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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Australian Parliament gives Gay couples equal rights
Australia's Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation in late November that changes some 100 laws to give Gay couples equal rights.

The measure now goes to the Governor-General for formal approval.

The changes, introduced by the federal government, extend spousal rights to same-sex de facto couples in areas such as health care, taxation, pensions, parenting, public benefits, workplace benefits, workers' compensation, veterans' affairs, elder care and educational assistance.

"At long last we have removed discrimination against same-sex couples from commonwealth law," said Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

Gay campaigners cheered the move but said Gay couples will not have complete equality until they can get married.



Euro MPs' Gay leader blasts Burundi Gay-sex ban
The president of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, Michael Cashman, on November 26 condemned new legislation in the Central African nation of Burundi that specifically criminalizes Gay sex.

Cashman discussed the matter with the European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Louis Michael, and called on the European Commission to raise the issue with Burundi's government.

"The commissioner expressed that he was shocked to learn of this law," Cashman said. "He [said] he will travel to Burundi and discuss his concerns with the government."

Burundi's National Assembly passed the explicit ban November 21 as part of a package of more than 600 legal changes that included abolition of the death penalty. The measure punishes consensual adult Gay sex with a large fine and a jail term of between three months and two years.

According to Amnesty International, male-male sex previously was targeted via laws governing "immoral acts."

The vote on the package was 90 to 0 with 10 abstentions. The legislation now advances to the Senate, then goes to President Pierre Nkurunziza. Neither is expected to oppose it.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the local Association pour le Respect des Droits des Homosexuels (ARDHO) have written to each senator and to Nkurunziza in an attempt to stop the sex ban from becoming law.

"These laws are meant to silence and terrorize our community," said IGLHRC Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick. A spokesman for ARDHO said, "The government has moved this bill quickly and unjustly through the legislative process ... over the course of a weekend, with no input from civil society or general discussion about the issue of homosexuality and freedom of expression within Burundi."

The small, landlocked nation has a population of 8.7 million, a life expectancy of less than 52 years, and a per capita gross domestic product at purchasing-power parity of $300. The comparable figure for the U.S. is $45,800. Norway's is $53,300, Mexico's is $12,400 and Vietnam's is $2,600.

About two-thirds of African nations ban consensual sex between adults of the same sex.



Irish Gay choir may sue festival
"Glória: Ireland's Lesbian & Gay Choir" is considering filing a Circuit Court lawsuit because the "Lesbian & Gay" part of its name was not included on posters advertising the 2004 Cork International Choral Festival.

According to The Sunday Tribune, a complaint the choir filed over the matter with the nation's Equality Tribunal was recently rejected because it had been filed by the group rather than an individual.

The choir's former musical director told the paper that the choir had insisted the festival use the group's full name in advertising and on posters but, upon arrival in Cork, choir members discovered that the festival had not done so.

"We sing and want to do it openly as Gays and Lesbians," said Bernadette Manning.



British Columbia pride parade canceled after threats
A Gay pride parade planned for November 15 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, was canceled after threats it would be attacked, the Vancouver Sun reported November 23.

The parade, organized by high-school students using Facebook, was scheduled for the same day as the 300-city protests against California's Proposition 8, the ballot measure that re-banned same-sex marriage in the state.

The march was called off after a rival Facebook group formed with more than 300 members quoting the Bible, condemning homosexuality and proposing a straight-pride march.

Gay organizers say they also received threats that their march would be "egged."

Following the kerfuffle, the University of the Fraser Valley Pride Network stepped forward and is helping the high-school students organize a December 6 "social justice rally" at Abbotsford Community Services, the Sun said.

Abbotsford, population 129,000, is located 46 miles (74 km) southeast of Vancouver on the border with Washington State.



80% of South Africans think Gay sex is wrong
Despite a constitutional ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and its being one of only six nations where same-sex couples can marry, South Africa remains deeply homophobic, a new survey has found.

The Human Sciences Research Council's annual South African Social Attitudes Survey, released November 24, found that 80 percent of respondents think Gay sex is wrong.

Whites, city dwellers and highly educated people polled less anti-Gay than blacks, "coloureds" (mixed-race people), people with less education and those living in rural areas, the Sunday Times reported.



Transgender ex-MP wins Italian reality show
Transgender former Italian Member of Parliament Vladimir Luxuria won the Italian TV reality show Celebrity Island (L'Isola dei Famosi) November 24.

Viewers selected Luxuria, 43, winner of the program after seeing the contestants live for six weeks on Honduran beaches.

Luxuria, who has not had sex-change surgery and whose real name is Wladimiro Guadagno, won 200,000 euros ($260,000), half of which will be donated to UNICEF.

Luxuria served in the Chamber of Deputies from 2006 to 2008, representing a district of Rome for the Communist Refoundation Party.



Marriage commissioner sues Canadian province
A marriage commissioner who was ordered by a human-rights tribunal to pay $2,500 to a Gay couple he refused to marry is suing the government of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Orville Nichols, whose refusal violated the provincial Human Rights Code, says his religious beliefs prevented him from marrying the couple and that the tribunal's decision violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

pictures top: Glória: Ireland's Lesbian & Gay Choir
bottom: Glória: Ireland's Lesbian & Gay Choir

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