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Iranian president was not mistranslated
A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Oct. 10 that Ahmadinejad was misquoted when he said at Columbia University in New York on Sept. 24 that there are no homosexuals in Iran.

"What Ahmadinejad said was ... that, compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals," presidential media adviser Mohammad Kalhor told Reuters.

But the Persian-speaking communications director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Hossein Alizadeh, a gay Iranian who won asylum in the U.S. based on his sexual orientation, disagreed.

Asked for comment Oct. 10, Alizadeh played an audio file on his computer over the telephone and said: "Here is exactly what Ahmadinejad said at Columbia University: 'Absolutely not. We in Iran -- we in Iran, firstly, we don't have hamjensbaz [a derogatory term for homosexuals meaning people with loose morals who chase people of the same gender for sexual pleasure] like you have in your country. In our country, there is no such thing. In Iran, such a thing does not -- in Iran, in Iran, absolutely such a thing does not exist as a phenomenon. I don't know who told you otherwise.'"

Alizadeh said Ahmadinejad again denied the existence of Iranian gays a day later at a United Nations press conference.

According to Alizadeh, a reporter for the Voice of America's Persian service asked him: "You mentioned that there is no such phenomena in Iran as homosexuality. Could you please elaborate on that?"

Alizadeh said Ahmadinejad replied: "Seriously, I don't know of any. As for homosexuality, I don't know where it is. Give me an address, so that we are also aware of what happens in Iran."

Colombian court extends health benefits to same-sex couples
Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled 7-2 on Oct. 4 that gay people can add their partners to their health-insurance plans the same as married people.

Couples will have to register their unions with a notary before applying for benefits. The ruling, which covers both private insurance and government-run health care (known as social security), took effect immediately.

The court said denying benefits to same-sex partners violated their right to a dignified life and promoted an "absolute lack of protection for couples of the same sex."

Colombia is the first Latin American nation to have implemented such a policy nationwide.

In February, the same court extended spousal property and inheritance rights to same-sex couples.

Swedish parties support same-sex marriage
Sweden's three opposition parties introduced a motion in Parliament Oct. 5 to legalize full marriage for same-sex couples.

The opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party support the move, along with three of the four parties that make up the governing coalition. Only the ruling Christian Democrats oppose the proposal.

In order for the measure to pass, only four MPs from the governing coalition will have to vote against the Christian Democrats' position.

Sweden has had a registered-partnership law that grants same-sex couples all the rights of marriage since 1994.

5,000 march in Johannesburg
Some 5,000 people took part in the 18th Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Oct. 6.

"The fact that thousands braved the rain and cold to assert the importance of Pride shows that the event remains entirely relevant," said Pride chairperson Tracey Sandilands.

Police led the 90-minute, four-mile procession of 30 floats and vehicles through the Rosebank neighborhood to a post-parade party back at the parade's starting point on the muddy fields of the Zoo Lake Sports Club.

Britain plans to ban incitement of hatred against gays
British Justice Secretary Jack Straw says the government plans to prohibit incitement of hatred against gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

The proposed law would ban words, writings, video, audio and behavior purposefully aimed at encouraging anti-gay hatred, under penalty of up to seven years in prison.

"It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the past 10 years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality," Straw said. "It is time for the law to recognize this."

Christian groups expressed alarm over the government's plan, saying that opining that gay sex is wrong should not be a crime.

But gay groups and the government said the law would not apply to temperate expression of religious views.

"However, we refuse to accept any longer that there's no connection between extreme rap lyrics calling for gay people to be attacked or fundamentalist claims that all gay people are pedophiles, and the epidemic of anti-gay violence disfiguring Britain's streets," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, Britain's leading gay-lobby group.

Singaporeans call for legalization of gay sex
Thousands of Singaporeans have signed an online open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urging legalization of gay sex.

Parliament reportedly is planning to decriminalize oral and anal sex between heterosexuals but leave in force Penal Code Section 377A, which bans "gross indecency" between men under penalty of two years in prison.

Gays have found a friend in the nation's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who, in April, stated: "If in fact it is true -- and I have asked doctors this -- that you are genetically born a homosexual, because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes, you can't help it -- so why should we criminalize it? ... Let's not go around like this moral police ... barging into people's rooms. That's not our business."

The elder Lee is the current prime minister's father.

Two Australian women end up married
A married couple in Australia has become a married lesbian couple after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal allowed a transgender woman to change the sex designation on her passport, SX magazine reported Oct. 4.

The couple, Fiona Power and Grace Abrams, had married in 2005 while Abrams was in the process of changing her gender.

When Abrams later applied for a new passport, she was turned down because her birth certificate says she is male, but the tribunal concluded "it is not so much the identity of the person as she or he was in the past, but the identity of the person as at the time of the application, that is of prime importance."

The tribunal directed the Foreign Affairs Ministry to issue the new passport, which carried the side effect of government acknowledgment of the marriage of two women. Iranian president was not mistranslated
A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Oct. 10 that Ahmadinejad was misquoted when he said at Columbia University in New York on Sept. 24 that there are no homosexuals in Iran.

"What Ahmadinejad said was ... that, compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals," presidential media adviser Mohammad Kalhor told Reuters.

But the Persian-speaking communications director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Hossein Alizadeh, a gay Iranian who won asylum in the U.S. based on his sexual orientation, disagreed.

Asked for comment Oct. 10, Alizadeh played an audio file on his computer over the telephone and said: "Here is exactly what Ahmadinejad said at Columbia University: 'Absolutely not. We in Iran -- we in Iran, firstly, we don't have hamjensbaz [a derogatory term for homosexuals meaning people with loose morals who chase people of the same gender for sexual pleasure] like you have in your country. In our country, there is no such thing. In Iran, such a thing does not -- in Iran, in Iran, absolutely such a thing does not exist as a phenomenon. I don't know who told you otherwise.'"

Alizadeh said Ahmadinejad again denied the existence of Iranian gays a day later at a United Nations press conference.

According to Alizadeh, a reporter for the Voice of America's Persian service asked him: "You mentioned that there is no such phenomena in Iran as homosexuality. Could you please elaborate on that?"

Alizadeh said Ahmadinejad replied: "Seriously, I don't know of any. As for homosexuality, I don't know where it is. Give me an address, so that we are also aware of what happens in Iran."

Colombian court extends health benefits to same-sex couples
Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled 7-2 on Oct. 4 that gay people can add their partners to their health-insurance plans the same as married people.

Couples will have to register their unions with a notary before applying for benefits. The ruling, which covers both private insurance and government-run health care (known as social security), took effect immediately.

The court said denying benefits to same-sex partners violated their right to a dignified life and promoted an "absolute lack of protection for couples of the same sex."

Colombia is the first Latin American nation to have implemented such a policy nationwide.

In February, the same court extended spousal property and inheritance rights to same-sex couples.

Swedish parties support same-sex marriage
Sweden's three opposition parties introduced a motion in Parliament Oct. 5 to legalize full marriage for same-sex couples.

The opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party support the move, along with three of the four parties that make up the governing coalition. Only the ruling Christian Democrats oppose the proposal.

In order for the measure to pass, only four MPs from the governing coalition will have to vote against the Christian Democrats' position.

Sweden has had a registered-partnership law that grants same-sex couples all the rights of marriage since 1994.

5,000 march in Johannesburg
Some 5,000 people took part in the 18th Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Oct. 6.

"The fact that thousands braved the rain and cold to assert the importance of Pride shows that the event remains entirely relevant," said Pride chairperson Tracey Sandilands.

Police led the 90-minute, four-mile procession of 30 floats and vehicles through the Rosebank neighborhood to a post-parade party back at the parade's starting point on the muddy fields of the Zoo Lake Sports Club.

Britain plans to ban incitement of hatred against gays
British Justice Secretary Jack Straw says the government plans to prohibit incitement of hatred against gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

The proposed law would ban words, writings, video, audio and behavior purposefully aimed at encouraging anti-gay hatred, under penalty of up to seven years in prison.

"It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the past 10 years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality," Straw said. "It is time for the law to recognize this."

Christian groups expressed alarm over the government's plan, saying that opining that gay sex is wrong should not be a crime.

But gay groups and the government said the law would not apply to temperate expression of religious views.

"However, we refuse to accept any longer that there's no connection between extreme rap lyrics calling for gay people to be attacked or fundamentalist claims that all gay people are pedophiles, and the epidemic of anti-gay violence disfiguring Britain's streets," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, Britain's leading gay-lobby group.

Singaporeans call for legalization of gay sex
Thousands of Singaporeans have signed an online open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urging legalization of gay sex.

Parliament reportedly is planning to decriminalize oral and anal sex between heterosexuals but leave in force Penal Code Section 377A, which bans "gross indecency" between men under penalty of two years in prison.

Gays have found a friend in the nation's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who, in April, stated: "If in fact it is true -- and I have asked doctors this -- that you are genetically born a homosexual, because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes, you can't help it -- so why should we criminalize it? ... Let's not go around like this moral police ... barging into people's rooms. That's not our business."

The elder Lee is the current prime minister's father.

Two Australian women end up married
A married couple in Australia has become a married lesbian couple after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal allowed a transgender woman to change the sex designation on her passport, SX magazine reported Oct. 4.

The couple, Fiona Power and Grace Abrams, had married in 2005 while Abrams was in the process of changing her gender.

When Abrams later applied for a new passport, she was turned down because her birth certificate says she is male, but the tribunal concluded "it is not so much the identity of the person as she or he was in the past, but the identity of the person as at the time of the application, that is of prime importance."

The tribunal directed the Foreign Affairs Ministry to issue the new passport, which carried the side effect of government acknowledgment of the marriage of two women.
picture above: Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa


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