By Rex Wockner – Wockner News Service

Ecuadorean president supports same-sex partnerships
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said March 29 that the government "will seek to grant certain guarantees to stable homosexual unions but without ever arriving at the point of marriage."

"Let’s be clear that the profoundly humanistic position of this government is to respect the intrinsic dignity of everyone, of every human being, independently of their creed, race, sexual preference," Correa said. "We will give certain guarantees to stable gay couples but matrimony will continue being reserved for a man, a woman and the family."

Correa also said: "Every person has dignity, that’s to say, one must respect a person independently of their sexual preference. Be careful not to deny employment to someone because of their sexual preference. That is discrimination, that is unconstitutional."

Costa Rica declares National Day Against Homophobia
Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Health Minister María Luisa Ávila have issued an executive decree designating May 17 as National Day Against Homophobia.

It states: "Public institutions must amply disseminate the objectives of this commemoration. They also must facilitate, promote and support activities directed at the eradication of homophobia."

May 17 is the day the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, in 1990.

Activists denounce prosecution of Ukrainian gay newspaper

The heads of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association wrote Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and other officials March 20 demanding that the public prosecutor in Kiev drop charges against the newspaper published by the gay community center Nash Mir.

The center is charged with distribution of pornography in violation of Article 301 of the Criminal Code.

"The government should ensure that notions such as public morality are not employed to restrict in a discriminatory manner any exercise of freedom of opinion and expression that affirms diverse sexual orientations or gender identities," said IGLHRC’s Paula Ettelbrick and ILGA’s Patricia Prendiville.

They said the case also violates the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which Ukraine is a signatory.

Men arrested for homosexual conduct in Iran
The arrest of more than 30 men attending a house party in Esfahán, Iran, signals renewed efforts by Iranian authorities to enforce morality codes, Human Rights Watch said March 28.

Sources said the raid took place Feb. 28-29 and that the men have been jailed since without access to lawyers and without being charged with a crime.

Police reportedly referred the men to a medical examiner to look for "evidence" they had engaged in gay sex.

Iranian law provides punishments up to death for penetrative sex between men. The last documented death sentences for consensual homosexual conduct were handed down in March 2005. It is not known whether they were carried out.

Iran is known to have executed several teens and men accused of engaging in sodomy, but in the cases that have been publicized in recent years the individuals were accused of other crimes as well, such as rape.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has said it suspects that other charges are tacked onto sodomy cases to prevent the public outrage that would accompany executions carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult gay sex. The group also has said it believes executions solely for gay sex are taking place out of the public eye.

But Human Rights Watch has said it cannot fully document any executions in Iran in recent years carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult gay sex, and that there is no evidence that charges of consensual homosexual conduct are converted to charges of rape in the judicial system.

Copenhagen OKs gay foster parents
In a first for Denmark, the city of Copenhagen has approved two gay couples as acceptable foster parents, the Copenhagen Post reported March 31.

The couples were placed on a list to offer homes to children removed from their own homes by government officials.

"We can’t guarantee that the two couples will be used as often as other couples," said Klaus Wilmann of the city’s Center for Foster Care. "But we feel that a family consisting of two men or two women can have the same beneficial qualities as any other."

Famously liberal Denmark, which in 1989 became the first country to pass a same-sex registered-partnership law, has nonetheless remained squeamish on issues involving gays and children.

A spokesman for the official Danish Council of Ethics denounced Copenhagen’s move as "supporting something abnormal."

Ireland finalizing civil partnership bill
Ireland’s government is putting the finishing touches on its civil partnership bill, the Irish Times reported April 1.

It will extend to registered same-sex couples the rights and obligations of marriage in areas such as property, social welfare, succession, alimony, pensions and taxes. Adoption rights will not be included.

Terminating a civil partnership will work the same as divorce: The partners will have to have lived apart for four of the past five years before they can formally split.

The bill also changes how the law treats cohabiting couples that have not entered into a civil partnership or marriage. If they lived together for at least three years (two years, if they have children) and then split, the partners could be on the hook for financial relief if they were economically dependent — in areas such as alimony, property and sharing of pensions.

A recent Lansdowne Market Research poll found that 58 percent of the Irish believe gay couples should have access to civil marriage, and another 26 percent think they should be allowed civil partnerships but denied marriage.

Euro court extends pension rights to gay couples
The European Court of Justice ruled April 1 that pension plans must pay out to surviving same-sex partners when the legal partnership is similar to marriage.

The ruling came in the case of Tadao Maruko v. Versorgungswerk der deutschen Bühnen, the pension plan for German theaters.

The plan had refused to pay Maruko his late partner’s pension, arguing that only married people were covered.

Editorial assistance by Bill Kelley and Adres Duque

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 11, 2008.

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