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Pope ‘shocked’ by gay-adoption bill

Pope Francis was reportedly “shocked” by proposed legislation to allow gay couples to adopt children in Malta.

Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna said the pope encouraged him to speak out against a bill that that would permit adoption by same-sex couples and would also allow for civil unions. The legislation is expected to come up for debate in the coming months.

The pope’s reported reaction is drawing ire of LGBT supporters, who commended his position earlier this year on LGBT rights. Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should place less emphasis on opposing LGBT rights and abortion, stating this summer, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?”

Last month, the pope was named Person of the Year by LGBT publication The Advocate.

Pro-gay-marriage bill defeated in Israel

A bill aimed at blocking discrimination on religious grounds and allowing for civil marriage regardless of race, sex, citizenship and religion has been defeated in Israel.

The Freedom of Religion and Conscience Bill, sponsored by Knesset member Zahava Gal-on of the Meretz Party, was recently rejected by a 56-21 margin in its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

The bill was submitted as a Basic Law, one of a set of laws that form the constitutional underpinning for Israeli legislation.

Speaking of her disappointment, Gal-on said: “Israel has undergone many crises as a result of the existing vagueness in this area.”

She added: “The lack of clear boundaries between the public realm and the realm of freedom of conscience and religion threatens the viability of Israel as a democratic state, as well as its Jewish character.”

Before the vote, Gal-on criticized Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who she claimed avoided the larger issues facing the LGBT community. She commented on Lapid’s dogged pursuit of equal tax credits for same-sex male couples, which passed their first reading in the Knesset Dec. 23.

Same-sex marriages are recognized in Israel, but must be conducted overseas as only religious authorities — Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Druze — can perform marriages, and none offer gay couples the chance to marry.

Coca-Cola under fire for Irish ad

Coca-Cola has found itself in hot water after the company omitted a gay-marriage scene, which is part of a European campaign, from a TV ad to be broadcast in Ireland.

The ad campaign, titled “Reasons To Believe,” featured a scene with two men getting married in the Dutch, Norwegian and British versions, but that clip was deleted from the Irish version.

The Coca-Cola ads do include different images depending on the country they are being shown in.

India: Gay-sex ban will be harmful

Gay-rights activists and health workers in India have warned that the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this month criminalizing gay sex will undo the recent progress made towards fighting AIDS in the country.

Earlier this month, India’s highest court upheld a colonial-era law that criminalizes gay sex, reversing a landmark 2009 New Delhi High Court Order that had legalized same-sex sexual activity.

Activists fear the ruling may lead to an increase in HIV infections, as gay and transgender people may be too afraid to seek counseling, treatment and sexual-health advice.

“This law has made us all criminals,” said transgender activist Lakshmi Tripathi, who added the law will stop many people from approaching doctors or health clinics for prevention or treatment for HIV.

“How can I go to an HIV/AIDS clinic?” continued Tripathi. “If I did, I can be hauled into jail for my lifestyle, for violating the law.”

Health activists say that before the law was overturned in 2009, non-governmental organizations that ran AIDS-intervention centers faced the threat of police raids.

UNAIDS revealed last month that the number of organizations providing HIV services to gay and transgender people rose more than 50 percent in India while homosexuality was decriminalized.

Ashok Row Kavi of the Humsafar Trust, a group working with the gay community, said: “After the 2009 ruling, we saw a jump in gay men, bisexuals and transgenders coming to public health centers on their own, seeking medical advice or treatment. They felt it was safe to do so. Our big worry now is that they may stay away from health centers out of fear.”

— compiled by Larry Nichols

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