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Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Latvian officials want to fence in Pride
Latvia's prime minister and integration minister said April 24 that they want Riga's Gay pride parade to again take place inside a fenced-in park, to protect celebrants from violent anti-Gay protesters.

Last year, armed with a court ruling that the ban on the 2006 parade was unconstitutional, more than 500 GLBT people marched inside Vermanes Park under heavy police protection, dodging only a paint bomb, an ice-cream cone and a few firecrackers.

In 2006, after the City Council banned the parade, organizers held a service at a church and meetings at a hotel. The attendees were attacked by Christian, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi protesters who pelted them with eggs, rotten food and feces.

In 2005, about 150 marchers attempted to march in the streets. They were outnumbered by around 1,000 anti-Gay protesters who hurled insults, bottles and rotten eggs; blocked the streets; and forced the parade to be rerouted. The protesters chanted "No sodomy" and "Gays fuck the nation."

The move to again fence in Pride was criticized by the director of the Latvian Human Rights Center, Ilze Brands-Kehre, who accused the government of interfering with freedom of assembly.

Serbia vows to protect GLBT Eurovision attendees
Belgrade's police department has promised to protect the throngs of GLBT people who typically travel to the Eurovision Song Contest - being held in Serbia this year because a Serbian singer won it last year.

The vow came at an April 24 meeting between the Gay-Straight Alliance, Interior Ministry officials, contest officials, Belgrade police and the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The issue, and fears upon this matter, are mostly a product of lots of threats of cleric-fascistic organizations in Serbia - such as Obraz, whose president ... uses every single public appearance to announce open hunt on LGBT population of fans who are about to attend the ESC 2008," the Gay-Straight Alliance said in an English-language press release.

Kurt Krickler of the European Pride Organisers Association, which has taken interest in the matter, said "it's difficult to judge" if the meeting means Belgrade will be safe for GLBT contest attendees.

"I believe the Serbian authorities have realized that the safety of LGBT song contest fans is an important issue, and at least the authorities seem to understand that it would badly damage Serbia's image abroad if incidents of homophobic violence occurred," Krickler said in an interview.

"I am convinced the police will do everything to prevent homophobic incidents but of course there cannot be a policeman behind every foreign visitor. ... I would still recommend Gay visitors to keep a low profile and, for example, not wave rainbow flags in the streets."

The campy song contest, now in its 53rd year, is hugely popular among European Gays. Forty-three nations have entered this year's competition, which culminates May 24.

The European Broadcasting Union will stream the contest over the Web at broadcast quality. See eurovision.tv for details.

Singapore TV station fined for too-Gay broadcast
Singapore's Media Development Authority has fined MediaCorp TV's Channel 5 $11,000 for airing a program that was too Gay-friendly.

The home and decor series Find and Design made the error of being too accepting when it helped a Gay couple transform their game room into a nursery for their adopted baby, the authority said.

"The episode contained several scenes of the Gay couple with their baby as well as the presenter's congratulations and acknowledgement of them as a family unit in a way which normalises their Gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup," the regulator said April 24. "This is in breach of the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code which disallows programmes that promote, justify or glamourise Gay lifestyles."

Gay sex is illegal in Singapore and could lead to a two-year jail sentence.

Last year, Channel 5 was fined $3,700 for showing a Lesbian kiss on the imported U.S. series Without a Trace.

Canadian charity must pay fired Lesbian, stop discriminating
The large Ontario charity Christian Horizons, which helps disabled people, must pay $23,000 to a Lesbian it fired and stop discriminating based on sexual orientation, the provincial Human Rights Tribunal ruled April 25.

Connie Heintz will receive $8,000 for being discriminated against, $10,000 for suffering a poisoned work environment and $5,000 for willful and reckless infliction of mental anguish. She also will be compensated for nearly two years' lost wages and benefits plus interest, minus any income she made working elsewhere.

Horizons operates with substantial government funding and does not restrict its services to people who share its beliefs, which, the tribunal said, makes it a "public service" subject to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The tribunal also ordered the agency to stop requiring staff to sign a "Lifestyle and Morality Statement" that banned them from engaging in extramarital, premarital or Gay sex and from using or endorsing alcohol or tobacco.

"When faith-based and other organizations move beyond serving the interests of their particular community to serving the general public, the rights of others, including employees, must be respected," said Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Spanish activist awarded government honors
Veteran Spanish Gay activist Jordi Petit of Barcelona was awarded the Catalonian government's Cross of Saint George on April 22.

"(It) is the highest award that is granted in Catalonia, a very honorific distinction that each year the government of Catalonia grants to a few people, more or less 20, who have distinguished themselves by their work or their life - in science, art, culture, social movements, etc.," Petit said in an interview.

The ceremony, followed by a champagne reception, was heavily covered by all media.

"So many people have congratulated me, including strangers in the street," Petit said.

The awards were handed out by José Montilla, president of the autonomous Catalonian government.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

picture top: Jordi Petit; picture bottom: Marija Serifovic

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