Turkish Police Move Against Activists Who Defied Pride Ban; And More in Global LGBT Recap

Police used tear gas and plastic bullets to thwart activists from holding Pride March in Istanbul (photo courtesy turkeypurge.com)

The anti-equality World Congress of Families will hold its fourth Caribbean regional summit on June 29 and 30 in St. John’s Antigua, with speakers from US Religious Right groups Focus on the Family and Family Watch International joining Caribbean-based leaders. The summit is being organized by the Christian Coalition for a Healthy Society, Antigua.

As Pride month continues, Human Rights Watch released a compilation of 63 country profiles documenting countries’ records regarding recognition and protection of the rights of LGBT people.

The Commonwealth, made up mostly of nations that were once part of the British Empire, has accredited the Commonwealth Equality Network, “the first LGBTI-focused organization to be officially accredited by the Commonwealth.” Pink News reports that “at least 36 of the 53 Commonwealth member states criminalise homosexuality.”

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia released its annual summary of events that took place on May 17.

The U.S. State Department’s DipNote blog took note of the 2017 Pride event hosted by the department’s Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA (LGBT+Pride in Foreign Affairs Agencies). On Wednesday, June 28, the State Department will host an interactive online conversation about discrimination and violence against vulnerable groups, including LGBTI people.

Catholic Church: Bishops respond differently to Pope Francis

Two U.S. church leaders have demonstrated the range of opinion and division within the hierarchy about Pope Francis’s call for a more pastoral relationship with LGBT Catholics.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Newark, greeted a group of LGBT Catholics to meet with him in the cathedral:

“I am Joseph, your brother,” Cardinal Tobin told the group, which included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics from around New York and the five dioceses in New Jersey. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”

The welcoming of a group of openly gay people to Mass by a leader of Cardinal Tobin’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church in this country would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But Cardinal Tobin, whom Pope Francis appointed to Newark last year, is among a small but growing group of bishops changing how the American church relates to its gay members. They are seeking to be more inclusive and signaling to subordinate priests that they should do the same.

Tobin told the New York Times that after he had welcomed the LGBT activists at mass, he had received “a fair amount of visceral hate mail from fellow Catholics.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the diocese of Springfield, Illinois decreed that priests may not offer communion or “even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show ‘some signs of repentance’ for their relationships before death.” The Washington Post reminds us that Paprocki performed an exorcism after same-sex couples in Illinois were given the right to legally marry. Rev. James Martin, author of a recent book on LGBT people and the Catholic Church and subject of a recent Vice profile, publicly challenged Paprocki’s edict, tweeting, “If bishops ban members of same-sex couples from funeral rites, they must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics without annulments.” Paprocki responded, “Those living openly in same-sex marriage like other public manifest sinners can receive funeral rights if they gave some sign of repentance.”

Xorje Olivares, the Latinx Catholic who conducted the Vice interview with Martin, is himself interviewed by Barbara Gonzales at Cassius.

Church of England

Jayne Ozanne, an activist who says she suffered spiritual abuse in a charismatic evangelical church,is calling on the Church of England to reject conversion therapy as unethical and harmful in a motion that the Guardian says will be debated at a synod in July:

In a paper, Spiritual Abuse – The Next Great Scandal for the Church, published this week by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Ozanne said the issue was “particularly pertinent to those who struggle – due to their religious beliefs – with questions of sexual or gender identity.

“Sadly, these individuals are subjected to the worst forms of spiritual abuse by groups of individuals at the time that they require unconditional support and affirmation. This has the added complication that their once safe place of refuge, their church, becomes a place of turmoil and pain, where those they have trusted are the source of their abuse.

“The most damaging practice is often the misuse of scripture during times of prayer ministry, where passages are quoted that can make the individual receiving prayer feel that their failure to be healed is due to their sin.”

Her chief concern was the “group model” of spiritual abuse, in which “a group dynamic is created which can encourage and foster abusive behaviour. It is unique to certain types of churches and network groups, particularly those that believe in the importance of being ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’.”

Turkey: Police disperse Pride marchers who defied government ban

Istanbul’s Pride march, scheduled for Sunday evening, was banned by local authorities for the third year in a row, noted the BBC, “citing security concerns after threats from far-right groups.” News reports say that security forces prevented those who intended to defy the ban from reaching Taksim Square; a reported clash between LGBT activists and right-wing counter-protesters led to 10 arrests. US News reported that police “used tear gas to disperse crowds and activists say plastic bullets were used.”

Before the recent bans, the celebration had attracted “tens of thousands of people,” according to the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights. This year an ultra-nationalist youth group leader vowed to prevent the march, charging that LGBT activists were out to “destroy the unity of the family, stop reproduction, end relations between wives and husbands, and prevent children born in such relations from growing up to be propitious to their land and country.”

Organizers had vowed to defy the ban. More from BBC’s reporting on the eve of the scheduled event:

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey – unlike in many Muslim nations – but analysts say homophobia remains widespread in the country.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party is rooted in conservative Islam, has denied wanting to impose traditional religious values, saying he is committed to secularism. But he supports Turks’ right to express their religion more openly.

June 25 was also the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Russia: European Court of Human Rights rules against anti-gay propaganda law

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda law” was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, saying the law had been used to violate freedom of expression. The ruling was rejected by the Russian government; BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder notes that “Russia has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the ECHR’s authority in recent years, including adopting legislation in 2015 allowing for ECHR rulings to be ignored when they contradict the Russian Constitution.” More from Reuters:

Pro-Kremlin politicians and Orthodox Church leaders saw the ruling as an attempt to foist what they call unacceptably liberal “European values” on a country whose leaders constantly emphasize the need to adhere to “traditional values”.

“The decision … shows that our country has chosen the right path to preserve its culture and human identity,” Vitaly Milonov, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, said in an article on his website.

“I’m sure that we will support the institution of a traditional strong family in future and shield children from attacks by all manner of minorities.”

Homosexuality in Russia, where the influence of the socially conservative Orthodox Church has grown in recent years, was a criminal offence until 1993 and classed as a mental illness until 1999.

The Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement it did not agree with the court and pledged to appeal the ruling within three months. It said the law was solely designed “to defend morality and children’s health” and did not amount to a ban or public condemnation of homosexuality.

Human rights defenders say the contested law has been broadly applied to intimidate Russia’s LGBT community, however.

Kyrgyzstan: Atmosphere for LGBT people worsens

The only LGBT club in the capital of Bishkek was forced by its landlord to leave, reports RFE/RL, reflecting a worsening atmosphere for LGBT people in recent years:

The loss of this nightclub will add to the obstacles faced by Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT community, which already lives in the shadows after discriminatory legislation that would ban the popularization of homosexual relations and promotion of the homosexual lifestyle was proposed in 2014.

“Life was easier three years ago,” says a 21-year-old gay man who regularly attends the club. “You could be on public transport and talk about LGBT stuff and nobody would notice because they did not really know what it was. But since the legislation was introduced, a lot of the population knows what the LGBT community is. There is a lot of aggression toward us and we cannot be open in public anymore.”

The proposed bill emboldened a number of radical nationalist movements and, according to activists at Labrys, a gay activism group in Kyrgyzstan, led to a near 300 percent increase in attacks against the community.

Activists fear things will get worse once a Russian-style anti-gay “propaganda” bill gets its final reading in parliament and becomes law; a restrictive definition of marriage was placed into the Constitution in 2016.

Andrew North covered the same topic last month for Coda Story, reporting that the official hostility toward LGBT people is part of the government’s move to turn away from the West and cement stronger ties with Putin’s Russia:

It was never easy being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Kyrgyzstan’s patriarchal, Muslim-majority society. Nonetheless, in a region where the Soviet past hangs heavily and ossified dictatorship is the norm, the smallest of the Central Asian “Stans” was seen as a relative beacon of tolerance and democracy. And while there were occasional attacks in the past, the LGBT community was mostly left to itself. Until recently there were even several gay clubs in Bishkek.

But over the past few years, internal and external forces have “dragged the LGBT community into a battle for Kyrgyz identity,” says Medet Tiulegenov, chair of international and comparative politics at the American University in Bishkek. …

Since winning power in 2011, President Almazbek Atambayev has cemented this shift away from the west towards Russia. “We cannot have a separate future,” he declared when president Vladimir Putin visited in 2012.

Atambayev has been an assiduous courtier, extending Russia’s lease on its own military base outside Bishkek, before enthusiastically copying anti-western legislation in the Kremlin’s legal arsenal. First came a virtual clone of Moscow’s offensive on NGOs, with legislation demanding all groups receiving external funding declare themselves as “foreign agents”, targeted at human rights groups, including those advocating for the LGBT community.

Then, in March 2014, MPs from the ruling coalition announced the “anti-gay propaganda” measures, with even harsher penalties on paper than the Russian version. They were necessary to “protect the rights of the majority rather than of the minority,” said one of the co-sponsors, Talantbek Uzakbaev, a member of the pro-Russian Dignity party. “We cannot tolerate gay propaganda.”

These moves have had enthusiastic support from powerful nationalist and religious constituencies at home – both Muslim and Orthodox Christian. Self-styled nationalist groups like Kyrk-Choro (Kyrgyz Knights) are thought to have been at the forefront of assaults on both the LGBT community and sex workers – with its leader claiming he has official backing. In effect, being anti-western and homophobic have become two ends of the same bone in a Kyrgyz version of dog-whistle politics. “Being anti-LGBT has been very profitable for the nationalists,” says Tiulgenov.

UK: LGBT Tories object to coalition with DUP; Liberal Democrat leader cites faith in resigning

Theresa May’s effort to build a parliamentary majority in confederation with the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland generated opposition from within her own party based on “the DUP’s position on gay rights, abortion and climate change”—even though the DUP reportedly decided not to including social issues on the list of demands it made of the Conservative Party. The chairman of LGBT+ Conservatives “said the DUP’s stance on gay rights was ‘appalling.’” Among those seeking assurances from May is Ruth Davidson, the gay leader of the Conservatives in Scotland. The Independent has some background on the DUP:

The party was founded on evangelical Christian principles and has been denounced as homophobic by critics. One of its former MPs, Iris Robinson, the wife of former DUP leader and Northen Ireland First Minister, Peter Robinson, has described homosexuality as an “abomination”. Another MP, Ian Paisley Jr, whose father Ian founded the DUP, said he was “repulsed” by homosexual acts.

“I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism”, he said in 2007. “I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society. That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do.”

A DUP councillor claimed in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,500 people in the US, was God exacting revenge on the city of New Orleans for hosting a gay rights event.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has previously rejected claims that her party is homophobic and said critics do not understand her party’s motivations.

“They are wrong and they need to understand why we take those positions from a faith point of view and why we want to protect the definition of marriage,” she said.

“I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that’s not a matter for me: when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage.”

In other news, Tim Farron resigned as leader of the Liberal Democratic party, saying that he found it “impossible” to align his Christian views with being the head of a “progressive, liberal party.”

In a resignation speech he had not expected to give, Farron was defiant that he could not compromise his faith, even for the party he loved. “I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party,” he said.

“Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all’.”

In a commentary at The Guardian, Hannah Jane Perkinson writes, “I suppose he was basically sick of being asked about gay sex.” More:

Farron has a point about how relentlessly the media focused on his opinions about gay sex, but also (well, not) because it’s not a nice feeling for LGBT people to be represented by a politician who might secretly reel from you kissing your partner in the street.

Politicians of other faiths are less scrutinised is one argument, which is legitimate to a point. Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, is often used as the example here. But it’s tough to care about interrogating Khan on his views when he’s voted for gay marriage, and literally led Pride parades while flying the rainbow flag. Tim Farron abstained on that one …

South Africa: Paramedic faces punishment for blaming fires on gay marriage

Afrikaaner Bossie Boshoff, a paramedic, is facing disciplinary action by his employer after publicly blaming recent wildfires on the Dutch Reformed Church’s decision to allow 12 same-sex couples to marry at a festival last year. “It dared god,” he said in a Facebook post. “They mustn’t cry now about the fire. God doesn’t let himself be mocked.”

Taiwan: Did recent court ruling on marriage leave ‘room for further interpretation?’

The Asia & The Pacific Policy Society’s Mei-Hua Chen reviews the changing legal framework in Taiwan, where the Constitutional Court ruled last month that the civil code restricting marriage to ‘a male and a female’ is unconstitutional. The Court gave legislators two years to amend the Civil Code. The article says, however, that “the Court’s arguments for same-sex marriage were not entirely straightforward and left room for further interpretation”:

It could be that this was due to the Court’s desire to cool down the same-sex marriage debate in the country, rather than enrage the anti-gay-camp, which includes groups such as the ‘League for Defending Happy Families’. The anti-gay-camp is dominated by conservative Taiwanese Christians and the moral right of Taiwan.

It is worth noting that while Christians, including both Protestants and Catholics, constitute less than 6 per cent of the whole population of Taiwan, they are the most vocal and organised group opposing the legalisation of same-sex marriage. With abundant resources and well-developed religious networks, they have been able to organise numerous protests and circulate degrading material against gays and lesbians. In some of this material same-sex desire, for instance, has been characterised as the bedrock of AIDS and promiscuity. Some groups have even claimed that ‘infertile’ homosexuals will eventually bury the nation.

The anti-gay-camp rarely provide evidence-based arguments, yet they have been successful in mobilising homophobia among conservatives. Until now they have managed to ensure that the majority of legislators, from both the ruling and opposition parties, have either opposed same-sex marriage or declined to publically support it.

Germany: Legislation to annul sodomy convictions advances; analysis of marriage equality resistance

Last week the lower house of parliament voted unanimously to approve legislation to “annul the convictions of thousands of gay men under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was enforced enthusiastically in post-World War II West Germany,” reports AP. Some 50,000 men were convicted under the legislation between 1949 and 1969.

At Handelsblatt Global, Barbara Woolsey examines why marriage equality has not yet been achieved in Germany, beyond the personal opposition of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. Woolsey notes of the post-war government in West Germany kept paragraph 175 of the criminal code, which criminalized homosexuality, in place:

The party bloc in government during those years was a combination of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its even more traditional Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Formed out of the remnants of Weimar-era Catholic and Protestant parties (hence “unions” in an ecumenical sense), the CDU-CSU bloc defined itself as a protector of family values and traditional morals. Other parties, such as the Greens, which sprang out of the counter-culture movement of the 1970s and first entered parliament in the 1980s, shifted the social consensus on sexual matters. Even so, paragraph 175 wasn’t completely deleted until 1994.

Since then, German laws have become more liberal. Since 2001, gays and lesbians can register civil unions. These couples enjoy many of the same legal benefits as marriage. They are taxed as partners and have the same rights to health insurance. But besides the formal title “marriage,” one other crucial piece is still missing.

This is right to have children together. Neighboring countries such as the Netherlands, France, Spain, Denmark and Belgium allow same-sex couples to adopt. But Germany throws up lots of legal hurdles. If a gay German couple wants to raise children together, one partner must adopt the other’s biological child as, in effect, a step child. Another option is “successive adoption,” if one partner adopts a child that has already been adopted by the other. Complicating matters further, Germany also has relatively strict laws on artificial insemination and surrogacy, which narrows those options. Germany’s legal system is out of date in other ways too: Birth certificates require both a mother’s and father’s name to be valid.

Woolsey suggests Merkel’s opposition may reflect political caution as much as personal belief, but notes that public opinion is moving in the direction of marriage equality:

In January, Germany’s Anti-Discrimination Agency surveyed citizens to find that 83 percent are now for same-sex marriage. Even within the CDU there is movement. The newly-elected premier of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther, a staunch Catholic, recently came out in favor of gay marriage and adoption rights. Jens Spahn, a leading Christian Democrat who is also deputy finance minister, is openly gay and in a civil union.

Sensing an opportunity, Ms. Merkel’s main rival for the chancellery, Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats, has called for “marriage for all” on the campaign trail. But he remains behind in the polls. Nonetheless, even if Ms. Merkel wins a fourth term in September, gay marriage may not be far off. In one scenario, her coalition partners may insist on it. In another, court cases reach the highest court and settle the question. German society seems ready to put its ambivalence toward homosexuality behind it. Witness an important symbolic law passed last year: All those old convictions under paragraph 175 were retroactively annulled, and the men prosecuted who were still alive given restitution.

Serbia: Police allow Pride to go forward as legislature is poised to confirm lesbian prime minister

About 100 people marched in a Pride event on Saturday, June 24, “under heavy police protection,” reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which reported no serious incidents in spite of “a small number of counterdemonstrators from the Serbian Orthodox Church holding a sign reading ‘No to Sodomic Revolution.’” But bigger news may be just ahead:

Meanwhile, the Serbian parliament convened to launch proceedings needed for the election of Ana Brnabic as the new premier.

If elected, the 41-year-old Brnabic would be the first female and first openly gay prime minister.

The pride-event activists hailed her expected election as historic for the staunchly conservative Balkan country, where gays have faced pressure and violence from extremist groups.

It would also put the independent politician in rare company worldwide, making her just the fifth openly gay head of government.

The AP quoted gay activist Predrag Azdejkovic as saying “that is something historical for Serbia and groundbreaking.”

More on the political context from AP:

Brnabic is expected to take office next week after a parliamentary vote. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic proposed the U.S. and U.K.-educated business and marketing expert Brnabic after he switched from premier to president in April.

Analysts say Brnabic’s nomination is Vucic’s tactic to please the West after his recent apparent shift toward Russia. He has formally proclaimed European Union membership a “strategic goal.”

A ruling official Aleksandar Martinovic said in parliament on Saturday he expected Brnabic’s government to continue Vucic’s policies of EU integration, while also deepening ties with Russia and China.

A bit more from the Independent:

Ms Brnabic is currently government minister of public administration and local government.

Her appointment into government last year was hailed by human rights groups as historic for the country whose gay community continues to face discrimination, harassment and violence.

In an analysis for EU Observer, Dejan Anastasijevic writes that because Brnabic “liked to stress that she is not an activist,” her being gay “was met with relatively little resistance, apart from from grumbles by ultraconservatives in the Serbian Orthodox Church and by fringe far-right parties.” Anastasijevic notes that some have suggestion that her elevation was “designed to mask the president’s crackdowns on the opposition and on free press from the West” and that opposition from within the party will make Brnabic dependent on the president for her power.

Mexico: Lawmakers, ambassadors, and a governor celebrate Pride

Mexico City’s pride march on Saturday was attended by some 35,000 people, including several federal lawmakers and the ambassadors from the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In Jalisco earlier this month, Gov. Aristotle Sandoval participated in Guadalajara’s Pride celebration and wrote about it on his Facebook page:

Today, along with thousands of families, I participated in the march of LGBT + pride.

I shared with them to recognize diversity, and by example, to call on society to collapse together all the taboos and to overcome discourses of hatred and discrimination.

I am certain that in Jalisco we must celebrate love regardless of gender, identity or sexual preference.

I also believe that the values ​​that characterize us as a society have room for tolerance, respect and brotherhood.

It is time for policymakers to speak clearly, that we should not be afraid to fix positions in front of society; Only then will we be able to break through the gaps of an intolerant past and open ourselves to an inclusive present.

In Jalisco the rights of the LGBT + community must be respected and expanded. Love will never destroy, it is hate that separates and divides us. You, whose side are you on?

Milenio published a timeline of important events in what it calls the LGBTTTI movement, beginning with the creation of the first gay rights group in 1971. Among the items: “The Papal nuncio in Mexico declared in 1985: “AIDS is the punishment that God sends to those who ignore His laws … homosexuality is one of the greatest vices condemned by the Church …”

Politico.mx has profiled “10 LGBTTTI politicians working for sexual diversity.”

Israel: Police arrest knife-wielding man near city’s first Pride celebration

Times of Israel reported that 3,500 people, protected by “hundreds” of police, border guards and volunteers, took part in “the first-ever Gay Pride parade in the southern city of Beersheba” on June 22:

Two ultra-Orthodox men, one carrying a knife, were arrested nearby. One was found armed with a knife in the vicinity of the parade and the second had attempted to forcibly enter the procession.

According to the Walla news website, the two were later released.

Police had earlier arrested a teenager for a Facebook posting warning of an attack on the parade.

Ireland: Gay Prime Minister joins Pride celebration

The country’s new Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, the gay son of an Indian immigrant father and Irish mother, took part in Dublin’s Pride celebration. More from RTÉ:

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will use the office of Taoiseach to advance the cause of LGBT rights and to press for marriage equality across Ireland.

Mr Varadkar was addressing thousands of people attending the annual Pride festival in Dublin.

Organisers of Dublin LGBTQ Pride Parade said 30,000 people took part in this year’s event.

Ukraine: Heavy police presence protects Pride marchers from ultra-nationalists

More than 5,000 police protected an estimated 2,500 pride marchers in Kyiv this month; “a few hundred ultranationalists” got into scuffles with police but did not disrupt the celebration. Ambassadors from Britain and Canada also attended.

Canada: Government will expunge convictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government would “expunge criminal convictions against Canadians once charged with crimes based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Lithuania: Rejection of partnership legislation nevertheless suggests progress

Earlier this month the parliament rejected legislation that would have introduced registered life partnerships, but the Lithuanian Gay League said the vote margin indicated growing support for same-sex couples.

Georgia: Council of Europe legal commission evaluates draft constitution

The Venice Commission, described as “the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs,” released its opinion on a draft constitution for Georgia. The Commission noted that the constitutional provision defining marriage as “a union between a woman and a man” should “in no case be interpreted as prohibiting same sex partnership.” The Commission adds, “Georgia like any other CoE member state is obliged to comply with ECHR standards and therefore must provide legal recognition (such as civil unions or registered partnerships for same sex couples).”