by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Finland to legalize same-sex marriage
Finland's Justice Ministry has begun work on legalizing same-sex marriage as well as adoption by married same-sex couples.
Justice Minister Tuija Brax said Finland's constitution bans discrimination based on gender and that public opinion supports letting Gay couples marry.
The law should be in place by 2012.
That will leave Denmark as the only Nordic country without same-sex marriage. Ironically, in 1989, Denmark was the first nation in the world to enact a registered-partnership law. It granted Gay couples 99 percent of the rights and obligations of marriage and became a model for numerous other nations.
Full same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Mexico City, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Arrests in Helsinki pride attack
Three people who allegedly pepper-sprayed marchers in the July 3 Gay pride parade in Helsinki, Finland, were taken into custody and more suspects are being hunted down.
Police said the attack appeared to have been carefully planned. At least 30 marchers were hit by the spray, including some children.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen said the incident "delivered a harsh blow" to the nation's "good reputation."
One million at London Pride
One million people turned out for Pride in London on July 3.
While marching, London Mayor Boris Johnson told Gay leader Peter Tatchell that he supports legalizing same-sex marriage.
"Why not?" Tatchell quoted Johnson as saying. "The ban should go. & If the Conservatives and Liberals can get together in a national coalition and settle their differences, I don't see why you can't have Gay marriage."
At present, Britain has a civil-partnership law under which same-sex couples get the same rights and obligations as married people.
The London parade celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front, which veteran Lesbian activist Lisa Power called "the mad granny in the attic to every major LGBT activist development since the 1970s in the UK."
"[T]he most important thing about GLF was that equality wasn't enough," Power said. "Their aim was not to imitate anyone else's lifestyle, but to discover their own. In a 21st century of civil partnerships, Gays in the government and Equality as an industry, GLF still has relevant questions to ask. 'Equal? Equal to what?'"
There also were Gay parades in June and early July in Barcelona, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Sofia, Toulouse, Vienna and elsewhere.
EU plans to fight for LGBT rights worldwide
The Council of the European Union on June 30 adopted a "Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People."
The kit details what the EU should be doing to defend LGBT human rights in other nations.
It calls on diplomats, the new European External Action Service, and EU member states to actively work for decriminalization of same-sex relations worldwide, to further denounce discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to support human rights defenders in repressive countries.
"The Council's Working Party on Human Rights is showing some leadership in the area of human rights for LGBT people, which I applaud," said Ulrike Lunacek, co-president of the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights. "This is a very welcome tool, and one that the Commission, Council, and the European External Action Service should start using as soon and as often as possible, for instance by supporting LGBT human rights defenders in Moscow and St. Petersburg."
Intergroup Co-President Michael Cashman added: "For the first time, the Council has taken an excellent and long-lasting initiative for LGBT people's human rights abroad. We will be with them along the way to ensure that [the] European External Action Service and other relevant EU institutions follow these important guidelines - starting with their work with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries."
Human Rights Watch apologizes to Peter Tatchell
Human Rights Watch issued an unusual apology to British Gay leader Peter Tatchell on June 30.
HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said that HRW LGBT-program director Scott Long had made "a number of inappropriate and disparaging comments" about Tatchell in recent years.
"[P]ersonal attacks have no place in the human rights movement," Roth said. "Mr. Long and Mr. Tatchell undertake to work to ensure that any airing of disagreements on LGBT and other human rights issues takes place with honesty, civility and respect."
Long commented, "Although we have our different viewpoints, I respect Peter Tatchell's contribution to human rights and apologize for any condemnatory and intemperate allegations made in haste and for any inaccurate statements made in my personal capacity."
Russian LGBT film festival turned away
Private businesses in Arkhangelsk, Russia, canceled agreements to host a traveling version of St. Petersburg's Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival in late June after news media reported on the planned events.
According to Side by Side, contracts with a hotel, a café and a club vanished after the news reports apparently led to government pressure on the businesses.
"The city authorities preferring to silence any discussion on such matters forces the question as to the real presence of ... values such as the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association in Russian society," Side by Side said. "The situation in Archangel is a litmus test for exposing a diseased pseudo democratic society."
Alternative venues were found for the July 7-11 screenings.
With assistance from Bill Kelley
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