by Wockner, Rex. Lesbian News; Oct2006, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p13-15.
SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT TO INTRODUCE CIVIL-UNION LAW
South Africa's cabinet will introduce a bill in Parliament to create same-sex civil unions.
Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the proposed law will complement the Marriage Act, giving same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married people.
But that may not go far enough. On December 1, 2005, the nation's Constitutional Court gave lawmakers one year to change laws to allow gay couples to marry under the Marriage Act itself. It said if Parliament failed to act by the deadline, the court would rewrite the act.
The court said prohibiting same-sex marriage violated South Africa's post-apartheid Constitution. The ruling was essentially unanimous, with the sole dissenter opposing only the one-year delay, arguing that the ruling should take effect immediately.
Currently, same-sex couples have access to traditional marriage in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Massachusetts.
NEPALI GAYS LOBBY FOR CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION
Gays, lesbians and transgender people in Nepal are seeking protection in the new constitution that is being prepared, the Indo-Asia News Service reported August 24.
They have demanded decriminalization of "unnatural sex," political representation, access to marriage or civil unions, and the addition of a transgender category - in addition to male and female -- on the citizenship card and other government certificates.
Organizations pushing for the changes include the GLBT Blue Diamond Society and the lesbian group Mitini Nepal.
CANADIAN PARTY TO STAND FIRM ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Canada's Bloc Québécois political party has promised to stand united against Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to initiate parliamentary reconsideration of the 2005 vote that legalized same-sex marriage.
All of the party's 51 members in the 308-member House of Commons will be expected to vote in favor of same-sex marriage in any reassessment of the matter.
The 29 members of the New Democratic Party are planning to do the same.
Recent polling found that 62 percent of Canadians oppose any attempt to take away same-sex couples' access to marriage.
BRIT PRO SOCCER TEAM EMBRACES GAYS
In an unprecedented move, top-level British professional soccer team Manchester City Football Club has paid "four figures" to join the Diversity Champions program of the leading national gay-rights group Stonewall, The Observer reported August 27.
The action commits the team to recruit gays to work at the stadium, reach out to gay fans, ban homophobic language and implement other "gay-friendly" initiatives.
"We want to send a welcoming message to gay, lesbian and bisexual supporters, be inclusive and be a progressive employer," said Alistair Mackintosh, the club's chief executive.
The Observer, which said Mackintosh's sister is an open lesbian, commented, "The move could lead to a dramatic change of attitude in the macho world of football, which is regarded as one of the last bastions of homophobia."
WORLDPRIDE PARADE RESCHEDULED
The WorldPride parade, scheduled for August 10 in Jerusalem but cancelled because hundreds of police officers needed to protect it were unavailable due to the war in Lebanon, will take place Sept. 21, organizers have announced.
But the Jerusalem police department has stated it will not allow the march to occur so close to the Jewish New Year holiday season. Officials said they're open to considering other dates.
Pride organizers responded that they won't back down a second time and will go to court to secure the September 21 date if necessary.
Orthodox Jews had threatened a massive counterdemonstration against the August parade, which also was opposed by Christian and Muslim religious figures, the mayor and right-wing politicians in the "holy city."
At last year's local pride parade, an ultra-Orthodox protester stabbed three marchers and was later convicted of attempted murder. Orthodox Jews tried to block the march and some 1,000 antigay militants staged a rowdy action during which some threw bottles of urine and bags of feces at the marchers.
WorldPride, which was last held in 2000 in Rome, is licensed by InterPride, the International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Coordinators.
LATVIANS WHO ATTACKED GAYS PUNISHED
Some of the protesters who pelted Latvian gays with excrement on pride day have been punished.
The July 22 attacks in Riga occurred outside a gay religious service and meetings at a hotel -- events which replaced the planned gay pride parade after it was banned by the City Council and a court.
GLBT people coming and going from the events were confronted by Christian fundamentalists, ultranationalists and neo-Nazis, some of whom threw eggs, rotten food and human feces.
To date, seven of the protesters have been fined from $42 to $92 for petty hooliganism.
Linda Freimane, spokeswoman for the pride organizing group Mozaika, called the punishments inadequate, saying the attackers should have been charged with criminal hooliganism.
"This is not petty hooliganism but an incitement to hatred," she said. "The punishment for such activities must be heavier so the others would [see] clear that similar activities carry heavy punishment and the state considers them as serious offences."
Latvia's general prosecutor has agreed with Mozaika and is attempting to have the decisions annulled and the attackers retried under criminal statutes.
AMNESTY CONDEMNS TARGETING OF GLBT UGANDANS
Amnesty International has issued a condemnation of "the ongoing targeting and intimidation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda." The organization cited new problems after the Red Pepper tabloid newspaper published in its August 8 issue the first names, workplaces and other identifying information of 45 men it claimed are gay.
"In at least three cases, people named by the Red Pepper magazine subsequently suffered harassment from and were ostracized by colleagues and families," the group said. "This article … encourages discrimination and puts those named at a high risk of violence. Furthermore, Amnesty International is concerned that those named may be arrested on the basis of their alleged sexual orientation and could face humiliating and degrading treatment in custody." Gay sex is illegal in Uganda. The punishment for "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" is up to life in prison.
The Red Pepper article stated, in part: "To a majority of us, straight thinking citizens, it homosexuality is an abominable sin, actually a mortal sin that goes against the nature of humanity. We are talking about men in this nation who are walking closely in the footsteps of Sir Elton Hercules John and the like by having engines that operate from the rear like the vintage Volkswagon cars. To show the nation how shocked we are and how fast the terrible vice known as sodomy is eating up our society, we have decided to unleash an exclusive list of men who enjoy taking on fellow men from the rear. We hope that by publishing this list, our brothers will confess and go back to the right path."
In 1999, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said of gays: "These few individuals who became known were either ignored or speared and killed by their parents. They wouldn't just go and wed another man publicly."
POLISH PM SAYS NATION IS GAY-FRIENDLY
To the astonishment of activists and others, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said August 30 that the nation is gay-friendly.
Speaking with European Union officials in Brussels, Kaczynski said: "I ask you not to believe in the myth of Poland as an anti-Semitic, homophobic and xenophobic country. … People with such homosexual preferences have full rights in Poland; there is no tradition in Poland of persecuting such people." In reality, Poland's gay community has been under attack from national and local officials in recent years - both before and especially after, the conservative Law and Justice Party came to power last year. President Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw's twin brother, was mayor of Warsaw when the 2004 and 2005 gay pride parades were banned. He reportedly called gays "perverts."
Speaking last March in Germany, Lech added: "I don't agree to see this issue in a way that there is a heterosexual culture and a homosexual culture and that they are equal. I see no reason to promote such attitudes, because if they were common, the human race would have to die out."
Jaroslaw has complained that Polish "gay people are allowed to conduct perverse demonstrations in the streets, but it is forbidden to discuss the issue of moral censorship."
Human Rights Watch said in February that the Law and Justice Party "brings to power officials with long records of opposing gay and lesbian rights."
WALESA APPEARS WITH ELTON JOHN
Former President Lech Walesa appeared on stage with gay singer Elton John at Poland's Sopot Festival September 2.
Walesa presented John with an Amber Nightingale award for his lifetime achievement and gave him a medal marking the 25th anniversary of the Solidarity Trade Union that Walesa headed and which helped bring down Polish communism.
During the concert, John reportedly stated: "I'm just a performer who plays people some music. I hope that my music helps people to forget about their problems for a few hours. But I'm also a gay man and I've heard that gay people face violence in Poland.
Leave us alone. We don't want to harm anybody. We just want to love and be loved." The comments reportedly elicited a loud ovation.
GAY FLAG FLIES OVER TAIPEI CITY HALL
City officials will raise the rainbow flag over Taipei City Hall September 17 to mark the launch of the 7th annual "LGBT Civil Rights Movement - Queer-Friendly Taipei," the Taipei Times reported.
The festival, hosted by the city's Department of Civil Affairs, aims to break down stereotypes and increase gay visibility and cultural diversity.
SCOTTISH FIREFIGHTERS PUNISHED FOR BOYCOTTING PRIDE
Nine firefighters who refused to staff an official booth at Pride Scotia in Glasgow, Scotland, have been punished by the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue department. A watch manager was demoted, suffering a $9,500 salary cut, and eight rank-and-file firefighters had written warnings placed in their employee files. The individuals, all from the Cowcaddens Fire Station, also must attend diversity-training classes.
The punishment could have been as strong as dismissal from the department. The individuals refused to work the Pride festival because they considered the assignment embarrassing or had moral objections to it, they said.