Some Christian and Muslim Leaders Urging ‘No’ Vote in Australian Mail Ballot on Marriage Equality; and More in Global LGBT Recap

Author Michael Muhammad Knight writes at Vice on “Editing Homophobia Out of the ‘Islamic Tradition.’”

New Ways Ministry’s Bob Shine reflects on an interview conducted with former Vatican official Krzysztof Charamsa that was published in Religion and Gender at the end of last year. Charamsa lost his position and was removed from the priesthood after he came out as a partnered gay man in advance of the 2015 Synod on the Family.

The ultra-conservative Catholic website Church Militant is complaining that “Jesuit homosexualist” James Martin, author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity” will be speaking at an upcoming alumni event at a theological school associated with the Catholic University of America, and at an October event in New York for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, “one of the most ancient lay orders in the Catholic Church.”

Ireland’s gay Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar joined Canadian PM Justin Trudeau at Montreal’s pride parade as part of a four-day visit.

Asia: Activist surveys responses to Taiwan’s marriage equality ruling

Creatrix Tiara “a queer South Asian person who was born and raised in a a very homophobic South East Asian country,” published this month the results of an effort to survey LGBTQ activists in 42 Asian and Middle Eastern countries on the impact on other countries of Taiwan’s moves toward marriage equality. An excerpt:

While many may be tempted to cite Islam as the main reason for the Middle East’s institutionalized homophobia, Jordanian Queer Muslima pushes hard against this argument. She argues that before Victorian-era colonization, “Islamic discourse spoke to communities that were gendered and sexually fluid,” citing examples of Caliphates with openly gay children, poems written about bisexual men by female writers, and Islamic jurisprudence handling issues related to their queer children. “Today Islamic scholars, jurists, leaders, and members of communities are working in many ways to legally, academically, and socially carve a space for LGBTQIA+ peoples. We speak against the dominant discourse that says ‘Islam is heterosexual’ through work in grassroots organizations, social organizing, academia, public protest and living.”

An activist from Bangladesh who is now based in the U.S. said that that news about “the recent wedding of British Bangladeshi Jahed Choudhury to his partner Sean Rogan, the first same-sex wedding in Britain to involve a Muslim,” was a bigger story than the marriage equality ruling from Taiwan’s constitutional court.

Religion also came up as a major factor amongst respondents in South-East Asia. “Obviously a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re a religious country, with a heavy emphasis on Islam, and the popular notion is all religions are against the concept of LGBTQ, which of course is untrue,” says Fajar. “I’m inclined to agree. Conservative Christians are also a very formidable group in Indonesia,” adds Dede Oetomo, founder and webmaster of Indonesian LGBTQ community organization GAYa Nusantara.

Indeed, as Australian queer feminist activist and Women’s March Jakarta organizer Kate notes, these religious assumptions may affect the way Indonesians view Taiwan’s decision. “Many Indonesians do not know much about Taiwan to begin with and most are likely to claim that Taiwan is different because it is not particularly religious. […] The argument will be “That might be fine for them, but we are Muslim/Catholic/Protestant and LGBTQ is now allowed by our religion.”

Fellow Indonesian Maria C. F., who co-founded Diversity LGBT+ at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China, pushes back against both the idea of Taiwan not having to deal with religious or cultural stigma and, echoing Jordanian Queer Muslima, about Islam being a barrier to acceptance of LGBTQ people. “According to a poll conducted by Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCR) in 2013, around half of Taiwanese support same sex unions whereas 75% of the opposition came from the Christian community. In addition, there are also Taiwanese who oppose same-sex unions on the grounds of upholding traditional Chinese family tradition,” she notes. “Therefore, if the same logic is applied to Indonesia then I think ‘Islamic teaching’ is just a short-sighted excuse to justify homophobia and transphobia. The fact remains that there are prominent Muslim figures in Indonesia and overseas such as [Indonesian women’s rights activist] Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia and [Mayor of London] Sadiq Khan who strongly support LGBT+ rights.”

Australia: Marriage mail ballot advances; Christian lobby, Muslim leaders urge no vote

The long and ongoing political battle over marriage equality continues. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he would hold Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responsible for “every hurtful bit of filth” that will be “unleashed” during public debate on the mail-in referendum being prepared on marriage equality. Turnbull responded by calling Shorten the “most dangerous left-wing leader in generations.”

Islamic leaders in Queensland called on Muslims to vote against marriage equality, saying they believe it is unacceptable:

Council of Imams Queensland president Yusuf Peer told The Courier-Mail Islamic leaders believed gay marriage was unacceptable to the faith.

“We cannot agree with it because of our faith,” Imam Peer said.

“It is basically a religious viewpoint.”

The move follows a release from the Australian National Imams Council that placed it beside traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs in opposing gay marriage.

“Islam places the family unit at the heart of a healthy society, and in this context, the right of children to be cared for and raised by both a mother and father is one that must be protected,” the release said.

“Islam also explicitly and unambiguously states that marital relationship is only permissible between a man and woman; any other marital relationships are Islamicly impermissible.”

Kevin Andrews, an anti-marriage-equality member of Parliament, compared gay couples to the “affectionate relationship” he has with his cycling buddies. “We go cycling on the weekends, but that’s not marriage,” he told SkyNews. Andrews said that marriage equality would be a “pathway to polygamy. Andrews was named “Natural Family Man of the Year” by the World Congress of Families in 2014.

Crikey’s politics editor Bernard Keane reported that Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, “one of the highest-profile campaigners against marriage equality,” had endorsed the U.S.-based conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. Asked whether his group would accept help from ADF, Shelton called them “good people” and “tried to explain away ADF’s support for criminalization.” The Australian Christian Lobby has developed a new legal arm, the Human Rights Law Alliance, modeled after ADF.

Pacific: Will proposed decriminalization in Cook Islands affect other island nations?

Radio New Zealand reported that draft legislation that would remove a ban on homosexuality from the Cook Island’s crime law could have an effect on other Pacific island nations. “Homosexuality is illegal in Solomon Islands for both men and women, but in Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, anti-homosexuality law applies only to men,” reports RNZ.

Whipping is still on the law books in Tonga, as well as up to ten years in prison for male homosexuals.

The Tonga Leitis Association (TLA) is working towards reform.

The TLA President, Henry Aho, said male homosexuals were particularly targeted in the country’s provisions against sodomy.

“There is a new wave of evangelism that’s coming with an agenda to put an end to any plans the transgender communities in the world have.”

“Not touching the current laws leaves the door open for these groups to use that against members of our community in Tonga,” he said.

In Samoa, sodomy between men could mean a jail sentence of up to seven years and there has been criticism in the past, particularly from church leaders, at efforts to change the law.

The report quotes Paula Garber of the Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation:

Convictions are rare but Paula Gerber of the gay rights lobby group, Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation, hopes the law change will have a domino effect on other Pacific countries.

“There are still far too many countries in the world that treat consensual homosexual conduct as a crime and we’re starting to see that change.”

“The Pacific is a bit at the forefront with making those law reforms,” said Professor Gerber.

“Vanuatu and Fiji were one of the first to decriminalise, but more recently Palau and Nauru have gone down that path and now there are the Cook Islands who are on that journey,” she said.

Whipping is still on the law books in Tonga, as well as up to ten years in prison for male homosexuals.

Canada and Ghana: Activists urge Canada to speak up for LGBT Ghanaians, drawing death threats

LGBT equality activists created an unofficial “Ghana pavilion” at the Folklorama festival in Winnipeg, reported the CBC last week. Wearing pink shirts with “Ghana pavilion” and the country’s flag on the front, and “LGBTQ Equal Rights Now” on the back, the activists have been gathering signatures on a petition asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do more to advocate for LGBT people in Ghana, when one of the leaders say LGBT people are being treated “like animals.”

The CBC reports that a Ghanaian news story about the activists drew “hundreds” of negative contents, including death threats:

“Fire burn u all and ur entire families,” one Facebook comment said.

“These are the people ISIS should be beheading every day not innocent Christians,” another said.

Indonesia: Youth bearing brunt of anti-LGBT hostility being generated by Muslim fundamentalists

LGBT youth are bearing the brunt of the hostility that is being generated by Muslim religious fundamentalists, reports the South China Morning Post:

Unlike in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, there are no laws against homosexuality in Indonesia. So, like everyone else in Indonesia, the LGBT community should be afforded protection under human rights and equality laws.

In recent years, however, regional governments, such as in Aceh province, which practises sharia law, have introduced regulations that target perceived homosexual “behaviours” and prosecute suspected LGBT individuals under existing laws.…

A study by the Asia-Pacific Social Science Review released earlier this year found that, despite appearing to be less heavy-handed compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, attitudes towards diverse sexualities in Indonesia are the most negative.

Activists have long claimed these attitudes lead to discrimination, criminalisation, systemic violence and social isolation. King Oey, who leads Indonesia’s largest LGBTI rights group, Arus Pelangi, says the situation makes it difficult to reach out to the young and at risk.

“So many LGBT people live in isolation and have hidden lives. It is hard to reach all of them,” he says. But largely, it’s not the government nor religious zealots the community fears, rather the primary concern is rejection from support networks, such as friends and family, says Oey.

The “rising tide of hate against LGBTI people in Indonesia” is also making it harder for programs addressing HIV and AIDS to access at-risk groups, reports Gay Star News.

New Zealand: Baptist Union disavows pastor who calls for execution of gays

Logan Robertson, pastor of Westcity Bible Baptist Church in West Auckland, is “unapologetic” about his remarks suggesting that gay people should be killed. From the New Zealand Herald:

“My view on homo marriage is that the Bible never mentions it so I’m not against them getting married,” Robertson says.

“As long as a bullet goes through their head the moment they kiss … Because that’s what it talks about – not homo marriage but homo death.”

Robertson said he is not “inciting vigilantes” and thinks that executing gay people is “the Government’s job.” He previously admitting telling a gay author that he was praying for him to commit suicide. He is also opposed to women voting or serving in political leadership. The New Zealand Baptist Union has publicly stated that Robertson’s small church is not affiliated with the group.

The Herald quotes Rev. Helen Jacobi saying that Robertson’s remarks in a video posted at the end of July were “inciting hatred, verging on hate speech and verging on criminal behaviour.”

“Jesus in particular said that he came to not live by those old laws but to bring a new law which is a law of love. So it’s hard to see how that could be biblical.”

St Matthew’s is known for advocating for gay rights, but Jacobi said the wider Anglican church did not have a stellar record on the issue.

“The national church hasn’t allowed gay marriage yet. We’re not perfect either but we’re wishing we could get there.

“We’re working away at it but the church moves slowly – but certainly nobody in the Anglican church would ever use that kind of language.”

Kazakhstan: Bright colors stir fears that apartment building paint job is LGBT propaganda

The head of the city of Aktobe’s architecture and urban development department told a reporter that he is “bitterly disappointed” by the negative reaction to his efforts to liven up a dreary apartment building by having workers paint balconies in bright rainbow colors. More from Eurasianet:

Some objected to the garishness. But others suspected that the rainbow might be a subtle form of propaganda for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual lifestyles.

National newspaper Karavan did not exactly help to dispel that nonfactual notion by headlining an article about the redecoration: “Apartment Block in Aktobe Repainted in LGBT Colors.” …

Aktobe is notable in Kazakhstan for its relatively high proportion of deeply devout Muslims, so any suggestion of promoting secular lifestyle inevitably meets resistance.

Intolerance for sexual minorities extends far beyond conservative religious circles, however.

Uganda: Officials force cancellation of pride celebration

Kuchu Times reported that Pride Uganda 2017 had been cancelled due to police harassment and threats from Simon Lokodo, the intensely anti-gay Minister for Ethics and Integrity who reportedly “had all the venues of the planned Pride events surrounded by state militia.” The U.S. embassy in Uganda tweeted the U.S. government’s disappointment, saying, “Under Uganda’s constitution, all individuals and organizations have right to associate freely in private and in public, without fear.”

Uruguay: Government considers fund to compensate trans people for official mistreatment

Among proposals being considered to improve the lives of transgender people are a pension fund to pay those born before 1975 compensation for “mistreatment they received at the hands of previous governments

Chile: Government plans to introduce marriage equality proposal

A report in La Tercera examines the background of a marriage equality proposal set to be presented by the government of President Michelle Bachelet on August 28. Pro-equality group MOVILH says the measure will include parenting and adoption rights.

Romania: Split on marriage equality leaves ‘leadership vacuum’ in anti-corruption party

Balkan Insight reported that a year-old anti-corruption party is “facing a leadership vacuum” after a dispute within the party about whether to support a constitutional marriage ban being pushed by the Coalition for the Family, “a group of 43 religious NGOs that campaign against same-sex marriage.”

Denmark: Government plans pro-LGBT initiative

The Danish government is launching an “ambitious” initiative to “prevent discrimination and promote equal opportunities, security and well-being for LGBT+ people.”

Northern Ireland: Judge dismisses suits challenging marriage ban

A judge who sits on the High Court in Belfast dismissed two legal challenges to the ban on same-sex couples getting legally married, saying it was up to the legislature, not the courts, to make social policy.

UK and Nigeria: Activist wins 13-year struggle for asylum

A gay rights activist who was once accused by a judge of faking her sexuality won a 13-year legal battle to be granted asylum in the U.K.

Russia: Activist detained at St. Petersburg pride event

A Russian LGBT activist was detained by police at the August 12 St. Petersburg pride event.