International News

Italy elects its first transgender mayor


General allegiances may lie with Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party, but voters in a small town south of Milan have voted against the right-wing League candidate to elect Italy’s first transgender mayor.

Kenyan author, LGBT activist Binyavanga Wainaina dies at 48

A colleague and friend of Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina says he has died at age 48.

Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust which Wainaina founded, says the author died May 21 at night in Nairobi after an illness.

Wainaina was one of Africa’s best-known authors and will be remembered as a key figure in the artistic community. He won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. His trust has helped produce literary works and promote local writers.

Wainaina also helped to create tolerance for the LGBT community by coming out publicly as gay in a country where laws still criminalize homosexual behavior. He also revealed he was HIV-positive.

Brazil’s supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime

A majority in Brazil’s supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country’s far-right president will roll back LGBT social and legislative gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal’s 11 judges have voted in favor of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court’s judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country’s congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil’s senate is dealing with a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.

“Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant,” justice Luiz Fux said May 23.

The court’s judges said the ruling was to address an omission that had left the LGBT community legally unprotected.

While same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, it is still a dangerous country for members of the LGBT community and has a large evangelical movement often critical of gay rights. According to the rights group the Grupo Gay da Bahia, 420 LGBT people were killed in Brazil in 2018, while at least 141 have been killed so far this year.

President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who assumed office on Jan. 1, has a history of making offensive comments about LGBTQ folks, the black population, and other minorities, openly acknowledging he is a homophobe. He has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.

The ruling “comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic,” said Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group. “The Supreme Court assumed the responsibility to protect us.”

Same-sex couples start registering marriages in Taiwan

Hundreds of same-sex couples in Taiwan rushed to get married on the first day a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage took effect.

One household registration office in Taipei was packed May 24 as couples seized the earliest opportunity to tie the knot.

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage recently in a legislative vote, a cause that LGBT rights activists on the island have championed for two decades.

A Taipei resident who identified himself only by a nickname said he and his partner feel lucky that they are able to tell everyone that they have gotten married.

Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior said about 300 same-sex couples are expected to register May 24.

Kenyan court upholds laws criminalizing same sex relations

A three-judge panel of Kenya’s High Court has upheld sections of the country’s penal code that criminalize same-sex relations.

The judges’ unanimous ruling on May 24 disappointed Kenya’s vibrant gay community, as many had hoped the court would make history by scrapping the colonial-era laws.

Activists argue that the laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adults are in breach of the constitution because they deny basic rights.

The laws prescribe up to 14 years in prison for people convicted of homosexual acts. 

Mexican Consulates to perform same-sex marriages

 Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary has instructed the country’s consulates throughout the world to allow all citizens — regardless of gender — to marry in their offices.

Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said a democratic country can’t be built by excluding part of society.

More than 12 Mexican states and the capital allow same-sex marriage and courts have allowed it in individual cases in other states when petitioned.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the change was announced in anticipation of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia held May 17.

 Taiwan approves same-sex marriage, a first for Asia

Taiwan’s legislature passed a law allowing same-sex marriage — the first Asian country to do so.

The May 17 vote allows same-sex couples full legal marriage rights, including in areas such as taxes, insurance and child custody.

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court said in May 2017 the constitution would allow same-sex marriages and gave parliament two years to adjust laws accordingly.

Taiwan’s acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships began in the 1990s when leaders of today’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party championed the cause to help Taiwan stand out in Asia as an open society. Although claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan is a self-governing democracy with a vibrant civil society.

Australian political leaders agree gays don’t go to hell 

The leaders of both of Australia’s major political parties agreed that gay people  don’t go to hell because of their sexual orientation, as Christian beliefs have risen to extraordinary prominence in the final days of an election campaign.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opposed gay marriage while opposition leader Bill Shorten argued for marriage equality ahead of a national vote in 2017 that led to Australia legally recognizing same-sex unions.

Morrison accused Shorten on May 14 of a “desperate, cheap shot” ahead of elections on May 18 by challenging the prime minister to say whether he believes gays went to hell.

Morrison said he did not believe gays went to hell, after failing to directly answer the same question from a journalist the day before.

 Dutee Chand becomes first openly gay Indian athlete 

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has revealed she is in a same-sex relationship, becoming the first openly gay athlete in the socially conservative country.

Chand, 23, said May 19 she was in a relationship with a woman from her village in eastern Odisha state, explaining she got the courage to come out after India’s top court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex last year.

“I have found someone who is my soul mate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with,” said Chand, the fastest woman in the country. “I’ve always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice.”

Chand, who won two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, said about her partner that while her focus was on upcoming international competitions, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, “in the future I would like to settle down with her.”

Chand said nobody had the right to judge her as an athlete because of her sexual orientation.

Folau fired by Rugby Australia for contentious online posts

 Israel Folau’s status as unrivaled star of Australian rugby wasn’t enough to save his job in the wake of a social media post that condemned gay people and other so-called sinners to eternal damnation.

Rugby Australia on Friday terminated Folau’s four-year contract, 10 days after an independent panel found the 30-year-old fullback guilty of a high-level breach of the players’ code of conduct for his contentious post in mid-April.

Folau can appeal the decision, but it appears, at least for now, that his career has gone down in flames. The whole saga has thrown Australia’s preparations for the Rugby World Cup into turmoil.

A self-described devout Christian, Folau said he was merely posting a passage from the bible, and he refused to take down the online post.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said during a news conference in Sydney, broadcast live on TV, that Folau had left them with no choice but to terminate his contract.

“We want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game,” Castle said. “Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue a course of action resulting in today’s outcome.”

The code of conduct charge sparked debate in Australia about freedom of speech and the right of players to express their beliefs. It also followed a warning Folau received from Rugby Australia last year over a social media post that drew criticism from some rugby followers, as well as a major sponsor of the game. 

Armenian trans woman gets threats after parliament speech

A transgender woman, whose address to the Armenian parliament caused uproar, says she has received death threats and is avoiding leaving her home because of security concerns.

Lilit Martirosian, who founded the transgender organization Right Side, told parliament’s human rights committee recently that her group had recorded more than 280 instances of violations of transgender rights.

Colombians stage kiss-a-thon in support of LGBT rights


Dozens of same-sex couples kissed simultaneously outside an upscale shopping mall in Colombia’s capital, in the latest demonstration calling for LGBT rights in the South American country.

The “kiss-a-thon” was held just days after two gay men in their early 20s were harassed at the Andino Shopping Mall in Bogotá.

The incident was caught on video by bystanders and shared widely on social media, sparking a wave of support for the young gay couple.

On April 17, hundreds of activists waving rainbow flags gathered around one of the mall’s entrances and shouted chants in support of gay rights.


Court lifts ban on LGBT Pride events in Turkey’s capital city


Kaos GL, a Turkish LGBTI rights group, on April 20, successfully appealed a ban on Pride events in the capital city of Ankara at the 12th administrative court on. The court lifted the ban.

Internationally known independent journalist and LGBTQ-activist Lyra McKee, 29, was shot to death on April 19 in Northern Ireland. The Belfast lesbian was reportedly covering a riot in Londonderry when she was murdered in what Irish officials are calling a “terrorist act.”

A gay man from Oshawa, Ontario in Canada claimed that he was fired from his job in retail chain Marshalls because they “didn’t like” him and were looking for a reason to let him go.

Michael Gale said that the company — which has stores across the United States and Canada — is “supposed to be really friendly to the LGBTQ community and it wasn’t.”

He has since filed a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario about his treatment.

A group of international lawyers researching the criminalization of homosexuality has met with the Vatican secretary of state and urged the Holy See to publicly oppose such laws and “conversion” therapies for gays.

The Vatican said Cardinal Pietro Parolin promised the delegation members he would relay their research to Pope Francis.

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