By Rex Wockner – Wockner News Service

Senegal police use tear gas to break up anti-gay protests near Grande Mosque
Police tear-gassed anti-gay protesters outside the Grande Mosque in Dakar, Senegal, Feb. 15.

The rock-throwing demonstrators were protesting the release from custody of 10 men who were jailed after the sensationalistic magazine Icône published photos of an alleged gay wedding the men supposedly had attended.

The protesters set trash piles on fire, blocked streets and chanted, "We don’t want homosexuals" and "God is great."

Penal Code Article 319 punishes homosexual acts with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, right, shakes hands with a Red Cross volunteer at a Red Cross shelter near Los Cristianos on Tenerife Island, in the Spanish Canary Islands in March 2006. De la Vega recently denied long-standing rumors that she is a lesbian and has married a female television reporter. – Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Spanish deputy prime minister denies longstanding rumors of gay marriage
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega has denied Internet rumors that she’s a lesbian and secretly got married to a well-known female sportscaster.

"Man, finally someone asks me!" she told El Mundo newspaper’s Sunday magazine Feb. 24, four years after the rumors began circulating.

"Well, look, no," she said. "It’s a rumor about me that they’ve invented to do damage, using something that hear me I absolutely respect. I have no homophobia. But I’m not homosexual! If I were, I would have no problem in saying so. But it’s just that I’m not!"

As for the TV sportscaster, "What’s up with that!" she exclaimed. "I don’t know her, we’ve never seen each other in our lives, and they have me married to her!"

Fernández de la Vega, who also is the government’s spokesperson, said that although her mother always told her she had to get married, she is extremely happy "being alone on my sofa, relaxing with a little music, without hearing anybody, without telephones ringing!"

90 cops visit bar in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa; gays protest action
Some 90 police officers descended on the Mexico City gay bar Neón in the gay Zona Rosa district Feb. 16.

A city official called the incident a "verification visit" to check for irregularities and the presence of minors.

Seven patrons were detained for alleged drug-dealing.

Other patrons said some of the officers behaved violently during the visit.

About 200 gay people protested outside in Plaza del Ángel during the raid, according to a NotieSe report.

In recent months, eight gay bars have been shut down in the Zona Rosa by city officials from the Cuauhtémoc borough: Boy Bar, Colors, Crazy, Lipstick, Liverpool 100, Oasis, The Pussi and VIP, NotieSe said.

Activists have blamed the closures on the local government district’s "homophobia."

More Egyptian men arrested in crackdown on HIV-positive people
Four more men have been arrested in Cairo on suspicion of being HIV-positive, bringing the number of detainees to 12, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Feb. 15.

Four of the first eight arrestees have been convicted of "habitual practice of debauchery" and imprisoned for one year.

The other eight remain in custody pending filing of charges.

All 12 were force-tested for HIV and those reported to be positive are kept handcuffed to hospital beds for 23 hours a day.

"In their misguided attempt to apply Egypt’s unjust law on homosexual conduct, authorities are carrying on a crackdown against people living with HIV/AIDS," said Rebecca Schleifer of HRW’s HIV program.

"This not only violates the most basic rights of people living with HIV, it also threatens public health by making it dangerous for anyone to seek information about HIV prevention or treatment."

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has repeatedly refused to allow organizers to stage a gay Pride parade in the Russian city, and has called such events "satanic."

Moscow Pride organizers appeal again to European court
Moscow Pride organizers have filed suit in the European Court of Human Rights over Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s ban of last year’s aborted gay Pride parade.

A similar suit over Luzhkov’s ban on the first attempted parade in 2006 is already pending before the court.

Pride organizers say the bans violate Russia’s Constitution and several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. They seek $1.5 million in compensation.

"It is not possible to calculate all the sufferings created by the Moscow and Russian authorities when they banned Pride," said chief organizer Nikolai Alekseev. "That is the reason for such a heavy compensation which we are claiming."

A third attempt at a Pride parade is planned for May 31.

Luzhkov has called gay Pride parades "satanic" and said he never will allow one to take place.

Activists did not attempt to defy the ban last year. Instead, they gathered near City Hall on Pride day to protest the ban. A mêlée ensued and several gays and lesbians were beaten and bloodied by Christian and ultra-nationalist protesters while hundreds of police officers stood by and watched.

Thirty-one people were detained, including members of European parliaments who had traveled to Moscow to support the pride events.

The 2006 Pride activities met the same fate. After Luzhkov banned the parade, organizers instead tried to lay flowers at the Kremlin’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a rally near City Hall. Participants in both small events were violently attacked by neofascists, skinheads, Christians and riot police, and the Pride organizers were arrested. The charges were later dropped.

N. Ireland sports minister: Gay sports teams are exclusionary
The Northern Ireland government’s sports minister, Edwin Poots, said Feb. 19 that he doesn’t understand why gays need their own sports teams.

Discussing Belfast’s Ulster Titans, a gay rugby team, Poots said: "I just cannot fathom why people see the necessity to develop an apartheid in sport.

"It would be unacceptable to produce an all-black rugby team or an all-white team or an all-Chinese team. To me, it’s equally unacceptable to produce an all-homosexual rugby team, and I find it remarkable that people who talk so much about inclusivity and about having an equal role in society would then go down the route of exclusion."

A spokesman for the team, Declan Lavery, said the Titans do not discriminate based on sexual orientation and, in fact, have some straight players.

"Yes, it was primarily something established as a vehicle for gay people but that doesn’t mean somebody who isn’t gay can’t join; everyone is welcome," Lavery said.

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