ISTANBUL – Gays, lesbians and transsexuals suffer discrimination throughout the world, but in Iran, the difficulties are compounded by the government’s denial of their very existence.
“There are no gays in Iran” was the statement made in New York last year by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in response to a question on the difficulties gays faced in Iran. It was met with incredulous smiles from the American audience he was addressing, but certainly could not have been more hurtful to the gays of his country.
Aside from negative social reactions toward people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, the Islamic government of Iran recognizes homosexual intercourse as a “crime,” penalized, at worst with the death penalty, at best a whipping.
This is why Iranian LGBTs, like many other oppressed groups, are looking for ways to flee their home country and many use Turkey as a temporary stop, until their asylum applications elsewhere are approved.
Arsham Parsi, an Iranian gay rights activist and founder of the Canada-based organization “Iranian Queer Railroad,” tries to help asylum-seeking Iranian LGBTs during the lengthy and often painful asylum process. As he was a refugee himself in the past, Parsi knows personally the difficulties Iranian homosexuals endure while trying to escape, having experienced it first hand on his own “trip” from Iran to Canada, through Turkey. See Iran’s gay exiles seek help in Turkey
Gay-rights activists plan to protest a Boulder theater that will show a movie about a gay-rights pioneer because, despite the movie, the theater’s chief executive supported a California ban on same-sex marriages.
Among those expected to attend Sunday’s protest at Century Boulder Theatre is Congressman-elect Jared Polis, the first openly gay congressional candidate from Colorado.
Cinemark-Century CEO Alan Stock donated $9,999 to the Yes on 8 Campaign, approved by California voters this month. The proposition prohibits same-sex marriage and has sparked other protests by gay-rights activists.
But Cinemark-Century — which owns Century Boulder Theatre — is being targeted because in December it will begin showing the film “Milk,” the story of San Francisco’s Harvey Milk, a pioneer in the gay-rights movement.
It’s ironic that a film honoring Milk will enrich the man who contributed to the downfall of equal rights for gays in California, said Johann Moonesinghe, a Boulder resident and organizer of Sunday’s protest.
See Boulder theater protest set by activists for gay rights
Denver Post, CO
A Costco employee on leave from the Inglewood store deserves more than $850,000 for being disparaged by fellow workers in a video and also demoted, all because he is gay, an attorney told a civil jury Wednesday.
“Mr. [Juan I.] Valera was treated different simply because of his sexual orientation,’’ attorney Leo J. Terrell said.
But Costco lawyer Tara L. Wilcox said Valera’s case has plenty of allegations that do not add up or make sense.
“The three people involved in the video didn’t even know he was gay,’’ Wilcox said in her closing argument.
The HIV-positive plaintiff filed the lawsuit in October 2006, alleging sexual orientation discrimination, disability discrimination because he is gay, harassment and retaliation.
After more than 20 years at Costco, everything changed when a new general manager, John Weaver, arrived at the Inglewood location in 2005 and casually used the word “queers’’ in a statement heard by Valera, Terrell said.See Attorney Asks for More Than $850000 for Gay, HIV-Positive Client
Los Angeles Independent, CA
Black gay activists in Washington have expressed concern that advocates for legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the city have not developed a strategy for winning support from black residents, who make up 56.5 percent of the D.C. population.
Following a closed-door meeting last week at the D.C. gay community center, activists representing several local gay groups agreed to call a community-wide forum Dec. 11 to debate whether the City Council should take up a same-sex marriage bill in January.
Gay D.C. Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) said he and several of his Council colleagues are considering introducing a same-sex marriage rights bill in the Council’s first legislative session in 2009.See Black activists urge caution on DC marriage bill
Washington Blade, DC -
When Mormons light their massive and colorful Christmas displays tonight on the Mesa Arizona Temple grounds, thousands of candles may burn across the street in a vigil in Pioneer Park.
Vigil organizers call it a demonstration of solidarity for gays and lesbians seeking full civil rights. They say their vigil was precipitated by Mormons’ staunch opposition to same-sex marriage with passage of amendments to constitutions in Arizona, California and Florida in the Nov. 4 general election.
“We are not going to march. It is not a protest. We will have our candles,” said an organizer, Robert Parker, an outspoken gay Mormon from Mesa. Parker hopes to get 5,000 people to assemble in the park “to stand in solidarity with gay Mormons who are stuck in the closet and need to know that we are working to help secure their civil rights.”
The dollars and votes of Mormons are viewed by the gay community as the deciding force for passage of state ballot propositions to amend constitutions to limit marriage to one man and one women.
Mormons contributed about $3 million of the $8 million raised in the “Yes on 102″ campaign to amend the Arizona Constitution, according to media reports. That proposition won with 56.2 percent approval. In California, where the state Supreme Court had ruled May 15 that gays and lesbians could legally marry, a fierce battle was waged over Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. It won with 52.3 percent. The Los Angeles Times estimated that about $20 million of the $35.8 million raised in support of Proposition 8 came from Mormons. More than $37 million was spent in California to oppose the amendment.
“We find it surprising that our church has been singled out” for harsh criticism, said Don Evans, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Arizona. “This constitutional amendment was supported by the Catholic Church, which is far and away the largest church in Arizona, and it was also supported by the various evangelical congregations.”
All of those churches consistently opposed same-sex marriages, but “our church has taken the lion’s share of the protest,” Evans said.
Parker said he hopes that most of the 4,000 who took part Saturday in a march from Phoenix City Hall to the state Capitol will turn out in Mesa today.
It has been spontaneously coming together through a flurry of e-mails, blogs, texting, MySpace, FaceBook and other communications, said Annie Loyd, a community organizer, who has helped to plan today’s event.
See What do Prop. 8′s Mormon supporters want? Boston Globe
Gene Robinson is a calming presence. The world feels less dangerous when you talk to him, and evils such as racism and homophobia seem less threatening and somehow distant.
The Bishop of New Hampshire seems never to tire of being the gay Anglican leader, a man sought after by press and public alike because he is out on a world that seems wedded to keeping people in the closet, with their mouths shut.
Bishop Robinson may be a figure of controversy for some in the Anglican communion, but for millions of others he is an inspirational voice.
He is more than a turbulent priest or a poster boy for gay rights – Gene Robinson is a man of God.
He visited London earlier this month to collect Stonewall’s Hero of the Year Award, and found time to speak to PinkNews.co.uk. His quiet faith was evident as he talked prophets, Prop 8 and progress.
PinkNews.co.uk: How do you feel about the election of Barack Obama?
I’m just so excited as most of America is. I actually had three one-on-one conversations with Barack Obama. I got into a world of trouble because I publicly endorsed him a year ago in June long before he was really one anyone’s radar screen.
Hillary Clinton was the presumed nominee. I think he’s the genuine article. He is who he seems to be.
See Interview: Bishop Gene Robinson on prophets, Prop 8 and progress
Three lawsuits have been filed, Democratic legislators along with the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are rallying behind the cause, and protesters have lifted signs in the streets and called for boycotts.
Overturning Proposition 8, however, may be more a matter of time and patience than politics and pressure, according to experts analyzing trends in voting and polling results.
Proposition 8 passed Nov. 4 by 52-percent-to-48-percent margin, banning gay marriage in California.
That four-point margin was much slimmer than Proposition 22, a similar measure that passed in 2000 by a nearly 20 point margin, garnering 61 percent of the vote.
The difference in the vote totals from 2000 to 2008 indicates a trend in favor of gay marriage in California, experts said. That same trend is apparent nationally. Polls in 1996 showed 68 percent of people opposed same-sex marriage, but in 2004, opposition dropped to 55 percent, according to the Gallup Organization.
“I think the idea of same-sex marriage, say 15 to 20 years ago, was really new to a lot of straight people,” said Kim Buchanan, a USC law professor and expert on race, gender and sexual regulation. “When I was growing up, I learned marriage was between man and a woman, and if you are straight you don’t have a lot of reason to question that.”
See Experts debate polling, electoral trends on same sex marriage San Bernardino Sun
The number of gay men in China who are HIV positive has risen sharply in the last three years, according to a survey of Chinese cities conducted by the Ministry of Health.
Men with HIV make up 4.9 percent of the gay population, up from 0.4 percent in 2005, the Xinhua news agency said Friday, citing Hao Yang, deputy director of the disease control department under the Ministry of Health.
“Sex becomes the major way of AIDS transmission in China and its spread among men having sex with men is worsening notably. I think whether we can well control AIDS transmission among gays will greatly affect the future of the whole country’s battle against the epidemic,” Hao said.
Heterosexual sex was still by far the most common way for HIV to spread in China, accounting for 40.4 percent of new cases in 2008. Same-sex intercourse accounted for 5.1 percent of new infections, up from 0.4 percent on 2005, and drug use accounted for 28.3 percent, according to Hao.
See China sees sharp rise in HIV-positive gay men
TAMPA – Chicago, Philadelphia. Tampa?
Carrie West, who helped start the GaYbor District in Ybor City, wants to turn his community into one of the nation’s top destinations for gay men and lesbians.
“It’s revolutionary, I know,” said West, an owner of MC Film Festival. “But we can do it. Things are changing.”
Gay men and lesbians have had their share of setbacks in the Bay area. In 2005, Hillsborough County commissioners voted to prohibit any display of gay pride on county property. Then, in this year’s general election, 62 percent of Florida’s voters cast ballots to amend the state Constitution to prohibit gay marriage.
But amid all the high-profile heartbreak, there are signs large and small that the Tampa Bay area is growing more supportive of gay men, lesbians and their families. Consider:
The gay and lesbian community that left Ybor City in the early 1990s is returning to play a key role in its resurrection.
A local salsa instructor is satisfying a growing interest in a class for gay and lesbian dancers.
And in Palmetto, the nation’s first gay and lesbian retirement community is appealing to people nationwide seeking a slice of Florida paradise.
Perhaps no sign of support is clearer than the election of Kevin Beckner, the county’s first openly gay commissioner. He defeated Brian Blair, a supporter of the county’s ban on recognizing gay pride.
For many, the election of Beckner signaled a tidal change that gives gays men and lesbians some swagger in the community. Beckner’s success, they say, is part of something bigger.
See Despite Marriage Ban, Support Grows For Gay People
Tampa Tribune, FL
Australia’s Health Minister Nicola Roxon has dismissed one of the new Men’s Health Ambassadors for co-authoring an anti-gay, anti-transgender report.
Warwick Marsh, president of Fatherhood Foundation, was one of 34 co-authors of 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters, a report which calls homosexuality a mental disorder.
Ms Roxon announced today that Mr Marsh would no longer be an ambassador on the panel.
“Mr Marsh has not repudiated his offensive comments. This makes his position as an Ambassador untenable and I have made a decision to dismiss him from this role,” she said.
See Health ambassador sacked for standing by anti-gay comments PinkNews.co.uk