World Congress of Families Blessed By Georgian Orthodox Patriarch and George W. Bush; Global LGBT Recap

The Human Dignity Trust has released a report, Breaking the Silence: Criminalisation of Lesbians and Bisexual Women and its Impacts, which it says is “the first ever global in-depth analysis of how laws against homosexuality specifically impact lesbians and bisexual women.”

In addition to and linked with the generalised gender-based discrimination they face as women, lesbians and bisexual women are affected by the societal norms and expectations of compulsory heterosexuality. Countries that criminalise LGBT people tend to retain these (in most cases, imported) laws due to a conservative populace. Majoritarian views opposing homosexuality may be based on a belief that it subverts the natural order, a belief also deemed immoral by most interpretations of major religious texts.

World Congress of Families

The World Congress of Families’ annual global summit of anti-LGBT social conservatives is being held in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, this week. The event is likely to have a pro-Putin and anti-European feel, given that many WCF groups have praised the anti-gay policies of Russia under Putin. The WCF website has featured a quote from local sponsor Levan Vasadze saying, “The West is attacking our Christian culture with atheism, new forms of socialism and sexual radicalism – worse than what we saw during the last 25 years when we were part of the Soviet empire.” Georgia’s Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II is scheduled to address the gathering.

In an in-depth preview of the conference, EurasiaNet’s Giorgi Lomsadze notes that the conference is timed to coincide with a 2013 attack on LGBT rights activists by a mob led by Orthodox priests. “Vasadze participated and is alleged to have helped organize the 2013 attack that relegated Georgia’s nascent LGBTQ-rights movement to the periphery of national discourse,” Lomsadze writes.

The Christian Broadcasting Network featured a preview of the conference, with televangelist Pat Robertson saying “the fact that the European Union and the U.S. is trying to impose this lifestyle on a little country like Georgia that wants to stay Orthodox is incredible.” Former U.S. President George W. Bush has also lent the event his support to the event, which will honor Bush with a “Family and Democracy” award.

United Methodist Church General Conference

More than 100 United Methodist clergy came out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual last Monday as the denomination’s General Conference got under way, an act of defiance given that the denomination’s Book of Discpline states that the “practice of homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” From CNN’s report:

In a public letter posted online, 111 pastors, deacons, elders and candidates for ministry said church rules require “that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities.”

“While some of us have been lucky to serve in places where we could serve honestly and openly, there are others in places far more hostile, who continue to serve faithfully even at tremendous cost to themselves, their families, and yes, even the communities they serve, who do not receive the fullness of their pastor’s gifts because a core part must remain hidden,” the letter continues.

The self-outing came one day before the United Methodist Church, one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations, convenes its quadrennial General Conference in Portland, Oregon.

From May 10-20, more than 800 delegates will debate changes to church policy, including several that seek to lift longstanding bans on LGBT ministers and same-sex marriages. This is the first Methodist General Conference since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015.

LGBT-affirming Methodists have failed to change church policy, with the denomination’s numerical strength now in the south – both the southern U.S. and the global south:

For decades, liberal Methodists have tried — and failed — to change church rules on homosexuality, and it may prove impossible again at this month’s General Conference. While American Methodists are diverse — both George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton are members — Methodists in Africa tend towards conservative views on sexual ethics, arguing that Scripture prohibits same-sex relationships.

The United Methodist Church has about 7 million members in the U.S. and nearly 5 million in Africa, where the faith is reportedly growing fast. Some 40% of the delegates at the General Conference in Portland will be from overseas.

A council of African bishops issued a statement last September urging Methodists to “submit to the teachings of Scripture that God designed marriage to be between man and woman.”


At General Conference so far, delegates rejected a proposed Rule 44, designed to provide an alternative to Robert’s Rules of Order for group discernment on complex issues, providing for small group discussion to allow more voices to be heard. This has been described as the debate about how to debate sexuality. From the Methodist News Service:

Last year the commission, in announcing its outline for the proposal, also announced it would recommend setting aside legislation related to human sexuality for possible consideration using the new process.The proposal became known as Rule 44 simply because it was the last of 44 rules the commission proposed for conference business. General Conference delegates approved the first 43 rules, after their own ups and downs, late on May 10.

Thus, an arcane procedural debate became, for many United Methodists, mainly about long-simmering differences regarding ministry with gay and lesbian individuals. A new rule aimed at fostering trust among church decision-makers ended up facing considerable distrust and pushback.

Advocates for LGBT inclusion in the church have protested and asked for a public apology for the way the debate has unfolded.

New Zealand: Anglican Synod Fails to Approve Marriage Blessings for Same-Sex Couples

Gay Anglicans and their allies were upset after an Anglican Synod failed to approve the blessing of same-sex couples’ marriages, reports the Herald’s Simon Collins.

St Matthew’s vicar Rev Helen Jacobi, who was an observer at the General Synod in Napier, said: “Today I hang my head in shame.”

Massey University social work professor Mark Henrickson, who led a research project on New Zealand’s gay community, said he was a lifelong Anglican but withdrew from the Church two years ago when it set up a working party on how to “bless” gay unions without actually marrying them in church.

“I have disassociated myself from the Church for the last two years since the last General Synod and I don’t see any reason to amend that decision now,” he said.

This week’s synod voted to set up yet another working party to report back on the issue at the next synod in 2018….

Massey University religious scholar Professor Peter Lineham, a member of the Auckland Rainbow Community Church which meets at St Matthew’s, said the synod appeared to have been spooked by a petition from the conservative Fellowship of Professing Anglicans which was seen as a threat to secede if gay marriages were blessed.

The postponement was seen as a last-ditch effort by local bishops to avoid a split, but one conservative leader said that is unlikely given the irreconcilable differences on doctrine.

He said parishes in every diocese might leave if the Church eventually approved blessing gay marriages.

“It just seems to me there is no way out because you can’t have two opposing positions,” he said.

But an advocate of change pointed to steps taken by Anglicans in Canada and Scotland, saying, “We are simply waiting until the voice of the hardline conservatives is too old and too tired to speak any more,” he said. “I think that time will come.”

Italy: Civil Unions Bill Passes, Catholic Archbishop Warns of ‘Creeping Fascism’

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote to force parliamentary action on a civil unions bill. Reuters reports:

Italy is the last major Western country to legally recognize gay couples and an original draft law had to be heavily diluted due to divisions in Renzi’s ruling majority.

The bill had faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups who said it went too far, while gay activists said it was too timid….

The ‘stepchild adoption’ clause was arguably the most disputed aspect of the bill. It stoked outrage among social conservatives and Catholics who saw it as a step toward legalizing surrogate motherhood, which is illegal in Italy.

The new legislation allows courts to grant homosexuals parental rights regarding each other’s children in certain circumstances, a practice which has led to a handful of recent rulings in favor of homosexual parents.

A survey conducted shortly after the bill passed the Senate suggested it reflected the views of most Italians.

Shortly after the vote, deputies from conservative opposition parties said they would call for a referendum to cancel the new legislation.

The bill also gives some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples.

Catholic Church officials attacked passage of the civil unions legislation, with Archbishop Michele Pennisi warning of “creeping fascism.” Archbishop Bruno Forte said, “It is certainly a defeat and also an impoverishment of democratic life” and said families need to be based on “the fundamental reciprocity between man and woman.” At Pink News, Nick Duffy reports, “Right-wing lawmakers and the anti-LGBT lobby in Italy are plotting to force a referendum” on the new law.

Sri Lanka: Group With Record of Hostility to Religious Minorities Threatens to Attack Pride Celebration

A far-right group has threatened that it will attack a pride celebration scheduled to be held in Colombo in June. The Tamil Guardian posted translations of Facebook posts from the group Sinhale:

“How many fags do we have here in Colombo? NGOs are obtaining a good dowry from embassies. They are going to attempt to put this filth into the minds of our Sinhala people and make us all extinct.”

“The scum of the earth f**kers who hide behind colourful rainbow flags are preparing to have an event from June 10th to 18th, and before that they’re preparing to try and legalise faggot f**kery.”

“Faggot activities aren’t legal. Let’s take the law into our own hands. If the police aren’t going to do anything about it our community is ready to do it ourselves. We will not let these mother f**king dogs to ruin our culture. Ladies and Gents of Sinhale, join us on the 28th to look at the faces of these faggots at Race course.”

Earlier this year the Sunday Leader reported that a Sinhale campaign was raising concerns that it was inciting hostility and violence against religious minorities like Muslims and Christians. The Sinhalese are the predominant ethnic group in Sri Lanka, and most are Theravada Buddhists.


Bangladesh: Suspect with radical Islamist ties arrested in murder of gay journalist

Policy announced on Sunday that they have arrested a suspect in the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, a USAID employee, editor and gay rights activist stabbed to death with a friend last month. Details from Associated Press:

Police identified the suspect as Shariful Islam Shihab, a former member of the banned Islamic group Harkatul Jihad. They said he joined another militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, in mid-2015.

Shihab, 37, was arrested in the southwestern district of Kushtia, Munirul Islam, head of a newly formed police counterterrorism unit, told a news conference. He did not give any further details.

There have been a series of recent attacks targeting atheists, moderates and foreigners in Bangladesh. Only one of 15 such killings has been prosecuted since 2013.

Shihab reportedly told police he had committed the murders under orders from his group’s leaders.

Bermuda: Referendum on Civil Unions, Marriage Equality Set for June 23

Premier Michael Dunkley has set June 23 as the date for a referendum that will ask voters to vote on two questions: do they favor same-sex marriage and do they favor civil unions. According to the Royal Gazette, the group Preserve Marriage says its campaign “will likely encourage voters to answer ‘no’ to both questions.” The group’s chairman said the group will use paid advertising in addition to its support from churches:

“We have got all the churches for United for Change and all the constituents that signed our petition,” Mr Hall said. “That was almost 10,000. That’s what we are seeking to be: a voice for people who want to preserve traditional marriage.”

Europe: EU & Dutch Officials Criticize Anti-LGBT Legislation in U.S.

Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Bert Koenders criticized anti-LGBT legislation passed by several U.S. states.

“The U.S. is one of our most important allies in the field of protection of human rights world wide. The Netherlands hopes that this legislation will be reconsidered as soon as possible.” Koenders continued…A few weeks ago Dutch LGBT groups asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue travel advice over America, warning LGBT travelers about these discriminatory laws.

The state laws were also criticized by the European Union:

The recently adopted laws including in the states of Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee, which discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the United States contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a State party, and which states that the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection.

As a consequence, cultural, traditional or religious values cannot be invoked to justify any form of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI persons. These laws should be reconsidered as soon as possible.

The European Union reaffirms its commitment to the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We will continue to work to end all forms of discrimination and to counter attempts to embed or enhance discrimination wherever it occurs around the world.”

Germany: Govt Will Annul 50,000 Convictions Under Sodomy Laws, Compensate Survivors

The government announced that it will annul the convictions of about 50,000 men convicted between 1946 and 1969 under former laws banning gay sex, which dated to 1871. It will pay some financial compensation to those who are still alive.

Russia: Who’s Killing Gay Journalists?

The Daily Beast’s Anna Nemtsova asks, “Who’s Killing Gay Journalists in Russia?”

“With two journalists dead at the hands of strange men—including a Hitler-loving ultranationalist—Russia’s LGBT community is worried about a string of possible hate crimes,” says the story, which notes that at least 17 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2012. “People have got used to journalists’ murders,” one analyst said.

Mexico: More Marriage

The complicated legal march of marriage equality continues in Mexico. Gay couples in the state of Sonora will no longer have to seek an injunction, or amparo, from the federal courts in order to get married. The first same-sex couple to get married last year in the state of Baja California are now advocating for LGBT legal protections including adoption by same-sex couples. Journalist Rex Wockner explains the complex legal scenario and monitors ongoing developments.

Bahamas: Prime Minister Says ‘Not in My Lifetime’ to Marriage Equality

As controversy flares over the impact of a proposed constitutional amendment, Prime Minister Perry Christie “insisted that same-sex marriage will never happen in the Bahamas during his lifetime.”

Scotland: Most Gay-Friendly Country in Europe?

Scotland was named the most gay-friendly country in Europe in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index.

Portugal: Law Allows Lesbians Access to Artificial Insemination

Lawmakers voted to allow lesbian women access to artificial insemination.

Philippines: First Transgender Member of Congress Elected

Geraldine Roman became the first transgender person elected to a congressional seat in the Philippines.  Elected to the presidency was Rodrigo Duterte, a strongman mayor who has bragged about the number of extrajudicial killings during his tenure. Duterte has spoken in favor of LGBT equality and said he would consider legalizing marriage for same-sex coples.

Cuba: U.S. Activists Join Mariela Castro For Pride Events

Evan Wolfson, the American activists who master-minded the campaign for marriage equality in the U.S., joined other activists in Cuba for LGBT pride celebrations. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, led a march in Havana on Saturday.

Cambodia: Report Says Discrimination Leaves LGBT People in Poverty

Micro Rainbow International and CamASEAN Youth’s Future released a report showing that discrimination and exclusion from educational and economic opportunities and services lead to disproportionate levels of unemployment and poverty for LGBT people.

Turkey and Syria: Report on Mr. Gay Syria Competition

The Daily Mail’s Isabel Hunter reports on a Mr. Gay Syria competition held in Istanbul, Turkey, as a show of defiance against Islamic State militants who have waged an execution campaign against gay men in Syria. The competition’s winner says his boyfriend was beheaded by ISIS. The article is accompanied by photos by Bradley Secker.

Japan: Diplomats Join Pride Celebration

US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and other diplomats spoke at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade last Sunday.