a “decisive, fundamental” factor in the party’s loss and blasted the president for not consulting party leaders before rolling it out.

By the time Congress returned for the legislative session beginning in September, the leaders of the president’s own party declared his marriage equality proposal dead in the water.

The story includes information about other members of the anti-equality coalition:

The speed with which their movement mobilized has prompted allegations that there are much bigger forces behind them. The press in both Spain and Mexico have buzzed with rumors that the front is manipulated by El Yunque, a shadowy secret Catholic network with fascist leanings said to have had senior Mexican politicians as members, but no concrete direct evidence of a link with Front leaders has been reported.

There are clearer ties, however, between the Front and other conservative religious factions. The Sept. 24 march was branded as a joint effort between the Front and an organization called the National Christian Union for the Family (“Christian” in Mexico is usually meant to refer to evangelical denominations), which has a Facebook page that lists its official website as a broken link with a URL hosted by the Apostolic Church of Faith in Jesus Christ. The Mier y Terán agency also lists past clients as multiple educationalinstitutions affiliated with Opus Dei, a Catholic order known for promoting doctrinaire church teaching in public policy.

Several of the country’s Catholic bishops have been unusually outspoken in support of the marches, and LGBT activists have filed legal complaints against several archdioceses arguing that this violates Mexico’s strict laws against church involvement in politics. (Another LGBT group was widely condemned by other activists when it retaliated against the church by releasing the names of senior priests they claim have had same-sex relationships.)

“We’re going to regret it,” José Raúl Vera López, the liberal Catholic Bishop of Saltillo, told BuzzFeed News. “The backbone of these marches comes from a very closed faction … with fascist — even Nazi — tendencies. It is very sensitive what we’re doing.”

The anti–marriage equality forces are not entirely united, however; Front leaders told BuzzFeed News that some evangelical groups have wanted to fight marriage equality through their own initiatives. In early September, a separate citizens’ initiative to ban same-sex marriage was submitted with 400,000 signatures to the House of Deputies with support of a small political party seen as drawing its core support from evangelical Christians, the Social Encounter Party.

Colombia: Was peace deal killed by anti-LGBT campaign?

In Americas Quarterly, Brendan O’Boyle asks whether an unrelated controversy over gender identity helped mobilize social conservatives and sink the peace agreement between the government and FARC rebels. O’Boyle questions the decision by President Juan Manuel Santos to ask lesbian Education Minister Gina Parody to run the “Yes” campaign at a time when she was already being targeted by conservatives over a controversial teaching handbook.

Sensing opportunity, opponents of the FARC agreement began to argue it was another effort to undermine conservative ideas of gender and family. Articles and blogs surfaced arguing that the historic inclusion of gender and LGBTI status in the peace deal’s provisions was proof of this ulterior agenda. In a video posted to YouTube days before the peace deal plebiscite, former Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez pointed to negotiators’ discussion of gender – specifically footage of lead negotiator Humberto de la Calle citing the differences between sex and gender during talks in Havana – as evidence that the government and the FARC “are using peace as an excuse to impose the ideology of gender.”

For Claudia López, Colombia’s only openly LGBT senator and a supporter of the peace deal, antagonism from religious leaders toward the LGBT population was one of three key reasons for the deal’s defeat. She told AQ that she sees the controversy over gender as part of a larger cause of evangelical Christian churches and more radical sectors of the country’s Catholic population to strip LGBT Colombians of their rights, “disguised as a defense of the traditional family.”

“They used this cause in the campaign to say that the peace accords were against the family and in favor of the LGBT population,” López said“Because the accords recognize that the situation for women and LGBT people (during the conflict) has been different, and so reparations for women and LGBT victims should have a unique focus.”

Some representatives of the right have echoed López’s view.

“Many Catholic groups like ours promoted the ‘No’ vote because the ideology of gender is introduced throughout the accords. Not one word about the family was mentioned,” Jesús Magaña, director of Unidos Por la Vida de Colombia (United Pro-Life Colombians), told ACI Prensa, a Catholic news agency. “On the other hand, there are mentions of the perspectives of gender, women, boys, girls and the LGBTI community throughout the accords.”

Tonga: Religious leaders want enforcement of LGBT criminalization

With religious leaders reportedly calling for increased enforcement of laws that criminalize cross-dressing and sodomy, Radio New Zealand reports that Tonga’s LGBTI advocates are planning “a national consultation with government leaders in December to petition for changes to the Criminal Offences Act.”

Afghanistan: LGBT community under “threat of death”

BBC’s Aria Ahmadzai reports that the country’s LGBT community is “living under threat of death.”

The legal situation for LGBT people in Afghanistan is not explicitly clear on paper, but law professionals and the gay community are in no doubt that homosexuality is seen as a crime.

Article 427 of the Afghan penal code refers only to “pederasty” – a sexual act between males, one of them understood to be a youth or a boy. The act is punishable with “long imprisonment”.

However Dr Niaz Shah of Hull University in the UK, an expert in Afghan and Islamic law, says that the penal code reflects the underlying Islamic principle that homosexuality is banned.

“Islamic law allows only one form of sexual relationship and that is between an adult man and a woman when they are married,” Dr Shah told the BBC. “If two young boys announce that they are gay and want to have a gay relationship, it will outrage people; there will be people who might really want to kill them.”

… “I am not aware of a gay relationship in Afghanistan where two males openly express love for each other and want to live as a couple to the exclusion of any sexual relationship with a female.”

Prominent Afghan cleric Shams-ul Rahman told the BBC there was broad consensus amongst scholars that execution was the appropriate punishment if homosexual acts could be proven.

“An old wall should fall on them and they should be killed in the harshest of manners,” he said.

Nigeria: Anti-Gay US group opens new chapter

An extreme anti-gay US advocacy organization, MassResistance, announced that it has organized its first chapter outside the U.S. “Nigeria is half Muslim and half Christian,” says a blog post announcing the new chapter, “But their bond of morality on these issues is a common denominator in that part of the world.” MassResistance is led by Brian Camenker, who told an anti-gay gathering in Salt Lake City last year, “I think there is a place for being insulting and degrading, and I think I can back that up by scripture,” he said. “I think we have to look at this as a war, not as, you know, a church service.”

Cyprus: Same-sex couple married on British naval base

A British Army sergeant married a local civilian on a British naval base in Cyprus, “the first same-sex wedding in a British Forces overseas territory.”

Austria: Government plans to expand civil unions

Legislation has been drafted “to upgrade the status of same-sex unions while still stopping short of declaring them marriages,” reports Associated Press.

Russia: Study examines courts’ record on protecting rights of LGBT people

Equal Rights Trust released “Justice or Complicity: LGBT Rights and the Russian Courts.” From a press release:

Justice or Complicity? examines judicial practice on issues ranging from homophobic and transphobic violence to restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. It also reviews cases dealing with discrimination in areas including family and private life, work and education. Among other findings, the report reveals that the Russian courts routinely fail to challenge the application of blatantly discriminatory “anti-propaganda” laws, which were approved by the government in 2013 to “protect” children from being exposed to content recognising homosexuality as being a norm in society.

At a launch event, Russian legal expert Dmitri Bartenev said:

[Of the cases examined for the report] there were just a handful where there has been successful protection of LGBT rights (…) Such positive examples may be regarded as the exception rather than offering any promising pattern.The overall conclusion of the study is that the Russian judicial system has not only failed to provide any effective redress for victims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity but has effectively contributed to re-enforcing prejudices which lie at the heart of existing discriminatory attitudes.

Japan: Return to the “Floating World” on gender?

Todd Crowell writes about a Toronto art exhibit that explores attitudes toward gender in Japan:

Long before the term LGBT came into vogue, Japan went its own way regarding gender definitions, as the exhibition shows. It harkens back to a more relaxed era, depicted in art as the “Floating World,” before the Meiji restoration in the 19th Century opened Japan to Western ideas and concepts, including a more Victorian attitude towards sex roles. That is changing rapidly in Japan, led by big business seeking to tap into the underappreciated market for lesbians, gays, and transgender people estimated at US$50 billion.