Police in Moscow detained about 40 people May 27 as a result of two pro-gay demonstrations, both met with Orthodox Christian counterprotests.
Gay activists assembled outside the city council building for a demonstration demanding the right to hold a Pride parade, and some fights broke out between them and the counter-protestors, The Associated Press reported. After police ordered the crowds to disperse, the gay group tried to hold a second protest at City Hall. Police broke it up and pushed about 40 people into police buses. Most were gay activists, including the well-known advocate Nikolai Alexeyev, but some were from the Christian group.
Moscow authorities have repeatedly denied permission for gay Pride parades. Former mayor Yuri Luzhkov called such events “satanic,” and current mayor Sergei Sobyanin has objected to them on the grounds that they would offend many Russians’ religious beliefs.
Alexeyev recently became the first person convicted under St. Petersburg’s new law against “gay propaganda” after he demonstrated at City Hall with a sign reading “Homosexuality is not a perversion.” The law essentially bans any public discussion of homosexuality, including Pride parades, and the Russian parliament is considering a similar law that would cover the whole nation.
Ontario Catholic schools balk at GSAs
A plan by the Ontario government that requires Catholic schools to allow antibullying clubs to use the term “gay-straight alliance” has sparked a clash between religious freedom and public funding of Catholic schools.
The dispute was fueled by legislation that would require Catholic schools to allow the antibullying clubs to be called gay-straight alliances if the students want to use that name. According to the newspaper, the Catholic school system receives about 33 percent of Ontario’s annual education budget, and Catholics are the only religious group to receive such public funding for their schools.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto and president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, issued a warning Monday about “the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of consciences.” The archbishop argued that trustees and principals should make the decision about what to call the clubs, not students.
Education Minister Laurel Broten introduced an amendment May 25 to the Liberal government’s antibullying bill that would strip school officials of their power to veto the club name “gay-straight alliance.” She arrived at the position after hearing from students who wanted to name their own clubs as they choose.
Marino Gazzola, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said that the legislation privileges antigay bullying over other forms of intimidation, and that the word gay is a “distraction.”
Broten argued that gay-straight alliance has become a generic term for all antibullying clubs. She said that cutting funding for schools that do not obey the law could be an option, according to the Globe and Mail.
The Tories said they would attempt to block the amendment.
Transgender activist wins election
Transgender model-actor-singer and activist Yollada “Nok” Suanyot has won election as the top financial officer in Thailand’s Nan province, making her the highest-ranking transgender politician in the nation.
Suanyot won election May 27, running as an independent against a candidate from the nation’s ruling Pheu Thai party, according to a Thai-language outlet cited by the Global Post news site.
Suanyot, a former beauty pageant winner, has been a photographic model and a member of the singing group Venus Flytrap, a Spice Girls-like act made up of transgender women. She also does commercial voiceovers and runs a jewelry business and a home-shopping TV channel. She is founder of the activist organization TransFemale Association of Thailand, which works for greater rights for transgender people, including public funding for gender-reassignment surgery.
“We barely have any rights at all at this point,” she told a Global Post interviewer shortly before the election. “Our genitalia is not recognized as female [even after surgery] so, if we’re jailed, we’re put in prison with the men. We can’t get proper health insurance. We can’t get married. We have problems traveling outside the country and trouble dealing with banks and government offices.”
Her gender identity, however, did not figure prominently in the campaign, she said. “As far as I can see, the people of Nan are believers in human rights,” she told the Global Post. “They examine my ability to develop the province more than my gender.”
President Mugabe: Homosexuality will ‘lead to extinction’
President Robert Mugabe has spoken out once more against homosexuality, saying it will kill off the human race and does not belong in Zimbabwe.
Speaking at a women’s HIV/AIDS and gender-rights conference May 24 in Harare, he said the “gay world” goes against nature, and male homosexuality takes away women’s traditional rights to be a mother.
“When God created Adam ... if Adam had desired a person like him it would not have made him any happier,” he said. “When a man says he wants to get married to another man, we in Zimbabwe don’t accept it. We can’t talk of women’s rights at all if we go in that direction. It will lead to extinction.”
The women’s rights meeting coincided with Amnesty International’s annual global-rights report, which cited concerns over “worsening discrimination in Africa over people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In October, two allegedly gay men were arrested in Harare after being attacked by a mob. After a court cleared them of engaging in homosexual acts, Mugabe’s party militants then repeatedly threatened violence against the men’s lawyers.
Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, arrived in Zimbabwe May 20 to assess human rights in the country. She said that decisive leadership was needed to create fairer laws concerning property rights for widows, sexual violence, marital rape, sex work and homosexuality.
Homosexuality is currently illegal in Zimbabwe: Laws passed in 2006 made it illegal for two people of the same sex to hold hands, hug, or kiss. The Censorship and Entertainments Control Act also stops citizens from importing, printing, publishing, distributing or selling any publication which is “indecent or obscene or is offensive or harmful to public morals or is likely to be contrary to public health.”
Mugabe, who has previously described same-sex partners as “worse than pigs and dogs,” has vowed not to allow gay rights to be included in a new constitution being drafted.
Brazil Senate committee OKs civil unions
A measure allowing same-sex civil unions passed its first legislative step in Brazil’s Congress, where it has lingered for 16 years.
The Human Rights committee in Brazil’s Senate approved a measure May 24 that would change law to say a civil union is between two people, without specifying gender. It doesn’t allow for same-sex marriage.
However, Brazil’s judiciary has already cleared the way for gay marriage in the nation, setting national precedent.
Last year, the top court approved civil unions for same-sex couples. State courts have since allowed those unions to become full marriages.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Marta Suplicy, who says legislators need to put into law what courts are already allowing.
The bill must pass other Senate committees before going to a full vote.
— compiled by Larry Nichols