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Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Gay man elected to Nepal parliament
Well-known Gay activist Sunil Babu Pant, 35, has been elected to Nepal's 601-member Constituent Assembly, which will draft the nation's new constitution and also function as parliament during the drafting process.

Pant was not elected directly, but was chosen by the Communist Party of Nepal (United) as one of its representatives when the party received enough votes to secure five proportional-representation seats in the assembly.

"We are honored to send Pant as our representative," General Secretary Ganesh Shah told The Times of India. "We hope it will improve the lives of a people who are the most repressed in Nepal, disowned both by society and their own families."

In a note posted on a Gay-activism mailing list, Pant said: "The support and solidarity I have from locally and abroad will make my job easier and [I] hope the flag of the LGBT communities will continue flying high in Nepal and in other countries too. Friends and activists like you from all over the world have [been] my source of inspiration."

Australia to extend almost equality to Gay couples
Australia's government said April 29 it will change some 100 laws to extend equal rights to same-sex couples.

But the move will not include access to marriage, which is explicitly banned by existing law.

"The changes will provide for equality of treatment under a wide range of Commonwealth laws between same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples," said Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

"They will make a practical difference to the everyday lives of a group of our fellow Australians who have suffered discrimination under Commonwealth laws for far too long."

Areas targeted by the plan include taxes, pensions, social security, health care, elder care, veteran entitlements, workers compensation and workplace benefits.

All the changes are expected to be in place by the middle of 2009.

Aussie territory forced to back down on Gay equality
The Australian Capital Territory, where Canberra is located, was forced to rewrite its civil-union bill after the federal government promised to overturn it.

The weakened measure passed the territory's Legislative Assembly on May 9.

At issue was not the civil unions themselves, but the marriage-like ceremony that was to accompany them.

"Given the stubborn refusal of the federal government to consider any compromise, the territory has decided to amend its legislation to provide for a form of civil partnerships without ceremony," said ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell.

He accused the feds of wielding "undemocratic 19th-century colonial-style power."

UK spinster sisters denied Gay-couple rights
The European Court of Human Rights ruled 15-2 on April 29 that two elderly sisters in England who never married, and lived together their whole lives, have no right to the inheritance-tax exemption granted to civilly partnered same-sex couples.

Joyce Burden, 90, and Sybil Burden, 82, say this means that when one of them dies, the other will have to sell the family home to pay approximately $460,000 in inheritance taxes.

Married couples, as well as same-sex couples who enter a civil partnership, are exempt from inheritance tax, but other inheritors are taxed at 40 percent of the value of the home that exceeds $600,000. The sisters' home has grown in value to $1,750,000.

The sisters have argued that the tax law is "unfair" and makes them "second-class citizens."

Lesbos residents want their name back
Three residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have filed suit in an attempt to reclaim the word "Lesbian" and stop the group Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece (OLKE) from using it.

Gay women are believed to have adopted the word in memory of Sappho, a poet who lived on the island in the sixth century B.C. and wrote about love between women.

The plaintiffs claim the alleged theft of "Lesbian" from the island's residents amounts to "psychological and moral rape."

An OLKE spokeswoman called the case "ridiculous" but an Athens court will hear the matter on June 10.

Birmingham, England, pride parade canceled
Pride organizers in Birmingham, England, have canceled this year's parade, saying there were too many problems regarding the start time and road closures, The Birmingham Post reported.

But they say the 12th annual pride festival May 24-25 will be as "awesome" and "outrageous" as ever, and feature "headline artists."

Gays attacked after rally in St. Petersburg
Homophobes attacked Gay activists in St. Petersburg, Russia, May 3 after about 25 activists staged an "International Day of Silence" action in Chernyshevsky Park. The activists had taped their mouths shut, handed out leaflets and sat on benches.

Although police guarded the action itself, two participants were beaten after the action ended. The Interfax news service described the assailants as "dressed as rappers."

They punched and kicked rally co-organizer Igor Petrov, head of the Russian LGBT Organizations Network, and Ignat Fialkovskiy, press secretary of the local Gay film festival, then ran away as police approached. The activists were not seriously injured.

Day of Silence rallies also took place in the Russian cities of Novokuznetsk and Yaroslavl, and in several other nations.

The Novokuznetsk action took the form of a "flash mob" in which 20 activists, linked via online social networks, came together to quickly distribute fliers, then disassemble before police could react. One participant was injured when a group of skinheads set upon the activists.

The Yaroslavl action also used the "flash mob" approach. Nine people took part and 600 fliers were distributed. Only four people who received the information expressed objections to it.

"We were able to [get out] the word about the problem of emotional harassment and violence, discrimination and intolerance based on sexual orientation and gender identity," said Valery Silantiev, a Russian organizer of the Day of Silence events. "The attacks on the participants of the event in St. Petersburg and Novokuznetsk confirmed the relevance of the problem."

Novokuznetsk is about 1,800 miles (3,000 km) southeast of Moscow and has a population of about 550,000. Yaroslavl is about 150 miles (250 km) northeast of Moscow and has a population of about 613,000.

Lesbian soccer player murdered in South Africa
An openly Lesbian member of South Africa's national women's soccer team was murdered in Kwatema, east of Johannesburg, in late April.

Reports said Eudy Simelane, 31, was raped and stabbed by a gang of youths as she and friends returned home from a tavern. Five suspects were later taken into custody.

A spokeswoman for People Opposed to Women Abuse, Carrie Shelver, told the South African Broadcasting Corporation that the killing likely was "a homophobic hate crime" given that Simelane's Lesbianism was well-known.

Simelane was a midfielder for the national team, which is known as Banyana Banyana.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

picture top: Sunil Pant;

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