Cuban official supports gay marriage

Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto

Cuba’s culture minister, Abel Prieto, has come out in support of same-sex marriage, the Miami Herald reported Feb. 6.

"I think that marriage between lesbians, between homosexuals can be perfectly approved and that in Cuba that wouldn’t cause an earthquake or anything like that," Prieto, who is a member of the Politburo, told reporters after a screening of a new documentary about folk singer Silvio Rodríguez.

Prieto, 57, also is a member of the Council of State, Cuba’s governing body. The Herald noted that he is the only top government official with "shoulder-length hair."
Prieto’s statement is one of several pro-gay developments in Cuba in the past year.
In November, Mariela Castro Espín, director of National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), said her dad, Raúl Castro, supports letting open gays serve in the military. Raúl Castro is expected to take over as president of Cuba following his brother Fidel’s announcement this week that he will step down as president and as commander of the island nation’s military forces. Castro Espín also has said the island will begin offering sex-change operations.

In December, two Havana lesbians were symbolically married in CENESEX’s courtyard. Mónica, 19, and Elizabeth, 28, tied the knot before 60 friends and supporters in the first-ever same-sex union to receive support from a government agency.

The ceremony was filmed by students from the Cuban Higher Institute of Art.
And last July, the Roman Catholic vicar general of Havana, Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes García-Menocal, wrote that he supports "stable same-sex relationships" being "protected by civil laws."

"Contemporary Western society is no longer the same as that which arrived at present clarifications concerning marriage," Céspedes said.

Romania considers gay marriage ban
Romania’s parliament is considering defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Current law defines it as "between spouses."

A bill passed unanimously Feb. 4 by the Senate Judiciary Committee would change the law to read, "The marriage between a man and a woman is the basis of the family."

Human Rights Watch denounced the measure.

"There is no excuse for playing politics with families’ welfare," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of HRW’s LGBT Rights Program.

"These proposals not only deliberately discriminate against same-sex couples but threaten their families, including children. It is an insult to Romania’s achievements elsewhere in overcoming discrimination."

Swedish court: Lesbians can buy puppies
Lesbians must be allowed to buy dogs, a Stockholm appeals court affirmed Feb. 11.
A kennel owner in the Stockholm suburb of Värmdö, Anette Sjöholm, had refused to sell a puppy to a lesbian, Smila Bergström, because Sjöholm had read that transvestites are involved in animal pornography and she believed that made homosexuals untrustworthy.

The court unanimously rejected Sjöholm’s defense, as did a lower district court, according to a report in the Stockholm publication The Local.

Sjöholm must pay Bergström $3,085 in damages for discrimination and harassment, and reimburse $6,940 to the state Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation for its legal expenses.

U.N. turns down gay groups
The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations is again opposing and delaying gay groups’ requests for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

On Feb. 11, the committee recommended denial of, or deferred action on, the applications of Spain’s State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB); the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals (ABGLT); and the Dutch national gay organization COC (its former initials are now its full name).

"It was a shocking first experience at the U.N.," said Joyce Hamilton of COC, whose application, along with that of ABGLT, was deferred. "This blatant structural discrimination against LGBT organizations shows the need for a continued battle."

FELGTB’s application was recommended for rejection in a tie vote. Support for the application came from Colombia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Opposition came from Burundi, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and Sudan. Four nations abstained Angola, Guinea, India and Turkey and Cuba missed the vote.

"Even getting this negative recommendation was difficult in the NGO committee today," said FELGTB’s Toni Poveda. "Representatives of Egypt, Pakistan and Qatar constantly came up with additional questions for us and claimed that proceeding to a vote on whether or not to grant consultative status to the group before all questions are answered would constitute preferential treatment."

The negative recommendation actually puts FELGTB in a better position than COC and ABGLT.

"There is clearly a group of countries in this committee which insists on blocking the applications of LGBT groups from one session to another, preventing them to reach the full ECOSOC, where [this committee’s] position does not have a majority," said FELGTB’s Sylvia Jaén. "We were successful in overcoming this situation but unfortunately our Dutch and Brazilian friends were not."

Groups that have succeeded in achieving ECOSOC consultative status in recent years include the Swedish national gay group RFSL (its former initials are now its full name), Canada’s Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Québec, the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians, the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, International Wages Due Lesbians, Australia’s Coalition of Activist Lesbians, and the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

The status allows nongovernmental organizations some 2,900 in all to access U.N. meetings, deliver oral and written reports, contact country representatives and organize events.

Editorial assistance by Bill Kelley

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, February 22, 2008.
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