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Archbishop of Mumbai says being gay ‘not a sin’

In a recent letter to LGBT activist groups in India, the Archbishop of Mumbai has said he would advise priests to be more sensitive while referring to gay people in public sermons, adding that “to say those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong. ”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias’ statement came in response to a letter from Queer Azaadi Mumbai about a sermon at a church in Goregaon, north of Mumbai, where the priest described being gay as “a great sin” and opposed same-sex marriage.

The sermon at St. Thomas Church had taken place just a day before Pope Francis issued a statement in which he said: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Cardinal Gracias, in his letter dated Aug. 31, said, “Going by the data in the letter, some of what the priest said is alright and some part is inappropriate. The Church does not accept gay marriage because the Bible teaches us that God willed marriage to be between man and woman.

“On the other hand, to say that those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong. I do think we must be sensitive in our homilies [sermons] and how we speak in public and I will so advise our priests.”

Members of QAM said they were satisfied with the response.

A parishioner of the Goregaon Church and member of QAM who had attended the sermon said, “The Archbishop’s response was very reassuring for the community. It gives me confidence as a member of the Church that I will not be discriminated against.”

Harish Iyer, who is a prominent LGBT activist in India, added, “We are grateful to the Church for categorically stating that they are not against homosexuality. The Archbishop of Mumbai has set a benchmark for everyone else.”

Guyana judge eases cross-dressing rule

A judge in Guyana has ruled that cross-dressing is a criminal offense only if it is done for an “improper purpose” such as prostitution.

A colonial-era law has banned males from wearing female attire and females from wearing male attire in public or for any improper purpose.

But in a Sept. 6 decision, Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that people can’t be found in violation of the law if they are cross-dressing “for the purpose of expressing or accentuating his or her personal sexual orientation in public.”

A Guyana group representing gays and lesbians has demanded that the government toss the law.

Group official Zenita Nicholson said Sept. 8 she is not happy with the judge’s “dubious decision.” She says transgender citizens will “continue to be vulnerable to human-rights abuses.”

Obama meets with Russian rights activists

Before leaving the Group of 20 summit, President Barack Obama sat down with nine Russian civil-society activists Sept. 6 to assure them that he would keep pressing the Russian government to respect human rights, some of the activists said. But Obama also explained to them why this was not always possible.

“He was telling us how difficult it is for him to raise these issues, especially in relations with Russia and China,’’ said Pavel Chikov, who heads Agors, a legal-aid nongovernmental organization.

Yana Yakovleva, head of business-advocacy group Business Solidarity, described the meeting with Obama as “open and sincere.” Obama, who said that he draws inspiration from rights activists like them, told them that the U.S. administration has to think carefully before poking the Russians, she said.

“His main message was that there’s a lot of differences between the two great powers, and that while deciding which issue to raise, they have to weigh carefully the impact it may have on relations on the whole,” Yakovleva said.

The meeting was held several hours after gay activists rallied in St. Petersburg to protest Russia’s new antigay laws.

Igor Kochetkov, the head of LGBT Network, who attended Obama’s meeting with the civil-society activists, said they pushed him to be more outspoken in his criticism of the rights situation in Russia.

“We asked him to be more open while assessing the human-rights situation in other countries, including Russia,” Kochetkov said.

Mexico legislator seeks to ban public same-sex weddings

A Mexican legislator has come under criticism for calling on authorities to ban same-sex weddings from all public spaces.

Colima state lawmaker Rafael Mendoza argued that gay couples being allowed to marry in public spaces confuses children.

The lawmaker said mothers had come to him with complaints after a civil-union ceremony took place between an American man and a Mexican man in the main plaza of the city of Cuauhtemoc.

He said that society was not ready for same-sex weddings, and that mothers did not know what to tell their children when the two men kissed.

“Parents are coming to me, to my house, to tell me they are against the city carrying out these weddings in public,” he said. “I am not against these civil unions; the only thing is, I don’t want them in public.”

A representative from a different political party has said it will file a human-rights complaint this week accusing Mendoza of discrimination.

The Mexican state of Colima at the end of July became the latest in the country to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, as a change was made in the state’s constitution by a majority of local authorities.

Just two members of Congress voted against the change, instead arguing that the state should not limit same-sex couples to civil unions, and should allow marriage.

Several other states allow either same-sex marriages or civil unions. Mexico City and Quintana Roo allow marriage, while Coahuila allows civil unions.

One state, Yucatan, banned same-sex marriage in 2009.

In December, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of three couples wishing to marry in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca in a decision seen by some as opening the door to eventually having a federal equal-marriage law.

Almost 400 same-sex couples married in Mexico within the first six months of the law permitting same-sex marriage coming into effect. The law also allowed gay couples to adopt.

— compiled by Larry Nichols

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