World Briefs

Posted on 21 Sep 2006 at 4:41pm
By Rex Wockner

Hong Kong appeals court upholds ruling striking down law against sodomy

The Hong Kong government lost an appeal Wednesday of a High Court ruling against a law that says men younger than 21 who engage in sodomy should be jailed for life.

A panel of three Court of Appeal judges upheld the original decision issued by the lower court in August 2005, the court’s ruling said.

The laws were first challenged by William Roy Leung, a then 20-year-old gay man who argued he should be able to have a loving relationship without the fear of imprisonment.

In last August’s ruling, High Court Judge Michael Hartmann sided with Leung, saying the laws against sodomy infringed on the rights of privacy and equality for gay men.

While gay men caught engaging in sodomy when either is under 21 face life imprisonment, heterosexual couples can legally have sex at age 16.

The government appealed the August ruling after it stirred an uproar among Christian groups, who have vigorously campaigned against gay sexual rights.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s appeal.

“At one stage, societal values dictated that buggery was some form of unnatural act, somehow to be condemned and certainly not condoned. These values have changed in Hong Kong,” Chief Judge Geoffrey Ma said in the judgment.

“I cannot see any justification for either the age limit of 21, or, in particular, for the different treatment of male homosexuals compared with heterosexuals,” Ma said.

Wednesday’s ruling does not erase the law the legislature would need to remove it from the statutes first but it does make it technically unenforceable, Vidler said.

Gay candidate leading in race for Quebec premier, according to poll

Openly gay Parti Qu?b?cois Leader Andr? Boisclair could be the next premier of the Canadian province of Quebec, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has reported.

A new poll found the PQ with a 5 percent lead over the currently ruling Liberals in the 2007 provincial election. The leader of the largest party in a provincial legislature is customarily appointed premier.

“The chances are good [I'll be premier],” Boisclair, 40, told Radio-Canada, “but I have to earn the confidence of people.”

If chosen, Boisclair has promised to push for a new referendum on Quebec independence. He told Radio-Canada he also hopes to change attitudes toward gay politicians.

Uruguay expected to legalize same-sex unions soon after bill passes in Senate

A civil-union bill passed Uruguay’s Senate Sept. 12 in a 25-2 vote. The gay-specific sections of the bill were voted on separately and passed 16-12.

The measure advanced to the House of Representatives where it is expected to pass easily.

Under the legislation, two people who have lived together for five years in a marriage-like relationship “whatever their sex, identity or sexual option may be” will automatically acquire the rights and obligations of a married couple.

They also could choose to officially register their relationship after five years.

The law is expected to be in force by the end of the year.

Canadian same-sex marriage expected to survive challenge by prime minister

Gay people apparently have little to fear this fall when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper engineers a promised vote in Parliament to determine if MPs want to undo Canada’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

For one thing, the Bloc Qu?b?cois and New Democratic parties have promised that all their members who total 79 of the 308 in the House of Commons will oppose the move.

And more than enough members of the Liberal and Conservative parties seem to feel that reopening the matter is not the best way to spend their time and energy.

The vote is expected to favor gays more strongly than the 158-133 vote on June 28, 2005, that legalized gay marriage in the first place.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that a majority of MPs will vote against reopening the issue of equal marriage,” said Gilles Marchildon, executive director of the national gay lobby group Egale. “A majority of Canadians want their MPs to move on. They don’t want him [Harper] to try and roll back the clock on equality.”

Beyond that, nine of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories already had legalized same-sex marriage by the time the federal Parliament did so. As a result, Harper and Parliament could undo same-sex marriage only in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Prince Edward Island unless they manage to utilize the never-used and widely reviled “notwithstanding clause,” which allows provinces or the federal government to enact temporary laws that contradict Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is considered to be very unlikely.

More than 10,000 same-sex couples have married in Canada since June 2003, when Ontario became the first province to redefine the institution.

The total includes many couples from the United States. There is no residency requirement for marriage in Canada and no waiting period after acquiring a license, except for a few days in the province of Quebec.

Elderly sisters in U.K. go to human rights court to seek partnership status

Two elderly sisters in Marlborough, England, have hauled the national government before the European Court of Human Rights demanding the same exemption from inheritance taxes that is granted to straight and gay spouses.

Joyce and Sybil Burden, ages 88 and 80 respectively, say dramatic increases in housing prices mean that if one of them dies, the other will have to sell the home they have shared for decades in order to pay the 40 percent inheritance tax. Their assets are valued at more than $534,788.

The sisters’ farm, on which they were born, and their house, which they built in 1965, are now worth $1.6 million.

“They [the government] are just hoping we die before we get to court,” Joyce told The Times. “But they don’t know how determined we are to see this through.”

Scottish Parliament OKs measure allowing gays, lesbians to adopt

A measure to allow gay and unmarried couples to adopt children cleared its first hurdle in the Scottish Parliament Sept. 14. The vote was 103-8.

The bill must pass through two additional stages, and Christian organizations and some members of Parliament have promised a vigorous battle against it.

The measure also would allow children who are not suitable for adoption to remain with a foster family indefinitely.

Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper outs 13 women as lesbians

Following up on its recent outing of 45 alleged gay men, the Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red Pepper outed 13 alleged lesbians on Sept. 8.

They include two boutique owners, a basketball player and the daughters of a former member of Parliament and a prominent sheik.

“To rid our motherland of the deadly vice, we are committed to exposing all the lesbos in the city,” the newspaper said, inviting readers to “send more names” of the “lesbin (sic) in your neighborhood.”

Activists said the outing campaigns will lead to loss of jobs, homes, family and friends.

Gay sex is illegal in Uganda under Penal Code articles 140, 141 and 143. The punishment for “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is up to life in prison.

In 1999, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said of gays: “These few individuals [who became known] were either ignored or speared and killed by their parents. They wouldn’t just go and wed another man publicly.”

He also said: “I have told the CID [Criminal Investigations Department] to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them. Even the Holy Bible spells it out clearly that God created Adam and Eve as wife and husband, but not men to marry fellow men.”

Editorial assistance by Bill Kelley

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 22, 2006.

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