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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 19, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 47
International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Colombian high court refuses to rule on same-sex marriage
Colombia's Constitutional Court refused to rule in a same-sex marriage case November 11, saying the plaintiffs' legal arguments were not good enough to warrant a hearing from the court.

The petitioners had sought to strike language from the Civil Code that defines marriage as a contract between a man and a woman.

But, in a 5-4 vote, the court said, 'The charges of violation of the rights to equality, to free development of the personality and to not receive cruel or degrading treatment, alleged by the plaintiffs, were not sufficiently argued.'

The court added that since the case was dismissed on technical grounds, it may be refiled at any time.

In a statement, the LGBT association Colombia Diversa said it had been hoping for a decision on the merits of the case and may file a new lawsuit.

'The nation lost a unique opportunity to achieve a true concept of equality in access to human rights among all Colombian people, be they same-sex or heterosexual couples,' said the group's director, Marcela Sánchez.

Lesbian couple denied marriage license in London
A Lesbian couple who tried to get a marriage license were turned away at the Greenwich registry office in southeast London on November 2.

Sharon Ferguson and Franka Strietzel were told that only opposite-sex couples can marry, even though the United Kingdom's civil-partnership law lets same-sex couples enter into a union that grants rights and obligations identical to those of marriage.

Ferguson and Strietzel plan to sue the government for violations of the Human Rights Act's rights to marriage, to respect for family life and to protection from discrimination.

They will be joined by three other same-sex couples who plan to seek marriage licenses and by four heterosexual couples who want to enter into one of the nation's Gay-only civil partnerships.

'No matter how good civil partnerships are with regard to the legal protections and rights they provide, they are still a separate system that was put together to stop Gay and Lesbian people from being able to marry,' said Ferguson. 'Like most people in this world, we were brought up to believe that one day we'd fall in love and get married. This is what we want to do and our sexual orientation should not be an impediment.'

The challenges to both laws are part of a new activist campaign called Equal Love, which also seeks to open up the civil-partnership law to straight couples.

'We see the Equal Love campaign as a historic quest for justice - morally equivalent to the campaigns to overturn the bans on interracial marriage in apartheid South Africa and the Deep South of the USA,' said coordinator Peter Tatchell. 'The ban on same-sex civil marriage and on opposite-sex civil partnerships is a form of sexual apartheid - one law for Gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don't make a right.'

Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Mexico City, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

LGBT issues included in EU accession reports
LGBT issues figure prominently in the European Commission's November 9 progress reports on the hoped-for addition to the European Union of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iceland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.

The report on Croatia notes that LGBT people face threats and attacks that are inadequately investigated by the authorities. Macedonia's report points out that the nation's laws do not provide adequate nondiscrimination protections.

Turkey violates the human rights of, in particular, Transgender people, its report said. Albania and Montenegro ban anti-Gay discrimination but need to do more to prevent actual discriminatory incidents, their reports said.

'We welcome the way in which the human rights of LGBT people are raised in this year's progress reports and encourage the commission to continue asserting the principles of nondiscrimination and equality in accession negotiations with the countries,' said Lilit Poghosyan, senior programs and policy officer for ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

It is a requirement of EU membership that a nation have legal protections against anti-Gay discrimination.

Tasmania to see same-sex marriage bill
The Tasmanian Greens party said November 7 that it will introduce a bill in the Australian state's Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage.

'If we are fair dinkum about removing discrimination, we should give all Tasmanians access to the fundamental institutions of our society, including marriage,' said Greens Leader Nick McKim. 'If [Australian Prime Minister] Julia Gillard won't move on the issue, we will bring our cognate package of bills on for debate early next year.'

'There is no such thing as 'mostly equal,' he added.

The Australian slang, 'fair dinkum' means 'genuine,' in this instance.

Muslims protest for sexual rights in 12 nations
Members of the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies staged simultaneous actions in 12 nations November 9 under the theme 'One Day One Struggle.'

Hundreds of members of 40 organizations held panels, workshops, film screenings, theater performances, photo exhibits and press conferences in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Tunisia, and Turkey 'to assert that sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity, and equality of all human beings.'

'Rising conservatism fueled by militarism, increasing inequalities, the politicization of religion, and Islamophobia have strengthened patriarchal and extremist religious ideologies that use sexuality as a tool of oppression,' organizers said. 'This has manifested itself in various forms over the last year, be it the revocation of the permit for the regional Asia Conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association by the police in Indonesia, or the harassment of conference participants by radical Islamic groups, or political pressure on a women's group promoting women's rights in Islam in Malaysia, or women like Sakineh Ashtiani being sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, or killings of hundreds of women and transsexuals in Turkey under the pretext of honor.'

CSBR is a solidarity network of progressive organizations and academic institutions in the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia working to promote sexual and bodily rights as human rights in Muslim societies. For more information, see www.wwhr.org/csbr.php.

U.S. defends its human rights record to U.N.
More than 30 U.S. officials, including senior officials from 11 federal departments and agencies, defended the country's human rights record before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva November 5.

At the U.N.'s 'Universal Periodic Review' session for the United States, the government submitted a report that said, among other things: 'In each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build fair societies. In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.'

The U.S. officials told the U.N. that President Barack Obama is committed to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and to banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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