October 31, 2014

Groups Slam Singapore Court on Anti gay Ruling

Pro-democracy protesters wearing protective gear stand near a barricade in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong, on October  2014/AFP

Gay rights groups on Thursday slammed a decision by Singapore’s top court to uphold a colonial-era law criminalizing sex between men and urged parliament to strike down the legislation.

Local activists said they were "greatly shocked and disappointed'' by the decision of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday which said that the law is constitutional and that it was up to parliament to repeal it.
“While we appreciate the court's position that it cannot assist in providing a judicial remedy to what it views as a legislative issue, we cannot accept its narrow interpretation of the constitution in this regard,'' said a statement signed by 14 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights groups in the city-state.

Among the signatories was Pink Dot Sg, which organizes an annual pro-gay rights rally that drew over 20,000 people this year.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal reiterated rulings by lower courts that it was up to parliament to repeal the provision in the penal code, known as Section 377A.

It said that under the constitution, matters of social policy ``were outside the remit of the court'' and must be addressed by the elected legislature, responding to challenges to the law by two separate gay appellants.
The gay-rights groups said Section 377A "gives carte blanche for discrimination and reinforces prejudice, leading to censorship in the media and the aggravation of negative stereotypes'' of the LGBT community.
“In view of the court's stance, we call on parliament to demonstrate true leadership and do the right thing by nullifying this crippling piece of legislation,'' they said.

The law, first introduced by British colonial administrators in 1938, is not actively enforced by authorities. It carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for male homosexual acts.
The government has said however that the provision should stay on the books because most Singaporeans are conservative and do not accept homosexuality.
A scientific survey conducted by researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in 2010 and published last year found Singaporeans' views towards homosexuality gradually becoming more positive compared to attitudes in 2005. 
The LGBT rights movement in the wealthy city-state has grown steadily in recent years, helped by changing social norms among the younger generation and a large influx of tourists and expatriates. 

In a separate statement, international rights group Human Rights Watch urged the Singapore government to follow in the footsteps of other Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand in abolishing archaic laws inherited from colonial rule. 

“Singapore should recognize that its arbitrary restrictions on human sexuality affect not only Singaporeans, but everyone wanting to visit, work, or study in Singapore,’' said Boris Dittrich, the group's LGBT rights advocacy director. --AFP/HKong   

There is Plenty of Outrage in Europe towards Russia, Ukraine and a France in Silence

A young girl was one of but a handful of participants in a demonstration in Saint-Nazaire in June against the sale of French-built Mistral warships to Russia.
A young girl was one of but a handful of participants in a demonstration in Saint-Nazaire in June against the sale of French-built Mistral warships to Russia.

Bernard Grua, a financial auditor and amateur photographer from the Brittany region of northwest France, was never interested in activism. 
But that changed this year, when he watched with dismay as his government moved forward with plans to deliver two Mistral warships to Russia despite the Kremlin's intervention in Ukraine. 
Since then, Grua, 52, has helped organize global demonstrations against the Mistral sale -- including a fresh round of protests on September 7 that will proceed as planned despite a move by French President Francois Hollande to postpone a final decision on whether to deliver the ships.
"When you look at Putin's politics, you understand that this man is really showing aggressive behavior, and we were going to deliver the best tool to support his new aggressions," says Grua, a former naval officer with expert knowledge of the Mistrals, massive helicopter carriers built specifically for amphibious land invasions.   
"It's a big issue not only for Ukraine but also for Georgia, Moldova, Romania, and the Baltic countries," he says.
If Russia continues to build its naval capabilities, he adds, "it could also be very, very serious for Western European countries." 
In a summer of heated European protests, however, the conflict in eastern Ukraine -- where Russian troops have joined separatist rebels in fighting Ukrainian troops -- has attracted barely a flicker of public attention.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators spilled onto the streets of England, France, and Germany to protest Israel's recent bombardment of Gaza, with a record 45,000 people gathering for a single protest in London on August 26. More than 6,000 demonstrators turned out in Berlin on August 30 to call for greater protection from federal surveillance. 
Grua's anti-Mistral protests, by contrast, have drawn several dozen people at most. Individual protests against Russian actions in Ukraine have drawn even fewer. A demonstration held in Newport, Wales, to coincide with the September 4-5 NATO summit was sparsely attended, despite the summit’s focus on Ukraine. 
Fear, Resentment 
Alina Polyakova, a sociologist and researcher with the University of Bern, says she's been dismayed by the relative silence on Ukraine, a conflict that has coincided with a rise in European far-right politics as well as a resonant series of anniversaries tied to both World War I and World War II.
"It's been to me very disappointing to see the lack of protests and the lack of outrage over Russian intervention in Ukraine," says Polyakova, who documents growing ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the European far right in the latest issue of "World Affairs" journal. "I think it comes from a fear -- given Europe's history and the new wars of the 20th century -- of getting engaged in a long, drawn-out military conflict with a military power like Russia. We don't see that kind of fear when it comes to the Israeli-Gaza conflict."
Other observers suggest that both the pro-Palestinian protests and the relative dearth of concern over Ukraine reflect a larger trend -- growing European disaffection with the United States. 
"When you look at Putin's politics, you understand that this man is really showing aggressive behavior, and we were going to deliver the best tool to support his new aggressions," says Bernard Grua, a former French naval officer.
"When you look at Putin's politics, you understand that this man is really showing aggressive behavior, and we were going to deliver the best tool to support his new aggressions," says Bernard Grua, a former French naval officer.
Dimitri Halby, a Normandy-born computer engineer helping to coordinate the Mistral protests, says he grew up listening to neighbors still embittered by the Allied bombing of his city in the waning days of World War II, when many Nazi occupiers had already withdrawn. Even now, he says, many French instinctually blame Washington for everything -- including the current conflict in Ukraine. 
"What's happening in Ukraine, they don't see it as something really Ukrainian, for some reason. Maybe because of Russian propaganda," says Halby, 39, who now lives in Ireland with his Ukrainian-born wife. "But the thing is, they more or less see it as a big fight between the U.S. and Russia. So they forget that Ukrainian people and Ukraine are in the middle, and they forget that the country is fighting for itself and its survival. And when you talk about what's happening, very often some French people will say the real aggressor in all the mess that's going on in the world is the U.S."
Trump Card
Fear and memories aside, analysts admit it is Russia's formidable hold over the European economy that keeps most objections at bay. Despite the strong anti-Russian rhetoric coming out of the Wales summit, most NATO leaders are ultimately driven by pragmatic concerns heightened by a sluggish economic recovery and Europe's dependence on Russia for one-third of its gas supplies. 
Dimitri Halby and his wife, Oksana, are helping to coordinate global protests against the sale of Mistral warships to Russia. They are shown here participating in Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in February.
Dimitri Halby and his wife, Oksana, are helping to coordinate global protests against the sale of Mistral warships to Russia. They are shown here participating in Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in February.
Even the suggestion of Russian involvement in the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over rebel-held Ukraine may not be enough to raise a groundswell of opposition to the Kremlin. Former Dutch diplomat Barend ter Haar, whose country lost 193 of the 298 people killed in the crash, says "short-term" economic interests may continue to dominate decision-making in the Netherlands -- even if it has cooled many Dutch to Putin personally. 
"The disaster of the airplane has awakened many Dutch citizens to the fact that we cannot just take peace and stability for granted," says ter Haar, who recently argued  that an emphasis on "economic diplomacy" had weakened the Netherlands' influence over Russia.  
"Before the accident took place, there was some support for [Putin] because he is the type of the strong man, I would say, that some at least admire," he added, in a reference to far-right groups like the Party for Freedom, founded by anti-immigration lawmaker Geert Wilders. "But now after the plane accident -- and also because it's unclear, to say the least, to what extent he is responsible for what the [separatist] groups are doing -- nobody in the Netherlands would dare to defend him under the current political circumstances."  
Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators held mass rallies in London throughout the month of August.
Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators held mass rallies in London throughout the month of August.
In France, official criticism of Russia has been almost completely muted -- a silence many attribute to economic deals by powerful officials like far-right politician Philippe de Villiers, who recently met with Putin to finalize plans for "historical" theme parks in Crimea and Moscow -- and whose brother, Pierre, is chief of staff of the French Army. (Philippe's son, Guillaume, has sold and rented out luxury property on the French Riviera to more than two dozen Kremlin insiders.) 
Even Hollande's headline-making decision to delay the Mistral deliveries until a cease-fire and a political settlement are in place in Ukraine appear little more than a stalling tactic. 
Grua and other protesters believe that the first of the vessels, the "Vladivostok," may attempt to circumvent the delay and sail quietly to Russia this week during open-sea training exercises for the more than 400 Russian sailors currently based in the port of Saint-Nazaire.  
Protesters this weekend will call for the September 10 exercises to be canceled, for the $1.7 billion sale to be nullified, and for the Mistrals to be sold to a NATO member instead. Grua, who says his Saint-Nazaire protest will bring him face-to-face with the visiting Russian sailors, says he'll be satisfied if even a small, international crowd of protesters stands with him. 
"Size is not the problem," says Grua. "You can make a demonstration with 500 people in Paris; nobody will care. But to have European, Ukrainian, Georgian, Polish, French flags in front of Russian military people, well, you don't need 1,000 people. You just need a couple of people to say ‘Yes, we are here.'"
By Daisy Sindelar

Anglican Bishop says 1 in 10 Bishops is Gay yet the Church still fights Gay rights


A serving bishop has issued a stinging public denunciation of “duplicity and hypocrisy” in the Church of England over homosexuality – claiming that around as one in 10 of his fellow bishops could be secretly gay but unwilling to speak publicly. 
The Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, accused the current episcopate of preaching a 1950s “Janet and John” image of human relationships while adopting an “eyes wide shut” approach to homosexuality in its own ranks and the wider church. 
His remarks come in a new book published next week setting out what he sees as the theological case for a major reassessment of the Church’s stance on sexuality. 
In comments bound to infuriate traditionalists he rejects outright the idea that the Bible forbids gay marriage insisting that the Church’s official teaching is largely based on “our grandparents’ cultural dictates” rather than the teaching of Jesus. 
Dr Wilson also dismisses a recent order banning Anglican clergy from marrying their same-sex partners as unlawful despite what he calls as its “blustering menacing tone”. 

And he hits out at a “tiny clique of reactionary activists” who he says have effectively determined the Church’s position on the issue for decades and left it, in his opinion, out of touch with ordinary people. 
“To most English people under 40 a discussion of gay bishops or same-sex marriage feels as relevant and inviting as one about women being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia,” he jokes. 
The Church of England bans its clergy from taking part in same-sex marriage but permits them to be in civil partnerships – although they must claim to be celibate if they wish to become bishops. 
But Dr Wilson effectively accuses the episcopate of applying double standards. 
The book entitled “More Perfect Union?” is the first to commit to print rumours that a significant number of the Church’s serving bishops are themselves in gay relationships. 
“Many who have publicly resisted same-sex marriage also have a dog in the fight arising from personal experience. 
“This can arise from ambivalence or guilt about ways they have handled family members who have come out as gay, as well as their own sexualities. 
“Particular attention sometimes falls on one vulnerable group with especially complex needs – gay Church of England bishops.” 
Without naming any of his colleagues, he adds: “By 2014 there were said to be a dozen or so gay bishops. 
“By definition, these men are outstanding priests who have managed to navigate the complexities of a structurally homophobic institution well enough to become its iconic representatives. 
“They may well have a bigger investment than others in keeping the closet door tightly shut.” 
He goes on: “They have more on the line than some others. 
“They also have greater status and security, but some of them may end up among the last people able to understand the need for change and bring it about. 
“This can be expected to be the case especially for gay evangelical bishops, with their historically less well developed networks and support systems.” 
He goes on to single out the treatment of Dr Jeffery John, the openly gay but celibate cleric who was forced to stand aside from becoming a bishop because of his sexuality, as a turning point which helped “draw the bars firmly back across the inside of the episcopal closet door”. 
And he describes the tenure of Lord Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, as a disappointment for those supporting a more liberal stance. 
“It was hoped his learning and leadership would enable the Church to make the same kind of forward progress as other English public institutions at the time – unfortunately, the institution ate the man for breakfast,” he writes. 
Last night Dr Wilson said was preparing for a furious response from many in the church, in keeping with the reaction to previous remarks on his blog about the subject. 
“Initially you get an angry, hysterical response but it’s a bit like a baby burping up its dinner – once that’s gone there’s not much left and you can then have a reasonable discussion. 
“I think I’ll get a range of responses – my favourite response to something I put on my blog was a bishop who said ‘of course I agree with the more progressive things you say but if I said that I would be crucified’. 
“The answer to that, of course, is ‘well other people have been – it’s an occupational hazard.” 
He added: “We are in a muddle and we really do need to engage with the problem for the sake of everyone. 
“Jesus didn’t say anything about being gay, he did say an enormous amount about the professional guardians of the sacred who take themselves too seriously. 
“I think we need to take note of that really.”

England Foreign Secretary says Countries that ban gay sex violate International Law


Britain must make defending the rights of gay and lesbian people a key plank of its relations with other Commonwealth countries, the former Foreign Secretary William Hague has insisted. 
He said it was “shocking” that homosexuality is still illegal many countries with historic ties to the UK and argued that Britain must use what influence it has to press for change. 
His comments came as he addressed a reception in Parliament at which the annual PinkNews awards were presented. 
Mr Hague, who is leaving the Commons at the next election, said he was proud of Britain’s record on the issue during his four years as Foreign Secretary including putting pressure on countries such as Uganda over draconian new anti-homosexuality laws. 
But he said more must be done and accused countries which ban homosexual acts of breaking international law. 

“While we are making progress in Britain and elsewhere, the situation in many countries in the world is not only difficult, it is actually worsening,” he said. 
“It is completely incompatible with international human rights laws to make illegal consenting same-sex relations and to deny rights to people on the basis of their sexuality.” 
Homosexual acts are classed as a criminal offence in around 80 countries and territories around the world including many former British colonies. 
“One of my last acts as Foreign Secretary was to write to the Commonwealth Secretary General urging him to use his position to urge member states to live up to their responsibilities to promote the rights of their LGBT citizens,” he said. 
“It is shocking that homosexuality is still illegal in so many member states and it must be an important part of our relations with those countries to persuade them to do better.”
Mr Hague presented a “peer of the year” award to Lord Fowler, who served as Health Secretary under Margaret Thatcher for his work combating HIV and Aids. 
Speaking at a dinner following the awards, a serving Church of England bishop said he was “ashamed” of the church’s record on gay rights. 
The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham said the world would be a better place if Christians spent less time obsessing about the “minutiae of the Book of Leviticus”, which contains passages condemning homosexuality. 
Speaking as he prepared to say grace before the meal, he told guests: “I want to say how honoured and privileged I felt to be here tonight knowing that the institution that I represent has not got a glorious record in terms of its dealings with its own LGBT people and the community at large. 
“I am ashamed and I need to say that.”
Quoting a passage from the book of Micah, he added: “Doing justice, loving mercy walking humbly with God – if it was about that rather than some of the minutiae of the Book of Leviticus, perhaps the world would be a better place. 
“And I look forward to a day when frankly the institution I represent, the Church of England, would stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.”
He added: “Take it from me, the day will come when I promise that faith communities in this country will be very much more part of the solution than the problem.”
Benjamin Cohen, publisher of PinkNews said: "We were delighted when William Hague offered to use the PinkNews Awards to make his first major speech on gay rights. 
"The Foreign Office under his leadership radically altered its approach to LGBT issues placing gay rights at the heart of its human rights agenda. 
"Hague is a perfect example of a politician on a journey when it comes to gay rights - from the party leader who opposed the repeal of Section 28, to one of the proud sponsors of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act."
"The bishop spoke with honesty and from the heart, revealing the shame that he feels for the way that the Church of England has dealt with the issue of homosexuality. 
“We look forward to the day when the bishop's views are not a rarity in the world's great religions and instead before part of the mainstream reality."

A Rainbow Revolution with Republicans Having to be the Most Affected, No Election Wedge this time


It would have been unimaginable even a couple of years ago.

Rainbow Revolution
This is the first story in an occasional series on the changes in American attitudes about gays and gay marriage.
The most powerful Republican in Washington flew to San Diego this month to help raise money for an openly gay candidate for the House of Representatives.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wasn’t just trying to help elect a Republican. He was trying to help his party build a new image, and reach out to voters it had spent the last decade shunning. His decision to campaign for gay candidates was met with surprisingly nominal opposition, which he was able to brush aside quickly.

Little-noticed and making barely a stir, Boehner’s trip was a potent sign of a fundamental shift in the country and its politics.

After decades of solid opposition, a majority of Americans now support marriage between those of the same sex, would accept it if a child of theirs were gay and say it wouldn’t make a difference if a candidate for Congress were gay. The shift has come rapidly; it was just in 2013 that a majority first supported same sex marriage.

This change didn’t come from political leaders. Rather, it was driven by Americans themselves, a “rainbow revolution” propelled by a new generation coming of age in a new era with new attitudes, older people becoming more familiar with gays and lesbians in their families and communities, workplaces that welcome gays, changing messages in popular culture and new conversations in places of worship.

As people are changing their attitude, politics is changing in reaction.

Democrats who long opposed same-sex marriage – such as Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton – all have changed their position. Many Republicans as well have changed, some in their position, some in their approach.

The state Republican Party in Nevada dropped its opposition to same-sex marriage. Tea party icon Michele Bachmann said marriage wasn’t even an issue this election. “Boring,” she said. And just a decade after opposition to gay marriage helped Republican George W. Bush win re-election, his political guru said he could envision one of his party’s presidential hopefuls in 2016 supporting same-sex marriage.

There are still opponents, to be sure. A solid segment of America opposes same-sex marriage. The Republican Party is torn. Some lawmakers are refusing to allow couples to marry, even as an avalanche of court rulings say they can. Religions such as the Roman Catholic Church weigh changes, then back off.

But rapidly changing views on gays and lesbians, particularly marriage, are altering American politics this fall, perhaps for good.

Carla Jones, 59, a real estate agent from Orange County, Calif., is one who’s changed her mind. For her, it was realizing that sexual orientation is not a choice but rather something that a person is born with.

“We’re hard-wired, if you will, in our sexual preference,” she said. “Once I kind of understood that, then everything started to fall into place about same-sex marriage.” 

Impact is biggest among Republicans              

The impact on politics is most evident in the Republican Party.

A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate is running statewide TV ads in favor of same-sex marriage. A pair of openly gay Republicans – Carl DeMaio of California and Richard Tisei of Massachusetts – are running in competitive House races, both featuring ads with their partners, both backed by Boehner. At least eight Republican members of Congress have indicated their support for same-sex marriage. Leading the pack: Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who reversed his longtime opposition because his son is gay.

It’s a sign of where the country is and where voters are. No question.
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry
Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon who’s a Republican candidate in Oregon for the Senate, said she’d decided to air the TV ad featuring a gay man who successfully fought the state’s same-sex marriage ban so that voters would realize she represented all residents in Oregon, not just a segment of the population.

“The Republican Party is a big-tent party,” Wehby said. “We don’t have to be in lockstep on every issue.”

Former first lady Laura Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney support same-sex marriage. Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, served as official witnesses at the wedding of two women in September 2013.

Republicans in Nevada have dropped opposition to same-sex marriage from the state party’s platform, and others are pushing to do the same for the the national party’s platform in 2016.

“I think people should be able to do what they want to do. I don’t know why we would fight it,” said Mike Jenkins, 47, a contractor from Canton, Ga. “You can’t stop the millions of people from being together. They’re gonna be together if they want to be together, so why fight a simple marriage?”   

The shifting politics were reflected more broadly, and quickly, in the Democratic Party.

For years, Democratic leaders opposed same-sex marriage. But they, too, moved in the wake of public opinion.

Obama opposed same-sex marriage through his 2008 election, then said his thinking was evolving. In 2012, he changed his mind. He said he was influenced by his wife and young daughters.

Bill Clinton, who signed a 1996 law allowing states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that had taken place in other states, argued for its repeal last year.

Hillary Clinton said in March that she now supported same-sex marriage “personally, and as a matter of policy and law.” A slew of lawmakers followed suit, including nearly every Democratic senator.

“There’s a lot of stagnation across the board on every sort of policy advance. But this is one cause where things continue to move,” said Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, a group that’s pushing to secure same-sex marriage nationwide. “It’s a sign of where the country is and where voters are. No question.” 

It’s not an election issue this time

Unlike previous years, gay and lesbian issues, including same-sex marriage, have garnered little attention in elections this fall, even in the races where gay candidates are running.

In Maine, for example, where Democrat Mike Michaud could become the first openly gay governor in the nation, the central issue is his rival’s leadership style, not his own lifestyle.

“Yes, I am gay,” Michaud wrote in a guest column in the Bangor Daily News last November in response to rumors about his sexual orientation. “But why should it matter?”

This cycle could make an end to identity politics.
Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans
“This cycle could make an end to identity politics,” said Gregory T. Angelo, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, which calls itself the nation’s largest Republican organization advocating for equal rights for gays and lesbian.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., the first openly gay parent in Congress, said many Republicans didn’t want to talk about an issue on which they might not agree with a majority of Americans. “They’re running away,” he said.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, locked in a tough re-election battle, declared that the fight to oppose same-sex marriage had ended after the Supreme Court rejected the state’s appeal in October. “It’s over in Wisconsin,” he said.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, another potential 2016 hopeful, called the issue settled over the summer despite his personal opposition to same-sex marriage.


Maine voters talk about their opinions on same-sex marriage before a campaign event for Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Mike Michaud.
Eighty-three percent of adults said that whether someone was gay wouldn’t make a difference in whether they voted for that candidate, according to a recent McClatchy-Marist poll. That’s nearly double the 49 percent who felt that way when the Los Angeles Times asked them in 1985.

This may not yet change the internal workings of the Republican Party when it comes to primary contests. Polls find that Republicans still oppose same-sex marriage by more than than 2 to 1. Tea party supporters oppose it by nearly 3 to 1.

But it’s affecting general elections, in which candidates have to face voters who are in the middle.

John Feehery, a Republican political consultant and former congressional aide, said same-sex marriage wasn’t a “particularly good general election issue” for his party. “Republicans are trying to figure out how to expand the party,” he said.

Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, who’s lobbied against same-sex marriage for years, told reporters at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington that same-sex marriage isn’t an issue in this year’s elections. “In fact, it’s boring,” she said.

Republican consultant Karl Rove, who watched anti-same-sex-marriage amendments in 11 states boost turnout that also helped President George W. Bush in 2004, now says he can imagine a 2016 presidential hopeful from his party supporting same-sex marriage.

In the rare instances where same-sex marriage is being debated this year, the roles of the parties have been reversed. Instead of Republicans attacking Democrats on the issue and using state referendums on marriage to motivate voters to get to the polls, Democrats are attacking Republicans.

In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall launched a social media campaign against his Republican opponent for voting against a bill that would protect gays from discrimination. In Pennsylvania, Democrats started a petition opposing Republican Gov. Tom Corbett after he compared same-sex marriage to incest. And in Arizona, Democrats are criticizing Republican legislators who pushed through a bill allowing companies to deny service to gay customers based on religious beliefs.
This shift isn’t universal, however, as a large slice of America still opposes same-sex marriage.

Mario Salazar, 57, of Coral Gables, Fla., a sales director at a company in South Florida, said he always had – and always would – oppose same-sex marriage, though he had family and friends who were gay.

“The sanctity of marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Salazar, who grew up in Puerto Rico. “If somehow nature would allow same-sex couples to procreate a child after having sexual intercourse, then I would acknowledge and maybe come to terms with that idea. Until then, and according to my beliefs, I am totally against this new fad! What’s next? Marriage between humans and beasts?”

I’ll become an independent. I’ll start finding people that have guts to stand. I’m tired of this.
Mike Huckabee, former Republican Arkansas governor
Political groups and institutions that represent opponents are grappling for the right way to fight back – and to win general elections.

Several conservative groups – including the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, for example – pushed Boehner and party leaders to abandon gay candidates.

But the leaders balked, saying the party needs to be more welcoming to gays, women, young people and minorities after its losses in 2012 – and they pumped millions of dollars into the gay candidates’ races.

A number of lawmakers and groups have vowed to fight court decisions that paved the way for same-sex marriage in states.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he planned to introduce a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Supreme Court from striking down marriage laws.

“We should remain faithful to our moral heritage and never hesitate to defend it,” he said.

At least three states – Kansas, Montana and South Carolina – refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as they fight the court rulings.

“The state of Kansas has voted on this; the people of Kansas have voted on this,” Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said at a rally this month. “We need to keep pushing those issues and keep surging. . . . Surge forward into the election cycle.”

Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who’s considering another run for president in 2016, said that if the GOP didn’t fight same-sex marriage he’d leave the party.

“If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing, Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue. And go ahead and say abortion doesn’t matter, either,” Huckabee said on the American Family Association’s “Today’s Issues” radio show. “I’ll become an independent. I’ll start finding people that have guts to stand. I’m tired of this.”

Still, there are signs that even staunch opponents see the way the country is moving.

Victoria Cobb, the president of the Family Foundation, which opposes same-sex marriage in Virginia, said her group would shift some of its focus after the recent court decision allowing same-sex marriage in the state.

“We will work,” she said, “to ensure that while same-sex marriage is legal in Virginia, the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with the redefinition of marriage are treated equally and are not discriminated against in their religious practice, education, business or employment.”

Laura Corley of the Macon Telegraph, Caty Hirst of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald, and Samantha Ehlinger and Daniel Salazar contributed to this article. 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

October 30, 2014

In India Police Jails Gay Husband when Wife Turns him in


A man has been arrested in Bangalore after his wife realised one year into their marriage that he was gay and having relationships with men.
The identities of the Bangalore couple involved have not been made public.
Senior police officials describe the arrest, that uses Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), as a rare one.
The penal clause, from a 153-year-old British colonial law, makes gay sex punishable with life imprisonment. It has been criticised by activists.
Last December, India's Supreme Court overturned a high court verdict that had termed the archaic British law unconstitutional. 
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community and supporters attend the 5th Delhi Queer Pride parade in New Delhi on November 25, 2012. The Supreme Court has left it to Parliament to change the law governing homosexuality
Sandip Patil, deputy commissioner of police, Central Division, Bangalore, told BBC Hindi: "We think it is one of the first cases to come up under this section after the Supreme Court's verdict last year." 
The story of the 32-year-old engineer is a classic case of societal pressures hurting individuals to the point of causing trauma. 
He married his dentist wife in November 2013 but the couple did not live together for the first six months. He worked in Mysore and she worked in Bangalore. 
CCTV footage
Six months later, when he was transferred to Bangalore, the couple lived under the same roof but slept in different rooms, according to the police.
"The wife got suspicious about his behaviour because he did not have [a] physical relationship with her. She got more suspicious when she realised that her husband would return home with male friends in her absence," Mr Patil said.
"The wife fixed CCTV cameras in the house, collected evidence for unnatural sex and filed a complaint with the police. We have arrested him," he added.
National Akali Dal activists hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against an Indian court ruling to decriminalise gay sex in New Delhi on July 5, 2009Many religious and political groups have opposed decriminalisation of gay sex
A complaint of cheating has also been filed against the parents, "but the police has not arrested them because we are still investigating," the police officer said.
Dr Vivek Benegal, Professor of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), is not surprised by this case. 
"There are many people who are still being forced to marry because of social pressure. Society really did not give him a choice," he said. 
"The man cannot be blamed. Neither can the woman be blamed. We can only blame the social structure. They have been forced to formalise a lie.''
Dr Benegal added: "It is so tragic that in an era when science has proved that sexual orientation is not a vice, society should be forcing zebras to be horses.''
The Supreme Court had left it to Parliament to either repeal or amend the law governing homosexuality. 
The decision sparked off a huge debate. Many in the Congress Party, which was leading the coalition government at the time, wanted to repeal the law. However, the then-opposition BJP (which is now the ruling party), was opposed to a repeal.

Taiwan the Beacon for Gay Rights in Asia


 TAIPEI, Taiwan — Waving rainbow flags and banners demanding same-sex marriage, the revelers set off from Taiwan’s presidential palace, drawing cheers and thumbs-up from spectators along the way.

For the 13th year in a row, the gay pride march took over the streets of the capital on Saturday in a boisterous, freewheeling demonstration of how far Taiwan has come in the two decades since multiparty democracy replaced martial law and authoritarian rule.

But the loudest applause rose when a Malaysian flag or a troupe of Japanese dancers in traditional folk outfits, envoys from more restrictive locales, were spotted amid the throng. Carrying a handmade placard from Beijing’s gay and lesbian community center above his head, James Yang could barely advance along the parade route because so many strangers wanted to be photographed by his side.

“I’ve been to gay pride marches in New York, San Diego and Los Angeles, but this is so emotional for me,” said Mr. Yang, 39, the center’s director of development. “It’s really exciting, but at the same time, the outpouring of support reminds me of how far behind we are in China.”

At a time when laws legalizing same-sex marriage are sweeping the United States, Latin America and Europe, gay rights advocates across Asia are still struggling to secure basic protections.

Brunei has instituted strict Shariah laws that criminalize gay relationships, conservative legislators in the Indonesian province of Aceh last month passed an ordinance punishing gay sex with 100 lashes, and on Wednesday the highest court in Singapore upheld a law that carries a two-year jail term for men who engage in any act of “gross indecency,” in public or private. In one Malaysian state, effeminate boys are shipped off to boot camp in an effort to reshape their behavior.

When it comes to gay rights in Asia, Taiwan is a world apart. Openly gay and lesbian soldiers can serve in the military, and the Ministry of Education requires textbooks to promote tolerance for gays and lesbians. In recent years, legislators here have passed protections for gays, including a law against workplace discrimination.

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been introduced in Taiwan’s legislature, although it still faces strong opposition from Christian activists and their allies in the governing Kuomintang.

“Taiwan is an inspiration for much of Asia,” said Grace Poore, director of Asia and Pacific Island programs at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “They are way ahead of their neighbors.”

With its lively news media, panoply of grass-roots organizations and a robust, if sometimes noisy, democracy, this self-governing island has become a beacon for liberal political activism across Asia. Taiwan’s environmental movement has emerged as a formidable electoral force, and in April, opponents of atomic energy succeeded in halting construction of the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant, although a final decision on the facility may be put to a public referendum.

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Democracy advocates who have occupied the streets of Hong Kong for over a month studied the tactics of the student protesters in Taiwan who earlier this year took over the Legislative Yuan in an effort to halt a trade pact they said would leave Taiwan vulnerable to pressure from mainland China, which considers the island part of its territory.

“We may have a small population, but our influence is bigger than our size,” said Yu Meinu, a legislator from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. “The level of free speech is unlike anywhere else.”

Ms. Yu, who introduced the island’s first marriage equality bill into the legislature two years ago, said one of Taiwan’s greatest assets was its thriving collection of civil society groups. “A lot of the calls for reform come from the bottom up, not from the government,” she said. “And when people here see injustice, they are not afraid to stand up and make their voices heard.”

But the wellspring of opposition to same-sex marriage has highlighted the limits of liberal activism. Last December, at the same spot where gay and lesbian marchers gathered over the weekend, an estimated 150,000 people rallied against the legislation.

Min Daixi, vice president of the Unification Church and a leader in the Taiwan Family Protection Alliance, said same-sex unions were a threat to traditional families. “They are trying to redefine a concept that our society was built upon,” he said.

Victoria Hsu, who heads the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, acknowledged that the battle for same-sex marriage faced strong opposition. But she said she was encouraged that the three leading candidates for Taipei mayor — a job on the résumé of every president since 1988 — have all expressed support for same-sex marriage, which to her suggests that the legalization of same-sex unions is simply a matter of time. “It’s not a question of if, but of when,” she said. Several polls over the past year have found that more than 50 percent of people in Taiwan support same-sex marriage.

Religious life here, for the most part, is dominated by Buddhism and Taoism, faiths with little doctrinal resistance to homosexuality. Although they make up less than 5 percent of Taiwan’s 23 million people, Christians have formed the bulwark of the opposition. “Taiwanese are really tolerant,” said Ms. Poore of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “It’s not the kind of place where gays and lesbians have to worry about violence if they are affectionate in public.”

In addition to scores of bars, clubs and gay bookstores, one well-trod tourist attraction is a Taoist shrine dedicated to a rabbit deity — based on an 18th-century Qing dynasty official who was said to be gay — who has become something of a patron saint to gay worshipers seeking good fortune.

Still, in many respects, Taiwan remains a traditional society bound by a sense of Confucian filial duty that emphasizes family and the production of heirs. Edgar Chang, 34, a chemical engineer who was wearing a rhinestone-encrusted tiara and feather boa on Saturday, said he is out to his friends but has not summoned the courage to tell his parents he has had a boyfriend for the past three years. “I don’t think they would disown me, but at the same time, I think it might kill them because they really want a grandchild,” he said.

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The gay pride march has come a long way since 2003, when some participants wore masks to conceal their identities. Albert Yang, 37, one of the parade organizers, recalled his trepidation that year as the march set off with just a handful of participants. “A lot of people didn’t dare join, but they slowly worked their way into the crowd, and by the time we finished, there were 600 or 700 people,” he said.

This year, more than 65,000 people joined the march, according to organizers. They included contingents of Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and a much smaller number of mainland Chinese, most of whom are restricted from traveling to Taiwan on their own by strict visa requirements imposed by both governments.

Although the Chinese Communist Party takes a mostly hands-off approach to homosexual activity, there are no legal protections for gays in China, and the authorities have become less tolerant of AIDS organizations and gay rights advocates as part of a wider campaign against nongovernmental organizations.

Waving a large rainbow flag over the crowd, Hiro, a 48-year-old television station employee from Tokyo, said it was his eighth time at the parade. “For gay Japanese, this is the event of the year,” he said, declining to give his full name out of concern it could cause problems at work. “I only wish we were as brave as the Taiwanese and could do something like this in Japan.”

Surveying the march from the sidelines, Jay Lin, 46, said he thought Taiwan could do more to promote its live-and-let-live ethos at a time when the island’s economy is slowing. “We have become a beacon for human rights issues across Asia,” said Mr. Lin, who this year started Taiwan’s first gay and lesbian film festival. “This is a strong selling point, and if the government was smart, they would recognize that this is our soft power and market it to the rest of the world.”

Chen Jiehao contributed research from Beijing

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