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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 14
International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Ten years of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands
It was 10 years ago April 1 that the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to let same-sex couples marry.

Now same-sex marriage is legal in 12 nations, including in five U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and the Netherlands has seen nearly 15,000 same-sex marriages.

This reporter was present for the first Dutch Gay weddings on April 1, 2001, and wrote: 'Amid an international media frenzy, the weddings took place at City Hall as the law became effective at the stroke of midnight. Mayor Job Cohen officiated.

'As Cohen finished his opening remarks at 11:58 p.m., the audience in the City Council chambers began syncopated clapping as they waited for the room's clock to click over to 12:00. When it clicked, cheers erupted.

'The ceremonies themselves took about half an hour. Cohen stood where individuals stand to address the City Council. The four couples sat in the front row of the seats where the councilors sit.

'Cohen read the marriage vows once for each couple and they individually responded, 'Yes.' Each couple shook hands, kissed, and signed documents which were then signed by the mayor.

'A reception followed in the City Council foyer and the couples departed in four brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles for a party at a Gay club.'

In the intervening 10 years, 14,813 of the Netherlands' 55,000 Gay couples have gotten married, according to Statistics Netherlands.

Of those couples, 7,522 were female and 7,291 were male. There have been 1,078 same-sex divorces, 734 of them by female couples.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide).

In the U.S., same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. In addition, same-sex marriages from anywhere in the world are recognized as marriages in Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and California (if the marriage took place before Proposition 8 passed), even though those states do not let same-sex couples marry.

Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill reportedly dropped
Uganda's Parliament reportedly has dropped consideration of the notorious anti-homosexuality bill that has been pending since 2009.

The measure would imprison for life anyone convicted of 'the offense of homosexuality,' punish 'aggravated homosexuality' (repeat offenses, or having Gay sex while being HIV-positive) with the death penalty, forbid 'promotion of homosexuality' and incarcerate Gay-rights defenders, and jail individuals in positions of authority for up to three years if they fail to report within 24 hours the existence of all LGBT people or sympathizers known to them.

Ugandan LGBT activists are not relaxing, however, because in announcing that the bill is being abandoned, a government spokesman added that 'most' of the same provisions are contained in another active bill, the Sexual Offenses Bill. No details were provided.

'We have not completely let down our guard, at least not until May when this Parliament term comes to an end,' said Adrian Jjuuko, executive director Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda. 'One battle might have been won, but the war on the other fronts clearly goes on. What the government has done is to remove this 'troublesome' bill and still reach the same conclusions using existing laws and new bills.'

IGLHRC: LGBT Haitians ignored in quake recovery efforts
According to a report issued March 28 by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Haiti's SEROvie, 'violence and discrimination against [Haitian] LGBT people has increased since the January 2010 earthquake' and their needs during the recovery period have been 'completely ignored.'

'U.N. agencies, private organizations, and governments must recognize the horrible impact of the Haiti disaster on LGBT people,' said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC's executive director. 'While the needs of some marginalized groups are at least acknowledged, LGBT people are completely ignored.'

In addition, some religious leaders have blamed the quake on Gays, saying God punished the nation for homosexuals' sins.

The findings detailed in the IGLRHC/SEROvie briefing paper are based on more than 50 interviews the groups conducted with LGBT people and representatives of relief organizations, the United Nations and diplomatic missions. For the full document, see tinyurl.com/iglhrchaiti.

ILGA-Europe launches major documentation project
ILGA-Europe - the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - has launched a large-scale project to document the advance of LGBT rights and related social changes across the continent.

'Rainbow Europe: ILGA-Europe Annual Report on the Situation for LGBTI People in Europe' will appear on the group's website at the beginning of next year.

'Already for a couple of years, ILGA-Europe produced the Rainbow Europe Map identifying the legal situation for LGB people in Europe, and in 2010 we started comparing and indexing them,' said Communications Manager Juris Lavrikovs. 'We want to cover LGB and TI issues, we want to monitor and document developments in many more areas. ... More importantly, we want to start a proper indexing and comparison so it will be easy to identify and follow the changes and developments.'

The project will track legislation and policy, statements by politicians and other prominent or influential individuals, law-enforcement activity, court activity, research and polls, LGBTI-movement developments and other areas.

It also will follow all LGBTI-related developments at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

'For European decision makers, politicians, media, researchers, and students, this will be an 'all in one' annual document providing them with an overview of the situation across Europe,' Lavrikovs said. 'We believe this will be a valuable tool to advocacy work on the national level as the advocates at the national level will be able to compare their countries, to measure their national situation and developments to established European standards and consequently build stronger claims and arguments.'

The project will rely, in part, on information provided by activists on the ground. Information can be submitted to rainboweurope@ilga-europe.org.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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