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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

INTERNATIONAL NEWS by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Hungarian domestic-partnership law struck down
Hungary's domestic-partnership law, which was to take effect January 1, was struck down by the Constitutional Court December 15.

The court said the law is unconstitutional because it would have given the rights of marriage to opposite-sex couples who are not married.

A domestic-partnership law limited to Gay couples only, however, would not be unconstitutional, the court ruled.

"The decision argues that ... allowing different-sex couples to enter into a relationship very similar to that of marriage duplicates the institution of marriage, and thus contradicts the special protection of marriage enshrined in the Constitution," said Tamás Dombos of Hungary's Háttér Support Society for LGBT People.

Following the decision, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány instructed the minister of justice to prepare a new registered-partnership bill taking into account the court's determination.

UN General Assembly hears pro-Gay statement
Sixty-six nations at the UN General Assembly supported a groundbreaking statement December 18 confirming that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity.

It was the first time a statement condemning rights abuses against GLBT people was presented in the General Assembly. It was read into the record by Argentine Ambassador Jorge Argüello.

The 66 countries affirmed "the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," and denounced "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice ... because of sexual orientation or gender identity."

The statement also called for the decriminalization of Gay sex, which is banned in at least 77 nations and punishable by death in at least seven of them - Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

"To love is not a crime," said Louis-Georges Tin, president of the International Day Against Homophobia Committee, which initiated the process that led to the statement. "To decriminalize homosexuality worldwide is a battle for human rights. ... This [statement] is a great achievement [but] I also want to remind everyone that ending the criminalization of same-sex love will be a long, hard battle."

Leading British activist Peter Tatchell called the statement "history in the making."

"The UN statement goes much further than seeking the decriminalization of same-sex acts," Tatchell said. "It condemns all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urges countries to protect the human rights of LGBT people and to bring to justice those who violate these rights, and calls for human rights defenders who oppose homophobic and Transphobic victimization to be allowed to carry out their advocacy and humanitarian work unimpeded."

The signatories overcame strong opposition from a group of governments that routinely try to block UN attention to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Fifty-seven nations signed an alternative statement, promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, that affirmed the "principles of non-discrimination and equality," but said universal human rights do not include "the attempt to focus on the rights of certain persons" because "the notion of orientation spans a wide range of personal choices that expand way beyond the individual's sexual interest in copulatory behavior with normal consenting adult human beings, thereby ushering in the social normalization, and possibly legitimization of many deplorable acts."

The countries that signed the pro-Gay statement are Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The United States refused to sign the statement, saying its broad language could reach into areas that fall outside of federal jurisdiction, such as the right of each U.S. state to define marriage.

"It is altogether shameful that on this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bush administration should take one final swipe at the universal application of human rights for all," said Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality. "The shoe incident in Iraq last week painfully shows us how low this country has sunk in the world's view."

Moscow Pride seeks emergency Euro court hearing
Moscow Pride will ask the European Court of Human Rights for an emergency hearing on two pending cases challenging Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's bans on Gay pride activities for the past three years.

Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev said he had received word that the court would not be ready to hear the cases until around 2012.

He said that seems unreasonable given that a ban on the 2005 Gay pride parade in Warsaw was struck down by the court in May 2007, less than 18 months after the case was filed.

Moscow Pride first appealed to the Euro Court on January 29, 2007.

On December 4, Luzhkov said he will continue to ban Gay pride activities because "propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions ... can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection."

Luzhkov previously has called Gay pride parades "satanic" and city officials have said the parades would create unacceptable levels of public disorder and security problems.

Despite the bans, Gays have staged various small pride events over the past three years. Participants in the events were violently attacked by anti-Gay mobs and police officers.

City apologizes for past anti-Gay actions
The City Council of Hobart, Tasmania, in Australia, apologized December 10 for banning a booth promoting Gay law reform from the city's weekly Salamanca Market in 1988.

In the weeks that followed, more than 100 people were arrested for refusing to vacate the site, marking Australia's largest-ever act of Gay civil disobedience.

The apology, delivered by Lord Mayor Rob Valentine before more than 200 former arrestees, GLBT community members and civil leaders, including state Premier David Bartlett, coincided with the 20th anniversary of the crackdown and the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"The Hobart City Council apologizes for prohibiting the Gay law reform stall at Salamanca Market in 1988 and for the resulting arrests and bans," Valentine said. "We are sorry for the pain and trauma caused to all involved, including GLBTI people; their family members, friends and supporters; and those council officers who were required to carry out the council decision. We are also sorry that the actions we took may have encouraged ill will and discrimination towards GLBTI people in the broader community. We resolve that actions such as these will never happen again."

The apology was formally accepted by Rodney Croome of the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, which has operated the booth continuously at the Saturday outdoor street market since 1988.

"Twenty years ago, as we sat in police cells for the crime of being ourselves, we could not possibly have imagined something like this," Croome said. "People everywhere who suffer human rights abuses should take this apology as a sign that no matter how bad things seem there is always hope of a better future."

Prior to the apology, a City Council-sponsored photo exhibit of the arrests was unveiled at the Salamanca Arts Centre. The council also is sponsoring public artwork at Salamanca Place commemorating the arrests.

Gays march in Hong Kong for first time
Hong Kong saw its first Gay pride parade December 13. About 1,000 people marched, including many who came from Taiwan and mainland China.

The two-mile procession traversed Hennessy Road in the city center.

Attendance may have been positively influenced by news reports before the parade, when Hong Kong's biggest bus company refused to rent a double-decker bus to pride organizers.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

pictures top: Rodney Croome
bottom: Hobart Mayor

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