Russian Politician Wants to Ban Apple CEO Who Says Being Gay is God’s Gift; Violence After Preachers Blame Liberian Gays for Ebola; Global LGBT Recap

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who heads what is certainly one of the most visible global corporations, came out as gay this week. His statement included a phrase that brought joy to LGBT religious activists: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Cook’s revelation won praise from business and political leaders as well as LGBT activists. Anti-gay response was generally muted, with Sen. Ted Cruz saying Cook’s announcement was a personal decision. “Those are his personal choices. I’ll tell you, I love my iPhone.” But anti-gay Russian politician Vitaly Milonov had a stronger reaction:

“What could he bring us? The Ebola virus, AIDS, gonorrhea? They all have unseemly ties over there,” Mr Milonov told the FlashNord website. “Ban him for life.”

Also this week, Mexico City has been hosting the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) World Conference.  The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reminds us, “Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry and adopt children in Mexico City since 2010. The Mexican capital’s comprehensive anti-discrimination law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” An activist from Belize told the Blade that he hoped to shine a light on American religious conservatives who have been actively promoting anti-gay policies in his country:

Caleb Orozco, co-founder of the United Belize Advocacy Movement, an HIV/AIDS advocacy group, told the Blade he hopes the gathering will allow him to highlight U.S. religious organizations that support efforts defending the English-speaking Central American country’s anti-sodomy law. Orozco added the conference also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of efforts to extend rights to LGBT people in Belize and throughout the Western Hemisphere.

In the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission held a conference on how the church should respond to the expansion of legal equality for LGBT people. The conference, which was accompanied by a spirited real-time stream of commentary on twitter at #ERLC2014, featured some shifts in rhetoric from SBC leadership. Jonathan Merritt notes two additional upcoming conferences on Christianity and sexuality:

Next month, The Reformation Project will host their event in Washington, D.C. to promote the full affirmation of same-sex relationships. (David Gushee, a leading evangelical ethicist, plans to publicly announce his support of LGBT relationships at the event.) [See Sarah Posner’s article on Gushee’s change of heart.] And in January, the Gay Christian Network will host a conference in Portland, Oregon that they claim takes more of a “third way” by welcoming perspectives of affirming Christians and those who believe faithfulness requires celibacy for LGBT persons.

Catholic Church: Discussion of Gays, Family, Continues Post-Synod

A few days after the end synod on the family, Pope Francis was back in the news with comments about the family. The context was not directly about same-sex couples, but have been interpreted as an embrace of the more conservative positions that were dominant at the synod. From the Catholic News Agency:

In an audience with members of an international Marian movement, Pope Francis warned that the sacrament of marriage has been reduced to a mere association, and urged participants to be witnesses in a secular world.

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.

He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.

He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.

RD Contributor Jamie Manson offers some pointed analysis of the synod at National Catholic Reporter. Here’s an excerpt, in which she points out the problems with Pope Francis using “the fertile mother” as a metaphor for the church in his end-of-synod speech:

“The ‘fertile mother’ is made up solely of men — men whose authority is based on their capacity to be both male and (in theory, at least) celibate…Add to that the unseemly, if not deeply pathological, reality that a significant number of these bishops, who cannot decide whether gays and lesbians have gifts to offer to the church, are themselves closeted gay men.”

This weekend, the University of Notre Dame is hosting “Gay in Christ: Dimensions of Fidelity,” a colloquium designed to answer the questions, “What would be an appropriate pastoral strategy for Catholic parishes with respect to parishioners who regard themselves as non-heterosexual in identity but accept the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexuality? What are the issues that need to be addressed before such a pastoral strategy could be created?

Liberia: Anti-Gay Violence After Preachers Say Ebola God’s Wrath for Homosexuality

Anti-gay violence in Liberia has escalated after some Christian ministers have said Ebola is God’s punishment for homosexuality, Misha Hussain and Maria Caspani reported for Reuters last week:

Leroy Ponpon doesn’t know whether to lock himself in his flat in Monrovia because of the deadly Ebola virus, or because he is gay. Christian churches’ recent linking of the two have made life hell for him and hundreds of other gays.

Ponpon, an LGBT campaigner in the Liberian capital, says gays have been harassed, physically attacked and a few have had their cars smashed by people blaming them for the hemorrhagic fever, after religious leaders in Liberia said Ebola was a punishment from God for homosexuality.

“Since church ministers declared Ebola was a plague sent by God to punish sodomy in Liberia, the violence toward gays has escalated. They’re even asking for the death penalty. We’re living in fear,” Ponpon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Monrovia.

According to Reuters,

Earlier this year, the Liberian Council of Churches said in a statement that God was angry with Liberians “over corruption and immoral acts” such as homosexuality, and that Ebola was a punishment.

In May, Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of the Catholic Church of Liberia said that “one of the major transgressions against God for which He may be punishing Liberia is the act of homosexuality,” local media reported.

Francois Patuel, Amnesty International’s representative in West Africa, said there had been reports of threats and violence against the LGBTI community in Monrovia since the incendiary remarks made by the local Christian leaders.

“Amnesty has received pictures of cars that reportedly belong to gays with their windows smashed as well as reports that gays have been forced from their homes and had to go into hiding,” Patuel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Singapore: High Court Upholds Colonial Era Sodomy Law

This week, Singapore’s highest court upheld a colonial-era anti-sodomy law that criminalizes sex between men, saying it was up to lawmakers to decide the question. Parliament retained anti-gay provisions in 2007 even though provisions that made heterosexual oral and anal sex a crime were repealed, reports Bloomberg.

Singapore’s law, adopted when it was a British colony, was retained by parliament to protect public morality, the Attorney-General’s Chambers had told the court in July. Offenders face mandatory jail terms of as long as two years.

The city’s police advised attendees at this year’s annual gay-pride rally Pink Dot in June to “keep the peace” and avoid comments on race and religion. The warning followed Muslim and Christian groups calling on their followers to wear white on the day to signify “purity” and to oppose the event.

While Singapore’s multiracial, multicultural, multilingual and multireligious society allows “real and practical freedom for each group,” this can’t be extended by the insistence of a particular group so that certain values can be imposed on others, the judges said.

Taiwan: Pride Celebration Shows Taiwan ‘Beacon’ to Asian Gays

Last Saturday, Taipei hosted Asia’s largest gay pride celebration, which marchers used to call for action on stalled marriage equality legislation. “With its lively news media, panoply of grass-roots organizations and a robust, if sometimes noisy, democracy, this self-governing island has become a beacon for liberal political activism across Asia,” writes Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times. He says that Taiwan stands out as a beacon for gays in Asia:

At a time when laws legalizing same-sex marriage are sweeping the United States, Latin America and Europe, gay rights advocates across Asia are still struggling to secure basic protections.

Brunei has instituted strict Shariah laws that criminalize gay relationships, conservative legislators in the Indonesian province of Aceh passed an ordinance last month punishing gay sex with 100 lashes, and on Wednesday the highest court in Singapore upheld a law that carries a two-year jail term for men who engage in any act of “gross indecency,” in public or private. In one Malaysian state, effeminate boys are shipped off to boot camp in an effort to reshape their behavior.

When it comes to gay rights in Asia, Taiwan is a world apart. Openly gay and lesbian soldiers can serve in the military, and the Ministry of Education requires textbooks to promote tolerance for gays and lesbians. In recent years, legislators here have passed protections for gays, including a law against workplace discrimination.

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been introduced in Taiwan’s legislature, although it still faces strong opposition from Christian activists and their allies in the governing Kuomintang….

Religious life here, for the most part, is dominated by Buddhism and Taoism, faiths with little doctrinal resistance to homosexuality. Although they make up less than 5 percent of Taiwan’s 23 million people, Christians have formed the bulwark of the opposition. “Taiwanese are really tolerant,” said Ms. Poore of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “It’s not the kind of place where gays and lesbians have to worry about violence if they are affectionate in public.”

European Union: Conference on Anti-LGBTI Discrimination Draws Conservative Protests

The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency held a conference on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on October 28 in Brussels, in conjunction with the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the General Secretariat of the Council. In advance of the event, Amnesty International urged the EU to do more to fight anti-gay violence.  From a report on the event from CESI, and European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions:

The outgoing EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Martine Reicherts, speaking for the last time during her mandate, stressed that the fight against LGBTI discrimination has always been close to her heart and suggested that future legislation in this field could operate on the basis of enhanced cooperation between Member States as opposed to unanimity to help advance policies.

Participants in the panel and in the audience agreed that this kind of discrimination has to be tackled. Instruments, such as an EU action plan as well as the reviving the proposal of an anti-discrimination directive were strongly favored. This directive would extend EU anti-discriminaton legislation from the employment and occupation area to all EU competences, thus extending protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation to social protection, social advantages, and access to goods and services.

Conservatives protested, giving out leaflets at the entrance to the council building attacking the legitimacy of a survey on anti-LGBTI discrimination conducted by the Federal Rights Agency. European Dignity Watch, a network of anti-abortion and anti-LGBT-equality organizations, is complaining that the conference was based on a “big lie on ‘homophobia.’” EDW describes anti-discrimination proposals as the creation of “thought police” in the name of “legal protection.”

Irish Minister Aidan O’Riordan saw the same difficulties in view of the upcoming Irish referendum on marriage to be held in the Spring 2015. He blamed the ‘power of the religious institutions’ and committed himself to removing the ability of these institutions to ‘discriminate’ in their employment conditions. Ireland would be a ‘more productive workplace if LGBTI people could be who they are in the workplace as elsewhere’, he concluded.

A British group, Core Issues, complained before the conference that it would “ride roughshod” over people with “ex-gay” and “post-gay” identities.

Church of England: Oxford Bishop Says Yes to Same-Sex Relationships, No to Marriage

John Lawrence Prichard, Bishop of Oxford, said he would affirm committed same-sex relationships but not marriage:

He said: “I want to affirm covenanted, faithful, lifelong relationships, either gay or straight.

“But I am unconvinced about same-sex marriage – it seems to me that that is a category confusion.

“The Church has to avoid any whiff of homophobia and affirm good, strong, loving relationships, but not confuse the gift of a heterosexual marriage with the gift of a same-sex relationship.”

India: Man Secretly Filmed by Wife Charged Under Sodomy Law

A 32-year old technology company executive has been charged under the colonial-era sodomy law that was reinstated by the country’s high court last December. The evidence for the charge came from cameras secretly set up in his home by his wife, who suspected he was gay. Some equality advocates hope the case may encourage the Court to overturn criminal penalties for homosexuality, since it involves consensual sex and invasion of privacy.