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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:41 am 
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Germany celebrates first gay marriages
By David Courbet
1 October 2017

Berlin (AFP) - Two German men made history Sunday by saying "I do" and becoming the first same-sex couple to marry after decades of struggle, but campaigners say the battle for equal rights isn't over.

Wedding bells rang out in Berlin, Hamburg, Hanover and other German cities where local authorities have exceptionally opened their doors on a Sunday, allowing weddings on the day the law comes into effect.

Bodo Mende, 60, and partner Karl Kreile, 59, exchanged their vows at a desk decked out with white flowers and rainbow flags. Then, they turned to offer a shot of their first embrace as a married couple to the throng of photographers and TV crews from around the world who packed the south Berlin registry office alongside friends and family. "I'm unbelievably satisfied, this is extremely symbolic to be recognised as a completely normal couple and no longer to have a second-class marriage," Kreile said after the two cut a slice of rainbow cake.

Mende and Kreile, longtime gay marriage campaigners who have been together since 1979, wanted to tie the knot as soon as possible -- after being among the first to enter a civil partnership back in 2002. The dash to exchange vows comes three months after lawmakers voted to give Germany's roughly 94,000 same-sex couples the right to marry, following a shift in position by Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Finally, equal law for equal love," tweeted Justice Minister Heiko Maas, as Germany became the 15th European nation to legalise gay marriage.

The Netherlands led the way in 2000, followed piecemeal by other European countries including Spain, Sweden, Britain and France. Same-sex relationships have become so normalised that polls show around 75 percent of Germans are in favour of gay marriage.

"It's a marvellous day. We're all feeling festive and happy," lawmaker and Social Democratic Party (SPD) gay and lesbian affairs commissioner Johannes Kahrs told AFP from Hamburg, where he was best man at the wedding of two friends. "But we would gladly have had it sooner. Thank you for nothing, Frau Merkel," he added, the reproach he flung at Merkel in a stormy speech in parliament when the law was passed.

By extending existing law to same-sex pairs, Germany's gay couples automatically gain the same tax advantages and adoption rights as heterosexual families.

Along with Germany's Greens party, the gay and lesbian rights organisation LSVD began its battle for equal marriage rights around the year 1990. But progress was slow and since 2001 gay couples have had to make do with a civil partnership law, broadened over the years to remove more and more gaps between gay and straight couples' rights.

The final breakthrough came quite suddenly in the end, sparked by Merkel's unexpected announcement in June that she would allow her conservative MPs to vote their conscience on the issue. Merkel said her thinking changed after a "memorable experience" when she met a lesbian couple who lovingly care for eight foster children in her Baltic coast constituency.

Her surprise shift in position -- after 12 years of blockade by her Christian Democrats and their Bavarian allies -- was seen by some as a cynical ploy to rob her challengers of a popular cause ahead of September's general election. The chancellor herself voted against the bill, arguing that the German constitution still defines marriage as "the union of a man and a woman".

June was a memorable month for gay rights in Germany, as lawmakers also voted to quash the convictions of thousands of men convicted under a Nazi-era law against same-sex relationships which had remained on the statute book until 1994. But there are still an array of issues familiar across Western democracies, like blood donations or access to reproductive medicine, where homosexuals can be treated differently.

And the constitution must still be amended to fully protect against discrimination over gender or sexual orientation, Kahrs said. "These are all things that we'll tackle bit by bit," he said. "The important thing is that we've pushed through the opening of marriage, and that's the signal everyone needed."

Source: Yahoo! AFP

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:23 pm 
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In Africa, LGBT rights activists worry about Trump impact
By CARLEY PETESCH
15 October 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Gay rights activist Joseph Achille Tiedjou is worried every day that he will be harassed or arrested in Cameroon.

Defending LGBT rights can be dangerous in Africa, where many countries have laws against homosexuality. But in recent years activists have stepped out of the shadows, empowered by the support of the Obama administration and the international community. Now many fear the Trump administration will undermine those gains, and that their exposure could make them more vulnerable if support fades.

"I have so many worries with the new administration," the 32-year-old Tiedjou said, pointing out Trump's ban on transgender people in the U.S. military. "Obama was known to be very engaged. Hillary Clinton was a champion of LGBT rights and made many guarantees in addressing these issues specifically."

Obama's administration made LGBT rights a major domestic and foreign policy, though some in Africa saw it as pushing "Western ideals." The Obama administration also created a special envoy position on LGBT rights. The Trump administration has said it will keep the post, but concerns remain. "The difference with the previous administration was that the rights of LGBT people were explicitly part of foreign policy. So LGBT groups around the world could absolutely rely on the moral and, indeed, material support that came from the U.S. government and that made a huge difference," said Graeme Reid, director of Human Rights Watch's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program. "Under this administration, we are no longer going to be seeing that proactive engagement around LGBT rights."

Though the Trump administration's overseas policies on LGBT rights remain to be seen, the erosion of domestic advances directly undermines the authority of the U.S. to speak out internationally, Reid said. He cited the pushback against federal protections and the appointment of "openly homophobic officials" to senior government positions.

The U.S. recently joined a dozen other countries to vote against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that urged countries not to use the death penalty for specific forms of conduct, including consensual same-sex relations. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the vote was made "because of broader concerns with the resolution's approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances" but said the U.S. "unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality."

Same-sex acts are illegal in more than 33 African countries and can lead to death sentences in parts of at least four, including Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria and southern Somalia, according to Amnesty International. Homosexuality is criminalized in the East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. In Tanzania, authorities recently stopped health providers from non-governmental organizations from providing services to LGBT people.

In Cameroon, a strong ally of the U.S. in the fight against extremism, Human Rights Watch has documented high levels of arrests of LGBT people. Colonial-era anti-gay laws are still in place in Ghana and are implemented from time to time, and a high level of social intolerance and family violence exists against the LGBT community. In Gambia, where former leader Yahya Jammeh made "aggravated homosexuality" punishable by life in prison, activists are waiting to see whether new President Adama Barrow will amend the law.

In Senegal, violence is directed at LGBT communities, along with arrests, according to Human Rights Watch. "In practice the act is criminalized so it can be used broadly to detain people based on their orientation," said Francois Patuel, a West Africa researcher for Amnesty International.

But despite setbacks in some countries there have been some gains, Patuel said. The African Commission on Human and People's Rights in 2014 adopted a resolution condemning violence and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. South Africa's constitution specifically protects the rights of LGBT and allows same-sex marriage.

The United States has provided support for HIV/AIDS and other programs that indirectly have enabled gay rights groups to form in some sub-Saharan African countries. Patuel urged that such support not be revoked under the Trump administration.

In Mali, activist and journalist N'Deye Traore said social media has been used to incite hatred against the LGBT community, discouraging people from publicly advocating change and forcing many to live in hiding and at risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS. Traore said she worries about the example set by the Trump administration. "It is the life of human beings that is at stake and must be respected!" she said. "I urge the American president to seize and at least tolerate this community for sustainable development in America and around the world."

Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda contributed.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 9:50 pm 
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Tajikistan announces official register of gay citizens
17 October 2017

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AFP) - Authoritarian Tajikistan announced Tuesday it had drawn up a register of 367 allegedly gay citizens, suggesting they would be required to undergo testing to avoid "the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases."

Details of the move was unveiled in Zakonnost, a newspaper published by Tajikistan's state prosecutor which said the official list of "gay and lesbian" citizens was compiled following research into the LGBT community. Rights activists in this Central Asian nation have in the past raised fears over discrimination faced by LGBT individuals in this conservative country that is mainly Muslim but has secular authorities.

The paper said that working groups set up last year had identified 319 gay men and 48 lesbians but no transsexuals in this former Soviet republic of 8.5 million. It said the list was drawn up following two state "operations" last year entitled "Morality" and "Purge", without giving further details.

Zakonnost did not specify what kind of checks would be involved, but said the people had been "put on a register due to their vulnerability in society and for their safety and to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases." Speaking on condition of anonymity, a police source told AFP that "strict medical records" were needed for members of the gay community because "such people have a high risk of contracting sexually-transmitted infections through infectious diseases."

Unlike in neighbouring Uzbekistan, where "sodomy" is illegal, homosexuality is not banned in Tajikistan although it is frowned upon in this conservative society. In 2014, Tajikistan's most senior Muslim cleric blasted homosexual relationships as "calamitous" during a sermon in the main mosque in the capital, Dushanbe.

There are growing concerns over the safety of LGBT communities across Muslim-majority regions of the former Soviet Union. In March, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta said authorities in the Russian region of Chechnya were imprisoning and torturing gay men. One Chechen resident publicly testified in Moscow this week about being detained and tortured because he is gay. And last month, Amnesty International raised alarm over the apparent detentions of LGBT individuals in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:37 pm 
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5,000 march for LGBTI rights in the Faroe Islands
28 July 2014
By Andrew Potts

Image
5,000 people are estimated to have marched for LGBTI equality in the Faroe Islands yesterday
Photo by Faroe Pride/Facebook

Police in the Faroe Islands estimate that one-in-ten people in the country marched for LGBTI equality on Sunday at Faroe Pride.

The Faroe Islands are an autonomous country and a dependency of Denmark and it remains the only Nordic country other than Finland that does not allow same-sex couples to marry. There are approximately 50,000 people living in the Faroe Islands and police say 5,000 of them were at the march in the capital Torshavn.

Recent polls have shown support for same-sex marriage among Faroe Islanders is as high as 68%. However a bill that would have allowed civil marriages for same-sex couples in the Faroe Islands was defeated in march in a vote of 20 to 11.

Source: GayStarNews.

Faroe Islands says yes to same-sex marriage
by Shifa Rahaman
1 May 2016

The Faroese Parliament voted 19 to 14 in favour of legalizing same-sex marriages on April 29 2016, becoming the final Nordic country to do so.

It has now adopted Denmark’s same-sex matrimonial laws – with the only exception being that the Faroese church will not be obligated to perform the weddings unless it chooses to do so. Denmark voted to recognize same-sex marriages in 2012 and also allows same-sex couples to wed in Church. However, this was not made a part of the law in the Faroe Islands because of fears that the more conservative members of parliament would vote against it. It is now up to the Faroese Protestant church to decide whether or not it will perform the ceremonies.

Same-sex marriages will come into effect in December, after the bill has made its way through the Danish parliament and been sent off for Royal Assent.

Source: Copenhagen Post

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:22 am 
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Hundreds of Romanians rally in support of civil partnerships
21 October 2017

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Several hundred people rallied in Romania on Saturday to urge that civil partnerships be legally recognized so that unmarried cohabitants can enjoy expanded rights.

Supporters of the measure, many from the LBGT community, waved rainbow and European Union flags along with banners saying: "We pay taxes, we want rights." "It's not fair that we aren't recognized," said one supporter, Mihaela Pantilie. Vasile Murivale Muresan, 60, said he was glad to see young people who "don't feel marginalized as I did when I was young." He said he supported "civil partnerships for everyone."

Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 2001 and acceptance of same-sex couples has increased, especially in cities. However, some oppose same-sex marriage. A referendum is expected in the coming months on whether the constitution should be changed to explicitly state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The constitution says marriage is a union between spouses.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:10 pm 
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Taiwan holds Asia's largest pride parade as it waits for gay marriage
28 October 2017

TAIPEI (AFP) - A sea of rainbow flags and glitzy costumes filled downtown Taipei Saturday as tens of thousands marched in Asia's largest gay pride parade, the first since Taiwan's top court ruled in favour of gay marriage.

The island looks set to become the first place in Asia to legalise gay marriage after the constitutional court said in May that laws preventing same-sex unions violated the guarantee of freedom of marriage. It gave the government two years to implement the decision.

The anticipation was felt in Saturday's parade, as dancing crowds in colourful wigs and sequined outfits made their way through the capital's centre alongside vans blasting music. Many spared no effort in dressing up, from a man posing in a sweeping bridal dress and a tiara to another donning an inflatable dinosaur costume.

But behind the celebrations, some are frustrated at the lack of progress in changing the current marriage laws since May. "A lot of people cannot afford to wait two years," said Joseph Wu, 46, dressed in a matching kilt and rainbow turban with his partner of six years. "We just want the same things heterosexual couples have. We also do our military service, we pay the same taxes, so why can't we have the same thing?" he said.

Hino Chen, 29, echoed this sentiment, adding that he hopes the government will change the civil code rather than enact a separate law to enable gay marriage -- which critics say is still discriminatory. "We are the same. We also want to start our own families," he told AFP.

Gay rights activists expressed frustration last month when a Taipei administrative court rejected a request from a lesbian couple to marry, saying they can only register when relevant laws are in place. Still, Taiwan is seen as one of the most progressive societies in Asia when it comes to gay rights. For Benny Chan from Hong Kong, it was worth travelling to Taipei just for the parade. He was dressed as a Chinese empress in a strapless full-length gold gown, which he says he would not dare to wear in Hong Kong. "Hong Kong is more conservative, maybe because of China's influence," Chan, 35, told AFP. "Only when I'm in Taiwan can I dress like this and not be afraid to express myself."

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:04 pm 
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Australian sport supports same-sex marriage in key ballot
By DENNIS PASSA
2 November 2017

Try telling Charlie Winn and Steve Thorne that sports and politics don't mix.

As Australia votes in a postal survey on same-sex marriage, Winn and Thorne, who helped found the gay rugby team the Sydney Convicts, hope a positive result might mean the government will allow same-sex couples to be legally married in their country. And if it happens, it could be due to the widespread support of most of Australia's major sporting organizations.

The Australian Football League, which runs the top level of Australian Rules football, replaced its logo on its head office in Melbourne with a prominent "Yes" sign in mid-September to send the message that is supports same-sex marriage. The AFL joined the Australian Rugby Union, the National Rugby League, Cricket Australia and Football Federation Australia, which governs soccer, in declaring their support for the yes vote in the officially-called Marriage Law Survey.

The postal survey forms must be received by next Tuesday to be counted, and the result is expected to be announced by Nov. 15. The government would still have to vote on it, even if the result of the informal, non-binding postal vote is a resounding yes, to legislate for same-sex marriage. So there's still some way to go.

For Winn and Thorne, who have been in a relationship for 13 years, it's a step in the right direction. They're both former players with the Convicts, Australia's first gay rugby club, which was formed in 2004. The Convicts have won the Bingham Cup, emblematic of the international gay rugby championship, four times - with Winn and Thorne having each captained the team to two titles.

Winn, a 44-year-old digital consultant, and Thorne, 40, who owns a printing business, had an unofficial marriage ceremony in the Blue Mountains near Sydney in 2012. But that has given them no rights as a married couple - they recently had to pay several thousand dollars in lawyer's fees while selling separate residences, something that wouldn't have been required if they were legally married.

They point to other issues as being discriminatory - for instance, if one of them becomes ill and is in hospital, and the other is not officially listed as family, they'd have to remain in the waiting room because they are not listed as a relative or spouse. Or the complications arising if one of them dies and the other has no legal status in the relationship. "Fundamentally, it is about equality in the eyes of society," Winn said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "Support from the AFL, rugby league and rugby union means that it is not OK to be discriminated against, and that is a humungous step forward."

Thorne says the widespread support of sporting groups helped emphasize to him and his gay friends that they aren't alone in pushing for marriage equality. "We often surround ourselves with like-minded people, and when major organizations and sporting groups come out in favor of same-sex marriage, that to me takes it a step beyond," Thorne said. "We can often have an underlying assumption that we are alone in our thinking."

Not everyone in Australian sport agreed: Rugby fullback Israel Folau became the most prominent Australian sports star to say he'd be voting no in the postal survey, and 3,500 people replied to his tweet, many voicing their opposition to his views. "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. But personally, I will not support gay marriage," Folau tweeted. That view was countered by Wallabies teammate David Pocock, who held a wedding ceremony with his partner Emma Palandri in 2010. But they have refused to sign the legal documents making it official until their gay friends are able to do the same. "When my survey arrives I'll vote yes for justice and love," Pocock tweeted a few hours after Folau's message.

The Behavioural Science Laboratory at Melbourne's Monash University last week released some preliminary findings which show that Australian sport's support of same-sex marriage was helping the "yes" campaign. It tracked Facebook responses to the various Australian sporting bodies' approval of same-sex marriage, and categorized the responses under positive, negative and homophobic. "Beautiful work Cricket Australia, a 'sport for all' means a sport for everyone no matter of sexuality or gender identity," the study listed as one of the positive responses. Among the negative responses was this on: "Sport and politics never mix. Stick to your core issues AFL."

Erik Denison, a researcher on the Monash project, said its initial research showed support offered by the sports was affecting the public view. "The support by the major sports, as well as athletes, likely has had a significant effect on public support for same-sex marriage in Australia," Denison told the AP. "There is good evidence ... that sport continues to have a very strong influence on people's attitudes and behaviors."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics, a government agency which is running the survey but which has no legal power to change marriage laws, said more than 77 percent of the 16 million survey forms had been returned, meaning three out of four eligible Australians had so far voted. Earlier polling indicated that 61 percent of people believed same-sex couples should be able to marry. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that if enough people vote in favor in the survey, he would expect Parliament to make it legal.

If so, Winn says the support of the Australian Rugby Union, one of the first sporting groups to signal its approval for a "yes" vote, will have made a big difference. "To actually have the sport you love and grew up with, that has forged a large part of my life ... (saying) that it is OK to accept gay people for who they are, is huge," Winn said. "It allows the recognition of our relationship to be part of the whole culture of Australia. And sport is such a large part of that."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:37 pm 
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Hundreds join pride march in India, where gay sex is illegal
12 November 2017

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Hundreds of gay rights activists and supporters, many wearing colorful costumes and holding balloons, have marched through India's capital in celebration but also defiance in a nation that continues to outlaw homosexuality.

As people chanted and marched to the beat of drums during New Delhi's 10th annual Queer Pride march on Sunday, many said they were frustrated with the law but also hoped it would soon change.

Tish Anand wore a wig that he says was inspired by the Disney Channel character Hannah Montana. He said he couldn't understand why authorities had "criminalized love." Manak Matiyani, one of the organizers, said they were fighting for the rights of every Indian to live the way they choose. Indian law makes gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:51 pm 
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Australians endorse gay marriage, ensuring Parliament bill
By ROD McGUIRK
15 November 2017

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Nearly two-thirds of Australians supported gay marriage in a postal survey that ensures Parliament will consider legalizing same-sex weddings this year, although the form any law would take and its allowances for religious objections sparked immediate debate.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday that 62 percent of registered voters who responded in the unprecedented mail survey favored reform. The conservative government promised to allow a bill creating marriage equality to be considered in Parliament in the final two-week session that is due to end on Dec. 7. A "no" vote in the survey would have put marriage equality off the political agenda, perhaps for years. Thousands of marriage equality supporters waving rainbow flags gathered anxiously in city parks around the country and cheered when the results was announced.

The mood was relief rather than exhilaration when the result was announced in a park in the national capital, said Tanna Winter, 30. Canberra demonstrated Australia's highest level of support for same-sex marriage, with only one in four responses opposing it. "The polls said that Brexit wouldn't happen, the polls said that Hillary would win and I sort of thought this felt like Australia's time to show everyone that we're backward too," Winter said hours later over a celebratory beer. "We didn't do it and we didn't do it in pretty good fashion. That's a nice relief, a nice moment to be proven wrong," he added. His friend Sam James, 31, quipped: "It's hard for the Russians to interfere with a paper survey"- a reference to Russia's suspected meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a vocal advocate of marriage equality, called on lawmakers to heed the "overwhelming" result and to commit to legislate for gay marriage by next month. "They voted 'yes' for fairness, they voted 'yes' for commitment, they voted 'yes' for love," Turnbull told reporters. "Now it is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do and get this done this year before Christmas - that must be our commitment."

Some government lawmakers have vowed to vote down gay marriage regardless of the survey's outcome. But the survey found a majority of voters in 133 of the 150 districts in the House of Representatives wanted reform. Lawmakers opposed to gay marriage are already moving to wind back anti-discrimination laws, with debate in Australia intensifying over the possibility of gay wedding boycotts and refusals to provide a celebrant, venue, flowers or a cake.

Several government lawmakers on Monday released a draft gay marriage bill, proposed by senator James Paterson, that critics argue would diminish current protections for gays against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. Government senator Dean Smith on Wednesday introduced a separate bill to the Senate favored by Turnbull that ruled out any compromise that would cost gays and lesbians their existing protections against discrimination. Smith's bill permits only churches and ministers of religion to boycott same-sex weddings. "If there are amendments, let's see them, but let's be clear about this: Australians did not participate in a survey to have one discrimination plank removed, to have other planks of discrimination piled upon them," Smith told reporters.

Fiona McLeod, president of the Law Council Of Australia, the nation's peak lawyers group, said Paterson's bill "would encroach on Australia's long-established anti-discrimination protections in a dangerous and unprecedented way." Lyle Shelton, spokesman for Coalition for Marriage which lobbied against the reform, said his group favored Paterson's bill. "I don't think anyone who voted in this postal survey wants to see their fellow Australians put up on hate speech charges," Shelton said. "We need to protect freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and also freedom of religion."

"Yes" voter Peter Kensey, 36, said while he was celebrating the win with Winter and James in Canberra tonight, there was apprehension in the gay community about what form the law would take. "I think that's why today hasn't been a huge celebration," Kensey said. "You wonder if you're going to be screwed over at the very last stage."

Ireland is the only other country to put same-sex marriage to a popular vote, but that referendum was binding. Irish voters in 2015 changed their constitution to allow marriage equality.

In Australia, voting in elections and referenda is compulsory, but the Senate refused to fund a binding vote. Almost 80 percent of more than 16 million registered voters posted ballots in the voluntary survey, which gay marriage advocates opposed as an unnecessary obstacle and opponents derided as being about a boutique issue of little public interest. The U.N. Human Rights Committee last week criticized Australia for putting gays and lesbians "through an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll." The committee called on Australia to legislate for marriage equality regardless of the survey's outcome.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:09 pm 
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Gay rights groups take legal action over Ankara events ban
29 November 2017

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkish gay rights groups said Wednesday they would take legal action against a controversial ban on all LGBTI cultural events in Ankara that was announced this month.

The Ankara governor's office on November 19 issued the ban to "maintain public order", arguing LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) events are likely to "provoke reactions within certain segments" of society. Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL and Pink Life LGBT Solidarity Association said they were filing a complaint calling for the "illegal" ban to be lifted. Pink Life lawyer Emrah Sahin said the ban, which affects films, theatre shows, screenings, exhibitions and other such events, was "political". "It is necessary as soon as possible to put an end to this clear infringement of rights and to cancel this decision," he said, expressing hope that the move was the result of "individual error" rather than government policy.

Kerem Dikmen, legal counsel for Kaos GL, said it was "indisputably an attack on the freedom of LGBTI individuals to organise and express themselves", saying it effectively banned gay rights groups and removed their right to association as recognised by the constitution.

On Friday, authorities in Istanbul's Beyoglu district banned a day-long film festival showcasing short films on gay issues. And in mid November, the Ankara governorate banned a festival of German-language gay films on the grounds it could incite hatred and risked provoking a terror attack.

The bans have raised concerns about freedom of expression for LGBTI individuals under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Earlier this month, Erdogan took aim at a quota for gay representatives on a neighbourhood committee, criticising it as being at odds with the nation's values in a rare comment on such issues. Homosexuality is legal in Turkey, but LGBTI individuals often complain of abuse and harassment.

The annual gay pride rally in Istanbul -- once the most important LGBTI gathering in a Muslim country in the region -- has been blocked by the authorities for three years, citing security grounds. But such reasons are dismissed by activists who claim the government is seeking to impose its conservative morality on a diverse country and is undermining its secular tradition.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:43 pm 
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Austria's top court allows same-sex marriage
by Simon STURDEE
5 December 2017

VIENNA (AFP) - Austria's top court has ruled that same-sex couples can marry from 2019 at the latest, bringing the often conservative Alpine country into line with more than a dozen other European nations.

"The Constitutional Court nullified with a decision on December 4, 2017 the legal regulation that until now prevented such couples from marrying," a statement released on Tuesday said. It said however that the current rules would remain in place until December 31, 2018 unless Austria's parliament changes the law before then.

But a lesbian couple denied the right to marry who brought the case, plus four other couples who also filed a complaint, can tie the knot now, it said.

In April 2001 the Netherlands became the first country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in a civil ceremony. Not including Austria, 15 European countries have followed including Belgium, France, Britain (but not Northern Ireland), Ireland and -- since earlier this year -- Germany.

Others such as Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic only allow same-sex civil partnerships, a kind of marriage-light, as was the case in Austria until the new ruling. Many ex-Communist eastern European countries -- including Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Slovakia -- still deny homosexuals the right to marry or enter into unions.

In Austria a 2009 law allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships but stopped short of allowing them to marry. However, the new court ruling said that recent changes including allowing gay couples to adopt children meant that the two institutions were now largely identical. As a result, "the distinction between marriage and registered partnership cannot be upheld without same-sex couples being discriminated against," it said. It also ruled that civil partnerships must also be open to heterosexual couples and not just same-sex ones as at present.

Helmut Graupner, a lawyer for the two women who brought the case, said that this is the first time that a European court has lifted a ban on same-sex marriage. "Accordingly Austria is the first European country to recognise marriage equality for same-gender couples as a fundamental human right. All the other European states with marriage equality introduced it (just) the political way," he said on Facebook. "The Austrian Constitutional Court gave the most wonderful Christmas present one could imagine to loving couples," he added.

The ruling comes as Sebastian Kurz's conservative People's Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) negotiate forming a coalition government following October elections. In June, just after Austria's neighbour Germany changed the rules, both parties voted in parliament against proposals to change the law on same-sex unions.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:36 pm 
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Supreme Court lets stand Texas ruling on gay spouse benefits
By WILL WEISSERT
December 4, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Texas ruling that gay spouses may not be entitled to government-subsidized workplace benefits - a potential victory for social conservatives hoping to chip away at 2015's legalization of same-sex marriage.

In June, the Texas Supreme Court overturned a lower court's decision favoring spousal benefits for gay city employees in Houston, ordering the issue back to trial. That was a major reversal for the all-Republican state high court, which previously refused to even consider the benefits case after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision that the Constitution grants gay couples who want to marry "equal dignity in the eyes of the law."

The Texas court changed its mind and heard the case amid intense pressure from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as dozens of other conservative elected officials, church leaders and grassroots activists. They argued that the case may help Texas limit the scope of the Supreme Court ruling, especially in how it is applied to states.

Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision to reject Houston's appeal of the Texas court decision came without dissent or comment. The case began with a coalition of religious and socially conservative groups suing America's fourth-largest city in 2013 to block a move to offer same-sex spousal benefits to municipal employees.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of the civil rights group GLAAD, said the U.S. Supreme Court "has just let an alarming ruling by the Texas Supreme Court stand which plainly undercuts the rights of married same-sex couples." "Today's abnegation by the nation's highest court opens the door for an onslaught of challenges to the rights of LGBTQ people at every step," Ellis said in a statement.

But other advocates said Monday's action simply shows the Texas case is not fully concluded, rather than indicating how the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the larger issue. "There was high hope that the Texas decision was so wrong that the court wouldn't sit by and let it go," said Kenneth Upton, a Dallas-based attorney for the prominent LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal. "That's not how it works with the Supreme Court."

Houston has been paying same-sex benefits amid the case's developments and will continue to do so while it progresses through lower Texas courts. The city argues that the 2015 legalization of gay marriage meant all marriages are equal, so anything offered to opposite-sex couples must be offered to same-sex ones.

Conservative groups counter that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't declare spousal benefits a fundamental right of marriage two years ago, and that it should be up to states to decide. They also see a chance for Texas to defend religious liberty under a state gay marriage ban that voters approved in 2005. Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney and conservative activist at the center of the case, called Monday's action by the nation's high court, "A nice early Christmas present." "The U.S. Supreme court could have taken the case and used it to further expand Obergefell. They chose not to," he said. "It's confirmation that the Texas Supreme Court got it right."

Woodfill said that religious liberty groups in two other states had contacted him in years past, seeking information about Texas' legal challenge. "It obviously has precedential value, not just for Texas but the entire country," Woodfill said. However, the court has said on several occasions that the denial of such petitions "without more has no significance as a ruling."

In August, three Houston city employees and their spouses sued the city in federal court, concerned that the civil case could force the city to stop paying same-sex benefits. A federal judge dismissed that case last month, saying it was too early since the civil case was still proceeding. Upton, who represented the city employees, said they were ready to sue again depending on what happens in Texas courts.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:23 pm 
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Australian Parliament votes to allow same-sex marriages
By ROD McGUIRK
7 December 2017

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australia's Parliament voted Thursday to allow same-sex marriage across the nation, following a bitter debate settled by a much-criticized government survey of voters that strongly endorsed change.

The public gallery in the House of Representatives erupted with applause when the bill passed. It changes the definition of marriage from solely between a man and a woman to "a union of two people" excluding all others. The legislation passed with a majority that wasn't challenged, although four lawmakers registered their opposition. "What a day. What a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament.

The Senate passed the same legislation last week 43 votes to 12. The government later announced that same-sex couples will be able to apply to marry starting Saturday, with the first weddings potentially from Jan. 6.

Champagne and tears flowed in the halls of Parliament House as gay celebrities including Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe and actress Magda Szubanski hugged lawmakers and ordinary folk in a party atmosphere. "What an amazing day, I'm a little bit delirious, it's extraordinary," said Szubanski, who sat in the public gallery during Thursday's daylong debate.

Thorpe thanked "our straight brothers and sisters" for strongly backing marriage equality in the two-month postal survey. "Quite literally without them voting for us, this would never have happened," Thorpe said. "It means that we've created an Australia that is more equitable, it's more fair, it's more just," he added.

Janet Rice, a minor Greens party senator, hugged and kissed her transgender wife of 31 years, Penny Whetton, after the decision. They have been allowed to remain married because Whetton is listed as male on her birth certificate. "I'm overwhelmed," Rice said. "It' been such a huge thing that we've been living with for so, so long and we've finally achieved equality."

Amendments meant to safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay-marriage opponents were all rejected, though those issues may be considered later. The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage is a reality in Australia.

Lawmakers advocating marriage equality had argued that the national postal survey in November mandated a change of the marriage definition alone, so changing the law should not be delayed by other considerations. Gay marriage was endorsed by 62 percent of voters who responded to the postal ballot. "It is now our job as members of Parliament to pass a fair bill that does not extend or create any new discriminations," an emotional government lawmaker Warren Entsch, who helped draft the bill, told Parliament. "It is a strong bill that already strikes the right balance between equality and freedom of religion."

Most gay rights advocates believed the government should have allowed marriages years ago and saw various ideas for a public survey as a delaying tactic. The U.N. Human Rights Committee had called the ballot survey "an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll." The current bill allows churches and religious organizations to boycott gay weddings without violating Australian anti-discrimination laws. Existing civil celebrants can also refuse to officiate at gay weddings, but celebrants registered after gay marriage becomes law would not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

One of the rejected amendments would have ensured Australians could speak freely about their traditional views of marriage without fear of legal action. It was proposed by Attorney-General George Brandis and supported by Turnbull, both gay marriage supporters.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was a high-profile advocate of traditional marriage, told Parliament that Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten had failed to deliver detailed protections for freedoms of speech, conscience and religion in the bill. "A promise was made by the leaders of this Parliament and the promise has not adequately been delivered on," Abbott said.

Abbott pointed to an Australian teenager who lost her job for advocating against gay marriage on social media and an Australian Catholic bishop who was taken before a state anti-discrimination tribunal over a pamphlet he published extolling traditional marriage. The complaint against the bishop was dropped. "The last thing we should want to do is to subject Australians to new forms of discrimination in place of old ones that are rightly gone," he said.

Government lawmaker Trevor Evans ruled out an Australian equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court case in which a baker who refused to provide a wedding cake for a gay couple argued he was exercising artistic freedom and was exempt from Colorado anti-discrimination laws. "Let's be honest here, for a case like that to arise in Australia, it would require a gay couple who care more about activism than about the success of their own wedding, to find a business operator who cares more about religious doctrine than the commercial success of their own small business, and for both of them to commit to having a fight," Evans told Parliament. "Typical Australians would genuinely question the bona fides of the players in a case like that and the slim prospect of that occurring doesn't warrant the pages and pages of commentary and debate that have been dedicated to it," he added.

Several gay marriage opponents in Turnbull's conservative coalition have regarded marriage equality as inevitable and have welcomed an end to an issue that has long divided the government ranks. The result is a political win for Turnbull, who became prime minister after deposing Abbott in 2015 in an internal government leadership ballot. Abbott was head-butted by a gay rights advocate during the postal survey campaign in September. Kevin Rudd, a center-left Labor Party prime minister whom Abbott defeated in elections in 2013, blamed the postal ballot for an assault on his 19-year-old godson as he campaigned for marriage equality a week earlier.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:01 pm 
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Australia's first gay divorce planned under same-sex marriage laws
11 December 2017

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia is set for its first gay divorce days after a historic marriage equality law came into effect, with lawyers preparing to file papers for a woman caught in legal limbo after marrying at a foreign consulate.

Following a parliamentary vote in favour of a landmark gay marriage bill last week, couples wanting to wed were able to begin lodging their notice to marry on Saturday, while those married overseas saw their unions recognised in Australian law -- opening the way for divorce. Solicitor Maria Loukas said Monday she was preparing divorce papers for a client who married in a European country's consulate in Western Australia in 2015, but was unable to divorce after separating from her partner because she was not a resident of that nation. "For her it's been about not being able to move on with her life," Loukas told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It's been about not being able to tidy up the end of something to be able to start fresh somewhere else," the solicitor added. "She's been held back in many ways."

Australia's historic gay marriage reforms passed Canberra's 150-seat lower House of Representatives on Thursday when all but four MPs voted in support of marriage equality. Following a decade of heated debate the bill was introduced in parliament by the conservative government after Australians last month overwhelmingly endorsed the reforms in a controversial postal vote. Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the poll, and almost 62 percent of the 12.7 million people who participated chose "yes" on their ballots. Same-sex marriage is now recognised in more than 20 countries, of which 16 are in Europe.

Source: AFP

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