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Rex Wockner
International News

The mayors of Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn, Estonia, have declined to sign a pledge from the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association in support of the rights of GLBT people to freedom of assembly and expression.

Nineteen European mayors have signed the document - from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dublin, Ljubljana, London, Luxembourg, Manchester, Nicosia, Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Vienna, Winterthur and Zurich.

In his written refusal, Riga Mayor Janis Birks said: "The Riga City Council truly supports your initiative, greatly appreciates the actions of the campaign and all the possible positive effects generated by the project [but] the decision on the appeal should rather remain an individual competence of each city."

Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar submitted the pledge to a City Council committee, which advised him that his signature was unnecessary because minorities are not mistreated in the city.

There has been no response yet from several cities.

Organizers of Moscow's third Gay pride events, scheduled for May 30-31, have urged the mayors of Berlin, Paris and London to attend the events.

The city's first two pride parades were banned by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who called them "satanic," and people who attended the public events that replaced the parades were violently attacked by anti-Gay demonstrators.

Writing to openly Gay Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, openly Gay Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoƫ and Gay-friendly London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Moscow Pride organizers Nikolai Baev and Nikolai Alekseev said: "Please take part in our conference and rally. This could principally change the situation in Moscow. This would give us a real chance that our civil rights will be respected by Moscow administration and that violence will be avoided."

Israel has granted residency to a 33-year-old Gay Palestinian to live with his Israeli partner in Tel Aviv because the Palestinian had received anti-Gay death threats while living in the West Bank.

The move was unprecedented, and even straight couples rarely receive such permission.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces' coordinator of government activities in the territories said an exception was made because the man's life was apparently in danger.

The man will be required to renew the IDF-issued residence permit monthly until the Interior Ministry rules on his five-year-old application for a more permanent status.

Some 120 protesters picketed Prime Minister Gordon Brown's residence in London on March 22 demanding that Mehdi Kazemi not be deported to Iran, where he fears he'll be executed for being Gay.

"There needs to be a fundamental reform of the way the Home Office processes LGBTI asylum applications," said protest co-organizer Peter Tatchell. "The government refuses to explicitly rule that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum. This signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBTI people are not as worthy."

Kazemi went to London to study in 2005 and Iran later charged his boyfriend, Parham, with sodomy and executed him, according to Kazemi's father.

Kazemi then sought asylum in Britain but was rejected. In 2006, he fled to the Netherlands, which detained him and is preparing to return him to the UK.

The UK had planned to fly Kazemi back to Iran as soon as he returned to Britain but, following media coverage and political pressure, the Home Office has agreed to review his case one more time before forcing him to go home.

"My father [said] the authorities had executed Parham and that I must not return to Iran as the authorities would do the same to me," Kazemi said in a recent statement. "Parham was charged with [the] crime [of] being homosexual."

According to Kazemi's father, Parham named Mehdi as his lover prior to his execution.

Iran is known to have executed several teens and men accused of engaging in sodomy, although in nearly all the cases that have been publicized in recent years the individuals were accused of other crimes as well, such as rape.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has said it believes additional charges are tacked onto sodomy cases to prevent the public outrage that would accompany executions carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult Gay sex. The group also has said that executions solely for Gay sex likely are taking place out of the public eye.

According to Britain's Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, "Deporting Gay and Lesbian people to Iran is akin to deporting Jews back to Nazi Germany."

But Human Rights Watch asserts that it cannot fully document any executions in Iran in recent years carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult Gay sex, though it does acknowledge that men have been sentenced to death for "consensual homosexual conduct."

"It is not known whether [the sentences] were carried out," the group said March 28.

Sixty-five percent of Poles support the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, which would commit Poland to the European Union's Gay-friendly Charter of Fundamental Rights.

And only 19 percent believed President Lech Kaczynski's March 17 televised warning that adopting the treaty could force Poland to recognize or legalize same-sex marriages, a poll for the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper has found.

The treaty became a hotter topic in Poland after Kaczynski came under fire for using a photo and video clip from New York City Gay activist Brendan Fay's 2003 Canadian wedding during the nationally broadcast speech in which he issued the Gay-marriage warning.

Fay filed a complaint with Poland's New York consul general, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, who called Kaczynski's use of the photo and video "pitiful."

On March 29, a Polish television network flew Fay and his husband, Thomas Moulton, to Warsaw for an interview.

The Polish Gay group Campaign Against Homophobia accused Kaczynski of "ignorance and overt homophobia."

"[I]n light of Lech Kaczynski's decision to ban the [Gay] Equality Parade twice [when he was] mayor of Warsaw, we worry that the president is consciously capitalizing on the fears of a certain part of Polish society towards Lesbians and Gays," the group said.

Beijing police raided and closed two Gay bathhouses on March 20 and 21, according to a report circulated on Asian gay mailing lists by AIDS activists in China and Malaysia.

The March 26 report said the city's most popular Gay bathhouse, Club Oasis, was raided March 20, and 70 patrons and employees were taken into custody. It said the patrons were released 30 hours later but the staff remained jailed.

The report said another Oasis bathhouse near Dongsishitiao Bridge was raided March 21 and the staff, but not the customers, were taken into custody.

The report, which carried the byline of well-known Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, said a third bathhouse reportedly had met a similar fate at the same time, but provided no details.

The report also included a list of other recent alleged police actions against Gay men, including a bar raid and temporary closure, raids of cruisy parks, and arrests of sex workers tracked down via their Web postings.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

"quote unquote" by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

"I think you can judge the level of success for any group of people by the reaction against it. And given the reaction of the so-called Christian Right - I would put that in quotes because I don't believe they're Christians at all - I would have to say that [Gay] people have been wildly successful."
-Rubyfruit Jungle author Rita Mae Brown to Time magazine, March 18.

"I don't believe in straight or Gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of Bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are Gay or really truly are straight."
-Rita Mae Brown to Time magazine, March 18.

"We called it the Friday Night Special ... a hardcore consensual sex orgy."
-Teddy Pedersen, 29, a former driver for now-Gay former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, claiming he had three-way sex with McGreevey and his wife, Dina, multiple times from 1999 to 2001, to the New York Post, March 16.

"He liked watching me, and she would watch me while she was [performing sex acts] with Jim. In my opinion, me being a part of their sexual relationship enhanced it for both of them."
-Teddy Pedersen to the New York Post, March 16.

"This happened, this happened in the past, and now we need to move on with our lives. For all of our sakes, particularly our daughter, we need to close this chapter and look toward the future. This was referenced in an earlier draft of my book, and I had it removed. I still hope Dina and I can resolve our issues privately."
-Jim McGreevey, confirming Pedersen's story in a March 17 statement.

"Theodore Pedersen's claims ... are completely false and were prompted by Jim McGreevey. This all has to do with the publicity I have received since Gov. Spitzer resigned. Jim has enlisted one of his cronies in trying to distinguish that situation from his own, and to discredit me in the media. He cannot stand it when I am receiving attention in the media rather than him."
-Dina Matos McGreevey to ABC News, March 17.

"You journalists like to think that when we talk to you, that is our official coming out, but we have been out for ages before that. Brad and I support many nonprofits in Los Angeles and appear together on annual dinner programs as sponsors or various other events where we are listed together. Our names are carved in granite on the donor wall of East West Players; we have been out. You don't have your names carved in granite and say you are not out."
-Actor George Takei, who played Sulu in the first Star Trek series, to the Florida Gay magazine The Gazette, February issue.

"It was super complicated for me in the '80s. I was totally open with the band and my family and my friends and certainly the people I was sleeping with. I thought it was pretty obvious. ... I'd just never felt strongly enough about a particular relationship to say, 'Yeah, he's my boyfriend, that is what it is.' Now I recognize that for public figures to be very open about their sexuality helps some kid somewhere."
-R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe telling Spin magazine that he's gay, March 18.

"I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society."
-Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, speaking against a pending bill that grants immigration rights to Gay Americans' foreign partners, to Medill News Service, March 19.

"Why should we try to maintain something that is actually impossible to maintain, which also causes little bother for others and, for a certain group, actually signifies much pleasure?"
-Alderman Paul van Grieken of Amsterdam's Oud-Zuid district discussing new regulations that will legalize having sex in cruisy Vondel Park if it is done after dark and out of view and if the parties don't leave used condoms lying around, to De Telegraaf, March 7.

"While I must confess I'm less than enthusiastic about the candidacy of Barack Obama, I ardently hope that he will defeat Hillary Clinton. I can't forget Hillary's position in support of the Defense of Marriage Act and her scabrous abstinence-only preachings while first lady, any more than I can erase from my brainpan Obama's using Gay-hostile preacher Donnie McClurkin to shill for votes in South Carolina, or his refusal to be photographed with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom because he feared that might be interpreted as support for Gay marriage."
-Longtime independent journalist Doug Ireland writing in New York City's Gay City News, March 13.

"We argue about immigration but we don't try to solve the immigration problem. It's an argument that is all about people's passions instead of trying to figure it out. We argue about Gay marriage. In the meantime the planet is ... potentially being destroyed. We've got a war that is bankrupting us. And we're going to argue about Gay marriage? I mean, that doesn't make any sense."
-Presidential candidate Barack Obama speaking in Medford, Ore., March 22.

"I now think it's time for the politicians to catch up to the public. The notion that you lock people up for smoking marijuana is pretty silly. I'm going to call it the 'Make Room for Serious Criminals' bill."
-Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., announcing he will introduce a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, according to, March 22.

"I don't think my generation is better or had it better. The one thing you'll never see again - and I'm not so sure it's bad you missed it - was the sexual revolution. You can't imagine what it was like to go home and have sex with someone different every day. ... People really did! In Provincetown there was a bar called Piggies, totally mixed, Gay and straight, but it was outside of town and everyone had to walk home and every person would just have sex in the graveyard along the way. I mean, those days will never happen again. Going to places like Hellfire in New York City, you look back and it's so amazing, and that certainly did lead to terrible things like AIDS - and AIDS ruined everything for the rest of our lives. It ruined people taking chances. That's over. You missed that."
-Gay filmmaker John Waters to New York magazine, March 24.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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