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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Haider's male deputy says they had a relationship
The top deputy to the late Austrian rightist leader Jörg Haider created speculation October 22 that he and Haider had been lovers.

Haider crashed his car and died October 11 after leaving a Gay bar drunk.

Stefan Petzner, 27, who replaced Haider as leader of the right-wing party Alliance for the Future of Austria after Haider's death, told a radio program: "We had a relationship that went far beyond friendship. Jörg and I were connected by something truly special. He was the man of my life. [Haider's wife, Claudia,] loved him as a woman. He loved her as a man. I loved him in a completely different and personal way. She understood that."

Reports said party officials unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the interview from being broadcast, blocked further press access to Petzner, passed him over in choosing a leader for the party's parliamentary group, but kept him on as the party's overall leader.

Haider, 58, was outed in 2000 by Gay activists and newspapers in Austria, Germany and England.

At the time, he had just stepped down from 15 years as head of the populist/nationalist Freedom Party, which was one-half of Austria's governing coalition from 2000 to 2002.

The presence of the Freedom Party in the Austrian government caused outrage across, and sanctions from, the European Union.

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

An October 24 Associated Press story, titled "Was Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider Gay?" said Haider had praised aspects of Adolf Hitler's labor policies; criticized immigrants as lazy, criminal and corrupt; and seemed contemptuous of Jews, but had never spoken against Gay people or promoted so-called traditional family values.

Australian de facto couples who split to be treated as divorced
Australia's Senate passed a bill October 16 to treat unmarried couples who break up the same as married couples who divorce.

The measure, which was returned to the lower house for approval of Senate amendments, will create a uniform national standard for separating de facto couples, Gay and straight, sending them to federal family-law courts to work out property settlements, pension splits and other issues.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the changes are "long overdue."

Former UK soccer star cites 12 Gay current players
Former UK professional soccer player Paul Elliott, who was the Scottish Player of the Year in 1990-1991, said October 16 that he knows 12 current top players who are Gay but not out.

Elliott spoke at a forum called "Homophobia - Football's Final Taboo" organized by the group Kick It Out, which is funded by soccer's governing bodies and "works throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge racism and work for positive change," according to its website.

Elliott said the players are reluctant to come out for fear of homophobic chanting at games and other negative reactions.

"I've known a dozen players who are Gay," he said. "I understand why they do not want to come out. Like racism, there is no place for homophobia in sport."

Jerusalem Gay center in financial crisis
Jerusalem's GLBT community center, Jerusalem Open House, is in "financial crisis," the board of directors said in an open letter to the community October 22.

"As an organization that a high percentage of its annual budget is built on grants and gifts from abroad (mainly the USA), we are already feeling the pinch, as the flow of funds slows down from donors abroad," wrote Chairman of the Board Mikie Goldstein.

"During the first half of this year, we suffered the drastic fall in the value of the U.S. dollar, which shrank our dollar income by 20%. ... We were then struck by ... the collapse of banks and stock exchanges around the world. Some of our supporters have lost much money, others less; but they all feel intuitively less wealthy, and are therefore donating less, or waiting to see what happens."

Goldstein said the "serious cash flow situation" has left the center unable to pay staff salaries and forced it to reduce all employees' hours by half.

"We request your crucial help in ensuring the continuation of this singular institution," he said.

Gay couple arrested in Mexico for kissing and hugging
Two male U.S. citizens were arrested in Playa del Carmen, in Mexico's Quintana Roo state, for kissing and hugging in public, the Mexico City daily El Universal reported October 22.

Eric Schroeder, 22, and José Méndez, 35, were accused of committing "a moral misdeed" (una falta a la moral), jailed for 15 hours and fined 2,000 pesos ($148).

Schroeder told the paper that on October 10 the couple was "resolving some differences that we had" and, as they walked out of the house, "there were a few hugs and a kiss out front."

At that point, police arrived, handcuffed them, then drove them around while they "picked up more people who presumably had committed other crimes," he said.

"They wanted money and realizing they weren't going to get it, they drove us around," Schroeder said.

The couple's eventual incarceration at the main police station ended after they paid a cop a 300-peso fee to take one of their credit cards and withdraw money to pay the 2,000-peso fine, Schroeder said.

UK to give Lesbians equal access to fertility treatment
A controversial bill that passed Britain's House of Commons October 22, authorizing stem-cell research that implants human cells into animal eggs creating human-animal hybrids, also cleared the way for Lesbians to access fertility treatment and for a Lesbian couple to be named on a birth certificate as a child's parents.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill passed the House of Commons 355-129 and is unlikely to be further modified before becoming law.

"We've always thought it scandalous that Lesbian couples could lawfully be excluded from the safety of (National Health Service) clinics, for which we all pay," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of leading Gay lobby group Stonewall. "Often they've been forced to use unregulated backstreet services instead."

"Children in Lesbian and Gay families develop in exactly the same social and intellectual way as any others," he said. "This latest step forward for our communities is an important reminder that Lesbian and Gay families are every bit as loving and tender and magical as any other."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

pictures top: Haider
bottom: Summerskill

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