Irish favoring gay-rights bill
Ireland’s lawmakers opened debate Dec. 3 on a bill to grant marriage-style rights to gay couples, a social milestone in a country long observant of Roman Catholic opposition to homosexuality.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the bill would give gay couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples on questions of property ownership, inheritance, medical care and access to state benefits — and also the same right to go to court seeking financial support from higher-earning partners when relationships fail.
Ahern noted the proposal would have been unthinkable only a few years ago in Ireland, a country that defined homosexuality as a criminal offense until 1993.
He said denying the reality of thousands of gay couples in Ireland “only helps to reinforce prejudice in our society.”
The Civil Partnership Bill faces opposition from a minority of lawmakers in the ruling Fianna Fail party, who are seeking an amendment permitting service providers — such as hotels and wedding photographers — to deny services to gays celebrating their civil partnerships.
But Ahern said the so-called “freedom of conscience” amendment was bigoted, violated Ireland’s 2004 antidiscrimination laws and would not be included.
The bill’s passage into law this month appeared assured because of strong backing by opposition parties.
Pepsi unwittingly sponsors antigay concert
Gay activists have questioned Pepsi for what appears to be the corporation’s sponsorship of a concert performance by the antigay dancehall artist Beenie Man in Uganda on Dec. 5.
PepsiCo has been a longtime corporate supporter of gays and lesbians.
The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper, reported on the appearance by the Jamaican performer at the Kyadondo Rugby Club in Kampala.
According to the Monitor, Man said, “In my family, we don’t have any gay person but if you’re gay, my brother, that’s not my fault,” as he performed “Mi Nah Wallah,” a song in which he says he would like to cut the throats of all gay men.
Change.org said Pepsi’s involvement is particularly troubling because Uganda is currently debating a bill that “will institute the death penalty for certain members of Uganda’s LGBT population. The bill will also institute mandatory jail sentences for anyone who identifies as LGBT, and will also throw straight allies in prison simply for standing up for their LGBT friends, family and neighbors.”
Jennifer Vanasco, editor in chief of 365gay.com, contacted PepsiCo about sponsorship of the concert in Uganda, to which Michele Naughton, the company’s public relations manager, responded.
“We are appalled by the performer’s lyrics and find them repugnant,” she said in a statement. “Our bottling partner in Uganda was not aware of the performer’s views and never would have sponsored the concert with this knowledge. Moving forward, we will work closely with our bottling partners to be more vigilant about the events associated with our brands.”
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also spoke with Pepsi about the concert, and urged mainstream media and corporations to pay attention to what’s happening in Uganda right now.
Spain apologizes for jailing gay man
The Spanish government apologized to a man who was imprisoned for being gay in the 1970s.
Antoni Ruiz came out to his family as a teenager in 1976, right after the late Gen. Francisco Franco initiated a law during his dictatorship making homosexuality illegal.
After his parents told a Catholic monk, Ruiz was soon turned over to authorities. He spent three months in jail and was then barred from returning home for another year.
The law was repealed in 1979.
Now 50, Ruiz was issued an official letter from the government, as well as $5,900. He is the first Spaniard to receive an official government apology for jailing him due to his sexual orientation.
Some 5,000 men were imprisoned during Franco’s dictatorship. Ruiz is one of a small number of men who was sentenced for the crime following Franco’s death.
Bollywood has first gay love scene
An upcoming Bollywood film will feature what is thought to be the industry’s first gay love scene.
“I Am Omar,” one of four short stories comprising the film “I Am,” focuses on male sex workers and homophobic police officers.
In one scene, actors Rahul Bose and Arjun Mathur embrace in a public place. They are seen by a police officer, who begins to harass them.
The film is set in the context of Section 377, the colonial-era law that banned gay sex.
Bose previously acted in a film involving a gay gang-rape scene.
Director Onir said he hopes the scene will get past India’s film censors.
“Luckily, none of my actors had any inhibitions,” he said. “Rahul and Arjun did the scene, which goes much beyond anything seen in Indian cinema. They behaved like thorough professionals.”
The film will be screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival.
Russian commish: Moscow Pride should be in Germ.
Moscow Commissioner for Human Rights, Alexander Muzykantsk has suggested that Russian gays and lesbians should hold gay Pride marches in Germany, instead of their own country.
“I’m not ready to support the parade of sexual minorities in Moscow,” he said.
Instead, he suggested, they should hold them in Berlin, Germany’s capital, with the help of the city’s mayor.
“In recent years, Berlin became de facto the world capital of sexual minorities,” said Muzykantsk. “Because there are friendly relations between the mayors of Moscow and Berlin, why not [sign] an agreement in which the representatives of sexual minorities in Moscow will hold their parade in Berlin with the support of the city?”
Gay Pride marches have had a troubled history in Russia, and especially in the capital of Moscow. Although other cities in the country are seen as more tolerant, attempts to hold gay events in Moscow have generally ended in violence.
In 2007, marchers such as U.K. gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell were beaten by neo-Nazis, and there were claims of police brutality at a brief march this year.