3rd Latvian gay Pride runs smoothly
Gay Pride in Riga, Latvia, held June 3, finally went smoothly this year.
This year, armed with a court ruling that a 2006 ban on the event was unconstitutional, more than 500 LGBT people marched around a fenced-in park under heavy police protection, dodging only a paint bomb, an ice cream cone and a few firecrackers.
City police and riot police outnumbered the marchers and the 100 anti-gay demonstrators.
Marchers included dignitaries from Sweden and Germany and activists from those countries and Great Britain.
In 2005, the first year, 150 marchers were heavily outnumbered by about 1,000 anti-gay protesters who hurled insults, bottles and rotten eggs. They also blocked the street and forced the parade to be rerouted. In 2006, the City Council banned the parade so organizers held a religious service at a church and conducted meetings at a hotel. The attendees were attacked by Christian, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi protesters who pelted them with rotten food and feces.
Transgender becomes Cambridge mayor
The new mayor of Cambridge, England, is a male-to-female transgender person, and so is her female partner.
Liberal Democrat Jenny Bailey, 45, was appointed by fellow City Council members May 24. Her partner, Jennifer Liddle, 49, became “mayoress.”
“People can take me as a role model if they want,” Bailey told The Times. “But for transgender people, all we want is to disappear and become normal, so I don’t want to let it define me.”
Bailey has two children, ages 18 and 20, from when she lived as a man and was married to a woman. Both she and her partner had sex-change surgery in their 30s. The couple chose to go public about being a transgender after a local reporter expressed interest in writing about it, they said in a report published by The Telegraph.
Japan’s opposition party picks lesbian
Japan’s largest opposition party has selected lesbian Kanako Otsuji as a proportional representation candidate for the National Diets House of Councilors, the upper house of parliament.
If she wins, Otsuji will become Japan’s first openly gay MP.
Until April, Otsuji was an independent member o the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, to which she was elected at age 28. While in office, she worked successfully to open Osaka public housing to same-sex couples.
Otsuji came out publicly at Tokyo’s 2005 gay Pride parade. She later published an autobiography called “Coming Out: A Journey for Finding Your True Self.”
Gays in New Delhi stage 10-day festival
Hundreds of gays and lesbians took part in New Delhi’s 10-day “Nigah QueerFest “’07” that began May 26 with a film night.
Organizers said the festival was a celebration of gayness and a protest against Penal Code Section 377, the law that criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” under threat of 10 years in prison.
A case against Section 377 which is not usually enforced but is used to harass and discriminate against LGBT people has been moving slowly through the court system for several years.
Other QueerFest events included seminars, photo exhibits, performances and a candlelight vigil.
Study says 25 countries block Web sites
A study by the OpenNet Initiative has found 25 countries that block access to Web sites based on political or social reasons.
Gay sites are censored in Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, along with porn and gambling sites, the study found.
Countries that target political sites include China, Iran, Myanmar, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam.
South Korea only blocks information about North Korea.
Blocking usually can be circumvented by savvy Net users using proxy servers or special software.
The research was carried out via volunteers in the nations being tested.
Council head criticizes European leaders
Terry Davis, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, has spoken out against some European countries and their leaders, saying “Europe if often more tolerant of homophobes than of their victims.”
“Sexual orientation will no longer get you jailed, but the bigots in several European countries are free to speak and act on their homophobic beliefs without any fear of sanction from the authorities,” Davis said in an opinion piece he wrote for the May 12 issue of New Europe.
“Very often, the officials themselves mayors, parliamentarians and even ministers will be the first to voice and promote homophobic ideas,” he said.
Davis said fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights must be defended with “conviction, perseverance and force” and “those who discriminate against gays and lesbians are breaking the law.”
Davis said if countries “continue to look the other way an outburst of homophobic violence is only a matter of time.”
The Council of Europe was founded in 1949.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 8, 2007.