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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Denmark OKs Gay adoption
Denmark, which enacted the world's first same-sex civil-union law in 1989, extended adoption rights to Gay couples March 17.

Parliamentarians voted for the measure 62-53, with 64 legislators not present.

The bill was supported by the opposition Social Democrats and Socialist People's Party. The ruling Liberal Party opposed it, though seven Liberal MPs broke ranks and voted for it.

Denmark's groundbreaking 1989 "registered partnership" law granted same-sex couples more than 99 percent of the rights and obligations of marriage - a model that later was copied by several other European nations.

Beginning in 2001 with the Netherlands, Gay couples began gaining access to marriage itself. Same-sex marriage now is possible in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and the U.S. states of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

From June to November 2008, Gays in California also could marry, until voters amended the state constitution to stop it. The constitutionality of the amendment, known as Proposition 8, is now being reviewed by the California Supreme Court.

Obama reverses Bush opposition to UN declaration
The administration of President Barack Obama has reversed a decision by the administration of former President George W. Bush and added the United States' signature to a pro-Gay declaration delivered in the United Nations General Assembly last December.

Sixty-six nations supported the groundbreaking statement that called for the decriminalization of Gay sex worldwide and affirmed that international human rights standards include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The United States supports the UN Statement on 'Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity,' and is pleased to join the other 66 UN member states who have declared their support of this Statement that condemns human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity wherever they occur," the State Department said March 18. "The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world. As such, we join with the other supporters of this Statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora."

In opposing the declaration, the Bush administration had said the document's 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 was the first time a statement condemning rights abuses against GLBT people was presented in the General Assembly.

Gay activists hailed the State Department decision.

"It is terrific that the Obama administration is joining the United Nations' resolution calling for an end to laws that make physical intimacy between same-sex couples a crime," said Matt Coles, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. "Many of these laws are ... used to put people in prison and sometimes result in people being executed."

"That the Bush administration refused to endorse the resolution is pretty unbelievable considering the U.S. Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional to criminalize physical intimacy between consenting adults back in 2003," Coles added. "We urge the United States to match its action on human rights abroad with bold commitment to respect and promote human rights at home. We can begin putting an end to discrimination against [LGBT] people by, as the president has proposed, banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and by repealing the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal protections to those same-sex couples who have legally married."

More than 80 of the world's 195 nations criminalize Gay sex, and it is punishable by death in 10 - Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In Pakistan and the UAE, however, the criminal code, which does not punish sodomy with death, tends to take precedence over the equally legal Shariah law, which does punish sodomy with death. In Somalia, Shariah law is in force in portions of the nation. Somalia presently has no national government. In Afghanistan, the penal code does not punish sodomy with death, but Shariah does - and is in force in much of the country. Nigeria has the Shariah death penalty for Gay sex in northern provinces only, where Shariah takes precedence over federal law and people have been sentenced to death for Gay sex, though executions apparently have not been carried out. The remaining five nations have an unambiguous national death penalty for sodomy - Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

The UN declaration's original signers were 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.

CoE, HRW: Serbia needs to protect Gays
Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's human-rights commissioner, said March 11 that Serbia is doing a bad job of protecting Gay people.

"Discriminatory statements made by political figures and the media go largely unpunished," he said. "Human rights activists in particular are victims of intolerance, hate speech and threats, sometimes resulting in physical attacks. Such instances must be condemned from the highest political level and sanctioned appropriately."

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe seeks to develop common democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other texts. Forty-seven nations are members of the body.

On March 10, Human Rights Watch urged Serbia to relaunch efforts to pass a Gay-inclusive anti-discrimination bill that recently was removed from active consideration in Parliament following objections from the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Homophobic bullying is 'rife' in British schools
A YouGov survey of more than 2,000 primary and secondary school teachers has revealed that homophobic bullying affects more than just the 150,000 Gay pupils in British schools, the Gay lobby group Stonewall reported March 10.

The "Teachers Report" found that boys who work hard, girls who play sports, young people with Gay parents and young people who are presumed to be Gay all experience anti-Gay harassment.

Findings included:

* Nine in 10 secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers said pupils experience homophobic bullying even if they are not Gay.

* Homophobic bullying is the most prevalent form of bullying after bullying because of weight.

* The vast majority of incidents go unreported by pupils.

* Forty-three percent of secondary school teachers and three in 10 primary school teachers have heard anti-Gay remarks by other school staff.

* Nine in 10 teachers have received no training about homophobic bullying.

"This survey reveals how much remains to be done by our schools to demonstrate to all pupils that homophobic bullying is unacceptable," said Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill.

HRW: Cayman Islands should protect Gays
The Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory, should revise a draft constitution that will be submitted to voters May 20 to ensure it protects everyone from unequal treatment, and the British government should ensure this happens, Human Rights Watch said March 11 in letters to Caymanian Gov. Stuart Jack and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The draft constitution will eliminate a free-standing guarantee of equality before the law and limit anti-discrimination protections only to rights expressly included in the constitution.

"This means that large and critically important areas of daily life would not be covered, including access to jobs, housing, and medical treatment," HRW said. "Reportedly, the government succumbed to pressure from religious groups, and the action was apparently intended to deny protections to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people."

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of HRW's LGBT Rights Program, accused the British government of "using a double standard, approving a draft constitution for an overseas territory that gives fewer protections than British citizens enjoy at home."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

photo top:Ben Summerskill
bottom: Boris Dittrich

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