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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants rainbow flag taken down

Posted by David Zimmerman February 7, 2014 03:27 PM


Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants the rainbow flag flying at the city’s City Hall taken down.

The flag, flying at many city halls across Canada is there as a show of support to gay athletes competing in the Olympics currently taking place in Sochi Russia. “It’s not about someone’s sexual preference,” Ford said. “I do not agree with putting up the rainbow flag. We should put our Canadian flag up.”

When told the gesture was meant to protest anti-gay laws in Russia, Ford replied: "Let Russia do what they want. We're Canadians here.''

Other elected officials in Toronto have come down on both sides of the issue. Councillor Sarah Doucette said she doesn't agree with Ford's position as there are already Canadian flags flying at city hall. "If he's not prepared to change then I don't think he should be mayor," she said.

While Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said an Olympic or Canadian flag should be raised instead. "This should be about sport and about Canadians," he said. Ford is no stranger to controversy with the LGBT community. He has routinely skipped Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade and plans to skip it again this year too.

"I'm not going to go to the Pride parade," he said recently. "I've never gone to a Pride parade. So I'm not going to change the way I am."

To see all of today's top stories from the LGBT world visit Boston Spirit's Fab 5

Google shows support for gay Olympic athletes

Posted by David Zimmerman February 7, 2014 08:56 AM


To coincide with the opening of the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi Google has designed a ‘Doodle’ on it’s search homepage showing a rainbow colored, Olympic themed image in a show of support for LGBT athletes at the games and the LGBT community at large

Along with the image, the page also shows a quote from the Olympic Charter which states, "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

Google is following in the footsteps of AT & T which, earlier this week, became the first sponsor of the games to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay policies stating, "Russia's law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it's harmful to a diverse society."

Google’s move was met with support from many human rights organizations including The Human Rights Campaign (HRC). "Alongside Olympic sponsors like AT&T, Google has made a clear and unequivocal statement that Russia’s anti-LGBT discrimination is indefensible. Now it’s time for each and every remaining Olympic sponsor to follow their lead. The clock is ticking, and the world is watching," said Chad Griffin, President of HRC.

This is not the first time Google has expressed its support for the LGBT community. The company has been outspoken in its support for marriage equality and in 2012 launched a company wide initiative called “Legalise Love,” that it described as a call to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world. The company also recognizes gay pride season each year by customizing search boxes to turn rainbow-colored when terms like “gay” and “gay pride” are entered.

For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world visit Boston Spirit's Fab 5.

Human rights groups urge Olympic corporate sponsors to speak out against Russia's policies

Posted by David Zimmerman February 3, 2014 11:43 AM

Corporate sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympics should act now to urge Russia to halt the rising tide of discrimination, harassment and threats against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, 40 of the world’s leading human rights and LGBT groups said today, in a joint open letter.

The letter to all of the leading sponsors of the Sochi Olympics asks them to use their leverage as underwriters of the 2014 Winter Games in a variety of concrete ways. The groups urged sponsors to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, which violates the Olympic Charter’s principle of non-discrimination, and to ask the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to undertake systemic reforms to monitor and prevent human rights abuses in future host countries.

“Time is running out for the sponsors to take a clear stand in defense of Olympic values,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “These companies are sponsoring an Olympics marred by ugly discrimination and serious rights abuses. They should speak out forcefully for equality and human rights.”

The joint letter is addressed to the 10 TOP Sponsors of the Sochi Games (members of “The Olympic Partner” (TOP) Program)--Atos, Coca Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and Visa. The Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch and several other groups have engaged with the sponsors for nearly a year to urge them to act on abuses.

“Corporate sponsors are failing to stand up for Olympic values, which they proudly claim to be the core of the Olympic brand,” said Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out. "The International Olympic Committee has confirmed that the Olympic Charter’s Principle 6 includes protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. While the Russian government may be considering amendments to the anti-gay laws, sponsors still don’t have a good reason to remain silent way while gays and lesbians in Russia suffer.”

The letter was signed by a wide range of international human rights organizations, including All Out, Amnesty International, Athlete Ally, Freedom House, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, PEN and the Russian LGBT Network.

The complete list can be found at the bottom of the letter.

The groups call on the Olympic sponsors to take four specific actions:

*Individually and/or collectively, condemn Russia’s anti-LGBT “propaganda” law, which clearly violates the Sixth Fundamental Principle of the Olympic Charter (“Any form of discrimination… is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement”);

*Use their Olympics-related marketing and advertising – both domestically and internationally – to promote equality;

* Ask the International Olympic Committee to create a body or other mechanism to prevent serious Olympics-related human rights abuses in host countries and to monitor those that do occur; and

* Urge the IOC to ensure that future Olympic host countries comply with their commitment to uphold the Olympic Charter, including the principles of non-discrimination and media freedom.

“Corporations with a track record of support for equality should not shy away from their espoused values by staying silent as Russia wages an attack on its LGBT community,” said Ty Cobb, director of global engagement for the Human Rights Campaign. “In just a few days Russia will be trying to present an international image of a strong, vibrant country. Corporate sponsors must condemn Russia’s anti-gay law and not advance President Putin’s pageantry.”

For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world visit Boston Spirit's Fab 5.

Sochi Mayor on gays "We do not have them in our city"

Posted by David Zimmerman January 27, 2014 02:01 PM

According to Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of 2014 Winter Olympics host-city Sochi, there are no gay people in his city.

In an interview with the BBC Pakhomov was asked how gay visitors would be treated in Sochi. He replied, “Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and doesn’t impose their habits on others.”

But when asked whether gay people had to hide their sexuality in Sochi, the Mayor said: “No, we just say that it is your business, it’s your life. But it’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city.”

When asked to confirm that statement (regarding having no gay people in Sochi), Pakhomov said “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.”

At another point in the story, filed by BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney, Sweeney recounts going to a gay bar in Sochi and being told by people in the bar that there are, in fact, two gay bars in Sochi. .

Opposition party leader Boris Nemtsov later confirmed this claim while, at the same time, seemingly rebutting Pakhomov’s claim.

“As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi,” he said. “How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?”

For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world visit Boston Spirit's Fab 5

Hong Kong billionaire offers $130 million to any man who can turn his lesbian daughter straight

Posted by David Zimmerman January 25, 2014 08:56 PM

(AP Photo)

Cecil Chao, a Hong Kong billionaire who made headlines last year when he offered $65 million to any man who could win the love of his daughter, and convert her from being a lesbian, has upped the ante.

Chao has reportedly doubled his offer after his daughter, Gigi Chao, reportedly eloped with her partner of seven years in France.

“It all came about because of some gossip magazine people," said Chao. "They called me saying my daughter had got married in Paris. I was shocked. Gigi is still young and beautiful. She has 70% of her life to go. I would not force her to marry a man. But obviously I would, from my point of view, prefer her to be married and to have grandchildren,” he continued.

For her part, Gigi seems to be taking it all in stride. “I don’t think my dad’s offering of any amount of money would be able to attract a man I would find attractive," Chao stated. “I would be happy to befriend any man willing to donate huge amounts of money to my charity Faith in Love, provided they don't mind that I already have a wife. Third and lastly, thank you Daddy, I love you too.”

Her partner, Sean Eav, is less amused. "My partner Sean is upset about the public’s reaction," she told HK magazine. "She tries to brush it off most of the time, but she’s quite upset. For every relationship, it’s not really just a one-sided thing. For Sean, she is getting over a lot of emotional issues that she has with my parents.”

"It requires a lot of patience and commitment to make a relationship work -- not just in romantic relationships, but within the family as well. Dealing with conflicting opinions is just a reflection of how you deal with conflicting opinions within yourself" she concluded.

Chao’s initial offer of $65 million attracted nearly 20,000 interested men.

For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world visit Boston Spirit's Fab 5

Senator Patrick Leahy to "explore" tying foreign aid to human rights

Posted by David Zimmerman January 23, 2014 09:13 PM

Speaking yesterday at the 2014 World Economic Summit being held in Switzerland, Senator Patrick Leahy suggested that the U.S. might need to take a closer look at the way countries treat LGBT citizens before approving forieng aid packages.

Leahy was speaking as part of a panel discussion taking place at the Forum.

The discussion was moderated by CNN and Time Magazine contributor Fareed Zakaria and included J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis, Russian and American journalist Marsha Gessen, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, Elliott Management Corporation founder Paul Singer, Third Point founder Dan Loeband Alice Nkom, a lawyer and LGBT activist from Cameroon.

"I think that we have to explore our foreign policy with countries that have these horrible laws," said Leahy. "As one who handles the foreign aid in our Senate, this is going to become increasingly on my radar of how we look at foreign aid in countries that violate human rights this way," he continued

The event has attacted some of the most well known and influential business and political leaders from around the world, including University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent and Peter Bakker of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

India's Supreme Court declares gay sex illegal

Posted by David Zimmerman December 11, 2013 08:16 AM

In a major setback to India’s gay community the High Court there has once again ruled that homosexual sex is illegal.

The ruling, which was delivered today, overturns a lower court ruling from four years ago which decriminalized gay sex. Section 377 is the law, from India’s Colonial-era days, that bans people from engaging in "carnal acts against the order of nature."

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the penal code was constitutionally valid.
It was up to parliament, the court said, to decide whether or not to keep the law in the statute books.

International reaction has been swift with Amnesty International India calling Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling "a black day of freedom in India. It is hard not to feel let down by this judgment, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights," the group said.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to take steps to scrap Section 377. "The Supreme Court's ruling is a disappointing setback to human dignity, and the basic rights to privacy and non-discrimination," the group said in a statement. "But now the government should do what it should have done in the first place and seek to repeal section 377."

For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world check out Boston Spirit magazine's Fab 5

Israeli President Peres supports marriage equality

Posted by David Zimmerman December 4, 2013 08:45 AM


Israeli President Shimon Peres, speaking recently in Mexico, expressed his support for same-sex marriage in his home country.

In an interview with Ynet News on Sunday while in Guadalajara, Peres said that "even a person who is a homosexual is a human being, and he has rights. We have no power to take away (their) rights."

He added, "We cannot take away someone's rights because they are different. We cannot take away their right to breathe, right to eat or right to start a family. We must allow everyone to live as is natural to them."

Peres’ comments came in response to two new bills being promoted by the Israeli Justice Ministry. One is called “Living together,” which attempts to regulate some form of a civil partnership between same-sex couples the other bill aims to secure equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

To see all of today's big stories from the LGBT world check out Boston Spirit's Fab 5

Russian athletes pose for NOH8 campaign

Posted by David Zimmerman October 8, 2013 09:00 AM

(Adam Bouska)

A team of Russian athletes competing at the World Outgames in Antwerp, Belgium have released a NOH8 photo in an attempt to bring attention to Russia’s recently passed anti-gay legislation. The legislation, championed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, bans the distribution of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations."

The legislation imposes hefty fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Those breaking the law will be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($156) for an individual and up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for a company, including media organizations.

Since the announcement of the new law there has been considerable debate on whether the 2014 Winter Olympic Games should still take place in Sochi, and if so, what could potentially happen to visiting LGBT athletes taking part in the games.

Putin has said that Russia will comply with the Olympic Charter's provision against discrimination of any kind, but has also stated that the new anti-gay law would be enforced the games.

According to their Facebook page, the World Outgames “bring(s) together lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes from around the world in unprecedented numbers for a celebration of sport, culture and human rights. In the spirit of true inclusiveness, the World OutGames are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Barilla Pasta's anti-LGBT stance prompts resonse

Posted by David Zimmerman September 30, 2013 08:54 AM


Pasta company Buitoni has come up with a clever response to anti-LGBT comments made last week by the chairman of its competitor Barilla.

Buitoni released the image above on their facebook page with the hashtag #pastaforall. To date the image has been ‘like’ by more than 3,000 people and ‘shared’ by more than 6,000.

Last week Guido Barilla, chairman of the Barilla Group, said his company would not have a gay family in any of his company’s advertising because he wants to market to “traditional families.” He then went on to say that anyone who disagrees could go "eat another brand of pasta."

Guido Barilla made the anti-gay comments during an interview with La Zanzara on Radio24 Wednesday. When asked why the company has no same-sex couples in its advertising Barilla responded, "We have a slightly different culture. For us, the 'sacral family' remains one of the company’s core values. Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don’t like that, they will eat someone else’s pasta. You can’t always please everyone not to displease anyone. I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals – who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others – but because I don’t agree with them, and I think we want to talk to traditional families. The women are crucial in this."

Once word of Barilla’s comments began to spread he released a new statement in which he said:

Regarding my comments at the radio program La Zanzara, I [apologize] if my words generated misunderstandings or controversy or if they hurt some people's feelings. In the interview I just wanted to underline the centrality of the woman's role in the family. To be clear, I just want to specify that I do have great respect of every person, without any kind of distinction. I do respect gay people and everybody's freedom of expression. I also said I do respect gay marriage. Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is the symbol of hospitality and affection for everyone.

Out gay filmmaker imprisoned in Egypt commences hunger strike

Posted by Jim Lopata September 18, 2013 12:06 PM

by Loren King

Filmmaker John Greyson, who directed the acclaimed gay-themed drama Lilies (1996) and several episodes of Queen as Folk in 2001 and 2002, remains imprisoned without cause in Cairo, Egypt along with Dr. Tarek Loubani. Greyson and Loubani through their Egyptian lawyers said that they will be refusing food beginning September 16 to protest the arbitrary nature of their detention by Egyptian authorities.

During the recent Toronto International Film Festival, more than 300 high-profile stars including filmmakers Ben Affleck, Sarah Polley, Atom Egoyan, Alex Gibney, actors Charlize Theron, Alec Baldwin and Danny Glover, and author Michael Ondaatje called for the release of Greyson and Dr. Loubani. Both men were arrested Aug. 16 after entering a police station to ask for directions. At the time of their arrest, Toronto-native Greyson, a filmmaker and professor at York University, and Loubani, a doctor from London, Ontario, were heading to the Gaza Strip. Loubani teaches emergency room medicine at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Greyson was planning to make a documentary. They have been held behind bars ever since and have not be charged with any crime. Egyptian authorities have given no reason for the extension or ongoing detention.

At a press conference during the TIFF, members of the filmmaking community joined Cecilia Greyson, sister of John Greyson, in demanding the immediate release of Greyson and Dr. Loubani. A website has been set up ( with information and a petition calling for their release that has so far been signed by more than 100,000 people.  
“We can only imagine the anguish that John and Tarek feel after realizing that their detention could be extended for so long in what can only be described as an arbitrary process that lacks any credibility,” said Cecilia Greyson. “We know that they did not take the decision to begin a hunger strike lightly, and we want them to know we will do everything we can to support them and get them home soon.”

HRC Calls on Olympic Sponsors to Condemn Anti-LGBT Law in Russia, Advocate for Equality Worldwide

Posted by David Zimmerman August 30, 2013 04:06 PM

Today Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin sent a letter to the heads of the top sponsors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) expressing concern over the anti-LGBT Russian law criminalizing “homosexual propaganda.” In addition to raising awareness about the law that has led to multiple human rights abuses, particularly hate-based violence against LGBT young people, the letter calls on the corporate leaders from Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, General Electric, McDonalds, Proctor & Gamble, Panasonic, Samsung, Omega, Visa, and Atos to take the following steps:

1. Adopt a clear and unequivocal public position in opposition to anti-LGBT laws like the one adopted by the Russian government.

2. Denounce targeted violence against LGBT people in Russia and demand investigation and accountability from Russian authorities.

3. Ask the IOC to obtain concrete, written commitments from the Russian government about the safety of international Olympic athletes and attendees—and urge the IOC to reject future Olympic bids from countries with laws that outlaw support for LGBT equality.

4. Affirm unequivocal support for non-discrimination and equality, and ensure that policies and practices reflect this commitment.

5. Put marketing and creative advertising resources to use—helping to build awareness and demonstrate support for LGBT equality in Russia and globally.

6. Support the local LGBT community in Russia.

The HRC Foundation is creating an online resource that will reflect the actions taken or not taken by IOC sponsors with regard to these six areas we have outlined.
In June, a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" was passed by Russia’s Federal Assembly and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. Under the guise of protecting children from "homosexual propaganda," the law imposes fines or jail time to citizens who disseminate information that may cause a "distorted understanding" that LGBT and heterosexual relationships are "socially equivalent." The fines are significantly higher if such information is distributed through the media or Internet. Foreigners, such as those visiting Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, will not only be fined but also face arrest and up to 15 days in jail, followed by eventual deportation, according to the new law.

2013 Miss Universe pageant to remain in Russia despite LGBT protests

Posted by David Zimmerman August 21, 2013 12:46 PM

Despite protests from many within the LGBT community, including a petition that gathered more than 28,000 signatures, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant will remain in Russia.

Bravo television host and celebrity Andy Cohen, who is openly gay and was slated to host the pageant, has told organizers that he is boycotting the event due to Russia’s "discriminatory" and "unsafe" policies.

The pageant, which is owned by Donald Trump, issues a statement saying it
"believes in equality for all individuals and is deeply concerned by the laws recently enacted in Russia and currently in place in several other countries." The statement also points out that Russia’s anti-LGBT laws are "diametrically opposed to the core values" of the company. “It is our hope this year's Miss Universe contest in Moscow will help foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation."

LGBT media watchdog organization GLAAD appears to agree with the pageant’s decision stating, "Miss Universe is an organization with incredible impact all around the globe. Following this important first statement, Miss Universe has a unique opportunity to continue to speak out against the anti-LGBT violence and laws in Russia and demonstrate that the international community does not support Russia's anti-LGBT brutality" said GLAAD spokesman Omar Shariff Jr.

Desmond Tutu would choose hell over a homophobic heaven

Posted by David Zimmerman July 27, 2013 09:14 AM


Bishop Desond Tutu, in advance of the launch of the United Nations gay rights program in South Africa yesterday, told a French newspaper that he would rather go to hell than to a homophobic heaven. Speaking to Agence France-Presse Tutu stated, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this”.

He went on to say, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place”.

Tutu, who has a long and distinguished history of fighting for civil rights, including battling apartheid, even went to so far as to compare the current fight for lgbt rights to his past battles in South Africa. “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level,” he concluded.

Queen Elizabeth signs off on marriage equality law

Posted by David Zimmerman July 17, 2013 10:51 AM

With Queen Elizabeth’s royal assent in place Britain now has legal marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Parliament had passed the measure on Tuesday, the Queen’s stamp of approval (also known as royal assent) was simply a formality. The law, which had the backing of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow as well as Prime Minister David Cameron enables gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales,
(the Church of England is barred from conducting same-sex unions). Couples who are currently in a civil union can also convert their union into a marriage.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told supporters that the new law would ensure LGBT people felt “recognized and valued, not excluded. Extending marriage to same sex couples changes nothing in respect of freedom of speech … this is why further changes to the law are not necessary and could indeed be harmful, by casting doubts where non currently exist.”

Maria Miller, the UK Culture Minister said, “The title of this bill might be marriage but its fabric is about freedom and respect, freedom to marry regardless of sexuality or gender, but also freedom to believe that marriage should be of one man and woman and not be marginalized.” It is “clear affirmation that as a nation respect for each and every individual is paramount, regardless of ages, religion, gender, ethnicity and sexuality,” she continued..

The first same-sex marriages are expected to take place next summer.

President Obama talks gay rights to Africa

Posted by Jim Lopata June 27, 2013 04:19 PM

At a press conference in Senegal, U.S. President Barack Obama took the occasion of the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down DOMA to give his thoughts to Africa about issues of gay and lesbian rights.

At the Presidential Palace in Dakar, with Senegal President Sall at his side, Obama said, "The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they're treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa." Obama made it clear that he believed "everybody has to be treated equally."

Here is the relevant passage from Obama's remarks, which were released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary:

Now, this topic did not come up in the conversation that I had with President Sall in a bilateral meeting. But let me just make a general statement. The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they're treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa. So I want the African people just to hear what I believe, and that is that every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions. And when it comes to people’s personal views and their religious faith, et cetera, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there.

But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally. I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort.

That’s my personal view. And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.

So my basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you -- the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law -- people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally, and the good news is it’s an easy principle to remember.

Every world religion has this basic notion that is embodied in the Golden Rule -- treat people the way you want to be treated. And I think that applies here as well.

Gay Boston native Rufus Gifford nominated for U.S. Ambassador to Denmark

Posted by David Zimmerman June 17, 2013 11:17 AM

The White House announced the nominations of James Costos, an accomplished businessman and current executive at HBO, as the United States Ambassador to Spain, and Rufus Gifford, a former finance official for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Obama for America, and the Democratic National Committee, as the United States Ambassador to Denmark. Last week, President Obama also nominated Daniel Baer, the openly-gay Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, to be Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. If all three are confirmed, they would become the fourth, fifth, and sixth openly-LGBT people to serve as a U.S. Ambassador. Spain and Denmark are two of the 13 countries in the world that have marriage equality. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin issued the following statements:

“Ambassador-designate James Costos is a true citizen of the world. He has incredible global business experience and is a respected and innovative leader. He has solid business and political relationships at the highest levels and a proven commitment to community, philanthropy, human rights, and democracy that make him an outstanding choice to be the nation's next Ambassador to Spain.”

“Rufus Gifford is a terrific choice to represent our country in Denmark. His demonstrated leadership and unwavering commitment to democracy and human rights will serve him well as he represents America’s interests abroad. I urge the Senate to confirm his nomination.”

Gifford also has strong ties to the Boston area as his parents, Chad and Anne Gifford, live on the North Shore. Gifford was also honored recently by Greater Boston PFLAG for his work on behalf of the LGBT community.

Mayor in France will "go to the gallows" before officiating a same sex marriage

Posted by David Zimmerman June 14, 2013 12:25 PM

Although France recently legalized marriage equality one Mayor, Jean-Michel Colo of Arcangues (in Southwestern France) is refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In fact, Colo recently stated that he will “go to the gallows” before officiating a
same-sex marriage.

“I am not discriminating as a same-sex couple is sterile. It’s a parody of equality, it’s a big lie,” Colo said. “When people close the door at home, they do what they want. For me, marriage is for a woman and man to have children.”

Colo rejected a marriage license application from Guy Martineau-Espel and his partner Jean-Michel Martin last week. The couple is planning to sue.

According to French Interior Minster Manuel Valls, Colo could face discrimination charges for refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and penalties including up to five years in jail and a fine approximately $100,000.

“The elected [officials] who do not respect the laws of the republic will risk significant sanctions,” Valls said.

Colo has vowed not to change his mind, saying, “I will go to the gallows.”

Obama nominates out, gay Daniel Baer as an ambassador

Posted by Jim Lopata June 10, 2013 06:20 PM

President Obama nominated Daniel Baer to be the next Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

If Baer is confirmed, he would be the "4th openly-LGBT person to serve as a U.S. Ambassador abroad, and the first to a multilateral institution," according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT advocacy organization.

Baer is the current Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He is a Colorado native who received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College.

“Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer has led a distinguished career of public service, both at home and abroad,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin. “Over the last few years at the Department of State, Daniel has worked tirelessly to promote democracy and human rights in every corner of the globe, helping to secure and protect the freedoms of the world’s most vulnerable communities. This, paired with his years of global business experience, makes him an outstanding choice to be our nation’s next Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

Man fatally shoots himself at Notre Dame in Paris, after protesting against gay marriage

Posted by Jim Lopata May 21, 2013 04:44 PM

Notre Dame de Paris (photo: Tom S. from WikiCommons, public domain)

After ranting against gay marriage in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, conservative author and activist Dominique Venner left a note at the altar and then put a pistol in his mouth and fired it, killing himself, according to the UK Guardian.

The Guardian further reports:

The motive for the suicide and the contents of the letter were not immediately clear, although Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National, tweeted her "respect" for Venner and said his death was an "eminently political" gesture.

Manuel Valls, the French interior minister, arrived as officers cordoned off the site. He told French TV: "At the time of this act, the suicide of a desperate man, there were 1,500 people in the cathedral. These people were evacuated very quickly."

Notre Dame's rector could not recall if anyone had ever taken his or her own life in the cathedral during the building's 850-year history.

Arab activists call for end to homophobia

Posted by Jim Lopata May 10, 2013 12:23 PM

The online magazine Aswat has launched an anti-homophobia campaign called “Love for All” that will last throughout the month of May. In a statement issued on April 29, Aswat called on citizens from throughout the Arab World to submit pictures of themselves holding signs with messages rejecting homophobia.

The campaign commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia, May 17, a date chosen because homosexuality was removed from the national classification of diseases by the World Health Organization on that day in 1990.

“We started this campaign to peacefully protest online the upsetting conditions that our community lives in the Arab world, to demand revoking laws that criminalize same-sex relations, and to protect sexual minorities within their own societies,” read the statement.

A photo stating “Oppression will not prevent joy. Traditions will not kill hope… We will live.” Submitted as part of Aswat’s anti-homophobia campaign. Image courtesy Aswat’s Facebook page.

“We, Aswat magazine, believe it is our moral responsibility to raise awareness about the occasion. The success of the campaign has been overwhelming and LGBTQ Arabs have been sending us their voices through signs they made,” said Maher Alhaj, a member of Aswat’s staff.

Tunisia Live interviewed Maher Alhaj, a US-based Jordanian LGBTQ activist, who told us more about Aswat.

TUNISIA LIVE: What is Aswat? When and how was it created?

Maher Alhaj: We are a group of Arab activists and writers from around the Arab world who are a part of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc) community. Aswat is an Arabic online monthly magazine founded and led by Marwan Said from Morocco, where it is now operating. The magazine was first launched in April 2012 and we are now on our 13th issue. It is published monthly in a PDF format where people can download it for free. Our website is visited by hundreds and sometimes thousands of people daily.

Maher Alhaj of Aswat magazine.
What are the goals of Aswat and what audience is it trying to reach?

Our goals are to educate the Arab world about LGBTQ issues and to fight for our basic human rights. We have voices that need to be heard. We address various issues that pertain to our existence and situation as oppressed sexual minorities from sexual health, gender and sexual identities, psychological health and education, creative writing, LGBTQ activism, advocacy, organizing, etc. We aim to educate not only the LGBTQ Arab community but also reach out to others as well who might have many misconceptions about us. We are humans like others, we exist everywhere and we deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated within the fabrics of our societies like all other groups in society.

Where are you based? And are you interested in covering issues in that country only or in the Arab World in general?

We are based in Morocco but our writers and staff and guests contribute to the magazine from all across the Arab world and abroad.

Do you think that the situation of the LGBTQ community has changed since the Arab Spring or not? If yes, how so?

Well, there is certainly a slight improvement in the situation when it comes to women’s rights and LGBT rights. We have more people who are working on changing our unjust predicaments. Many of us are doing that from abroad more freely like myself because of my circumstances, and others are doing it more heroically from inside the Arab World.

I don’t know if the Arab Spring has a lot to do with this or not, but I believe the Internet is playing a major role in this improvement because it allows us to be more connected, to learn from what others are doing and to be inspired.

Recently in Tunisia, two men were allegedly arrested for being caught in the action of sodomy in a hotel. The law in Tunisia does not criminalize homosexuality per say but sodomy between all couples. Is the legal framework the same in the Middle East? How would you describe such laws and the laws in your region?

Most countries in the Middle East and in other Muslim and Arab societies criminalize homosexuality from a legal framework. A few don’t (such as Jordan for example) but that does not mean it is celebrated or accepted. Homosexuality is not accepted or practiced publicly in our Arabic and Muslim societies and violating that results in extreme punishments. However that is not to say homosexuals do not exist. We do and people have homosexual encounters but it is the ultimate “don’t ask don’t tell” and all behind close doors.

This is not only due to the laws in place but also to our Arabic cultural, religious, scientific, and other understandings of the issue. Morocco is no different. Article 489 in the Moroccan Penal Code is used to criminalize homosexuality. Homosexuality is natural and a beautiful thing and our laws need to change to accommodate that. They will sooner or later.

What should be done in terms of raising awareness and addressing LGBTQ issues? Would Arab countries prioritize raising questions about gay marriage or adoption or gay pride parades for instance, or do they have other concerns and different questions?

I see the role of media as crucial in raising awareness about LGBTQ issues. It has to be done in a positive manner though. We are mainly portrayed as sinners and abnormalities in the limited instances that shed the light on our existence.

Our laws need to change to allow for our protection, but I believe also that in order for that to happen we need to change the conversation in the Arab world and to educate people about our beautiful existence and to “normalize” this issue.

Aswat magazine is just one media outlet that hopes to do that and to affect change. Our LGBTQ community exists but we are invisible, and that has to change. With that said, I think our fight is still in the primitive stages and before we fight for marriage and adoption rights, we need to fight for our existence and visibility.

France approves gay marriages

Posted by Jim Lopata April 23, 2013 12:09 PM

After a months of debate and tempestuous demonstrations on both sides of the issue, French legislators approved civil marriage for same-sex couples, according to the Associated Press. From the report:

France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate and protests that flooded the streets of Paris. Legions of officers and water cannon stood ready near France's National Assembly ahead of the final vote, bracing for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country's faltering conservative movement. ...

France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage.

Ireland's Constitutional Convention votes for marriage equality

Posted by David Zimmerman April 16, 2013 09:31 AM

Ireland’s constitutional convention has voted to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Members of the convention (which is comprised of one third politicians and two thirds citizens) were overwhelmingly in favor of allowing same-sex marriage with 79 percent recommending that the constitution be amended to allow for marriage equality. The convention's recommendation will now be sent to the Government, which has pledged to hold a debate and respond within four months.

As for what form the constitutional change will take, there are two options, a directive amendment ("the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage") or a permissive amendment ("the State may enact laws providing for same-sex marriage").
78 percent of the convention’s members voted for a directive amendment.

Asked what form the constitutional change should take 78 percent of members voted for a directive amendment while 17 percent opted for a permissive amendment

The members also voted in favor of recommending that the State pass laws "incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children".

"It is a major milestone on the remarkable journey to full constitutional protection for lesbian and gay people and families in Ireland," said Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) director Brian Sheehan. "It builds on the extraordinary progress we have achieved over the last 20 years, and clearly demonstrates that Ireland is ready to take the next step to complete that remarkable journey."

A spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office said: "While the result of the constitutional convention is disappointing, only the people of Ireland can amend the constitution. The Catholic church will continue to promote and seek protection for the uniqueness of marriage between a woman and a man, the nature of which best serves children and our society."

1959 gay TV show discovered, possibly first

Posted by Jim Lopata March 20, 2013 11:36 AM

The British Film Institute (BFI) announced the discovery of a 1959 made-for-television gay drama, called South, which it says may be the first of its kind.

According to The Guardian:

South, adapted by Gerald Savory from an original play by Julien Green and screened on 24 November 1959, "is a milestone" in gay cultural history, said the BFI curator Simon McCallum.

The Guardian's arts correspondent Mark Brown describes the drama as follows:

It involves a dashing Polish army lieutenant exiled in the US deep south as civil war approaches and the question of who he really loves: the plantation owner's angry niece, Miss Regina, or the tall, blond, rugged officer who arrives suddenly – a handsome man called Eric MacClure.

The television play is heady, emotional stuff tackling issues of race as well as sexuality and that it was broadcast by ITV on a winter's night 54 years ago is nothing short of remarkable.

South, will be screened on March 23 and 24 as part of the BFI London Lesbian and Gay FIlm Festival this year.

LGBTs to demonstrate at Sen. Marco Rubio office

Posted by Jim Lopata February 14, 2013 09:53 AM

LGBT activists are planning a rally at US Senator Marc Rubio's Florida headquarters at 3 p.m. ET, today, February 14. They are calling on the Republican legislator to be sure that LGBT people are included in the immigration law that Congress is considering.

National LGBT civil rights organization GetEQUAL is staging the demonstration. Here's from the group's press release:

On this Valentine's Day, LGBT immigrants with the group GetEQUAL -- a national civil rights organization fighting for the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans -- are asking Senate Marco Rubio not to leave them out of an immigration reform bill that is currently moving through Congress. While most loving couples will be celebrating, LGBT immigrants and their partners have to choose between the country they love and the person they love.

"LGBT immigrants are caught in the perfect storm -- we live in a country that doesn’t recognize our marriages and the broken immigration system leave us without a pathway to citizenship," says Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, GetEQUAL's National Field Director. "I grew up here and became undocumented while a young man. Even though I’m married to permanent resident, I’m still not able to adjust my immigration status."

Undocumented LGBT community members and allies will gather to take action outside Senator Marco Rubio’s Florida headquarters in Orlando. They will ask questions about Senator Rubio’s position on a clear pathway to citizenship, asylum rules, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), and the end of harsh enforcement policies.

More information on the action can be accessed at GetEQUAL's website.

Catholic bishops in France on gay marriage: neither 'oui' nor 'non'

Posted by Jim Lopata January 30, 2013 11:22 AM

Are French bishops of the Roman Catholic Church for or against same-sex marriage laws that are being considered in France? Without answering a definitive 'oui' or 'non,' they recently released a document entitled "Expand Marriage to Persons of the Same Sex? Let's Open the Debate!" which keeps the question open.

Those opposed to such unions expressed disappointment with the document, according to, which reports:


China confronts gays in straight marriages

Posted by Jim Lopata January 28, 2013 10:54 AM

As France debates whether to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, China is trying to figure out what to do with marriages between a man and a woman where one of the partners turns out to be gay.

A new study from First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing recently revealed the misery that frequently accompanies such unions, which, in at least one documented case, led to suicide.

A story from business and finance news organization Caixin, which was picked up by the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, provides a close look at the problem:


Canada gets first openly gay province premier

Posted by Jim Lopata January 27, 2013 10:35 PM

The Ontario legislature in Canada has elected Kathleen Wynne to lead the government, making her the first openly gay premier of a Canadian province.

The Canadian Press is reporting on the historic nature of the event:

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