International News

Mardi Gras refuses gay animal-rights group

An animal-rights group has claimed it was denied a float at this year’s Sydney Mardi Gras.

Animal Liberation NSW said it was deemed “not queer enough” to warrant a place in the festival, which kicks off later this month.

ALNSW communications manager Lynda Stoner said the group had even changed its name to Sydney Queers for Animal Rights but was again rejected by festival organizers. She said she had submitted her group’s application two weeks before the closing date but organizers left a voicemail telling her the group did not fit entry criteria.

The group has marched with the parade for years and Stoner said that most participants who wanted to join this year were gay. She added that companies such as ANZ Bank and IKEA were allowed floats, despite not being 100-percent gay.

“We feel marginalized and discriminated against, and that’s really quite distressing, especially coming from Mardi Gras, which is all about making a stand against discrimination,” Stoner said. “We’re really, really disappointed.”

New Mardi Gras co-chair Steph Sands declined to comment.

Malawi gay-rights backer jailed

A Malawi man was arrested recently for putting up posters supporting homosexuality.

Twenty-one-year-old Peter Sawali was putting up posters that read, “Gay Rights Are Human Rights.”

Homosexuality is illegal in the southern African nation and punishable by prison time and hard labor.

“Basically, he was promoting a criminal act,” said police spokesperson Davie Chingwalu in a statement. “This is what this is all about.”

Police are continuing to investigate because Sawali said he was not acting alone.

If convicted, Sawali would face up to five months in prison. Those found guilty of homosexuality in Malawi face up to 14 years in jail.

Brazil general says gays shouldn’t lead

A Brazilian general’s comment that gay soldiers should not be allowed to command troops sparked fierce criticism from gay-rights groups and a national lawyers’ organization that champions human rights.

Gen. Raymundo Nonato told a Senate commission considering his appointment to head Brazil’s top military court Feb. 3 that while gay soldiers won’t be ousted if they don’t reveal their homosexuality, a gay soldier in a command position “will not be obeyed by his subordinates in combat situations.”

The Senate commission, which had asked Nonato for his views on gays, unanimously approved his appointment.

Sen. Eduardo Suplicy of the ruling Workers’ Party voted in favor of Nonato, but said Feb. 4 that he would ask the full Senate to suspend a confirmation vote until the general can be called back for more questioning.

Brazilian gay-rights organizations and the Brazilian Bar Association said Nonato’s comments made him unfit for the job as military court chief.

“It’s sad that this type of discrimination still exists in the armed forces,” said bar association president Ophir Cavalcante. “The defense of the country must be performed by men and women who are prepared and trained, independently of each person’s sexual orientation.”

Brazil is generally more tolerant of homosexuality than other Latin-American countries, but discrimination still exists.

São Paulo holds the planet’s largest gay parade every year, with millions participating.

Gay British couples win French rights

British civil partners living in France are now entitled to the same tax and inheritance benefits as their French counterparts.

Since August 2007, French couples in a Pacte Civil de Solidarité have had the same rights in relation to tax and inheritance laws as married couples.

However, due to a legal anomaly, British civil partnerships were not recognized under French law, meaning civil partners living in France were liable for a 60-percent inheritance tax and were treated like any other unmarried couple.

Ministers recently announced that British civil partnerships are recognized as equal to PACs, and reimbursements will be made to individuals who have made undue tax payments since August 2007.

South West Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson helped secure the changes after two of his former constituents contacted him to complain about the anomaly.

“Up until now, the practicality of French law has meant that British civil partners living in France would have to dissolve their partnership and enter into a PAC in order to secure the same rights as French couples,” he said. “This violated the idea of European citizenship and equality, and something had to be done.”

French PACs are available to both opposite- and same-sex couples.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].