A press spokesperson for the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Kozak has said his recent comments calling for a national law similar to the one being proposed in St. Petersburg were misinterpreted.
St. Petersburg is considering a law which would issue fines for the “promotion” of homosexuality, “lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism” and “pedophilia” to minors.
The law has only two sections, one on LGBT ideas and one on pedophilia.
Kozak was reported to have told press the bill would punish “disgusting activity.”
He added, “We should think about this topic on the federal level.”
But press secretary Ilya Dzhus said Kozak’s ire was not directed at the section on homosexuality but at the section on pedophilia.
“The question to Dmitry Nikolayevich Kozak was about his reaction to the ban on propaganda of pedophilia among minors,” Dzhus said. “He called that disgusting and called for a ban on any attempts to promote pedophilia, alone.”
Ironically, the bill has been heavily criticized for treating LGBT people in the same way as pedophiles.
Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The attempt to conflate pedophilia, which is a crime, with homosexuality, is a disgrace and should be exposed for the insidious lie it is. The bill’s sponsors say they want to protect children, but the bill is really about making the LGBT community invisible.”
The city’s governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, has said the bill would serve “general public morals.”
“There is nothing more disgusting than propaganda of these things,” he said.
Former St. Petersburg governor and current Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko has said the government could consider a national law.
Last month, Matviyenko said she would have supported the St. Petersburg law, adding, “I have not thoroughly studied the initiative, but if there is nothing that contradicts existing legislation, then it is fully possible that this law to be taken on to a federal level.”
Australian Labor backs gay marriage
The ruling Labor Party in Australia changed its platform recently to support marriage equality, although a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in the near term is not expected to pass Parliament.
Labor backed the proposal following intense internal debate and rallies outside its annual national conference in Sydney. The party also endorsed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s proposal to allow a conscience vote on the issue. Gillard personally opposes same-sex marriage but has been under tremendous pressure to take some action, with polls showing that a majority of Australians support marriage equality.
While gay-rights advocates generally hailed the decision to change the Labor platform, Parliament appears unlikely to vote to change the current law to allow same-sex marriage when a bill is introduced next year. Stephen Jones, a Labor MP from New South Wales, will introduce the bill.
Even if Opposition Leader Tony Abbott grants a conscience vote, the bill would fall short of receiving the 75 votes necessary to pass the House of Representatives. Abbott has said the Coalition is strongly opposed to changing the law, although he remains open to the possibility of a conscience vote.
The Labor Party also voted recently to remove a legal barrier to Australian same-sex couples seeking to marry overseas. The party approved a reworked foreign affairs policy to allow Certificates of No Impediment, which are required by some overseas jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal, to be issued to same-sex couples.
Filipino gays march against discrimination
More than 1,000 people marched in the Philippine capital of Manila to demand equal rights and end discrimination, and for more support for an AIDS program.
The marchers carried a large rainbow flag during the annual Pride parade around Manila’s Malate district Dec. 3, some dancing to the beat of drums played by a band.
Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines spokesperson Goya Candelario said they’re pushing Congress to pass a law against discrimination, which denies them jobs and social services.
Jessie Dimaisip of the Akbayan political party, which supports gay rights, said they’re also seeking more funds for HIV/AIDS testing and a support program. The Philippine Health Department estimates 7,884 people have been infected with HIV since 1984, including 937 AIDS cases.
Nigeria antigay bill risks AIDS funding
A bill originally designed to outlaw gay marriage in Nigeria now also criminalizes gay groups and organizations that work with them. Experts worry that will likely jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars a year of Western aid aimed at fighting HIV and AIDS in Africa’s most populous nation.
The bill, passed by the Senate Nov. 29, criminalizes forming gay organizations, clubs or meetings. Opponents say that could be used as a wedge against outreach to a population largely ostracized in the country.
The United States and the United Kingdom both said they were following the progress of the bill, but declined to say more.
Estimates suggest more than 3 million people are infected with the disease in Nigeria and many do not know their status.
Gay man named PM in Belgium
King Albert II named Elio Di Rupo as Belgium’s new prime minister Dec. 5, making him the first openly gay man to head a nation on a full-time basis.
Di Rupo, 60, is the first French-speaking politician to lead the country in 30 years — the majority speak Dutch — and the first Socialist leader since 1974. Di Rupo is heading up a nation that has gone more than 500 days without a formal government, and one that’s wrapped up in the European debt crisis currently roiling the EU. A credit downgrade of Belgium brought urgency to the nation finding a new leader, which propelled Di Rupo to the prime minister’s seat.
Di Rupo was born to poor Italian immigrants — his father was killed when he was a year old, leaving his illiterate mother to raise seven children on her own. Di Rupo said his childhood was not unhappy, though. Di Rupo studied to be a pharmacist, but got into left-wing politics in the 1980s.
The politician, fond of colorful bow ties, is revered for his brilliant speaking skills. His sexuality only became an issue in 1996, when he was falsely accused of engaging in sex with underage boys. During the accusations, reporters asked Di Rupo if he was gay. He responded, “Yes. So what?”
While Johanna Sigurdardottir, a lesbian, is prime minister of Iceland, Di Rupo is the first out gay man to lead a nation after Per-Kristian Foss, a Norwegian politician, briefly served as prime minister of his country in 2002.
Chinese zookeepers give gay penguin couple a chick
Two gay penguins in China have been given a baby chick by zoo staff.
The infant penguin is one of twins born to parents in the Harbin Polar Land aquarium in China.
The gay penguins are often caught stealing others’ eggs during mating season, and the museum staff are confident they can raise a chick between them.
The twins were reportedly separated in order to give both the best chance of survival.
The Chinese penguins’ story echoes that of Roy and Silo, penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo, who were given a rejected egg by keepers after they continually attempted to hatch a rock.
Earlier this year, the book “And Tango Makes Three,” which is based on Roy and Silo’s story, returned to its place at the top of the American Library Association’s most complained-about books list.
A male penguin couple — Buddy and Pedro — at Toronto Zoo drew international interest this autumn when it was announced they would have to be split up to mate with females as they are part of the endangered African penguin species. The zoo confirmed they would be reunited in the spring.
Croatia urged to protect gays before joining EU
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution reminding Croatia of its obligation to protect gay citizens from homophobia and homophobic violence before it joins the European Union in 2013.
Last year, the European Parliament said Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey had to prove they could offer “genuine protection” to gay people in order to become member states.
Candidate countries were reminded that protections such as antidiscrimination laws were “non-negotiable.”
But this summer, a Pride march in the coastal town of Split ended in violent clashes.
The resolution adopted by the Parliament says in part that it is “deeply concerned by the violence against participants in the LGBT pride march in Split on June 11 and the inability of the Croatian authorities to protect the participants.”
Croatian authorities are urged to “investigate and prosecute the crimes committed and to develop strategies for preventing similar incidents in the future.”
The text also calls for them to “quickly adopt and implement an action plan against homophobia.”
MEP Ulrike Lunacek, co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, said, “The European Parliament has consistently called for the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Europe, including in the Western Balkans. The work of some local and national authorities in Croatia is slowly leading to a better situation for everyone, but more is needed to ensure LGBT people can live free from fear and discrimination in South-Eastern Europe.”
Last year, the country’s Football Federation chief apologized after claiming while he was in charge of Croatian football there would be “no homosexuals playing in the national team.”
Philippine health chief criticized for antigay comments
The Philippine health chief is under attack for suggesting at an AIDS conference that health workers survey homes of gay children and warn their parents about potentially risky behavior.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said, “Parents should rein in their homosexual children and get them tested.” He made the remark in a speech at the National Philippine AIDS Council conference Dec. 3 while discussing options for voluntary testing for young people who are most at risk of HIV/AIDS.
The Philippines Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocacy group called for Ona’s resignation Dec. 5. Ona’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Government spokesperson Abigail Valte said, “We do not support any discrimination,” but did not comment on the resignation call.
— compiled by Larry Nichols