Politics and Society Notes: May 2017

May 1, 2017 in General

Toronto: A research team has tried to discover a biological link between gay men and their sexual role preference. A group of scientists at the University of Toronto Mississauga Investigated variation within the population of gay men based on their anal-sex roles, and their findings might surprise you. The results of the study suggested that there are biological subgroups among gay men – implying that biological makeup could be a direct influence on whether a man likes to top or bottom. It was discovered that men who prefer to bottom are more likely to have been gender non-conforming from an early age, and non-right handed. They also tend to have a higher proportion of older male siblings.

A research paper released back in January written by New York Medical College’s David A. Moskowitz echoed the results, and found “that sexual position self-label was learned over a 15-year time-span”

Speaking to Jezebel, Moskowitz explained: “I specifically conducted [the “Recognition and Construction of Top, Bottom, and Versatile Orientations in Gay/Bisexual Men”] study to try to prove that anal penetrative role was far more innate than ever thought. We wanted to suggest that role, not unlike sexual orientation, was predetermined by biological factors.

“We found both in the chronology of gay and bisexual men’s self-labeling of their penetrative roles and in their attitudinal measures, evidence to suggest that understanding and assigning a role developed over time. Role orientation was essentially socialized by reactions to sexual trials, with adjustments made in label according to positive and negative outcome efficacies. Put simply, the more good or bad sexual experiences, over time, lead people to a role. I still ardently believe that biology plays a vital role in predisposing individuals towards more of a bottom or top orientation,” he added.

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

Christchurch: A bylaw restricting street prostitution will open Christchurch City Council up to legal challenges and could violate the Bill of Rights, a staff report says.

The council is trying to figure out how to prevent prostitutes working in residential areas after numerous complaints from residents in St Albans and the central city.

The residents are upset at having to clean up faeces, used condoms, needles and used wet wipes left in their letterboxes. Their children have been woken up by prostitutes yelling and singing to each other and arguing with clients over prices.

St Albans resident Matt Bonis pleaded with council last month to enforce the public places bylaw, but a staff report to be discussed by council at a meeting on Thursday said street sex work was a difficult commercial activity for the council to investigate and enforce under that bylaw.

“The council would need to prove a commercial activity is occurring in a public place,” the report said.

The report said with street-based sex work, the commercial transaction/activity being undertaken for payment often did not happen in a public place. It happened on empty private property and in cars.

Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz

Ottawa: Senior Canadian immigration authorities are grappling with how Canada can help gay men from Chechnya escape persecution — but they haven’t had any direct requests for resettlement, according to a Canadian senior official.

“It’s something where we want to work discreetly, carefully, as cases arise,” David Manicom, the associate assistant deputy minister for the immigration department’s strategic and program policy, told Canada’s Daily Xtra (May 3). Manicom’s comments came moments after addressing the House immigration committee about a separate resettlement program, though MPs asked him what Canada has done so far to bring gay men from the authoritarian Russian region to safety.

“We are working closely with our embassy in Moscow and other international partners, such that if urgent protection cases come to our attention, we would be able to respond appropriately,” Manicom told the committee. “We have not had any cases identified to us at this time.”

On April 18, the Toronto-based group Rainbow Railroad asked the federal government to create a program to evacuate gay Chechens, such as giving them emergency visas so they could get to Canada, make an asylum claim here and have a refugee hearing. Canadian diplomats in Moscow are in touch with local groups and aware of safe houses in Russia for gay Chechens, but said that no one’s come forward with a formal request for getting to Canada.

“We can’t reach out and put them on a plane to Canada in any obvious way,” Manicom says. Senior officials worry about exacerbating the problem in Chechnya, he adds, because everyone leaving Russia faces questioning at a border post.

“If they go to the airport with a Canadian document and they’re refused exit, would we actually be helping the community?” Manicom asks.

He also suggests that Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov could retaliate. “[If] Canada decides to embarrass him internationally, do we help those individuals? Or does he, say, stop torturing them and put a bullet to the back of their head? And I’m not speaking melodramatically.”

And though Manicom says Canada could resettle some gay Chechen men, people from the region require extra screening, he says.

“Chechnya’s an extraordinarily nasty place. No one would want to bring individuals from Chechnya without a very careful security screening,” he says. “We want to bring the victims, not the perpetrators.”

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

London: A former British Conservative politician who told school students homosexuality is “wrong” has issued no apology. Andrew Turner was forced to step down following the controversy, after serving as the Isle of Wight’s MP for 16 years. The row emerged when a 16-year-old politics student posted on Facebook that Mr Turner had made homophobic comments while visiting her school. Mr Turner, 63 (pictured below), told told A Level students that homosexuality is “dangerous to society” during a discussion about Isle of Wight Pride, according to On the Wight. Now his own party activists have turned on him as he refuses to issue a public apology.
Ewan Smith-Wainwright, a gay Conservative candidate in the area, has labelled the now ex politician as “abhorrent”.
He said in a statement: “It is deeply upsetting to hear such abhorrent remarks made by someone who is elected to represent the views of the island people.
“I would like to say as a young gay man I faced a lot of homophobia and discrimination growing up and it is deeply concerning that views like this are still being expressed in 2017, when I thought the world has moved on.”
Mr Smith-Wainwright added: “These views are not shared by me or any member of the Isle of Wight Conservative Group as it was the Conservative government that legalised same sex marriage.
“I would reject any comments that states that is the view of the Island Conservatives.”
Conservative Party insiders, speaking to PinkNews, said that Andrew Turner “resigned before he was pushed” following the row.
They added: “There’s no place in the party for such views.”
Despite being forced to step down, he has not made any comment in public withdrawing the claim that it is “wrong” to be gay.
A-Level politics student Toby Sheard, 17, who witnessed the comments, told PinkNews: “Once the meeting was over it hit me what he had said, I was a danger, it was wrong to treat me as normal.
“This form of attitude shouldn’t be allowed in our society, especially in our government.
“Later in the meeting, I tried to push him for why he held this belief, he dodged the question three times until admitting it was for a religious reason.
“The fact that we have MPs with these views in our governing party scares me that we could easily see ourselves going back into the past.”
In a statement issued hours after the row, Andrew Turner wrote: “It has been my privilege to serve the people of the Isle of Wight as their Member of Parliament.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to represent such a beautiful constituency.
“After 16 years I have come to the decision that it time for a new generation to take up the mantle of representing my fantastic constituents.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Dublin: The Anglican Church of Ireland is bitterly divided over plans to introduce ‘thanksgiving’ ceremonies for same-sex couples.
A motion is set to be debated at the all-Ireland church’s General Synod on Friday that would liberalise policies towards LGBT people.
The motion would direct Bishops to “investigate a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples at key moments in their lives”.

The motion would not open the door to a tacit ceremony for same-sex unions. The proposal also recognises the “injury felt by members of the church who enter into loving, committed and legally recognised, same-sex relationships, due to the absence of provision for them to mark that key moment in their lives publicly and prayerfully in church”.
It will be heard at a meeting of the church’s General Synod, which takes place in Limerick this week. The Belfast Newsletter notes that it would be the first major vote on LGBT issues since 2012, when the synod passed a resolution defining marriage as being “between one man and one woman”.
The motion has already bitterly divided the church.

Writing for Virtue Online, Rev. Dr. Alan McCann, rector of Holy Trinity Woodburn in Carrickfergus, claimed it was “embracing the sinful way of life” and could lead to an “exodus” from the church. He wrote: “The potential… is actually to bring disunity, division and dare one say it a possible schism in the Church of Ireland.
“[There] are definite lines drawn in the Church of Ireland on this issue and that neither side will give ground, and rightly so.”
He added: “We are deluded as a Church if we believe that by embracing this sinful way of life we are going to fill our church pews each week. The very opposite is true. In my own parish, I have already lost families who no longer wished to belong to a denomination that could not be clear on the plain teaching of the Bible on sexual matters, and I fear that may well become and exodus in the future. I take no delight in seeing the Church of Ireland in such turmoil. I foresee even more turmoil and pain ahead. I cannot see this motion doing other than causing deep hurt and division, irrespective of how the vote goes.

Same-sex marriage became legal in the Republic of Ireland in 2015 after a referendum, but gay weddings continue to be illegal in Northern Ireland due to a veto from the Democratic Unionist Party. Following the collapse of the government in Northern Ireland, the DUP has laid down a ban on same-sex marriage as a ‘red line’ in the country’s ongoing power-sharing talks.
The DUP is required to form a new power-sharing government with second-largest party, Sinn Féin – but talks have repeatedly stalled.
Sinn Féin’s named equal marriage a “key issue” in the talks to form a new power-sharing government, but the DUP has refused to give any ground.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Washington DC: 240 members of Congress have put their weight behind a bill to outlaw anti-LGBT discrimination in the United States.
There are currently no federal-level protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the US.
This means that it is legal to fire people or deny them services for being gay in more than 30 states due to patchy state-level protections.
The Democrats have repeatedly tried to add LGBT rights protections to existing anti-discrimination civil rights laws, but Republicans in Congress have blocked both the Equality Act and its predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The Democrats today staged a high profile relaunch for the Equality Act legislation, though hopes are not high that the legislation will pass given the Republican majorities in both houses.

The Human Rights Campaign describes the bill as “bipartisan legislation”, but in the previous session it was backed by just three Republican lawmakers.
HRC says the law would “provide clear and equal protections under federal law for all Americans in vital areas of life, like employment, access to public spaces, housing, credit, education, jury service, and federally-funded programs.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “No person’s fundamental rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on.
“The Equality Act will once and for all end the unacceptable patchwork of non-discrimination laws across this country that leaves LGBTQ people at risk.
“Every American should have a fair chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live their lives without fear of discrimination. And at its core, that’s what the Equality Act is all about.”
HRC points to polling that shows the overwhelming majority of Americans still support anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
Polling released last year by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that support for a bill like the Equality Act topped 70 percent nationally, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. The survey found majority support for the Equality Act in all 50 states.
However, on a state level, opponents of LGBT rights have had some success derailing debates around discrimination protections by using scaremongering tactics around transgender people in bathrooms.
A horrific ad in support of Republicans in Texas and North Carolina depicted the rape of a little girl in an attack on LGBT rights protections.
LGBT activists will be keen to avoid a similar tactic being employed on a national scale, and will emphasise the broad base of corporate support for the law.
90 of America’s most influential corporations have backed the law, including Unilever, Coca-Cola and Google.
They are Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; Accenture; Adobe Systems Inc.; Advanced Micro Devices Inc.; Airbnb Inc.; Alcoa Inc.; Amazon.com Inc.; American Airlines; American Eagle Outfitters; American Express Global Business Travel; Apple Inc.; Arconic; Automatic Data Processing Inc.; Bank of America; Best Buy Co., Inc.; Biogen; Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp.; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.; Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc.; Brown-Forman Corp.; CA Technologies Inc.; Caesars Entertainment Corp.; Capital One Financial Corp.; Cardinal Health Inc.; Cargill Inc.; Chevron Corp.; Choice Hotels International Inc.; Cisco Systems Inc.; The Coca-Cola Co.; Corning Inc.; Cox Enterprises; CVS Health Corp.; Darden Restaurants Inc.; Delhaize America Inc.; Diageo North America; The Dow Chemical Co.; Dropbox Inc.; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont); eBay; EMC Corp.; Facebook Inc.; Gap Inc.; General Electric Co.; General Mills Inc.; Google Inc.; The Hershey Company; Hewlett Packard Enterprises; Hilton Worldwide Inc.; HP Inc.; HSN Inc.; Hyatt Hotels Corp.; IBM Corp.; Intel Corp.; InterContinental Hotels Group Americas; Johnson & Johnson; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Kaiser Permanente; Kellogg Co.; Kenneth Cole Productions; Levi Strauss & Co.; Marriott International Inc.; MasterCard Inc.; McGraw Hill Financial; Microsoft Corp.; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Monsanto Co.; Moody’s Corp.; Nike Inc.; Northrop Grumman Corp.; Office Depot Inc.; Oracle Corp.; Orbitz Worldwide Inc.; PepsiCo Inc.; Procter & Gamble Co.; Pure Storage Inc.; Qualcomm Inc.; Replacements Ltd.; Salesforce; SAP America Inc.; Sodexo Inc.; Symantec Corp.; T-Mobile USA Inc.; Target Corp.; Tech Data Corp.; TIAA; Twitter Inc.; Uber Technologies Inc.; Unilever; Warby Parker; Wedding Wire Inc.; Williams-Sonoma Inc.; and Xerox Corp.
Democrat Hillary Clinton had promised to prioritise passing the Equality Act if elected President.
Democrats promised the LGBT anti-discrimination bill would be a “top priority,” suggesting it could be discussed in the House within the first 100 days of a Clinton presidency.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Canberra: Australia’s Equality Campaign has launched a new petition asking people of faith in Australia to sign in support of marriage equality. The petition is in the form of a public letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and calls on him to make civil marriage equality a reality for every Australian.

“We believe we are all equal, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status,” the letter reads.
“As people of faith we understand that marriage is based on the values of love and commitment and we support civil marriage equality, not despite, but because of our faith and values. We support a change to the legal definition of civil marriage to include LGBTI people’s relationships and families, a change that the majority of Australians support.”

Most Australians of faith already support marriage equality including the majority of Christians at 59 per cent as well as followers of other religions at 75 per cent. The Equality Campaign aims to collect between 500 and 1,000 names by Friday 9 June.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Vancouver: A Vancouver man is warning gay men to be aware while cruising in public, after he says a hookup robbed him.He says he’s afraid to go to the RCMP for fear of being charged for public sex, but a spokesperson for the Burnaby RCMP insists they will not charge men who report a crime while cruising.

Chris, who withheld his last name for fear he’ll be prosecuted for public sex otherwise , alleges a man stole his wallet and then started a physical fight over it after they hooked up. Chris says the night he was robbed, he dropped by the popular cruising area in Burnaby’s Central Park, where he met a man he’d hooked up with previously and even chatted with at the Pumpjack pub in Vancouver’s gay village. This time, Chris says he and the man gave each other blowjobs, before they joined a third man. Soon, the third man invited Chris to follow him to another spot where they could have sex.

“I went to follow him and pulled up my pants, and at that point I noticed my wallet was missing. I thought it must have fallen out,” Chris says.

After retracing his steps and searching with the help of other men in the area, Chris gave up. But when he returned to the parking lot and began to drive away, Chris says he saw the first man sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, looking down in his lap.

“I pulled over aside him and I rolled down my window because I wanted to let him know I lost my wallet and couldn’t find it — to see if he saw anything,” Chris says.

That’s when Chris alleges he saw the contents of his wallet in the other man’s possession. Chris says he demanded his things back, but the man denied having them.The two struggled, Chris alleges, as the man tried to slam the door on him, while Chris punched him in the face and elbowed him in the gut to get him to release the wallet and cards. With his cards and wallet back, Chris says he got back in his car, locked the door and drove away. Chris says he was hesitant to call the RCMP about the alleged robbery attempt. A friend cautioned him that although Vancouver police tend to leave cruising alone, Burnaby RCMP could possibly charge Chris for illegal public sex.

But RCMP Corporal Daniela Panesar says the RCMP would not respond by charging victims of robbery.

“I can assure you that is not a consideration when police are looking at investigations. Guaranteed,” Panesar says. “If somebody is assaulted and robbed, that’s an offense regardless of what kind of activity they were participating in and it would be investigated as such.” Was Chris’ concern about getting charged justified? Ms Panesar she said she doesn’t think so but is fairly new to the Burnaby detachment and unfamiliar with any policing around sex in Central Park. But she reiterated that any assault or robbery should be reported and police would take the claims seriously. Panesar advises anyone in Burnaby to report similar incidents to the RCMP.

Chris is now cautioning gay men to be aware while cruising:

“When it’s someone you’ve done stuff with before you sort of feel safer, and that can be misleading because obviously I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did. I thought, we’ve done stuff before, I’ve chatted with him at a bar. I thought, oh he’s safe, I don’t need to worry. But I was totally wrong.”

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

United States: A United Methodist Church court has ruled that the consecration of an out lesbian bishop violated denominational law. The bishop, Karen P. Oliveto, remains in her post, but further proceedings could result in her suspension or forced retirement, The New York Times reports. The church’s Judicial Council, its highest court, announced the 6-3 ruling Friday. It found that Oliveto and the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction, which consecrated her, violated their “commitment to abide by and uphold the church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality.”

“Under the longstanding principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore or negate church law,” the ruling read. “It is not lawful for the College of Bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”

The Western Jurisdiction elected and consecrated Oliveto last year in defiance of church law, making her the first member of the LGBT population to become a Methodist bishop. She was assigned to oversee about 400 churches in several western states.

The South Central Jurisdiction quickly challenged her election, leading to Friday’s ruling, the Times reports. The Judicial Council heard the case Tuesday in Newark, N.J.

Oliveto’s future is now in the hands of her fellow bishops of the Western Jurisdiction, as the Judicial Council ordered them to review her status. Before becoming a bishop, she was pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco an associate dean of the ecumenical Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. She is married to another clergy member, Rev. Robin Ridenour.

In separate rulings, the Judicial Council ordered boards of ordained ministry in New York and Illinois to ask candidates for the ministry about their sexuality and reject those would are LGBT “or in any other way violating the church’s standards on marriage and sexuality.” The boards had adopted an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy last year, but the council ordered them to reverse that, according to the Times.

The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., has been deeply divided over LGBT issues. Methodist doctrine states that “the practice of homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” but there are many openly LGBT, partnered clergy members in the denomination. At the church’s General Conference in 2016, delegates decided to delay action on changing this policy, with the hierarchy instead setting up a special commission to study issues of sexuality. The General Conference is usually held every four years, but this week the church announced it will hold a special session in February 2019 in St. Louis to deal with sexuality issues, the Times reports.

Oliveto did not respond to a Times request for an interview, and other bishops of the Western Jurisdiction planned to release a response today. Several supporters of LGBT inclusion, however, denounced the Judicial Council’s decision.

Its “reassertion of the system-wide discrimination that targets LGBTQ people compounds the weight and force of our punitive language and policies,” Matt Berryman, executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for LGBT equality in the denomination, wrote in a Saturday blog post. “We must never lose sight of the tremendous scandal that lies at the heart of the church’s policies embedded in disgust, shame, and fear. There is not now, nor has there ever been, any excuse or justifiable reason to condone or sanction the mistreatment of LGBTQ persons.”

He expressed hope, though, about the upcoming special session of the General Conference. The Judicial Council rulings, he predicted, are mere “stops along the way to inclusion and the eventual victory of the all embracing gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Source: http://www.advocate.com

Kentucky: A Kentucky judge has said he will not hear any adoption cases involving gay parents.
Judge Mitchel Nance, a family court judge, ruled out presiding cases which involved hopeful gay parents because he believes that “under no circumstance” would “the best interest of the child be promoted by the adoption by a practicing homosexual”. Nance disqualified himself from judging these cases by using an ethical clause that insists any practicing judge must remove themselves from a case if they have any personal prejudice or bias.
This means that any gay parents looking to adopt in the Barren and Metcalfe counties of Kentucky will have to request a special judge.
The judge explained that he hoped by doing this cases involving gay parents would not be filed within his court and therefore help to “avoid long delays”.
John T. Alexander, a circuit judge, has insisted that he would hear any adoption cases which are impacted by the move.
Same-sex couple were permitted to adopt legally in all 50 states last year after Mississippi’s ban was deemed unconstitutional and was lifted.
However, the South Dakota senate just passed a bill to legalise anti-LGBT discrimination with adoption.
The bill, SB149, was passed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee earlier this year.
It has been heavily criticised by human rights advocates, who say it equates to a “license to discriminate” based on LGBT+ status.
It could also lead to agencies refusing to provide mental or medical health care to LGBT+ children.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Manchester: A vicar in the Church of England has clammed the church for its “homophobic” practice and quit to be with his partner.
53-year-old Andrew Foreshew-Cain decided to leave the church which he has since branded “institutionally homophobic” in a move that he hopes will change the CofE’s policy on gay clergy members.
Foreshew-Cain resigned from his position as a parish priest and a member of the General Synod so that he could be with his partner, whom he is married to, when they move to Manchester.
The former vicar married his partner after being appointed and was told that he could not take up another position if he were to move he would be barred from another paid job.
He wrote a letter to members of the church expressing his “relief” over his decision, and insisted that unless the church changes its ways it will lose its status.
He added that himself and other gay and lesbian clergy members were “barely tolerated”.
“[The church is] an institutional homophobic organisation that kindly denies its policies and practices are deliberately and harmfully discriminatory and wrong.
“I am looking forward to no longer feeling that a significant part of me is rejected by the organisation that I work for and have served faithfully.”
He said that he had faced staunch homophobia, with a priest once telling him “I don’t believe you are a Christian.
“The Church of England is a national church. If it wishes to become a sect and draw up its own rules and not be part of the national life, it is perfectly at liberty to do that, but it can’t continue to claim a role in the national life if it is so at variance with the basic moral principles of the country,” he added.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

London: April 30, 2017 marked twenty years since a neo-Nazi walked into a gay bar in Soho and killed three people. The shocking neofascist nail bombing at The Admiral Duncan in London rocked its LGBT+ community, and sent shockwaves around the country and world. In memory of the three people who tragically lost their lives, a vigil is being held at St Anne’s Gardens in Soho at 6pm today (April 30). The explosion, in the heart of London’s gay district, injured more than 70 people and left three people dead. Andrea Dykes, a 27-year-old who was four months pregnant at the time of the attack, died instantly. Her husband was left injured, while their friend Nik Moore also lost his life.

Their best-man, John Light, later died in hospital from his injuries. The man responsible for the shocking attack, David Copeland, was just 23-years-old when he committed the atrocity. He is serving a minimum of 50 years in prison for his crimes after being found responsible for two other similar bombings. Sharing his reasoning for the attack, he said chillingly: ‘I don’t like minorities, I want them out of this country, I believe in the master race.’

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

London: Not Guilty, Epidemic, 50 Shades of Gay, and Coming Out will be broadcast this year. To mark the anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act in 1967, Channel 4 has announced a series of documentaries that will chronicle the rise of LGBT rights in the UK. The first show, Not Guilty, takes a look at the 15,000 British men who still have a criminal record due to the anti-homosexual laws that were put in place before The Sexual Offences Act. Epidemic will explore the unlikely collaboration between Tory politicians, doctors and gay campaigners, as they came together to fight HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. Rupert Everett leads the third show, 50 Shades of Gay, and will follow the BAFTA nominated star as he interviews gay people of all ages while reflecting on the history of gay life in Britain.

Coming Out, the final show in Channel 4’s programming, will explore how pop music made homosexuality more acceptable in mainstream culture. The Sexual Offences Act was brought to fruition in 1967, and decriminalised homosexual acts in England and Wales between two men, with the law only applying to those over the age of 21. Commissioning Editor for Channel 4, Rob Coldstream, said: “History can tell us as much about the present day as it does about the past and I’m thrilled to announce this slate of programmes – its incredibly wide ranging but at its heart is brilliant new journalism, and a fresh lens onto the past that offers new insights into our own times.”

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Hobart: What can Tasmania teach the rest of Australia about marriage equality? Tasmania was remarkable not only because its laws were so severe and it was the last state to repeal them, but because the campaign for reform was so hotly contested and so emphatically successful. For a decade the issue was in the news every day. Supporters were arrested, opponents held angry rallies and MPs tried many times to navigate bills through Parliament.

As Tasmania fell further behind the rest of the western world, the UN, the federal government and the High Court were all drawn in. There was even an attempt to hold a plebiscite. But when decriminalisation finally occurred there were none of the caveats that were put in place in some other states, the hate campaigns stopped overnight, and soon after decriminalisation Tasmania adopted the best LGBTI anti-discrimination and relationship laws and policies in the nation. These dramatic changes were based on an equally dramatic shift in popular opinion. Tasmanian support for decriminalisation was 15% below the national average when the campaign began and 15% above when it ended. In a few short years, Tasmania went from the worst state on LGBTI human rights to the best.

Many elements of the Tasmanian debate echo in today’s marriage equality debate. Tasmania was last like Australia is last. Tasmania took a decade like Australia has taken a decade. Decriminalisation was in the news constantly, as is marriage equality. Opponents of equality predicted Tasmania would slide down the same slippery slope they say Australia will slide down today. Both campaigns were long slogs against the odds that drew in large numbers of people on both sides. So what can Tasmania teach us about making change today? Here are ten lessons from the successful Tasmanian gay law reform debate that will help us win marriage equality.

1. Liberals can lead

For years, the Tasmanian Liberal Party angrily opposed decriminalising homosexuality. Some Liberals praised the state’s anti-gay laws for their “educative value” while others whipped up hate at anti-gay rallies. That all changed in 1996 when Liberal Premier, Tony Rundle, allowed his MPs a free vote on the issue. It was this free vote that allowed decriminalisation to pass a year later. Since then Tasmanian state Liberals have led the way. Free votes have seen a majority Liberal support LGBTI parenting rights and marriage equality. In April, Will Hodgman became the first Liberal Premier to apologise to those convicted under our former laws.

One key to this transformation was non-partisanship from advocates. Support across political parties was essential to moving decriminalisation forward, as it is for moving marriage equality forward today. It’s vital that we encourage supporters of reform in all parties rather than put our eggs in the basket of one particular party. The other key to the transformation of the Tasmanian Liberals was the 1996 election where it was clear to everyone the Liberals’ opposition to marriage equality had cost them the votes of constituents heartily sick of anti-gay hate. My hope is that the federal Liberals can learn from Tasmanian history and allow a free vote so marriage equality can pass within this term of Government. But if the Liberals don’t learn, and it takes an election where their resistance to change costs them seats, so be it. I’m confident they will be sobered enough by that experience to allow a free vote from then on.

2. The sky didn’t fall in then and it won’t now

Opponents of decriminalisation in Tasmania predicted it would lead to the promotion of gay sex in schools, the normalisation of gay parenting, the legalisation of incest and bestiality, even lost trade opportunities in Asia. Sound familiar? The same slippery slope is predicted by today’s opponents of marriage equality. Of course none of the dire predictions of Tasmania’s anti-gay advocates came true. The sky didn’t fall in then and it won’t fall in now.

In Tasmania we addressed the apocalyptic fears of gay law reform’s opponents directly. For example, when they said teachers would be forced to teach children about anal sex we responded by talking about bullying of LGBTI students and why this should be tackled. As a result, Tasmania adopted some of the nation’s best LGBTI schools policies after decriminalisation. In the same way, marriage equality advocates should see the current attempt to conflate marriage equality and schools as an opportunity, not a challenge. Rather than hoping the Safe Schools fuss will just go away, advocates should be using it to highlight the damage done by anti-LGBTI prejudice in the school yard. This will ensure sensible school policies are adopted, if not before marriage equality occurs, then swiftly after.

Opponents of gay law reform in Tasmania also did something else that was remarkably similar to today: the tried to legitimise their morally bankrupt case by playing the victim. In particular, they tried to make the debate all about their rights and freedoms being taken away, including religious freedom and freedom of speech. In Tasmania that argument gained no traction at all. It was no match for the personal stories LGBTI people told of the pain inflicted by real ill-treatment. The marriage equality campaign has featured some compelling stories of the disadvantage caused by inequality, but it must do more if the faux victim narrative of the opponents of reform is to be disrupted.

3. There are ways around roadblocks

When the Tasmanian Upper House repeatedly and angrily threw out decriminalisation in the early 1990s we decided to go around it. We took Australia’s first case to the UN Human Rights Committee. When the UN decided in our favour we lobbied the federal government to override the Tasmanian laws. When it didn’t go far enough we went to the High Court for the declaration of invalidity we needed.

The marriage equality campaign has drawn on this history. States have tried to pass laws allowing same-sex couples to marry and attempts have been made federally to recognise overseas same-sex marriages under Australian law. As we face yet another roadblock, created by the failure of the Liberal Party to allow a free vote, we must return to these alternate paths. The High Court’s decision against the ACT’s marriage equality bill did not preclude a state same-sex marriage bill that is drafted to be more constitutionally resilient. We should also explore new routes including a case to the UN Human Rights Committee. There is a risk the UNHRC could not find in our favour, but that risk is no greater than the risk we faced with our Tasmanian UN case.

rainbow tasmania

4. Civil disobedience works

When the Hobart City Council banned a gay law reform stall from Salamanca Market in 1988 130 people defied the ban and were arrested. This put the issue on the front page for the first time in Tasmanian history. Six years later when gay men turned themselves in to police with details of their illegal sexual activity, support for decriminalisation solidified in the general population and opponents went from being aggressive proponents of a gay-free Tasmania to increasingly irrelevant defenders of an archaic law.

Civil disobedience worked then and it can work again now. There are many different ways to show principled opposition to discrimination in the Marriage Act. The one constant must be that this disobedience is non-violent, non-confronting and crystal clear in its central message. Anger, arrogance and muddled messages have no place in the kind of civil disobedience that changes lives and nations.

5. Go to the people!

A successful campaign, like a good symphony, relies on different instruments playing harmoniously together. As well as looking at new legislative and judicial paths forward we have to do more grassroots work. In Tasmania LGBTI community members spoke to service clubs, sports groups, political party branches and other organisations across the state. It could be tiring but it made a real difference to public attitudes in a small, interconnected society like Tasmania.

The marriage equality campaign has borrowed this strategy from Tasmania, sending speakers around the nation. These meetings tend to draw people in from across the community and to focus on lobbying local MPs, which is very important. But the reach, and the investment of resources, must be greater. As in Tasmania, local speakers should be addressing established groups in terms that are meaningful to those groups. This is the key to fostering a deeper understanding among Australians about why marriage equality matters so much.

6. Real change comes from forbearance and forgiveness

Even more important than talking to people where they are about what matters to them is how we talk to them. In 2015, when Telstra withdrew further support for marriage equality at the behest of the Catholic Church, a Telstra employee pleaded with me to “call out bigotry where we see it”. I responded by talking about the anti-gay rallies I mentioned earlier. These were harrowing for me because they occurred in the communities I grew up in. I could have dismissed those attending as “bigots” but that would have just reinforced the barriers that were already so destructive.

Instead, I kept reaching out my hand to these communities, over and over for years on end, until it was finally accepted. Yes, that hurt. Yes, it took immense patience and the capacity to forgive. Yes, you need to hold the people you are reaching out to in higher esteem than they hold you. Especially painful was being accused of hating those for whom you only wished the best. But in the end it is all worthwhile. The profound transformation forbearance and forgiveness create is worth every jeer, jibe and scowl along the way.

I took this ethic with me into the marriage equality campaign and I’m proud it took hold. Indeed, advocates in other countries like Ireland and New Zealand have praised the example set in Australia and have adopted it as their own. But the frustration and anger each of us naturally feels at being demeaned and diminished is always with us. We must constantly remind ourselves that when we lambast others instead of reaching out to them the greatest damage is done to ourselves. Every wall we turn away from and every bridge we fail to build cuts us off from a new horizon of hope.

7. Marriage equality is about big things

Another way to win hearts and minds is to make it clear that marriage equality is about big things that really matter. The marriage equality campaign has dwelt on qualities we all value, love and commitment, fairness and equal opportunity. But it has also sought to make marriage equality a small target, especially in response to the possibility of a plebiscite. This has meant playing down the consequences marriage equality so as not to frighten middle-ground voters. It’s time for that to end.

We won decriminalisation in Tasmania because the issue became a prism through which tens of thousands of people viewed Tasmania’s past and future. The decriminalisation debate reached into Tasmania’s deep past, finally addressing how our identity as Tasmanians was defined by the close association our forebears made between sodomy and the hated stain of convictism. It looked forward to a much better future for LGBTI people free of the poison of state-sanctioned prejudice. Indeed, it held out the hope of a better future for all Tasmanians. The question before the Island was not just, “will we stop criminalising gay people”, but also “will we become a more open, inclusive society”.

In the same way, marriage equality is about more than same-sex couples walking down the aisle, as important as that is. It is about our national identity. It’s about banishing our dark, homophobic past. It’s about whether we really believe those democratic values we expect migrants to take to heart. It’s about the egalitarianism our forebears valued so highly. It’s an affirmation that moral improvement and social progress are possible and desirable.

Marriage equality will have huge consequences for the LGBTI community and for the country. It is the door to LGBTI people being accepted as fully human and equal citizens. It will remake Australia as a place that is open to the world, values itself and embraces all those who call it home. It will dramatically shape our futures, individually and collectively. This message about the sweeping scope of marriage equality is something everyone needs to hear.

8. The biggest thing of all is belonging

Tasmanians, like many island peoples, have a strong sense of place and belonging. That sense of belonging can be so compelling that if prejudice threatens to cast us out, we will battle that prejudice with all our might. That’s certainly what motivated many of the key campaigners who sacrificed so much to see homosexuality decriminalised.

There were other reasons we worked for gay law reform: love of justice, belief in human rights, the desire to live life unmolested by the law. But belonging is different to the rest. Unlike equality it cannot be seized. Unlike inclusion it cannot be bestowed. It only comes through a long, arduous negotiation between those who feel they define an identity and those who know the definition falls short. In the course of that negotiation both parties are transformed for the better. Unlike the other aspirations that motivate supporters of reform, a sense of belonging pre-exists the prejudices that threaten it. It is not a prize to be won but a promise to be fulfilled, a promise that people will fight to their dying breath to have honoured.

Marriage equality is also about the fulfilment of the promise that we belong, whether it be to our families, our communities, our faith, our profession, our beloved sporting code, our nation, or to the land beneath our feet. How can it be otherwise when marriage remains such a key social institution and equality such a fundamental aspiration? I sense the ache to belong in so many of the people who campaign for marriage equality. It’s time for us to name and embrace it, if only so we understand better what drives us forward and how that drive will elevate us, those dear to us and Australia.

9. We don’t have to accept the low road to reform

Many people have forgotten what extraordinary measures were taken by opponents of decriminalisation in Tasmania to derail the movement for reform. Legislation for a plebiscite was tabled by Upper House members. Laws criminalising the promotion and encouragement of homosexuality were also proposed as the decriminalisation of gay sex drew nearer. Both moves failed miserably.

The parallels with today are obvious: opponents of marriage equality are trying to delay marriage equality with proposals for plebiscites and to dilute marriage equality’s impact with caveats allowing discrimination against same-sex couples in wedding services. So what can we learn from Tasmania about avoiding these outcomes?

The features of the Tasmanian campaign that I have already described put us in a position strong enough to ensure we didn’t take the low road to reform. We had made gay law reform a metaphor of something greater than itself, we had taken that message to tens of thousands of people across the island, we had shown we were willing to take risks to achieve reform, we had modelled what we wanted Tasmania to become. Most of all the principles that underlay the movement for decriminalisation – equality, inclusion, toleration, belonging – had been so evident and gathered such strong support it was easy to deploy them to defeat unacceptable compromises.

Marriage equality is, or could easily be, in the same position. Support for it is strong. The principles behind it are clear cut. To defeat proposals for public votes and for caveated legislation we must not be afraid to deploy this support and these principles as often as necessary. It won’t distract from making the case for marriage equality, as some fear. It will enhance that case by reinforcing the values that motivated us to support marriage equality in the first place.

10. Consultation and democratisation are essential

During the Tasmanian decriminalisation campaign every major decision was taken by a committee of LGBTI people that held open meetings and whose members were intimately linked to the wider community of LGBTI people and our allies. Consultations were regular. Rarely, if ever, was there division about the way forward.

It’s time for much wider consultation and greater democratisation in the marriage equality campaign as well. The people at the top are smart, capable and have the best interests of the issue in mind. But there are critical moments in the campaign – the push for a plebiscite or the proposal of caveats to marriage equality legislation – when consultation must extend to as many LGBTI people as possible and when decision-making must be more democratic.

This will allow more people to share the burden of the choices to be made and the outcomes from those choices. It will remove any suspicion that interests other than that of the LGBTI community are at play. It will give the leaders of the marriage equality campaign the strongest mandate possible. It will allow them to draw on a bigger pool of energy and ideas.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

New Brunswick: Two bills to expand trans rights passed final reading in the New Brunswick legislature on April 26, 2017, bringing the province into line with every other province. Bill 51 adds “gender identity and expression” as well as “family status” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination under the province’s human-rights code, and Bill 37 amends the Vital Statistics Act to give New Brunswick residents the right to legally change the gender marker on their government-issued ID without requiring gender-confirming surgery. The bills will come into effect when they are given royal assent, which should happen next week.

The twin victories cap off a year of mobilization and negotiation by trans activists with the province’s Liberal government. Sara Hubbard, a member of the transgender support group UBU Atlantic says she “couldn’t be happier” that the bills passed.

“I finally feel like the government has made a major effort to look out for and protect the transgender community,” she says. “If you asked me if this was possible only a few years ago I would have told you not a chance. It is amazing how attitudes have changed here in the province.”

This isn’t the only recent achievement for the trans community in New Brunswick. Gender-confirming surgery was added to the provincial health plan last summer following community demands. But while the province has rapidly expanded basic protections and services for trans people under the current Liberal government, Hubbard says there’s still more work to do. She’d like to see the health plan expanded to include additional gender-confirming procedures such as breast augmentation, chest contouring and hair removal, as well as additional training for medical professionals about the needs of trans patients.

“The province has made some nice first steps, but there are still more than can be done,” she says.

New Brunswick is the last province to make the legal changes to its human rights code or Vital Statistics Act, although similar changes are now before the Yukon territory legislature. Trans people will soon be explicitly protected by anti-discrimination laws from coast to coast to coast.

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Jakarta: In a sign of further, increasing anti-LGBT repression in Indonesia, Eight men have been arrested for holding a “gay party” in Indonesia.
The two alleged organisers of last night’s event in Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia, could face up to 15 years in prison.
Six other attendees have had charges filed against them under the country’s strict anti-pornography law, according to Agence France-Presse.hinto Silitonga, the local police’s head of detectives, said there were 14 men in two hotel rooms watching gay porn and performing “deviant sexual acts”.
“This is the first time we enforce the law and arrest gay people in the city,” he told AFP.
Silitonga, who regularly posts on his Facebook page about arrests he’s made, wrote that police had confiscated motorcycles and cars from the arrested men at what he called a “GAY PARTY”.
He claimed the men had been stroking each other’s chests, adding: “May the law enforcement approach be one instrument to minimise similar actions.”
It is not clear what damage the men were causing – or, indeed, what law they were breaking – by allegedly stroking each other.
Being gay is not illegal in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, except in Aceh, a province which won this concession from the government in 2005 as part of a peace deal.
Just last month, two men were arrested under this law, and face being hit up to 100 times each with a cane.
The 20 and 23-year-old men were informed on by their neighbour, who took video footage of them allegedly having gay sex.
The country is secular, but its anti-pornography law, passed in 2008, is seen as trying to target liberals and the LGBT community.
The law was heavily backed by Islamic parties who helped to draft it, and opposed by minority groups. Last year, the government announced it would ban access to Tumblr because the site featured LGBT content and porn, before eventually reconsidering.
And anti-LGBT discrimination is generally widespread in Indonesia, to the extent that a study last month found it could be costing the country $12 billion per year.
This is because attitudes towards LGBT people have become steadily more extreme in recent years, despite a growing gay population.
The Indonesian Psychiatrists Association classifies homosexuality, bisexuality and being transgender as illnesses.
And in January 2017, petitioners argued in the country’s Constitutional Court that sex outside of marriage – such as LGBT sex – could turn Indonesia into an “uncivilised nation” and should be criminalised.A gay couple from the country’s North Sulawesi province were arrested last year after they posted photos on Facebook showing them kissing in bed.
Also last year, it was announced that the country’s government would clamp down on gay culture – instituting a ban on online “gay propaganda” after a request from the police.
Communications ministry spokesman Noor Iza confirmed that apps including Grindr, Blued and BoyAhoy would be blocked, claiming they were “promoting gay lifestyles”.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Washington DC: The US Supreme Court has upheld California’s ban on so-called gay conversion therapy.
An appeal to the Californian law, which bans any counselling that aims to change a child’s sexuality, was rejected today.
The most populous state in the US signed into law a prohibition on the use of so-called gay conversion therapy on anyone under 18 years of age in 2012.And since the law was signed, making California the first state to do so, the state has had to combat multiple objections on religious grounds.
The latest was blocked today by the highest court in the land, as the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from three people, led by licensed therapist and minister Donald Welch.
California officials had previously urged the Supreme Court to not hear the appeal.
They had argued that the law doesn’t restrict what religious leaders can say, except in the case of state-licensed therapy sessions.
The law applies to licensed doctors, psychologists, family therapists and social workers, and subjects anyone who breaks it to discipline by state-run licensing bodies.
Licensed providers are however allowed to refer children to religious leaders.
Welch has been here before, having successfully secured a temporary exemption from the law in 2012, before it came into effect.
This was eventually overturned in 2013, and subsequent legal challenges were also turned away or not heard.
Psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, who died in March aged 70, also brought a lawsuit against California in 2012, which was rejected by the courts.
Nicolosi pioneered so-called gay cure therapy, and was co-founder of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality.
He became a prominent proponent of the therapy, which has been widely debunked by experts, and a major figure in the ‘ex-gay’ movement.
Following New Mexico voting overwhelmingly to ban the practice, so-called gay conversion therapy is now prohibited in seven states.
As well as California and New Mexico, the harmful procedure has also been outlawed in New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York and Vermont.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Las Vegas: A bill which is progressing in the US state of Nevada would allow clergy members and religious organisations to refuse to recognise same-sex marriages.
The bill, which was voted through the Senate 19-2 on Monday, would actually remove language from Nevada’s laws saying the state only recognises marriage between one man and one woman.
The language is now defunct as the US Supreme Court back in 2015 legalised same-sex marriage across all 50 states. But a religious exemption was added by the Nevada Senate before it would passed.
The process to adopt the amendment would take about five years, having to pass through both Houses of the legislature twice and go to voters in a ballot.
If it was to pass quickly, the earliest it could take effect is 2020, after Nevada voters get a chance to approve it.
Assembly Joint Resolution 2 was announced by Nelson Araujo, the assistant Assembly Majority Leader, as he said he was worried that the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of same-sex marriage could be overturned.
Announcing Joint Resolution Two in February, Mr Araujo said the Silver State should “issue marriage licences to couples regardless of gender”.
Ten other states have considered deleting defunct language from their laws which previously meant only one man and one woman could get married.
But thirty-one states had already banned same-sex marriage by 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled.

Las Vegas: An out gay legislator in the state of Nevada wants to ban licensed therapists from ‘gay cure’ therapy.
Five US states have already banned the practice, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.
Cincinnati, Ohio is the only other city to specifically ban the practice,http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/11/16/seattle-bans-gay-cure-therapy-for-kids/ joined by Seattle in November 2016.
Hawaii also introduced legislation to ban the practice in 2016.
The controversial practice seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual.
It has been widely disproven, particularly by most major medical bodies. The American Psychological Association has stated that the practice can be damaging, and can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.
Lawyers from the Liberty Counsel, who defended Kim Davis the clerk who refused to marry gay couples, said they would sue Palm Springs if the county moves to ban gay ‘cure’ therapies.
The Nevada Governor has also signed a bill into law which allows foster kids to choose their own gender.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Sacramento: A lawsuit has been filed against a hospital in California which refused to perform gender reassignment surgery on a trans man.
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU against the Mercy San Juan Center in Carmichael, California.
The hospital, despite being part of the nonprofit Dignity Health, refused the surgery to Evan Michael Minton. Minton had requested that the hospital performs a hysterectomy.
But because of ties to the Catholic church, he was denied the surgery.
The lawsuit argues that the hospital discriminated against Minton in the summer of 2016 when it said the gender reassignment surgery contradicted the intrinsic truth of human nature and that it was immoral.
It also alleges that the hospital scheduled the appointment before cancelling it.
“It devastated me, and I don’t want it to affect my transgender brothers and sisters the way it affected me,” Minton said
He has since been able to receive the treatment needed at another hospital.
But hospital administrators deny that Minton was discriminated against.
“The services we provide are available to all members of the communities we serve without discrimination,” hospital officials said.
The lawsuit says that the hospital’s actions were in violation of the California’s Civil Rights Act.
Directives from Catholic bishops state how Catholic hospitals can treat patients.
This includes lack of authority to perform any kind of sterilisation, under any circumstances.
A trans man in New Jersey also sued a Catholic hospital after he said it refused to offer him surgery.
The plaintiff in the case, Jionni Conforti, alleges that the St Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, refused to allow him to have a hysterectomy on medical grounds.
In 2015, a transgender man announced that he would sue the US state of Minnesota to gain access to gender reassignment surgery on public insurance.
Evan Thoma, a 63-year-old trans man worked with OutFront Minnesota, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
He sais that public insurance cover should cover gender reassignment surgery.
Currently, the state’s two plans, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance, offer hormone therapy and counselling but do not offer gender reassignment surgery.
The state stopped covering access to the surgery in 2005, but did offer it in previous years.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Moscow: Russian police rounded up LGBTI activists protesting the persecution of gay men in Chechnya.
Activists staged a dramatic demonstration in St Petersburg, painting their faces with fake blood and pretending to be dead on the road.
The activists also draped rainbow and Chechen flags over their bodies, reports the Independent.
A group of ten protestors were arrested near the Anichkov Palace in the centre of Russia’s second biggest city. Russian police in full riot gear began dragging protestors into police vans, with one protestor fainting during the melee.
A separate group of protestors were detained after they held placards calling for the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, to be tried at the International Court of Justice.
The demonstration protested against Chechen authorities arresting more than one hundred men, with reports three killed.
According to Russia’s ‘gay propaganda‘ laws, possessing a rainbow flag can provoke arrest.
The demonstration was part of an international May Day march, which protests anti-austerity measures.
Countries including Turkey, Cambodia, the Philippines and Bangladesh stormed streets to protest poor conditions and pay. Chechen authorities are posing as men looking for dates on Russian social networking sites and trapping gay men, according to Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
The Russian LGBT Network told Gay Star News: ‘To this day, neither the Russian Investigative Committee nor the General Prosecutor’s Office reacted in any way to the reports of the criminal activities and Chechnya officials’ statements.’
The activist group is working tirelessly on the ground to support and evacuate those affected.
In addition, the group is taking pleas from Chechen citizens worried about their safety.
Svetlana Zakharova told Gay Star News they have received 50 calls from people who need urgent assistance, and have worryingly lost contact with some of them.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to help protect gay rights.
Activists say police in the republic of Chechnya have arrested and tortured dozens of gay people in a crackdown.
Mrs Merkel raised the issue during her first visit to Russia since 2015, which saw her hold talks with Mr Putin at his summer residence in Sochi.
Relations between the two nations have been strained over Syria and Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
At a tense joint news conference with Mr Putin, Mrs Merkel said she had received “negative reports on the treatment of homosexuals, particularly in Chechnya”.
“I asked President Putin to use his influence to guarantee the rights of minorities,” she added.

The news conference also saw:
The two leaders urge the full implementation of the Minsk agreement, an internationally-brokered peace deal for Ukraine
Mr Putin urge a “thorough and unbiased investigation” into the chemical weapons attack on a Syrian town last month
Mr Putin insist that Russia “never interferes in the political life and the political processes of other countries – and we don’t want anybody interfering in our political life and foreign policy processes”
Mrs Merkel declare: “I am always of the view that even if there are serious differences of opinion in some areas, talks must continue”
Mr Putin is due to meet Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan later on Wednesday.

Just a few weeks ago, “Ruslan” was with his wife and children in Chechnya. Now he’s in a safe house for men fleeing detention and torture for being gay.
Reports of a campaign against gay men by Chechen security forces have been trickling through since early April when they first appeared in a Russian newspaper. Now some of the alleged victims are starting to speak out.
“When they brought me in, I denied everything,” says Ruslan – not his real name. Even now, he is frightened of being identified.

Homophobia is widespread in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region run by Ramzan Kadyrov, an authoritarian leader with a notorious private militia who is fiercely loyal to President Putin.
Last month, Natalia Poplevskaya of the Russian LGBT Network said there was “an organised campaign to detain gay men” in Chechnya.
Victims of the crackdown – who were either gay or just perceived to be gay – were being held at a detention centre near Argun, 20km (13 miles) from the city of Grozny, she said.
“Torture is going on with electric shocks, beatings with cables,” she told the BBC, adding that three deaths had been reported. “All the people arrested are homosexual men or perceived as being gay.”
A Chechen government spokesman, Alvi Karimov, denied the allegations.
“You can’t detain and repress people who simply don’t exist in the republic,” he said.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news

London: Funding has been secured to tell the story of how a milestone report published 60 years ago led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

A total of £77,200 has been awarded to mark the anniversary of the 1957 Wolfenden Report, named after former University of Reading Vice-Chancellor Lord John Wolfenden. The bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund was led by LGBT+ charity Support U, and supported by the University of Reading and Reading Museum.

To mark the anniversary, the University is holding a seminar and the first ever Wolfenden Lecture on Thursday 4 May, looking at LGBT+ themes throughout history.Ruth Hunt, chief executive of LGBT+ charity Stonewall, will be giving a talk entitled ‘LGBT equality: past present and future’ in the Van Emden Theatre on the University’s Whiteknights Campus.Lord Wolfenden – then Sir John – was Vice-Chancellor at Reading from 1950-1964. He was chosen to chair a Home Office committee looking at homosexuality and prostitution in 1954. They produced in 1957 what became known as the Wolfenden Report, which led – after some delay – to homosexuality being decriminalised with the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Reading, said: “By holding the first ever Wolfenden Lecture, we at the University of Reading want to be loud and clear that LGBT+ identity is to be celebrated.

“We are proud of the place in LGBT+ history of our former Vice-Chancellor, Lord Wolfenden, whose Wolfenden Report led to the end of the criminalisation of homosexuality. Through this lecture and seminar, and the series of events we have lined up to support our staff and students and make an inclusive university environment part of our values, we hope to continue the work he started.” The first ever Wolfenden Lecture held by the University of Reading will become a regular annual event featuring leading national figures in the LGBT+ community, and promoting gay pride in Reading and beyond. It will be preceded this year by a seminar, called ‘Before and After Wolfenden: LGBTQ+ History and Reading’.

The seminar, itself intended to be the start of a series of such events, will be an exploration of the liberating work of 18th century Classical writer Johann Winckelmann, who was an inspiration to renowned Irish playwright Oscar Wilde.

Wilde was twice tried for gross indecency with men, eventually being sent to Reading Prison for two years in 1895. Professor Peter Stoneley, Head of Department for English Literature, will speak about Wilde’s conviction and time in Reading Prison, and his relationship with some of the fellow inmates he met there.

Winckelmann’s writing about Ancient Greek statues celebrated the naked male body, making him one of the first figures in history to openly express such feelings for nearly 2,000 years, in a time when homosexuality was outlawed. Dr Katherine Harloe, Associate Professor of Classics, will explain her research on Winckelmann and how he laid the foundations for homosexuality to be celebrated rather than punished.The seminar audience will also see a presentation on the timeline of LGBT+ rights by Lorna McArdle, co-founder and COO of Support U.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will be used to record and celebrate previously unexplored stories of LGBT+ heritage in Reading, including the Wolfenden Report on the 60th anniversary of its publication.

Lord Wolfenden’s archives are held at the University and will be used to create an exhibition and events programme this autumn.

Other schemes at the University of Reading to provide support for staff and students include funding up to eight places on the Stonewall LGBT Role Models Programme over the next 12 months. This programme gives individuals the opportunity to explore the skills needed to be a role model and create an inclusive environment for others.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBiT) 2017 will be marked with three events: an information session for staff on becoming an LGBT+ Ally on 9 May at Henley Business School; Trans Awareness Training for staff and students on 12 May; the annual flag-raising and speeches on IDAHOBiT day (17 May).

Deb Heighes, Co-Chair of the University of Reading’s LGBT Plus support network for staff, said: “These activities contribute to building a safe and inclusive learning environment for students and staff, to allow people to be themselves at the University and promote a culture of ‘acceptance without exception’.”

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

Moscow: Russian police have reportedly arrested around 20 LGBT+ activists in who were protesting in St Petersburg on Monday (May 1) against the brutal persecution of gay men in the southern republic of Chechnya.

According to Reuters, journalists on the ground witnessed several gay activists being bundled into police vehicles after holding demonstrations at the side of the city’s May Day parade celebrations.

The group were protesting against the ongoing situation in Chechnya, where over 100 gay men have reportedly been detained and tortured in ‘camps’ over the last few months as part of a devastatingly brutal crackdown against the LGBT+ community.

At least three men are known to have been killed, while Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov has reportedly said he plans to wipe out the region’s gay population by the end of the month.

Russian activist Igor Kochetkov told Reuters that he was among a group of 10 being detained in a St Petersburg police station on Monday, and that that another 10 had been transferred to a second location.

“I was waving a rainbow flag, and was shouting ‘Kadyrov should go to the Hague’,” Kochetkov told the agency by telephone whilst in detention.

Another activist who took part in the March explained that it was virtually impossible for people in Chechnya to draw attention to the abuse because of the danger they face.

“It is hard for them to say ‘Hello I am Chechen and I am persecuted in Chechnya’ because they have relatives there,” Alexei Nazarov told Reuters TV.

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

London: A Labour candidate at the upcoming general election could become the first openly transgender MP in parliament.

Sophie Cook is standing for Labour in the East Worthing & Shoreham constituency. The seat is currently occupied by Conservative Tim Loughton, who has a majority of almost 15,000.

Announcing her standing on her website, Sophie, a former RAF engineer and television presenter who came out as trans in 2015, says that she was terrified that coming out would cause her to “lose everything, [her] career in football, [her] family and most of all, [her] children.”

If elected, Sophie would become the first openly transgender person to serve in the UK parliament.

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

Tokyo: Japanese school children won’t be taught about LGBT issues at school for at least another ten years.

A once-in-a-decade review of the country’s national education curriculum failed to include information about different sexualities and gender identities, despite calls from LGBT+ charities to do so.

The government defended the decision saying it was “difficult” to include such information when “the public have not accepted” LGBT+ identities yet.

Human Rights Watch argued that the government’s justification was “patently untrue”, citing a 2013 survey which found between 63% and 73% of teachers thought LGBT+ issues should be taught at schools.

They wrote: “Japan’s sex education curriculum falls far short of standards, and will continue to fail students.”

Another study from the same year by the Pew Research Center found that most Japanese people were accepting of homosexuality – 54% said society should accept homosexuality, against 36% who thought it shouldn’t.

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Grozny: A horrific new account about the ongoing persecution of gay men in Chechnya has revealed that authorities are asking parents to kill their own gay children.

According to one survivor who managed to escape the gay torture camps the country has set up, police are telling parents of gay men to “sort it out” or they will take matters into their own hands.

“They tell the parents to kill their child. They say ‘Either you do it, or we will,’” an unidentified male told France 24 News. “They call it: ‘Cleaning your honour with blood.’

“They tortured a man for two weeks [then] they summoned his parents and brothers who all came.

“[The authorities] said to them: ‘Your son is a homosexual – sort it out or we’ll do it ourselves.’”

The victim added: “We’ve always been persecuted, but never like this.

“Now they arrest everyone. They kill people, they do whatever they want.”

The Kremlin and Chechen government have both denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured in the region.

That’s despite Chechnya’s president, Ramzan Kadyrov, having publicly declared that he wants all LGBT+ people in the country to be eliminated by May 26, which marks the start of Muslim holiday, Ramadan.

Novaya Gazeta first reported in March that around 100 gay men had been rounded up by police and detained in what is widely being referred to as a modern-day ‘concentration camp’.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch later confirmed the horrific reports, adding that the information coming through was “consistent” with “numerous trusted sources” they had spoken to on the ground in Russia.

The British government has since condemned the “utterly barbaric” torture of gay men in Chechnya, with Sir Alan Duncan telling the House of Commons that the country’s actions are of the “utmost concern to the UK”.

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Vancouver: An election is kind of like having a newborn, Spencer Chandra Herbert says.

“I thought election campaigns were stressful — well, raising a baby is a whole other level of it,” he laughs.

It’s the campaign hours, says the proud first-time father and incumbent NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End. “You’re often up early and often up late. It’s the same as raising a baby.”

His husband, Romi, also laments the lack of sleep, sort of. “I’m doing great. Missing lots of sleep, but this guy is pretty good,” he says, as their two-month-old, Dev, gurgles quietly in the background on speaker-phone.

In some ways, Chandra Herbert says, his political work — first as the youngest person at the time to be elected to the Vancouver parks board in 2005, then as the youngest MLA elected to the BC legislature in 2008 — has helped prepare him for parenthood. It’s about accepting responsibility for the well being of others, he says; only with Dev it’s much more personal.

As he and Romi dive headfirst into raising a baby, they say they want to be the best parents they can be, which includes questioning what it means to be fathers. “We focus on being parents,” Chandra Herbert explains. “There’s so many gendered stereotypes about what being a dad is versus what being a mom is that I don’t think are all that helpful. What I think you need to do is to be a good parent who loves your kid.” But the road to parenthood wasn’t easy for the Chandra Herberts.

It’s still hard for them to talk about the time several years ago when homophobia upended one of their chances to become parents. They had been so close to finalizing an adoption, when one of the child’s relatives intervened and convinced the birth parents not to go through with it because the Chandra Herberts are gay.

“I don’t want to go down that road too much because it was a tough moment,” Chandra Herbert says.

He and Romi spoke out at the time but opted not to take the case to BC’s Human Rights Tribunal because they felt it would be unfair to have the baby start its life wrapped up in a court battle.

“That was hard, but at the same time you have to get up and get back at it, otherwise they win,” Chandra Herbert says.

After four or five unsuccessful years stalled within the adoption process, a friend stepped up and offered to help the couple have a child through surrogacy. On Feb 14, 2017, they welcomed Dev into the world.

Looking back on the adoption process, the Chandra Herberts have concerns, although not directed at ministry or agency staff, who they say are working their hardest. Rather it’s the system itself they find problematic.

One of their biggest concerns is the level of duplication that people seeking to adopt both from a private agency and through the government have to endure.

“You have to fill out a 72-page questionnaire, have six visits to your home to be inspected, undergo criminal record checks, pay thousands of dollars, and that’s only for one system,” Chandra Herbert says. “If you want to be involved in the BC government [ministry system for] children waiting to be adopted, you have to do that all over again.”

They also expressed serious concerns about how opaque the process was.

“It was forever waiting in expectancy. And then what got hard was we stopped getting any phone calls. All of a sudden nothing was happening,” he says. “So we’re stuck in a system of waiting and wondering, ‘Did I say the wrong thing? Did I write the right thing but send the wrong picture? Why is that we’re not getting chosen?’”

No matter this election’s outcome, Chandra Herbert is hoping to find bipartisan solutions to these issues with BC’s adoption system.He would like to see a one-stop process, a single form to fill out and a single group of people to meet with, so “you don’t get sent through multiple hoops with multiple expenses both for yourself and for taxpayers.”

Last fall the provincial government launched a new website aimed at making the adoption process smoother for British Columbians and encouraging more people to adopt.

The Adopt BC Kids site is now approaching the six-month mark since it went live in October 2016, and so far more than 200 families have signed up for it.

A representative from the Ministry of Children and Family Development was unable to speak with Xtra due to rules governing media communications during an election period. The minister, Stephanie Cadieux, also declined Xtra’s request for an interview, but in a press release at the time of the site’s launch said the government is moving BC into the 21st century when it comes to adoption.

“We heard from adoptive parents that the old paper-driven, ministry office-based system was cumbersome and just too slow. Adopt BC Kids allows people to manage their application online and helps streamline matching functions for adoption workers, helping us find the right family match for waiting children, quicker,” she said last October.The site, a first of its kind in Canada, offers a searchable online database of foster children available for adoption.

Advocates like Karen Madeiros, executive director of the Adoptive Families Association of BC, which provides province-wide support and education for people considering or in the process of adoption, say the site is a step in the right direction.

“It’s actually, surprisingly, been a very simple process for families. There’s not been a lot of disruptions or concern,” she says. “It still has lots of potential and lots of work to be done on it, but it is functioning and meeting the needs at the moment.”

In the past, prospective parents reported geographical inconsistencies in the system depending on the region in BC that they were trying to adopt from. Madeiros says Adopt BC Kids has changed that and now all families are treated equally no matter their location.

Though the new site does not merge private and public adoption applications as Chandra Herbert suggested, Madeiros says it may address concerns around transparency and the system leaving prospective parents in the dark.

“Before [families] filed an application, it disappeared behind closed doors, and the only way they could find out what was happening with their application was by phoning and trying to speak to someone,” she says. “[Now] they can go online and see where they’re at. As things get completed, they get completed up on the site. It does put some of that control to access their own information into their own hands.”

Chandra Herbert says Adopt BC Kids — which did not exist when he and his husband were going through the adoption process — will certainly help promote adoption, but he still thinks there’s more that needs to be done.

“What still hasn’t been fixed is once people get into the adoption process there are a number of barriers of multiple forms, multiple this, multiple that, paperwork exercises that don’t seem to serve the kids very much,” he says.

“There’s not enough resources behind getting those kids actually to the parents and getting those want-to-be parents to those kids.”

Back on the campaign trail, Chandra Herbert is primarily focused on the priorities of his West End constituents, such as affordable housing, an increase to minimum wage, and better childcare options.

But if re-elected, he also hopes to work across party lines to help children in foster care and waiting for adoption find their “forever homes.”

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Washington DC: Donald Trump’s long-rumored “religious liberty” executive order, allowing a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people and others, is coming pm Thursday 4th May, Politico reports. Several leaders of the religious right have been invited to the White House that day, which is the National Day of Prayer, and they expect the president to unveil the order then, according to Politico. “Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language,” the site reports.

A draft of the order was obtained by The Nation in February. “The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions [from antidiscrimination laws] for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act,” the progressive magazine reported at the time.

It also “construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers ‘any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,’ and protects ‘religious freedom” in every walk of life: ‘when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments,’” The Nation noted in February.

Trump administration officials have been cagey about the existence of the order, but religious right activist Ken Blackwell, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, has said such an order is definitely coming. Far-right leaders such as Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage have pushed for such a measure.

If the language of the original draft is retained, the order would be similar to the First Amendment Defense Act, which is pending in Congress — and would be a shortcut to writing such discrimination into law.

The American Civil Liberties Union quickly issued a press release saying it will see Trump in court. “The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others,” said deputy legal director Louise Melling. “If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a license to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court.”

As it turned out, Donald Trump didn’t sign an anti-LGBT executive order, after all — and some LGBT activists say public outcry influenced him not to. But the order he issued on May 4 does direct the attorney general to prepare guidance on interpreting religious liberty provisions in federal law, something LGBT and other civil rights groups found troubling, along with the order’s other contents, which address political speech by churches and contraceptive coverage in employer-provided health insurance. For the second time in his young presidency, word leaked to the media this week that Trump was about to sign a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people. It was eerily similar to what happened in February, when activists shared a leaked draft of the executive order first reported by The Nation and speculated on a raft of possible, far-reaching ramifications. Protests were threatened. Press secretary Sean Spicer was confronted in the daily briefing. Then it didn’t happen.

This time, it was Politico reporting Tuesday that leaders on the religious right were anticipating the new religious exemptions as part of a National Day of Prayer event held at the White House today.

Groups including the Human Rights Campaign protested outside the White House on Wednesday, and nearly every LGBT activist group warned of more protests to come if the order came to fruition. Legal groups promised lawsuits. Social media lit up. Spicer was asked by the Washington Blade about the rumored order during Wednesday’s briefing and avoided an answer.

By that night, though, both The New York Times and BuzzFeed were reporting the White House told reporters the president wouldn’t sign a “license to discriminate” and instead would give church leaders more freedom to talk politics from the pulpit without threatening their tax-exempt status.

Today, that’s what happened.

Trump signed the executive order on “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” in a Rose Garden event tied to the National Day of Prayer. He directed the Internal Revenue Service to use “maximum” discretion when deciding whether to prosecute churches under the Johnson Amendment, which theatens the tax-exempt status of any church that endorses political candidates or makes campaign contributions.

The order does not include the “license to discriminate” language that presumably would’ve let businesses, nonprofits, and others cite their sincerely held religious belief when refusing to serve LGBT people or others who offend their beliefs about marriage, sexuality, birth control, or abortion.

It does, however, include this: “In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.” This could potentially lead to “sweeping exemptions for anti-LGBT discrimination by federal employees, contractors, and grantees,” the National Center for Transgender Equality warned in a press release.

Another portion of the order will “make it easier for employers with religious objections not to include contraception coverage in workers’ health care plans, although it would be up to federal agencies to determine how that would happen,” USA Today reports. Some employers have challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that their insurance plans provide contraception at no cost to employees, claiming an exemption for certain employers that allows insurers to absorb the cost, does not go far enough. Some religious conservatives believe certain forms of contraception, such as the birth control pill, actually cause an early abortion.

“License to discriminate” language was removed after much public outcry from activists, according to Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Faced with broad opposition and resistance, Trump revised his executive order,” she said in an emailed statement. “The LGBTQ community came out in full force against threats to sanction taxpayer-funded discrimination against our community, and Trump decided he wanted out of that fight. But today’s executive order still does damage to the fabric of our democracy by taking aim at one of our core principles: separation of church and state. And vast numbers of LGBTQ people, their loved ones, and families will be impacted by allowing access to reproductive health care to be contingent on employers’ personal religious views. The LGBTQ community will not stand down, we will continue to forcefully challenge these injustices.”

NCTE executive director Mara Keisling added, “Thanks to the overwhelming pushback from so many communities, President Trump stopped short today of explicitly endorsing anti-LGBT discrimination. But this vaguely worded order is clearly aimed at providing a license to discriminate against LGBT people, women, religious minorities, and others — while also eroding the separation of church and state. President Trump has simply asked others in his administration to do much of his dirty work.”

The American Civil Liberties Union promised to sue over the order “The actions taken today are a broadside to our country’s long-standing commitment to the separation of church and state,” said executive director Anthony Romero in a prepared statement. “Whether by executive order or through backroom deals, it’s clear that the Trump administration and congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination. We intend to file suit today America is a deeply religious country because religious freedom and tolerance of divergent religious views thrive. President Trump’s efforts to promote religious freedom are thinly veiled efforts to unleash his conservative religious base into the political arena while also using religion to discriminate. It’s a dual dose of pandering to a base and denying reproductive care. We will see Trump in court, again.”

Leaders of the religious right were divided over the order. “We commend President Trump for sending a message to Congress and the rest of America that religious freedom must be protected,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a far-right legal group, in a press release. “This is an appropriate way to commemorate the National Day of Prayer as our President commits to protect and promote religious freedom.”

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT, antichoice Family Research Council, called the order a “good first step,” according to USA Today. “The Trump administration recognizes and understands the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and will be issuing guidance government-wide ensuring religious beliefs and actions are respected,” he said. “The open season on Christians and other people of faith is coming to a close.”

But Gregory S. Baylor, senior counsel at the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom, told the paper the order offers “no specific relief” to people “threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government.” Some businesses have been sued under state antidiscrimination laws for refusing to provide goods or services for same-sex weddings.

As for the Johnson Amendment, named for Lyndon B. Johnson, who sponsored it as a senator in the 1950s, the religious right would like to see it repealed — which would take an act of Congress rather than an executive order.

“Americans cannot rely on the discretion of IRS agents, some of whom have abused that discretion for years to silence pastors and intrude into America’s pulpits,” Baylor told USA Today.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

London: The Queen has given royal assent to a law that makes sex and relationship education statutory in all schools.
The Children and Social Work Bill was given Royal Assent late last week – making it through just in time, as Parliament is imminently set to be dissolved ahead of June’s general election.
The law commits to developing guidance to make SRE mandatory in all schools, after pressure on the issue from sexual health and children’s campaign groups.
Education Secretary Justine Greening says the new law will “put Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing, so every child has access to age appropriate provision, in a consistent way”.
The law itself does not require sex ed to be LGBT-inclusive, but LGBT charity Stonewall says it will be “working with the Government to ensure [LGBT issues] are reflected in updated guidance for schools”. The Act itself does not go into specifics about the SRE provisions – but does specify lessons will cover “safety in forming and maintaining relationships, the characteristics of healthy relationships, and how relationships may affect physical and mental health and well-being”.
Stonewall Chief Executive Ruth Hunt, said: “This is a huge step forward and a fantastic opportunity to improve inclusion and acceptance in education.
“Currently over half of secondary school students say they never have any discussion of LGBT relationships in their lessons, and over half of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people are bullied in our schools because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That is unacceptable. By mandating all schools to provide good quality, age-appropriate relationships and sex education the Government has paved the way to change that situation.
“This should mean that all schools provide the space to discuss LGBT relationships and the issues LGBT people face, enabling more lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people to feel accepted in their school environment.
“We look forward to working with the Government on updating the guidance for schools to ensure that this measure helps to transform the experience of LGBT young people in all schools.”
Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE teach children and young people how to stay safe and healthy, and how to negotiate some of the personal and social challenges they will face growing up and as adults.
“These subjects form part of the building blocks young people need to thrive in modern Britain. At the moment, too many young people feel they don’t have the relationships and sex education they need to stay safe and navigate becoming an adult.
“It is time to make this change to ensure all children and young people have access to these subjects and to update the current statutory guidance for relationships and sex education which was introduced nearly twenty years ago, in 2000.
“We need high quality, age-appropriate content that relates to the modern world, addressing issues like cyber bullying, ‘sexting’ and internet safety.
“We will now begin a review and gather expert opinions to ensure these subjects really have a positive impact on young people.”
Campaigners have urged the government to commit to LGBT-inclusive SRE in all schools, given speciic wording was missing from the bill.
David Geary of Pride in London said: “Healthy sex and relationship education cannot be wholly effective until it helps every pupil in the classroom. In continuing to separate, single out and ignore the needs of LGBT+ pupils, the government is helping to cement stigma, self-doubt, confusion and bullying.
“Such an omission lets down pupils right across the country, who need effective and positive support to develop into the healthy, confident and safe LGBT+ adults they deserve to be.
“Parents too benefit from having such a support as they learn to be the best guardian they can be for their LGBT+ child.
“Politicians across the political spectrum have signed the Pride in London Pledge which calls for the inclusion of same-sex relationship education in all London schools to ensure the representation of different families and communities within SRE.”
Ian Green of HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “In order to fully address the sexual and mental health crisis among young people, we will need to ensure that any legislation around SRE has a strong emphasis on neglected topics such as sexual health and on LGBT relationships, in order to tackle high rates of STIs among young people and ongoing homophobia in our school corridors.
“To deliver real change for young people, the government must also ensure teachers get allocated time, resource and training to do justice to this vital subject. With the budget announcement expected next week, now is the time to invest in SRE.
“Only then can we ensure that all young people – wherever they go to school, and whatever their sexuality – are empowered to make positive and informed decisions and to have healthy relationships, which they are ready for, and want.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

London: As the British election campaign steps up, a viral meme is circulating about Prime Minister Theresa May’s record on LGBT rights – but is it actually true?
Senior opposition figures are among those to have shared a critical summary of the Conservative leader’s record on LGBT rights, across her 20 years in Parliament.
The viral internet meme highlights her apparently hostile record on LGBT equality – citing the times she voted against same-sex adoption and the repeal of Section 28.
While many of the stances on the list are correct, it it does not paint a full or accurate picture of the leader’s record – twisting and missing key elements.

It is certainly true that Mrs May leader started out her Parliamentary career as an opponent of LGBT rights in 1997, entering politics as a firm opponent of equality in line with her party’s stance.
Under Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership, Mrs May obeyed the Tory whip to vote against a number of LGBT rights reforms, including an equal age of consent and same-sex adoptions.
But within a few years, pro-LGBT voices had become more mainstream within the Conservative Party, and May’s stance was softening.
In 2004, under leader Michael Howard, she voted in favour of civil partnerships for same-sex couples – the first time she had openly backed an LGBT rights measure.
At the same time she abstained on the Gender Recognition Act, declining to side with Tory hardliners who voted against the law.
Both her personal stance and her party’s would continue to shift.
Under David Cameron’s leadership, it was Mrs May who helped first ensure that proposals for same-sex marriage made it onto the Conservative agenda – promising a review ahead of the 2010 election.
For the election, Mrs May penned the Conservative Party’s ‘Contract for Equalities’ – released alongside the party’s manifesto – in which she pledged to “consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage”.
The pledge outflanked Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, which had ruled out same-sex marriage.
It was also ahead of the 2010 election that May spoke publicly about a change of heart on LGBT issues, taking the chance to disavow her early voting record.
Speaking on Question Time, she conceded: “I have changed my view. If those votes were taken today, I would take a different vote.
“On gay adoption I have changed my mind… because I have been persuaded that when you are looking at the future for a child, I think it’s better for a child who is perhaps in an institutional environment, if they have an opportunity of being in a stable, family environment – be that a heterosexual couple or a gay couple.
“I think it’s more important that that child is in that stable and loving environment and I have genuinely changed my mind on that.”
Her stance continued to shift as Home Secretary and Equalities Minister during the Coalition government.
In government, it was Theresa May and Lib Dem minister Lynne Featherstone who helped secure a Coalition-wide agreement to bring about same-sex marriage, after it was left out of the Coalition Agreement.
Baroness Featherstone – the architect of the equal marriage law – has since affirmed that May’s support was instrumental in convincing the Conservative leadership and the Cabinet to agree to move forward with the proposal, which resulted in the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.
In her book ‘Equal Ever After’, Baroness Featherstone praised Theresa May as an “unsung hero” of the push for marriage. Mrs May was also key to ensuring that proposals allowed for religious same-sex weddings as well as civil weddings, as the legislation was drafted.
Since becoming Prime Minister last year, Mrs May has not placed a strong focus on LGBT rights – though she did overturn a Cameron-era decision to block plans for mandatory sex and relationship education in all schools.
Asked if gay sex is sinful in an interview last week, she replied simply, “no”.
Despite her evolving stance, Mrs May continues to face strong criticism on some LGBT issues.
A review of the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers was carried out by the Home Office in 2014, but the Home Secretary has since been criticised by asylum groups, who say that in some ways conditions worsened under her tenure.
She has also mooted plans to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights, which guaranteed some of the UK’s earliest LGBT rights protections.
This is all a very long way of saying that Theresa May’s record on LGBT issues is probably too complex to sum it in one viral internet graphic.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Washington DC: A televangelist who said God would “destroy” all gay people is being investigated for tax evasion and fraud.
Benny Hinn, who has been preaching and telling followers that he can “cure” terminal illnesses for four decades, said in 1989 that no later than 1995, gay people in the US would be gone.
“The Lord also tells me to tell you in the mid-90s, about 94, 95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America,” Hinn told a crowd in Orlando, Florida. “But He will not destroy it with what many minds have thought Him to be. He will destroy it with fire. And many will turn and be saved, and many will rebel and be destroyed.”
The preacher has also claimed homosexuality comes from fathers not hugging their sons.
And he has said that being gay is a “perversion” and condemned pastors who say homosexuality is not a sin.
But last week, Hinn’s offices in Texas were raided by the Internal Revenue Service.
Special Agent Michael Moseley with IRS Criminal Investigations told local TV channel WFAA: “Today, we are here on official business, we are conducting a search warrant on the premises – basically that’s all I can tell you today.
“We are primarily investigating Title 26, which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government.”
Hinn casts himself as a miracle worker to his followers – who are 3.3 million-strong on Facebook.
The televangelist tells them he has the power to cure AIDS, blindness, deafness and cancer, among other serious and terminal maladies.
In response to the IRS raid, Benny Hinn Ministries issued a statement on Facebook.
“As has been widely reported, Benny Hinn Ministries is cooperating fully with the governmental entities that are reviewing certain operations of the Church.
“The ministry has undergone intense scrutiny over the years, and we remain confident that there will again be a positive and speedy outcome in the days ahead.
“Pastor Benny appreciates the love, prayers, and support of our beloved partners as we continue to minister the saving and healing Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world,” the statement concluded.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Paris: The niece of anti-gay marriage Front National leader Marine Le Pen has “guaranteed” that same-sex marriage would be repealed if she wins the Presidential election.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of Front National (FN) founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and the niece of the far-right party’s current leader Marine Le Pen.
She was elected in 2012 at age 22, the youngest MP in France’s political history.Maréchal-Le Pen, who last year said that same-sex marriage would “open the door to polygamy”, has made the guarantee that her aunt, who is through to a Presidential run-off, would repeal same-sex marriage if she is elected.
“It will not be the first priority, but … [repealing gay marriage] is a promise that we will stick to, and I will personally guarantee that this bill is demolished,” the MP for Vaucluse told BFMTV.
Far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, who suggested she would temporarily step aside as the leader of the party last week, had already pledged to repeal same-sex marriage.
The number 87 proposal for Le Pen’s candidacy says same-sex marriage will be repealed.
“The Front National will replace the provisions made under the Taubira law [the bill enabling people of the same sex to wed, named after Justice Minister Christine Taubira] with civil unions,” it reads.
The candidate came second in the first round of voting last month and will face Emmanuel Macron – the centrist, pro-equality candidate – in the second and final vote on May 7.
One group of people who helped put Le Pen through to the second round is gay men, who voted National Front in bigger numbers than ever before.
One in five gay men said they intended to vote for Le Pen when polled ahead of the first round of voting.
Maréchal-Le Pen last year said that she thought same-sex marriage would lead to the legalisation of polygamous marriages. Le Pen faces an uphill battle – she is currently polling at 38% to Macron’s 62% in the run-off.
But if she does pull of an extraordinary victory in the fifth republic, it could well be the votes of white gay men that pushed her over the finish line.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Washington DC: A claim has been made that former US President Barack Obama asked the former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan to delay an anti-gay bill.
The claim was made by former Senate President David Mark, who said that Obama had asked Jonathan to delay the bill because of the US Presidential election.
He had apparently asked the National Assembly to delay the bill, which was passed and signed into law in 2013. It makes homosexuality punishable with a 14-year prison sentence.
Mark made the claim in his new book ‘Against the Run of Play’.
He writes: “President Jonathan called me that President Obama had sent to him a message of concerns about the bill. That was in 2012 at a time Obama was seeking a second term in office.
“President Jonathan asked what could be done and I told him that not only was I committed to the passage of the bill that was also the position of the National Assembly.
“I said the only thing I could do was delay its passage till after the American presidential election. But I assured him that the same-sex marriage was not something we would legalise in Nigeria.
“We delayed it for a few months after that, but we eventually passed the bill into law and President Jonathan had to assent.”
The bill was signed into law by Jonathan in 2014.
America in 2015 vowed to continue to put pressure on countries like Nigeria which have anti-LGBT legislation in place.
Then US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated that America will continue to pressurise Nigeria.
Last month 53 people were facing criminal charges in Nigeria after police claimed they attended a same-sex wedding.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Mississippi: ack Zawadski’s partner of 52 years had just died and it was time to make funeral arrangements.
But the 82-year-old says he was refused service by a funeral home in Picayune, Mississippi, where he and Robert Huskey had lived in for two decades.
‘I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me,’ says Zawadski who has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Picayune Funeral Home.
‘Bob was my life, and we had always felt so welcome in this community. And then, at a moment of such personal pain and loss, to have someone do what they did to me, to us, to Bob, I just couldn’t believe it. No one should be put through what we were put through.’
Huskey and Zawadski got married in the summer of 2015 just a few months after same-sex marriage became legal in Mississippi.
Huskey’s health began to deteriorate and he died in a nursing home last May.
Although arrangements had been made in advance, the trouble began when the funeral home received paperwork from the nursing home identifying Zawadski as his husband.
It was then that the nursing home allegedly refused to pick up the body and perform the cremation.
The nursing home could not keep the body on site so Zawadski and a nephew scrambled to find another funeral home with an on-site crematorium.
The closest was 90 miles away. Adding to the stress Was finding another funeral home in Picayune that was willing to transport the body from the nursing home to Hattiesburg.
Lambda Legal has joined Zawadski in his lawsuit which seeks damages for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Their nephew John Gaspari had carefully made all necessary arrangements before Huskey’s death to protect Zawadski from additional suffering.
‘Instead, Bob’s peaceful passing was marred by turmoil, distress and indignity, adding immeasurable anguish to Jack and John’s loss. This should not have happened to them, and should not be allowed to happen again,’ said Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell.
‘What happened to this family is shocking.’
In a video released by lambda Legal, a tearful Zawadski says the funeral home ‘brought dishonor to my partner.’ He hopes the lawsuit ‘brings him some honor.’
An attorney for the funeral home said it is customary not to comment on pending litigation but tells Gay Star News he would make a exception because the case was quickly drawing so much attention.
‘We disagree with the portrayal of our client and categorically deny she made the statements attributed to her,’ says attorney Silas McCharen.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Vancouver: A polygamy trial which recently opened in the Canadian province of British Columbia has attracted attention throughout the country and among law-and-religion pundits across the world. focuses on a fundamentalist religious community called “Bountiful”. The group is home to Canada’s best-known avowed polygamist, Winston Blackmore, as well as his former brother-in-law James Oler. Both have been charged with polygamy under legislation which has existed for more than a century but has proved virtually impossible to apply because of countervailing considerations about religious freedom. “Bountiful”, which was founded in 1946, has its roots in offshoots from the American Mormon church whose mainstream leadership eschewed polygamy in 1890. The Mormons now take a very dim view of small holdout communities across North America who still engage in multiple marriage, and have fought legal battles against them.

The indictment in the current trial lists 24 women who have been ceremonially married to, or had conjugal relations with Mr Blackmore, while four women are listed as wives of Mr Oler. Mr Blackmore has never hidden the fact that he has multiple wives who have borne him at least 145 children.

During the trial so far, the two men have been sitting side by side in the small courthouse in the town of Cranbrook, never speaking to each other. Mr Blackmore was excommunicated in 2002 from a fundamentalist sect of American polygamists in whose ranks he had served as “bishop”. The leader of that sect, Warren Jeffs, is serving a life sentence in Texas after he was convicted in 2011 of raping two of his under-age brides.

The Bountiful community has been under investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for at least 25 years. Several moves to charge its leaders foundered after the provincial government received legal advice that Canada’s Charter of Rights of Freedoms, underpinning religious liberty, might take precedence. The province’s former attorney general, Wally Oppal, spent years looking for strategies to prosecute, arguing that polygamy was demeaning to women and damaging to minors. The Charter does allow for “reasonable limits” on religious freedom when they are “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” as critics of polygamy have noted.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued a landmark decision running to 335 pages: it opined that although anti-polygamy legislation does indeed impinge on religious freedom, it is necessary in view of the harm which multiple marriage causes to children, women and society. It was that ruling which paved the way for the current trial.

Blair Suffredine, Mr Blackmore’s lawyer, is defending his client on grounds that society recognises the legitimacy of other non-traditional unions, including common-law marriage. He has said: “Because of Blackmore’s religious belief, because he has more than one relationship, he’s being prosecuted. If he didn’t have a religious ceremony and just had all these children with different women, it would be fine. The sole distinction is [that] Blackmore went and had ceremonies for each one.”

Evidence presented at the trial has included dozens of “marriage certificates” for weddings that took place on the same day. If convicted, Mr Blackmore and Mr Oler could each face up to five years in prison. A verdict is not expected until the autumn.

The decision will be watched with interest in many democracies. There is no liberal democratic state where polygamy is legal, but the practice is recognised, either formally or de facto, in around 60 countries round the world, mostly Muslim. In practice, courts and authorities in democratic countries have often accorded some recognition to polygamous unions forged elsewhere when adjudicating, say, social-security benefits or child custody. That includes Canada, where immigration authorities insist, of course, that each newcomer must declare only one spouse but have been willing in principle to allow children from a father’s other marriages to enter the country.

Still, there is virtually no tolerance for multiple marriages within the boundaries of a single democratic state across the Western world. It remains axiomatic that a person who enters a marriage ceremony while still legally wedded to somebody else is a bigamist. That rule invalidates the second marriage and renders the bigamist liable to prosecution.

Yet even that simple-sounding principle is not easy to apply. What if the “ceremony “ is some new-fangled rite which has been dreamed up by a recently constituted community, with no real social or legal standing? Does that make the situation better or worse than simply living with multiple partners, which is not illegal? Such questions will remain hotly contested through this trial and beyond.

Source: http://www.economist.com

Belfast: A Northern Ireland bakery has refused to make an engagement cake for a same-sex couple. Ashers Bakery, a fundamentalist Christian-run local business who were found guilty of service provision discrimination after refusing to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan in 2015, has once again refused a ‘gay cake’ order.

Grainne McCann from London told Sunday Life that she ordered a cake from the baker’s online shop with the requested phrase: “Gay marriage rocks! Happy engagement, Andy and Joe! Lots of love xxx” The cake was intended as a gift for her friends Andy Wong and Joe Palmer to celebrate their engagement – the next day, however, McCann received a cancellation note and refund.
Suspecting that the cake had been declined because of the pro-gay message, McCann placed a new order for a christening cake.

“Ashers couldn’t have been happier to make that cake,” she said. “A woman from the company even offered to drive it to its destination in Dublin as a favour, because she was going that way.” In the end, McCann got friends from London bakery Londoncakes.com to make the engagement cake.“In my view, by turning away business based on the sexual orientation of the consumer they risk being sued again,” she said. “My friends and I don’t want to sue – but others might want to take action.

“I’m staggered that Ashers wouldn’t make the cake, but I’m glad that Londoncakes.com supplied it – the cake was delicious and made with love.”

In October 2016 the Court of Appeal in Belfast upheld a ruling against the fundamentalist Christian bakery that said it had discriminated against LGBT+ activist Gareth Lee. The bakery had declined to bake a cake with a message in support of marriage equality for him. At the time, Daniel McArthur from the bakery said he was “extremely disappointed” with the judge’s decision.

“If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes then equality law needs to change,” he said.

Explaining the decision, judges said: “The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.” They added that Ashers would not have denied to ice a cake with the messages “Support Heterosexual Marriage” or “Support Marriage”. The bakery makes no mention of it’s same-sex marriage position on its website. It does however prohibit “threatening, defamatory, blasphemous or pornographic” content.

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Denver: A pastor has claimed that public schools will turn kids into “transgender communists”. The extraordinary claim comes from Pastor Kevin Swanson, an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor and broadcaster from Colorado. Swanson took to his online radio show Generations Radio to warn parents to pull their kids out of non-private schools. The pastor urged people to home-school their kids or send them to evangelical religious schools, because government-run schools will make them “transgender communists”. He said: “The state has an agenda with your children… I think if you begin to see the trajectory of where things have gone and you just draw it out for the next five, six, eight years, you’re going to find this is the agenda.
The pastor continued: “The goals of the educational program for your kids in the public schools… the goals of the world for your children is that your kids be transgendered and communist by 20 years of age.”
He added: “Of course this is the agenda. “Parents, just get serious about it. Do you want your kids transgendered and communist at 18 years of age?
“Is that your goal? If it isn’t, then maybe you ought to bring a different vision into the education of your children.”
Swanson recently claimed that people who have sex with animals are going to team up with homosexuals to take over the world after the release of live-action Disney film Beauty and the Beast.
The film came under fire from evangelicals for featuring a minor gay character, but Swanson is also worried about the teenage girl falling in love with a buffalo.
Raising the film’s main love story, Swanson continued: “Liberals appear to be okay with inter-species breeding.
“This is not a new thing… apparently these guys are A-OK with it. The evolutionary world view cannot argue against beastiality. It simply cannot take an ethical position against it.
He continued: “Christians, I don’t believe, can allow for this. Humans are made in the image of God. Humans are assigned a spouse which happens to be a member of the opposite sex.
“Friends, God’s law forbids it … Christians should not allow for this, man. We cannot allow for humans to interbreed with other species. It’s just wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s confusion, it’s unnatural.
“We are in some of the most radical, most anti-biblical, the most immoral, the most unethical, the most wicked sexual environment that the world has ever known, right now.”
Listen to the clip here.
The Colorado pastor is known for his extreme comments, and Republican Senator Ted Cruz was forced to disavow any links to him last year after attending a rally at which Swanson called for gay people to be put to death.
Cruz had attended the National Religious Liberties Conference, which was organised by Swanson.
At the event, Swanson shouted: “Yes, Leviticus calls for the death penalty for homosexuals! Yes, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death! His words, not mine, and [screaming] I AM NOT ASHAMED! I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God!”
For months Cruz ignored calls to apologise for appearing alongside Swanson – who also claims that parents should drown children who want to read Harry Potter.
However, a Cruz spokesperson did eventually say in a statement: “Senator Cruz is passionate about religious liberties.
“Many respected organizations were sponsoring [the conference], but, given these offensive comments, it was a mistake for Senator Cruz to appear at the event.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Seoul: Student activists are trying to get themselves arrested in an effort to support persecuted soldiers.
Students have begun brandishing “Arrest me, too” signs on university campuses across South Korea following the reported arrests of gay and bi serving soldiers.
According to campaign group the Military Human Rights Center for Korea (MHRCK), General Jang Jun-kyu, army chief of staff in South Korea launched a “track-down process” to find and out suspected gay personnel. This included setting up fake profiles on dating apps to track down soldiers and expose them.
The process is thought to have identified 50 soldiers, 20 of whom now face charges under the country’s military anti-homosexuality laws.
A poster appeared at one South Korean institution, Sungshin Women’s University, reading: “If gay soldiers are criminals, then the women’s university campus couple were also criminals. So arrest us, too.”
The anger has been heightened following comments in South Korea’s ongoing presidential election.
Another poster at Silla University says: “I’ve had to listen to the presidential candidate who is likely to win the election saying, ‘I don’t support homosexuality, but it shouldn’t be punished. But I won’t enact anti-discrimination legislation.’
“Meanwhile, activists who travelled there to get an apology were arrested.”
Although same-sex sexual activity is not illegal in the country, the army retains a code of conduct that bans homosexuality, and military service is mandatory.
Under South Korean law a soldier who commits “sodomy” or “other disgraceful conduct” can face up to two years in prison.
The country’s presidential front-runner, Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, shocked supporters when he declared that he is opposed to homosexuality.
“I oppose,” Mr Jae-in said, when asked his view on homosexuality, Associated Press has reported.
Jung Yol, a gay rights activist, said: “Moon needs to offer an apology and a correction of his comments made on live television.”
“What he said was clearly hate speech, and since he is the candidate favoured to win the election, his words can influence how people think.”
After Moon made the comments, LGBT rights protesters showed up with rainbow flags at the candidate’s campaign event in the capital, Seoul.
They shouted: “Apologise for the hate speech!” and asked him: “Are you opposing my own existence?”
13 people were detained following the protests, with some dragged away, according to LGBT rights group Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was previously seen waving a rainbow flag, to the confusion of many.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Delhi: rans activists in India have alleged that trans people are being denied access to burial grouns.
‘We have been discriminated for long enough,’Rachana Mudraboyina told Telangana Today.
‘There is even discrimination in death as transgenders are not allowed to use mainstream burial grounds. It is really disheartening to live in a society where we are treated like some sort of non-human species.’
Rachana said a trans person they knew was denied their last rites according to their faith.
‘We have invited the people concerned of the religion to come and perform their rituals, but they refused because the person who passed away was a transgender,’ Rachana said.
Discrimination in death
Activists in Hyderabad have called on authorities to ‘please stop treating us like aliens’ and allow them to buried traditionally.
‘There have been quite a few cases that have surfaced where transgender people faced trouble over entry for burial in graveyards,’ said Madhav, a LGBTI activist.
‘Most of them finally resorted to burying the body outside the graveyard or to conducting the rites late in the night by paying extra money to the cemetery caretaker.’
G Krishna of Suraksha Society said they go to extreme lengths to ensure trans people get the burial they deserve.
‘There is a separate burial ground for the Hijra (trans women) community that belong to the Haveli built for them during the Nizam period, but there is no such provision for other transgenders in the city,’ Krishna said.
‘Sometimes we are forced to dress up a transgender as a man and fake their identity to get access into burial grounds. There is an immediate need to fight against this discrimination.’

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Kiev: A Soviet-era landmark in the Ukranian capital city Kyiv is being repainted in time for the Eurovision Song Contest later this month. The Friendship of Nations Arch was first created back in 1982 to mark the unification of Russia and Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union. However, to celebrate the city hosting Eurovision, as well as the upcoming Kyiv Pride parade, mayor Vitali Klitschko gave the go-ahead for it be be repainted as a rainbow. It will temporarily be known as the Arch of Diversity. It plays into Eurovision’s theme this year, which is Celebrate Diversity. “The Arch calls to celebrate diversity. Diversity in all its meanings: racial, linguistic, musical, sexual,” said Gennadiy Kurochka of CFC Consulting, the PR organisation in charge of Eurovision’s celebrations in the city.

“Everyone sees a unique aspect of diversity, when looking on this art piece.

“I consider the Ukrainian society to be free and open-minded enough to respect any manifestation of diversity, which we tried to convey via this art piece.”

However, Ukrainian Nationalists attempted to block the painting when it first began last week, but police forces were deployed to make sure no violence broke out. The Arch of Diversity is nearly completed ahead of next week’s Eurovision Song Contest Semi Final and Grand Final shows, which will take place on 9, 11 and 13 May.

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Alabama: Alabama has passed a bill allowing adoption agencies to refuse service to LGBT+ people. HB 24, signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday 3 May, will offer protection for agencies who claim that their religious beliefs prevent them from placing children with same-sex couples. The law also means that agencies can turn away interfaith couples, single parents, couples where one parent has previously been divorced, and anyone else from the LGBT+ spectrum based on religious objection. Ivey said in a statement that the Alabama state legislature “overwhelmingly approved” of the discriminatory measure, which has – somewhat ironically – been titled the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act.

“I appreciate the work of the legislature, and I agree with it on the importance of protecting religious liberty in Alabama,” she added.

Republican representative Rich Wingo, who sponsored the bill, said his intention was to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies don’t have to close down because of their religious beliefs.
But the bill has proved less than popular with LGBT+ rights activists, as the Alabama State Director of the Human Rights Campaign, Eva Kendrick, labelled the move a “solution to a fake problem”.

She said: “We are deeply disappointed that the legislature and the governor took on this unnecessary, discriminatory bill instead of focusing on how to improve the lives of all Alabamians, no matter who they are or whom they love. The intent of this law is clear: to discriminate, causing the most harm to children in Alabama’s child welfare system. It’s time our lawmakers – from the legislature to the Governor’s Mansion – stop using LGBTQ people as pawns to win cheap political points.”

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Canberra: Several Australian queer student activists is calling on the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Red Cross to end their “homophobic” policy of banning blood donations from gay and bi men.

Current policy sees any men who have had same-sex sexual contact deferred from donating blood for 12 months.

“[This is] regardless of whether the sex is safe or takes place within a long-term monogamous relationship,” said Remy Pilot of Let Us Donate.
“We are campaigning towards a more nuanced approach, one based upon individual risk assessment or a shortening of the deferral period.”

The group is running an online petition to push for the change in policy. The purpose of the policy is to ensure HIV and STIs are not spread via blood donations during the window period after transmission where they can’t yet be detected.

Let Us Donate argued that the window period for STIs is no longer than three months for these infections, and called the 12-month deferral period “discriminatory and outdated”.

“Blood donation policy must be based on the best contemporary evidence,” said Darryl O’Donnell, CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

“We need to ensure the absolute safety of blood products, while not needlessly excluding those who wish to donate. The 12-month deferral period for gay and bisexual men is unnecessarily long, and is not consistent with expert evidence.”

The Australian Red Cross has stated, “The underlying principle on which people give blood has to be one of mutual trust. This trust must be extended to the hundreds of thousands of queer persons it excludes for donating blood,” said organisers from Let Us Donate.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Paris: Marine Le Pen has pledged to repeal the country’s 2013 same-sex marriage law.
In her manifesto she promises to create an “improved” form of civil unions in the country to “replace” the equal marriage law passed under the current Socialist government.
Macron, a supporter of LGBT rights, dedicated an entire section of his manifesto to advancing LGBT issues.
It doesn’t seem to have put off some LGBT voters, however.
One in three French gays are voting for a Presidential candidate who has pledged to abolish same-sex marriage.
Le Pen has recently made inroads with white conservative gay voters by playing off concerns about Islamic extremism, despite her manifesto promise to scrap same-sex marriage.
Polling ahead of the first round of voting has suggested 20 percent of gay voters would lend their support for Le Pen, in a wide field of candidates.
But now the race narrowed to just two candidates, new data suggests she has surged in support among the gay community. The poll found that 63.5 percent of gay men will be voting for Emmanuel Macron, but 36.5 percent are backing Marine Le Pen.
Younger gay men, many of whom are too young to remember the long and fraught battle for LGBT equality in the country, are more supportive of the anti-gay marriage candidate, whose party fought tooth-and-nail against progress.
Among gay men aged 18 to 29, support for Le Pen surges to 43.5 percent, behind Macron on 56.5 percent.
The sentiment towards Le Pen is different among older gay men.
For men aged 30 to 49, support for Le Pen plunges to 32.2 percent, with 67.8 percent backing Macron.
Hornet adds :”[In the older] age group, the respondents knew the Front National before Marine Le Pen took over in 2010 with her attempt to de-demonize the extreme right party.
“They may recall her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s homophobic and serophobic remarks. For example, he explained in the 1980s that people living with HIV should be locked up.”
Front National also includes some of the highest-profile gay politicians in France.
The architect of Le Pen’s astounding journey to the cusp of power is her deputy Florian Philppot.
In 2014 Philippot was ‘outed’ as gay by French Closer magazine, which published photographs of him holidaying with another man.
Philippot, who has since spoken about his sexuality publicly, has led the outreach to gay voters, insisting: “We’re a party that doesn’t care about people’s preferences, their sexual practices or whatever.
“You’re a French citizen foremost. And the Front National is a very young party: the members, the voters, the candidates are young. This is a modern party.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Sacramento: Non-binary Californians will be the first in the US to check their actual gender on official forms if these activists get their way.
“Society doesn’t understand that we exist,” said Carly Mitchell, a Californian resident who’s leading the charge with fellow activist Sara Kelly Keenan.
Speaking to local news channel KCRA, Mitchell – who is non-binary – said it would be life-changing if Senate Bill 179 is signed into law. SB 179, which was first proposed in January, would “ensure that intersex, transgender, and non-binary people have state-issued identification documents that provide full legal recognition of their accurate gender identity.”
The bill also emphasises that “gender identification is fundamentally personal, and the state should endeavour to provide options on state-issued identification documents that recognise a person’s accurate gender identification.”
If passed through the Senate and Assembly, the bill would mean a third gender option would be included on driving licences and birth certificates.
Mitchell said that “having this license protects me from job discrimination, from imprisonment in many cases.”

Her partner in the fight, Californian resident Sara Kelly Keenan, was the first person to receive a re-issued birth certificate from New York City last year defining her as intersex.
Keenan was born intersex, with male genes, female genitalia and mixed internal reproductive organs.
“My body looks quite different from other women,” Keenan said.
The bill has been successfully voted through two committees, and Keenan and Mitchell are confident of getting it through the remaining legislative hurdles.The activists say they have support from Democrats, and that even some Republicans have abstained from voting so far.
Attorney Toby Adams added: “We’ve met with the Department of Motor Vehicles, who is very supportive of providing this non-binary option.”
Once they’ve passed it through the Californian legislative system, the activists plan to take this issue to the federal government.
In Britain, Stonewall called for a non-binary option to be added to passports last month, in a move which the charity said would also help trans people.
Days earlier, banking giant HSBC marked International Transgender Day of Visibility by introducing 10 new gender-neutral titles for customers.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Paris: France’s top court of appeals has upheld a ruling which forbids a person from being officially recognised as gender-neutral.
In August 2015, a family court in the central French city of Tours ruled that the anonymous 65-year-old psychotherapist should be recognised as gender-neutral on government documents.
But in March 2016, an appeals court in Orléans rejected the ruling.
The appellant took the case to France’s highest court of appeals, but received the disappointing ruling today, as reported by France 24 with AFP. When summing up its decision on the landmark case, the court stated that “the duality” of gender as a civil status was “necessary for social and legal organisation”.
The appellant was born with an indeterminate gender, but assigned a male gender on their birth certificate.
The person, who identifies as intersex, was referred to in the initial case as “ile,” which was a combination of ‘he’ and ‘she’ in French.
Appealing the ruling in August, the state prosecutor raised fears that a number of legal cases will be launched, resulting in a ‘third sex’.
Acting for the psychotherapist, Mila Petkova argued that a male identity was used to address the person for their entire life.
The court concluded that this was “pure fiction”.
“It was imposed upon him for his entire existence without him ever being able to express his deepest feelings,” the ruling said.
The court concluded in the August 20 ruling that the person has the “right to private life”.
It also decided that “the birth certificate of Monsieur X, which for the past 65 years has attributed to him a masculine gender, should be rectified and now include a ‘neutral status’”.
In Britain, Stonewall called for a non-binary option to be added to passports last month, in a move which the charity said would also help trans people.
Days earlier, banking giant HSBC marked International Transgender Day of Visibility by introducing 10 new gender-neutral titles for customers.
In August last year, Nepal joined the few countries which allow third gender passports, as it issues its first one.
The only other countries which allow third-gender or gender ‘X’ passports are Australia and New Zealand.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

New York City: All schools in New York City will soon be required to have single-stall bathrooms for transgender students.
City officials announced on Wednesday that all schools must comply with the new regulation by January 2018.
They described the single-stall bathrooms as “safe spaces” for students. The Department of Education also said that the facilities would not require special permissions or “medical documentation” for access.
By June, the first phase of the scheme will be rolled out, and the rest will be required to have single-stall bathrooms by the first month of 2018.
The Department has said it will work with school administrators to help convert some existing bathrooms into student-friendly facilities.
“No one should ever feel shame or fear discrimination and violence when using a restroom,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm in a statement.
“For many disabled, transgender and gender-nonconforming children and young people with medical conditions, this simple act can be a traumatising experience.”
The move towards genderless bathrooms is a stark contrast to proposals in other parts of the country, such as North Carolina’s hugely controversial bathroom bill, also known as HB2.
The law, which was passed in 2016, banned trans people from using gender-appropriate bathrooms, as well as rolling back LGBT+ anti-discrimination laws.
The state has since lost a string of big investments, and could face losing out on more than 100 champion-level sporting events.
Similarly, the Texas senate passed a bill which bans gender neutral bathrooms and forces trans people to use toilets of their ‘biological sex’.
More than 55 athletes have since signed an open letter in opposition to the Texas bathroom bill, saying they were “committed to upholding the very values that sport instils in each of us.”
“Values like fair play, equality, inclusion and respect.”
It continues: “We believe that everyone should be afforded the same access, opportunity, and experience both in sport and under the law.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 13 states were considering laws by late March that limit access to bathrooms in some way.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Moscow: Controversial “treatments” by psychotherapists and preachers are being offered to gay people in Russia.
BBC Russian heard accounts of so-called cures, after it emerged that gay men were being persecuted in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim republic in southern Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she had asked President Vladimir Putin to “use his influence to protect the rights of minorities”, referring to the reports from Chechnya.
Homosexuality is not officially considered a mental disorder in Russia. But homophobia is common – not only in Chechnya.
Russia removed homosexuality from its list of recognised psychiatric conditions in 1999 – after the US had done so in 1973 and the World Health Organization in 1992.
Globally, scientists do not recognise any “treatment” of homosexuality as effective or required. Psychotherapist Yan Goland, from the city of Nizhny Novgorod, says he has “cured” 78 gay and eight transsexual people using a method developed in the Soviet Union by his teacher, Nikolai Ivanov.
He told the BBC that the “treatment” lasted between eight and 18 months, and longer for transsexuals.
“When a patient comes to me, I show them similar cases: how they were and how they are now. The patient is filled with hope that we can help, and understands they need to be treated,” he said.
In the first stage, he aims to “extinguish” the individual’s same-sex attraction. The hypnotherapy sessions can last up to eight hours. He also uses a mixture of psychoanalysis and identity therapy as a way of influencing a person’s dreams.
The second stage is meant to forge an attraction to the opposite sex. He prompts his male patients to sexually objectify the women around them.
“I tell them: ‘when you leave the session, walk down the street and take a look at all the young woman you see, take an interest in their figures and select the best.’”
Step three, Mr Goland says, involves sex with members of the opposite sex.
‘Catastrophic’ experience
Yuri, 40, says he underwent the psychotherapist’s “treatment” in the early 1990s, wanting to “wake up and be on the right path”, but ended up with his sex drive in tatters.
“The result was, without doubt, negative if not damaging. It was catastrophic, if I’m honest.”
Mr Goland is now 80 and says he is still “treating” people.A Russian web search on “how to cure homosexuality” brings up various websites offering online consultations with doctors.
The Nikitenko brothers describe themselves as “psycho-hypnologists” and offer a two-month course of audio-hypnosis. One session costs 5,000 roubles (£68, $88).
Nikolai Nikitenko believes homosexuality is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
“When someone watches pornography and has gay sex, they forge a new neural pathway in the brain. A guy from Vladivostok called me: he’s 18 and said he was worrying for nine hours a day about becoming gay.”
Their hypnotherapy aims to de-stress the patient and teach them the “right ways to behave and react”.
The brothers boast they have already “treated” seven gay people who wanted to be straight and say there is “no chance of them relapsing”.
A doctor’s warning
But there are doctors in Russia with views closer to those of Western specialists and scientists worldwide.
“You normally become aware of your sexual orientation between 11 and 13 years of age… There are several different orientations and homosexuality is one of the normal variants,” says psychologist Pavel Sobolevsky, who works with LGBT patients.
“You can’t change your sexual orientation,” he told the BBC – and that is what he tells clients who approach him over their sexuality.
Attempts to change your sexual orientation through psychotherapy can be damaging, he warned.
Russian Orthodox nun carries an icon outside St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg, 9 Apr 17Image copyrightAFP
Image caption
The Russian Orthodox Church sees homosexuality as sinful
Various religious organisations are offering “treatments” for homosexuals.
Some refused to go into details, saying they would only divulge them to religious media.
But Pastor Yevgeny Peresvetov did speak. He heads the Protestant organisation “Vosstanovleniye” (meaning “rehabilitation” or “resurrection”). It promises to help gay people “reject” their sexuality.
The organisation’s YouTube channel has accounts of two men who have “liberated themselves from sin” by “ridding themselves of homosexuality”.
The pastor, wearing a smart suit and a Jesus portrait on his tie, leads Sunday services in a Moscow club.
He sees homosexuality as an addiction – like a drug – and symptomatic of a “spiritual hunger”.
“Either the individual’s father wasn’t present, or was violent, or was only there on the periphery. Homosexuals find freedom when they find God as their father.”
Children forced into ‘treatment’
Some Russian families turn to religious institutions to “cure” children who have come out.
Maria, 27, was taken to church against her will by her family to “treat” her homosexuality when she was only 13. She had holy water poured over her while others read out prayers.
“I couldn’t hear anything; I was bawling my eyes out. They kept on reading out prayers and forced me to go to church, where I was told that my attraction to other women came from Satan,” she told the BBC.
“They covered me in holy water and forced me to drink it. Sometimes they hit me with rods. I feel like they broke my mind.”
Yevgenia, a 19-year-old transgender woman described intolerant attitudes among doctors.
“The first doctor said: ‘You just got carried away: look at you, you’re a real man! You want to have surgery? Can’t you just live like everyone else?’”
A second doctor told Yevgenia she was probably a gay man and an attention-seeker.
“He said I just had to resign myself to being a man,” Yevgenia told the BBC.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news

Manchester: Russia’s best-selling newspaper has called Manchester a city of “fat women” and “debauchery”. The article in Komsomolskaya Pravda criticised the city’s Canal Street gay district, saying it’s “disgusting” people of the same sex openly kiss and hold hands.
Columnist Alisa Titko told readers it was “such a pleasure there are no such gay streets in Moscow”. She said it shows people are wrong to say Russia should be “more tolerant” about “non-traditional” sexuality.
“In Manchester there is a whole part of the city for gay people,” she said. “There is even a place there saying Gay Village. In the evenings gays and lesbians are having fun not only inside but also outside and they do not hide their feelings.”She urged readers to “remain Russian”, saying: “Let’s start normal families. Let’s give birth in legal marriages. And don’t let’s mix love and debauchery.”
She added the rising number of people “with non-traditional sexual orientation” in Russia was because “their mothers did not beat them enough when they were kids”.
It comes days after Germany’s leader Angela Merkel again put pressure on Russia’s president to help protect gay rights.
Alisa Titko also claimed it was no surprise Manchester’s men “become gay”, because the city’s women “are fat, not sexy” and “simply disgusting to men”.
She wrote: “The fat hangs from the stomach, sides, and doesn’t fit in their jeans. In clubs, they still pull on tight leggings and mini dresses.”

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news

United States: Two Southern US Republican governors, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Kay Ivey of Alabama, signed anti-LGBT bills into law Thursday. Haslam signed House Bill 1111, which requires that “undefined words” in Tennessee law “be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest,” as the bill text reads. LGBT activists say — and its backers admit — that the bill is aimed at defining terms regarding marriage and gender in a way that excludes LGBT people.

“The reason we [approved the bill] was simple,” Haslam told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “The natural and ordinary definition that is part of that legislation is really what the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court has used those terms for years, actually, for centuries.” Haslam had said he would base his decision on whether to sign or veto the bill on the will of legislators, and both the state House and Senate passed it by large margins.

Zeke Stokes, vice President of programs for GLAAD, issued a statement condemning the measure: “By the stroke of a pen, Governor Haslam has now placed the future of the state’s economy and the well-being of the LGBTQ community in jeopardy. HB 1111 has the potential to undermine marriages between LGBTQ couples, nullify a transgender person’s true identity under law, and put LGBTQ families at risk. This sets a dangerous precedent for how the LGBTQ community is treated in Tennessee moving forward.”

Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders told the News Sentinel the word “natural” was troublesome. “We know the way ‘natural’ is typically used in respect to our relationships,” he said. “Our families aren’t natural. So that is a concern, and with 95 counties and elected judges serving all of them, there’s just huge potential for LGBT folks to get a bad ruling somewhere along the way. So we’re very concerned about that.”

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, though, had issued an opinion saying judges would likely continue to side with the more inclusive definitions in current case law, such as the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality decision, the News Sentinel reports.

In Alabama, Ivey signed a measure that would prevent the state from withholding or pulling licenses from religiously affiliated adoption agencies that follow the tenets of their faith in placing children, even if that means refusing to place adoptees with same-sex couples or LGBT individuals. The legislation, House Bill 24, applies “only to private agencies that don’t accept state or federal funds,” the Associated Press reports.

“This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home,” Ivey said in a statement, according to the AP.

But opponents said the law is clearly aimed at allowing discrimination. “We are deeply disappointed that the legislature and the governor took on this unnecessary, discriminatory bill instead of focusing on how to improve the lives of all Alabamians, no matter who they are or whom they love,” said Eva Kendrick, state director of the Human Rights Campaign Alabama. The bill also means these agencies can discriminate against interfaith couples, single parents, and others who pose a conflict with their faith, in addition to LGBT people.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

London: “Stealthing” is a disturbing new form of sexual assault which sees the perpetrator remove a condom before or during sex without consent.
In recent weeks a number of people have spoken out about being victims of the attack, which has been deemed a “symbol” of male dominance.
The violating trend was revealed in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law and has been labelled not only a form of sexual assault, but also as gender-based violence.
While the act directly targets women, it is also affecting gay men – with some saying that the trend is “rampant” in the LGBT community.
One gay man from America, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed that he had experienced the assault multiple times.
Identified only as Adam, the Connecticut man wanted to raise awareness about “steal thing” as he has lived through “several epidemics” within the gay community.
“If stealthing is prevalent in the heterosexual community then I’m telling you it’s rampant in the homosexual community,” he told the Mirror.
Adam explained that the form of assault is not something he has experienced recently, but has done in the past.
He said: “Having zero concern about this, being a gay man being in a monogamous relationship for over 10 years, I can only reference point of view from years earlier.
“People never speak of the rules/positions of a gay lifestyle. Let’s stick to the main three: top, bottom and versatile. Yes, there’s a few more.”
For Adam, he felt that he was “putting his life” into others hands because you cannot always see the condom.
Adam explained: “Visually keeping your eye on the condom is not always the easiest thing with two men.
“I cannot tell you how petrified I was meeting up with someone that you could well be putting you life in their hands.
“There was more than a few times I caught or suspected the other person trying to remove the condom,” he added.
Adam hopes that his “words may be able to save a life”, because some of his friends had experienced a similar thing to him – but they did not know about the terminology prior to the recent report.
He stressed: “Now it’s been given a name but we need to reach the youth and advise them it’s happening behind their backs without their knowledge. Take the pun for what it is.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Dublin: One in three young Irish LGBT people have tried to kill themselves, research shows.
According to report, published last year, one in three young LGBT people aged 14-18 have attempted to take their own lives because of bullying, rejection and pressures to hide who they really are.
The research showed that the youngest age group considered, 14 to 18, was the one with the highest scores for depression and self-harming.
Across all age groups, 21.4% of LGBT people have attempted suicide. Among under-18s, it was 31.9%.
Over two thirds of the younger age group experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year – with intersex, transgender and bisexual being more likely to think about ending their life.
Findings indicated a clear link between bullying in school and mental health issues among the young LGBT group. Participants who experienced bullying, scored higher on depression, anxiety, stress and problematic alcohol use.
The research indicated that over 50% of LGBT students personally experienced bullying in school while 67% of them witnessed someone else being bullied.
Among the youngest students one in four reported missing school due to the negative treatment that came because of his sexual orientation.
BeLonG To, the Irish national organisation for LGBT+ young people, launched a campaign called “Stand Up!” to fight bullying and make Irish school safer.
Moninne Griffith, BeLonG executive director, said: “Many LGBT+ students are still facing very though situations in their schools including rejection, bullying and pressures to hide who they are.
“This had devastating impacts on their futures, with increased early school leaving and … risk of self-harm and suicide.”
She added that despite the progress achieved by the country in recognising marriage equality LGBT students still suffer from discrimination.
HSBC Ireland has been supporting the campaign “Stand Up” over the past year, in an effort to help create a safer environment for students.
Alan Duffy, CEO of HSBC Ireland said: “We are delighted to be able to support such an important campaign. Raising awareness at secondary school level of the issues of bullying will help create a more inclusive environment for students.”
Recently Ireland has become the first country to introduce a national LGBT youth strategy to tackle homophobia and discrimination affecting the youngest among the LGBT community in the country.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Washington DC: Donald Trump’s pastor, Franklin Graham, has claimed that Christians are persecuted because they do not support the “gay-lesbian agenda”.
The fundamentalist Christian leader, who previously blamed gay people for causing “moral 9/11”, said that thousands of Christians worldwide are killed “because of their faith”. Graham insisted that there was a larger issue with Christians who were persecuted not through violence but belief.
He said: “We need to not only put a spotlight on what’s happening around the world but we need to put a spotlight on what’s happening here in this country, where Christians are being persecuted but in a different way.
“It’s not with a gun or a sword but they’re being forced out of businesses because they do not support the gay-lesbian agenda,” the pastor added.
Graham, who preached at Trump’s inauguration ceremony, went on to use the example of the Christian bakers in Oregon who refused to bake a “gay cake” and were subsequently sued for $135,000.
“You take the bakers, the Kleins who had the little bake shop in Oregon, the family in Washington state that had the Christian pharmacy but they refused to carry the morning-after pill because they felt that was abortion, they were a Catholic family – and they lost their case before the courts.”
“It’s over and over and over again across the country where Christians are being singled out, their businesses, because they won’t support the agenda of another group of people,” said Rev. Graham, son of pastor Billy Graham.
“We need to protect them,” Graham insisted. “We need to protect the Christians in this country and abroad.”
“If I put it in the spotlight, Tony, it’s going to help,” said Graham. “It’s not going to hurt. It’s going to help get the word out and the voices of those who have suffered, to give them a platform to speak.”
Graham claimed in March that Oscar-winning film Moonlight is an attempt to convince young people to make “homosexual lifestyle choices”.
Last year he attacked LGBT-inclusive churches and declared gay people are ‘the enemy’.
He has also accused LGBT activists of “trying to cram down America’s throat the lie that homosexuality is okay”, alleging that anti-discrimination laws will mean that “your children, and your grandchildren will be at risk to sexual predators and perverts”.
In 2015 Graham praised Vladimir Putin’s support for anti-gay laws – and claimed that homosexuals “take people’s children” in an interview with a Russian newspaper.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Adelaide: South Australia’s Law Reform Institute has told the state government it should scrap its “gay panic” legal defence. The defence, which has been abolished in all other Australian states, allows people accused of murder to have their charge reduced to manslaughter if it was “provoked” by a gay advance. The Law Reform Institute released a report on Thursday saying the law discriminates “on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender” and recommended removing the “gay panic” aspect.
“The current law of provocation indirectly sanctions lethal violence against those who seem to exhibit homosexual behaviour,” said John Williams, director of the Law Reform Institute.

“It’s clear to us that the gay panic aspect of the current provocation defence is offensive and should be removed, and that any non-violent sexual advance of any kind should not amount to provocation. As a basic issue, we also believe that our laws in the 21st century should make it unacceptable for anyone to lose self-control and kill someone.”

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill committed last year to abolishing the “outdated and offensive” law, saying his government was waiting on advice from the Law Reform Institute. Williams said the government should wait for the Institute’s coming second report on the matter that will advise whether provocation as a defence should be scrapped entirely.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Bermuda: The Supreme Court of Bermuda ruled today that same-sex couples have the right to marry, bringing to a close a years-long drama over marital rights in the British island territory. The case was brought by a Toronto-based Bermudian and Canadian gay couple, Winston Godwin and Greg DaRoche, who filed their challenge last July. Although they could marry in Canada, they preferred to marry in Godwin’s home country Bermuda.

On May 5, 2017, the court found that Bermuda’s Human Rights Act took primacy over the Matrimonial Causes Act, which bars same-sex marriage. The court ordered that Godwin and DaRoche be given the right to marry. Godwin has been living in Bermuda for the last several months as his Canadian visa had expired, while DaRoche continues to live in Toronto. While the long-distance relationship has been difficult, DaRoche says he’s excited to be reunited with Godwin, either in Bermuda or Canada.

“We’ve been very supportive of each other and very optimistic, and having the court case and fighting for something larger than our relationship has brought us closer together,” DaRoche says.

“The decision that was made today represents something bigger than ourselves. It shows that you can love whoever you “choose” to love and that love will be acknowledged and more importantly protected. Today love won!” Godwin wrote on Facebook after the decision.

DaRoche says he found out about the court’s decision via text message from Godwin while he was at work.

“I was overjoyed and excited and I kind of felt out of place in my office, because it’s a quiet atmosphere and I had to contain my enthusiasm,” he says. “Winston and I need to talk about what our next steps are at this point.”

It is not clear yet if the government of Bermuda plans to appeal the decision to the territory’s Court of Appeal or to the Privy Council in London. The situation for LGBT people in Bermuda had gradually been improving over the last few years. Discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned under the territory’s Human Rights Act in 2013. Following that, the Supreme Court issued rulings allowing same-sex couple adoption in 2015, and allowing bi-national same-sex marriages to be recognized for immigration purposes last year. For Bermudian LGBT activist Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, the ruling is an opportunity to draw a line under divisions that have wracked the island community for years.

“Now, more than ever, both sides — and everyone in between — on the marriage equality debate need to collectively move Bermuda forward. Working together can only be good for Bermuda’s future,” Hartnett-Beasley says.

The ruling will allow Hartnett-Beasley and his Irish husband, whom he married in New York, to obtain the full suite of residency and citizenship rights on the island.

“Having been involved in two of the legal cases relied on by [Justice] Simmons, we are proud that the courts are building out a more just and equal framework, where the legislature failed us,” he says.Last May, the government held a referendum asking the public if it approved of same-sex civil unions or marriages. Voters rejected both options by 2-to-1 margins, but turnout was too low to be binding.

In July 2016, the Bermuda House of Assembly passed an opposition bill that would remove the Matrimonial Causes Act from the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Act, but it was blocked by the Senate. However, the Senate only has the power to delay legislation for a year. It is unclear if legislators still plan to proceed with the bill, or whether they would be able to.

Justice Charles-Etta Simmons wrote in her decision that she would not wait for Parliament to make a decision.

“There is no reason in all of the circumstances to await the likelihood of that proposal or a result,” she wrote.

Simmons also discounted the referendum result due to low turnout.

“One can fairly assume, politics aside, that the public was aware of the issues but chose not to engage in the process,” she wrote.

The Bermuda court decision marks the first time any court has found a right to marry in any British territory. Recognition of same-sex unions varies within the UK and among its overseas territories and dependencies. The UK Parliament legalized same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2013, and the Scottish Parliament followed later that year. Civil partnerships, but not same-sex marriage, are allowed in Northern Ireland, where the issue is the subject of ongoing political and legal controversy.

Among Britain’s crown dependencies, same-sex marriage is legal in the Isle of Man and Guernsey and is expected to pass in Jersey this year. The law in Guernsey does not apply to its own dependencies, Alderney (which is expected to introduce its own law later this year) and Sark. The UK maintains 14 overseas territories, which are remnants of its colonial empire. In addition to Bermuda, same-sex marriage laws have been passed by the local governments of the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, the Pitcairn Islands, and Ascension Island. The UK government has enacted same-sex marriage laws for the British Antarctic Territory, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and the British Indian Ocean Territory, which have no civilian populations. Tristan da Cunha’s government has announced plans to legalize same-sex marriage, and a Supreme Court case for same-sex marriage has been filed in St Helena. The remaining territories – Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – do not allow same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is legal in all or part of 22 countries worldwide.

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Grozny: Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied that there are any gay men to persecute in the region, rather labelling them “fake” Chechens.
Kadyrov has insisted that he will cooperate with a Russian investigation into the discovery of persecution against gay people in the region, but denied that any gay people actually existed.The region’s leader made the comments after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced intentions to investigate reports of gay men being abducted, tortured and killed in the republic.
Kadyrov said: “We have never had them among the Chechens.”
“Unless we are talking about those who aren’t Chechens but say they are so that they can get to the West.”
“Chechen society does not have this phenomenon called non-traditional sexual orientation. For thousands of years the people have lived by other rules, prescribed by God,” he added.
Petition: Stop the persecution of gay men in Chechnya
Although Kadyrov said said that he and the republic were open to investigation, he insisted that they had not received any “official reports” of the abuse of LGBT people.
Initial reports of gay men being detained in the region, which is subject to federal law as it falls under the Russian federation, were revealed by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Journalists who exposed the purge have been forced into hiding as they have received numerous threats from the largest mosque in the region, which has declared jihad against the newspaper.
Following the initial exposure, it has been revealed that Chechnya authorities are forcing gay men into concentration camps, sparking an outcry from LGBT and human rights activists across the world.
A number of heart breaking stories from the region have been shared, including stories of parents of gay people who were issued a warning to kill their children before police killed them in torture camps.
Tanya Lokshina, from the Human Rights Watch, said that Chechen authorities had been conducting “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel and degrading treatment” over the span of the last two decades.
Kadyrov pledged to “eliminate” the gay community in Chechnya by the start of Ramadan.
Britain’s deputy foreign secretary revealed the terrifying threat from the Chechen leader while taking an urgent question on the situation in parliament.
Ramadan starts on May 26 this year, and is widely celebrated in Chechnya, which is a predominantly Muslim area.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Tennessee: Trump’s Army Secretary nominee has quit after senior Democrats and Republicans both voiced concern about his long record of homophobia.
Donald Trump had been attempting to replace Obama’s openly gay nominee Eric Fanning with an anti-gay Tennessee Republican lawmaker, Mark Green.
A number of disturbing allegations have come to light about Mr Green. He is on-the-record claiming that being transgender is a “disease”, while in an unearthed radio clip he rants about trans people before vowing to “crush” evil.
Mr Green also described civil rights protections for LGBT people as an example of “tyrannical government”, and encouraged Tennessee to defy the US Supreme Court and deny gay couples the right to marry.His comments are combined with a long record as a strong opponent of LGBT equality. Mr Green was the author of a Tennessee bill that would grant businesses unlimited rights to discriminate without any action from state agencies, invalidating any non-discrimination protections.
The lawmaker’s nomination to the prominent was opposed by a string of senior Democrats and had also been criticised by Senator John McCain, a comparatively-moderate Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In the wake of McCain’s intervention and wavering from other Republican moderates, Green announced today he was stepping down
He said: “It is with deep regret today I am withdrawing my nomination to be the Secretary of the Army.
“Unfortunately, due to false and misleading attacks against me, this nomination has become a distraction.
“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain.
“While these false attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the President the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world.”
Speaking earlier this week Senator McCain said he was “concerned” about Mr Green’s record.
He said: “There’s a lot of controversy concerning his nomination.
“We are getting some questions from both Republicans and Democrats on the Armed Services Committee. I think there are some issues that clearly need to be cleared up.”
“Some of the comments that have been attributed to him obviously are very concerning.”
He added the troubling comments were “a broad variety — concerning the Muslim faith, concerning the LGBT community, other issues according to the comments he has made in the past.”
The lawmaker confirmed he would push Green on his comments, saying: “When his nomination is [formally] submitted, we will give him an opportunity to respond to these questions that have been raised.”
Speaking about trans people previously, Green said: “If you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease.
“You ask about how we fix it ― how we get the toothpaste back in the tube… I gotta tell you ― it’s going to start with me being the salt and the light to the people around me.
“If you really want to bring this back to who’s at fault, we got to look a little bit inwardly. We’ve tolerated immorality. And we’re reflecting light.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Ottawa: Canada is about to introduce gender-inclusive passports which will offer a third, unspecified option for those who do not fall into the female or male category.
Currently, the country only allows F or M options on passports, but a proposed bill may change this, creating inclusivity and relieving stress that both transgender and non-binary people face.Canadians are permitted to change the sex on their passport at any time, but the country hope that the new policy on gender will help broaden the options available to people.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould deemed the move “mindful”, but stressed there was still more to be done to achieve equality.
They said”: The prime minister is very mindful of perhaps a third box or an ability to mark something other than male or female. This work is being undertaken at Passport Canada,”
“Individual ministers and (people) within their departments are recognizing that this bill has been introduced, that there is work that needs to continue to be taken,” they added.
The bill, C-16, would update the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, it has faced some opposition and is yet to be passes.
Conservative Senator Don Plett said the third option was not “a workable solution”.
He added: “When you start putting other boxes in, where does that end? How many boxes are we going to put in?”
The country allows foreign visitors to identify as gender-neutral on supporting border documents.
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson said that the counry was also taking steps to allow passport holders to display ‘other’ on their documents.
Australian New Zealand, Nepal and a number of other countries all offers a gender ‘X’ option, or some variation, in addition to ‘male’ and ‘female’ on passports.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Washington DC: On America’s National Day of Prayer, Donald Trump sent a thank you note to the white evangelicals and fundamentalists who overwhelmingly voted to make him the 45th president. It came in the form of a long-awaited executive order “promoting free speech and religious liberty”. Its content, however, turned out to be rather feeble. One disappointed commentator called it “woefully inadequate”; a noted religious scholar dismissed it as “meaningless” and a “betrayal”. On the other end of the ideological spectrum, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has fought the new president’s moves against sanctuary cities and travel from Muslim countries, couldn’t quite believe its eyes: “We thought we’d have to sue Trump today”, the ACLU tweeted. “But it turned out the order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

What did everyone expect Mr Trump to do? On February 1st, someone leaked what seemed to be the initial plan to The Nation: a controversial move to allow religious people to exempt themselves from duties impinging on their religious beliefs. Federal workers and contractors who find homosexuality beyond the moral pale would have been able, for example, to ignore a same-sex couple’s marriage licence and reject its tax return or a gay man’s application for veteran’s benefits. Religious organisations would have enjoyed similar immunity—turning away transgender people from soup kitchens or refusing to work with lesbian couples who wished to adopt a child. White House officials confirmed to Politico that this broad licence to discriminate against gays and lesbians was the heart of a potential presidential order. But later that evening, the administration backpedalled vigorously. Without mentioning a radical expansion of the freedom of conscience whereby religious beliefs could be wielded against sexual minorities, the White House lowered expectations. The order would merely direct the Internal Revenue Service to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson amendment”, a 1954 rule making churches’ and other non-profit groups’ tax-exempt status contingent on steering clear of certain types of political advocacy.
Having pledged to “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson amendment in early February, in a speech in the White House’s Rose Garden on the morning of May 4th, Mr Trump signalled he would do just that. “For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith”, he said, “bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs”. With the benefit of his new executive action, he told assembled clergy, “you’re now in a position to say what you want to say” with no federal official “censoring sermons or targeting ­pastors”.

But when the text of the order emerged in the early afternoon, Mr Trump’s promise seemed to go unfulfilled. In fact, the language of the executive order amounted to a convoluted restatement—rather than repudiation—of the Johnson amendment itself. After a throat-clearing initial section—indicating that the White House will “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”—the order got down to business, and the lawyers’ pen came out. Section 2 instructs the IRS “not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship or other religious organisation on the basis that such individual or organisation speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective”. That sounds like something, but it isn’t, really. Listen to the buried caveat in the rest of the sentence: “…where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office”.
Here is the translation: religious leaders speaking from the pulpit have nothing to fear from the IRS if they speak about political issues unless they specifically endorse or oppose particular political candidates. Like all non-profit organisations with tax-exempt status, religious entities aren’t allowed to speak well or ill of individuals running for office. But the Johnson amendment precludes only this kind of talk; it does not bar preachers from holding forth on moral issues of the day. That has been the rule for decades. Mr Trump’s executive order merely repeats it.
If anything, the new executive order highlights a constraint on churches that the IRS has been loath to apply over the years. For nearly a decade, annual taunts from congregations have been hand-delivered to the IRS in the form of video evidence they are breaking the rule against candidate-advocacy. But the IRS has remained stoically impassive as the gadflies have tried to spur them to attack, prudently avoiding a fight that would give churches an excuse to cry discrimination. So even the mild limit on pulpit advocacy in the Johnson amendment has gone all-but-unenforced over the years, making Mr Trump’s order something decidedly less exciting than weak tea.
One wonders how the latest and lamest Trump executive order came into being. One possibility is that the original leaked order was the handiwork of Mike Pence, the pious vice president, and that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, prevailed on him to steer clear of a move that would infuriate the gay and lesbian community and gay-friendly millennials. Another is that lawyers in the Department of Justice are growing weary of defending indefensible orders in the federal courts and then losing, badly. If nothing else, the religious-liberty order is one that should avoid any serious legal challenges. That’s about the best that can be said for it.

Source: http://www.economist.com

London: The British government is expected to announce a reduction in the time gay and bisexual men have to wait before giving blood. The Independent reports that an advisory committee has decided that the current restriction period of 12 months should be reduced to three. This will make it easier for gay men to give blood. Currently, those affected by the restrictions (men who have sex with men) must wait 12 months after their last sexual encounter to donate blood. A lifetime ban on blood donations for men who sleep with men, and trans people assigned male at birth, was in place from 1981 until 2011 in most of the UK, when the one-year deferral policy was introduced. However, Northern Ireland didn’t relax restrictions until September 2016. The reduction from twelve to three months is believed to be due to better testing measures, which can detect HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or syphilis within three months.

Ethan Spibey of Freedom to Donate, a group that campaigns for the rights of queer men to give blood, was a member of the advisory committee. Responding to the decision, he said: “There is a consensus that there will be a drastic reduction and it’s fantastic to hear that.”

“Three months would be a world-leading policy,” he said. “Eventually we want a blood donation policy that is fair and tailored to each donor, but it’s all about moving towards that model. “Although we get that heterosexual people are statistically less likely to contract a blood infection, we can’t say every gay man is a high-risk individual. We need a policy that recognises what is high risk without applying it to entire homogeneous groups.

“In all credit to the Government, they have realised this is something that needs looking at.”

The lifetime blood ban was put in place during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the 12-month deferral was introduced in 2011. The British government first commissioned a review of this waiting period in 2015. Scotland may become the first place in the UK to allow men who sleep with men and transgender people who were assigned male at birth, to donate blood restriction-free. Members of the Scottish parliament debated the measure in November.

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

Dallas: Adoption agencies in Texas could soon have the power to refuse service to LGBT+ people. A proposed bill would allow both private and state-controlled adoption services to discriminate against prospective parents because of their sexuality, as well as denying service to Jewish people, Muslims, single people, and interfaith couples. Five US states have provisions that allow private and religious adoption agencies to discriminate, but this would be the first instance of state-funded agencies being allowed to do the same. The bill will be discussed and voted on at the Texas legislature next week. Supporters of the bill say that it will allow agencies to support their ‘religious freedom’, while opponents object to publically-funded services being given a license to discriminate. Responding to the bill, Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign said: “This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief.

“This goes against the best interest of the child.”

The bill also blatantly violates the Constitution, Oakley added.

“As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law,” said Oakley. “This is a violation of equal protection under the law.” Shockingly, the bill could also open the door for organisations to force their religious beliefs upon children in the foster system, including sending LGBT+ children for ‘conversion therapy’ against their will.

State Representative James Frank, a Republican who authored the bill, defended the legislation. “My guess is if you have an LGBT agency they’re going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family,” Frank said. “They’re free to do that and should be free to do that.”

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

Paris: An early set of projected votes have shown that Emmanuel Macron has been elected the next president of France following a tight race between him and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Macron is believed to have won the election taking 65.5 per cent of the vote, compared to the 34.5 per cent won by Le Pen.
A turnout of just 65.3 per cent of people was recorded at five o’clock in the evening, an hour before the polls closed.
Macron is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and equality, having dedicated an entire section of his manifesto to addressing issues that the LGBT community faces. The newly elected president, who is the youngest president to ever be elected in France, has pledged to end everyday homophobia as well as work place anti-LGBT discrimination.
He has also promised to defend equal marriage, a legislation that Macron has deemed “an enrichment of what the family is in France that shows its importance to all of us”.
His anti-LGBT opponent, Le Pen, had promised to abolish the law that created marriage equality in the country, burying the policy in a manifesto of 144 pledges.
She also outlined plans to restrict access to fertility services and prevent gay couples from having children.
However Macron, who recently appeared topless on gay magazine Garçon, has committed to opening up IVF and other fertility treatments to single women and female same-sex couples.
The socialist politician has failed to pledge to change strict surrogacy laws because of the opposition he would face, but promised that children born via international surrogacy would have their rights protected.
Surprisingly, a third of French gays said that they would be voting for Le Pen despite her anti-LGBT policies and views.
It is believed she made inroads with white conservative gay voters by playing off concerns about Islamic extremism, despite her manifesto promise to scrap same-sex marriage.
Polling after of the first round of voting showed Le Pen’s popularity surge, with 36.5 per cent of gay men saying they would vote for her – up from 20 percent before the first round of voting.
The poll, which was carried out by popular gay dating app Hornet, found that 63.5 percent of gay men would be voting for Emmanuel Macron.The President faced ‘gay’ smears in the weeks running up to the final vote from Russian state media outlets.
In an interview with the Russian controlled news outlet Sputnik, National Assembly member Nicolas Dhuicq claimed that “there is very wealthy gay lobby” behind Macron with a number of “open homosexuals” close to him.
The former economy minister, who tied the knot with wife Brigitte Trogneux in 2007, laughed off the claims.
He said: “I hear people saying that I have a secret life or something. It’s not nice for Brigitte… she is asking herself how I could physically do that. She shares my life from morning to night.”
Macron’s win comes after his campaign was allegedly hacked and a mass of data, including thousands of emails, were dumped online.
The documents were leaked shortly after midnight on Friday after an electioneering blackout, which lasts until polls closed on Sunday, was started.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Dublin: The Irish police have launched a blasphemy probe into Stephen Fry after a viewer complained about comments he made on TV.
An Irish citizen made the report to the Ennis Garda Station after Fry appeared on The Meaning of Life, a show hosted by Gay Byrne, in 2015. Police have since contacted the man who made the initial complaint and revealed that a full investigation is set to be carried out under the Defamation Act 2009.
If Fry is found to be guilty of being blasphemous, then he may be required to pay a fine of up to €25,000.
When on the show, Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God if he were to meet them.
The question launched Fry into a long dialogue that highlighted the injustices done by the religious figure.
Fry started: “Bone caner in Children? What’s that about? How dare you. How dare you create a world in which there is such misery which is not out fault. It’s not right. It’s not right. It’s utterly utterly evil.
“Why should I respect a capricious, mean minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain. That’s what I would say,” he added.
When asked if he thinks he would be able to “get into heaven”, Fry retros that he “wouldn’t want to”.
Fry, who was nominated for an award for the speech, explained: “If I died and the 12 Greek Gods then I would have more truck with it. The Greeks didn’t pretend not to be human in their appetites, their capriciousness and their unreasonableness.
“They didn’t present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all kind, all beneficent because the god who created this universe.
“God was quite clearly a maniac. Utter maniac. Totally selfish. We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking him? What kind of God would do that? Yes the world is very splendid but it also has in it insects. Insects, whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of Children and make them blind,” he added.
The multi-hyphenate explained that he subscribed to Atheism because the God he knew to exist is “monstrous”.
“Atheism is not just about not believing there is a god. But on the assumption there is one, what kind of God is he? It is perfectly apparent that he is monstrous, utterly monstrous and deserves no respect what so ever. The moment you banish him life becomes simpler, purer, clearer and much more worth living in my opinion,” he concluded. The interview has since been watched over seven million times.
The man who pledged the complaint also reported RTE for publishing the clip, he insisted that he was not offended by Fry’s remarks but felt they qualified as blasphemy under the law.
A police source confirmed to Independent.ie that the investigation was being carried out, but that it was “highly unlikely” a prosecution would emerge.
Ireland is one of the few countries remaining to still have a blasphemy law, but Fry could be convicted in 49 countries for the speech.
The law prohibits the “publishing or uttering [of] matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion”.
A cases involving blasphemy has yet to be bought before an Irish court since it was introduced in 2009.
The Archbishop of Canterbury defended the comedian, and insisted that he should be free to make the comments.

Source: http://www.pinknewsco.uk

Miami: Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen formally announced today that she will not be running for re-election in 2018.
The Florida lawmaker, who has a transgender son, is a rare member of the GOP who is pro-LGBTI equality and pubic about it.
Ros-Lehtinen did not vote for Donald Trump for president last year and has disagreed with him not only on transgender rights but also on deportations and budget cuts.
The Trump administration earlier this year rescinded federal guidelines designed to protect transgender students in school.
But she says Trump is not the reason she is leaving the US House of Representatives next year.
‘I’ve served under all kinds of different dynamics in all these years that I’ve been in office here,’ Ros-Lehtinen tells The Miami Herald.
‘Though I don’t agree with many, if not most, positions of President Trump.’
Last year on behalf of LGBT-rights group SAVE, Ros-Lehtinen and husband Dexter Lehtinen introduced an English- and Spanish-language public service campaign in support of son Rodrigo, who came out as transgender about eight years ago while a student at Brown University.
‘Family is everything,’ Ros-Lehtinen said in the video. ‘Our son is transgender. We loved him as Amanda, and now as Rodrigo. … At first, we had a lot of questions, but as parents we love and support our children.’
She also said in the video: ‘Every transgender person is part of someone’s family and should be treated with compassion and protected from discrimination. Family is about acceptance and love.’
The 64 year old is the first Cuban American to ever be elected to the US Congress. She was first elected to Congress in 1989 after seven years in the Florida Legislature.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Wellington: Much to everyone’s surprise, New Zealand’s conservative Catholic New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English, wants an end to New Zealand’s moribund blasphemy law. Section 123 of the Crimes Act 1961 – which appears not to have been used since 1922 – came to light after reports British entertainer Stephen Fry faced police investigation in the Republic of Ireland for comments he made about “a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God”.

New Zealand has laws covering crimes against religion, morality, and public welfare. And blasphemous libel – though vaguely defined as a question of fact (Section 123 (b)) – remains an offence punishable by up to one years’ jail. Now a range of people, surprisingly including Prime Minister Bill English and Anglican Archbishop and Primate Philip Richardson, say it’s time to get rid of the arbitrary and archaic law. English said on Monday May 8 that he did not previously know that Section 123 of the Crimes Act 1961 existed, but “we could get rid of them. Laws that overreach on addressing robust speech are not a good idea.”

Richardson said he saw no point to the law. “My view is, God’s bigger than needing to be defended by the Crimes Act.” It was a “nuanced” issue, he said, and it was important to have laws against inciting violence, but the right not be offended was not “sacred.” ACT leader David Seymour said it was terrible to have “arbitrary laws” that were not usually enforced. “That creates a situation where some people in authority can choose to enforce the law at their discretion.” Actually, it isn’t, as one has to have the authority of the Attorney General available at one’s disposal to proceed, but that still renders it effectively moribund.

Laws such as the blasphemous libel one meant “most people are breaking some law at some time, and whether you get done for it depends on whether you’re a popular or unpopular figure”. Seymour said an MP could introduce a private member’s bill to repeal the law.

“I have deep respect for religion and the various churches in New Zealand, but I have no respect for people who want to mix religion and politics.”

The Government already had “omnibus” bills aimed at cutting red tape and getting rid of redundant laws. But a “gentleman’s agreement” existed where only ‘uncontroversial” laws were up for repeal, he said. Lawyer and former Labour prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer said “there’s probably a good case for changing or abolishing” the law.

He said the Bill of Rights Act enshrined rights to freedom of expression so there would be huge difficulty “re-enacting” (or strengthening) Section 123 (through incorporating multiple religious views for inclusion within the ambit of the legislation, which only applies to Christianity at present). A “let sleeping dogs lie” attitude was one reason the law hadn’t been repealed. But “it’s not a desirable thing to have a law on the books that isn’t used”.

Prosecution could proceed only with the Attorney-General’s approval, and it seemed nobody had been prosecuted for blasphemy within New Zealand since 1922 and even that prosecution, against the editor of a socialist periodical, the Maoriland Worker, failed.

Humanist Society vice-president Mark Honeychurch​ said the blasphemy law was an embarrassment for New Zealand’s global reputation, and meant it had no credibility when criticising theocracies such as Saudi Arabia, which severely punished people for blaspheming. The United Kingdom repealed analogous provisions a decade ago.

University of Canterbury law professor Ursula Cheer said “in this day and age” there was no reason for keeping the laws.

“They’ve been on the books for a long time but there’ve been few if any prosecutions, and certainly none if any recently.” She said nobody seemed to know which religions the “blasphemous libel” law covered. Don Brash, former National party leader and one of a diverse group who signed an open letter last month calling for free speech to be protected at universities, was also surprised to hear about the continued existence of Section 123. He said he’d spent most of his life identifying as a Christian, and saw no point to the law.

Greens justice spokesman David Clendon said the law was an “odd” one, and he too was surprised that Section 123 still existed.

Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz

Moscow: Macron has been announced as the next French President – but Russia isn’t happy about it.

The politician’s decisive victory over the far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen marked a huge success for liberal values over the weekend.

However, reports in the Russian media have slammed the newly-elected President, and have even gone as far as to label him a “gay psychopath”.

An article in Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian tabloid newspaper, criticised a picture of a shirtless Macron posing for a magazine, with the title “coming out”. The tabloid paper wrote: “For gays, this expression means ‘out of the shadows’, to recognise you’re gay too”.

Going on to criticise him further, the paper continued: “Like all psychopaths, he believes in his higher purpose. Macron does not love France and will not fight for the French people.

Bizarrely, it appears that the Russian publication wasn’t aware that the image of Macron shirtless was photoshopped for the cover of a bi-weekly LGBT+ magazine.

Unlike Le Pen, President-Elect Macron is a supporter of same-sex marriage, which led to some of his opponents accusing him of being closeted. However, he’s been happily married to a woman for over a decade, and has repeatedly denied the rumours and insisted that he loves his wife “very much”.

Macron secured a massive 65% of the votes over the weekend, while Le Pen had to settle for just 35%. At the age of 39, his landmark win makes him the youngest President to ever serve in France.

Source: http://www.attitude.co.uk

Sydney: The New South Wales Liberal/National Coalition state government has announced $500,000 in funding for services delivered by ACON to support suicide prevention efforts in Sydney’s LGBTI community.

Announced by Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies, the funding forms part of an $8 million suicide prevention fund over eight years designed to support non-government and community-based organisations to improve responses to suicide prevention at a local level. Davies acknowledged that suicide was something affecting the LGBTI community at a disproportionate rate.
“As members of the community understand, the statistics are disproportionately high within the LGBTI community. As a government we need to do everything we can to directly tackle that. The best way governments can proactively intervene in people’s lives is through grassroots organisations, because it’s those organisations that are engaged in people’s lives directly on a daily basis.”

The funding being provided to ACON over four years will be used throughout the Sydney and South Eastern Sydney local health districts, and the St Vincent’s Health Network, to train GPs to increase their knowledge of and capacity to respond to the needs of LGBTI people at risk of suicide. The new funding will also enable ACON to provide direct aftercare services for those identified to be at risk of self-harm, experiencing emotional distress, and requiring support.

Chief Executive of ACON Nicolas Parkhill said the new funding helps to recognise the specific challenges faced by LGBTI people when it comes to suicide prevention.

“LGBTI people are at elevated risk of suicide, and suicide attempts are significantly higher than the general population. Self-harm rates for LGBTI youth and the trans community are even higher, and we estimate that Indigenous LGBTI Australians would most likely experience these increased rates as well.”

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Canberra: As the Australian federal parliament returns and the issue of marriage equality is once again placed on the agenda, politicians travelling back to Canberra are being greeted with a message of corporate support for same-sex marriage. Airbnb’s Until We All Belong campaign is taking over Canberra airport for 24 hours today as politicians arrive ahead of next week’s federal budget. Billboards and signage for the campaign are also being displayed at Qantas terminals around Australia.

Last month, Airbnb joined corporate partners including Qantas, ANZ, Google and eBay in the most public corporate declaration for marriage equality in Australia’s history, asking people to wear an “acceptance ring” to pledge their support. The acceptance rings have been ordered by people around the country, and a pledge has been received every 30 seconds since the campaign was launched.

“We want to create a world where anyone can belong, no matter where they are in the world, and we strongly believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love,” said Sam McDonagh of Airbnb.

“Until We All Belong is our public declaration that marriage equality in Australia is long overdue and we are encouraging all Australians to show their acceptance by pledging their support for a friend, family member or loved one. We’ve been blown away by the overwhelming response from everyday Aussies to the Until We All Belong movement. As federal parliament returns this coming week, we’ll be stepping up our efforts, and alongside our many partners are taking the message direct to Canberra calling on politicians to take action to achieve marriage equality.”

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Canberra: While reports of homophobic violence and anti-gay concentration camps in Chechnya continue, Australian LGBTI advocacy groups are calling for more action. Rodney Croome of just.equal has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on behalf of the organisation, asking him to introduce a parliamentary motion condemning “the cruelty of the Chechen government and the indifference of the Kremlin”.

Croome also called on the government to work with the UN to censure Russia and launch an international investigation.
“By your timely action, let those who suffer in Chechnya be the beneficiaries of our nation’s aspiration for a world without homophobic persecution,” wrote Croome.

In Melbourne, a community vigil in solidarity with gay and bi men in Chechnya will be held at Federation Square next Tuesday May 16. A new petition is also calling for the Australian government to accept LGBTI refugees from Chechnya.

“We can create a safe place for these men to live without fear and persecution,” wrote the organisers.

After last week’s allegations that Chechen police are ordering families to kill their gay children, a gay teen has reportedly been pushed to his death from a ninth-floor balcony by his uncle. The 17-year-old’s family was reportedly encouraged to “wash the shame” away of their gay relative.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Washington DC: The US Christian Right — and hate — Donald Trump’s “religious freedom” executive order.

Some activists and commentators from the extremist wing of conservatism see the Thursday order as a safety net for Christian business owners “victimized” by LGBT folks who sue over discrimination. Others see it as next to nothing, or even less than that.

“An Army of militant atheists and LGBT activists are hell-bent on eradicating Christianity from the public marketplace and punishing Christians who follow the teachings of Christ,” Todd Starnes, a columnist, radio host, and Fox News contributor, wrote Thursday on his website. “That’s why President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty today in the Rose Garden — to protect Americans who have been targeted by a politically correct lynch mob.”

These, he says, include Washington State florist Barronelle Stutzman, who a court ruled had violated the state’s antidiscrimination law by refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, and the Vander Boon family, owners of a meatpacking plant in Michigan, who were ordered by federal inspectors to remove religious materials from the plant’s break room.

But Brian Brown, president of the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage, wrote in a blog post and fundraising pitch, “While containing some helpful provisions for pastors and religious medical providers, falls far short of what is needed to protect people of faith from governmental persecution set in motion by the Obama administration. Instead, he has punted the issue to the Department of Justice which, he says, will develop new rules to protect the religious liberty rights of people and groups.”

That punt to the Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is what worries many supporters of LGBT and reproductive rights, and civil liberties in general, given Sessions’s history of hostility to those rights. “The Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law,” this portion of the order reads. But it remains unclear exactly what the department will do — plus discrimination complaints like those against Stutzman have been brought under state laws, not federal. There is still no federal statute outlawing anti-LGBT discrimination.

Another provision of the order aims to discourage the Internal Revenue Service from penalizing churches that violate the Johnson Amendment, which says churches and faith-based nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates or donating to their campaigns. And the order also calls on federal agencies to “consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections” to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraceptives at no cost to the employee. An exemption from the requirement, allowing insurers rather than employers to absorb the cost, is available to faith-based groups and even, under the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, closely held for-profit companies, but some on the right find this an insufficient remedy.

Right-wingers are divided over these provisions as well. “These are essentially hollow promises on the president’s part,” wrote Bryan Fischer, the virulently anti-LGBT commentator from the American Family Association, in a post on the far-right BarbWire website. “No church has ever been deprived of its tax exempt status using the Johnson Amendment. … The Johnson Amendment is a toothless tiger.”

“With regard to the contraceptive battle,” he continued, “that battle has already been fought and won in the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court, in the Hobby Lobby case, has already ruled that businesses cannot be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious principles to provide abortion-causing pills to their employees.” (Yes, some on the far right object to certain forms of contraception on the basis that they cause an abortion, albeit a very early one, by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb — although some scientific studies indicate this actually isn’t how they work.)

Yet on the same site, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who has a close relationship with the Republican Party, praised the order highly. “For too long, the Left has used the IRS to threaten the charitable status of churches who dared to speak out on the moral issues of the day,” he wrote. “Of course, the irony of this whole debate is that pulpits are free to do exactly that under the U.S. Constitution. It was only when liberals seized on this twisted interpretation of the Johnson Amendment that pastors came under fire for exercising their God-given rights.” He quoted a Trump administration spokesman as saying the order won’t make it legal for churches “to take out ads endorsing candidates,” but will merely assure that the IRS uses “discretion” in enforcing the amendment. Perkins commended the other aspects of the order as well.

If the order were receiving unanimous praise from the religious right, it would be more worrisome to supporters of civil liberties. Right now LGBT and allied groups are relieved the order wasn’t worse, as early drafts indicated it might be, but they’re staying vigilant about what might come from Jeff Sessions and the rest of the Trump administration.

“The directive to federal agencies to explore religious-based exceptions to health care does cue up a potential future battle, but as of now, the status quo has not changed,” said American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero in a statement issued Thursday. “What President Trump did today was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services.

“We will continue our steadfast charge to defend Americans’ right to exercise their religion and ensure their freedom from having others’ beliefs forced upon them. The ACLU stands ready to sue the Trump administration and in the event that this order triggers any official government action at all, we will see Trump in court, again.”

Source: http://www.advocate.com

London: A stringently anti-LGBT politician has appeared in court, charged with five counts of electoral fraud. Bob Spink, UKIP’s first ever MP, is also facing nine other charges, all relating to local council elections in May last year. The former MP for Castle Point in Essex has denied all allegations, which include four counts of submitting false signatures on nomination papers. Spink was elected as a Conservative MP in 2001 but defected to UKIP in 2008, and stayed on as an MP until the 2010 election, when he lost his seat to Tory candidate Rebecca Harris.
He was also the Conservative MP for Castle Point between 1992 and 1997.
Spink consistently voted against LGBT rights throughout his time in parliament, opposing any move to increase gay couples’ ability to adopt or get a civil partnership.
The politician also voted against attempts to educate children about homosexuality and designate sexual orientation as a basis for charging someone with discrimination.
Spink is accused of “obtaining the genuine signature of an elector for the purposes of nominating a candidate, despite the elector not knowing it was for that purpose” in the Castle Borough of Essex on or before April 5.
Another UKIP politician, James Parkin, 38, is Spink’s co-defendant.
The two appeared before Southend Magistrates’ Court today.
Parkin, a UKIP party campaigner, of Canvey, Essex, has denied five counts of electoral fraud and four of supplying a false signature on nomination papers.
The prosecutor said the case would be suitable to be tried at the magistrates’ court.
However, Spink and Parkin opted to be tried by a crown court jury.
“These charges pertain to the obtaining of false signatures for the local elections, some charges relate to people not realising what they were signing,” said the prosecutor.
The pair were released on bail and will appear before a judge on June 5.
An Essex Police statement confirmed that the charges “relate to nomination papers for prospective UKIP council candidates.”

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Paris: Defeated French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has vowed to renew her party.
The National Front (FN) candidate suffered a landslide loss in Sunday’s election, scraping barely one third of votes in the second round of France’s presidential election. Macron won the election taking 66.1 percent of the vote, compared to the 33.9 percent won by Le Pen.
Le Pen told party backers that the National Front party would undergo a “profound transformation” following the loss. The National Front must also renew itself,” Le Pen told supporters near Paris after initial exit polls put her at 34% of the vote.
“I will therefore start the process of a deep transformation of our movement … I call upon all patriots to join us.”

The party’s Vice President, Florian Philippot, who is gay, said the party must now undergo major change, with a new name being inevitable.
The move was reportedly considered during the election campaign, but not acted upon.
“Marine Le Pen said it clearly: the National Front will change,” said Philippot, thought to be Le Pen’s closest adviser.
“It’s going to change into a new political force which, necessarily, will not have the same name.”

Parliamentary elections are due in the country in June.
The FN holds just two parliamentary seats currently, but is hoping to increase that number to 20 following the presidential election.
Emmanuel Macron was elected the next president of France following the race between him and far-right Le Pen.
He ended up with just shy of two-thirds of all the votes, higher than the 60% hoped for.
Macron is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and equality, having dedicated an entire section of his manifesto to addressing issues that the LGBT community faces.
The newly elected president, who is the youngest president to ever be elected in France, has pledged to end everyday homophobia as well as workplace anti-LGBT discrimination.
He has also promised to defend equal marriage, a legislation that Macron has deemed “an enrichment of what the family is in France that shows its importance to all of us”.

His anti-LGBT opponent, Le Pen, had promised to abolish the law that created marriage equality in the country, burying the policy in a manifesto of 144 pledges.
She also outlined plans to restrict access to fertility services and prevent gay couples from having children.
Macron, who recently appeared to be topless on gay magazine Garçon, has committed to opening up IVF and other fertility treatments to single women and female same-sex couples.
The centrist politician has failed to pledge to change strict surrogacy laws because of the opposition he would face, but promised that children born via international surrogacy would have their rights protected.
Surprisingly, a third of French gays said that they would be voting for Le Pen despite her anti-LGBT policies and views.
It is believed she made inroads with white conservative gay voters by playing off concerns about Islamic extremism, despite her manifesto promise to scrap same-sex marriage.
The President-elect faced ‘gay’ smears in the weeks running up to the final vote from Russian state media outlets.
In an interview with the Russian controlled news outlet Sputnik, National Assembly member Nicolas Dhuicq claimed that “there is very wealthy gay lobby” behind Macron with a number of “open homosexuals” close to him.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

Kathmandu: A man in Nepal who was nominated to contest local elections was barred from running because of his gender identity.
Badri Pun, 40, is registered as a ‘third gender’ in Nepal. He wanted to run for the position of vice-chairperson in the rural electorate of Annapurna.
But electoral officials said he was not eligible to run because he is ‘neither male nor female’.
‘The district election officer told me that my citizenship does not help. He told me that I am neither male nor female, so he cannot allow me to contest even though my party has recommended me,’ Pun told My Republica.
In late April Pun went to the election office to officially enrol as pre-selected candidate for the vice-chairperson position but electoral officer Kedar Acharyawas rejected his application.
Acharya said Pun’s nomination could not be accepted because his party – the CPN-UML – had nominated a male for the post of chairperson. Acharya said the vice chairperson nominee must be female.
‘How could I accept the nomination of a third gender when this is not allowed by the legal provisions? He should have taken this up with his own party,’ Acharya said.
Pun vowed to fight the decision, citing other cities in Nepal where trans people were nominated as candidates for political office. He will take the matter to the Pokhara High Court.
‘I will not remain silent,’ Pun said.
‘In Kathmandu, Bidhya Sundar Shakya and Rajaram Shrestha have been nominated for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor respectively. Now, has not the election commission’s provision on gender been breached? Both of them are males.’ Hari Phuyal is a former Attorney-General in Nepal and said Pun’s nomination rejection was illegal.
‘If the name in the citizenship certificate had been Badri Pun, the section officer might just have been right. However, the name is ‘Dilu Budija’ (Pun’s birth name). In such a case, being identified as third gender cannot be a basis for denying nomination,’ he said.
In 2011, Nepal first recognized a ‘third gender’ on the census and in 2015 issued the first Nepalese passport in a ‘third gender’.
Last year a record number of trans people sat the public service test to be able to work as civil servants.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Delhi: When Padma Vishwanath Iyer found out her son was gay she did the opposite of what many families in India do.
Not only did she accept her son -Harish Iyer – regardless of his sexuality but has become a ferocious advocate for LGBTI rights in India.
In March this year she made history with a small group of other parents of LGBTI people. They came together to best workshop how to support, not only their children, but all LGBTI people in India.
The Mumbai-based Padma has also faced her share of hate from people for her work on LGBTI issues. Especially from other parents who are not as supportive of their children.
‘They refuse to reason. Some have hung up on me when they failed to convince me that once a homosexual person gets married [to a person of another gender], everything would be fine,’ she told Be Bold People.
It took her some time to accept her son’s sexuality because in the beginning Padma had no awareness of homosexuality. But once she learnt a little more, Padma went on to educate other parents about what it means to be LGBTI. She is also vocal in condemnation of Section 377 of India’s Penal Code that makes homosexuality illegal.
‘Children are born gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. It is not the environment or circumstances that govern their sexuality,’ she said.
‘I think it should be legal for anyone who is an adult to get into a consensual sexual or emotional relationship with another adult,’ she said.
‘What adults do in their private space should be no one’s business.’
In 2015, Padma caught international headlines when she posted the country’s first same-sex wedding advertisement for her son to help find him a suitable husband.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

London: Owen Jones took on an anti-LGBT politician over his stance on marriage equality.

During an appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics, openly gay journalist Owen debated equality with Sidney Cordle, a former Conservative councillor who currently leads the Christian Peoples Alliance, a fundamentalist microparty with no representation in local government or parliament. The right-wing party have pledged in their manifesto to “repeal all laws which have already attempted to redefine the meaning of marriage”, although Cordle has denied accusations that he’s homophobic.

“We’re not against the people,” he said, “we stand for the principles, and the principles as far as homosexuality is concerned, we believe that we should protect marriage, which should be between a man and a woman. As far as we’re concerned, it’s about protecting children, and that’s our priority.”

After patiently listening to Cordle outline his party’s policies, which also include restrictions on abortion, Owen delivered a brilliant take down of his discriminatory views.

“One of the many things that makes me feel proud to be British,” he began, “is that LGBT people who have fought against oppression and persecution for many years, who were persecuted once in this country because of people like yourself, have driven your bigotry back. You hate us for the rights that we have, rights which as British citizens other people take for granted. We love people, just as straight people do. We want the same rights. We’re not asking for privileges. We’re not asking for special treatment. Your bizarre assertion about marriage when many heterosexual couples don’t have kids, many people aren’t even capable if they’re infertile for example, that somehow it’s all about children is as disturbing as it is inaccurate.”

When Cordle accused Jones of being “deliberately insulting” towards him and his religion, presenter Jo Coburn retorted: “You may not like it, but people might have found what you said insulting.” Back in 2014, Cordle suggested that marriage equality had caused flooding in England, saying: “A lot of Christians believe God is angry over gay marriage and God can show that anger.”

Source: http://www.gaytimes.co.uk

Ottawa: Canadian groups that have brought dozens of LGBT refugees to safety since 2011 are asking the federal government to make their pilot program permanent. But the federal government might instead fold the program into a general private-sponsorship system.

The Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP) brings LGBT refugees to Canada with the help of volunteer groups across the country. Originally launched under the former Conservative government for three years, the program has been renewed twice, with Canada’s immigration department providing a total of $300,000 for refugees’ first three months of living expenses.

Donors have contributed $1.4 million to the groups, which shows enthusiasm for the program, according to Capital Rainbow Refuge coordinator Lisa Hébert.

“The Rainbow RAP makes the settlement of LGBTQ refugees human and welcoming because it provides ongoing support,” Hébert said at a May 3 news conference.

The immigration department says 69 cases have been identified for sponsorship through the RRAP, of which 57 were resettled, 18 are in process and four have withdrawn. The cases span 13 different countries and some involve two people.

Roughly half those refugees were referred to Canada by the UN Refugee Agency, while the rest avoided UN registration and connected directly with Rainbow Refugee groups because they live in “states that can jail or kill LGBTQ people,”Hébert says.

Hébert joined other advocates in testifying at the House immigration committee on May 3, asking the government to make the pilot project permanent. MPs asked the groups about problems LGBT people face in refugee resettlement, such as discrimination within camps and inappropriate questioning in UN interviews.

Rainbow Refugee Vancouver chair Sharalyn Jordan noted that even in countries that officially protect LGBT people, they can face persecution from strangers they encounter, making it hard to know where they’re safe.

The committee heard from three refugees who arrived through the RRAP’s help, including Eka Nasution:

“My husband and I were married discreetly in Canada without having any friends or family present. It broke my heart. But having him next to me at the Nepean Point here in Ottawa with our officiant, I told myself that this is perfect. We had no celebration afterwards,” Nasution told the committee, recounting a life in Indonesia marred by death threats and police shutting down his LGBT activism projects.

A RRAP group tried to bring Nasution and his husband to Canada, but long wait times and increasing risks convinced the group to instead help the two apply for general Canadian visas. They both arrived in Canada roughly a year ago and successfully claimed refugee status.

Nasution is now director of the Foundation of Hope, a charity fundraising for programs like RRAP chapters. He said that though Canada’s recent resettlement of Syrians has been inspiring, it also delayed his own visa application as well as refugee processing for a handful of LGBT people he’s contacted.

“It is better [if] all the assistance program for LGBTQ refugees is not only focused on one single country, actually in the Middle East. It has to be done in terms of humanity.”

While the RRAP groups asked for permanent funding for refugees and administering the program, a senior official told the committee they might instead replace it with something else.

“Moving forward, our objective is that LGBTQ2 groups will be able to meet the financial and support responsibilities of private sponsorship, in the same manner as Canada’s other private sponsors,” says David Manicom, the associate assistant deputy minister for the immigration department’s strategic and program policy.

That could mean no government funding for the groups, but possibly the opportunity to bring in more people.

“We’re looking at the various options as to how best to continue to meet the needs of LGBTQ refugees,” he says.

The committee’s Conservative and NDP members forcefully interrogated Manicom during the May 3 meeting over why Canada doesn’t log how many refugees it resettles based on specific kinds of persecution.

Manicom cited privacy rules and logistical hurdles, even if some refugees specifically mention LGBT persecution in their UN case file.

“Even when we have some numbers, if your statistics aren’t global and comprehensive, you can’t use them. They are just sophisticated anecdotes,” he said.

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Vancouver: More than a hundred people rallied at Emery Barnes Park on May 7, 2017, to protest a flyer campaign targeting NDP candidate and trans activist Morgane Oger, who is running for election in Vancouver-False Creek.

The flyers include Oger’s birth name and question the validity of her gender identity.

Oger says she was warned the flyers were coming, but that didn’t soften the blow. “They really did hurt. They were extremely mean,” she says, adding that she’s very lucky to be in a position that affords her both legal and emotional support.What really, really hurt in this is the terrible anxiety I felt; that I knew everyone in my community across Canada was going to experience this flyer as well, more or less unfiltered. And that, unlike me, with my resilience and my support, most people were going to experience this flyer alone,” she says.

“This will harm people,” Oger continues. “You read the poster, and you imagine yourself with that on your front door, and you think, ‘oh my god, what’s going to happen?’ That scares you, and if you’re not out, you’re not coming out for 10 years. It hit all the fear points for trans people.”

Rally organizer Clayre Sessoms says after January’s anti-trans posters in the Davie Village and now these flyers — she felt pushed into action.

“Morgane’s my friend. We go way back — we were two scared people having coffee three, four years ago before we ever came out. We just talked a lot about what the future would hold and how scary it was,” Sessoms explains. “She’s remained my close friend, and when this is happening to her and also happening in my neighborhood, I’ve got to stand up against that.”Sessoms says the flyers do not reflect the neighbourhood where they were posted.

“There’s a lot of really good people here,” she says. “I know a lot of the parents because of the school here, and a lot of families — really good, open minded people. I haven’t had any problems with the residents of the neighborhood.”

Her plan was to create a positive event where the community could come together and resist transphobia through solidarity. Attendees heard speeches from community figures like teenage trans activist Tru Wilson, and Qmunity’s executive director CJ Rowe, who encouraged them to fight hate in their daily lives.

“This can no longer be something that we just turn away from,” Sessoms told the crowd. “We need to stand together and say ‘not here.’”

Attendee Dom Nasilowiski says the rally is an important show of visibility.“It matters when there’s been something negative like this — transphobic, homophobic, hateful flyers — that the community responds and that we’re not silent,” she says.

“Elections come and go, but human rights are an everyday thing. It’s important to address incidents when they happen, but we have to continue community building every day,” she adds.

Sharon Valmont, a volunteer who DJ’d the rally, says the event meant a lot to her.

“Being the trans person that I am, I need to speak out for those who experience hate, and to be involved in that process,” she says.I felt it was good — we really spoke our minds and really focused on what happened in this part of the world, in Vancouver,” she says. “I think that was a good thing, that we were able to broadcast that, and get others to join us and share our feelings with each other and pump each other up because we are good people.”

Katherine Jenkins, who commuted from Surrey to attend the rally, also felt that it served an important purpose.

“This is an issue that was very dear to me. I want to stand up against transphobia,” she says. “People need to be focused on spreading positive words, and shaming those who do hate speech.”

When she heard about the flyers through social media, she says she was “disgusted.”I thought it was disgraceful. It was cowardice, really. If you’re going to attack a political opponent, rather than criticize their stances or platforms — to criticize their background is pathetic,” she says.

Bill Whatcott, who has handed out anti-gay pamphlets at Pride, previously been found guilty of hate speech and is now responsible for the flyers, says it’s “nothing personal.”

“If you’re in the public sphere and you’re promoting agendas that people disagree with, people are going to speak,” the Christian evangelist told Xtra by phone on May 6. “I believe I have the right to speak and, more than that, I believe I have a civic and a biblical responsibility to speak. People may or may not accept what I’m saying, but I think I have a valid voice.”

“I think most of those are screaming I’m transphobic are Whatcott-phobic, and they need to get over themselves,” he says, asked how he responds to accusations of hate speech. “I don’t go along with that — grow up, work harder to defeat my ideas. I’m not afraid of you so don’t be afraid of me.”

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Ottawa: A controversial University of Toronto professor will soon testify at a Senate committee studying Bill C-16, which would encode trans people into Canada’s human-rights laws, Xtra has learned. On May 17, 2016, the federal Liberals introduced Bill C-16, which would protect trans people from discrimination targeting their gender identity and expression. The legislation follows a handful of similar bills that were tabled earlier by individual MPs.

Psychology professor Jordan Peterson is a strong critic of Bill C-16 and gained notoriety for claiming in September 2016 that his free speech is threatened by what he considers to be “political correctness.” He believes the bill will emulate “totalitarian and authoritarian political states” by criminalizing anyone who refuses to use a trans or non-binary person’s chosen pronouns. Legal experts have disputed Peterson’s interpretation of the bill. Exactly a year after the bill’s introduction, Peterson will speak to the Senate legal committee, which is reviewing the legislation on May 17, Conservative Senator Don Plett stated.

“We have invited a range of people that we feel can help with the arguments. Jordan Peterson clearly brought to light the issue of compelled speech with the pronouns,” Plett told Xtra in a May 8 interview.

Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell, who sponsored the bill, said that the Liberals initially intended to invite no witnesses, as Bill C-16 echoes similar legislation that was already studied, but says Plett wanted to invite Peterson and others.

“The committee made a responsible decision to trade it off at eight witnesses ‘per side,’” Mitchell says.

Plett says he’s skeptical the legislation would change the rates of suicide and bullying for trans people, because similar laws at the provincial level haven’t. “Obviously there is something else that is inherently wrong that this is continuing to happen,” he says. Plett also remarked that he feels maligned by people who accuse him of hating trans people after amending a similar bill in 2015 to exclude bathrooms (the bill never became law).

“We all have feelings; of course it bothers me,” he says. “I have never, in all of my speeches, used one hateful term or said somebody’s inherent beliefs and feelings were not, in fact, correct. I have just simply said what my feelings are.” Plett told the legal committee on May 4 that he supports protecting trans rights, but worried that an “intellectual dissenter” who rejects the idea of an “infinite gender spectrum” would be prosecuted.

The committee has published its guest lists for two days. May 10 features opponents of Bill C-16, like Paul Dirks of the WOMAN Means Something Campaign. May 11 features trans advocates like Marni Panas. Plett noted that witnesses will also include anti-genderqueer trans people who believe there are only two gender identities. Mitchell also says the committee chair intends to have a clause-by-clause reading of the bill on May 17, which could pass quickly or delay the bill for weeks. Parliame

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Moscow: A chain of Russian food stores run by a devoutly religious nationalist businessman has placed signs in its windows saying gay customers will be refused entry. Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russian law prohibits sexual discrimination. But prejudices still run deep and much of the gay community remains underground.

“No entry for f*****s,” read a wooden plate at the entrance to one of German Sterligov’s shops in central Moscow. Sterligov, 50, became a millionaire by opening a mercantile exchange shortly before the Soviet Union’s demise. Later in his career he turned devoutly religious and retreated with his family to rural Russia to sell organic farm produce.”Our planet is full of filth and sick humans,” Sterligov told Reuters Television at a country fair outside Moscow.

“In front of our eyes is the historical experience of Sodom and Gomorrah when God burned these towns.”

Addressing the farm fair through a loudspeaker, Sterligov praised US President Donald Trump, who was swift to revoke his predecessor Barack Obama’s landmark guidance to public schools allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

“We thank him. May God give him health,” Sterligov said.Yulia Gorbunova, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said the retail chain’s disregard for the law sent a dangerous message in a country where homophobia remains prevalent.

“It seems like they are promoting homophobia in an already homophobic society and it only leads to rising tensions,” she told Reuters Television. “The state certainly has a responsibility to stop that and step in.”

Alyona, a young assistant in one of Sterligov’s Moscow stores, said she shared the chain’s stance on homosexuals “as a true Christian”.

“It’s our guarding talisman,” she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied he discriminates against sexual minorities.

Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz

Sydney: A new study shows that a national syphilis screening program increased the number of early syphilis cases detected among gay and bi men in Australia. The study also showed screening reduced the number of cases of secondary syphilis, which can cause worse symptoms, Healio Infectious Disease News has reported.

“Rates of syphilis among men who have sex with men have been rising in many countries since the beginning of the 21st century and are now at the highest levels in decades in several regions,” said Dr Eric Chow of the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre.
“Australian guidelines recommend that all men who have sex with men be screened for syphilis at least once a year, with more frequent screening of higher risk men.”

The targeted syphilis screening program substantially increased the number of men tested, including men with HIV, which can be associated with syphilis. The testing detected over 2,700 early syphilis cases in HIV-negative men, and over 1,000 cases in HIV-positive men. The researchers said there was a correlation between increased testing and fewer cases of more advanced syphilis.

“The Australian study supports and extends previous research demonstrating that targeted, community-supported and adequately resourced campaigns are highly effective at increasing syphilis testing,” said Dr Jeffrey Klausner of the University of California division of infectious diseases. Screening for syphilis and other STIs is available from GPs, sexual health clinics and rapid testing sites around Australia.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Canberra: For a refreshing change, an Australian Liberal politician has spoken out against the treatment of the LGBTI community in Aceh, Indonesia.

Member for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman yesterday addressed Federal Parliament on the matter.
“Australia values its close relationship with Indonesia,” he said. “Sadly recent events have given us cause to question that understanding.”

Zimmerman condemned the public caning of two gay men in the province.

“This week, two young men, by virtue of their sexuality alone, were subject to the most appalling treatment by the judicial system in Aceh. Cruel and sickening are the only words to describe the images of those men being caned at a public spectacle. That the operation of Sharia law should allow two people to be so inhumanely treated is not something we can stand by and ignore—and nor should Indonesian authorities. What we witnessed this week reflects a broader trend to stigmatise and persecute members of the Indonesian LGBTI community.”

The high-profile public canings came in the same week as 141 men were arrested at a gay sauna in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Perth: Faded has-been long since former Australian Margaret Court has generated controversy by announcing she will be boycotting Qantas over its support for marriage equality.

“I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage,” Court wrote in a letter to The West Australian newspaper.
“I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling.”

Australians have taken to social media to voice their outrage. Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena distanced itself from Court’s comments.

“Melbourne & Olympic Parks does not support Margaret Court’s comments and we remain an organisation committed to embracing equality, diversity and inclusion,” they tweeted.

Source: http://www.starobserver.com.au

Toronto: A number of HIV/AIDS programs aimed at racialized and marginalized communities in Toronto are facing the chopping block after their grant applications were rejected.

Programs run by the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP), Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) and Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN) are all under threat.

Shannon Ryan, the executive director of Black CAP, says it’s no coincidence that the organizations facing cuts represent marginalized communities.

“The larger organizations are in an absolute position of privilege within these programs that we are not,” he says. “We’re fighting to hold onto what we got.”

On May 23, 2017, the four organizations separately presented appeals to the Toronto Urban Health Fund Review Panel, arguing that they are able to effectively work with communities that aren’t well served by larger organizations.

“They’re not going to be able to accommodate the marginalized group, the people that we work with, because we are close to the community,” says Noulmook Sutdhibhasilp, the executive director of ACAS, which is trying to save programs aimed at queer men and trans women.

Haran Vijayanathan, the executive director of ASAAP, says its South Asian women’s sexual health program, which did not receive funding, is the only one of its kind in Toronto.

“That actually takes sexual health education for South Asian women out of the system completely,” he says.

Many AIDS service organizations point to the creation of the Toronto Urban Health Fund as one of the root causes of the decline in programming.

The fund (which replaced the AIDS Prevention Community Investment Program and Drug Prevention Community Investment Program) was created in 2013 by bringing together separate funding streams for HIV prevention, harm reduction and youth initiatives. Since then, the number of HIV programs that are funded, as well as the total amount of money, has steadily declined.


Ryan and Sutdhibhasilp both say that when the fund was created, around 40 HIV prevention projects were given money. Today, less than a dozen are funded. For AIDS service organizations, the instability has been compounded by major changes to how HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is funded at the federal level.

“This past year, we’ve seen many programs defunded,” Ryan says. “It feels like we’re under attack.”

In addition to seeking more funding, Ryan would like the City of Toronto to segment off funding streams for HIV prevention in order to provide stable funding for essential programs.

“We need that stability in addition to additional resources,” he says. “We don’t know where we stand when it comes to the city and HIV funding.”

Sutdhibhasilp says that when the pot of money shrinks, a different approach is needed to funding HIV/AIDS organizations.

“When we talk about funding programs, we should also talk about equity issues,” she says. “Because we are aware that the grassroots community organizations are going to go first if there is a funding cut.”

Black CAP’s community outreach program is one of the programs now in jeopardy of shutting down. Ryan says that cancelling the program risks harming public health.

“Black people are the second-most at-risk population after gay men,” he says. “And to lose the visibility in these spaces I think really creates new infections, it creates additional costs for the health care system, it adds to the stigma that exists for black people living with HIV and AIDS.”

A petition demanding that funding for the program be restored has received more than 200 signatures.

“This tells a story of marginalized populations in general in terms of access to resources,” Ryan says. “This is not a new story.”

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Illinois: The US state of Illinois has advanced a bill which would make it easier for trans people to change the gender stated on their birth certificate.
The state’s House passed the proposal on Thursday with 63 votes to 43.
It would mean trans people could change their legal gender with authorisation from a medical professional.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

London: The Church of England will debate condemning so-called gay conversion therapy and holding special services to celebrate trans people’s transitions.
At its General Synod meeting in July, the Church will also re-examine its position on same-sex marriages, which it currently has a legal exemption from performing.
The attempt to improve relations with gay Christians follows the Church of Scotland’s decision yesterday to apologise for its past treatment of gay people and take steps to accepting same-sex marriage.The Church’s parliament will ask its members whether to define so-called gay conversion therapy as “unethical, harmful” and having “no place in the modern world”.
Earlier this year, the UK government refused to make the process illegal despite receiving a petition signed by 33,000 people.
Nine US states have also banned the practice, which has been widely debunked.
The motion, by gay rights activist Jayne Ozanne, has received strong support from her fellow synod members, but will likely be opposed by a hardcore group of conservatives.
She told Christian Today: “It is incredibly important that religious organisations follow the clear lead set by the health care professions in standing against this highly damaging and unethical practice, which reinforces stigma and prejudice against the LGBTI community.
“The Bible teaches that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made, and we should therefore look to celebrate God’s gift of diversity in creation, not treat those of us who are non-heterosexual as having mental disorders that need to be ‘cured,’” she added.
If the resolution is passed, the CofE would co-sign a statement by organisations including the UK Council for Psychotherapy and The Royal College of General Practitioners.
The statement reads: “Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders, although exclusion, stigma and prejudice may precipitate mental health issues for any person subjected to these abuses.”
Andrea Williams, a conservative member of synod, accused Ozanne of seeking “to silence dissent within the Church by deliberate misrepresentation.”
The synod will also debate a motion which could see baptism-style renaming ceremonies for trans people as they transition.
The Church’s most senior trans priest, Rev Rachel Mann, welcomed the move. She has told Christian Today: “Trans people feel powerfully called to be recognised in their ‘chosen’ name.
“An opportunity to be publicly introduced to God is therefore significant.”

In February, members of the Church’s ruling body voted not to “take note” of a report which opposed same-sex marriage ceremonies and services to bless them in CofE churches.
LGBT activists welcomed the decision, which led the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welbyto call for a “radical new Christian inclusion”.
Earlier this month, married gay vicar Fr Andrew Foreshew-Cain stepped down due to “institutional homophobia” and said that bishops are too scared to back LGBT inclusion.
The popular London vicar, a member of the Church of England General Synod, caused controversy in 2014 when he defied Church of England rules by marrying his same-sex partner, in defiance of a ban on gay clergy weddings.
He has come under repeated fire from hardline evangelicals, who ‘named and shamed’ him in a list of clergy they wanted removed.

Source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk

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