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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

Austrian far-right leader leaves Gay bar, dies in car crash
Jörg Haider, governor of Austria's Carinthia province and a leader among far-right European politicians, crashed his car and died after leaving a Gay bar in the city of Klagenfurt October 11.

Police said his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit for driving.

Haider, 58, was married with children, though rumors had swirled for years that he was secretly Gay. He had been outed by Gay activists and newspapers that included Britain's The Guardian, Germany's Die Tageszeitung and Austria's Der Standard.

Britain's Telegraph said Haider's "charismatic populism was instrumental in moving anti-immigrant politics from Europe's fringes towards the mainstream and breaking the grip on government of established centrist parties which he said had lost touch with the people."

From 2000 to 2002, the Freedom Party, which Haider briefly headed during that period, was half of a governing coalition in Austria.

Critics viewed Haider as an ultranationalist, extremist, racist xenophobe. In 1995, the U.S. Anti-Defamation League accused him of making "numerous statements utilizing Holocaust terminology or legitimizing Nazi policy and activities."

Haider routinely disparaged the European Union, of which Austria is a member.



Portuguese Parliament rejects same-sex marriage
Two draft laws to legalize same-sex marriage were rejected overwhelmingly by the Portuguese Parliament on October 10.

The measures, proposed by the Left Bloc and the Green Party, were opposed by the governing Socialist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the People's Party.

The Left Bloc bill also would have allowed same-sex couples to adopt. The Green Party bill would not have. Bloc and Green MPs abstained from voting on each other's bills.

During the vote, Gay rights groups staged two "weddings" in a Parliament stairway, attracting wide media coverage.

The ruling Socialists have said they will not support same-sex marriage until there is a broad national debate on the matter.

"Given that one of the main arguments of the [Socialists] to vote against the proposed amendments was that [same-sex marriage] was not in [their] election program, difficult times in the struggle for equality in access to civil marriage are expected in Portugal," said the news portal PortugalGay.pt.

A recent public-opinion poll found 42 percent support for same-sex marriage and 53 percent opposition.

Portugal has a de facto partnership law that grants limited rights to unmarried couples who have lived together for more than two years, in areas such as income tax, tenancy and immigration.



Norwegian church will not marry Gays when law takes effect
Norway will become the seventh nation to grant same-sex couples access to full marriage in January, but the dominant Church of Norway will not marry Gays, the state church's bishops said October 8.

Pastors will be permitted to offer prayers for gay couples who get married but may not bless them, the bishops said.

Same-sex marriage also is allowed in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and, in the U.S., California, Connecticut and Massachusetts.



Officials in Tambov, Russia, block Gay events
After initially giving a verbal OK, city officials in Tambov, Russia, reversed course and officially blocked the city's first planned Gay demonstrations October 9.

City Hall decided the city's residents did not approve of the events (a demonstration and a march), that police couldn't secure them and that they would cause traffic troubles.

Moscow activist Nikolai Alekseev, who was involved in planning the actions, said the decision violates the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, and that organizers will pursue legal redress.

Earlier this year, Tambov Mayor Oleg Betin reportedly said: "Tolerance? To hell! Faggots should be torn apart and their pieces thrown to the wind."

Tambov is about 300 miles (500 km) southeast of Moscow and has a population of about 292,000.



Head of British army addresses Gay conference
The head of Britain's army, Gen. Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, made history by addressing a Gay conference in London October 9, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

In remarks to the Fourth Joint Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Matters, Dannatt said that respecting GLBT officers and soldiers is "a command responsibility" that is mandatory to ensure "operational effectiveness."

"We have made real progress in our understanding of equality and diversity in the military context, and there is a desire to achieve more yet," he said. "Respect for others is not an optional extra, it is a command responsibility and an essential part of leadership, teamwork and operational effectiveness."

Britain's armed forces lifted their Gay ban in 2000 on orders from the European Court of Human Rights.



Dutch men on trial for deliberate HIV transmission
Three men from Groningen, Netherlands, are on trial for deliberately infecting at least 12 other men with HIV, several news agencies reported.

Hans Jurgens, 39, Peter Mulder, 50, and Wim Dekker, 49, allegedly advertised Gay sex parties online, lured participants to their location, then drugged them, raped them and injected them with HIV-positive blood.

Prosecutors want the trio to be jailed for between eight and 15 years.



Polish Gay march OK'd, then banned
Officials in Krakow, Poland, OK'd an October 31 Gay march, then turned around and banned it after Polish President Lech Kaczynski announced plans to attend a celebration of the anniversary of Krakow's independence the same day.

Gay groups planned to march to the grave of King Wladyslaw III, who they claim was Gay, on the anniversary of his death.

City officials had said they were fine with the two events occurring simultaneously but, after Kaczynski's announcement, they banned all other street events and demonstrations for the day and said the king's grave would be closed.

"It is hard to say [if] Kaczynski [is] in Krakow to ban our march or just to be part of Krakow's event," said activist Lukasz Palucki. "Information about our meeting was in the biggest Polish media so I am sure he knew about our march."

In 2007, Gay pride organizers in Warsaw won a European Court of Human Rights case against Kaczynski, who, as mayor of Warsaw, banned the 2005 pride parade.

Kaczynski has said that if homosexuality "were to be promoted on a grand scale, the human race would disappear" and that he opposes "propagating Gay orientation."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

pictures top: Nikolai Alekseev
bottom: Portugal

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