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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 7:48 pm 
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Chile Votes for Civil Unions
21 January 2015

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The civil union bill will now head to the Senate for a final vote. | Photo: Reuters

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says civil unions are a stepping stone toward full same sex marriage rights.

Chilean legislators overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill Tuesday that would legalize same-sex civil unions. Eighty-six legislators in the Chamber of Deputies voted for the bill, while 23 voted against it and two abstained. “This is a law that does not discriminate and it gives protection to all couples and families in the country,” government spokesperson Alvaro Elizalde stated.

Many LGBTI rights advocates argue civil unions are still a step away from full marriage rights, though grassroots groups in Chile have largely welcomed the Chamber's decision as a step in the right direction. The bill will now head to the Senate for a final vote.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, around 46 percent of Chileans support same-sex marriage, while 42 percent are opposed. President Michelle Bachelet has stated she supports full marriage equality rights. When she began her current term in March 2014, she vowed to prioritize the civil union bill, but said marriage rights remain her long term goal.

Legislators also voted Tuesday to overhaul the country’s electoral system to make it easier for small parties to compete. The old electoral system was widely derided as a remnant of former dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime. Pinochet introduced the system shortly before he relinquished power in 1990. Spokesperson Elizalde described the outcome of the vote as “without a doubt a historic day for democracy.”

“Because the system approved by Congress guarantees that the vote Chileans express in the voting booth will have a true reflection in the makeup of parliament. Not what like happened in the binominal system which consecrated a tie, over represented the minority and gave the impression that it did not matter who you voted for,” Elizalde added.

Source: Telesur TV.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 8:37 am 
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Queen Elizabeth II to personally give award to gay activist
15 January 2015
By Joe Morgan

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Donnya Piggott

Queen Elizabeth II is to give an award to a young gay woman for her activism work.

Donnya Piggott, a 24-year-old from Barbados, was chosen among hundreds as one of the 60 inspiring people inducted into inaugural Queen's Young Leaders Programme. The founder of Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (BGLAD) will fly to London in June where she will be given a medal by the monarch of the Commonwealth.

This is important as Queen Elizabeth II has never said the words gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender publicly (although she has shown support for gay causes). 'I’m elated and happy for this award,' Piggott told a Barbados newspaper. 'What it does is it recognises the cause. Many Barbadians, especially older people, have great respect for the Queen, and these are the same people who are opposed to progression of sexuality and how it is seen in the modern world. Hopefully, it will help people to open their eyes and see something honorable.'

In Barbados, homosexuality is illegal and punishable with life imprisonment. While it is rarely enforced, there is still a high rate of violence and threats made against the LGBTI community.

All 60 award winners, aged between 18 and 29 and who come from all over Commonwealth, are working to 'support others, raise awareness and inspire change on a variety of different issues including; education, climate change, gender equality, mental health and disability equality.'

Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE, chief executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said: 'The Queen's Young Leaders Programme is poised to unlock the potential of this diverse and talented group of young people and we are delighted to be supporting them to go further and achieve more.'

Source: GayStarNews.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:01 am 
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Chile Votes for Civil Unions
21 January 2015

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The civil union bill will now head to the Senate for a final vote. | Photo: Reuters

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says civil unions are a stepping stone toward full same sex marriage rights.

Chilean legislators overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill Tuesday that would legalize same-sex civil unions. Eighty-six legislators in the Chamber of Deputies voted for the bill, while 23 voted against it and two abstained. “This is a law that does not discriminate and it gives protection to all couples and families in the country,” government spokesperson Alvaro Elizalde stated.

Many LGBTI rights advocates argue civil unions are still a step away from full marriage rights, though grassroots groups in Chile have largely welcomed the Chamber's decision as a step in the right direction. The bill will now head to the Senate for a final vote.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, around 46 percent of Chileans support same-sex marriage, while 42 percent are opposed. President Michelle Bachelet has stated she supports full marriage equality rights. When she began her current term in March 2014, she vowed to prioritize the civil union bill, but said marriage rights remain her long term goal.

Legislators also voted Tuesday to overhaul the country’s electoral system to make it easier for small parties to compete. The old electoral system was widely derided as a remnant of former dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime. Pinochet introduced the system shortly before he relinquished power in 1990. Spokesperson Elizalde described the outcome of the vote as “without a doubt a historic day for democracy.”

“Because the system approved by Congress guarantees that the vote Chileans express in the voting booth will have a true reflection in the makeup of parliament. Not what like happened in the binominal system which consecrated a tie, over represented the minority and gave the impression that it did not matter who you voted for,” Elizalde added.

Source: Telesur TV.

Chile's Same-Sex Civil Unions Bill Gets Final Approval by Lawmakers
28 January 2015

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill that recognizes civil unions between same-sex couples.

The legislation now goes to President Michelle Bachelet, who is expected to sign it. Government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde welcomed the bill's passage as "a breakthrough that we are proud of as a government."

The measure has been in the works for four years and will give same-sex and unmarried couples many of the rights granted to married couples. Among the changes, it will allow civil union partners to inherit each other's property, join a partner's health plan and receive pension benefits.

Civil unions have been recognized in several countries across South America, but conservative Chile has been slower to change. It decriminalized gay sex in 1999 and the killing of a gay man in 2012 set off a national debate that prompted Congress to pass a hate crimes law.

Argentina and Uruguay are the only South American nations to allow full marriage by gays and lesbians.

Source: AP via HuffingtonPost

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:39 pm 
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Brazilians protest homophobia with kisses
February 1, 2015

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Revellers kiss during the annual Gay Pride Parade at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 16, 2014 (AFP Photo/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

Sao Paulo (AFP) - About 50 Brazilian protesters responded with kisses Sunday at a bar that had kicked out a presumed lesbian couple for embracing in public.

The management of the bar in the town of Ribeirao Preto said in a statement the women, ages 22 and 23, had been shown the door a week ago for "inappropriate behavior." The women immediately filed a complaint with the police and a Brazilian lawyers' association commission against homophobia.

At Sunday's protests, youths carried signs denouncing homophobia and engaged in a "beijaco," or collective kissing, as police looked on. Then four homosexual couples were permitted to enter the bar and engage in long embraces.

In 2013, 312 homosexuals, transvestites and transexuals were murdered in Brazil, a 7.7 percent drop from the previous year, but enough for the Bahia Gay Group to dub the country the "world champion of crimes against gays." Brazil accounts for 40 percent of all crimes against gays in Latin America.

A bill to punish homophobia has been sidelined for years in the Brazilian Congress by resistance from Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals. In 2011, however, the Supreme Court guaranteed same-sex couples in stable unions the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:13 pm 
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Caribbean court hears suit against 2 nations' anti-gay laws
By DAVID McFADDEN
18 March 2015

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- A Caribbean court on Wednesday heard a challenge from a gay rights activist who argued that immigration laws ostensibly barring homosexuals from entering two countries in the region are discriminatory and must be repealed.

Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican gay rights activist who is a legal adviser with New York-based AIDS-Free World, argues that obscure immigration rules barring entry to homosexuals in Trinidad & Tobago and Belize violate freedom of movement rights under a key Caribbean Community treaty. He took his challenge to the Caribbean Court of Justice, the final appeals court for some members of the 15-member Caricom.

In testimony before a panel of judges, authorities from Trinidad & Tobago and Belize insisted the sections of their immigration laws that list homosexuals among a group of "prohibited classes" go unenforced in both countries due to unwritten policies. Maria Marin, acting immigration director of Belize, said agents have never denied entry to someone based on their sexual orientation.

Trinidad's acting immigration chief, Gerry Downes, testified that the section of the law barring homosexuals from entry is ignored and "we do not inquire about the sexual orientation of a person." Trinidad & Tobago's immigration law drew criticism in 2007 when gay pop star Elton John had to obtain a waiver to perform there amid opposition by religious groups.

Tomlinson, who testified before the Trinidad-based court from Jamaica so as not to knowingly break the twin-island country's law, argues that non-enforcement is no reason to keep the discriminatory laws on the books. "If the state has no intention of enforcing the law, then the logical thing to do is change it," Tomlinson said on his Facebook page before Wednesday's hearing.

Janet Burak, a lawyer who is AIDS-Free World's deputy director and attended the hearing in Trinidad, said that there was no ruling at the close of two days of hearings and that the regional court now has three months to render a decision. The two countries named in Tomlinson's lawsuit are among nearly a dozen English-speaking Caribbean nations that have anti-sodomy laws that outlaw homosexuality between men.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:20 pm 
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Puerto Rico seeks to recognize, allow gay marriages
By DANICA COTO
March 20, 2015

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's Justice Department announced Friday that it will not defend the U.S. territory's laws banning gay marriage in a major turnaround for the socially conservative island that surprised many.

Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said that the government can no longer continue to discriminate against the gay community. "It's neither fair nor correct to defend the constitutionality of that law," he said. "Same-sex couples cannot get married and therefore do not have access to those rights. They should be available to all those who love each other, who take care of each other, who work and contribute to this society like everyone else."

The announcement comes a year after several gay couples in Puerto Rico filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Puerto Rican laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman, as well as those that prohibit same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages. The territory's Justice Department had defended the laws before a federal judge who upheld them, but the case has been appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, and Miranda said the department will no longer intervene.

Hundreds celebrated the news in Puerto Rico, including Johanne Velez, an attorney and consultant who married her partner in New York in 2012 and is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "It is a historic day, and we are ecstatic," she said in a phone interview. "When we say it is historic, we are changing the lives of people not just for us, but around us. We hope that it will make society a better place for future generations."

Miranda made the announcement a week after a group of legislators from Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla's party said they supported gay marriage, including Senate President Eduardo Bhatia. While the governor has repeatedly stated that he is not in favor of gay marriage, he said he supports the change. "Everyone knows my religious beliefs, but it's not up to political leaders to impose our creeds," he said. "We have to push for the progress of civil and human rights under equal conditions for everyone."

Thirty-seven U.S. states allow same-sex marriages, a number that has quadrupled in the last two years. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June regarding several same-sex marriage cases that would also apply to Puerto Rico and four other U.S. territories.

Opposition lawmakers and religious leaders criticized Friday's announcement and accused Garcia of imposing changes instead of consulting with the public and holding a referendum. "This is a slap in the face to Puerto Rican society," said legislator Maria Milagros Charbonier. "The government should not be playing around with issues as delicate as that of family, which is the cornerstone of our island."

Amarilis Pagan, spokeswoman for a local equal rights committee, said in a phone interview that advocates will now push Puerto Rico's government to reverse a law that bans adoptions by same-sex parents. The island's Supreme Court upheld the law in a 2013 ruling following an appeal by a Puerto Rican woman who sought to adopt a teenage girl that her partner of more than 20 years had given birth to through in vitro fertilization.

Puerto Rico's legislature has approved several measures in recent years in favor of the gay community, including one that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, and another that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 4:49 pm 
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Every 28 hours a LGBTI person is killed in Brazil
13 February 2015

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Piu da Silva was a transgender samba queen at Rio’s prestigious Beija-Flor school.

Her tortured corpse was found on 24 January, a week after the first alarm had been raised by friends and family who were concerned because Piu did not attend practice.

She never missed any practice session. A shocking video emerged just a day later. It shows the trans woman being tortured in Morro da Mina, a favela near the samba school, while she pleads with her unseen aggressors. Her disfigured body was found the next day, after her relatives frantically searched the area shown in the video.

Piu da Silva is one of the many people killed in Brazil. And according to the country's gay rights group Grupo Gay de Bahia, one LGBTI person is killed every 28 hours. This week the group revealed 2013 saw 312 trans, gay, or bisexual people murdered because of their sexuality.

On January 29, six days after Piu’s body was found, members of the trans community took to Rio’s city hall, holding a National Trans Visibility day to protest against the violence and prejudice directed at them. ‘Foreigners come to carnival expecting free sex and love, but the image Brazil exports of freedom and liberty is false,’ Beatrice Cordeiro, who works to get trans people into employment, told The Guardian. 'There is a lot of prejudice in society still.‘

Source: GayStarNews.

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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 11:59 am 
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Nicaragua prostitutes study law to help others in trouble
By Blanca Morel
April 7, 2015

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Sex worker Concepcion de Maria Jarquin, 46, smokes as she waits for clients in Matagalpa's downtown, 125 km from Nicaragua's capital Managua, on March 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Inti Ocon)

Matagalpa, Nicaragua (AFP) - Cony's usual work clothes are tight-fitting outfits that show off her curves as she waits for clients at the bar.

But today she has put on a modest flower-print dress to attend her first law class, one of 60 sex workers who are training to become volunteer "facilitators" in the Nicaraguan justice system. Cony -- short for Concepcion Jarquin -- learned early on to survive in a hostile world, and now hopes to use her street sense to help others defend themselves. Raped by a neighbor at age six, she dropped out of school in shame and left home to escape the rebukes of her mother, who blamed her for what happened.

Forty years and countless humiliations later, this lively, smiling woman is studying part-time in a conference room at the Supreme Court to learn the basics of the Nicaraguan civil and criminal codes. She will then be sworn in to act as a liaison between residents of her impoverished neighborhood and an often inaccessible justice system.

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Sex worker Concepcion de Maria Jarquin, 46, displays condoms at her home in Sor Maria neighbourhood, in the city of Matagalpa, 125 km from Nicaragua's capital Managua, on March 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Inti Ocon)

The free, year-long course, which meets once every two months, was organized by the Sunflowers Sex Workers' Association, a group set up three years ago to help prostitutes get medical care and professional training. It is part of a broader initiative that has trained 4,300 facilitators across Nicaragua in the past 17 years to mediate in neighborhood conflicts -- arguments between neighbors, disputes over money, etc. -- or get help from support groups or the police in more serious cases.

The program has been so successful at reducing the caseload of the overburdened court system that eight other Latin American countries have adopted it. But this is the first time sex workers are taking part. Maria Davila, the head of the Sunflowers association, said prostitutes are ideal for the job. "We are fighters who know how to overcome and find bread to feed our families," she said at the inauguration of the program. "We are women with rights and abilities... capable of helping our sisters and their families."

Helping others escape abuse

For Cony, it is a chance to serve her community and regain some of the dignity lost doing her other job. "Seeing a stranger on top of you is horrible. It's not a dignified job. It's disgusting. But that's how we feed our children," she told AFP at the small shack made of scrap wood and plastic where she lives in the city of Matagalpa.

Cony, who has light brown skin and delicate features, turned to prostitution to raise her two children, and continues working to support her three grandchildren. She has slept with men of nearly every kind imaginable, she said: "Farmers, office workers, college graduates, pastors, priests, politicians...."

image
Sex worker Concepcion de Maria Jarquin, 46, smokes at her home in Sor Maria neighbourhood, in the city of Matagalpa, 125 km from Nicaragua's capital Managua, on March 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Inti Ocon)

Nicaragua, a country of six million people, has some 14,000 prostitutes. Often they are abused by clients, targeted for rapes and muggings, have no health care and face discrimination by the police. Another woman taking part in the course, Alondra -- her name has been changed at her request -- described the horrors sex workers can face. "I was raped twice. Once by a gang of 10 people in Managua. I nearly lost my mind," she said. The 36-year-old, who does not earn enough to make ends meet in her day job as a housekeeper, said she hopes to help others escape the abuse she has faced. "I'm going to enrich myself more, empower myself more and use what I learn to help people," she said.

There is no shortage of conflicts to resolve in these women's neighborhoods. In Cony's, for example -- a slum called Sor Maria -- neighbors live practically on top of each other in tiny shacks made of plastic and scrap metal. The only source of water is a truck that passes every two days selling it in jugs. Disputes, fights and domestic violence are a daily reality.

Yesenia Alston, a 35-year-old participant in the program, said she is "proud to be a sex worker" but also looking forward to doing more in her community. The course "is an opportunity to help our families and our fellow sex workers, to use the knowledge we're acquiring to defend our rights," she said.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 7:42 am 
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Gays, lesbians in Cuba hold pride parade, celebrate symbolic weddings
9 May 2015

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Mariela Castro leads a march against homophobia at Havana - © Alejandro Ernesto, EPA

Havana (dpa) - More than a thousand people took part Saturday in a march in Havana against homophobia and discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace.

This year's pride parade was again led by Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and director of the National Sex Education Centre. Mariela Castro, also a member of Cuba's National Assembly, for years has been an activist for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transexuals in Cuba.

Participants wrapped themselves in rainbow banners and waved flags of the gay and lesbian movement as they made their way through the streets of the Cuban capital. The event included a symbolic religious wedding of dozens of gay and lesbian couples. The unofficial ceremonies were performed by Canadian protestant priests.

Source: dpa.

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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 7:44 am 
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Cuban gays show pride in march and mass symbolic wedding
By Daniel Trotta
9 May 2015

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HAVANA (Reuters) - More than 1,000 gay, lesbian and transgender Cubans marched through Havana on Saturday, proudly displaying their truest selves for a day in a society where they still endure discrimination.

The Eighth Annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia took on extra meaning this year for about 20 couples who participated in a "Celebration of Love," symbolically exchanging vows as same-sex marriage remains illegal in Cuba.

Religious leaders from Cuba and abroad huddled with couples in a crowded pavilion in a ceremony inspired by the mass wedding of more than 100 couples at the World Pride event in Toronto last June. "Our family accepts us but society doesn't," said Raul Orta, who "married" his partner of 13 years, Yaimel Medina. "If one us is no longer here tomorrow, the other one loses everything. That's not right."

The parade, with the beat of conga drums and the waving of rainbow-colored banners, gave gay Cubans and their supporters a rare opportunity to celebrate without fear. "For eight years we've been living a dream we never thought would have been possible," Orta said of the parade.

For Cubans from the provinces, the open display in Havana was even more liberating. "In the interior of the country, you couldn't even dream about an event like this," said Raiza Marmol, who moved from Camaguey two years ago and exchanged vows with her partner of two years, Yatiana Garcia. "It's a unique event and surprising for gays who can show their faces without having to hide from anyone."

Cuba once sent gays to labor camps in the early years after the 1959 revolution, which retired leader later Fidel Castro admitted was wrong. Cuban gays have made great strides in recent years with help from Mariela Castro, the daughter of current President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel. She is a member of the National Assembly and head of the National Center for Sex Education.

The National Assembly last year approved a labor law that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. But Mariela Castro voted against the law in an extremely rare and possibly unprecedented dissenting vote because the law did not also ban discrimination based on gender identity.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Argentina and Uruguay have legalized same-sex marriage, as has Mexico City, but in Cuba marriage remains a distant goal. "It's not important for us to be first. It's important to get there," Mariela Castro told reporters.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Christian Plumb)
Source: Reuters.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:31 am 
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Argentine judges blasted for another sex abuse ruling
By PETER PRENGAMAN
May 20, 2015

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Benjamin Sal Llargues and Horacio Piombo

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Two Argentine judges who have come under fire for sharply reducing the sentence of a child abuser were already under scrutiny for easing the sentence of a pastor convicted of abusing two teenage girls, arguing their poverty made them susceptible to sex at an early age.

In the 2011 decision reviewed by the Associated Press on Wednesday, judges Benjamin Sal Llargues and Horacio Piombo reduced the pastor's sentence from 18 years to 9½ years. Francisco Avalos was convicted in 2004 of having sex with two underage girls who attended his church. The judges justified their decision by writing that in lower social classes, "sexual relations are accepted at early ages."

Now they are under fire for revelations that they cut another sentence due to the alleged conduct of a 6-year-old victim. In a 2014 ruling that came to light this week, the judges reduced the sentence of Mario Tolosa, a sports club vice president, from six years to 38 months. They ruled his acts should not be considered "gravely outrageous" in legal terms because the boy already "was making a precocious choice" of his sexuality, an apparent reference to homosexuality.

Email and direct tweets to Piombo seeking comment were not immediately returned. Attempts to reach Llargues were also unsuccessful.

Lawyers and several politicians have criticized the decision while the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans is demanding the judges be removed from the bench. Maria Santiago, who started an online petition calling for the judges' removal, criticized them for blaming the boy for the abuse. "A 6-year-old can't define his sexuality," she said during a phone interview. "And even if he could, rape is rape."

The 2011 sentence reduction for the pastor is similar in that it focuses on the victims. According to court documents, both girls were impregnated by Avalos, as was their mother and others in the community. The judges argued that environment had to be taken into account for the punishment.

Seeing a crime through such a prism is an all but obsolete way of analyzing a case, said Martin Bohemer, an Argentine law professor. "In the last century, people argued that a prostitute couldn't be raped because she wasn't honest," Bohemer said. "In other words, if a person is not honest you can't violate their honesty." Today, the legal measure is whether somebody's integrity, or physical being, has been violated, he said.

Source: Yahoo! AP.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 11:39 pm 
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Acapulco holds mass gay wedding on beach
By Allan Garcia
10 July 2015

image
A gay couple takes part in the first same-sex mass wedding in Acapulco, Guerrero State, Mexico on July 10, 2015 (AFP Photo/Pedro Pardo)

Acapulco, Mexico (AFP) - Twenty gay and lesbian couples got married in a mass wedding on an Acapulco beach on Friday, one month after Mexico's top court all but legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

With Guerrero state's governor and wife as witnesses, the 15 male and five female couples exchanged vows as the sun set, surrounded by some 200 people in a celebration that included cake and a mariachi band. "It's a big step. It's something I have always wanted since I was very little and I wanted to start a family," said Alejandra Jimenez Soler after she married a hotel worker whom she had been dating for more than year. Holding a bouquet of roses, the 17-year-old Acapulco resident was among the youngest people to get married.

Despite her youth, Jimenez said she took a "responsible, mature, reasoned" decision in the face of her family's disappointment with her homosexuality. "I feel terrible that my family isn't here to support me because they should accept you as you are," she said. Under the theme of "Guerrero, to love is a right," the mass ceremony was sealed with a toast, a wedding cake and kisses as the mariachis played cheerful music.

image
Twenty gay and lesbian couples have married in a mass wedding on an Acapulco beach, one month after Mexico's top court all but legalized same-sex marriage nationwide (AFP Photo/Pedro Pardo)

Civil right

Governor Rogelio Ortega promoted the mass wedding despite opposition from some politicians and the Roman Catholic church. Mexico's expansion of gay marriage -- it was already legal in Mexico City and two of 31 states -- preceded a US Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex unions throughout the United States.

Mexico's top court opened the door to same-sex marriage through the country of nearly 120 million people on June 3, when it ruled that it was unconstitutional for states to ban them. While the "jurisprudence" issued by the court does not oblige states to change their laws, it requires courts to rule in favor of same-sex couples whose marriages were rejected.

Following the ruling, Ortega's administration instructed civil registries to approve gay marriage licenses. Acapulco's mayor tried to block same-sex marriages, arguing that the local civil code must be amended first. But the civil registry went along with the governor's orders and approved Friday's marriage licenses. "We respect all beliefs because we are inclusive when it comes to civil rights," Ortega said during the ceremony.

Mexico City was the first jurisdiction in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have since made gay marriage legal, too, while religiously conservative Chile approved same-sex civil unions this year.

Source: Yahoo! AFP

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:22 pm 
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LGBT Jamaicans holding first gay pride celebration on island
By DAVID McFADDEN
August 4, 2015

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- Jamaica's LGBT community is holding its first gay pride celebration, a weeklong observance that was previously almost unthinkable in a Caribbean country long described as the one of the globe's most hostile places to homosexuality.

Events in the capital of Kingston have included a flash mob gathering in a park, an art exhibit and performances featuring songs and poems by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jamaicans. A dance party was set for Wednesday.

Gay rights activists said Tuesday the peaceful events are a clear sign that tolerance for LGBT people is expanding on the island even though stigma is common and longstanding laws criminalizing gay sex between men remain on the books. "I think we will look back on this and see it as a turning point because many persons thought that it would never actually happen," said Latoya Nugent of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, or J-FLAG, the rights group that organized the event.

For years, Jamaica's gay community lived so far underground that their parties and church services were held in secret locations. Most stuck to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy of keeping their sexual orientation hidden to avoid scrutiny or protect loved ones. Two gay rights leaders were killed and a number of gay Jamaicans won asylum overseas.

But while discrimination against gays remains pervasive in many parts of Jamaica and anti-gay violence flares up recurrently, Nugent said there is an inaccurate perception overseas that homosexuals in Jamaica "can't even walk on the streets because if you do you are going to be stoned or stabbed to death." "What we are seeing these days is more and more LGBT people willing to be visible, to be open, and to be public," said Nugent, co-chairman of the planning committee for the events called PrideJa. "It's remarkable."

Some 80 incidents of discrimination, threats, physical attacks, displacement and sexual violence were reported to J-FLAG last year and the high-profile 2013 mob murder of transgender teen Dwayne Jones remains unsolved. There have been reports of targeted sexual assaults of lesbians. In a 2014 report, New York-based Human Rights Watch asserted that LGBT people in Jamaica remain the targets of unchecked violence and are frequently refused housing or employment.

A growing number of LGBT Jamaicans say they are refusing to live in the shadows. "Yes, there's still ridicule on the streets and some people look at you and laugh, but it's not as violent as it was and we will insist on living our lives. There is a certain change going on," Nas Chin told the Associated Press after dancing at a secure pride event.

Still, many Jamaicans consider homosexuality to be a perversion from abroad and a newspaper-commissioned poll suggested there is overwhelming resistance to repealing anti-sodomy laws. In late August, a young Jamaican gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the anti-sodomy law withdrew his claim after growing fearful about possible violent reprisals.

But Human Rights Watch has noted a "groundswell of change" in the way Jamaica is responding to human rights abuses against LGBT people. In recent days, Kingston's mayor and the island's justice minister have publicly supported the pride activities, a major change in a nation where some politicians once routinely railed against homosexuals and former Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed in 2008 to never allow gays in his Cabinet.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:38 pm 
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Puerto Rico prepares for mass wedding of gay couples
By DANICA COTO
August 12, 2015

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LGBT organizations in Puerto Rico have been fighting for the right to marry for years.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- More than 60 gay couples are preparing to exchange vows at a mass wedding in Puerto Rico, celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affecting the socially conservative U.S. territory, organizers said Wednesday.

Most of the couples are Puerto Ricans, but others from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Venezuela also are participating in the event scheduled for Sunday in San Juan's colonial district. "This is a historic event for all of Puerto Rico," said organizer Ada Conde, an attorney who had filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have her gay marriage recognized in the U.S. territory prior to the Supreme Court decision. "This is not a show. This is not a parade. This is a solemn event to celebrate the fruit of our sacrifice."

Conde said she anticipated protests and noted that police officers would be posted at the ceremony. Puerto Rico until recently prohibited same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages, but the government struck down those laws after the Supreme Court decision. Officials also now allow gay couples to adopt children, and two couples have already begun that process, said Nancy Vega, director of the island's demographics office.

Among those getting married Sunday is Maritza Lopez, who has been with her partner for 39 years and was among those who filed a lawsuit against Puerto Rico's government. "You would think that after 39 years I wouldn't be nervous, but I am," she said with a laugh. "I have butterflies in my stomach. I didn't think any of this was going to happen so quickly."

Previously, the administration of Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla had approved several measures in in favor of the gay community, including one that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation and another that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples. This week, the governor also signed two executive orders that will allow transgender and transsexual people to change their gender on their driver's license and protect their rights when seeking medical services.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 10:55 am 
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Over 60 same-sex couples married at Puerto Rico wedding
August 16, 2015

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Over 60 couples from around the region gathered in Puerto Rico's capital Sunday to exchange vows at a same-sex marriage ceremony while a crowd of supporters snapped photos and cheered.

The mass ceremony at a promenade in San Juan's colonial district took the same-sex couples through the traditional marriage vows and exchange of rings. The event follows the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in late June requiring every state to recognize same-sex marriages. The U.S. island's governor signed an executive order soon after that ruling to comply.

Organizer Ada Conde, an attorney who filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have her same-sex marriage recognized in Puerto Rico prior to the Supreme Court decision, said Sunday's ceremony was a "celebration of the triumph of love." Most of the couples were Puerto Ricans, but others from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Venezuela also participated in the event.

Carrying an umbrella emblazoned with the colors of the rainbow, Puerto Rican gay rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano described the ceremony as "a historic moment for our community." "After so many years, we are finally able to marry here in Puerto Rico," he said from the promenade in Old San Juan as the couples gathered in wedding dresses and suits.

The ceremony was criticized by the Roman Catholic bishop of Arecibo, Monsignor Daniel Fernandez Torres. Citing the church's catechism, which defines marriage as a sacrament, he said that a marital union can be shared only by a man and woman and that same-sex marriages are "contrary to natural law." "Today is a sad day for Puerto Rican society," Fernandez said in a statement.

Puerto Rico until recently prohibited same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages, but the government struck down those laws after the Supreme Court decision. Officials also now allow gay couples to adopt children. In recent days, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla also signed two executive orders that allow transgender and transsexual people to change their gender on their driver's license and protect their rights when seeking medical services.

Source: AP

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