Politics and Society: April 2016

April 1, 2016 in General

Tunisia: Human Rights Watch report that seven men have been prosecuted in the country for consensual sex and some have been forced to undergo illegal anal examinations. Gay relationships are a crime in Tunisia, as Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code punishes “sodomy” with up to three years in prison. HRC interviewed five men who claimed they had been beaten, received forced anal examinations and humiliating treatment at the hands of the Tunisian authorities. HRC claim that six students were arrested in December last year in the city of Kairouan on sodomy charges. The students were allegedly forced to undergo painful and illegal anal examinations, in order to find “proof” of homosexual conduct, and were later sentenced to three years in prison. Forced anal examinations constitute a form of torture or cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment, prohibited under the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Though Tunisia is a member of Convention against Torture, the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights they continue to violate the three organisations. The Human Rights Watch reports that Tunisia had sentenced seven men for same-sex conduct in the last six moths. All of the men were convicted under article 230 of the penal code, which criminalises “sodomy” with up to three years in prison. Five men who were sentenced were interviewed by the Human Rights Watch and they all said that police had beaten them, abused them and they were forced to have anal examinations. Human Rights Watch states that sodomising someone with a soda bottle used to be a common form of torture.

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

Edinburgh: Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has set out her LGBT rights priorities ahead of May’s Holyrood elections – promising a radical overhaul of the gender recognition system, but ducking a direct pledge to introduce statutory sex and relationship education. The First Minister of Scotland set out her vision on LGBT rights today ahead of a hustings co-hosted by LGBT rights groups including Stonewall Scotland and the Equality Network. The SNP leader, who is on course to win a decisive majority in the May 2016 elections, outlined a five-point plan on LGBT rights. The list includes:

“Expect all new, guidance and promoted teachers to undertake training on equality so they are confident in tackling prejudice-based bullying.
“Promote children’s health and well-being right throughout early years, primary and secondary education, so that all children and young people learn tolerance, respect, human rights, equality, good citizenship, to address and prevent prejudice and about healthy relationships through refreshed, age-appropriate strategies and resources.
“Work towards every professional working with children being trained on equality, addressing prejudice-based bullying, attachment, child development and child protection.
“Review and reform gender recognition law for all Trans people to ensure it is line with international best practice.
“Aim for all police officers to receive appropriate training on the investigation of hate crime.”

Predictably, the Free Church of Scotland has condemned SNP, saying ‘SNP are now seeking to destroy the traditional idea of gender’ and warned it would result in ‘confusion and brokenness amongst our children’.

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

Oregon: A gay Republican who supports equal marriage has been accused of “stealing votes” by anti-LGBT lobbying group NOM. The National Organisation for Marriage made the shocking claim as they emphatically endorsed an opponent of Ben West, who is openly gay and helped sue to overturn Oregon’s gay marriage ban, in the race for the state’s 5th Congressional District. The group’s turn to the extreme has been documented repeatedly over the past few months, following their futile efforts to protest equal marriage – as even moderate Republicans now shun the group’s events, and Brown recently declared a funding crisis as donations are drying up.

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

Mississippi: Mississippi is one vote and one signature away from enacting what may be the worst service provider discrimination bill yet. The state Senate passed House Bill 1523, the so-called Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, Wednesday by a vote of 32-17, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson reports. Thursday morning the Senate took a second vote, sending the bill on to the House for concurrence, as the version passed by the Senate differs slightly from the one adopted by the House in February, reports BuzzFeed. If the House votes to concur, which is expected next week, the bill will go to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature. However, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has not directly said whether he will sign HB 1523, which would allow businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people, and directly targets transgender people.

The act states that the government cannot penalize an individual, organization, or business for acting according to the following “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions”: that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman”; that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage”; and that “male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” The proposed legislation would therefore allow businesses to turn away customers or prospective employees by citing such beliefs, without repercussions. It would allow employees of county circuit clerks’ offices, which issue marriage licenses in the state, to refuse service to same-sex couples if they object to the marriage on religious grounds, also without repercussions. It could be used to discriminate against single parents and even conceivably allow employers to fire female workers for wearing pants, as it protects employers’ and schools’ right to maintain “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming.”

Moreover, it may not only affect LGBTI individuals. The legislation also states that those opposed to unmarried cohabiting straight couples could be protected by the new law. However, although the bill specifies that medical staff opposed to gender reassignment surgery may be protected, it goes on to say that they may not refuse unnecessary care to a person based on their gender identity.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

Mississippi: However, in the same state, a federal judge has struck down Mississippi’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples, saying it “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.” U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III ruled that the Mississippi Department of Human Services can no longer enforce the ban, enacted in 2000, the Associated Press reports. Mississippi was the last U.S. state to have such a ban, according to a press release from the Family Equality Council and the Campaign for Southern Equality, which joined four same-sex couples in the lawsuit against the ban. Roberta Kaplan was lead counsel for the plaintiffs; she is the attorney who won Windsor v. U.S., the 2013 Supreme Court decision that brought down the main portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. She also represented Mississippi couples challenging the state’s same-sex marriage prohibition.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

Warsaw: An LGBT shelter in Poland has avoided closure thanks to fundraising efforts by organisation All Out. The Emergency Shelter in Warsaw, Poland helps homeless LGBT people who have suffered from violence and harassment, and is the only one of its kind in Eastern Europe. After months of looking for funding and running out of resources, the centre had only one option: shut down and let everyone go in the middle of Polish winter. But hope came in the form of an international campaign led by LGBT equality organisation All Out that was able to smash expectations and raise $60,000. Donations came from 2,900 people, and the money means the shelter can stay open for another four months while they look for more permanent funding.

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

Sydney: The iconic T2 building in Sydney’s Taylor Square will be sold to a union of organisations who are working towards a “NO” result for Australia’s upcoming plebiscite on marriage equality. Australian LGBT publication Same Same has learnt that the Marriage Alliance, the Australian Christian Lobby and Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party are delighted to have secured the building as their new campaign headquarters, using the millions of dollars given to them by the Federal Government to run their “NO!” campaign when the plebiscite happens after the election.

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

Melbourne: Australia’s first Royal Commission into domestic violence has made several points about how serious the issue is for LGBTI people, and has made many specific suggestions about how to address it. In a comprehensive report tabled in the Victorian Parliament this week, the Royal Commission has acknowledged that family violence in LGBTI communities is an “invisible problem” within the broader community and the family violence system. All parts of the family violence system – including police, the courts and specialist family violence services – must improve their response to LGBTI communities, it suggests. Experiences of intimate partner violence within LGBTI communities can also be different to the experiences of heterosexual people. The Family Violence Protection Act defines ‘emotional or psychological abuse’ as including the specific example of ‘threatening to disclose a person’s sexual orientation to the person’s friends or family against the person’s wishes’ – so ‘outing’ a person is a common form of family violence in LGBTI communities.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to act on the High Commission’s many recommendations. In 2015, the NSW state government granted ACON $115,000 for a five-year program to tackle domestic and family violence in the LGBTI communities. ACON’s data suggested that 41% of lesbians and 28% of same-sex attracted men have experienced some form of abuse in a relationship.

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

Darwin: At its recent meeting Darwin Council passed a motion in favour of marriage equality. In an Australian first, the council called on the National General Assembly of Local Government to also endorse the reform.

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

Greenland: Greenland’s same-sex marriage law went into effect on April 1. The marriage equality bill, which is an adoption of Denmark’s matrimonial laws, was passed unanimously by both the Greenlandic Parliament and Danish Parliament in May last year.

It took two years for the bill to be approved. The same-sex marriage bill was presented in 2014, but put on hold because Greenland’s ex-Prime Minister had to step down. After new elections, the marriage bill was approved by the Greenlandic Parliament on a vote of 27-0. This unanimous vote allows the island, an autonomous Danish territory, to celebrate same-sex weddings, with the approval of Greenland’s Bishop, who has welcomed the arrival of a gender-neutral marriage law. The Church of Greenland worked closely with the government to amend the portion of the Danish law that covered same-sex blessings in religious weddings. The joint adoption clause that was included in Greenland’s new Marriage Act will go into effect on July 1st.

Source: http://www.out.com

London: British educational authorities have launched a probe into fears that as many as a thousand students are being taught in illegal schools across London. Both the Department for Education and Ofsted are understood to be looking into the concerns reported in a Newsnight investigation, regarding the practise of unregistered schools in the strict ultra-Orthodox Jewish Charedi community. As many as 20 illegal schools are thought to be operation across the capital, predominantly concentrated in Stamford Hill – many of which are registered as religious charities. They instead operate to provide a narrow education to pupils, with the National Curriculum ignored in favour of religion lessons delivered in Yiddish, which are restricted almost entirely to studying religious texts. Little to no secular education takes place, and some former pupils say they have left with few basic life skills. It is a crime under UK law to operate an unregistered school.

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

Riyadh: A newspaper in Saudi Arabia has reported that prosecutors in the country are pushing to enforce the death penalty for homosexuality – because social media is turning people gay. It is often difficult to confirm data about gay people charged under Saudi Arabia’s justice system, as consensual homosexual acts are often legally indistinguishable from rape or paedophilia under the country’s laws. But Okaz, a daily newspaper located in Jeddah, reports that as many as 35 cases have been brought against gay men for ‘obscene’ behaviour in the past six months, while the state is also pursuing a number of alleged ‘cross-dressers’.

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

New York: A conservative Catholic university professor has been suspended from his institution– after he publicly attacked a graduate teaching assistant who warned a student to stop making homophobic comments. The row began at Marquette University in 2014, when a student who is strongly opposed to LGBT rights secretly recorded a private after-class conversation with graduate student and teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate. The student had urged Abbate to set a lesson about whether gay people should be banned from marrying and adopting, and during the discussion made a number of shocking derogatory comments. The student leaked the covertly-recorded audio to ultra-conservative politics professor John McAdams – who wrote a one-sided post on his so-called ‘Marquette Warrior’ blog naming Ms Abbate for supposedly “silencing the sort of argument that ought to happen in academia.” As a consequence, Ms Abbate was subjected to a horrific hate campaign and death threats, with a number of far-right online trolls threatening to “blow her brains out” as well as threatening to post her home address and personal details. McAdams refused to modify his blog. The Faculty Hearing Committee then met and voted for McAdams’ suspension.

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

London: Naked activists today stormed the London headquarters of HIV drug manufacturer Gilead, protesting what they described as the “extortionate price of medicines”. Five protesters ran inside before removing all of their clothes to reveal letters spelling out “greed” emblazoned on their backs. Around 30 other activists rallied outside, temporarily blockading the traffic on High Holborn Street. They shouted “pharma greed kills” and wielded placards and large pink banners as bemused passengers on a double decker bus that had been stopped looked on. The protest was organised by ACT UP London – Aids Coalition to Unleash Power – a non-partisan group which employs direct action in an effort to “end the AIDS crisis”. The protest was part of a “globally coordinated day of action against pharmaceutical greed”, with similar protests taking place in cities around the world. Gilead Sciences is the manufacturer of Truvada, the antiretroviral drug used widely in the treatment of HIV. Last month NHS England controversially stalled plans to make Truvada available as an HIV prevention drug through pre-exposure prevention (PrEP) treatment – in spite of an NHS study showing it can drastically reduce the chance of HIV infection by up to 86 percent. Health minister Jane Ellison said more trials were required to prove the drug is “cost effective”.Gilead’s patents on Truvada will not fully expire until 2021.

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

Los Angeles: An LA father shot and killed his son in an act of premeditated murder because of the youth’s sexual orientation, prosecutors alleged Friday. Shehada Khalil Issa, 69, was arrested Tuesday after police arrived at his North Hills home to find the bodies of his son Amir, 29, and his wife, who has not been named, dead. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office claimed that Issa had threatened to kill his son in the past because of his sexual orientation. They said that Issa, who has been charged with one count of premeditated murder, used a shotgun in the attack. Issa is being held without bail and his arraignment is scheduled for April 11; if convicted he may face life in jail.

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

Sydney: Australian Labor Party Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor would not support any religious exemptions to amendments to the Marriage Act which would allow same-sex marriage. Asked by an audience member if he would rule out supporting changes to the law which would allow businesses – wedding cake makers, for example – to discriminate against LGBT couples on religious grounds, Shorten’s reply was firm and reassuring. If under a Coalition government marriage equality meant Australia’s anti-discrimination laws were watered down with exemptions for those who sought to reject same-sex unions, Labor would repeal them, he added. Shorten also reiterated the promise that if Labor win this year’s Federal Election, marriage equality will be legislated for within the first 100 days of the new government. Labor’s current policy is to allow its MPs a free conscience vote on marriage equality until the 2019 election. After that, all Labor MPs must vote with their party as a bloc in favour of marriage equality. When asked what the next step in Australia’s long path to marriage equality will be, Shorten’s response was brief: “Just change the government.”

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

North Carolina: North Carolina has faced intense pressure to repeal House Bill 2 from major businesses such as Apple and Facebook, but now, they may lose billions of dollars in US federal infrastructure funding for passing the anti-LGBT bill. The Obama administration is in the process of considering whether HB2 makes the state ineligible for federal funding for schools, highways, and housing, reports The New York Times. House Bill 2 bans transgender people from accessing public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, eliminates all existing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the state, and prohibits cities from adopting any new ones. The Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development all told the paper that they are currently reviewing the law to determine whether the state will continue to be eligible for federal funding.HB 2 has been widely condemned by LGBT and human rights groups, businesses leaders, and presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with many joining a social media campaign #WeAreNotThis to protest its passing. The consequences to North Carolina, its economics, and its reputation as an inclusive state are piling up. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit. The entertainment company Lionsgate has relocated a television series. The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is asking North Carolina businesses to move to the Windy City in order to avoid controversy.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

London: Homophobe Winston McKenzie won’t be on the ballot in London’s Mayoral election – because he missed a deadline to file his paperwork. The former UK Independence Party politician is notoriously anti-LGBT, having repeatedly claimed that same-sex adoption is child abuse. Despite being purportedly ‘sacked’ many times by UKIP, Mr McKenzie still stood for Parliament as a UKIP candidate in Croydon North in 2015′s British general election. He has since left of his own accord to join the far-right English Democrats – and had planned to stand for the party in May 2016′s election for Mayor of London.

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

Edinburgh: A majority of people in Scotland now say they have no religion, new research has found. The Scottish Social Attitudes survey found that 52 percent of people in Scotland now say they are not religious. The number has changed since 1999, when 40 percent said they were not religious. 1999 was the first time the survey took place. The percentage of respondents who said they subscribed to the views of the Church of Scotland has fallen drastically from 35 percent down to 20. Catholicism, 15 percent and other Christian denominations, 11 percent, remained at a similar level. In addition, the percentage of those who say they are religious but non-Christian, remains at 2 percent. he 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes survey interviewed a representative random probability sample of 1,288 people between July 2015 and January 2016. The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly will next month debate whether married gay people should be able to be ministers. The Assembly will discuss the matter in May 2016, and is based on a decision by a majority of Presbyteries who voted approve an Overture amending the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships Act. The Church has seen huge rifts over issues faced around the acceptance of gay reverends and ministers.

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

Missouri: The first out player to be drafted by the National Football League wants his home state to block a pending ‘religious liberty’ proposal. In an op-ed for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Michael Sam argued SJR 39 ‘is just another way to undermine the dignity of LGBT people and their families.’ Early in March 2016, after a 39-hour filibuster by Democrats, the state’s Republican controlled Senate passed the measure. If approved by voters, the legislation would prevent LGBTI citizens from being covered by anti-discrimination protection and allow business not to serve customers for religious reasons. The bill is now being heard by a committee in the state’s House of Representatives. The University of Missouri graduate pointed to similar legislation in North Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana. He noted those bills face severe criticism from sports organizations and businesses.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Brussels: The Network of European LGBTIQ Families Associations (NELFA) will hold the fifth International Family Equality Day (IFED) on 1 May. The motto of this year’s IFED is Families Without Borders. The aim is to raise awareness for LGBTI families, especially those traveling or moving to other countries where the legal status of their family might not be recognized. LGBTI families often face the risk of death or humiliation just by entering other countries. NELFA and family organizations from around the world hope that IFED will send a message of unity to families of refugees and migrants who are either separated by borders or need to cross them.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Canberra: The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has issued a strong statement in support of marriage equality, saying “legislative inequality has a significant and deleterious impact on mental health.” Professor Malcolm Hopwood noted:

“Conversely, there is a strong link between improved health outcomes and legislation change. Our members in New Zealand have noted a swell of positive support for same sex couples in the development and implementation of the same sex marriage act. I anticipate the same would occur in Australia, and it would be immensely beneficial to the people concerned.”

A disproportionate number of Australia and New Zealand’s LGBTI population experience mental illness and psychological distress, says the College of Psychiatrists.

“People who identify as LGBTI are at increased risk of exposure to institutionalised and interpersonal discrimination and marginalisation which in turn increases vulnerability to mental illness and psychological distress. Mental health outcomes for the LGBTI populations of Australia and New Zealand are amongst the poorest of any demographic.”

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

Washington DC: Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is anti-LGBT equality, anti-abortion, a proponent of free-market economics and an aggressive foreign policy. But to really kow Cruz’s worldview, it’s important to know his father, mentor, and top campaign surrogate, 76-year-old Rev. Rafael Cruz. And the elder Cruz, who hit the campaign trail extensively in Ted’s successful run for U.S. senator from Texas in 2012 and is doing so now in his presidential effort, says the things his son — or almost any politician — can’t get away with.

Ted Cruz, for instance, calls the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “lawless” and “fundamentally illegitimate,” but his father says it’s the work of the devil. “The devil overplayed his hand with that decision on June 26,” Rafael Cruz said in a speech last August, predicting that godly Americans will rise up against it. Among Rafael Cruz’s other antigay greatest hits: At the World Congress of Families event last November, he said gay people want to legalize pedophilia, starting with an effort to strike down age-of-consent laws. Indeed, he has frequently described LGBT people as sexual predators. He has also said marriage equality is part of a government plot to “destroy the concept of God” and establish socialism in the United States.

This is why his son should be president, according to Cruz. In a March 2016 interview with a right-wing radio show, shortly after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Rafael Cruz pointed out that Ted will appoint conservative justices to the court and said the appointment of one more liberal will be disastrous. Rafael Cruz, however, hasn’t always been a conservative Christian. Growing up in Cuba, he opposed President Fulgencio Batista’s right-wing dictatorship and, he claims he even worked with Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries in their effort to overthrow Batista, although he says he never adopted Castro’s communist ideology. Cruz left Cuba before that effort succeeded — in 1957 he escaped the country, reportedly by bribing an official, and ended up in Texas, where he worked his way through the University of Texas, studying math and engineering.

He had an early marriage that ended in divorce. His second wife, Eleanor Darragh, gave birth to Ted in 1970. But the elder Cruz had a drinking problem that led him to desert his wife and son when Ted was a toddler. He returned after becoming a born-again Christian. He and Darragh are now divorced as well.

Rafael Cruz’s “redemption” story resonates with fundamentalist Christian voters (e.g., Kim Davis), and after spending much of his life working for energy companies in the U.S. and Canada, he now touts himself as an ordained minister. His theology goes beyond traditional evangelical and fundamentalist views. He “is an advocate of Christian dominionism, which essentially holds that fundamentalist Christians should take over, well, just about everything,” David Corn wrote in a February 2016 Mother Jones article.

Corn described Rafael Cruz as a “freelancing evangelical,” and that pretty much sums it up. He has claimed to be a pastor at a church in Dallas, but there is no record of such an affiliation, according to a Washington Spectator investigation. That investigation also found that the Bible college he claims to have attended doesn’t exist. However, the conservative Christian crowds he draws apparently haven’t questioned his credentials, and religious right leaders see him as an asset to his son’s campaign. “He’s a clarifying check that Ted’s the real deal,” antigay Iowa activist Bob Vander Plaats told the Globe. Ted Cruz appears not to have repudiated any of his father’s more outrageous statements and indeed has seldom been confronted about them. He has called his father “a man of deep integrity” and a powerful voice for “freedom.”

Source: http://www.advocate.com

Washington DC: However, this contrasts with another news item. The Republicans may officially ditch their opposition to same-sex marriage at the party’s convention, despite opposition from its leading US Presidential candidate nominees. The party militantly opposed the introduction of marriage equality after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of it last year – with Republicans in many states attempting to resist the legislation. Though the party remains committed to opposing LGBT rights as a whole, standing firmly against any federal or state non-discrimination law protecting LGBT people, there are some signals that the battle is moving away from the specific issue of marriage. Politico reports that the issue will come into play as the Republicans head into their national convention this summer, due to a push to alter the party’s platform.

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

Moscow: Antigay Russian Duma MP Vitaly Milonov whined about international LGBT politicians who attended a gay festival in St. Petersburg.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Edinburgh: According to Stonewall Scotland’s School Report, 14% of LGBTI youth and 42% of trans youth have left education because of homophobic and transphobic bullying. The suicide and self-harm rates are also high for a country that is seen as one of the most LGBTI-friendly in Europe. The TIE campaign was launched in 2015 and aims to establish a group within the Scottish Government to ensure LGBTI inclusion in the education system. TIE also wants the government to focus on training teachers in eliminating homophobia in schools and creating a safe environment for LGBTI youth. Awarding Scottish actor Emma Thompson has joined them to further these objectives.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

New York: CNN anchor Chris Cuomo has knocked down the oft-advanced but false claim that allowing transgender people to use the restrooms that comport with their gender identity will somehow enable male predators to attack women and children. On CNN’s New Day, Cuomo was interviewing Peter Sprigg, a spokesman for the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, about the new North Carolina legislation that bars any city from enacting or enforcing LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination protections and prohibits trans people from using the sex-segregated public facilities that match their gender identity:

The law is reflective of culture, Cuomo said: “This is about what people in a state like and don’t like.”

Sprigg replied:

“Well, I agree that it’s about culture and it has always been a part, not only of our culture but of every culture that has ever existed, that we separate biological males and biological females for the purpose of certain intimate activities the like bathing, dressing, and going to the bathroom. And that’s all that this bill provides, is retaining the status quo with respect to that long-standing tradition.”
“But times change,” Cuomo countered. “And that’s what this is really about. Are you ready to change in North Carolina? Are you ready to respect transgender people for what they say they are? Because you can’t point to any potential danger here. I know that’s what you are doing and others are doing, saying there is a risk to women. But we don’t see that play out in any statistic that you can cite.”

He added that there is a risk to transgender people when they are forced to use the wrong restroom for their gender identity.

Sprigg couldn’t come up with any concrete evidence to contradict Cuomo — the “restroom predator” myth has been widely debunked — but he said women and girls will feel their privacy has been violated if they see someone in their restroom “who is obviously a man.” “It is a privacy issue,” he said. “Even if their safety is never violated in practice.”

Sprigg responded, “No, No. The transgender people are creating the problem by pretending to be the opposite of their actual biological sex even when people can see that they are their biological sex.”

Cuomo jumped on the “pretending” comment: “You’re saying they’re pretending. They’re saying they’re not pretending. And this is part of cultural evolution. You seem unwilling to embrace that.”

Source: http://www.advocate.com

Mississippi: Republican Governor of Mississippi Phil Bryant signed a controversial radical “religious liberty” bill that allows businesses to undertake service provider discrimination against lesbian and gay couples based on purported religious beliefs. Bryant signed HB1523 into law on Tuesday amid opposition from LGBT and civil rights groups, as well as many mainstream businesses. He said the bill “protects sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions”. Protesters say the bill would allow for lawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The bill comes at a time when numerous US states are passing or considering similar laws. North Carolina recently passed a bill that revoked local authority antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people and requires transgender individuals to use restrooms based on their “biological” gender identity.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

Costa Rica: Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís has been sent a letter from the Human Rights Watch urging him to legalise same-sex marriage. The letter was penned on 4 April by Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director for the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, who recommends the president takes action on marriage equality now.

He wrote: “Costa Rican same-sex couples cannot get their relationships legally recognised like different-sex couples can, and limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the right to non discrimination and equality.” He goes on to list the many countries already offering same-sex marriage, highlighting the Netherlands as being the first back in 2001, and giving mention to countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and France. Appealing to Solísto, the letter takes a political angle – addressing Costa Rica’s largely conservative society with a “strong Catholic influence,” Dittrich argues that a country can still accept same-sex marriage despite being Conservative.

He continued: “Not only in the Netherlands, but also elsewhere, conservative politicians have stood up in support of same-sex marriage. They realise that gay men and lesbian women are part of society. They are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our friends, colleagues and neighbours.”

The activist also made reference to a speech made by UK Prime Minister David Cameron from 2011, where he claimed: “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

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

London: A NEW campaign is urging the next British Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to turn its attention to the rights of LGBTI people. The campaign hopes the next CHOGM — to be held in the UK in 2018 — will include LGBTI rights on the main agenda and enable LGBTI people from across the Commonwealth to address CHOGM leaders. African LGBTI organisation Out and Proud Diamond Group is leading the campaign with the support of the London-based Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“The Commonwealth is committed to building a better world by including and respecting everybody and the richness of their personalities,” Out and Proud Diamond Group director Edwin Sesange said in a statement.

“But so far, the Commonwealth’s inclusivity does not include LGBTI Commonwealth citizens.”

The campaign urges citizens in each of the 53 Commonwealth nations to sign and email a Change.org petition to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma. Around 2.2 billion people live in the Commonwealth, and more than half the nations around the world in which homosexuality is illegal happen to be Commonwealth member nations. Australian-born LGBTI rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the failure of the CHOGM to take a stand on LGBTI rights undermined the Commonwealth’s principles.

“The Commonwealth leaders’ summit has never in the last 60-plus years discussed LGBTI human rights. Forty out of 53 Commonwealth member states criminalise homosexuality. This makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter. CHOGM 2018 must remedy these failings by hearing the voices of LGBTI Commonwealth citizens and acting to support their human rights.”

Abbey Kiwanuka, the chief executive of Out and Proud Diamond Group, said African nations were capable of change but needed support from other Commonwealth countries.

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

London: British MPs have launched an inquiry into homophobia in sport. Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee announced the inquiry in early April 2016 – following on from an inquiry addressing the issue of tackling racism. There are currently no openly gay footballers in the top tier of UK football. The CEO of Premiership team Arsenal recently said he is “absolutely convinced” players will come out in the near future – but so far none have been willing to come forward. The investigation will look at a range of issues – including the response to homophobia in sports, the experiences of LGBT sportspeople, and how homophobia is being tackled at school.

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

London: The official anti-EULeave.EU campaign is touting an endorsement from a councillor who left UKIP after homophobic and racist comments. Kerry Smith, a councillor for Nethermayne in Basildon, was forced out of the UK Independence Party after he was caught on tape making racist and homophobic comments two years ago In the recording Cllr Smith ranted about “f**king disgusting old poofters”, called a Chinese woman a “Chinky bird”, and joked about “shooting peasants”. The Leave.EU campaign – backed by UKIP donor Arron Banks – is proudly displaying an endorsement from Cllr Kerry.

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

London: Angela Eagle could become the first LGBT (and female!) leader of the UK Labour party following a planned summer coup against Jeremy Corbyn. Labour’s Shadow First Secretary of State has enjoyed strong performances in the House of Commons, boosting the morale of Labour MPs. Ms Eagle also performed well when she became the first LGBT MP to front Prime Minister’s Questions for her party. She stood in for Corbyn in December, going up against Chancellor George Osborne as the Prime Minister was on a ministerial visit to Poland. The new Labour leader named her Shadow Business Secretary following his rise to the Labour leadership earlier this year. However, frontbenchers and donors have said that they see Ms Eagle as a viable replacement for Mr Corbyn, claiming she could unite the party in the event of a summer shake up. Plotters within the party say there is now a “race against time” to hold a leadership election before Labour’s autumn conference.

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

London: MPs have rebuked the Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond over an ongoing ban on the Pride flag being flown from embassies or the Foreign Office. Mr Hammond came under fire last year over a memo sent to British embassies ahead of Pride Month, ‘reminding’ them of a policy that blocks any flag other than the Union Flag being flown. Former Foreign Secretaries David Miliband and William Hague had both permitted rainbow flags to be flown in spite of the rule – but under Mr Hammond the FCO has sought to reinstate the blanket policy. The FCO also opted not to fly the rainbow flag from its Whitehall office for Pride in London, despite other government departments doing so. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee singled out the apparent changes for criticism in a Parliamentary report this week – noting the move may be seen as confusing given the FCO’s continued lobbying on LGBT rights abroad.

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

Wisconsin: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have urged voters in Wisconsin to oppose the re-election of a state Supreme Court judge who made shockingly homophobic comments. Rebecca Bradley, who sits on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, is currently up for re-election. Earlier this year, old opinion columns penned by Bradley surfaced online – in which she expressed shocking views about “queers”.

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

London: A specialist has warned of a number of cases in which doctors cited their religious beliefs as an excuse to not treat transgender patients. Dr James Barrett, the lead consultant psychiatrist at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic and president of the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists, warned about the issues facing trans people in the British Medical Journal.
The doctor warned: “In the experience of those of us who work at gender identity clinics as many as one in five GPs won’t prescribe for people with gender dysphoria, even after expert advice from an NHS clinic. Reasons that GPs have given me for this refusal include concerns about it being dangerous (it isn’t), difficult (it isn’t), expensive (it’s not, particularly), and I’ve also heard disturbingly frank admissions that it was against ‘deeply held Christian beliefs’ or that ‘we are trained to treat illnesses, not to change nature’. NHS England’s guidance on specialised commissioning makes it clear that GPs are expected to care for people with gender dysphoria just as for any other group with an uncommon condition easily managed with a joint care model. The General Medical Council has made it clear that ethical or ‘principled’ objections are not acceptable in gender dysphoria and that ‘inexperience in the field’ should be remedied by prompt cooperation with a gender identity clinic.”

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

London: British schools told to introduce gender-neutral toilets, changing rooms and uniforms to make trans pupils feel more comfortable. Members of a major UK teaching union will today debate whether they need special training to deal with “gender identity and trans issues”. The chair of the ATL’s equality and diversity committee has put forward the motion challenging “gender identity prejudice” in education. History teacher Julia Neal told the Evening Standard that teachers need training on how to provide “non-gender-specific facilities”.
“It’s about senior management teams and governing bodies understanding that there are a lot of facilities in schools that are separated — changing rooms and toilets and uniforms are very gender-specific. If there is gender fluidity they need to understand the importance of gender-neutral facilities. And they need to understand how pupils want to be referred to, as he or she. It’s a delicate area. Teachers are not confident, which is not a criticism.”

Neal went on to suggest that all schools could consider introduce mixed toilets and changing rooms – or adding a third option of gender neutral facilities for students. However, she admitted that banning female or male facilities completely may make some people “uncomfortable”. Neal is calling for teachers to be given further information and training on how to support young people who have gender identity questions, and for trans role models to be celebrated in schools.

“Teachers could be trained into how they can best use inclusive language. The terms which are used for gender identity are quite complicated,” she said.

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

London: Broken Rainbow, the UK’s LGBT domestic abuse charity, is days away from closure due to a cash shortage. If the organisation is to continue operations beyond Friday (April 8), it needs to raise £25,000. While Broken Rainbow has secured £240,000 in grants for the next financial year, £120,000 of this comes directly from the Home Office and the charity has been given no clear indication as to when this will be paid into its accounts. It is currently operating with a deficit of £35,000 and needs to provide its creditors with £25,000 by Friday. In an interview with Attitude, Jo Harvey Barringer, chief executive officer at Broken Rainbow UK said, “We’re in a situation that we have no money in the bank, it’s not that we’re not a sustainable organisation.” Broken Rainbow runs a national helpline providing confidential support to LGBT people experiencing domestic violence. It currently employs 15 people, 10 of which operate the charity’s helpline. Last year it supported over 10,000 people, 2,500 more than it had the previous year.

One in four LGBT people are expected to experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Though some of those affected may turn to universal domestic abuse charities for support, others don’t feel comfortable doing so, for fear of discrimination, a lack of understanding of the LGBT issues and other reasons. But despite being the UK’s only national LGBT domestic abuse charity, the Home Office didn’t decide whether to make grants available to it until February 2016, a decision which cost the charity money.

(Update: April 7): The government has said that it’s “working to resolve the situation” with LGBT domestic abuse charity Broken Rainbow, who reported yesterday that due to funding implications they would be forced to close their doors in 48 hours. The call went out that the charity was in trouble back in February, when it was estimated that it only had seven weeks left to secure renewed funding from the Home Office before it would have to shut down its services – which helped 10,0000 people last year.

A spokesperson for the Home Office told GT that the government was “committed” to tackling domestic abuse and violence, adding: “Broken Rainbow plays an important role in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic abuse, and the Home Office has informed Broken Rainbow that it’ll be renewing funding to support its helpline for 2016/17.” However, Emma Baldry from the charity told Buzzfeed News yesterday that they are literally “days from closure.”

“We have the confirmation of funding from the Home Office but we still don’t have the money in our bank,” Emma explained. “We haven’t had the contract to sign and therefore we haven’t received the payment. We have £95,000 of agreed funds due to us over the next few weeks from various funders, including the government,” she said. “But the position we are currently in is that if we don’t find £25,000 in the next 48 hours or so that could be the end of Broken Rainbow. We don’t have the money to pay our staff and we can’t continue to run if we can’t afford to pay our staff.” Following an outcry from the public and LGBT activists, the charity tweeted the good news that the money from the government would be paid in time to keep their doors open.

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

London: Over half of gay men have said that drinking alcohol lead them to having riskier sex, according to a new survey. Conducted by FS Magazine, the survey showed that 53% of gay men said drinking alcohol makes them want to have sex, while 52% said it lead them to having riskier sex. 24% admitted to not caring about safe sex after consuming alcohol, while 56% said they had taken drugs at the same time as drinking.

Source: http://www.fsmag.org.uk

Melbourne: A recent Victorian LGBT community survey has revealed that anti-discrimination laws and inclusive services are the key issues LGBTI Victorians want addressed by both local and federal governments in Australia. The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) conducted the survey at Melbourne’s annual Midsumma Carnival earlier this year, asking people the LGBTI-centric issues they considered most important. On a federal level, 88 per cent of respondents said they wanted to see greater legal protections from discrimination, while 85 per cent said they would like to see violence and public harassment addressed. VGLRL co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said federal legislation still needed to be improved to protect all sexuality and gender diverse people from discrimination.

The recent Royal Commission into Family Violence report recommended a review of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, one of 227 recommendations that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews committed to undertaking. On a local level, 83 per cent of respondents said they wanted to see their local government focus on LGBTI-inclusive health and community services. This was ranked as the highest, followed by 67 per cent of respondents who said they want to see greater advocacy by local government on LGBTI issues like marriage equality. Mulcahy said while local councils must not discriminate based on sexual or gender identities, Victorians felt they could work to be more inclusive. In an effort to address these concerns, the Victorian Local Governance Association’s Working Group will hold a symposium on LGBTI inclusion in local government this month. The City of Glen Eira council in Melbourne’s south east recently included a focus on elderly LGBTI residents in its aged care strategy for the first time. Issues raised:

Federal government

Legal protections from discrimination (88% ranked this of high importance)
Violence and harassment in the street/public (85%)
Legal protections from hate speech and vilification (80%)
Improved mental health outcomes for LGBTI people (78%)
LGBTI youth and schooling (77%)
Local government

LGBTI-inclusive health and community services (83% ranked this as high)
Advocacy on LGBTI issues, e.g. marriage equality (67%)
Public statements and support for LGBTI residents (61%)
Engagement and consultation with LGBTI residents (61%)
LGBTI community events/festivals (61%)

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

Toronto: A lesbian couple is vowing to sue the Ontario government if they don’t act on legislation to equalize the law for gay parents. It would be an ironic turn for the first government in Canada led by an out lesbian. But Kirsti Mathers McHenry and Jennifer Mathers McHenry believe it may be necessary to change a system that often forces gay parents to adopt their own children. Many same-sex parents find themselves in legal limbo after their children are born. Parents have been denied benefits and have had to go through lengthy and expensive court proceedings to affirm that they are indeed parents of their own children. The couple are the impetus behind Cy and Ruby’s Act, named after their two children. The bill, which was put forward by NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, passed second reading with all-party support in December 2015. But the bill has stalled in the legislature and has yet to be referred to committee. Kirsti says that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s staff have been supportive of the bill, but that there doesn’t appear to be any sense of urgency around it. The couple is working with noted litigator Joanna Radbord, though they would prefer not to go to court. DiNovo, however, still holds out hope that the bill can be passed before the scheduled end of the legislative session on June 9, 2016.

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

Belfast:Northern Ireland’s fundamentalist-dominated Democratic Unionist Party has promised to keep blocking marriage equality in their 2016 Assembly manifesto. Same-sex marriage is now legal in England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland – but continues to be blocked in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish Assembly even backed equal marriage by a vote of 53 to 51 last year – but the DUP used peace process powers to override the democratic process and block equality for a fifth time. The party has been accused of “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support, to ‘veto’ marriage legislation despite clear majority support. The party released its first manifesto this week under new DUP leader Arlene Foster, ahead of next month’s Assembly elections. However, those hoping for changes in party policy under its first female leader will be disappointed – as it just pledged to keep blocking equality indefinitely.

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

Edinburgh: Scottish National Party First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland will use its devolved powers to make an independent decision on funding PrEP when it comes to HIV/AIDS

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

Cardiff: The Archbishop of Wales has apologised to gay and lesbian Christians as he ruled out a shifting stance on same-sex marriage – claiming his Church is “not ready” for the change. Rev Dr Barry Morgan heads the Church in Wales, which has made movements on LGBT issues – but continues to enforce a ban on same-sex weddings in line with the Church of England. 2013’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act legally prohibits Church in Wales clergy from carrying out same-sex marriages – but includes provisions to change this if the Church opts to change its policy. Speaking at a meeting of the Church’s governing body this week, the Archbishop said the Church is still not ready for changes.

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

Alabama: The anti-gay marriage Governor of Alabama is facing potential impeachment – after he was caught having phonesex with an aide. Sensational allegations arose last month that Republican Governor Robert Bentley, a militant believer in ‘traditional’ marriage, had cheated on his wife of 50 years with chief adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. After Bentley flatly denied any such affair, a recording was published in local media in which Governor Bentley appears to be having phonesex.

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

Washington DC: Apparently, Governor Bentley isn’t the only one. ‘Traditional marriage’ champion Ted Cruz has denied ever cheating on his wife, after reports he was listed as a client of an infamous DC prostitute. Gossip sites today reported that the right-wing Republican Presidential hopeful was listed in the black book of a popular escort known as the ‘DC Madam’, who died mysteriously in 2008 after details of many of her clients were made public. A number of senior politicians from both parties were allegedly clients of the Madam, real name Deborah Jeane Palfrey, but allegations have now emerged that Texas Senator Ted Cruz was among those listed.

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

Beijing: In a country where homosexuality is legal but same-sex marriage is not, the Chinese society is seeing a trend where more gay men and lesbian women are marrying each other so as to make their parents happy. And the biggest reason they are doing this – to create the illusion to loved ones around that they are in a conventional relationship, especially given the deep rooted traditions of Chinese family culture where the only definition of a couple is that of a man and a woman. Italian filmmaker Sophia Luvarà is one passionate soul who is very interested in studying this issue in detail. In her documentary ‘Inside the Chinese Closet‘, she talked about how a gay man (Andy) and a lesbian woman (Cherry) journey to each find a gay partner of the opposite sex, for marriage.

One may ask why the need to do so, especially since homosexuality has been made legal in China since 1997. To better understand this trend, one will probably also need to have a good understanding of how the Chinese society functions and the country’s way of governance.

On a broad stroke, lesbian and gay relationships are largely frowned upon by the Chinese government. Earlier in March this year, the Chinese government passed a law to ban portrayals of same-sex relationships from television, having previously removed videos that featured LGBT couples from the internet. The effect of such a move can be wide-reaching, especially with this official government stance that only serves to pervade the social stigmatization of LGBT people in China that has already been present for decades.
China’s political history, too, does not make it any easier for LGBT people. Many of us will remember China’s one-child policy – a population control policy introduced between 1978 and 1980 where every family, back then, was subjected to a strict one-child restriction. An additional 53% of the population were allowed to have a second child, but only if the first child was a girl. The emphasis on the masculinity of the child’s gender back then implies that it is very likely that the young men today in China are the only ones in their families that can carry on their respective lineages. Particularly for the Chinese society, the importance of carrying on the family name is clearly articulated via the content in mainstream media as well as in family conversations – even up till today.

And for gay men in China, this could only mean something – they have to shoulder the burden of being fathers, even though this perceived responsibility may well be against their wishes.
No wonder many young gay men and lesbians in China are having to find innovative ways to conceal their sexuality and maintain their families’ social reputations.Social reputation plays a big part in the Chinese society as well – where the definition of success for children means securing good jobs, being leaders in the corporate workplace as well as having a family to call their own. It is thus almost more feasible for fake gay and lesbian couples to make arrangements to live with each other and even produce a child for their parents, than suffer the social consequences being involved in a same-sex relationship.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Ottawa: An out gay Malaysian student has been given refugee status in Canada after receiving threats. Hazim Ismail, who says he is an atheist, was granted leave to stay in Canada by the country’s Immigration and Refugee Board. He had been attacked due to his sexual orientation back in Malaysia. The University of Winnipeg student will be allowed to remain, as he feared for his life if he had been deported to Malaysia, reports CBC. Ismail said he was threatened by members of the public and attacked when his sexual orientation gained the attention of local media outlets. According to reports, his family disowned him and stopped paying his tuition “after learning he is gay and an atheist” last year. Local media reported that he was trying to fund his tuition using GoFundMe, attracting attention to his case.

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

Paris: The French parliament has finally approved retrograde, prohibitionist and unworkable changes to the country’s prostitution laws. On April 6, French legislators approved a bill against prostitution and sex trafficking that bans buying sex, “not” selling it. Customers who break the law will face fines and be made to attend awareness classes on the harms of the sex trade. The legislation, which passed 64-12 in the parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, makes French law one of the toughest against sex work in Europe.

Prostitution in itself is legal in France – although brothels, pimping and the sale of sex by minors are illegal. The new measure does away with a 2003 law that banned passive soliciting by sex workers on the street and thus put the legal onus on prostitutes. This new bill focuses the punishment on the client, introducing a €1500 fine that would rise to €3750 for a sex buyer’s second offence. The convicted client will then be obliged to attend classes highlighting the “dangers” associated with prostitution. The measure will also make it easier for foreign prostitutes – many now illegally in France – to acquire a temporary residence permit if they enter a process to get out of the prostitution business.

Supporters of the bill argue that it will help “fight” trafficking networks.

“The most important aspect of this law is to accompany prostitutes, give them identity papers because we know that 85 per cent of prostitutes here are victims of trafficking,” Maud Olivier, a Socialist MP and a sponsor of the legislation said. Olivier said that many of the sex workers who arrive in France have their passports confiscated by pimps. “We will provide them with documents on the condition they commit to leave prostitution behind,” she added.
An Australian anti-sexworker group, Nordic Model Australia Coalition, or NorMAC, issued a statement saying it was “delighted” with the new law.

“Under this new law, prostituted women, children and men will not be criminalised. They will receive social support and benefits to exit prostitution while men buying sex will be fined and liable to prosecution,” the statement said. It said the “historical decision” confirmed French politicians had “heard the voices of hundreds of survivors, as well as women still trapped in the sex industry”, “many” of whom were groomed while still underage.

However, sexworkers rights activists and opponents fear that cracking down will push prostitutes to conceal their activities, leaving them even more at the mercy of pimps and violent clients. Before the bill was passed, groups of female prostitutes gathered outside the National Assembly, organised by the French union of sex workers, or STRASS, to protest the “repressive” bill. France’s parliament started debating the bill in 2013, but the final vote was delayed due to sharp divisions between the lower parliamentary chamber and the Senate. Written by a group of politicians from both right and left and backed by the Socialist government, the legislation has been pushed by apologists for the prohibitionist model in Sweden, which passed a similar measure in 1999. Norway and Iceland also follow the repressive Swedish model. Other countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where brothels are legal, are closely watching the changes in France.

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

Hong Kong: A British man whose husband died on their honeymoon to Australia, resulting in a painful battle to be recognised on the death certificate, has told of how he also had his partner’s ashes taken from him at a Hong Kong airport, because he wasn’t considered next-of-kin. The Australian government initially refused to recognise Marco Bulmer-Rizzi as the legal husband of David Bulmer-Rizzi, who died in January 2016 while they were in the country on honeymoon. The 32-year-old fell down a flight of stairs, fatally injuring his head.

As is not legal in China or Australia, the country deemed that Marco and David were never married. Eventually, after much public outcry, and intervention from the British High Commission, Marco was formally recognised on David’s death certificate, issued in Australia. Marco has spoken out about the further insult he suffered, after David’s ashes were confiscated from him as he passed through Hong Kong International Airport on the journey back to the UK. Speaking to BuzzFeed, Marco said he was putting the ashes through the scanner at the airport when he was stopped.

“I was taken to one side and she said, ‘What’s in this box?’” he said. “She wanted to open the box. And I said, ‘These are human remains. It’s my husband. My husband died while we were in Australia. She just looked at me and said, ‘I need to take this away.’” A senior official then intervened, and Marco was able to present David’s passport, but it wasn’t enough to quell their suspicions.

“Again I was asked who the remains were and I said, ‘My husband, David.’ At that point I wanted the world to know that it was my husband. And she asked me, ‘What do you mean “your husband”?’”

He was eventually given back the ashes and allowed to continue his travel, but Marco has spoken out about the issue again, in part, because he wants to warn other same sex couples of the unexpected troubles they may run into abroad, and the lack of support in place from the UK Foreign Office. He claims, “It came as a complete surprise to them that somebody who is in a same-sex marriage might find themselves in a position where they’re not recognised as the next of kin.”

It is understood that the UK Foreign Office has now closed some loopholes that prevented British people in some countries from being able to receive UK style death certificates, as a result of this highly publicised case.

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

Los Angeles: Ellen DeGeneres has slammed Mississippi’s new anti-LGBT legislation as “the definition of discrimination.”

In an uncharacteristically serious moment on her talk show, the comedian gave a speech about the new law which will allow discrimination against LGBT people. She began: “I’m not a political person, I’m really not. But this is not politics, this is human rights.”

The state’s ‘religious freedom’ bill was signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant in early April 2016, and will come into effect in July 2016.

It will effectively allow businesses and organisations to refuse service and discriminate against members of the LGBT community who offend their “sincerely held religious belief.”

Ellen continued: “That is the definition of discrimination. It is also something that the Supreme Court already ruled on when they made marriage a right for everyone. The Supreme Court said something that Diana Ross and The Supremes said a long time ago – ‘stop, in the name of love’. Now Mississippi is saying, ‘I don’t second that emotion’.” The LGBT icon told viewers of her many visits to the state while growing up, but encouraged those affected by the law not to give up hope.

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

New York: As co-founder of the True Colors Fund, the epidemic of LGBT youth homelessness is a cause close to the heart of activist and musician Cyndi Lauper. In a heartfelt post on The Advocate, the star has called for the end of LGBT youth living on the streets, claiming that not enough is being done. The musician, who is well known for her charity work within the LGBT community, confessed that, in the run-up to the US election, she wants to see more emphasis placed on LGBT homelessness.

In a recent Advocate article, she raised the alarming statistic that up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. Considering that “fewer than 7% of children nationwide identify as LGBT,” this discrepancy is something Cyndi believes that we can no longer ignore. She wrote: “People often think that because they don’t work at a homeless shelter, they don’t have a role to play. The reality is: everyone can make a difference!”

27 April 2016 is the scheduled date for #40toNoneDay – a national day organised by the True Colors Fund to raise public awareness about LGBT youth homelessness within the United States.

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

London: London’s Metropolitan Police Service has been accused of “failing” victims of homophobic hate crime – by taking less action than ever before, despite record high reports. The London Evening Standard recently published stats about the police force’s response to hate crimes. It found that while reports of hate crime are at a record high in the city, the Met are failing to follow up with arrests and prosecutions.

In 2011, 1276 homophobic hate crimes were reported and action was taken in 537 cases. In 2015, reporting hit a record high, with 1781 homophobic hate crimes were reported – but action was taken in just 321 cases. The pattern is seen across all categories of hate crime – with increased reports of hate crimes based on race, religion, disability and gender identity – but actions against specific instances are lower than ever. Labour London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan, Conservative Mayoral Candidate Zac Goldsmith, Stonewall and Peter Tatchell all condemned the lack of police action.

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

Berlin: Katrin Ebner-Steiner – a member of the euro-sceptic right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) in Bavaria believes that gay parenting is a predictor of subsequent criminality, that LGBTI issues should not be included within state sex education classes, and ruminated about the ‘traditional family’ as the ‘solution’ for all social ills.

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

London: The UK Independence Party has pledged to pass a law putting an end to inclusive education in schools – promising to ban “political correctness” in education. The party made the pledge in its Scottish manifesto, which UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Scottish MEP David Coburn launched today at an event in Scotland, ahead of May’s Holyrood elections. It states: “We would end political correctness in schools and introduce a specific Act aimed at banning damaging political propaganda being passed off as fact: “Indoctrination of young minds is wrong. What we must give them is the desire and capacity to think freely for themselves.” [UKIP has little support in strongly pro-European Scotland- Craig]

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

Philadelphia: Democrat Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf has responded to a spate of anti-LGBT laws in other states – by signing an executive order expanding protections for LGBT people.

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

Honduras: Since the country’s left-wing leader was ousted in 2009, LGBT people have faced a dramatic increase in the risk of torture, prison and murder. The Index on Censorship, produced in the United Kingdom, looked at data from NGOs from the Central American country. It found that since 2009, when president Manuel Zelaya was ousted during a military coup, there have been 215 murders of LGBT people. In 2015, there were 37 deaths.

This is a hugely increased number compared to previous levels – 20 LGBT people were murdered from 1994 until the coup, which was backed by the US. Speaking to the Morning Star, gay rights activist Donny Reyes said: “I’ve suffered torture and sexual violence because of my activism, and I’ve survived many assassination attempts.” Police officials have been suspended over the killings of drug prosecutors.

According to audio recordings, assassins were paid around £14,000 to kill anti-drug chief Julian Aristides Gonzalez in 2009. While it is legal to be gay in Honduras, there are no discrimination protections for LGBT people. Same-sex marriage and adoption are also prohibited by the country’s constitution.

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

Wellington: West Coast Labour MP Damien O’Connor says the current system of medicinal cannabis supply, which is already under review, is bureaucratic and unclear.
“My bill makes the approval process simpler but has appropriate safeguards. The key change is the minister must not prevent the supply and administration of processed cannabis products to a person considered by a registered medical practitioner to be either in the final stages of a terminal illness, or have a permanent condition that causes significant pain or impairment.”

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has authority to approve medical cannabis for patients. Recently, he approved a product to treat a severe case of Tourette’s Syndrome. The application was the third he had received. One application, made by former union boss Helen Kelly’s doctors, was subsequently withdrawn before a decision needed to be made by the minister. The first application to be approved was the high-profile case of Nelson teenager Alex Renton, who died in Wellington Hospital last year. Mr Dunne says the guidelines for approving the use of cannabis products are under review and he expects issues around whether the rules are too stringent will be looked into.

Source: http://www.tvnz.co.nz/news

Melbourne: There are several graphic first-person testimonies in Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, a shocking book that will be launched at an anti-sex trade conference at RMIT University in Melbourne this weekend. Former prostitutes and other women across Australia are coming together to talk about the “oldest profession in the world” in a different way. They don’t use the words escort, call girl or sex worker, because they say these legitimise men paying women for sex as a service or a career. Instead, they call it abuse.

A growing group of survivors and abolitionists say they are disturbed at pro-sex trade lobbyists painting the industry as a profession, chosen by autonomous women because it makes them feel empowered. Simone, 48, is national director for the Nordic Model Australia Commission. The model, which has been successful in Sweden and was introduced in France this week, sees prostitutes decriminalised and those who pay for sex criminalised. She said many of the prostitutes she has met have been single mothers or students looking for money. More than half of sex workers have been sexually abused as children or teenagers. Others have been raped, neglected or harassed. Since the Nordic Model was introduced in Sweden, she says, there’s been a cultural shift.

The survivors gathering this weekend say the experiences they recognise are about violence, exploitation, drug abuse and self-harm. Yet they say the blame fell on them, rather than the men who paid to have sex with them. One had regular sex with a priest, who would “forgive her” afterwards. NMA argues at least 90 per cent of sex workers want to get out of the industry. The laws vary across Australia, but campaigners say places like Canberra, Victoria and New Zealand legalising prostitution simply means more trafficking and more acceptance of it, and decriminalisation in NSW saw people with criminal records able to run brothels.

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

United States: Bruce Springsteen has cancelled a concert in North Carolina, joining businesses and other groups in condemning a state law that rolls back protections for gay and transgender people. The law invalidated several local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people. It also requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates.

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

Warsaw: Polish MPs have paved the way for a citizens’ bill that would ban abortion. The “Stop Abortion” campaign now has approval to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to submit a bill to MPs. It has three months to do so. The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has a parliamentary majority and promotes traditional Catholic values. Currently abortions are only allowed in Poland in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s life is in danger, or if the foetus has medical problems. PiS enjoys the support of many Polish Catholic bishops, and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, believes most of his party would vote for the bill. According to the Polish Health Ministry, there were 977 legal abortions in 2014. Before the fall of communism in 1989 abortion was legal.

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

Vatican: Pope Francis has instructed the Catholic Church to be more tolerant and accepting of nontraditional families, but says opposition to marriage equality will not change. The major new document, titled ‘Amoris Laetitia’ (The Joy of Love) has come after nearly two years of consideration on modern social issues. The church asked for the opinions of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on issues like divorce, abortion and homosexuality. Two synods of bishops and cardinals were held in Rome to discuss the findings. Although the Pope reaffirms that LGBT people should be respected, and protected from violence, he has also maintained that gay marriage will not be accepted within the church. The document says that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.” He added that it was unacceptable for local churches to be subjected to pressure on this issue, and that international bodies should not make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of marriage equality.

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

London: The 1960s will forever be steeped in history as a time of social and sexual liberation – it wasn’t until 1967, however, that gay men were able to share in this freedom. In 2017, it will be the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act and BBC2 are currently seeking gay men for a fascinating new documentary about life in the UK before the Act was passed. Once established, the Act decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to be above the legal age of 21. Although there is currently no obligation to be filmed, the BBC’s in-house documentary team would like to hear relevant stories. From thoughts about love and sex in the shadows of the law, problems with the police and the courts, or any experiences of ‘conversion’ therapies and the psychiatric profession of the time – any contribution will be welcomed.

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

Canberra: Australia’s Parents of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) group has taken out a quarter-page ad in today’s The Australian newspaper blasting the Prime Minister’s commitment to the divisive marriage equality plebiscite.

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

Canberra: HIV prevention organisations have welcomed the addition of a new medication for HIV treatment on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia. Genvoya was released on the PBS last week and is the first tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF)-based, once-daily single tablet regimen for the treatment of HIV-1 infection. It is be available on the PBS for prescription by physicians specialising in the treatment of HIV and the cost of a standard prescription is $38.30 for general patients and $6.20 for concessional patients. Genvoya is a single tablet treatment for people over the age of 12 who are already on a stable antiretroviral regimen, looking to replace their current treatment regimen. Patients looking to start on Genvoya must not have a history of treatment failure or known mutations associated with resistance to the antiretroviral components of Genvoya. It has been touted as a treatment in the next generation of antiretroviral therapies because it contains a lower dose of tenofovir alafenamide, which makes it distinct from other drugs that have been associated with kidney problems.

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

Ottawa: Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party made a campaign promise to explicitly add trans people under the Canada Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code, but the Liberals have not introduced such a bill even though one already exists — Bill C-269 was passed by the last Parliament, but died when the election was called. Trudeau could also be using his position as prime minister to advocate for inclusion of trans rights in the human rights acts of the three provinces where they’re still not explicitly protected: British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick — all run by Liberal governments that are close with Trudeau’s party. (In Canada, provincial law regulates vastly more activities than federal law does.)

The only other promise the Liberals made to the gay community was an end to the discriminatory ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men. Within weeks of taking office, the government had already walked back its pledge, instead proposing to replace it with a one-year deferral, which will effectively keep gay men from being able to donate blood in Canada. And this is all before getting into more complex issues where the party stance is less clear, such as Canada’s sex work laws (once ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but revised under the previous government) and HIV criminalization.

Source: http://www.dailyxtra.com

South Carolina: After North Carolina passed a bill last month that prevents trans people from using restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity, a far-right South Carolina state senator introduced a similar bill in his state on Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Lee Bright introduced Senate Bill 1203 using an argument that has been soundly, repeatedly debunked — that transgender people somehow pose a threat to women and children. He also asserted that trans people’s gender is a figment of their imagination. But according to The Washington Post, Nikki Haley, the state’s Republican governor, doesn’t see the need for SB 2013. Haley told reporters that she hasn’t heard complaints about trans people in South Carolina posing a danger to others in public bathrooms.

Of the more than 200 localities across the country that allow trans people to use the bathroom that most closely aligns with their gender identity, there have been no verified instances of someone “pretending” to be transgender to gain access to sex-segregated spaces for nefarious purposes. By contrast, however, transgender people face a much higher risk of being the victims of physical and verbal assault in sex-segregated spaces, compared to their cisgender (nontrans) peers.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

United States: Ten US mayors have come together to form a coaliton united in protest against states that are passing anti-LGBT laws. The group is called Mayors Against Discrimination, and the members came together “in the wake of recent discriminatory laws enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,” says a press release from the office of out Seattle Mayor Edward B. Murray. Along with working together to ban travel to states that pass anti-LGBT legislation, the mayors will coordinate to examine “prohibitions on contracting and purchasing from companies in these states,” along with developing “model resolutions that can be adopted by city councils and other legislative bodies,” says the press release. The Mayors Against Discrimination coalition currently includes the mayors of Seattle; New York City; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Oakland, Calif.; Honolulu Sante Fe, N.M.; Washington, D.C., and Tampa, Fla.

Source: http://www.advocate.com

Vatican: France has abandoned its plan to have a gay diplomat as ambassador to the Holy See. President Francois Hollande originally proposed Laurent Stefanini, the president’s head of protocol, for the Vatican position in 2015. But the Vatican failed to confirm the proposed choice for months and months, with the delay attributed to Stefanini’s homosexuality.

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com

Wellington: Gay American and Kiwi diplomats encountered “significant hardship” while serving in New Zealand and the United States, according to Hillary Clinton’s email archive. A batch of emails to and from Clinton was released by the US Department of State in February and includes a series from former New Zealand and Samoa ambassador David Huebner, who was appointed in 2009 and served until 2014. Huebner was the first openly gay ambassador appointed by the Obama administration and the third openly gay ambassador in the history of the United States.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully ”flatly refused” to open the issue of same-sex diplomatic arrangements prior to marriage equality legislation in 2013. In a 2012 email to Cheryl Mills, who was Clinton’s chief-of-staff during her tenure as Secretary of State, Huebner thanked his administration and New Zealand representatives for raising the issue of same-sex spousal accommodation. The email was sent one year before New Zealand passed legislation that allowed same-sex couples to marry and three years before the Supreme Court in the United States ruled same-sex marriage was legal in the United States. Huebner’s husband of more than two decades is Dr Duane McWaine, who was the first diplomatic partner to be identified as a same-sex spouse on an American passport. The United States Embassy in Wellington, in a statement, said the Department of State started considering visa applications by same-sex spouses in the same manner as other unions after the Supreme Court struck down the Defence of Marriage Act in 2013. Questions regarding current arrangements for same-sex US diplomats serving in New Zealand were referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. A ministry statement said New Zealand recognised all partners of foreign diplomats regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

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

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