Apr 102013
 
Jonina Leosdottir

A Chinese group campaigning for equal rights for homosexuals in the country has invited Iceland’s prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir (pictured, left), the world’s first openly gay premier, for an interaction during her official visit here next week.

She will be accompanied by her wife Jonina Leosdottir (pictured, right) during her visit from April 15, on the invitation of newly-elected Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang.

PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China, a Guangzhou-based grassroots organization that supports rights of homosexuals, sent the invitation.

“Though the chance of meeting the Iceland PM appears slim, their official visit will be a real-life lesson in equal rights taught to our state leaders,” A Qiang, a worker at PFLAG China said, Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported.

Thousands of comments were made regarding the upcoming visit on ‘Weibo’, the Chinese version of Twitter.

“Will the wife be photographed together with Peng Liyuan (President Xi Jinping’s wife)?” posted a blogger on Weibo.

“Let them demonstrate to our leaders the real meaning of ‘human rights’,” said another blogger.

A blogger from Chongqing, who is the mother of a lesbian, posted an open letter to the Iceland PM on her blog, praising her courage after sharing her own story.

“We were confused when our daughter told me she likes girls. We started accepting her only after she took us to help groups for gay parents. Now I am proud of my daughter and I talk to other parents who have a hard time dealing with their children’s sexuality,” she wrote.

“I’ve asked my daughter to learn from you and make a difference in the world. You have lived an exceptional and courageous life. On behalf of my family, we’d like to invite you and your wife to visit Chongqing and be guests at my house,” she added.

Despite the optimism and expectations expressed online, Yu Shi, an activist at ‘Les Chengdu’, a Sichuan-based lesbian rights group, said the Chinese government is unlikely to grant homosexuals equal legal rights in the near future simply because of this visit.

“But it’s still a good thing,” she said, “At least this means our leaders are aware of the issue,” he said.

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from the official list of mental disorders in 2001.

But homosexuality still remains a taboo in the official media.

 

 

 

Gay activists in China hope to meet Iceland’s lesbian PM – The Times of India

Apr 102013
 
Children Minister Michelle O'Byrne

Legislation allowing Tasmanian couples who have a significant relationship registered under the Relationships Act to adopt children not known to them was passed by the House of Assembly yesterday.

The Bill, introduced by Children Minister Michelle O’Byrne (pictured), passed 18 votes to four after the Liberals allowed a conscience vote on the issue.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman, Rodney Croome said the Bill allowed adoption authorities to choose from the widest pool of prospective parents and removed stigma against all families headed by same-sex couples.

“It allows foster children already in the care of same-sex couples to be adopted by their foster parents when it is in their best interests,” Mr Croome said.

He applauded the Liberal Party for its position.

Five Liberal MPs crossed the floor to vote with Labor and the Greens, including Opposition Leader Will Hodgman and his deputy, Jeremy Rockliff.

“It is a sign of how far Tasmania has come that there is such strong cross-party support,” Mr Croome said.

Ms O’Byrne said the current law discriminated against both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

 

 

 

Matt Smith

MPs back same-sex adoption Tasmania News – The Mercury – The Voice of Tasmania

Apr 102013
 
The L Word

I love my straight friends. But sometimes it gets awkward. It’s not that I blush when they get changed in front of me, or that we can’t go to the toilet together for a chat. But when I hang out with my (liberal, creative, interesting) straight friends, I have to do a little extra preparation. Just as I’ll apply my liquid eyeliner that bit thicker to fit in better at a straight bar, I also have to prepare for some clumsy interrogations. After a few glasses of wine and small talk come the same old questions: “Why are there more gay men than lesbians?”, “How do lesbians do it?”, “Will you ever go back to men?” and “Why do lesbians dress like boys?”

Despite having been ‘out’ for 11 years – I first started telling unsurprised schoolmates when I was 14 – I still get these questions. Though they’re tiresome and intrusive, I can’t blame anyone for asking. Of course, men are interested because it’s titillating, but women’s interest is more layered than that. Because although lesbians are on the agenda – same-sex couples are on the cusp of being given equal marriage rights and it was recommended that lesbians have access to free IVF on the NHS in February – compared to gay men, lesbians are invisible. Sure, we can all name about six British lesbians in the public eye, but we can reel off hundreds of gay men, famous or otherwise.

Yes, we know lesbians exist, but where are all the lesbian bars? We know that camp humour, great fashion and art have come from gay men, but lesbians haven’t made a similar imprint on our culture. Why is this? Is it because lesbians aren’t straight or is their relative invisibility something much simpler, and far more depressing – is it because they’re women?

NATURE, NOT NURTURE

Like freckles, sexuality is something you’re born with. Why else would gay people continue to come out in countries like Nigeria, where they risk death? Also, same-sex desire is recognisable early on. Just as my four-year-old nephew tells blonde women how pretty they are, when I was that age, I played kiss chase with pretty blondes (a habit I’m yet to shake).

A 2005 survey by the government ahead of the Civil Partnerships Act, found that around 5-7% of the population was Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual (LGBT). The maths is simple: if 5-7% of the population is not straight, then there are about 3.6 million LGBT people in the UK. And if it’s naturally occurring, it happens to as many women as it does men, so there are 1.8 million gay or bisexual women in the UK (although there are no official surveys to back up these calculations). So, why is gay culture more prominent than lesbian culture?

The gay community is more united for two reasons; firstly, it’s simply better defined. Scientific studies show that non-straight men are more likely to be gay, whereas women’s sexuality is less concrete, so they’re more likely to be bisexual than lesbian. Research from California State University showed that women are 27 times as likely as men to be bisexual, and a 2005 BBC survey indicated that 6% of women in the UK are bisexual, with only 3% self-identifying as lesbians.

Dr Qazi Rahman, a lecturer in cognitive biology at Queen Mary University, recently found that 35-40% of women have experienced either a same-sex sexual experience or a strong same-sex desire. He said: “There is a general assumption that female sexuality is more fluid than that of males, and current research supports this.” So men are much more likely to be either gay or straight: “The prevailing scientific view is that bisexuality in males doesn’t physiologically exist.”

The upshot of this is that the lesbian scene’s edges are woollier and harder to locate. Secondly, because of the Victorian ban on gay sex – repealed in 1967 – and the blaming of gay HIV/AIDS sufferers for their own fates in the Eighties and Nineties, gay men have pulled together against persecution. Of course, lesbians are thankful to not have gone through these hardships, but some historians suggest lesbianism was never outlawed because politicians didn’t want women to find out what it was. The female orgasm was considered an affliction, written off by medical experts as ‘hysteria’ up until the end of the 19th century, so sexual activity that didn’t include male pleasure was whitewashed from history.

MALE OBSESSION

And therein lies the rub. Lesbianism is glossed over and made palatable for male tastes. We all recognise the cliché of lesbian porn; two blondes idly pawing at each other, fluttering their eyelashes to a (sometimes invisible) man who inevitably joins in. Fortunately for real women’s thighs and real men’s egos, porn doesn’t mirror reality. But if this cliché isn’t real lesbian sex, then what is real lesbian sex? I’m often asked: “Do you count it [my sexual activity] as sex?” which is never asked of gay men.

Christian Pambrun, a 27-yearold gay man who works in the music industry, says: “Straight people will never doubt it’s sex, but will ask me, ‘So are you the woman, or the man?’” Such a comment is irritating, yes, but at least it doesn’t come with the added insult that your adult relationships are simply pretend. Sally Munt, professor of Cultural and Gender Studies at the University of Sussex, says, “What lesbians do in bed is a huge preoccupation of straight pornography. ‘Real sex’ is often still assumed to be defined by the male orgasm and female penetration.” Which, to Cydney Chadwick, a bisexual 25 year old who works in advertising, is ridiculous: “When women have sex, they do what is physically possible, and I consider that as sex. The build-up is more intense, and that’s something you miss when you have sex with a man. There’s nothing missing when I’m having sex with a woman.”

Look at it like this: the Pill was invented three generations ago, so we’ve had enough time to accept that sex doesn’t have to be procreative, and that women can do it for pleasure too. But because penetration is straight sex’s defining feature, women are still facing inequality in the bedroom. In 2009, a survey found that only 25% of straight women reach climax through penetration alone. And a 2005 study showed that most men climax within three to seven minutes of ‘sex’, whereas the scientific consensus is that women take up to 20 minutes to orgasm. Clearly, a man’s USP – the thing straight people worry lesbians’ sex life is worthless without – isn’t even doing the trick for them. Professor Munt agrees: “Different people find pleasure in different ways; that is the joy of human sexual desire, that it is not defined by, or restricted to, one act.” Sex is supposed to be mutually satisfying, but if it centres around male pleasure, then it can’t be.

MEDIA BIAS

There’s also the assumption that lesbianism is all a passing phase. When straight friends tell me about the traditional milestones they’ve reached with their partners – holidays, moving in together, engagements – they then ask me, “Do you think you’ll end up with a man one day?” I’ve experimented with men, and even fancied some, but I’m not sure a gay man would be asked the equivalent – it’s assumed that once a man has slept with another man, there’s no turning back, whereas women sleeping with other women is ‘fooling around’. So this question is always insulting. Lauren Peach, a 26-year-old teacher, agrees: “People would say it to me when I was in the early stages of my relationship with my fiancée. They thought it was just an experiment. I was frustrated and disappointed that they couldn’t just accept we were together and in love.”

However, it’s little wonder people are curious about women sleeping with women when the media represent it as so outlandish. From Lindsay Lohan’s relationship with Sam Ronson to Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan, it’s portrayed as the behaviour of an unhinged woman. Otherwise, it’s a marketing tool that Rihanna, Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Megan Fox and Nicki Minaj have used to woo men. And this trickles down into real life. A lesbian experience is now seen as like taking a gap year, or something to tick off on a bucket list. Which seems more about male desire for a girl to prove she’ll do something they enjoy, than actual female desire for another woman. And considering those 35-40% of women who have had a strong same-sex attraction or lesbian experience, it shows how little our society cares about female pleasure if women’s attraction to other women is written off as madness or flippancy.

ABOVE: Melanie Rickey and wife Mary Portas

THE LIMITS OF SEXUAL CURRENCY

Male desire also seems to dictate the areas of life, work and culture where lesbians can be successful. We could spend all day reeling off the names of gay British men who have come to be part of every sector of public life. But what about the women? Sandi Toksvig, Sue Perkins, Clare Balding, Romy Madley Croft of The XX and Mary Portas make up the very few out British lesbians/bisexual women in the public eye. Fame shouldn’t have to be a measure of validity, but there’s no doubt that public opinion is shaped more by culture than government policy.

The lesbians who are currently ‘out’ in British public life are respected for their talents beyond their sexual currency. Their coming out didn’t drive away hordes of slack-jawed men because they’ve reached that holy grail of female celebrity where their fame doesn’t depend on men fancying them and they don’t have to play up to lads’ mag ideals of beauty to sell what they’re flogging. But when it comes to non-straight women from fields where they’re expected to cosy up to men or talk about boyfriends in interviews, their coming out is negated somewhere along the line.

Courtney from the band Stooshe, once fairly butch, was given hair extensions and false nails so she looked more like her straight bandmates. And even though Jessie J refuted the allegation made in an unofficial biography that she’s secretly gay, hiding behind the ‘bisexuality’ tag to maintain her appeal, there is no doubt that her attraction to women has been tempered in the two years since she promised to Do It Like A Dude. In these instances, female same-sex desire has been treated as flippant and malleable, because apparently the public is too simple to understand that a conventionally beautiful woman might not fancy men.

ABOVE: Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS

All of this suggests the homophobia experienced by lesbians and bisexual women is merely an extension of misogyny, so how do we undo it all? So long as influential institutions such as the government and the media are male-led, then all women are going to be marginalised, but until there’s balance in the industries which shape public opinion, we can all do our bit.

Firstly, we can redefine sex by making sure the sex we have revolves around mutual desire and pleasure – straight women could make lesbians seem more sincere by refusing to feign a sexual interest in women just because it gets men off. Secondly, if women strove to live independently of male approval it wouldn’t be assumed that women can’t exist without male support. I’m not saying men aren’t necessary, but no woman should feel required to have a husband and babies to have a fulfilled life unless she chooses to. And as annoying as all the ‘lesbian’ questions are, perhaps keep them coming, because assumptions are even more damaging.

Lesbians and bisexual women aren’t stereotypes – they’re not only the porn ideals or the rough butches. They’re individuals with varied tastes, interests and dress senses. So don’t assume if a woman looks feminine that she’s ‘straight’, and don’t assume that women without make-up are gay. I don’t want to drag any lesbian out of the closet, because the truth is that coming out can be career-ruining. But for ‘lesbianism’ to be treated as the normal, naturally occurring thing that it is, then we need more non-straight women in the public eye. I respect any lesbian or bisexual woman’s decision to keep her private life private, but shame on those in the public eye still pretending to be something they’re not.

More broadly, lesbian culture needs to be allowed to shine. Though gay men have a cultural history that informs pop culture, lesbians have not had similar opportunities, because women aren’t given the same funding as men. Support should be based on merit over gender, and if there isn’t equal uptake, then we need to ask why. Though it will take a while to change the male-driven industries which influence our opinions, if we create a society where lesbians and bisexual women are neither seen as titillating nor disgusting, then all women will be valued for more than their sexuality.

 

 

 

Sophie Wilkinson

Sophie Wilkinson asks: Are lesbians invisible because they’re women? – Life – Stylist Magazine

Apr 102013
 
Hobsons Bay councillor Tony Briffa

The man who stalked Hobsons Bay councillor Tony Briffa received a five-year intervention order yesterday at Sunshine Magistrates’ Court.

The former Hobsons Bay mayor, touted as the world’s first intersex mayor, and LGBTI advocate welcomed the intervention order that expires at midnight on April 2, 2018.

“I am elated and relieved the Magistrates’ Court issued an Intervention Order to protect me from a person that has been harassing and stalking me for the last 18 months,” Briffa said.

Briffa was awarded an initial restraining order against the man back in January. The order makes it illegal to come within 200-metres of Briffa after the councillor received homophobic abuse and threatening calls. The man did not attend the court yesterday where the new order was issued.

The order also prevents any communication with Briffa, publishing anything online or getting someone else to do something against the councillor.

“The accused person contacted me and the council offices many times over the last 18 months and repeatedly abused and threatened me. He also repeatedly abused me on my official Facebook page and said things against me purely because he made assumptions about my sex, sexual orientation and gender identity,” Briffa said.

“His calls were so abusive I felt unsafe at council meetings and public events during my term as mayor, resulting in the council administration and I reviewing ways to improve my personal safety.

“In his calls the accused made many homophobic and transphobic comments and threatened to ‘get me’. No one should put up with that sort of inappropriate behaviour. There is no place for homophobia in society and the decision of court today shows people can do something about it.

“As a Community Champion for the Say ‘No’ To Homophobia campaign, I urge anyone experiencing harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behaviours based on their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity to speak out and seek support.”

Briffa thanked Victoria Police for their assistance in this matter, in particular their Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers who the councillor said were extremely supportive and brought this matter to the court.

 

 

 

Briffa’s stalker given five-year order – Star Observer

Apr 102013
 
I'm transgender Barbara

Get ready for a big surprise Batgirl fans, as in today’s newly released “Batgirl #19″ we learn that Barbara Gordon’s roommate, Alysia Yeoh, is transgender.

Comics have, of course, always been incredibly LGBTQ-friendly, and there are many major gay characters, but Alysia will be the first transgender character in a comic. We took some time to talk about this all with the comic’s writer, Gail Simone, exclusively for NewNowNext.

NewNowNext: First off, in writing the character of Alysia, did you always know she would be transgender?
Gail Simone: Absolutely, she was created as a trans character, she’s hinted at a part of her life she hadn’t yet shared with her roomie, Barbara Gordon, since issue early in the series. But they’ve had emergency after emergency (it’s hell being Batgirl’s secret identity!), and this is the first chance for her to actually tell Barbara.

NNN: Do you find it daunting writing a transgender character, especially as they are not only not represented in other comics but really any writing of any kind?
GS: Well, yeah, I want to do this right, representation is important. No one wants stereotypes or tokens. We want believable characters we can care about, that we want to know more about.

The nice thing is, with Alysia, she’s been in the book since issue one, readers already know her and care about her. They’ve been asking for more of her story, so I think they are already rooting for her.

It makes me happy—I have met so many trans readers over the years. I hope they love Alysia as much as we do.

NNN: Will we be getting more of Alysia’s backstory moving forward?
GS: Oh, yeah, she’s been an important part of the book, and will only become more important as the issues continue. Alysia is a young girl from Singapore, her dream is to be a master chef, but like a lot of smart, young people, she’s underemployed.

She’s also a serious skeptic regarding Gotham City vigilantes, including the Bat-family, which may cause some troubles, since her own roomie wears the bat!

BG_19_5

NNN: Will other characters be finding out any time soon? If so, will their responses not be as positive as Barbara’s?
GS: Sadly, there’s a lot of transphobia out there. I can’t say she’ll NEVER face someone who is ignorant or bigoted. But Alysia is very confident in herself, and I think it’d be lovely for her story to be a positive one.

NNN: Why do you think comics tend to be so progressive, especially in their treatment and acceptance of LGBTQ characters?
GS: I actually feel like we have a ways to go. There’ve been some wonderful steps forward lately, even in mainstream comics like “Batwoman” and “Runaways,” all of whom have LGBTQ characters in starring roles. But it wasn’t that long ago that any mention of sexuality was outright forbidden in mainstream comics at all.

We have some catching up to do.

But there’s a large LGBTQ readership in comics, the audience is hugely diverse. It’s wonderful. Our common language is nerdhood. I love that. We may come from different continents, but dammit, we can recite the Green Lantern Oath!

It’s pretty great to see LGBTQ characters being accepted widely, it shows that this stuff is way, way overdue.

NNN: Did you speak with any transgender persons before writing Alysia?
GS: Absolutely, I have been speaking with trans writers and bloggers and friends about this for quite some time, and they’ve been keeping it confidential, for which I’m eternally grateful. I can’t thank them enough for their generosity and kindness and insight, particularly blogger Natalie Reed, who is a hardcore comics fan and a wonderful writer, who gave endlessly of her time to help us get this right.

I don’t claim any magical insight, there’s no way we could do this right without the help of all these wonderful people.

I hope people give the book a chance…it’s a very interesting concept. Barbara Gordon was injured in a brutal home invasion a few years back, and is only now, in her early twenties, putting the cape and cowl back on after that horrific trauma.

She’s a woman of compassion and intelligence, but a series of horrible encounters with the worst of Gotham’s underworld have left her shaken, and as we see in issue #19, she may in fact be pushed beyond her limit…and she does something no member of the bat-family should ever do.

It’s gripping stuff. Thank god Alysia is there to add some spunk and brightness!

 

 

 

Chris Spargo

‘Batgirl’ Exclusive: Writer Gail Simone Talks New Transgender Character | NewNowNext

Apr 102013
 
France - Gay marriage law passes crucial vote

Gays and lesbians in France may soon be able to marry and become parents.

The marriage equality bill currently before lawmakers would grant French same-sex couples the right to wed and jointly adopt children.

Although the first article of the bill, which removes all gender references from marriage applications, was approved in the National Assembly on Feb. 2, opponents added more than 5,000 amendments in order to slow down the legislation’s passage. Final approval of the whole bill occurred on Feb. 12 with a vote of 329 to 229, the CBC reported.

On Tuesday, the first article passed in the French Senate by a vote of 179-157, the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reported. The Senate will now proceed to vote on the rest of the many amendments before sending the entire bill back to the National Assembly for final approval in May.

Although most polls show support for gay marriage, many in France are not quite ready to accept this change. For the past six months, hundreds of thousands have participated in demonstrations in opposition of marriage equality. Most of the opposition is backed by conservative religious institutions, which claim the legislation will create psychological and social problems for children.

Marches in support of gay marriage have also brought thousands to the streets of Paris. After one such demonstration on Jan. 27, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who is openly gay, said on French TV: “There is a big difference between today’s march and the one two weeks ago, which is that this demonstration is one of brotherhood, not of hatred.”

President Francois Hollande has already declared his intent to support the law.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 11 other countries including Argentina, Canada, Spain and South Africa. Nine U.S. states and Washington D.C. also allow gays to wed.

 

 

 

Gay Marriage Law Passes Crucial Vote In France

Apr 102013
 
Gay marriage and trans rights

Monday, Bryan Ellicott recounted his experience at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and their attempt to exclude the transgender community from the United For Marriage rally at the Supreme Court, when oral arguments concerning California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were heard. Ellicott, an openly bisexual trans man and activist, was told by HRC Regional Field Director Karin Quimby to put down the transgender pride flag during the rally because “[t]his is about marriage equality, this is not about the trans community.” Ellicott stated that he was asked to remove the flag two more times by other HRC staff.

Marriage Equality is an issue of deep complexity to trans men and women. The right of a trans person to marry is dependent on the state’s recognition of gender identity, if any. Freedom of Expression in a Diverse World (2010) observes that “[t]wo early New York post-operative transsexuals’ petitions for amending sex on birth certificates were denied on the ground that a transsexual’s desire for ‘concealment of [sex reassignment surgery]… is outweighed by the public interest for protection against fraud.’ The court does not specify just what fraud might be perpetrated, but the likeliest explanation was a fear that such modified birth certificates will function as tickets to the issuance of marriage licenses of dubious legitimacy.” Family Law (2007) notes that “[t]he status recognition of transsexual marriage is changing, although courts and legislatures have not fully resolved the issues involved in such recognition” due to the fact that certain states will only acknowledge a trans person’s marriage license if they have completed medically recognized gender reassignment (including genital reconstruction) while other states may automatically consider a marriage void, even if the applicant has transitioned surgically. Even in situations where a trans man or woman does wish to marry a person who is opposite their birth sex (a trans man in a relationship with a cisgender man or a trans woman in a relationship with a cisgender woman), they may legally be allowed to do so, but at the expense of being denied recognition of their gender identity.

Since marriage equality has such inexorable links to other transgender issues, the HRC incident sent shock-waves through the community, even though it is only the most recent in a long history of trans-exclusive attitudes and actions by organization’s governing body, dating back to its inception. Sylvia Rivera, a trans women and civil rights activist who was at the flashpoint of the Stonewall riots in 1969 and a co-founder of various transgender organizations such as Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) with Marsha P. Johnson in 1970 (the organization latter renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries in 2000), who in addition to working on behalf of trans men and women, had a lifelong history of involvement with gay and lesbian activism—including the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Gay Activists Alliance (GAA)—despite long-held trans-exclusionary bias within the movement. As documented by Susan M. Glisson in The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement (2006), amidst attempts to get HRC to become trans-inclusive, Rivera wrote to the organizations leadership in 2001, stating “[y]our people had no problem in 1969 using the anger of our people who gave you their all, who had nothing to lose, who brought you out of the closets you would still be in were it not for us.”

HRC’s history of attempting to pass non-discriminatory legislation—including the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)—has almost always been pursued at the exclusion of protections on the basis of gender identity and expression. Although trans-inclusive language was eventually added to the proposed ENDA bill in 2009, David Valentine wrote in Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category (2007) that since its preliminary drafting in 1993, “HRC’s position on ENDA in particular have caused enormous bad feeling among transgender activists” holding fast to the idea “that gay and lesbian identities and transgender identities are separate, and that the inclusion of ‘gender identity and expression’ in the ENDA bill would not only scuttle it but would also contradict this very distinction.” The same round of arguments occurred in 2005 with LLEEA, as HRC cut provisions to include gender identity to that legislation as well. A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies (2008) states that HRC’s “agenda focuses on the narrow issue of whether gays and lesbians are equally human with straight people, and their continued exclusion of trans people underscores their unwavering commitment to the humanity of trans people.” It is also noted that despite an overwhelming focus on legislation, “the HRC has never actually passed a single federal law, despite being the most well-funded LGB organization in the country, which begs the question of whether political expediency is, in fact, being served.”

Bryan Ellicott and other trans advocates continue to ask HRC to reform its policies and to actively demonstrate commitment to transgender related concerns. Ellicott states “I want steps taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again, especially when we come back together as a community in June when the Supreme Court decisions on Proposition 8 and DOMA cases are expected to be announced.”

 

 

 

J. Skyler Robinson

HRC fails to recognize marriage equality as a transgender issue – National Transgender and Transsexual Issues | Examiner.com

Apr 092013
 
le Sénat a voté l'article 1 de la loi

The Senate passed Tuesday night by 179 votes against 157, the first article of the Bill on marriage homosexual, most importantly, one that opens marriage to people of the same sex.

This article was adopted "compliant", i.e. without change compared with the vote at first reading by the National Assembly. Therefore, this vote becomes final unless all of the Bill was rejected on the basis of its consideration by the Senate. It shall be subjected to a second reading by the National Assembly or the CMP (joint Joint Commission).
This vote is reached after more than 10 hours of discussion on this article at the coursdesquelles the right has scrapped against the text by multiplying outlets of lyrics in an electric atmosphere. "Despite the attempts of obstruction of the right, the Senate has adopted article 1 which permits same-sex couples to marry", the president of the Group PS François Rebsamen, said in a statement after the vote. "The adoption of this article by the vote of all of the Senatorial majority, puts an end to the discrimination that resulted from the sexual choices of citizens", he added.

"Given derivatives that have taken place, either by manifestations of violence in the street, either by verbal outbursts in the House, the vote on this article marks a victory in the fight against homophobia, that of tolerance and democracy," he concluded.

The Senate adopted article which opened marriage to homosexuals

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Apr 092013
 
Jaime Geaga and Gary Rhodes

From the way media here are covering two same-sex marriage cases in the US Supreme Court and from statements of certain high court justices, it seems Jaime Geaga and his partner of 30 years, Gary Rhodes, “are getting closer to achieving equal rights as a same-sex couple,” Geaga, a Los Angeles resident, beams.

Since the last week of March, the world has been riveted on two marriage equality cases before the US Supreme Court that could overturn California’s Proposition 8, which bans same sex-marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that deprives married same-sex couples of federal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual spouses.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to announce its decision in June, an event that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) members of the Filipino community will be watching closely.

“For two days in late March, I kept abreast of the international coverage by tuning in to CNN, MSNBC, BBC World, Al Jazeera, and PBS newscasts from Berlin and France,” says Geaga, a fundraiser for the Vote No on Proposition 8 campaign and volunteer at the LGBT Center in LA He also founded the Filipino Task Force on AIDS in 1987 that served Filipinos with HIV and AIDS in San Francisco for 16 years.

Change in public opinion

Recent polls indicated a momentous shift in public opinion since Proposition 8 was passed in California in 2008. The Reuters/Ipsos Poll reported that 63 percent of Americans are now in favor of gay marriage or civil unions. The ABC News and Washington Post poll found that a staggering number of young people, 81 percent among ages 18-29, support same-sex marriage, while 58 percent of adults also support marriage equality.

Rodel Rodis, a San Francisco attorney and president of US Pinoys for Good Governance, was not surprised by the favorable polls. He says, “These figures show that it is just a matter of time before the country fully embraces the concept. There are Filipino community leaders and business owners in the Bay Area who are openly gay. My sons have many friends who are openly gay, so this is not even an issue for their generation. I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will declare both Proposition 8 and DOMA unconstitutional.”

Same-sex wedding

Hope is something that Pat Yadao and Liz Ermitano have held on to tightly since they started a relationship 15 years ago. Both surgical nurses at the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, they’ve joined missions to the Philippines that provide free medical services.

Yadao comes from a liberal family and did not have any problems coming out. Ermitano’s parents and nine older siblings were more conservative and took some time getting to know Pat and the couple’s commitment to each other. When Ermitano finally told her parents that she had decided to be with Yadao, her father looked her in the eye and said, much to her surprise, “You’re an adult, if you think this is what you want in your life, by all means, I support you.”

On Nov. 4, 2008, a sunny autumn day in San Francisco, Yadao and Ermitano got married at the San Francisco City Hall, a date that they both described as historical. Yadao notes, “Barack Obama was elected president on that day and it was the last day that same-sex marriage was legal in California before Proposition 8’s ban was enforced.” Ermitano’s 85-year-old widowed mother was by their side as they said their vows, also witnessed by several members of their families and friends, while activists for same-sex marriage were demonstrating outside the building, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Homophobia in PH

As more and more people from prominent sectors of US society–from President Obama and members of Congress to heads of corporations to artists, entertainers and athletes–are now openly expressing their support for same-sex marriage, Filipino Americans are lamenting how homophobia is still alive and well in the Philippines.

Bino Realuyo, a Fil-Am author and blogger for the Huffington post, wrote that a 1991 survey showed that “82 percent of respondents across the Philippines said sexual relations between two adults of the same sex was always wrong…16 years later, the number had hardly changed…” One of the reasons that Realuyo and many others ascribe for this position is the influence of the Catholic Church.

CNN’s March 12, 2010 report on the entry into the Philippine election of Ladlad Party, the world’s only LGBT political party, quoted Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Jr. saying, “Personally, I’m not in favor of the party, because it’s a group that’s of abnormal human persons, according to what we accept as the order that the Creator has made for human persons.” The Church, however, is not homogeneous in this view as there are rank and file members who are quietly expressing their opposition to this homophobia.

A Northern California Filipino priest, who has been with his religious order for 40 years and ministers to OFWs internationally, says that whenever his parishioners ask him about same-sex marriage they are taken aback by his response that he is for it.

“I use such occasions to raise their consciousness by reminding them that according to the Scriptures, we were all made in the image and likeness of God and therefore that includes people from the LGBT community,” he states. “Marriage must be available to two persons who love each other and want to proclaim their love to the world,” he adds.

Married in Canada

That’s what Ces Rosales, a graphic designer and the Northern California Vice Chair of the Women’s Caucus of the California Democratic Party, did when she married Sue Ferrera, her partner of 28 years, at a well-attended wedding in 2005 in Canada, which legalized same-sex marriage that year.

Rosales and Ferrera had been on the forefront of the No on 8 Campaign in Berkeley, where they live. Rosales, who is an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party, believes that the upcoming US Supreme Court decisions will be a milestone in the fight for marriage equality. “It is a matter of human rights to treat people equally under the law. Ironically, although we pay taxes that allow benefits to heterosexual couples, we are not able to avail of them,” she says.

When asked how she would feel if the challenges to Proposition 8 and DOMA lost in court, Rosales was sanguine in her response, belying her many years as an activist in the anti-Marcos and women’s movements. “Whether the naysayers like it or not, we’re here to stay and continue leading our happy lives. If we don’t get our legal rights this time, we will keep fighting until the LGBT community achieves equality,” Rosales states.

Although the union of Yadao and Ermitano remains valid because it was held before the Proposition 8 ban, the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community does not give them comfort. They’re still deprived of over a thousand federal benefits because of DOMA, and their marriage is diminished by the persistent legal challenges of Proposition 8 proponents, although the Ninth District Court of Appeals had already declared the measure unconstitutional.

Yadao states, “If anything happens to me, I want Liz to get all the protections and rights entitled to her as my spouse. When Proposition 8 and DOMA are finally struck down, that will be the happiest day of my life.”

 

 
Mila de Guzman

LGBT Fil Ams await US high court decision on same-sex marriage | Inquirer Global Nation

Apr 092013
 
Singapore Supreme Court 1

The High Court has dismissed one of two legal challenges that Section 377A (S377A) of the Penal Code — which criminalises sex between gays — is unconstitutional, ruling that its objective of criminalising a conduct that “is not acceptable in society” is “clear”.

In his 92-page judgment, Justice Quentin Loh said that in Singapore’s legal system, whether a social norm that has “yet to gain currency” should be discarded or retained is decided by Parliament — which in 2007 had voted to retain S377A.

“To my mind, defining moral issues need time to evolve and are best left to the legislature to resolve,” said Justice Loh, noting that Singapore society is “in the midst of change”.

He added: “It is not that the courts do not have any role to play in defining moral issues when such issues are at stake. However, the court’s power to intervene can only be exercised within established principles.”

Graphic designers Gary Lim Meng Suang, 44, and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon, 37, who have been a couple for 15 years, had contended that the statute discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, which makes it a violation of Article 12 of the Constitution stating that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”.

Represented by lawyers Mr Peter Low, Mr Choo Zheng Xi and Ms Indulekshmi Rajeswari, they had argued that S377A is “absurd, arbitrary and unreasonable”.

Since S377A is selectively and arbitrarily enforced, it does not serve the function of signalling that male homosexual conduct is undesirable and should not be practised openly, Mr Low had argued.

However, in his ruling, Justice Loh said that this argument was “without merit”. “It is questionable whether in order for a criminal provision to fulfil its function that it must be enforced,” he said.

“In the case of S377A, the legislature has decided that retaining the section without advocating the enforcement is enough to fulfil the purpose of S377A.”

As for Article 12, Justice Loh noted that Parliament is entitled to pass laws that deal with “the myriad of problems that arise from the inherent inequality and differences pervading society”.

In doing so, it is “inevitable that classification will produce inequality in varying degrees”.

Therefore, “equality before the law and equal protection of the law under Art 12 (I) does not mean that all persons are to be treated equally, but that all persons in like situations are to be treated alike”,” he said.

The views aired during the parliamentary debate in 2007 “are without a doubt controversial and disparate among various segments of our society”, but what is clear is that “Parliament has decided that S377A should be retained”, Justice Loh said.

“Our courts cannot substitute their own views for that of Parliament,” he added. The judge has reserved judgment on the second challenge brought forward by Mr Tan Eng Hong.

 

 

 

377A objective ‘clear’, High Court dismisses challenge | TODAYonline

Apr 092013
 
The newlyweds Tshepo and Thoba show off their rings. Photo Zanele Zulu

The gay couple who tied the knot in a traditional Zulu and Tswana wedding while dressed in traditional attire say they will not be fazed by the criticism being aimed at them by social network users and Zulu culture experts.

Thoba Sithole, a Zulu from KwaDukuza, and Tshepo Modisane, a Tswana from Johannesburg, tied the knot on Saturday in KwaDukuza with about 200 people, including family, friends, onlookers and the media in attendance.

Sithole and Modisane, both 27, defended their wedding and said there was nothing evil or untraditional about it.

Professor Velaphi Mkhize, a Zulu traditional culture analyst and writer, said Zulu culture did not recognise homosexuality, therefore, traditionally, Modisane and Sithole’s marriage was void.

“In the olden days there were homosexuals, but when a gay child was born the family used to slaughter an animal to plead with the ancestors to intervene and take the evil spirit away from the child.”

“However, now the constitution recognises homosexuality and gay marriages and the biggest challenge we are facing is how do we continue to call something a taboo if it is recognised by the constitution.”

He said the marriage was an insult to Zulu forefathers because marriage was traditionally a way to expand the family. Wives were expected to give birth to children who would carry their families’ names forward. Homosexuality made this impossible, said Mkhize.

However, Sithole, an IT specialist based in Johannesburg, said:

“If being gay is evil, why did God create gay people? Gays are born gay and according to a Bible scripture we were all created by God, so I don’t see anything evil about being born gay because it means that God wanted you to be gay.”

Modisane said they did not need to justify their wedding to the public because it was only between them, and to make them happy.

“We decided to have a traditional wedding because we firstly wanted to show people that being homosexual can be part of an African culture.

“Secondly, we wanted to celebrate the love we have for each other and show people that we don’t feel ashamed for the choices we have made in our lives,” said Modisane, who works as a chartered accountant in Johannesburg.

The couple said the support they had received from their families made it easier for them to tie the knot.

“My family has always been there for me and had always been there for me even in my previous homosexual relationships,” said Modisane.

Sithole said his mother had always told him how she was looking forward to seeing him getting married to his partner.

They started dating in 2011 after they had been friends for some time.

Modisane said he was attracted to Sithole because he was a well-grounded man who loved God and was someone who could bring stability in his life.

Sithole said their next step after the wedding was buying a home and starting their own family. “We are fully committed to each other and we believe children form an important foundation in bringing stability in one’s life,” he said. “We will be adopting two kids – a boy and a girl – to be part of our family.”

There has been a frenzy of mainly negative comments on social media, with many suggesting traditional cultural practices were being perverted.

One user, @heisneken, said: “So being gay is now part of African Tradition #ThankYouANC.”

Nodange Mahaye (@786Mahaye786) tweeted: “African Gay Wedding at KwaDukuza and place King SHAKA is buried… what’s going Africa.”

Azukile Mananga (@ManangaSir) wrote the following after watching a news clip of Sithole and Modisane on eNews Channel Africa: “#eNCA is killing me now… showing the first traditional wedding by gays doing the YOU MAY KISS YOUR BRID… GROO… i dont know whatever.”

Alistair Mackay (@almackay) tweeted: “That traditional Zulu gay wedding has put me in such a good mood! The choice isn’t always tradition or modernity – it’s reinventing both.”

 

 

HLENGIWE KWEYAMA

‘Nothing evil about our gay wedding’ – Daily News | News | IOL.co.za

Apr 092013
 
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi

South Africa’s health minister on Monday launched a new single dose anti-AIDs drug which will simplify the world’s biggest HIV treatment regime to just one life-saving pill a day.

The three-in-one combination anti-retroviral (ARV) was secured at a record-low price and will cost the state 89 rand a month ($10, eight euros) per patient.

“Before 2010, we were buying the most expensive ARVs in the world. Now we are a country where the ARVs are the cheapest in the world,” said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

“It means we can increase the number of people on treatment,” he added during a visit to the township of Ga-Rankuwa, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) northwest of the capital Pretoria.

After years of refusing to roll out ARVs, South Africa now has 1.9 million people on treatment among its 5.6 million HIV-positive population, which is the world’s largest.

The new pill will be introduced this month to positive pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, people co-infected with TB, and to new ARV patients.

Patients already on treatment will be assessed by doctors to start switching later this year.

“You’re just going to take it once, and it’s just going to be less pill burden,” said patient Andrew Mosani.

“People are tired (of) taking many drugs on a day to day basis.”

The pill also had fewer side effects and was easy to swallow, he added.

The South African National AIDS Council welcomed the treatment shift, saying it hoped it would encourage patients to stay on treatment.

“This is simplifying the way patients have become used to taking ARV treatment,” said the council’s CEO Fareed Abdullah.

“We have come a very long way since the advent of anti-retrovirals. At one point, patients used to take up to 16 pills a day,” he added.

South Africa once refused to roll out ARVs under former president Thabo Mbeki but now has the largest anti-retroviral (ARV) programme in the world.

The scaling up of treatment has seen the number of pregnant women passing on HIV to their babies brought down to less than three percent.

Life expectancy has also shot up by six years to 60 over the past few years.

 

 

 

New one-pill, $10-per-month anti-retroviral AIDS treatment debuts in South Africa | The Raw Story

Apr 092013
 
Mark Dybul Global Fund to Fight Aids

The organisation that finances the prevention and treatment of the Aids virus and other global killers is urging top donors to provide an additional $15bn (€11.5bn, £9.8bn) to fight infectious diseases over the next three years or risk reversing a decade of advances in care.

Mark Dybul, who heads the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said on Monday that double-digit declines in mortality from the three disease could be jeopardised if donors fail to top up the fund.

But he acknowledged that threatened cuts to international development budgets make his sales pitch harder. “We understand that these are difficult times,” Dybul told a news conference in Brussels. “Unfortunately, infectious diseases don’t pay much attention to budget cycles.”

Dybul became executive director of the Global Fund in January after a series of thefts and management problems shook the credibility of the Geneva-based financing organisation. He was in Brussels for two days of discussions on funding needs for 2014-16, a precursor to a donor conference this year.

A report released on Monday by the Global Fund said it needed $87bn until 2016 to finance programmes in 151 nations. Of that, $58bn is targeted for Aids/HIV, $15bn for tuberculosis (TB) and $14bn for malaria.

Existing donors, governments in beneficiary nations and private donors are expected to provide about $72bn, the report said.

The additional $15bn in “replenishment” funding is designed to avoid gaps in treatment and prevention from different budget cycles in donor countries and is similar to financing schemes used by other international funding agencies.

The Global Fund estimates that $87bn would treat 17 million TB patients, provide antiretroviral therapy to 18 million people being treated for the Aids virus, and prevent 196,000 malaria deaths.

Controversies hit Global Fund

Spending for treatment and prevention suffered a setback when the Global Fund temporarily suspended project financing in 2011 amid internal management squabbles and allegations of theft in a few recipient countries.

The problems led to an overhaul of how the organisation hands out money and the appointment of Dybul, a physician who is co-director of the global health law programme at Georgetown University in Washington.

The Global Fund has also come under recent fire for supporting a treatment scheme to replace ineffective malaria drugs, such as chloroquine. The Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria was launched as a pilot programme in developing countries to provide better drug treatments more quickly through private-sector sources.

Critics such as NGO Oxfam argued in a report that the $356m programme was misguided and exposed patients to wrong diagnosis and fraud.

Asked by EurActiv whether past concerns about the Global Fund’s performance could deter donors, Dybul said donor support and commitments showed they had confidence in the Global Fund.

The European commission, he said, was hosting the two-day conference in Brussels and last year committed to providing additional funding. Both Washington and London have promised more financing for this year. “It’s pretty clear that the fund is on a great forward trajectory and on the right track,” Dybul said.

The Global Fund already estimates that money from its biggest contributors – which include the European commission, EU member states, the US and Japan – will decline slightly from 2012 to 2013. The organisation’s data show that contributions from private foundations and companies are also shifting downwards.

In December, the World Health Organisation warned that funding for prevention and control of malaria – kills an estimated 655,000 people every year and sickens millions more – has levelled off after rapid expansion between 2004 and 2009.

In a statement accompanying the release of its annual World Malaria Report, the UN health body said: “These developments are signs of a slowdown that could threaten to reverse the remarkable recent gains in the fight against one of the world’s leading infectious killers.”

Apr 092013
 
Dave Claringbould

Two restaurant owners in Morris, Manitoba are closing their new restaurant due to several accounts of homophobic comments. Pots N Hands will no longer be in business after Apr. 13, despite a recent outpouring of support for the homosexual owners.

A public press release from the town’s council was posted on the Morris website and explained that the owners did not intend for this to become a national news story.

“Why? Because the owners understood that although these comments and attitudes were hurtful and unnecessary, they were aware that this small minority didn’t reflect the positions and views of the Town of Morris as a whole,” read the release.

The council lamented the loss of the business in the release and explained that they recently lunched at Pots N Hands to publicly show their support for the owners and their establishment.

“People form opinions, towns do not. Towns are made up of diverse groups of people [ . . . ] Please remember that painting an entire town with the same intolerant brush is akin to the ignorance that made this front page news to begin with,” the release continued.

The Morris council members were not the only public figures to stand behind the restaurant owners.

Premier Greg Selinger recently tweeted his support by saying, “Congrats Mayor van der Linde & Morris on stand against racism and homophobic bullying. Lunch at Pots N Hands next week during flood prep.”

Despite this, some in Morris have been outspoken in their attitudes against the restaurant.

“They should get the hell out of here. I don’t really like them – the service and who they are [ . . . ] It makes you feel uncomfortable,” said Morris resident Aaron Kleinsasser to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Pots N Hands owner Dave Claringbould and his partner previously faced similar attitudes in another unnamed town and are refusing to have the same experience.
The closing was a shock to Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde after hearing of it in a council meeting.

“I was surprised, I haven’t heard anything about any comments before that. Everyone I heard from loved the food. It was an extremely positive response,” he said to the Winnipeg Free Press.

The mayor, who also acts as a pastor in the town, later expanded on the topic to the paper by expressing his concern over what this incident could potentially do to the town of Morris.

“Something like this can destroy, instantly, what we have done (in community development).”

“There’s latent attitudes here (in rural Manitoba) because people don’t have to deal with these issues. You don’t know what your neighbour thinks. You don’t know if you’re homophobic or not until you have to deal with it,” he continued.

Support for Claringbould and his partner has come in the form of social media and letters to the Free Press.

A Facebook page entitled “Pots N Hands Restaurant Anti-Homophobia Support Group” has 1,295 members.

Steven Glaze from Regina wrote to the Free Press and said, “These are people who can’t live a free life or accept themselves. So why not tear down and destroy those openly gay individuals who can accept themselves?”

Some, however, have attributed the restaurant closing to other factors. Gary Cherewayko of Winnipeg argued in his letter to the paper that the owners should have looked towards other causes.

“You must also do your due diligence to understand the market you are going into ­– location, competition, etc. These towns will give you a chance but you had better be good. To blame your demise on a handful of idiots is an absolute cop-out.”

This is not the first time this year that the Town of Morris has been in the national spotlight due to controversy.

In January, 2013 the town’s newspaper, the Morris Mirror, published an editorial that compared Aboriginal peoples to terrorists during the Idle No More movements.

Similar to this most recent incident, the Morris mayor spoke out against the racist comments.

“I’m shocked and appalled that somebody can write something like that and think that it was right and acceptable to say it,” he said at the time of the editorial.

Many are connecting the closing of Pots N Hands and a recent act of vandalism in Winnipeg to lingering homophobia in the province.

A home on William Avenue was painted with the words “FAG” and “HOMO” on Mar. 31.

David Jacks of Winnipeg recently wrote to the Free Press expressing his concern of the recent events.

“These are not isolated cases. They are representative of a deep, systemic, recurring and violent form of hatred.”

 

 

 

Rachel Wood

Gay couple closing Morris restaurant due to homophobia – The Manitoban

Apr 092013
 
Colombia - Habrá debate de matrimonio gay en el Senado la próxima semana

Proponents of this initiative held the Congress decision, asked for guarantees for the discussion and announced the launch of an impulse Committee.

So the Board of Directors of the Senate after meeting determined it with the LGBT community and decided that you reschedule to April 17 as the first item on the agenda of the plenary.

The President of the Senate, Roy barriers, said that an agreement was reached that the representatives of this minority to make proselytism and have several spokespersons so that they intervene during the discussion.

Proponents of this initiative held the Congress decision, asked for guarantees for the discussion and announced the launch of an impulse Committee.

In addition, proponents of the project may be in bars and attend the debate of orderly without rants.

Discussion of marriage there will be gay in the Senate next week - 20130408

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