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Gay pol won’t back gay marriage

The first openly gay cabinet minister in Australia has claimed that she has suffered discrimination but refuses to support gay marriage.

Penny Wong, the Labor climate change minister, told ABC television, “By virtue of who I am, prejudice and discrimination are things I have firsthand knowledge of.

“When I entered the parliament, I did actually think very carefully about how to handle being Asian, and gay, and in the parliament, because it hadn’t been done before.”

Wong, who has been in a relationship with Sophie Allouache for a number of years, refused to support gay marriage. When asked if she would support the introduction of marriage equality, Wong said, “I’ve made quite a number of comments on this issue. I appreciate your interest, but I’m here today to talk about using water wisely here in Western Australia.”

When asked a similar question by Channel 10 television, she said: “On the issue of marriage, I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious and historical view around that, which we have to respect. The party’s position is very clear and that is an institution between a man and a woman. I do respect the fact that’s how people view the institution.”

Same-sex domestic-partnership ceremonies are available in New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. Civil partnerships similar to the British model are available in the Australian Capital Territory.

Activist cleared on porn charge

A Zimbabwean gay-rights advocate arrested on charges of having porn in his office has been found not guilty.

Ignatius Muhambi, 38, a worker for the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe organization, was arrested in May on allegations of possessing “indecent material.”

Another worker, Ellen Chadehama, 34, was also arrested with Muhambi. They have been out on bail since May.

When the pair were arrested, police said they found photographs depicting gay sex and a displayed letter of support for former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown that criticized President Robert Mugabe’s stance on homosexuality. The latter accusation was dropped.

Muhambi’s lawyer, Jeremiah Bamu, said the prosecution failed to establish a case against him.

Recently, Mugabe renewed his attacks on homosexuality after gay groups pleaded to be protected by the country’s new constitution.

Mugabe told a religious gathering: “We will not listen to those advocating for their rights in the new constitution. Today, the [pro-gay] Anglican Church condones marriages between men and the same for women. That is similar to dog behavior.”

Ireland starts rural LGBT program

Soon after Ireland President Mary McAleese legalized civil partnerships, the head of the country’s LGBT program launched a new initiative to provide better resources for those in isolated and underserved communities.

Program manager Derek McDonell realized the need for development workers throughout the country’s less populous regions.

“Despite recent progress for LGBT people in Ireland, a significant number still find it difficult to be ‘out’ and remain living in their local communities,” he said. “Much of this is the result of a lack of recognition that all communities are made up of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

The initiative aims to unite and strengthen LGBT organizations throughout the country to better address the needs of each region. The group was developed out of collaboration among 11 Irish LGBT organizations and will receive funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies, a grant group that gives billions of dollars to various aid programs each year.

Pat Carey, minister of community, equality and Gaeltacht affairs, launched the program.

“Irish society has not always been as supportive of gay people as it should have been, particularly in rural Ireland,” he said, adding that it is “a cause of sadness and a terrible waste of potential when a young person is lost to a rural community because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Bank to couple: Live apart

A Swedish lesbian couple who tried to get a mortgage said they were shocked to be told by a bank clerk that they should reconsider their relationship and live apart.

Sara Evaldsson, 29, and Maria Engström, 31, decided to move in together after living 100 miles apart and found a two-bedroom property in Västerås.

The couple believed they had gotten a bargain price for the new home and were confident of securing a mortgage, as both were employed and had good credit ratings.

Engström claims a female clerk at Swedbank told them that the $67,130 they wanted to borrow was “a lot of money” and insisted that a 10-percent deposit would be necessary. She said that when she and Evaldsson questioned the decision, the clerk replied: “You should reconsider your personal situation and continue to live in different places.”

The couple have reported the clerk to Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman.

They then obtained a mortgage from rival bank Nordea and renovated the apartment, which they’ve had valued at $109,600.

Anna Sundblad, Swedbank’s head of press relations, said the bank would work with the Discrimination Ombudsman to investigate the incident.

“We take these kinds of incidents very seriously,” she said. “We have a clear policy that we never discriminate on the grounds of religion, gender or sexual orientation. We also aim to set a good example in questions like this: We sponsor the Stockholm Pride festival, for instance.”

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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