Belgium swears in gay prime minister

Elio Di Rupo

Europe now officially has its second openly gay prime minister with the swearing in today of Elio Di Rupo as Belgium’s leader.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is not only Iceland’s first woman prime minister but also Europe’s first openly gay head of state.

News that Di Rupo is gay was overshadowed by the circumstances of his coming to power. Belgium had been without a government for 541 days. That is a record for a modern government and beat the previous record held by Cambodia (182 days).

He is the first French-speaking prime minister in that bilingual (French and Flemish) country in 30 years and the first socialist head of state in that country in almost 40 years.

When Di Rupo was first elected to Parliament, he was asked if he was gay. His answer was, “Yes. So what?” And that’s how most news accounts have been treating news of Europe’s first gay male prime minister — it isn’t being mentioned. Even U.S. press, such as this report from CBS News is ignoring his sexual orientation.

Belgium becomes the largest geographic area and the area with the largest population to have a gay head of state. Iceland only has 317,000 people. Belgium has more than 10 million.

Of LGBT politicians, Mayor Klaus Wowereit of Berlin, whose population is 3.1 million, moves down the list to No. 2 in number of people under his jurisdiction. Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, whose population is 2.1 million, moves down the list to No. 3.

—  David Taffet

Panic among Kenya’s gays after PM’s arrest threat

Remarks seen as setback to HIV/AIDS prevention efforts

TOM ODULA | Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — An official with Kenya’s largest gay rights organization said there is panic among its members following remarks made by Kenya’s prime minister that homosexuals should be arrested.

The office of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya received calls from concerned members, some of whom are HIV-positive and fear they will be arrested when they collect life-prolonging medicine from government clinics, board member Nguru Karugu said Monday, Nov. 29.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday said homosexuals who are found in the midst of sex acts will be arrested. Odinga’s spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that the prime minister was quoted out of context.

In an audio recording of Sunday’s speech heard by The Associated Press, the prime minister says in the Kenyan language of Kiswahili that “if a man is caught having sex with the other we jail them, or if a girl is caught with the other … we will jail them.” In the latter part of his statement he used profanity to explain lesbianism.

“We want a country that is clean, a clean way of doing thing has clean mannerisms … we do not want things to do with sodomy,” Odinga said.

Kenya’s laws prohibit “sex against the order of nature.” That charge is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Karugu said the prime minister’s remarks are big blow to Kenya’s efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. He said the government has included gays in its plans to combat the virus.

Civil rights activist Zawadi Nyongo called for a protest outside the prime minister’s office today.

Odinga’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango, said the prime minister was trying to convey how groups opposed to the country’s new constitution — which was adopted in August — used lies and scare tactics to get people to vote against it.

Onyango said the prime minister gave two examples of opposition propaganda that the new constitution would legalize gay marriage.

“He then added a rider that even if the constitution allowed gay marriages, census data showed there were more women than men in Kenya and people would naturally go for marriage with the opposite sex,” Onyango said. “The highlight on the alleged order for a crackdown completely missed the point.”

—  John Wright

U.N. votes to remove protection of gays, lesbians, transgenders from execution

The Bahamas thinks it’s OK to kill you.

In a 79-70 vote, the United Nations voted last week to remove LGBT people from a list of protected groups that have historically been targeted for genocide. Seventeen countries abstained and 26 countries were not present.

For the past 10 years, sexual orientation was included on the list of protected groups, which also includes members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities.

The motion to eliminate sexual orientation from the list was introduced by Benin, a small country in West Africa.

Most of the votes to remove sexual orientation from the list came from African and Muslim countries. However, enough votes came from the Western Hemisphere to pass the resolution. Some of the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are popular LGBT travel destinations.

The Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Lucia voted that it is OK to kill the LGBT community. While Jamaica has a poor record on LGBT rights, the Bahamas does not and their prime minister has said that homosexuality is not illegal and welcomed LGBT tourists.

Belize is a popular Central American tourist destination that also voted to kill gays.

After the earthquake, the LGBT community in Dallas organized the largest relief fundraising event in North Texas for Haiti. That country said thank you to the Dallas LGBT community by voting with the majority to kill gays.

South Africa was the first country in the world to include equality based on sexual orientation into its constitution. Same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa. That country voted for killing gay people.

Caribbean countries that are popular travel destinations and abstained were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Other popular gay travel destinations that abstained were Fiji and Thailand.

The United States condemned the motion and voted against it.

—  David Taffet