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5 May 2015 edition

Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN: On April 15th, the UN International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, tennis legend and gender and sexual equality activist Billie Jean King urged athletes to be role models and to try and "help make a positive difference" in the world:

“The great thing about sports is that it really has no borders. It’s a way to connect with others from other cultures. It’s a way to develop... It gives me a chance to have a platform, to speak out on what I feel is the right thing about human rights.”
HIV, Health, and Wellness: From Kenya, founder of Men Against AIDS Youth Group, and openly gay and HIV+ man Victor Shaaban eloquently shared his story of having been raped multiple times to "cure" his sexuality. In this short video he speaks about tactics for reaching marginalized Kenyans for HIV prevention.

Out of South Africa, The Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation, a collection of nine former African presidents, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other influential African leaders, met for three days of high-level discussions to reaffirm their commitment to the cause and the future of Africa's AIDS response. 

From Australia, a new study finds that LGBs living on the outskirts of major cities have poorer access to healthcare and a greater likelihood of adverse mental health outcomes than city dwellers. From the US, a new study finds only 9% of academic medical practices have procedures for linking LGBT patients to LGBT-competent doctors.

India's first phone helpline dedicated to the local queer community received over 100,000 calls in only 9 months. Nearly 75% of callers reported they do not disclose their sexual preferences for fear of discrimination and violence and many sought advice for psychosocial crises. 

In the US, an evolution in medicine and a rethinking of gender issues is changing how doctors approach intersex infants. Teams of psychologists, genetic counselors, hormone experts, surgeons, and ethicists are helping families determine if sexual assignment surgery should be undertaken at all

In the UK, an anti-gay group that supports conversion therapy has lodged a formal complaint with the General Medical Council, stating that people who wish to "reduce" homosexual feelings face discrimination as conversion therapies are eliminated. 

From the World of Politics: India's Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, has unanimously passed a bill to promote transgender rights, end discrimination, and promote employment for trans people.
In Northern Ireland, the resignation of health minister Jim Wells over anti-gay remarks has some questioning if hostility towards LGBT people is rampant in his Democratic Unionist Party.

As the UK general election approaches the three leading party candidates, Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem chief and Deputy PM Nick Clegg, discussed how each of their parties would approach LGBT discrimination in the Commonwealth countries.

And with Turkey's parliament election approaching, Istanbul LGBTI advocacy group SPoD has issued a call for all candidates in all political parties to take the "LGBTI Rights Pledge": a promise to protect LGBTI rights and actively include stakeholders in policy decisions. 

The Politics of Union: In France, the group La Manif Pour Tous (LMPT) announced it is registering as a political party. The organization was formed in protest against marriage equality and is now the main opposition to gay marriage, gay parenting, and gender diversity in France.  

Malawi passed a new law that protects girls under 18 from marriage, but includes discriminatory language against LGBT Malawians. The "Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Law" rejects transgender and intersex person's identity and restricts all marriages and cohabitation arrangements to those between a man and a woman.

Elsewhere, Tonga has agreed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, however resistance from church leaders over the phrase a "woman's right to choose her spouse" has led the government to promise to include a same-sex marriage ban.

Ecuadorian lawmakers approved a bill to legalize civil unions with a vote of 89-1, giving LGBT couples the "same rights and obligations" as marriage. In Northern Ireland, over 17,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum on same-sex marriage. And in Japan, lesbian actresses Ayaka Ichinose and Akane Sugimori held a symbolic wedding ceremony to advocate for same-sex marriage. 

A poll of South Korean young people showed support of LGBT people has doubled in four years, with nearly 60% of young people supporting marriage equality. A poll of Guam university students found over 50% support gay marriage, with researchers stating that more students identified with the issues because they reported knowing an LGBT person.

The US Supreme Court heard historic arguments to determine if same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Though justices appear to be divided, both sides of the case remain optimistic about the decision expected in June. Excited crowds camped outside the court for days to protest and celebrate.

A study of Latin America finds a majority of religious people in those countries oppose same-sex marriage. The US National Organization for Marriage is working to build an International Organization with the purpose of joining all groups that oppose marriage equality. 

Let the Courts Decide: The Kenyan High Court has set a ground-breaking precedent by ruling in favor of the local LGBT group, 'National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.' The group had been denied the right to register as an NGO because of a Kenyan law that criminalizes homosexuality.

In Russia, a district court has refused to reinstate a lesbian teacher who was fired for "immoral conduct" after an anti-gay activist submitted her social media pictures to the school. The court engaged an "expert" to evaluate the pictures before ruling against the teacher.

The European Court of Justice has said that France's law banning gay men from donating blood was "liable to discriminate" and ruled in favour of adopting less restrictive measures than excluding all gay men who have ever had sex. And in South Africa a court has ruled that religious objections cannot be used as a basis for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people after a lodge turned away a gay couple. Matthew Clayton of Cape Town based LGBT group, Triangle Project stated:
"At a time when South Africa is once again seeing the devastating reality of hate and intolerance being exacted on foreign nationals around the country, this ruling is an important statement that no one has the right to discriminate against others because of who they are."
Fear and Loathing: ISIS continued with murders across Syria, Iraq, and Libya. In new photos, two Syrian men accused of homosexuality are hugged by their executioners before they are stoned to death. 

From Brazil, graphic images showing a trans woman prisoner brutally assaulted by police guards have sparked outrage, with LGBT campaign groups accusing the police of a cover up.

In Pakistan, friends are mourning the assassination of Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent human rights activist. 

India's entrant to Mr Gay World, an annual international competition to establish LGBT human rights ambassadors, Thahir Mohammed Sayyed has dropped from the contest and his family have gone into hiding after receiving threats to their safety.

In Russia, a teen gang, calling themselves "fighters of same-sex love" will stand trial for the abduction, extortion and sexual assault of a 16 year old boy they met online. In Canada, the LGBT Capital Pride event and Ottawa police are warning that gay men are being targeted through dating apps for sexual assault.  And in the US, a trans woman has committed suicide after suffering cyber bullying. She marks the eighth suicide of young trans American in the last 5 months. 

In Bangladesh, popular actress Disha Ganguly committed suicide after her relationship with another actress was revealed. Upon learning of Ganguly's death, her girlfriend attempted suicide but was prevented by bystanders. 

In the US, students at a Pennsylvania high school organized an "Anti-Gay Day" in response to a Gay-Straight Alliance event meant to draw attention to bullying. The anti-gay protest included coordinated outfits, passed out Bible verses, and, as 16-yr-old bisexual student Zoe Johnson said, "I got called a dyke, a faggot. They were calling us every horrible name you can think of."

Winds of Change: In Nepal, Sunil Babu Pant, the country's first gay politician is leading the charge to help LGBTI Nepalese after the massive earthquake killed at least 7,040 people. LGBTI people are particularly vulnerable during disasters as discrimination and lack of proper ID can prevent them from accessing essentials. 

The Council of Europe passed a resolution on discrimination against transgender people and urged members to protect the their rights, abolish medical procedures needed to change legal gender, and make transgender-specific healthcare accessible.

Out of the UK, a survey shows the continuing evolution in the language young people consider offensive. While most objected to "faggot," nearly half felt "that's gay" is acceptable and 10% believed the word "homosexual" is offensive. Out of the US, a new study evaluated when teen bystanders were willing to intervene to stop LGBT bullying, and found teens were more likely to defend a fellow student when they themselves had LGBT friends and connections. 

In Jamaica, an editorial urges Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to stand up to anti-gay bigots.

And in his op-ed, activist Evan Wolfson highlights the strategy to shift public opinion around LGBT people in the US, where support for gay marriage jumped from 27% to 63% in less than twenty years. Wolfson contends the swift gains were made because advocates moved away from abstract discussions of gay rights to personal stories that share who gay people are and how we all connect. 

In the Name of Religion: When considering religious acceptance of LGBT communities much is made of Christian and Muslim faiths, but journalist Harry Ess examines how Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism approach gender and sexuality.

According to reports, the Vatican has rejected France's nominated ambassador, openly gay Laurent Stéfanini. Pope Francis met with Stéfanini to personally decline the appointment. 

In Germany, a Catholic school principal was fired after she revealed plans to marry her partner. Despite a non-disclosure clause, the issue sparked public debate within the community as parents and activists spoke out in her support.

Chadwick Moore takes an indepth look at the history of the US Religious Freedom Restoration Act and how the religious right is now using it to bring discrimination back into law. And in an excerpt from bestselling author Rachel Held Evans' new book, Evans reveals how a survivor of gay conversion therapy is helping Christians turned off by a conservative 'hate' filled church find their faith.

LGBT Orthodox Jews held a conference in New York bringing together Jewish leaders and mental health professionals to discuss how best to protect vulnerable members of the community. And in the UK during the annual National Union of Students conference, the Union of Jewish Students held an event focused on LGBT and religious freedom. 

On the March: In Russia, LGBT activists successfully held two "Day of Silence" rallies despite multiple attempts by outsiders to disrupt the events. Participants thanked police in attendance for helping keep the peace. In Japan, activists noted a new "joyous" mood at this year's Tokyo Rainbow Pride event which brought 3,000 participants, including support from many local and international companies.

Out of Egypt, where the court recently ruled the government can deport and refuse entry to foreign LGBT people, activist Scott Long wonders at the lack of outrage for ongoing abuses to the Egyptian LGBT community.

In Russia, Elena Musolina went from 'mom' to activist after the anti-gay propaganda law turned her son into a second class citizen. And in the UK, British citizen Vienna Brown says she will sue the government if her bisexual son Orashia is deported back to Jamaica. Orashia is the latest asylum seeker the court has ruled "lied" about his sexuality. 

The World of Business: Hong Kong based firm LGBT Capital reported that the annual purchasing power of local LGBTs amounts to $300 billion, despite the near invisibility of LGBT in Chinese media. With polls showing a growing acceptance of the community, some luxury brands are taking advantage of China’s “pink economy." 

Out of Australia, market leader PriceWaterhouseCooper announced a new external advisory board to boost workplace diversity. The company, which ranked as 2012's best workplace for Australian LGBTs, hopes to "engage in conversations and challenge assumptions" on all aspects of diversity. 

International tech giant IBM spoke out publicly against proposed legislation that encourages LGBT discrimination. The company is in the midst of a large expansion in the US state of Louisiana, but plans could be delayed as they expressed concern that the 'Religious Freedom Bill' under consideration will be detrimental to employees.  

Taiwan game developer, Gamania extended marriage benefits to LGBT employees in an effort to create a "happy work-life environment."

And in China, WorkForLGBT held the first job fair targeted at LGBT Chinese with 200 HR leaders and 17 Fortune 500 companies, including Google, Starbucks, IBM, Electronic Arts (EA), and L’Oreal. Organizer Steven Bielinski noted that people from across China traveled to the event because they are seeking opportunities where "LGBT employees can bring their authentic selves to work."

Sports and Culture: Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner ended speculation and officially announced that he is transitioning from male to female. Social media response to the interview announcement was so great it "broke Twitter." In Canada, gay Olympians were honored for their achievements as leaders before a safe space existed for LGBT athletes.  

From Indonesia, photojournalist Fulvio Bugani captures the Islamic boarding school that offers a safe haven for transgender people. And from the Philippines, group Pink Ink provides support to LGBT students interested in becoming journalists.

Russian activist Elena Klimova, whose LGBT support group for teens was shut down by the Russian Court, is shaming her cyber bullies by publishing the hateful messages they send her alongside their real names and pictures found through social media.
Out of Japan, a new academic book has been published on the evolving sexual identities of Japanese men in media. And out of the US, comics leaked online reveal original X-Men character Iceman will come out as gay in the new comic book. Actor Shawn Ashmore, who plays Iceman in the X-Men film franchise, tweeted his excitement over the evolution of the character

Watch this short, moving video from Lithuanian group Svetimageda, who captured the impact of cyber bullying when a man asks for help translating a message left on his facebook page. The group advises Lithuanians how to react to racial and homophobic bullying.  

Finally, across the globe, preparations are underway for IDAHOT, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Check out local events planned for the 17 May celebration, or sign up to automatically tweet your support on the day.
An interpretation of non-discrimination which excludes people based on their sexual orientation would be in conflict with the principles of human dignity, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, and non-discrimination
~ excerpt from the High Court of Kenya ruling in favor of LGBT group, as signed by Justices Isaac Lenaola, Ngugi Grace Mumbi, George Vincent Odunga, and Isaac Lenaola
HIV stigma and discrimination  LGBT life in Kenya
Kenya: MAAYGO brings HIV counseling openly and in secret 
Men Against AIDS Youth Group founder Victor Shaaban speaks bravely alongside transwoman and member Lily Simon about the challenges of working in Kenya. Both are openly HIV positive and, through MAAYGO, look for new ways to reach out to stigmatized populations by holding open sessions as well as providing HIV testing at night.  See more from Staying Alive Foundation 
At UN, tennis legend says human rights and sports ‘a perfect fit’
Tennis legend and equality activist Billie Jean King has had a stellar career in sports, identifying the boundaries that divide people and tearing them down. She was the first woman athlete to win over $100k in prize money & the first professional athlete to be “outed” as gay. She remains a steadfast supporter of issues at the heart of the UN – fair play, tolerance and building “a world where we are all united; no borders.”

Despite the hurdles that she encountered on and off the court, the idea of social inclusion has always formed the core of Ms. King’s personal and professional philosophy – a philosophy that brings sports and human rights issues together in an effort to harmonize understanding. The more we get to know each other, she says, the better chance the world has for peace.

In an interview ahead of the commemoration of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Ms. King, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights icon, told the UN News Centre that human rights and sports are, in fact, “a perfect fit” for each other. Read More
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South Africa: Champions come together to announce strengthened efforts for an AIDS-free generation in Africa
The Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation, a distinguished group of former presidents and influential African leaders, gathered together to announce new efforts to ensure that all children in Africa are born free from HIV and that children living with HIV have access to life-saving treatment. Since young people continue to be deeply affected by the epidemic, the Champions also announced that they will add adolescents and HIV to their portfolio of work. 

As the Champions reaffirmed their commitment to an AIDS-free generation, they were joined by partners that include UNAIDS, PEPFAR, and private sector representatives.

“The Champions have been steadfast in calling for improved HIV prevention and treatment options, and there has been progress,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “Now, with their ranks strengthened, the Champions will be even stronger advocates to fast-track the AIDS response in Africa to ensure that every baby is born free from HIV and that their mothers stay healthy.” Read More
India: Helpline flooded with gay sex issues and HIV scare 
In an effort to offer some support to the LGBT community, a 24x7 helpline called the Sahaay Helpline was set up to answer queries on health and psychological issues. In 9 months the line received more than 100,000 calls from 39,800 callers.

According to the data, almost 70% of the callers did not report HIV testing in the year. When asked, 50.82% of callers said they did not get tested out of “fear”. In India, men who have sex with men often face physical violence and harassment from police and the society. Many such men do not disclose their sexual preferences, especially if they are married to women and have families. Nearly three-fourths of the callers identified themselves as belonging to this category. 

Several callers faced psychosocial problems like “self-identity crisis”, crisis in family relationships, violence and abuse, substance abuse, addiction, discrimination in workplace or educational institutions. Read More
US: Lack of competent providers leaves many LGBTs uninsured & untreated
A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that LGBT people are twice as likely to be uninsured and even more likely to forgo and delay medical care, compared to straight people. Few such hospitals reported having ways to identify doctors knowledgeable about LGBT health, and only a few hospitals offered comprehensive LGBT-competency training to their staffs.

“As medical organizations we really should be making a better effort to identify providers that can provide competent healthcare,” said Dr. Allison Diamant, the study’s senior author from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. LGBT people suffer from the same conditions as other people do, but their outcomes tend to be worse, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“When organizations are seen as leaders for LGBT people, people will go there for care,” he said. “What people need to be thinking about is not only training people, but showing they’re welcoming of LGBT people.” Read More
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Australia: Unexpected challenges for LGBs in outer metropolitan areas
Lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians living on the outskirts of major cities experience similar levels of discrimination and social isolation to those living in rural and remote areas. This surprise-finding is from the first nationwide survey comparing the experiences of LGB communities in a range of metropolitan and rural locations.

The survey found those in rural-remote and outer metropolitan areas experienced similar levels of 'minority stress' such as internalised homophobia, concealment of sexuality from friends and concern regarding disclosure of their sexuality. Compounding this disadvantage, LGBs in rural areas and outer city areas also reported reduced social support relative to their urban peers, including less involvement in an LGB community. 

The findings reinforce those of past research, indicating that LGBs living in rural and remote Australia experience a greater likelihood of risk factors linked to adverse mental health outcomes including substance abuse and suicide.Those in outer metropolitan areas also reported increased social isolation, something not seen among the rural sample. Read More
US: Intersex surgeries spark move away from drastic treatment 
Efforts are underway to change the way intersex children are treated: "The way that we took care of things in the past ... where there was a fair amount of secrecy, where there was surgery done in the infant state, and potentially irreversible surgery, is probably not the best way to go about things," said Dr. Earl Cheng, who runs the sex development disorders program at Chicago's Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, one of several nationwide.

It's a fitful evolution and a sign of the times, perhaps the natural next step in the gender-blurring evolution. Intersex conditions are often confused with gender identity issues, but they're different. Gender orientation refers to whether someone identifies as male, female, or something else; intersex involves reproductive anatomy. Some affected children have typical male or female chromosomes, but genetic glitches and hormonal problems that begin in the womb, cause genitals to resemble those of the opposite sex. Others have a male-female blend of sex chromosomes and reproductive organs.

Prevalence estimates vary, from more than 1 in 1,000 newborns, including conditions that involve mildly atypical genitals, to about 1 in 5,000 for more obvious cases. Experts say there's no evidence numbers are increasing, although rising awareness has led more families to seek treatment at specialty centers. Read More
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India: Rajya Sabha passes Bill to promote transgender rights
After 45 years, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed a private member's Bill which aims to protect the rights of transgender persons and end discrimination against them through a national commission and special courts while seeking reservation in education and jobs.

The Bill moved by DMK member Tiruchi Siva provides for setting up of welfare boards at the Central and state levels, separate courts, two per cent reservation in government jobs and prohibits discrimination in employment besides pensions and unemployment allowances for transgender persons.  Though statistics say there are around 4.5 lakh (450,000) such persons in India, NGOs working in the segment claim the numbers to be around 20-25 lakh (2-2.5 million), who face discrimination, said Siva.

The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment on April 15, 2014, while granting legal recognition to transgenders, had held that equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression was increasing and gaining acceptance in international law, and should be applied in India as well. Read More
UK: ‘Gay cure’ group complains that psychiatrists don’t believe homosexuality can be cured
The Core Issues Trust – who held a ‘Transformation Potential’ conference this week discussing conversion therapy–  has lodged a complaint with the General Medical Council against the Royal College of Psychiatrists who believe that homosexuality is biological in nature and fixed at birth. The anti-gay group say this is “discrimination” for people “who experience homosexual feelings but wish to reduce them."

One of the complainants, former GP Dr Peter May, said: “There is good evidence that sexual orientation can change. Yet the largest UK providers of psychotherapy and counselling, including the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, have all made ethical policy statements, banning any therapy which seeks to facilitate such a change.”

President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, said: “The Royal College of Psychiatrists notes that homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.  We consider that the provision of any intervention to ‘treat’ normal sexuality is unethical.” Read More
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Kenya: Court rules that Kenyan government can’t block gay rights groups
The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, has fought a long-running legal battle after being blocked from registering as an NGO – leaving them without a number of legal protections. The NGLHRC has had its application to register as an NGO blocked five times since 2012 – with a Non-Governmental Organizations Coordination Board finding that the name of the organisation was “unacceptable” as the Kenyan Penal Code criminalises “gay and lesbian liaisons”.

However, the High Court set a ground-breaking precedent in a ruling today, which found that the groups should be permitted – and that popular morality and religion should not be basis for limiting rights in Kenya. The panel of three judges found that blocking such groups violated Article 36 of the country’s Constitution, which provides Freedom of Association.

Eric Gitari of NGLHRC said: “This judgement from the constitutional court is ground breaking; it marks a historic momentum towards the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities into the Kenyan democratic space." Read More
South African Court declares religion no excuse to discriminate
In a groundbreaking settlement the Equality Court in Cape Town has agreed that owners of a guesthouse cannot use their religious beliefs to turn away gay customers.

Neil Coulson and his husband Jonathan Sedgwick were denied accommodation in November 2013 by the House of Bread because their sexual orientation was in conflict with the owners’ Christian views. The men, who are Christians themselves, wanted to be in the area to be near their son who was going to attend a school camp. They were humiliatingly told that the venue was “not gay friendly.”

This week the case was finally settled in the Equality Court, with the owners apologising for their actions and promising to not discriminate against LGBT people in future, failing which they will be in contempt of court. Triangle Project, the Cape Town based LGBT rights group, applauded the settlement for “protecting LGBTI rights from religious discrimination.” Read More
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France: Possible ease ban on gay men giving blood after ECJ ruling
France could loosen its ban on gay men giving blood after the European court of justice ruled in favour of adopting less restrictive measures than excluding all gay men who have ever had sex.

France’s ban on gay men giving blood has been criticised by rights groups as discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Any potential male blood donor in France who admits ever having had sex with a man is automatically and permanently banned from giving blood. The ban came into force in 1983 because it was deemed that gay men were more likely than other groups to have HIV.

The ECJ has ruled that EU governments may be justified in banning gay men from donating blood but only under strict conditions. The court found that France’s law was “liable to discriminate against male homosexuals on the basis of sexual orientation”, which is against EU policy. Read More
Pakistan: Enabling dissent, defying silence – In memory of Sabeen Mahmud: Yaminay Chaudhri and Mariam Sabri
Unidentified gunmen have killed Pakistani women's activist Sabeen Mahmud in a targeted shooting that also left her mother in intensive care. Two friends in Pakistan respond to the tragic assassination of Sabeen Mahmud, director of ‘The Second Floor’ (T2F) – a space that hosted many wonderful conversations and brave events for marginalized communities, including women and LGBTI groups. Sabeen was shot 4 times as she was going home after an event dedicated to a public discussion of disappearances and human rights violation in Balochistan. Read More
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Malawi: New marriage law further criminalizes LGBT relationships and identities, group says
A new law in Malawi that raises the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 is great for women and girls, but terrible for the country’s LGBT community. The law defines all marriages, unions and cohabitation arrangements as being between a man and a woman -- and excludes LGBT people from legal protections.

Known as the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law, the measure defines a person’s sex or gender as the one assigned at birth, legally rejecting the gender identity of transgender and intersex persons. The UN, meanwhile, has praised the bill, noting that Malawi ranks #8 among countries with high rates of child marriage.

But while the U.N. and women's rights groups have spoken in favor of Malawi’s law, the global community has not been forceful enough in rebuking its anti-LGBT provisions, said Jessica Stern, executive director of the IGLHRC.

“It’s appalling that a law that attempts to address a serious human rights abuse like child and forced marriage would then also target Malawians for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Stern said. “It’s unacceptable to try to prevent one existing wrong and in the process create another abuse in the form of legal discrimination against LGBT [and intersex] individuals.” Read More
Tonga: Will bans same-sex marriage while ratifying CEDAW
The Director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki says since last month's cabinet announcement that the UN convention would be ratified there has been huge debate in the community. Church and community leaders have come out against the move over the concern that CEDAW would lead to same sex marriage and abortions in the country as CEDAW refers to the right for a woman to choose her spouse and family planning. 

But the chief executive of Internal Affairs Lopeti Senituli says the government is planning law changes to satisfy the church leaders. "Under our existing Deaths, Births and Marriages Registration Act there is no specific reference for or against same sex marriage. The government is proposing now that we amend our Deaths, Births and Marriages Registration Act to prohibit same sex marriage." Read More
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US: Pennsylvania high school students organize “Anti-Gay Day”
Students at a Pennsylvania high school held an “Anti-Gay Day” protest on Thursday, wearing coordinated flannel shirts, writing “anti-gay” on their hands, and sticking Bible verses on LGBT students’ lockers. The anti-gay protest occurred a day after students with the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance held a “Day of Silence,” an event aimed at drawing attention to anti-gay bullying. 

“I got called a dyke, a faggot,” Johnson said. “They were calling us every horrible name you can think of.” The national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network organized a “Day of Silence” around the United States. As part of their protest, Johnson and the other dozen members of the GSA arranged to wear black, paint rainbows on their faces, and stay silent for much of the day.

“This is a troubling turn of events,” wrote Sue Kerr, editor-in-chief of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. “These kids didn’t just spontaneously pull a homophobic move. They have a plan. They have coordinated outfits.” Read More 
Russia: Court won't reinstate fired lesbian teacher
A district court in St. Petersburg refused to reinstate a lesbian music teacher who was fired in December from a local school for “immoral conduct.” The teacher sued the school, seeking reinstatement to her job and 300,000 rubles (roughly $6,000) in compensation for moral damage. In its ruling, the court drew from an expert evaluation of the teacher’s photos from social networks.

The dismissal of the teacher was the result of efforts from anti-gay activist Timur Isaev, who was engaged in “forced outing.” This means he searched for lesbians and gay people on social networks and reported them to their employers. At least 29 teachers were dismissed as a result of his activities before he was arrested on charges of embezzlement.

Isaev repeatedly appealed to the principal of the school, demanding that the teacher be dismissed. In firing the teacher, her principal mention the the social media photos, given to him on a CD by Isaev. Read More
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Canada: Sexual assaults in Ottawa linked to hookup apps
Capital Pride and the GLBT Ottawa police liaison committee are teaming up to respond to a series of sexual assaults involving men who met on hookup apps.

Mauricio Olivares, Capital Pride’s newly-hired festival producer, attended a committee meeting on April 20 to discuss recent sexual assaults targeting male victims. “I know of at least five cases in the last two months,” he said. “From what we’ve discussed with other people and other community members, we realize the number is actually much higher than that.”

By collaborating with the liaison committee and local agencies, it’s important to rally the community so that survivors know they’re not alone and they can access local resources whether they report the assault or not, Olivares said. As hookup apps and dating websites have become more popular, perpetrators are using the cloak of anonymity to victimize others, Olivares said.  Read More
Northern Ireland: Jim Wells resigns as Northern Ireland health minister over 'anti-gay' remarks
Jim Wells stepped down after the police received a complaint about comments he is said to have made to a gay couple while out canvassing in the general election. Wells was already under fire for appearing to link gay relationships to child abuse during an election debate. His resignation highlights one of the major problems that Ed Miliband or David Cameron face if they chose to form a minority government backed by Democratic Unionist Party.

It also exposes the deep strain of evangelical Christian hostility towards gay people from within the DUP, drawing accusations from the likes of the Liberal Democrats that it is not fit to determine the shape of the next government. Nick Clegg said Wells’ comments showed that the DUP “mask had slipped”.

Wells last week caused a furore when he said: “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That a child is far more likely to be abused and neglected,” before he was shouted down by members of the audience. Read More
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UK: Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband on tackling homophobia in Uganda
With only 16 days to go until the General Election, we grilled – not literally, or there’d be no election – the leaders of the three major UK parties: Current Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem chief and Deputy PM Nick Clegg faced your questions surrounding key LGBT issues.

Today’s issue is homophobic discrimination in the Commonwealth countries. We asked all three leaders:  What would your government do to put pressure on the likes of Uganda and other Commonwealth countries to show anti-gay discrimination won’t be tolerated? Read More
Turkey: MP Candidates, Will you defend LGBTI rights in the Parliament? 
As the parliamentary elections in Turkey approach, The Istanbul-based LGBTI advocacy group, Social Policies, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Studies Association (SPoD) has called on candidates, political parties, and party leaders to work towards the active inclusion of LGBTIs in decision- and policy-making mechanisms. SPoD has prepared an “LGBTI Rights Pledge,”  and circulated it to be signed by all parliamentary candidates. See the pledge here. Read More
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Russia: Anti-gay gang from Barnaul faces criminal charges over sexual assault and torture of teenager 
Four young people from 16 to 20 years old, residents of Barnaul, a city in the West Siberian Plain and the administrative center of Altai Krai, calling themselves “fighters against same-sex love,” are to stand in trial on charges of crimes commited against a 16 year old teenager under several articles of the Criminal Code: beating, sexual assault, extortion, robbery.

At the end of January 2015, an unnamed 16-year-old boy met became friends with a 20-year-old young man via social media. The two agreed to meet in person. When the teenager arrived, gang members attacked him, beat, and sexually assaulted the boy. Read More
Brazil: Outrage after transgender prisoner ‘stripped, beaten’ and head shaved by police in Brazil
LGBT groups have expressed their outrage after a transgender prisoner in Brazil was allegedly beaten by police and prison guards. Graphic images have emerged showing Veronica Bolina stripped naked, her head shaved and swollen, lying partially naked on the ground in front of a group of officers and other prisoners in Sao Paulo.

It was reported that Bolina was set upon by officers on three different occasions after being taken into custody. However, officials have denied that she is being victimised. It has been claimed that her injuries were the result of a struggle after she bit an officer on the ear.

LGBT groups have condemned the attack. One campaigner Susane Montalvo Sarabia, said: "It is just sickening that in this day and age such things as this still happen. They have pulverised that poor woman's face and are now trying to cover it up. Whether she is innocent, guilty, transgender or straight doesn't matter. The police should not be allowed to do this to anyone." Read More
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Syria: The ISIS hug of death for gays
Shocking photos of two gay men being hugged by their executioner before being stoned to death have surfaced online. For Islamic State sympathizers and members tweeting their responses, the hugs of death are meant as an expression of compassion, a gesture of forgiveness—before the gruesome reality of their murder.

The photographs are the latest propaganda images purportedly showing gay men being murdered by the jihadists, who have also stoned women for adultery, beheaded suspected dissenters and filmed on two occasions young boys shooting men the Islamic State has claimed were spies. A video on Sunday appears to show fighters from its branches in Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting. Read More

ISIS Execute "gay" man by stoning as he lays defenceless
Only days after pictures emerged of hugging then executing two men, Islamic State fighters have reportedly thrown another man, accused of being gay, off a building and stoned him to death after he survived the fall. Warning graphic images
India: Mr Gay World entrant, family go into hiding
India's homophobia has cost the country its representation in the Mr Gay World (MGW) 2015 – the international pageant for gay men that seeks to establish ambassadors for LGBTQ and human rights. Over 36 hours after Thahir Mohammed Sayyed, the entrant to MGW from Kochi, went into hiding with his family, he reached out on a social media platform and said: "I am withdrawing from the contest."

"I hope the organisers appreciate the difficulties I faced. I cannot take this pressure," he said in a message, refusing to come on the phone. "I have switched off my phone to prevent getting any 'unwanted' calls," he added. 

Noemi Alberto (Director Asia) expressed surprise at the turn of events. "Thahir was very eager about this competition; however, it is totally understandable even if he withdraws," she said. The Indian Union Muslim League leader said, "I can understand it is a peculiar situation, because homosexuality is not allowed under Islamic law as well as Constitution. But the Kerala government is committed to the safety of its citizens." Read More
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US: Trans woman, 23, kills herself after being attacked online
Rachel Bryk jumped off the George Washington Bridge, the bridge between New York and New Jersey, on Thursday night. An eyewitness is believed to have seen the young woman leave her purse on the bridge and jump off into the Hudson River.

Rachel is the 8th trans person in the US to commit suicide in the last 5 months. Also in the last 5 months, 8 trans people have been murdered in the US.  Read More
Bangladesh: TV actress commits suicide over social stigma of same-sex relationship
She wooed audiences with her performances in popular Bengali sitcom, Tumi Ashbey Bole but gave in to the social pressure created by her same-sex relationship. From a journal left behind, police say social stigma over her same-sex relationship with another TV actress led her to commit suicide.

After the actress Ganguly was linked to learned of her suicide, she also attempted suicide, jumping in front of a running train at Howrah station. However, bystanders rescued the actress. Currently, she is undergoing treatment at a hospital after sustaining minor injuries. Read More
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US: Supreme Court hears same-sex marriage arguments
The United States Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that could determine whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Justices appear to be divided, with Justice Anthony Kennedy returning to a familiar role as the court's pivotal vote. Speculation is that the case will come down to a 5-4 decision in favor of same-sex couples’ marriage rights. The court scheduled an extraordinary 2 1/2 hours of argument over the case and a decision is expected to come this June. 

Media coverage of the case has been equally split with some heralding success for marriage equality and others cautioning that the court remains divided

"I think it went really well," said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for the group Freedom to Marry. "What's so clear to me is how completely bankrupt our opponent's arguments are." Meanwhile opponents of same-sex marriage were buoyed because they believed the judges seemed skeptical of "redefining marriage."

Marriage Equality Arguments First Reaction: Ginsburg Strikes, Kennedy Wavers

Hear/Read excerpts from the case

Gay marriage friends, foes spar outside U.S. Supreme Court
After camping out for days, the scene was raucous outside the columned, white marble edifice, with the combined crowd from both sides of the issue estimated at more than a thousand gathered for the court's historic arguments on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Read More
Northern Ireland: Thousands add their name to petition calling for referendum on gay marriage
More than 17,000 people have added their name to an online petition calling for a referendum on gay marriage after Martin McGuinness proposed a referendum to settle the vexed issue of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. 

Earlier this week, a proposal in the Northern Ireland Assembly to have gay marriage legalised in Northern Ireland was rejected. Monday marked the fourth time the divisive issue has been defeated at the Stormont Assembly and came hours after under-pressure DUP health minister Jim Wells resigned amid controversy over remarks about same sex relationships. Read More
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South Koreans becoming more open-minded about LGBT rights
A recent South Korean poll showed young South Korean respondents are increasingly open-minded about the rights of sexual minorities and their favorable attitudes toward the LGBT community have doubled from 2010 to 2014. The trend, according to South Korea's Asan Institute, showed South Korea is moving toward consolidating its democratic and liberal values.

LGBT rights became a headline issue in South Korea when Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon told the San Francisco Examiner in 2014 that he hoped South Korea becomes the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Read More
Guam: Half of university students support gay marriage, according to poll
A poll of students at the University of Guam found 55% of students support same-sex marriage while 29% oppose it. About 16% had no opinion.

"Almost everybody you talk to on Guam has an uncle or an aunt or a cousin or a sister ror brother who is gay, and so this is a readily understandable sort of issue. So one of the things, when we focus group people on this particular topic, having gay people in stable relationships is preferable to having them in unstable relationships, so this may be an extension of that kind of view," said the researcher. Read More
UK: Phrase 'that's gay' acceptable to nearly half of young people
The last 15 years have seen some big changes to the laws on sexuality, from equal age of consent to same sex marriage. But over that time the words we use to talk about the subject have changed and social media allows people to make mistakes more easily. It also allows people to react to possible offence more quickly & easily.

Of the words about sexuality which put to the audience, "faggot" was the one that people found most offensive. Many agreed the context in which a word is used is as relevant as the person who is using it. Some young people were also confused about which words people would find offensive when talking about sexuality. Around 15% didn't know if "queen" was an inappropriate term while almost 10% believed using the word homosexual was not acceptable in any circumstance. Read More
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US: Protecting students from homophobic bullying
Students who are bullied because of sexual orientation have willing defenders in their classmates -- motivated by leadership, courage, their beliefs in justice, altruism and having lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends, according to a Boston College professor and co-author of a new report on bullying at school.

With as many as eight out of every 10 LGBT students enduring bullying at school, the findings can help shape new programs to make schools safer, said Lynch School of Education Associate Professor Paul Poteat, who presents the study today at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

"Homophobic behavior often goes unchallenged, and there has been little attention to the large segment of students who witness homophobic behavior," said Poteat. "It is important to distinguish those who actually intercede or support students when homophobic behavior occurs."

An eight-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found between 12 to 28 percent of LGBT students reported they had been threatened or injured at school the prior year. The 2011 Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network national survey found 82 percent of LGBT  Read More
France: Top anti-gay hate group becomes a political party 
Manif Pour Tous, a group that came to fame protesting same-sex marriage in France, is becoming a political party. But the group says it doesn’t want to win elections. Instead, they admit that their new status will mean they benefit from tax breaks and donors will be able to make tax-deductible gifts. Manif Pour Tous will continue to lobby in the political sphere and will make voting recommendations.

The National Assembly of France passed marriage equality rights in 2013. Read More
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Japan: Lesbian couple 'wed' amid calls for same-sex marriage 
A lesbian couple held a symbolic wedding ceremony in Tokyo on Sunday, as calls grow for Japan to legalise same-sex marriage. While their marriage will not be recognised under law, actresses Ayaka Ichinose, 34, and Akane Sugimori, 28 - both dressed in white - tied the knot in front of some 80 relatives and friends.

"We held the wedding ceremony so that it might become easier for others to do the same in the future," Sugimori told press afterwards. Last month, a Tokyo council voted to issue "partnership" certificates to gay couples, the first such recognition of same-sex unions in Japan. Other municipalities are now considering doing the same.

While Japan is largely tolerant of homosexuality, there is no specific legal protection for gay people, who complain that they may be prevented from visiting sick loved ones in hospitals because their relationship is not recognised. Read More
Ecuador: Lawmakers approve civil unions bill
Ecuadorian lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill that seeks to amend the country’s civil code and would allow for the legal recognition of civil unions in the South American country. 

El Comercio, an Ecuadorian newspaper, reported the measure would allow LGBT couples to receive “the same rights and obligations of a marriage” in terms of pensions, purchasing a home together and other benefits. It would also eliminate the requirement that couples must wait two years before entering into a civil union and demonstrate that they had lived together during this period. The proposal would also apply to unmarried straight couples.

“It is a major achievement,” Diane Rodríguez, president of Silueta X Association, an Ecuadorian LGBT advocacy group, said after the vote. Read More
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Latin America: Study finds many against gay marriage
A study called "Religion in Latin America" ​​determined that most of the religious population does not approve of same-sex marriage. The work was conducted by the polling Pew Research. The research aims clarify the positions of Latin American religiosity and Hispanics in the United States.

The survey captured the differences in perception between Catholic and Protestants on the continent as well as the breakdown by country.

Hispanics are less conservative than Latin Americans in terms of attitude and sexual and social behavior, with 46% support for equal marriage and only 34% opposed. Read More
Creating a global organization to oppose marriage equality
The National Organization for Marriage is continuing to work towards the creation of an International Organization for Marriage, NOM President Brian Brown said.

A planning meeting was held around last year’s March for Marriage, convening members of groups opposed to marriage equality from around 70 countries to begin working to that goal. This year’s march does not feature the international speakers that last year’s did, perhaps because of the pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling on state bans on same-sex marriage.

Although “we have our hands full here in the U.S.” at the moment, Brown said, the group was “definitely” still working to establish “an organization that focuses on uniting people of different faiths and different backgrounds internationally” to oppose same-sex marriage. Read More
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Op-ed: How do you change the deeply held beliefs of a nation? Here’s one strategy.
The transformation over the last 20 years in how Americans view gay people is the result of one of the most successful social justice movements of modern time.
How did we build this broad social consensus that it is wrong to discriminate against gay people and unfair to exclude same-sex couples from the freedom to marry? The chief engine of this extraordinary change has been the wider discussion, greater visibility and increased awareness of shared values, understanding and empathy generated by the freedom to marry movement.

After some losses and blows to our efforts, we decided to overhaul the messaging in 2010. Working with partner organizations and movement supporters, we combined polling data research with the lessons learned through experience to figure out what messages and messengers could help build the majority we were seeking.

Research showed us that we had to shift our emphasis from abstract talk of rights and benefits to more personal connections tied to values. We had to touch the heart as well as the mind. Rather than focusing on, for example, how exclusion from marriage can mean denial of health coverage, Social Security or other critical legal protection, we talked more about the love and commitment that are at the heart of the desire to marry for gay and non-gay couples alike. We needed to highlight our connectedness. Read More
Jamaica Op-ed: Confront Anti-Gay Bigots
When Barack Obama referenced Angeline Jackson in his remarks to young leaders during his visit to Jamaica, it was more than a statement about the bravery of an individual and the right of people, whatever their sexual orientation, to enjoy their fundamental human rights in a free and democratic society.

It was a declaration, too, of the nature of leadership: that, at its best, it is conditioned by neither opportunism nor narrow expedience.

We hope that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller heard and was inspired to lead her administration in a frontal legislative defence of this country's gay and lesbian community to love who they wish, without fear of discrimination, official, or otherwise. In other words, it is not enough for the prime minister to designate a member of the Cabinet - as the Americans may have been advised she has done - to trove for complaints about government agencies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and then use moral suasion in an effort to reverse such bigotry. Nor should such an initiative be secret, as it appears to be. Read More
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Nepal: Gay activists rally to help those struggling to stay alive after earthquake
In times of terror, Nepalese LGBTI activists and others around the world are rallying to help people stay alive. Saturday's massive earthquake has killed at least 7,000 people and injured 6,500.

The US, UK, Australia, China, India, Israel, Japan and Pakistan have all provided aid to the country. But Nepal says they need more, with shortages of water, food, electricity and medicine.

Sunil Babu Pant, the country's first gay politician, is leading the charge to help the LGBTI community. Often in times of crisis, LGBTI people can be especially vulnerable. In previous disaster situations, gay men were denied food aid in Haiti after the 2008 earthquake and trans people were denied entry to IDP camps after the floods in Pakistan because they didn't possess proper government ID that matched their appearance. Trans women have already had difficulty in Nepal accessing toilets. Read More
Europe urged to protect transgender rights, abolish medical procedures
European nations have been urged to protect the rights of transgender people, abolish medical procedures needed to change legal gender and make transgender-specific healthcare accessible under a pan-European resolution adopted late on Wednesday.

The Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, also called on its 47 member states to adopt transgender inclusive anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation and introduce a third gender option in identity documents for people who do not identify as male or female.

Human rights organisation Transgender Europe (TGEU) hailed the resolution as the most important and wide-ranging statement of support for transgender rights ever made in Europe. Most countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo genital removal surgery and sterilisation, be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if married in order to have their desired gender legally recognised by the government. Read More
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What Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism really think of LGBTI people will surprise you
Think all religion is anti-LGBTI? Think again. While many know the arguments for and against equality from Christians, Muslims and Jews, have you considered the world’s other major religions? Journalist Harry Ess deconstructs the gender fluid deities, expressions of human desire, celibacy, and procreation prevalent in these major religions. Read More 
Germany: Religious freedom? Catholic school dumps lesbian principal
The sudden termination of the work contract for a lesbian head of a kindergarten in this Bavarian town has sparked widespread criticism. When the woman told her employer at the Catholic-run school of her plans to marry her partner this coming summer, she had to sign a severance agreement.

Though the principal is apparently abiding by a confidentiality agreement, local politicians are taking up her cause. Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of "hypocrisy."

"The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner," Gote says. "These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time." Read More
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US: At LGBT Orthodox conference, rabbis & therapists trade notes
In light of several recent Religious Freedom laws here in the United States and public spotlights on controversial conversion therapies, faith and sexuality have once again been cast as opposing forces. A groundbreaking conference sought to reconcile the two, convening religious leaders, mental health professionals and educators to discuss best practices for serving members of the Orthodox Jewish LGBT community.

The event attempted to bridge the gap between the unique struggles that LGBT people face in religiously observant communities and the latest research on psychological treatment by bringing together two professions not often in conversation with one another.

“Having therapists and rabbis in the room together talking about this topic is so necessary,” said Jeremy Novich, a clinical psychologist who attended both in a professional capacity and on a personal level, as a self-identified gay Orthodox Jew.  “How can we ensure that LGBTQ people in the Orthodox community are safe, how can we ensure that LGBTQ people in the Orthodox community aren’t suffering… that’s a question that’s posed to the rabbis, to the parents, & schools.” Read More
UK: Union of Jewish Students examines faith and sexuality at NUS conference
The annual NUS Conference in Liverpool brought over 1,000 delegates together to discuss important issues for UK's students. During the conference, Jewish students hosted a fringe event titled ‘Faith not Fear: Fighting for LGBT and Religious Freedom’.  Over 200 students attended the event aimed at exploring diversity in religion and the LGBT experience. Read More
France: Paper claims Pope rejected gay French diplomat as ambassador 
Pope Francis met France’s nominated ambassador to the Holy See, who is gay, and told him that the Vatican would not accept his appointment, a French newspaper has claimed. The pontiff allegedly cited his displeasure with a controversial 2013 gay marriage law in France as part of his reason for the decision. According to the report, Stéfanini had a “very discreet” 15-minute audience with the pontiff over the weekend, who said his objection to the French appointment was “nothing personal”.

The refusal by the Holy See to formally accept Stéfanini’s credentials was seen as an indirect way of forcing France to pick another ambassador and avoid making a public statement on the issue. French president, François Hollande, had let it be known he was sticking by his first choice for the job. Usually, a country would not put a nominee forward to the Holy See if it knew following informal talks that the nominee might not be seen as acceptable.

The suggestion that Pope Francis would deny an unmarried gay man – who has repeatedly been referred to as private in his personal life – the chance to serve as France’s highest diplomat to the Vatican seemed to contradict a statement he made early in his young papacy, when he said “who am I to judge?” after he was asked about the existence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican. Read More
US: In depth, How the religious right is conspiring to put discrimination back into law.
In 1983, in Oregon, two men were fired from their jobs as substance abuse counselors after they were discovered to be taking peyote. The drug counselors applied for unemployment benefits, but the state rejected their claim, citing work-related misconduct as taking peyote is illegal in Oregon. But the men were both members of the Native American Church, where peyote is used in religious ceremony, and the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the decision, stating that to deny the men unemployment benefits based on the religious use of a controlled substance violated the men’s First Amendment right to free expression of religion. 

Oregon appealed, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. The final 5-4 decision, in 1990, ruled in favor of the state and against religion. Simply put, the court said, if people are allowed to pull the God card when they break a law, absolute anarchy awaits everyone. “To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself,” the decision read.

It’s difficult to imagine Justice Scalia would have felt the same had the case involved something like underage Catholics drinking wine at communion rather than Native Americans using peyote. The Smith decision was widely decried as a devastating blow to First Amendment rights and jolted all sides of the political spectrum into action. As a response, in 1993, New York Democratic congressman Chuck Schumer introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Read More
A young man who survived “ex-gay ministries” taught me what it means to be a Christian
The campaign against marriage equality sent me fleeing from the church. Here's what brought me back. - Rachel Held Evans:  "If Christians in East Tennessee wanted to send the message that gay and lesbian people would be uncomfortable and unwelcome in our churches, that their identity would be reduced to their sexual orientation and their personhood to a political threat, then we’d sure done a bang-up job of communicating it...

A man I didn’t recognize invited us to attend a meeting that night to discuss the “radical homosexual agenda in America and how Christians should respond to it.” He spat out the word homosexual the same way others spat out the words liberal, feminist, and evolutionist, and it occurred to me in that moment that maybe I wasn’t the only one who brought an uninvited guest to church on Sunday morning. In a congregation that large, there was a good chance the very people this man considered a threat to our way of life weren’t out there, but rather in here—perhaps visiting with family, perhaps squirming uncomfortably with the youth group in the back, perhaps singing with the worship band up front. How lonely they must feel, how paralyzed.

...Seven years after the “Vote Yes On One” campaign sent me fleeing from the church, I discovered church again in an unlikely place: the Gay Christian Network’s annual “Live It Out” conference in Chicago. I spoke at the conference as an ally, but within hours of arriving at the Westin on the Chicago River, it became clear I had little to teach these brothers and sisters in Christ and everything to learn from them. Read the full excerpt from "Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church"  Read More
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Japan: Rainbow parade celebrates LGBT equality push
Some 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people paraded through Tokyo’s Shibuya district to demonstrate their hope that Japanese society will continue to forge ahead with recent moves to embrace equality and diversity.

This year, LGBT participants and proponents seemed particularly joyous, emboldened by what they see as a blossoming of LGBT-friendly moves by municipalities and companies. “The mood is definitely different this year. All the flyers or other goods we have prepared for visitors are disappearing like mad,” said transgender Fumino Sugiyama, one of the event’s chief organizers. 

Amid the surge in public interest in LGBT issues, organizers decided to extend the festival to two days for the first time, Sugiyama added. Read More
More and more actions announced for IDAHOT 2015
Created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally. In under a decade, May 17 has established itself the single most important date for LGBTI communities to mobilise on a worldwide scale.

The Day represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.

May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014. These mobilisations unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Read More
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Russia: Clashes and flash mobs on the Day of Silence in St. Petersburg 
LGBT activists and their allies held two Day of Silence rallies aimed at eliminating discrimination, hatred and violence against sexual minorities. One march included call outs to banned LGBT teens support project “Children-404″. Another rally from Vosstaniya Square to the Kazansky Cathedral involved participants with their mouths covered with red tape.

There were several unsuccessful attempts to disrupt the events, but thanks to nearby police officers, the rallies continued and peace was kept. Read More
Egypt: Deport me!
After the court ruled it is legal to deport LGBT people from Egypt, the story went viral abroad. It’s strange because LGBT Egypt has not been in the international news much for months. When you deal with the media, you get used to its collective movements, puzzling as tidal motions when it’s too cloudy to see the moon, or the startled shuddering of gazelles racing in unison through tall grass.

But other terrible things happened here recently. A man acquitted on charges of homosexuality tried to burn himself to death in despair. Police arrested an accused “shemale,” splaying her photos on the Internet. Egypt’s government threatened to close a small HIV/AIDS NGO because it gave safer-sex info to gay men. None of these got such press. The contrast is striking.

I learn three things from all this. First: our attention span isn’t what it used to be. The attention span of news consumers, and activists among them, shrivels; and that’s a problem. Read More
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UK: Mother of bisexual asylum seeker will sue Britain if they send her son home to die 
A Jamaican bisexual asylum seeker could be deported at any moment after being detained by the UK government. Orashia Edwards, 32, was ruled to be lying about his sexuality in the final judgment of his asylum case earlier this month.

This is in despite of a man in the UK saying he has been in a relationship with Edwards for the past two years and his entire family being British citizens. Two specialists living in Jamaica have also written on Edwards' behalf to the UK, saying it is not safe for him to return.

His mother warns that if her son is sent home, she will sue the UK government for deporting him to a place where he could very easily be killed. Read More
Russia: Meet the badass mom who’s taking on the gay propaganda law
Elena Musolina grew up thinking homosexuality was an affliction of alcoholics and drug addicts. Now she marches alongside her son at LGBT rights protests and goes head-to-head with Russia’s most vocal anti-LGBT politician.

When Musolina joined Coming Out’s support group for parents of LGBT kids in 2011, she didn’t expect it would become political. But that changed when the “gay propaganda” ban made her feel like her son was a second-class citizen. Musolina, a petite 68-year-old, comes to LGBT rights demonstrations in St. Petersburg with other mothers in Coming Out’s parents club, which she now helps lead. 

The group is now under threat after Coming Out was branded a “foreign agent” under a 2012 law that requires NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaging in what the government broadly deems “political activity” to register as such. Read More
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Australia: PwC appoints advisory board for greater diversity and inclusion
PriceWaterhouseCoopers Australia has announced a number of appointments to a new external advisory board that will be charged with moving the firm towards greater diversity and inclusion.

The professional services company is already regarded as a market leader in this field. It held the number one spot in 2012 and second place in 2013 in Australia's Pride in Diversity's Workplace Equality Index – which ranks best employers for LGBTI individuals. It scored 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2015 and 2014, and also regularly features in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index in the UK.

‘PwC is determined to be different and our external advisory board is one of the ways we are doing this,’ said PwC Chief Executive Luke Sayers in a statement. ‘This is a continuation of our deep commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.' Read More
China: Google, IBM, Ford and McKinsey attend first LGBT job fair
The event was organized by WorkForLGBT and Shanghai LGBT Professionals as part of its second, annual LGBT Corporate Diversity & Inclusion Conference. Both the conference and job fair – held in conjunction with Kanzhun.com – took place at the Langham Xintiandi Shanghai.

Around 200 HR leaders and LGBT employees attended the conference, and around 400 LGBT Chinese job-seekers attended the job fair, which featured 17 Fortune 500 companies. 

WorkForLGBT founder, Steven Paul Bielinski, said that LGBT job seekers were keen to meet with representatives of companies that had comprehensive diversity and inclusion policies: "Talented LGBT employees from all across China traveled to Shanghai to be part of this groundbreaking job fair. Inclusive employers with programs, policies, and a corporate culture where LGBT employees can bring their authentic selves to work are their first choice." Read More
US: IBM has 'strong opposition' to Louisiana religious freedom bill
IBM voiced its "strong opposition" to Louisiana's religious freedom bill (HB 707) backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, a week after the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau also asked that the bill be dropped over fears that it would tarnish the state's open and accepting image.

"We are deeply concerned by reports that you intend to support this legislation. IBM has made significant investments in Louisiana including most recently a technology services delivery center in Baton Rouge, creating new jobs for Louisiana workers," wrote James Driesse, IBM senior state executive. "A bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values."

IBM's prominent, 800-job facility in downtown Baton Rouge is being built only few blocks away from where the legislation will be debated. The company is expected to bring 400 jobs to Monroe in the northern part of the state. Read More
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Taiwan: Gamania becomes first company to recognize gay marriage
Computer game developer Gamania has become the first listed company in Taiwan to recognize same-sex marriage by extending marital leave to gay employees. Gamania said it realized that gender equality was a global trend, with tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, HP and eBay throwing their support behind gay marriage in the US. It added that it was important create an happy work-life environment for staff. Read More
China: LGBT Consumers, how luxury can tap a $300 billion market
Long an important target for marketers in the West, LGBT consumers often have higher disposable incomes and lead consumer trends. With public acceptance of LGBT people continuing to grow worldwide, it’s time for brands to think global when developing their marketing strategies to this community. Case in point: as the second-largest economy—and home to the largest LGBT population—in the world, China deserves serious attention.

According to Hong Kong-based venture capital firm LGBT Capital, the annual purchasing power of China’s 70 million-strong LGBT population amounts to $300 billion, compared to $870 billion for Europe and $750 billion for the United States. Despite its size and huge potential for growth, virtually no Western brand has formally engaged this community, mainly due to its invisibility in public and in the Chinese media. But that’s quickly changing. Read More 
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US: Olympian Bruce Jenner Interview Breaks Twitter Record as Most Social Friday Telecast of All Time
Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist and member of the Kardashian family, ended months of speculation when he announced during a television special that he identified as a woman and was transitioning to female.

The announcement made him among the highest-profile people to publicly come out as transgender. For the purpose of the interview, Mr. Jenner said he preferred the pronoun “he,” and Ms. Sawyer called him Bruce. He said that he had been undergoing hormone therapy for a year and a half but had not made up his mind about reassignment surgery. He declined to provide the name he might use during or after his transition, citing privacy concerns.

According to Nielsen Social, a total of 8.1 million people in the US saw one or more of the 972,000 tweets sent about the 2-hour special, “Bruce Jenner – The Interview” The tweets were sent by 403,000 people and viewed 139 million times, making Jenner’s official declaration that he is a transgender individual who identifies as a woman the top worldwide trend on Friday.  See more of Jenner's interview here
Canada: Gay Olympians honoured at 2015 Bonham Centre Awards Gala
Pioneering out Olympians were honoured April 23 for their contributions to  LGBT inclusion in sports. The Bonham Centre and the Canadian Olympic Committee hosted this year’s Gala. The awards recognize individuals or groups that have made a difference in the field of sexual diversity education. Mark Tewksbury, Greg Louganis and Marnie McBean will be recognized as people who have made a difference in the world of sports.

“These are people that were coming up through sport at a time when there was no safe space at all,” says Brenda Cossman, director of the Bonham Centre.

Mark Tewksbury, who won Olympic gold in the 100 metres backstroke in 1992 for Canada, says that was the case for him. “There wasn’t really space to talk about it with anybody. There’s been a massive shift in sport,” he says. “It’s not a non-issue, but the issue has advanced.” Read More
Indonesia: Inside the Islamic Boarding School for Transgender People
Shinta is one of the leading transgender activists in the country. She runs Pondok Pesantren Waria, an Islamic boarding school for so-called waria, a portmanteau of the Indonesian words for woman (wanita) and man (pria). The school provides a tight-knit community for transgender women from across the country who may face discrimination at home. Read More
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Philippines: Making the pen give LGBT might Pink Ink launches to support emerging LGBT students and journalists Read More
Margarita, with a Straw: an Indian bisexual coming-out story kicks off Women in Film Festival in Vancouver
Read More
Original 'X-Men' Character Iceman Comes Out As Gay Read More
Japan: ‘Boys Love Manga and Beyond’ defends shifting sexual identities in Japanese media Read More
Russia: This LGBT Activist Shamed Her Trolls She posted the messages online with photos of the senders in an album called “Beautiful People And What They Say To Me.” Read More
Lithuania: A man asks people to translate a hate message he's received, their response is unforgettable Watch/Read More
Equal Eyes is edited by Christina Dideriksen and Richard Burzynski. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the view of UNAIDS or its Cosponsors.
All stories and photographs linked within are the property of the original publishers.
Equal Eyes Copyright © 2015 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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