by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Pride ralliers arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia
Fourteen activists were jailed overnight after police broke up the second Gay pride march in St. Petersburg, Russia, just two minutes after it started June 25.
The detainees said their jail cell was tiny and suffocatingly hot, and that police gave them no water.
In court appearances the following day, they received small fines (the biggest was $35) for organizing an illegal public action.
However, they face an additional charge of disobeying police orders, which can carry a penalty of up to 15 days in jail.
The 'march' consisted of a boat on the Neva River carrying a huge rainbow flag, which was executed by one group of activists, an attempt by a second group to begin marching from the statue of Peter the Great, carrying flags and banners, and a similar demonstration nearby on the stairs of the Constitutional Court.
The whole thing lasted only two minutes before police swooped in and put an end to it.
The crackdown follows a nearly identical one on Moscow's sixth Gay pride attempt in May.
Both police actions violated a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Russia cannot ban Gay pride events. The court found that previous bans in Moscow violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.
European Gay activists have responded to Russia's flouting of the ruling by calling on the Council of Europe to suspend Russia's voting rights in the association.
Later on June 25, about 100 activists in Germany protested at Russia's embassy in Berlin, including openly Gay Bundestag member Volker Beck.
'Russian LGBT activists, today in St. Petersburg and in May in Moscow, are heroes that we can be proud of,' Beck said. 'The actions of the police are completely unacceptable and I expect from our government to explicitly address this issue in bilateral discussions with the Russian government.'
U.S. consul general in Tijuana reaches out to LGBTs
The U.S. consul general in Tijuana, Steve Kashkett, held a cocktail reception and meeting with about 50 members of Tijuana's LGBT community June 28 at his residence in the city's upscale Chapultepec neighborhood.
It was a first for the Tijuana consulate. Staff members said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had encouraged U.S. diplomats around the world to reach out to local Gay communities during 'pride month.'
Kashkett said he has had a strong connection with Gay people since his days working in a bookstore in Amsterdam. He said the consulate is interested in knowing how it can help local LGBT people achieve their rights, and he forcefully stated that local U.S. diplomats want to be there for the Gay community.
The consulate's programs coordinator, Héctor Vindiola, said the goal of the gathering was to 'open up the dialogue in order to support the protection and advancement of [LGBT] rights in Tijuana.'
About 200 people work at the Tijuana U.S. consulate general.
Several San Diego LGBT activists were invited to the event, but only three attended. News reports about drug-related violence have left some Southern Californians unwilling to visit Baja California in recent years. The two cities are about 15 miles apart.
Tijuana has long had a well-developed Gay bar and club scene. It has had a Gay pride parade for 16 years, though marchers never have totaled more than 1,000 in the city of 1.6 million people. In recent years, LGBT cultural organizations have formed and cultural events have become more common, sometimes with support from governmental agencies. For the past two years, there has been a large, outdoor, two-day Gay festival in the center of downtown, separate from the pride parade.
Tijuana does not, however, have LGBT political organizations, and the Gay community does not seem to be politically active in an organized way. Last year, when the Baja state Chamber of Deputies in Mexicali, the state capital, seemed poised to enact a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, reporters struggled to find anyone who understood the details of what was going on. The measure apparently died when the Chamber of Deputies changed hands in an election and the amendment was never transmitted to the state's municipal councils for ratification.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico City, and a federal Supreme Court ruling mandated that those marriages must be recognized in all states. There is no indication the federal ruling has been tested by any Gay couple in Baja California.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that won control of the Baja Legislature does not seem to have an anti-Gay agenda, while the National Action Party (PAN) that lost control of the chamber is generally viewed as conservative and moralistic by many LGBT Tijuanans.
Council of Europe reports on LGBT discrimination
The Council of Europe on June 23 unveiled its first social-legal report on anti-LGBT discrimination in the association's 47 member nations.
The report maps the legal situation in each nation and highlights social attitudes and opinions about LGBT people.
It also provides recommendations on how to end discrimination, ensure full equality, and increase awareness and understanding of sexual orientations and gender identities.
'This is a very important document which looks at the issues of equality and human rights of LGBT people from different angles and provides clear recommendations and suggestions to the Council of Europe member states,' said Martin K.I. Christensen, board co-chair of the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association. 'The report also looks at the issues of political will, social attitudes and current European consensus and again provides a range of specific suggestions how the situation can be improved.'
'We hope that this report, along with the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers Recommendations adopted in March, and a number of the judgments by the European Court of Human Rights, will provide European countries with a solid road map towards full equality and respect of LGBT people's human rights,' Christensen said.
Gays march in Havana
For the first time, LGBT people marched in Havana June 28 without government approval or affiliation with any governmental agency.
Previous Gay marches have been staged through CENESEX, the National Center for Sex Education, which is run by President Raúl Castro's daughter Mariela.
The march, down Paseo del Prado, was organized by an independent group called LGBT Observatory of Cuba.
A spokeswoman for the group told reporters that CENESEX does not speak for all Cuban LGBT people.
Hungarian LGBT group launches discrimination-reporting tool
Hungary's Háttér Support Society for LGBT People has launched an online discrimination-reporting system.
Victims and witnesses of discrimination, harassment, violence and other injustices based on sexual orientation or gender identity can fill out electronic forms to report an incident and request legal aid.
A recent survey found that 44 percent of LGBT Hungarians have experienced anti-Gay discrimination and that most did not report it to authorities.
Háttér hopes the project will 'promote the reporting and documentation of incidents as well as provide easy access to competent and free legal aid.'
The campaign is being financed in part by the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association.
With assistance from Bill Kelley
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