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Rex Wockner
International News
CUBAN CULTURE MINISTER SUPPORTS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Cuba's culture minister, Abel Prieto, has come out in support of same-sex marriage, the Miami Herald reported February 6.

"I think that marriage between Lesbians, between homosexuals can be perfectly approved and that in Cuba that wouldn't cause an earthquake or anything like that," Prieto, who is a member of the Politburo, told reporters after a screening of a new documentary about folk singer Silvio Rodríguez.

Prieto, 57, also is a member of the Council of State, Cuba's governing body. The Herald noted that he is the only top government official with "shoulder-length hair."

Prieto's statement is one of several pro-Gay developments in Cuba in the past year.

In November, Mariela Castro Espín, director of National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), said her dad, Raúl Castro, supports letting open Gays serve in the military. Raúl Castro is leading Cuba during his brother Fidel's lengthy illness.

Castro Espín also has said the island will begin offering sex-change operations.

"There are 27 Transsexuals waiting for the operation [and] the medical team is being trained," she told the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín three months ago. "As soon as it's ready ... they will start to operate."

In December, two Havana Lesbians were symbolically married in CENESEX's courtyard. Mónica, 19, and Elizabeth, 28, tied the knot before 60 friends and supporters in the first-ever same-sex union to receive support from a government agency.

The ceremony was filmed by students from the Cuban Higher Institute of Art.

And last July, the Roman Catholic vicar general of Havana, Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes García-Menocal, wrote that he supports "stable same-sex relationships" being "protected by civil laws."

"Contemporary Western society is no longer the same as that which arrived at present clarifications concerning marriage," Céspedes said.

ROMANIA CONSIDERS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN
Romania's parliament is considering defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Current law defines it as "between spouses."

A bill passed unanimously February 4 by the Senate Judiciary Committee would change the law to read, "The marriage between a man and a woman is the basis of the family."

Human Rights Watch denounced the measure.

"There is no excuse for playing politics with families' welfare," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of HRW's LGBT Rights Program.

"These proposals not only deliberately discriminate against same-sex couples but threaten their families, including children. It is an insult to Romania's achievements elsewhere in overcoming discrimination."

SWEDISH COURT: LESBIANS CAN BUY PUPPIES
Lesbians must be allowed to buy dogs, a Stockholm appeals court affirmed February 11.

A kennel owner in the Stockholm suburb of Värmdö, Anette Sjöholm, had refused to sell a puppy to a Lesbian, Smila Bergström, because Sjöholm had read that Transvestites are involved in animal pornography and she believed that made homosexuals untrustworthy.

The court unanimously rejected Sjöholm's defense, as did a lower district court, according to a report in the Stockholm publication The Local.

Sjöholm must pay Bergström $3,085 in damages for discrimination and harassment, and reimburse $6,940 to the state Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation for its legal expenses.

ISRAEL OKS GAY ADOPTION
Israel's Justice Ministry announced February 10 that same-sex couples can adopt children.

"When it is for the good of the adopted child, it is possible to agree to requests from same-sex couples to adopt a child who is not the child of one of the partners," the ministry announced on behalf of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog welcomed the move, saying: "There is no reason why same-sex couples who meet the criteria for adoption should not be able to join the process of adoption and of parenthood. We must adapt to the spirit of the times and the changes that are afoot."

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers denounced the decision, saying it will lead to children being placed in an unnatural environment.

U.N. TURNS DOWN GAY GROUPS
The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations is again opposing and delaying Gay groups' requests for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

On February 11, the committee recommended denial of, or deferred action on, the applications of Spain's State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB); the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals (ABGLT); and the Dutch national Gay organization COC (its former initials are now its full name).

"It was a shocking first experience at the U.N.," said Joyce Hamilton of COC, whose application, along with that of ABGLT, was deferred. "This blatant structural discrimination against LGBT organizations shows the need for a continued battle."

FELGTB's application was recommended for rejection in a tie vote. Support for the application came from Colombia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Opposition came from Burundi, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and Sudan. Four nations abstained - Angola, Guinea, India and Turkey - and Cuba missed the vote.

"Even getting this negative recommendation was difficult in the NGO committee today," said FELGTB's Toni Poveda. "Representatives of Egypt, Pakistan and Qatar constantly came up with additional questions for us and claimed that proceeding to a vote on whether or not to grant consultative status to the group - before all questions are answered - would constitute preferential treatment."

The negative recommendation actually puts FELGTB in a better position than COC and ABGLT.

"There is clearly a group of countries in this committee which insists on blocking the applications of LGBT groups from one session to another, preventing them to reach the full ECOSOC, where [this committee's] position does not have a majority," said FELGTB's Sylvia Jaén. "We were successful in overcoming this situation but unfortunately our Dutch and Brazilian friends were not."

Groups that have succeeded in achieving ECOSOC consultative status in recent years include the Swedish national Gay group RFSL (its former initials are now its full name), Canada's Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Québec, the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians, the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, International Wages Due Lesbians, Australia's Coalition of Activist Lesbians, and the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

The status allows nongovernmental organizations - some 2,900 in all - to access U.N. meetings, deliver oral and written reports, contact country representatives and organize events.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture - Boris Dittrich



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

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