United Nations council rejects gay groups request for inclusion
The United Nations Economic and Social Council has rejected the applications for consultative status submitted by the International Lesbian and Gay Association and Denmark’s National Association for Gays and Lesbians.
The council’s Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations dismissed the requests Jan. 23 without even holding the customary hearing.
The applications were opposed by Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Sudan, the United States and Zimbabwe. Voting not to dismiss the applications were Chile, France, Germany, Peru and Romania. Abstaining were Colombia, India and Turkey. The Ivory Coast was not present for the vote.
“It is an absolute outrage that the United States has chosen to align itself with tyrants all in a sickening effort to smother the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Apparently Iran, which President Bush has deemed part of the “‘Axis of Evil,’ is a suitable partner when it comes to discriminating against gay people.”
The International Gay and Lesbian Association released a statement that said “the Bush Administration found fit to vote alongside countries they have considered international pariahs in all other contexts.”
And the group’s co-secretary general, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, said the council’s refusal to hold a hearing was a clear violation of due process and an attempt to discriminate against LGBT groups on procedural grounds.”
On Jan. 25, a coalition of 40 organizations, led by the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling “for an explanation of the vote which aligned the United States with governments that have long repressed the rights of sexual minorities.”
The International Gay and Lesbian Association had status from 1993 to 1994 but was stripped of it following a scandal, in which some of the international association’s member organizations were accused of not taking a strong enough stance against pedophilia.
Achieving consultative status is the only way nongovernmental organizations can participate in discussions among member states at the United Nations
Nearly 3,000 groups have the status.
Proposed Nigerian same-sex marriage ban would provide for punishment
The Nigerian government’s Federal Executive Council approved a measure banning same-sex marriage Jan. 17 and sent it to the National Assembly for consideration.
The proposal would punish with five years in prison anyone entering into a same-sex relationship or marriage. The same penalty would apply “if you aid or support in any way anybody of the same sex to contract a relationship or marriage,” said Justice Minister Bayo Ojo.
The measure also calls for a ban on gay organizations and rallies.
“In most cultures in Nigeria, same-sex relationships, sodomy and the likes of that is regarded as abominable,” Minister for Information and National Orientation Frank Nweke told the BBC.
Gay sex is already illegal nationwide and in several northern states ruled by Islamic Sharia law, it is punished with stoning.
Nigeria, population 130 million, is Africa’s most populous nation. The northern part of the country is mostly Islamic and the southern half is mostly Christian.
New Zealand bars men who have sex with men from donating sperm
Gay men in New Zealand cannot donate to sperm banks, local media reported in mid-January.
The policy persists even though the nation has a sperm shortage that forces women to wait up to two years for artificial insemination.
The Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee uses a lifestyle declaration to reject men who have had sex with men, arguing that they are at higher risk for infection with HIV and other diseases.
South African human rights agency advocates for gay blood donors
South Africa’s Human Rights Commission said Jan. 20 that gay men should not be automatically barred from donating blood.
“Everybody practicing unsafe, high-risk sex should be excluded from donating blood and a special emphasis should not be placed on the sexual activities of gay men,” said Commissioner Leon Wessels.
He said the South African National Blood Services should be taken to court if it refuses to change the policy.
According to several reports, black South African women may have a higher rate of HIV infection than white South African gay men.
British party official resigns after tabloid prints “‘rent boy’ allegations
An official of Britain’s opposition Liberal Democrats party resigned Jan. 21 after the News of the World tabloid reported that he had a relationship with a male prostitute in 2004.
Mark Oaten, who is married to a woman, said: “I have stood down as home affairs spokesman for the party. I would like to apologize for errors of judgment in personal behavior and for the embarrassment caused, firstly to my family but also to my friends, my constituents and my party.”
The newspaper said Oaten, 41, was a hypocrite because last year he spoke out against a male judge who was sacked for hiring so-called “rent boys.”
Australian tennis star comes out in gay newspaper interview
Australia’s most accomplished women’s doubles tennis player came out in the Australian gay newspaper Melbourne Community Voice Jan. 16.
Rennae Stubbs, 34, who has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, said she was inspired by U.S. basketball player Sheryl Swoopes’ coming out.
“When I read that I remember thinking, wow it would just be great to be out in the public eye just so I didn’t have to answer any questions carefully or worry about it any more, that I could do my job,” she told MCV.
“I thought maybe I can make a bit of a difference here and try and get the general public to think that their kids can look up to me and aspire to be me but I’m gay and it’s not a big deal.”
Norway debates ending Lutheranism as official religion after 450 years
Norway launched a debate Tuesday on separating church and state after more than 450 years of Lutheranism as the nation’s official religion.
Under the current system, the church is funded by the central government, which also employs its staff, including bishops and other clergy. This has led to conflicts, such as the government overriding the church in 2000 by appointing a clergyman living in a gay partnership, which was in line with secular anti-discrimination laws but against church policy.
A 20-member state-church panel recommended the separation by an 18-to-2 vote, although the earliest such a divorce could take place would be 2014. It would require a constitutional amendment approved by two successive parliaments.
“The government’s goal is to have an open an inclusive people’s church,” said Trond Gidske, minister of culture and churches.
About 86 percent of the country’s 4.6 million people are registered as members of the Church of Norway. Norwegians become listed as church members at birth and continue on the rolls unless they request removal so the figure does not represent how many are devout or even sporadic churchgoers.
Gidske said thousands of people and groups, including every congregation and city in Norway would be asked to comment on the panel’s report.
Lutheranism became Norway’s official religion in 1537 by royal decree.
Denmark has a similar Lutheran state church system, while Sweden ended its state church system in January 2000.
Cayman Islands welcomes gay cruise despite protests by Christian ministers
The Cayman Islands government said Jan. 27 that it would not prevent the arrival of a cruise ship chartered by a gay tour group despite protests from a Christian ministers organization and others in the British Caribbean territory.
Kurt Tibbetts, the top elected official in the Caymans, said an anti-discrimination policy adopted in 2001 bars it from blocking the gay tour group as the territory did to another ship in 1998.
“We are confident that we can expect from all visitors the highest standards of decorum and conduct, just as we respect their right of choice and privacy,” Tibbetts said.
The Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas, chartered by Atlantis Events of West Hollywood, Calif., was due to arrive on Jan. 31 on the second stop of what it called “The Largest Gay Cruise in History II.”
After the gay cruise was prevented from stopping in the Cayman Islands in 1998 GLBT rights groups around the world called for a boycott of the islands, which are known for their pristine beaches and clear waters that are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Many business people and other residents in the Cayman Islands were outraged by the government’s decision. Numerous gay people live in the Cayman Islands, but they live mostly semi-closeted lives. Gay men and lesbians also vacation in the Cayman Islands and own vacation homes there.
There are no gay bars, but some are known for attracting gay customers.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 3, 2006