Pope Praises ‘Complementarity’ & Resists Gay Ambassador; Irish Religious Leaders Spar Over Marriage; Colombian Atty Gen Cites ‘Bogus’ Study Opposing Adoption; Global LGBT Recap

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on Wednesday, April 22, calling on Member States to respect and protect transgender people against discrimination and to facilitate self-determination. Human Rights Watch called it “a much needed roadmap for a region in which at least 33 countries still require humiliating and invasive procedures as a precondition for legal gender recognition.”

Vatican: Pope praises male-female ‘complementarity,’ does not accept gay ambassador

Francis is making it harder for equality-supporting Catholics to maintain optimism about his tenure. We reported last week that the Vatican was refusing to accept the appointment of a gay man as France’s ambassador to the Holy See. This week, according to news reports, Francis met with the nominee, Laurent Stefanini, but there has still been no official action on the appointment. From Reuters:

The Vatican has declined to comment on the matter, saying that an appointment is confirmed when the name is published in the official bulletin of the Holy See. It is extremely rare for the Pope to get directly involved the naming of ambassadors.

Earlier this month the French Catholic daily La Croix cited an unnamed source as saying the Vatican considered it a “provocation” that France’s Socialist government, which in 2013 legalized gay marriages, had proposed a homosexual for the post.

The Guardian notes that a French “satirical” newspaper said that Francis had told Stefanini that he would not be accepted, but the French government has said there has been no official Vatican response. The Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Kim Willsher report:

The church’s apparent objection to Stéfanini, a practising Catholic, has been known for weeks, ever since press reports first indicated that the Vatican was dragging its feet on the nomination because of his sexual orientation.

The refusal by the Holy See to formally accept Stéfanini’s credentials was seen as an indirect way of forcing France to pick another ambassador and avoid making a public statement on the issue.

But the French media report on Wednesday indicated that Pope Francis has personally become involved in the diplomatic row. According to the report, Stéfanini had a “very discreet” 15-minute audience with the pontiff over the weekend, who said his objection to the French appointment was “nothing personal”.

In their discussion, the pope allegedly raised objections to France’s same-sex marriage law, which was introduced in May 2013 despite nationwide protests. The pontiff was also reported to have said that he did not appreciate the French government’s methods and accused them of trying to force his hand. Last Wednesday, three days before Stéfanini’s meeting with Francis, the French president, François Hollande, had let it be known he was sticking by his first choice for the job. Usually, a country would not put a nominee forward to the Holy See if it knew following informal talks that the nominee might not be seen as acceptable.

Since the row erupted, the Elysée palace has insisted that “Laurent Stefanini is the only candidate nominated by the Republic and the council of ministers”. His nomination also has the support of the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois.

Also this week, the Catholic News Agency touted remarks by Francis focusing on the “complementarity” of men and women, a message that CAN summarized in its headline as “Men and women complete each other – no other option, Pope says.”

Despite all of our sins and weaknesses, our vocation “is to care for the covenant of marriage,” which constitutes “a vital and energizing vocation, through which we cooperate with our heavenly Father, who himself always cares for and protects this great gift.”

Pope Francis then turned to God’s mercy, saying that the image of the Father’s tenderness toward a sinful couple “leaves us open-mouthed with wonder” at how he safeguards his creation.

This image, he said, should inspire all believers to make a commitment to defend the “vital and energizing” vocation of marriage and to protect the sacred union that God willed for men and women.

The Pope’s representative in the U.S., Apostolic Nuncio Archbisohp Carlo Maria Viganò, is scheduled to speak at this weekend’s march by the National Organization for Marriage, though San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, facing an uprising from parishioners frustrated by his anti-gay statements, has decided not to make a return appearance.

Ireland: Religious leaders spar on marriage equality referendum

Religious leaders publicly sparred over marriage and LGBT equality, with a pro-LGBT Church of Ireland bishop criticizing a Baptist pastor who had equated homosexuality with rape. The Irish Times reports that Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, Imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre, while stating that Muslims “must believe in equality and inclusiveness,” has warned against a yes vote, saying it would “redefine marriage and parenthood” and lead to gay people adopting children. Meanwhile, conservative Catholic writer Breda O’Brien called on gay Christians to be abstinent.

The campaign for marriage equality released a touching new video encouraging LGBT people to bring their family members with them to vote in the May 22 referendum. Another pro-equality video was released by the musician Hozier.

Seventh-day Adventists: ‘Ex-gay’ speaker disinvited from family camp meeting

We reported last week that the “Holy Sexuality Conference” scheduled for this week had been cancelled. This week, Spectrum’s Jared Wright reports on an additional development:

The North England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has withdrawn its invitation of Michael Carducci, the founder of EXCEED Ministry, and a self-described former homosexual man, to the “Strong Families, Strong Churches” camp meeting.

Carducci had been slated to headline the “Holy Sexuality Conference,” scheduled for April 21-25 in the South England Conference, and up until April 16, was listed as a speaker for the Youth program at the North England Conference camp meeting. Carducci was also disinvited from the “Holy Sexuality Conference” and the event was canceled.

North England Conference’s camp meeting will continue, but without Michael Carducci in attendance.

UK: Gay Muslims under pressure; Vicar praises drag queens; N. Ireland parties vary on LGBT

BuzzFeed’s Hussein Kesvani profiles gay Muslims who are in living in straight marriages due to family and religious pressure.

Although the men acknowledge they have same-sex inclinations, they are reluctant to identify themselves as “gay”. However, they say that as Muslims who are “devout”, they have dedicated themselves to strengthening their imaan [religious belief] in an attempt to overcome them.

The men are part of a small support group which began on a web forum. Some of the members now meet every few months to discuss how they are managing their sexual feelings.

In some British Muslim communities, homosexuality can be a controversial issue: some believe the act counts as a form of “zina” – an Arabic term referring to “unlawful” sexual activity.

Many imams were uncomfortable talking to BuzzFeed News about the issue on record, although one scholar, who wished not to be named, said that homosexuality was a “cardinal sin” in most strands of Islamic thought. He emphasised that the same view was held in most world religions, including Christianity and Judaism….

There is still little information on how many gay Muslims are living in Britain – not least because many (especially regular worshippers such as the members of the support group) remain closeted, out of fear of reprisal from conservative elements of their communities.

As a result, some Muslim activist organisations, such as the LGBT support group Imaan (which is not affiliated with the men interviewed in this article), have articulated the need for British Islamic communities to be more open to such Muslims.

In other news, Father Bernard Lynch spoke at a street protest against the closure of one of London’s oldest LGBT venues, the Black Cap pub, paying public tribute to “the drag queens of Stonewall.”

Pink News reviews the LGBT stances of Northern Ireland’s political parties on LGBT issues and so-called “conscience clause” legislation, noting that North Ireland is the only part of the UK without marriage equality. Naith Payton writes that the largest, the Democratic Unionist Party, “has not mentioned LGBT issues at all in their manifesto.”

They have historically opposed any and all LGBT rights votes in Westminster and Stormont.

They most recently drafted a Conscience Clause which would exempt religious people from following equality laws.

PinkNews previously discussed some of the worries LGBT might people have over the DUP having power in Westminster.

The Alliance party has specifically opposed the DUP’s conscience clause, saying it is “poorly defined and is a charter for discrimination.” They also want to bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK on issues such as same-sex marriage and gay men giving blood.

Sinn Féin, who had five seats in the last Parliament but do not take them, is the only party to specifically mention trans people. One of their pledges is: “Championing the cause of transgender people to ensure that they have equal access to goods, facilities and services.”

They also oppose the DUP’s conscience clause – declaring it “an attempt to erode human rights and reduce the effectiveness of equality legislation” –  and have pledged to support marriage equality, and to address online homophobic and transphobic bullying.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party, who are traditionally partner to the Labour party, has pledged to campaign for equal rights for all, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Similarly, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), historically partner of the Conservative party, has pledged to respect all sexualities.

Ecuador: Legislature approves civil unions bill

On Wednesday, the Ecuadorian Assembly voted 89-1 to approve civil unions legislation, reports the Washington Blade:

Ecuadorian lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for the legal recognition of civil unions in the South American country….

El Comercio, an Ecuadorian newspaper, reported the measure would allow LGBT couples to receive “the same rights and obligations of a marriage” in terms of pensions, purchasing a home together and other benefits. It would also eliminate the requirement that couples must wait two years before entering into a civil union and demonstrate that they had lived together during this period.

The proposal would also apply to unmarried straight couples.

Kazakhstan: Amnesty International urging president to reject Russian-style anti-gay law

Amnesty International has called on President Nursultan Nazarbayev to reject a Russian-style “Law on the Protection of Children from Information Harming their Health and Development.” From AI:

With its large ethnic Russian population dating to its history as a Soviet republic and as a core member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, Kazakhstan’s political, legal, and cultural developments frequently follow those in Russia. The potentially sweeping references to “propaganda” in Kazakhstan’s pending legislation may lead to restrictions on a wide range of speech and expression – human rights violations already abundant in the wake of Vladimir Putin signing Russia’s own anti-LGBT “propaganda” law.

This threat to Kazakhstan’s LGBT community and allies is part and parcel of a broad human rights crisis that includes the torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners, the jailing and fining of peaceful protestors, the detention of those practicing religions outside of state control, and the closing and blocking of independent print and social media. As in Russia, Kazakhstan has mandated that NGOs register with the government, and authorities enjoy wide discretion to deny such status and close down groups for alleged, often minor violations of the law. Last year – setting the stage for the anti-LGBT “propaganda law” – the government introduced criminal charges for “spreading false information.”

Kazakhstan’s crackdown on civil society and freedom of expression explicitly condones homophobia. Last October, an Almaty court awarded 34 million tenge (US$187,000) in damages against a Kazakhstani advertising agency for designing a poster featuring the nation’s legendary composer, Sagyrbauly Kurmangazy, passionately kissing iconic Russian poet Aleksander Pushkin.

The potent combination of legal discrimination and street homophobia seen over the past few years in Kazakhstan’s northern neighbor is now brewing as well in the Central Asian giant. Last year, the Bolashok (“Future”) nationalist movement not only called for legislation to outlaw so-called LGBT “propaganda” but also for LGBT Kazakhstanis to be banned from serving in either the military or public office. In calling for anti-LGBT legislation, Bolashok’s leader, Dauren Babamuratov, declared that “I think it is very easy to identify a gay person by his or her DNA. A blood test can show the presence of degeneratism in a person.”

This anti-LGBT climate makes it especially disturbing that the pending Law on the Protection of Children, under the guise of limiting media considered harmful to minors, seeks to restrict accurate information about sexual orientation. In fact, the health and development of Kazakhstan’s LGBT youth would be far better protected by lawsstrengthening fundamental human rights, including the rights to expression and assembly. At a bare minimum, President Nazarbayev should reject this discriminatory law immediately.

Singapore: IKEA sticks with promotion for anti-gay pastor’s magic show

Pink News reports that IKEA Singapore refused to discontinue a promotion which offers its customers discount tickets to a Christian magic show produced by Lawrence Khong, the anti-gay pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church:

Mr Khong has claimed that gay people have “a shorter lifespan, more sexually transmitted infections and more health problems than the general population” and has warned of a “looming threat” of “homosexual activists” trying to repeal sodomy laws.

Many customers had threatened to boycott IKEA, after it provided Family Card holders with discount tickets to his Christian magic show, ‘Vision’.

In a statement, the chain said it would not be cutting ties with the pastor.

IKEA said: “Dear IKEA fans, thanks for your patience while we took time to come to an informed decision on an issue that has raised sensitivities in our community.

“After listening to the questions raised, we decided to do a thorough review. We spoke directly with the organisers, reviewed the content and confirmed that the Vision show offers high family entertainment value, therefore we will be continuing our promotion.

“We regularly offer promotions to our IKEA FAMILY members across a variety of entertainment options, and in this case, our IKEA FAMILY members were being offered a discount on tickets to the show.

“As a company, IKEA Singapore respects the diversity and equality of all people living in our community. We also respect that all individuals have a right to their opinions and personal choices, including the freedom to choose their preferred entertainment.”

Colombia: Adoption before Court, Govt cites ‘bogus’ research by Catholic U prof

The Constitutional Court is considering the issue of adoption by same-sex couples; the Court has voted 4-4 on the issue and a judge assigned to break the tie is considered a supporter of equality. But the Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez has argued “that a child shaped by two male partners cannot give the child more than two dads and the absence of a mom.”

Semana reported this month that the Attorney General cited a paper by Catholic University Professor Donald Paul Sullins titled Emotional Problems Among Children with Same-Sex Parents: Difference by Definition, which appeared in a British journal in January.

That study was the subject of a critical story by Emma Green in the Atlantic in February, who characterized Sullins’ study as “pseudoscience.” She wrote of his claims:

This is not a new argument. Especially in the past decade, as gay marriage has been legally recognized in many states, a small number of scholars have claimed that kids of same-sex parents are exposed to more potential harms than kids of straight parents. This, in turn, has been used to argue against gay adoption and marriage.

But just because some studies support this finding doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact, many, many more studies reached opposite conclusions. “Research … has developed a scholarly consensus that shows that children raised by same-sex couples are at no important disadvantage,” wrote Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld in an email. “There is a noisy fringe of academics who claim that children raised by same-sex couples are in disastrous peril,” a viewpoint which “has little or no credibility within academia.”

Green reviews various academic critics of Sullins’ methodology and conclusions, and points out something about its publication:

Scholars must pay to be published in the journal which accepted Sullins’s paper, the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science, which is run by a for-profit company and not affiliated with any academic society. And although the paper ostensibly went through an “open-access” peer-review process, as University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen pointed out in a blog post, that process is pretty thin.

“I don’t want to imply that three journals are illegitimate just because they are run for profit by low-status academics from developing countries,” Cohen wrote about this and two other papers published by Sullins. “But looking at the evidence so far I think it’s fair to call these journals bogus.” The company that publishes these journals is also listed on the leading index of “potential, possible, or probably predatory scholarly open-access publishers,” a sign of those journals’ lack of credibility. Sullins defended his choice of venue for publication in an email, pointing out that it’s free and available for anyone to read, unlike other journals; he also said his paper was reviewed by four people, who prompted considerable revisions before publication.

Like the infamous Regnerus study, the problems with Sullins’ article have not kept it from being shared widely by conservative religious websites and groups like the Witherspoon Institute, sponsor of the Regnerus study.

India: Gay pageant contestant withdraws in face of threats

Thahir Mohammed Sayyed, India’s entrant for the Mr. Gay World pageant in South Africa, pulled out of the competition and went into hiding, reports TIME’s Rishi Iyengar, after threats to himself and his family in India. As we have reported, homosexuality was recriminalized in 2013 when the country’s high court overturned an earlier ruling that abolished the colonial-era sodomy law. TIME also notes that India recently voted for Russia’s unsuccessful effort to strip gay UN staff of spousal benefits.

The weeklong event will begin in Knysna, South Africa, on Sunday and will feature contestants from 20 countries. Sayyed would have been the only Asian participant.

“We created this event to combat homophobia, but for a delegate and his family to go through such harassment is unacceptable and we have to be sympathetic with him,” Eric Butter, president of Mr. Gay World, told Indian newspaper DNA.

Other administrators of the pageant also lamented Sayyed’s withdrawal, deeming it a shame for India rather than for him and his family. “It is unfortunate that LGBTQ rights aren’t accepted in one of the world’s largest democracies,” said Coenie Kukkuk, the pageant’s managing director.

Guam: Governor still stalling on marriage

We reported last week that Guam’s Governor was stalling on ordering public health officials to give a lesbian couple a marriage license. Pacific Daily News points out today that couples are being married in all states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit appeals court, in spite of legal appeals that Gov. Calvo has cited as his excuse for not moving forward in spite of an opinion by Guam’s attorney general. In the words of a statement by Lambda Legal, “Every same-sex couple in the states that form part of the Ninth Circuit can marry and have been able to do so for months.” Also this week, University of Guam professor Ron McNinch presented the results of a poll saying that a majority of people in Guam support marriage equality.

Mexico: Marriage equality continues steady expansion

The slow-motion marriage equality wave continues in Mexico. Federal courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality, but because of the structure of the Mexican legal system, a ruling requiring a state to grant licenses to a couple or individual couple – an amparo — does not automatically change state law for everyone, until five amparos have been issued in a state. Eighteen couples got legal clearance to marry in Mazatlan, Sinaloa after a Supreme Court ruling.

Russia: Court upholds firing of gay teacher

A Russian teacher who was fired in December after being outed by an anti-gay activist lost her legal effort to be reinstated, reports Associated Press.

Ksenia Kirichenko, the lawyer for a gay rights organization which is representing the teacher, said Thursday that the court this week refused the teacher’s demand to be reinstated.

The teacher, who would agree to be identified only by her first name, Alevtina, is one of several gay teachers who lost their jobs in St. Petersburg after being targeted by the activist.

While most resigned quietly, Alevtina decided to fight her dismissal in court – an unusual step in Russia where gays have faced increasing pressure in recent years.

Kirichenko said the teacher planned to file an appeal.

China: Lesbian activist speaks on detention

Lesbian and feminist activist Li Tingting, who was one of five women detained earlier this year and released last week after 37 days, spoke to reporters Didi Tang and Jack Chang through her girlfriend Teresa. Li, 25, was born just weeks after the Tiananmen Square protests.

“Feminism is my soul,” Teresa quoted Ms Li as saying. “I thought a lot and came to believe what I do cannot be wrong. My belief is firmer. Feminism will surely be inseparable from me.”

Ms Li and four other women, aged from 25 to 32, were detained in a criminal investigation for their plans to hand out stickers and flyers denouncing sexual harassment. The five drew what was an unusual amount of attention overseas. Foreign governments, rights groups and luminaries including Hillary Clinton criticised the arrests and urged the Chinese authorities to drop the case against the women….

According to the report, the women “remain under investigation and have been told not to travel outside their home cities or meet journalists.”

Ms Li was detained just ahead of International Women’s Day, which the Chinese authorities mark by touting gender equality under the leadership of the Communist Party. Ms Li believes it shows that China’s civil society is facing extreme difficulty, and that “more needs to be done”, Teresa said.

Zambia: two men acquitted of ‘carnal knowledge’ charges

Earlier this month a magistrate acquitted two men who had been charged last year with “living as husband and wife.” According to SOGI News, the penal code ‘calls for a prison sentence of from 15 years to life for having ‘carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,’ including permitting ‘a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature’.”