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International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Gay Euro MPs denounce Ugandan bill
Members of the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights have strongly denounced the 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009' pending in Uganda's Parliament.

'The proposed legislation includes provisions to punish those alleged to be Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual with life imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty; any parent or teacher failing to report their LGBT children or pupils to the authorities with a fine equivalent to $2,650 or three years' imprisonment; and landowners providing shelter to LGBT people with seven years' imprisonment,' the MEPs said November 9.

Intergroup Co-President Michael Cashman called the bill "deeply worrying."

Co-President Ulrike Lunacek said: "I strongly appeal to Ugandan politicians to be as courageous as they were when overthrowing the Idi Amin regime, and not to ban Ugandan citizens from being free to love whomever they wish. Homosexuality is nothing un-African; it has existed at all times and in all cultures."

In the U.S., Lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and three other members of Congress have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to use the full force of her office to condemn the bill.

"This egregious bill represents one of the most extreme anti-equality measures ever proposed in any country and would create a legal pretext for depriving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans of their liberty, and even their lives," Baldwin wrote, joined by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Howard Berman, D-Calif., Vice Chair Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., and Ranking Minority Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. "This bill is wholly unacceptable."

With Gay sex already banned under penalty of life in prison, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill aims to erase any appearance or hint of Gayness from the nation. Calling for penalties that range from three years in prison to execution, the bill criminalizes touching anyone in a Gay way; funding or sponsoring Gay organizations; broadcasting, publishing or marketing Gay material; homosexual advocacy; "aggravated homosexuality"; and the failure by any person to report to police his or her awareness of the existence of a Gay person within Uganda's borders within 24 hours of learning that the homosexual exists.

The legislation also targets Gay Ugandans who get married abroad. They would be imprisoned for life if they dared return home.

On November 19, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Health GAP and other organizations will stage a demonstration against the bill outside the Ugandan Consulate in New York City at 12:30 p.m. Similar protests are planned in Copenhagen, Ottawa, Pretoria and Washington, D.C.

"The new bill [uses] life imprisonment to punish anything from sexual stimulation to simply 'touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality,'" the groups said. "It also punishes 'aggravated homosexuality' - including activity by 'serial offenders' or those who are HIV-positive - with the death penalty. The bill criminalizes 'promotion of homosexuality' in the form of funding and sponsoring LGBT organizations; and broadcasting, publishing or marketing materials on homosexuality, and punishes these acts with a steep fine, 5-7 years of imprisonment, or both. Any person in authority who fails to report known violations of the law within 24 hours will also be subject to a significant fine and up to 3 years in prison - even when this means turning in their colleagues, family or friends. More shocking, the bill claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside of the country."

For the full text of the draconian measure, see tinyurl.com/hatebill. For information on how to help fight the bill, see tinyurl.com/iglhrc-ug. For Human Rights Watch's analysis of the bill, see tinyurl.com/hrw-ug.

Hungarian Parliament approves unusual adoption bill
Hungary's Parliament on November 9 passed a new Civil Code that extends second-parent adoption rights to same-sex couples who live together informally but not to same-sex couples who are in an official registered partnership.

According to the group Háttér Society for LGBT People, under the new law: "Individuals can adopt children regardless of marital status - whether single, married, registered partnered or cohabiting. ... Joint adoption is available only for married couples. Second-parent adoption is available for married and cohabiting couples regardless of gender, but not for registered same-sex partners. ... This highly unreasonable and discriminatory allocation of rights is a result of political considerations: By addressing cohabiting couples, socialist politicians could avoid talking specifically about expanding the rights of same-sex couples."

In order for one member of a registered same-sex couple to adopt the other's child, the couple would have to divorce, then adopt, then re-register, said Háttér's Tamás Dombos.

The new rules take effect May 1 unless blocked by conservative political parties that oppose the rules and are expected to win next spring's elections.

Lesbian bishop consecrated in Sweden
The Church of Sweden consecrated the world's first openly Lesbian bishop in a mainstream denomination November 8.

Eva Brunne, 55, was installed as bishop of Stockholm in a ceremony at Uppsala Cathedral.

She was elected in May, beating a colleague 413-365 in a vote cast by an equal number of clergy and laypeople.

Brunne is in a registered partnership with the Rev. Gunilla Lindén and they have a 3-year-old son.

Sweden also allows Gay couples to marry and, in October, the Church of Sweden general synod voted 176-62 to begin marrying same-sex couples.

About 74 percent of Swedes are members of the church, although only two percent of them are regular churchgoers.

1,800 march in second Hong Kong parade
About 1,800 people took part in Hong Kong's second Gay pride parade November 1, double last year's turnout.

With the theme "Be Proud! Be Yourself!" the hourlong march set off from Wan Chai and traveled Hennessy Road to Chater Garden in the city center.

Participants, including visitors from mainland China and Taiwan, carried rainbow flags, banners and posters, and sang, danced and chanted.

Contingents participated from the mainland provinces of Guizhou and Shandong, and the cities of Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin.

The closing program in Chater Garden featured music and dance performances. At the end, pridegoers joined hands, raised them in the air and chanted, "Gay and straight living in harmony, equality and mutual respect."

Following a successful campaign this year to have same-sex couples covered under Hong Kong's domestic-violence law, activists now plan to push for GLBT protections in the anti-discrimination law.

ILGA Latin America confab set for Brazil
The fifth Latin America and Caribbean regional conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) will be held in Curitiba in the Brazilian state of Paraná from January 26 to 30.

Registration deadline is November 30. For more information, see ilgalac.grupodignidade.org.br.

Founded in 1978, ILGA is composed of more than 670 LGBT and supportive organizations from 110 countries.



With assistance from Bill Kelley

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pictures: - Eva Brunne
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