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Rex Wockner
International News
GAY WEDDINGS DECLINE IN UK
The number of same-sex civil partnerships taking place in the United Kingdom dropped 55 percent in 2007 over 2006 - likely reflecting a decline in pent-up demand since the law took effect in December 2005.

The figures were gathered by the Local Government Association from officials in 40 localities.

The Office of National Statistics has recorded a similar drop-off.

More than 16,000 couples formed a civil partnership in 2006 but only 4,060 did so in the first half of 2007, agency records show.

However, the total number of civil partnerships to date exceeds government estimates issued when the law took effect. Officials had expected to see a maximum of 22,000 partnerships by 2010.

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN TO PERFORM AT SYDNEY MARDI GRAS
Seventies pop star and Gay favorite Olivia Newton-John will perform at the party that follows the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade March 1.

Newton-John, 59, said the appearance is payback for four decades of support from Gay people.

"The Gay community has always been a major supporter of mine and I am hopelessly devoted to each and every one of them," she said. "I can't wait."

ANOTHER ANTI-GAY ATTACK IN JAMAICA
Another in a string of violent attacks on Jamaican Gays occurred January 29 in the town of Mandeville, Human Rights Watch reported February 1.

A mob of 15-20 men approached a house where four males lived and demanded they leave the community because they are Gay, HRW said. The attackers later broke down the door and beat and slashed the inhabitants.

Police arrived 90 minutes after being called and rescued three of the men. The fourth man fled with the attackers in pursuit, and is feared to be dead. Blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting, HRW said, that the man fell into it or was killed nearby.

Two of the other three men were taken to a hospital. One had a severed left ear, spine damage and his arm broken in two places.

"This incident is the latest in a string of homophobic mob violence over the last year," HRW said.

"Roving mobs attacking innocent people and staining the streets with blood should shame the nation's leaders," said Scott Long, director of the group's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program. "Official silence encourages the spread of hate."

GAY MEN ARRESTED FOR HOMOSEXUALITY IN SENEGAL
Up to 20 men have been arrested on suspicion of homosexuality in Dakar, Senegal, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said February 4.

A British Broadcasting Corporation report three days later said at least some of the men had been released from custody. The BBC had no further details.

The arrests occurred after the magazine Icône published photographs of a local Gay wedding that took place more than 18 months ago.

IGLHRC said the sensationalistic magazine paid $3,000 to acquire the photos.

"We are afraid for our lives, especially those of us shown in the photographs," said local activist Jean R. "Some of us have gone into hiding and others are fleeing the country."

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

PALESTINIAN GAY GROUP SETS OUT ON ITS OWN
Al-Qaws, the Palestinian LGBT project of Jerusalem's Open House gay center, has spun off as an independent organization.

"With this decision, our community begins a new journey with a committed leadership group and widespread local activists, friends and supporters," the group said in a press release.

Al-Qaws achieved official status as a nonprofit organization in November, and renamed itself "Al-Qaws - for Sexual & Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society."

"This new phase presents new opportunities with promises of growth through self-definition for Palestinian LGBTQs," said Director Haneen Maikey.

EURO COMMISSION WARNS NETHERLANDS ON DISCRIMINATION
The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities has told the Netherlands to fix laws that permit anti-Gay churches and religious schools to discriminate against Gay people in hiring, local media reported February 4.

Vladimír Spidla said the European Commission could haul the country before the European Court of Justice if it doesn't beef up Gay protections within two months' time.

European Union law bans employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation, disability, age, race and religion.

The European Commission is the executive branch of the 27-nation European Union.

Several other nations also received warnings about their implementation of various aspects of the EU's Employment Equality Directive, which was supposed to be fully implemented by the end of 2003.

DUTCH WOULD BE OK WITH GAY PRIME MINISTER
Seventy-eight percent of Dutch people would be OK with having a Gay prime minister, according to a poll of 21,000 members of TV program EenVandaag's permanent opinion panel, NIS News Bulletin reported February 6.

The panel also would be fine with a prime minister who is female (93 percent approval), unmarried (90 percent approval), atheist (87 percent), black (75 percent) or Jewish (53 percent).

But only 27 percent of the panel would support an Islamic prime minister and only 33 percent would be OK with a fundamentalist Christian prime minister.

EIGHT MEN JAILED IN EGYPT ON HOMOSEXUALITY CHARGES
Human Rights Watch on February 5 highlighted the cases of eight men incarcerated in Cairo, Egypt, following homosexuality-related arrests or convictions.

Two men were arrested last October while having an argument on the street, after one of them told police officers he was HIV-positive. They were handcuffed to a desk for four days in the office of the Morality Police, were later subjected to anal probes and forced HIV testing, reportedly tested positive, and remain in custody in a hospital handcuffed to beds 23 hours a day.

Two other men were arrested because their phone numbers or photographs were in the possession of the first two men. They also were force-tested for HIV and remain in custody pending possible filing of charges.

Four additional men were arrested in November after they secured a lease and moved into the apartment of one of the first four men. They were tortured in custody; deprived of food, drink and blankets; and force-tested for HIV. In January, the four were convicted of "habitual practice of debauchery" and sentenced to one year in prison. On February 2, the convictions were upheld on appeal.

One of the men was told he is HIV-positive and is incarcerated in a hospital, chained to a bed 23 hours a day.

"These cases show Egyptian police acting on the dangerous belief that HIV is not a condition to be treated but a crime to be punished," said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch's LGBT Rights Program. "HIV tests forcibly taken without consent, ill treatment in detention, trials driven by prejudice, and convictions without evidence all violate international law."

HRW has urged authorities to drop all charges, stop chaining detainees to hospital beds, and make sure the eight men receive good medical care for any serious health conditions.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture - k d lang



Quote/Unquote
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

"[Coming out is] very powerful. It's not just about saying you're Gay. It's about an existential moment in time where you face up to all those forces that are pushing you in one direction, and you look them straight in the face and you say, 'No, that is not who I am. I am this. And I own this.' It's so powerful that those of us who are straight have to figure out what we have to come out about, because everybody's got something to come out about. And when we see you do that, it encourages us, it inspires us. I don't think you know that. I don't think you recognize that, the power of that act."
- Actress Judith Light, currently starring on ABC's Ugly Betty as Claire Meade, to the Palm Springs Gay magazine The BottomLine, January 18.

"Most of my friends are Gay. I love them. They're fun. We go out all the time. Gay men have the best taste. The best makeup - and they're hot."
- Paris Hilton, when asked by the Gay newspaper Dallas Voice on January 25, "Do you identify with the Gay community - as a member of it?"

"Among those people who use the politics of fear, there's typically an element of American society that's put forward as a wedge issue, and in this election it's illegal immigrants. It doesn't seem to be us [Gays]."
- Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese to the Associated Press, January 25.

"It's a great day when we can look at a field of [Democratic presidential] candidates and determine that we are comfortable with all of them on Gay rights and move on to other issues."
- Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese to The New York Times, January 28.

"You would need a magnifying glass to see any real or substantive differences between the three candidates [on gay issues]."
- Alan Van Capelle, executive director of New York's Empire State Pride Agenda, discussing Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards with a New York Times reporter, January 28. Edwards later dropped out of the race.

"I'm supporting her [Hillary Clinton] because I know her and I like her and she's smart and a tough girl. But I don't have much respect for either party. I just think Republicans are worse."
- Cher to USA Today, February 6.

"With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion. With Barack Obama, we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against Gay."
- U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., endorsing Barack Obama for president of the United States, January 28.

"The dream has never died. [It] lives on in those Americans - young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American, Gay and straight - who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president of the United States of America. That is the dream we hold in our hearts. That is the kind of leadership we long for in this country. And that is the kind of leadership I intend to offer as president of the United States of America."
- Presidential candidate Barack Obama as he accepted the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., January 28.

"Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. ... Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible. We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama."
- Caroline Kennedy writing in The New York Times, January 27.

"Mitt Romney's decision to withdraw from the presidential race was a smart one. After Super Tuesday, it became clear that Mitt Romney had no chance to win the GOP nomination. Governor Romney ran an aggressive campaign, spending tens of millions of dollars to hide his record and to distort the record of his opponents. In the end, voters did not find this version of Mitt Romney to be credible. Too many voters learned the truth about his record, and that record didn't match his newfound conservative rhetoric."
- Patrick Sammon, president of the national Gay group Log Cabin Republicans, in a February 7 statement.

"[Sen. Larry] Craig's peculiar hand and foot movements while in a bathroom stall don't constitute a crime. Even if he intended a silent sexual proposition, no law exists nor should one that criminalizes a request for noncommercial sex between adults. So the cops relied on a disorderly conduct charge, which outlaws any conduct that could 'arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others.' I've probably written columns that violate that law. I know I've gotten e-mail that does."
- Columnist Ann Woolner, Bloomberg.com, January 25.

"I've been in a relationship for the last six years and I'm happy. Her name is Jamie Price."
- Singer k.d. lang to the Chicago Gay newspaper Windy City Times, January 23.

"My mother had a hairdresser who looked like, I don't know, Liberace on steroids. It was frightening! And I thought he was the only Gay person in the world, and I didn't wanna be like him. I figured out that the feelings that I had towards other boys were not to be revealed. So, you learn to live a double life."
- Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin to CBS News, January 27.

"If I say I was being stereotypical and I [then] do what 'shouldn't' be stereotypical, then I'm living my life for somebody else and I'm marching to the beat of somebody else's drummer, and that, I think, is a worse thing. [B]eing out is just about being who you are. It's a worse crime to have to be a certain [non-stereotypical] way. And really, I think that is being a little homophobic. It's just me being me, and if you don't like it, that's just too bad."
--TV celebrity Carson Kressley, of Queer Eye fame, to AfterElton.com, January 30.

"[T]he worst thing [about being famous] is that I can't meet guys on Manhunt anymore. Well, I guess I can. No. The worst thing I guess is there's a certain preciousness to privacy, and just having that anonymity to go to the grocery store and look a mess, and just go get your paper on a Sunday morning. But that's a small price to pay for all the great things, and that's what my job is now. With every job there are pros and cons, but I'm happy to take them. I usually get a better table at a restaurant."
- Carson Kressley to AfterElton.com, January 30.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture - Judith Light

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