Belgium’s lower house approves adoption rights for gay couples
The lower house of Parliament in Belgium, one of five countries where gay couples can get married, voted 77 to 62 on Dec. 2 to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
The bill now moves to the Senate where it should see action in March.
“There are already a lot of children who live with homosexual couples,” Justice Committee Chairman Fons Borginon told the Reuters news agency. “We want them to have two parents with whom they have full, legal rights.”
In general, gay adoption in the European Union is more controversial and less available than in the United States.
Swedish Lutheran ministers rebel against plan to bless gay couples
More than 800 of the 5,000 active and retired ministers in Sweden’s state-funded Lutheran church have signed a declaration promising to resist the Church Assembly’s decision to offer blessings to same-sex couples who have registered their partnership.
The Church of Sweden Assembly voted 160 to 81 in favor of the policy Oct. 26.
“We are bound by the promises of faithfulness to Holy Scripture and to the confession of the church which we made at our ordination,” the 863 preachers declared. “We therefore totally reject this order.”
Sweden has offered registered partnerships which bestow nearly every right and obligation of marriage since 1995.
Sweden’s Supreme Court clears Pentecostal “‘hate speech’ pastor
A Pentecostal pastor who had been convicted of a hate crime for delivering an anti-gay sermon was cleared by Sweden’s Supreme Court Nov. 29.
Preaching in 2003, Ake Green, 64, called homosexuality “a deep cancerous tumor on the body of society” that leads to bestiality and pedophilia. A district court convicted Green of “agitation against a group” and sentenced him to a month in prison.
The Supreme Court upheld the Gota Court of Appeal’s reversal of the original decision, agreeing that Green’s homily was protected by freedom-of-speech and religion provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Canada’s human rights court orders Knights of Columbus to pay lesbians
The Human Rights Tribunal in Canada’s British Columbia ruled against the Knights of Columbus Nov. 28, saying it injured the dignity, feelings and self-respect of a lesbian couple by canceling their reservation to hold their wedding reception in the Knights of Columbus hall in the town of Port Coquitlam.
Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith were turned away once the organization’s leaders became aware of the nature of the event. They already had sent out their wedding invitations.
The group must pay the women the equivalent of $1,720 in U.S. money, plus expenses.
The tribunal said the group does have a general right, under religious-freedom guarantees, to refuse to rent their hall to gay people, but “that right is not absolute.” The organization should have met with the women, apologized for the cancellation, reimbursed them for their costs, and helped them find a new location, the tribunal said.
Not to have done so offended the women’s “inherent dignity” and amounted to “discrimination,” the judges said.
George Michael, Dallas partner plan civil partnership in United Kingdom
George Michael and longtime partner Kenny Goss, of Dallas, will say vows under the United Kingdom’s new Civil Partnership Act, which took effect this month.
“I’m not very romantic about it, to be honest,” Michael told reporters. “I think Kenny probably would be if I let him, but it’s just not me. … We want to do it, just in case. You never know, I could get hit by a bus and the poor man could have nothing.”
The Partnership Act became law Dec. 5 and normal registrations begin Dec. 21 the day the first couples who filled out paperwork will have completed the mandatory waiting period between announcing their intentions and tying the knot.
Registered partners will receive all the rights and obligations of marriage.
Australian Capital Territory plans to recognize gay couples’ unions
The government of the Australian Capital Territory will introduce civil-union legislation in March to recognize and protect same-sex couples.
A spokesman said the law would grant gay couples all the rights and responsibilities of matrimony.
At present, Tasmania is the only Australian state or territory with similar
Danish ambassador reveals he slept with partner on first date
Denmark’s openly gay ambassador to Israel, Carsten Damsgaard, told the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that he slept with his partner of more than 12 years, Esben Karmark, the night they met.
“I saw a very attractive man, we started to talk, and we knew immediately that that was that,” Damsgaard said Nov. 30. “Our internal worlds were identical. We read the same books. We saw the same films. We spoke in a similar way. I was 37. I had had earlier relationships, so I could compare, but he was only 25, and in any case he had something adult [about him], and he saw he was like me.
“We went to bed on the first night, which I didn’t always do, and I don’t recommend that everyone have sex on the first night, but in our case it was the correct thing to do. Since then, essentially, we haven’t been apart.”
Damsgaard said he and Karmark are happy in Israel, citing “the unmediated warmth, the temperament, the climate, the sea, the smells, the fruits and vegetables.”
“The young men here also seem excellent,” he said. “It is true that Israel is a place where everyone interferes with your private space, but this does not really bother me. I come from a very restrained culture, and I am not seeking to duplicate it everywhere I go.
“Tel Aviv is a very cosmopolitan city with great nightlife, terrific restaurants, beautiful people,” Damsgaard added. “A regular party town. It’s more of an international city than many places in Europe. It’s the most exciting place I’ve ever been.”
Gay Italian clergy respond to new Vatican eligibility rules for priests
A group of gay Italian clergy have expressed their dismay about the new Vatican policy statement banning candidates with “deep-seated” homosexual feelings from the priesthood, according to the Associated Press.
The clergy responded to the policy in an open letter posted on the Web site of the Italian Catholic news agency, Adista. Last month, the news agency leaked the Vatican instruction a week before its scheduled release by the Holy See.
The letter was signed by 39 priests, 26 diocesans and 13 other members of religious orders, according to Adista. But the names of the individuals were not posted on the Web site.
“We don’t have more problems living chastely than heterosexuals do, because homosexuality is not a synonym of incontinence, nor of uncontrollable urges,” the letter read.
“We are not sick with sex and our homosexual tendency has not damaged our psychic health.”
The letter also noted that the authors were Catholic priests with homosexual tendencies who had been good priests.
“We consider our homosexuality to be wealth, because it helps us to share the marginalization and suffering of many people.”
Brazilian city to require separate facilities for transgender residents
The Nova Iguacu City Council has passed an ordinance requiring nightclubs, shopping malls, movie theaters and large restaurants to provide a third type of bathroom for transgender people, according to the Associated Press.
“A lot of lawmakers didn’t want to deal with this issue, but it’s a serious problem in society,” said Carlos Eduardo Moreira, a council member who sponsored the bill. “It’s a way to put an end to prejudice.”
Moreira said he got the idea when a dozen transgender people showed up for a samba show.
“It was a real problem,” Moreira said. “The women didn’t feel comfortable having them in the ladies’ room, and the men didn’t want them in their bathroom either.”
Moreira said there are about 28,000 transgender people living in Nova Iguacu, a city of about 800,000 on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
Business owners complained about the expense of adding extra bathrooms.
The issue has divided gay groups. Some said it could segregate gay people while others said it would address a real problem and open discussion about civil rights.
Mapplethorpe exhibition in Cuba may signal era of increasing tolerance
An exhibition in Havana of male nude photographs by deceased gay American artist Robert Mapplethorpe suggests a new tolerance is surfacing.
The “Sacred and Profane” exhibition at a gallery consists of 48 images spanning the artist’s career. However, it does not include what is considered to be his most provocative images.
“I never thought I would have this experience in Cuba, to see Mapplethorpe’s work firsthand,” said Ricardo Rodriguez, a 35-year-old photographer who visited the exhibition.
The surprise stems from the fact that Mapplethorpe was American, gay and controversial even in Cuba.