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PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 9:20 pm 
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Serbia's first gay PM-designate honored by nomination
By IVANA BZGANOVIC
16 June 2017

VRNJACKA BANJA, Serbia (AP) -- Serbia's Prime Minister-designate Ana Brnabic said Friday it would be an honor to serve the country, even as some furious early reaction suggested that it could become an ordeal for the first female and openly gay person to head the conservative nation's government.

President Aleksandar Vucic choice of Brnabic, currently minister of public administration and local government, as the next prime minister has infuriated nationalists.

Opposition official Bosko Obradovic said the U.S.- and British-educated Brnabic is "a foreign agent" who was nominated to the position by the West. "Ana Brnabic has worked all of her life for foreign companies and NGOs," Obradovic said. "She has nothing to do with our country, our system and identity." The conservative opposition Democratic Party of Serbia said Vucic's nomination of Brnabic was "a slap in the face of a majority in Serbia which supports traditional (family) values."

Brnabic, 41, needs formal approval by Serbia's parliament next week for her to become the first female - and gay - head of government in Serbia where the LGBT population has often faced discrimination, harassment and violence.

Vucic's populist party has a big majority in the assembly, and it is expected that her government will be approved. The question is for how long her government could last under the pressure from the nationalists and the influential Serbian Orthodox Church.

Brnabic's nomination was considered part of Vucic's tactics to please the West amid strong pressure from Moscow to maintain influence in the Balkan region and keep Serbia, a traditional Slavic ally, away from NATO and the European Union. "I'm proud and still too emotional from all of this," Brnabic said during her visit to southern Serbia on Friday. "It's a great honor to serve this country. I wish to thank, once again, the president for the given trust."

Vucic, who was prime minister before his election as president in April, was always expected to appoint a loyalist to maintain full control of the government as he moved into the formally ceremonial presidential position.

Brainy and a fluent English-speaker, Brnabic is an outsider in the murky realm of Balkan politics. Her tenure could be brief. Vucic has already been mulling early parliamentary elections to cement his populist party's power before his huge popularity in Serbia wanes.

Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:54 am 
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Trump to pick gay ex-diplomat, pundit for ambassador to Germany
By JULIE PACE
July 19, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former diplomat and television commentator is expected to be nominated as the United States' ambassador to Germany.

Richard Grenell is President Donald Trump's choice for the post, according to a person with knowledge of the expected nomination. That person requested anonymity to discuss a matter before it was announced. A White House spokeswoman said Wednesday that nothing official was finalized.

Grenell was a long-serving spokesman for the United States at the United Nations during former President George W. Bush's administration. He also appears as a foreign affairs commentator on Fox News Channel. He would be the first openly LGBT ambassador nominee for Trump.

The Berlin posting is a high-profile assignment as observers closely scrutinize relations between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:55 am 
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LGBT politicians in Japan seek to promote awareness, secure rights
26 July 2017

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions. With the 2020 Olympics looming - and international pressure mounting - five openly LGBT politicians have formed a group to promote issues from the local level.

Tokyo (dpa) – Kunihiro Maeda, one of Japan's few openly gay politicians, recalls waiting outside an intensive-care unit 15 years ago, not knowing whether his long-time partner was still alive after being rushed to hospital.

Maeda was only allowed to see his partner after his partner's parents arrived and told a doctor that Maeda was a family member. "Being a housemate does not enable you to be by your partner's bedside when he dies," said Maeda, 51, who has been an assembly member for Tokyo's Bunkyo ward for 18 years.

Maeda suffered a further indignity when he was not allowed to sit with other family members at his partner's funeral. "Even in an emergency, LGBT people are not guaranteed what heterosexuals take for granted," said Maeda, using the initials for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Maeda, who is serving his fifth term, came out as gay in early July, when he and four other openly LGBT assembly members held a news conference announcing the establishment of Japan's first group of assembly members working to promote LGBT issues. They want to bring change to Japanese society, arguing that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has done very little. The five are the country's only openly LGBT assembly members. Japan counts no openly LGBT members in its national parliament. (Kanako Otsuji served as an openly lesbian parliament member in 2013.)

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. The launch of the new group came on the heels of the German Parliament's approval of marriage equality. Japan also has a history of homophobic comments by public figures. In 2010, then-Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara caused an international uproar when he said lesbians and gay men were "deficient somehow. It may be attributed to something genetic. I feel sorry for them being a minority."

Amnesty International has urged Japan, which is set to host the 2020 Olympics, to immediately end discrimination based on sexual orientation, as it violates the Olympic charter.

Unlike in the West, in Japan there are very few openly LGBT actors and actresses, and very few Japanese athletes who come out of the closet. Some say this contributes to a lack of awareness of gender and sexual diversity in the country. Some 7.6 per cent of people polled in Japan think of themselves as LGBT, according to a 2015 survey conducted by Dentsu, Japan's largest advertising agency. "It's very important to establish a network with other LGBT people and allies," said Taiga Ishikawa, who became one of Japan's first two openly gay male politicians in 2011.

Ishikawa, a 43-year-old assembly member for Toshima ward in Tokyo, learned the lesson the hard way. He did not meet other gay people until he was 25 years old, though he grew up in a cosmopolitan city. Ishikawa and his friends have worked together with LGBT communities in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Tomoya Hosoda, a 25-year-old transgender assembly member in the city of Iruma, said some local officials wrongly believed there were no LGBT people in Iruma, north of Tokyo. "I had no role models and spent a lot of time worrying about how to live my life," he said. "I decided to run for office as I did not want any other citizens of Iruma to go through what I had to go through."

A growing number of assembly members have expressed interest in working on LGBT issues since November 2015, when Tokyo's Shibuya and Setagaya wards started to issue certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships, said Aya Kamikawa, an openly transgender assembly member in Setagaya. That is one reason the five assembly members launched their group, Kamikawa said. In Setagaya, the number of same-sex couples who have received such a certificate grew to 50 in April, she said.

Other areas have followed suit. In June, Sapporo City became the sixth municipality in Japan to approve same-sex unions. That certificate proves "the existence of same-sex couples," Maeda said. "That has made them no longer invisible."

Source: dpa

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:11 pm 
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Irish PM: 'Matter of time' for N. Ireland and gay marriage
5 August 2017

LONDON (AP) -- Ireland's prime minister says it is "only a matter of time" before same-sex marriage is legalized in Northern Ireland - the only part of the United Kingdom where it still is banned.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Ireland's first openly gay leader, made the comments at a gay pride event on Saturday in Belfast.

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the British Isles where same-sex marriages are not allowed. A 2015 voter referendum legalized them in the republic of Ireland. The issue has been one of the sticking points preventing the restoration of the Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionists, Northern Ireland's biggest British Protestant party and a key partner to British Prime Minister Theresa May's government, has opposed same-sex marriage. The Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein supports it.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:58 pm 
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Prime minister attends gay pride march in a first for Serbia
By RADUL RADOVANOVIC
17 September 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Serbia's first openly gay prime minister joined several hundred activists Sunday at a gay pride march that was held amid tight security in the conservative Balkan country.

Holding rainbow flags, balloons and a banner reading "For change," pride participants gathered in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, before setting off on a march through the city. Many approached Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, greeting her and taking selfies. "The government is here for all citizens and will secure the respect of rights for all citizens," Brnabic told reporters. "We want to send a signal that diversity makes our society stronger, that together we can do more."

Serbian riot police cordoned off the city center with metal fences early Sunday to prevent possible clashes with extremist groups opposed to the pride gathering. Right-wing activists gathered in a central area with banners, but no conflicts were reported.

Brnabic was elected earlier this year amid Serbia's efforts to improve its image as it moves toward European Union membership. Gay rights activists in Serbia have hailed her ascension as an important step in their struggle, but say much more needs to be done. "Today we walk together and together we will stress that problems still exist and that we want to work together to solve them," said activist Goran Miletic.

Serbia's embattled LGBT residents face widespread harassment and violence from extremists. Violence marred the first pride march in 2001, and more than 100 people were injured during an event in 2010 when police clashed with right-wing groups and soccer hooligans. Several pride events were banned before marches resumed in 2014. Despite the hundreds of riot police stationed in downtown Belgrade and the helicopters flying overhead, activists said the atmosphere on Sunday was more relaxed than in previous years.

Brnabic attended the pride march last year when she was public administration minister in the previous government of now-President Aleksandar Vucic. A former ultranationalist who now identifies as a pro-EU reformer, Vucic has declined invitations to attend the pride march.

AP writer Jovana Gec contributed to this report.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:35 pm 
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Leo Varadkar elected as Ireland's first gay prime minister
By Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries
14 June 2017

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Leo Varadkar was elected Irish Prime Minister on Wednesday, making the 38-year-old son of an Indian immigrant the first gay premier of the once-staunchly Catholic country and the youngest person to hold the office.

Despite inheriting Europe’s fastest-growing economy, he will face immediate challenges in the shape of neighboring Britain’s exit from the European Union, a political crisis in Northern Ireland and a housing crisis at home. Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny earlier this month as leader of the Fine Gael party. Colleagues pinned their hopes of an unprecedented third term on the straight-talking Varadkar, who they believe can widen their appeal in elections that may be triggered as soon as next year.

“Enda Kenny’s leadership enabled me to become an equal citizen in my own country two short years ago and to aspire to hold this office, an aspiration I once thought was beyond my reach, at least if I chose to be myself,” Varadkar said in reference to Ireland’s 2015 vote to legalize gay marriage. “The government I lead will not be one of left or right. The government I lead will be one of the new European center as we seek to build a Republic of opportunity, that is a Republic in which every citizen gets a fair go and in which every part of the country stands to share in our prosperity.”

Varadkar’s elevation marks another chapter in the social change that has swept through the country of 4.6 million people that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 and legalized divorce two years later. “As the country’s youngest holder of this office, he speaks for a new generation of Irish women and Irish men, he represents a modern, diverse and inclusive Ireland and speaks for them like no other,” Kenny told parliament, nominating his successor.

However it is his policies that will attract more scrutiny at home with opponents warning that the former health, tourism and social protection minister, who first joined the center-right party aged 17, would nudge it further to the right. While analysts expect few major policy shifts from Varadkar and his new cabinet, the new Fine Gael leader has hinted at some changes. He has pledged to introduce a less ambitious debt reduction target than the one set by Kenny’s government last year, and to lobby the EU for additional leeway to free up more funding for badly needed infrastructure projects.

On Brexit, he wants Northern Ireland, a British province, to remain in the EU’s single market and retain access to as many EU programs as possible to ensure it secures a “soft” Brexit that he has said appears more likely following last week’s British election. Varadkar told parliament on Wednesday that Ireland would hold a referendum next year on liberalizing Ireland’s abortion laws, currently among the most restrictive in Europe.

European Council President Donald Tusk, tweeting words of congratulations in the Irish language, assured Varadkar that his fellow EU leaders shared a “great sensitivity” about the challenge the island of Ireland faces in the Brexit talks. Varadkar, who took his seat in parliament 10 years ago to the day on Wednesday, named Paschal Donohoe finance minister, replacing the retiring Michael Noonan. Donohoe will also retain his existing portfolio as public expenditure minister. Donohoe, 42, has managed budgetary policy with Noonan for the last year and was previously transport minister where he successfully negotiated the sale of the state’s 30 percent stake in former flag carrier Aer Lingus to IAG. Varadkar also appointed his chief rival for the leadership, former housing minister Simon Coveney, as foreign minister.

Source: Reuters

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 5:29 pm 
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Minneapolis transgender politicians: Wins show hatred won't stand
November 9, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Two newly elected transgender members of the Minneapolis City Council hugged, shared a high-five and enjoyed cheers from onlookers as they met at City Hall.

Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham take office in January. They say their historic wins are a victory for equality in the U.S. Jenkins and Cunningham know their way around City Hall. Jenkins, a 56-year-old transgender woman, spent years as a policy aide to two previous council members. Cunningham, a 29-year-old transgender man, worked in the mayor's office.

Cunningham says when voters found out he was transgender and black - and that his husband also is transgender - they said, "That's who I want to represent my neighborhood." Jenkins says their election is a signal that "hatred and bigotry in this country will not stand."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:22 pm 
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Australian lawmaker proposes to gay partner during debate
By ROD McGUIRK
4 December 2017

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- An Australian lawmaker giving a speech on same-sex marriage proposed to his gay partner Monday during Parliament's debate on a bill that is expected to soon legalize marriage equality across the country.

Tim Wilson, a 37-year-old lawmaker in the conservative coalition government, was among the first lawmakers to join the House of Representatives debate and toward the end of his speech popped the question to his partner of seven years Ryan Bolger, who was watching from the public gallery. "In my first speech I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands, and they are the answer to a question we cannot ask," an emotional Wilson said, referring to the first time he addressed the Parliament last year. "There's only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?" Wilson added to applause.

The 33-year-old primary school teacher responded: "yes," which was recorded in the official parliamentary record.

The House of Representatives is holding its final two-week session of the year, which is giving priority to lifting the ban on same-sex marriage ion Australia. The major parties want the legislation passed this week after a majority of Australian's endorsed change in a postal ballot last month. The Senate last week approved the bill and rejected all proposed amendments that would have increased legal protections for those who would discriminate against gay couples on religious grounds.

But several lawmakers including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull intend to persist with amendments rejected by the Senate. Turnbull, a gay marriage supporter, says he wants wedding celebrants, not just those affiliated with churches, to have the right to refuse to officiate at same-sex marriages. If the House of Representatives supported such an amendment, then the altered bill would have to return to the Senate for ratification, delaying the reform.

Turnbull told Parliament that while nothing in the bill threatened religious freedoms, he wanted more reassurances for the millions of Australians who oppose marriage equality. "We must not fail to recognize that there is sincere, heartfelt anxiety about the bill's impact on religious freedom," Turnbull said. "That is why I will support several amendments to the bill which will provide that additional reassurance in respect of their fundamental rights and freedoms," he added.

Warren Entsch, a long-term advocate of marriage equality within the conservative government, helped draft the bill and was the first to speak for it in the House on Monday. "The bill which the Senate passed is a robust bill, a whole range of religious protections are already in place," Entsch said in introducing the bill. "We have made sure that we have removed any element of discrimination in this bill while ensuring that religious freedoms are protected," he added.

Entsch said related amendments to bolster freedoms of speech and education rights could be debated in a separate bill next year and should not be sued to delay the reform. "Australians are sick of excuses and they're sick of delays," Entsch said.

A nonbinding postal survey found that 62 percent of Australian respondents wanted gay marriage to be legal. Almost 80 percent of Australia's registered voters took part in the two-month survey. Most gay marriage opponents accept that the Parliament has an overwhelming mandate to make the change. While marriage equality could become law this week, state marriage registries say they would not have the paperwork to proceed with weddings until January.

Source: AP

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