Thursday, July 18, 2002

German high court OKs gay marriage

Wed Jul 17, 7:33 PM ET U.K.

SUMMARY: On Wednesday Germany's high court upheld a law allowing gay couples to marry.

On Wednesday Germany's high court upheld a law allowing gay couples to marry.

Judges at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe voted 5-3 to back the law, which was challenged last year by Bavaria and two eastern states.

The court has rejected a lawsuit by conservatives who argued gay marriage violates constitutional provisions protecting marriage and the family

The law, in effect since August, allows gay couples to "marry" at registry offices and requires a court decision for divorce. Same-sex couples also receive rights given to heterosexual couples in areas such as inheritance and health insurance.

However, the law withholds some tax privileges granted to heterosexual couples.

The legislation brought Germany in line with countries such as Denmark, which was the first to grant rights to gay couples in 1989, France and Sweden. The Netherlands remains the only country that extends equal marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Royal wedding: henna ceremony held at royal palace in finest Moroccan tradition

Morocco, Local, 7/15/2002

The Henna ceremony, part of the festivities marking the marriage of Morocco's H.R.H. King Mohammed VI to H.R.H. Princess Lalla Salma, was held Friday evening at the Royal Palace in Rabat, in keeping with the finest Moroccan tradition.

The henna ceremony, which is one of the major rituals in marriage celebrations in Morocco, was attended by members of the illustrious royal family, Moroccan and foreign outstanding personalities, as well as hundreds of Moroccan citizens.

To the beat of music performed by folk bands, and amidst you-yous and invocations blessing this happy event, Princess Lalla Salma stretched her hands to be decorated with patterns of henna, a blessed plant symbolizing happiness and love.

Conforming to tradition, King Mohammed VI and his bride Princes Lalla Salma, fully veiled, were carried in "Lamariya" and paraded in the esplanade of the Royal Palace, where guests were lined up to applaud and hail the royal couple and wish them a happy, long life.

The sovereign and his bride, surrounded by members of the royal family then posed for photos.

The sovereign was later on greeted by the outstanding personalities attending the festivities marking the royal wedding.

These festivities had started Friday at sunset, with a procession from the city gate to the Royal palace. Nearly 1,500 parading men and women, representing all the regions of the kingdom, offered gifts and well wishes to the sovereign and his bride, in a colorful cortege, where the grace of the gesture was intermingled with the beauty of costumes and melody of music. An anthem to joy and to national unity that displayed the Moroccan people's delight at this new dawn of a reign and that demonstrated the people's love to their king.

The public festivities marking the royal wedding continued through Saturday and Sunday in and around Rabat as well as in all other cities and villages across the Kingdom, with fireworks, music, dancing and displays of fantasia by Moroccan horse riders.

Prior to becoming King, Mohammed led am openly gay life where he frequently visited European Gay bars. Danish Gay publications have also published pictures of King Mohammed attending Gay events.

Canada: Court ruling favors gay marriage

Fri Jul 12, 8:44 PM ET / Network

Canada took a major step toward legally recognizing same-sex couples on Friday when an Ontario court ruled that to do otherwise is unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court decided that granting marriage licenses only to heterosexual couples violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the Associated Press, the court also ordered the federal Parliament to officially redefine "marriage" within the next two years.

Current federal law defines marriage as "a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."

The provincial government is expected to appeal the decision within 15 days, with a final decision likely from the Supreme Court of Canada. Similar cases in two other provinces are also expected to reach the country's high court.

Gay rights advocates within Canada and abroad hailed the court's decision as a major victory.

"We're no longer second-class citizens in this country, and the time has come for a change," Joe Varnell, one of the plaintiffs who sued the Ontario government for the right to marry another man, said after the ruling. "My relationship is validated, and nobody can say we're not a real family anymore."

"It's time for the federal government to catch up to society, and respect the court's decision and the Constitution," said John Fisher, head of Canada's largest gay rights organization, EGALE.

In the United States, same-sex marriage proponents welcomed the ruling and hoped for a ripple effect.

"I think it's one more step toward the inevitable," said David Buckel, senior staff attorney and Marriage Project coordinator for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "The day will come when same-sex couples will have equality in marriage in the United States."

"More and more judges are understanding there's a difference between the religious institution of marriage and the legal reality," said Joshua Friedes, political director for the Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts (FTM).

FTM is currently fighting a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would forbid granting marriage-like rights to same-sex couples.

Friedes told the Network that the Canadian ruling could make it easier for his group to lobby state legislators and encourage them to "keep up with our northern neighbors."

Gay Retrial in Egypt Postponed


CAIRO, Egypt -- The judge assigned to preside over the retrial of 50 Egyptian men who were detained last May in a government raid on the predominantly gay Queen Boat nightclub recused himself from the case on Tuesday.

The Associated Press reports Judge Mohammed Abdel Karim, who had been assigned the case at random, said that his involvement in the original case should disqualify him from presiding over the retrial. A new judge is expected to be named July 16.

Of the 52 men detained and charged by the local authorities in the anti-gay sweep on the floating nightclub last year, Abdel Karim acquitted 29 defendants and convicted 23. Sentences ranged from one to five years.

Human rights officials complained that many of those detained were subjected to invasive anal "examinations" to determine whether they engaged in intercourse. Many said they were subjected to regular torture and beatings.

In response to concerted international pressure, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak threw out the convictions and ordered a retrial for all but the two main defendants. He said the charges against them were not serious enough to warrant trial in an emergency court.

The president in his capacity as the military ruler must approve sentences of emergency courts. Egypt's emergency laws have been in effect since 1981.

Amnesty International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission denounced the retrial. "We are clearly concerned at the decision of the Egyptian authorities to prosecute these men once again on charges which are discriminatory and violate their right to privacy," Amnesty said in statement Tuesday.

In a statement last week, IGLHRC accused the Egyptian government of "inflicting the indignity of another trial on these men" and flouting an international legal principle that prohibits trying someone for an offense for which he or she has been already tried.

None of the 21 men who were convicted and released on bond appeared in court Tuesday.

GLAS-NYC Marches in NYC Pride Parade


Over 20 members of the Gay and Lesbian Arab Society marched in the New York City LGBT Pride Day parade. Along with vehicle blaring loud Arabic dance music, marchers made their way down 5th Avenue to the applause and cheers of the public. Marchers held signs that read “Gay, Arab and Proud” and “Bush and Bin Laden Hate Me, Hillary Won’t Kiss Me”. In light of the September 11 attacks, this year was particularly important for the group to march. “Our culture and image have been hijacked by extremists” said one spokesperson “It is very important to get out there and reclaim it. We need to show the world that our community is about love, beauty and a respect for all” he added.

GLAS also held a successful fundraising dance party two nights prior to the parade in order to support the legal defense team of the Cairo 52 victims. The event was attended by about 300 people and featured live performances by local artists Sultana and Camilia.

Black Laundry marches in Tel Aviv Pride Parade


A member of the Israeli gay and lesbian group Black Laundry wears a Palestinian headdress as she protests against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by painting a target on her chest during the gay and lesbian pride parade in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv Friday June 28, 2002. With Israeli troops controlling seven of the eight main West Bank cities and towns, the Palestinian leadership issued a statement on Friday condemning the Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas as "an attempt to sabotage peace efforts." (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

Bush Backs Islamic-Christian UN Bloc


NEW YORK -- Religious conservatives in the U.S. have teamed up with Islamic governments to halt the global expansion of sexual and political protections for gay people, women and children at United Nations conferences, the Washington Post reports.

The new alliance, which came together last year, has also been given a a major boost from the Bush administration, the newspaper says, by appointing conservative activists to key positions in American delegations to U.N. conferences on global social policy.

Religious and social conservatives have strengthened ties with the Vatican and fostered new alliances with a powerful bloc of more than 50 moderate and hard-line Islamic governments, including Sudan, Libya, Iraq and Iran.

"We look at them as allies, not necessarily as friends," said Austin Ruse who heads the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. "We have realized that without countries like Sudan, abortion would have been recognized as a universal human right..."

The fundamentalist alliance has once again put the Bush administration on a collision course with European allies, which broadly support the expansion of sexual and political rights. Moreover, the U.S. government is now siding with some of its most reviled international adversaries, such as "Axis of Evil" regimes in Iran and Iraq, in trying to hold a hardline stance on social issues.

The Post reports the partnership does have some value internationally, especially as the U.S. attempts to demonstrate it shares many social values with Islam. "We have tried to point out there are some areas of agreement between [us] and a lot of Islamic countries on these social issues," n U.S. official said.

"The main issue that brings us all together is defending the family values, the natural family," added Mokhtar Lamani, a Moroccan diplomat who represents the 53-nation bloc, the Organization of Islamic Conferences. The group has been successful in keeping out international lesbian and gay rights groups from attending conferences on AIDS and racism.

The Islamic-Christian alliance also claimed an important victory at the U.N. children's meeting last month. The Bush administration led the coalition in blocking an effort by European and Latin American countries to support birth control and other reproductive choice for women in poor countries.

Western officials say they are alarmed by the rise in influence of religious conservatives in the United Nations. "They are trying to undo some of the landmark agreements that were reached in the 1990s, particularly on women's rights and family planning," a U.N.-based European diplomat said. "The U.S. decision to come into the game on their side has completely changed the dynamics."

"This alliance shows the depths of perversity of the American position," said Adrienne Germaine, president of the International Women's Health Coalition. "On the one hand we're presumably blaming these countries for unspeakable acts of terrorism, and at the same time we are allying ourselves with them in the oppression of women."

Egypt sentences 5 more suspected gays

Mon Mar 11, 8:04 PM ET / Network

SUMMARY: An Egyptian court sentenced five suspected gay men on Monday to three years in prison with hard labor.

An Egyptian court sentenced five suspected gay men on Monday to three years in prison with hard labor, continuing a punitive trend that has alarmed human rights advocates around the world.

A spokesman from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reported that the men were also tortured while in prison and that Monday's trial took approximately 15 minutes.

The men pleaded guilty to debauchery and running a house for gay sex parties, according to the Associated Press. An appeal hearing has been set for April 13. The men's names were not revealed.

The men were arrested in January in Damanhur after police reportedly raided a home and found the men in various sexual positions.

Human rights and gay rights groups have regularly criticized Egypt's crackdown on suspected homosexuals since the sentencing last November of 23 men to harsh prison sentences. The men were part of a group of 52 men who were arrested last May in a floating nightclub.

Last week activists in Washington, D.C., protested outside a meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush (news - web sites) and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) because the two leaders have not publicly addressed the human rights abuses.

Egypt's penal code does not outlaw homosexuality, but laws against obscenity, debauchery and prostitution have been used to justify gay-related convictions

The passing of George Nader

Ahbab News 2/12/2002

Gay Lebanese film and screen actor George Nader has died at the age of 80. He is also famous for being one of the Rock Hudson's heirs, and writing the Gay Sci-Fi novel Chrome.

Homosexual customs return to Kandahar 01/14/02

Taliban rule is over in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Western journalists have already noted that traditions of homosexuality are re-emerging.

Kandahar's Pashtuns have started to become visible again with their "ashna" -- teenagers who are groomed for sex. Before the Taliban took over in 1994, Pashtuns could be seen everywhere with their young boys on whom they showered expensive gifts. Living in poverty, the boys could not refuse the Pashtuns.

Once a boy becomes the property of a Pashtun, who is usually married with a wife and family, he is marked out. The Kandaharis, however, accept Pashtun relationships as part of their culture. Pashtun and their ashna "beloveds" have been part of everyday life for centuries.

"In the days of the Mujahidin, there were men with their ashna everywhere, at every corner, in shops, on the streets, in hotels: It was completely open, a part of life," Torjan, 38, one of the soldiers loyal to Kandahar's new governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, told the Times newspaper.

"They are just emerging again," Torjan said. "The fighters too now have the boys in their barracks. This was brought to the attention of Gul Agha, who ordered the boys to be expelled, but it continues. The boys live with the fighters very openly. In a short time, and certainly within a year, it will be like pre-Taliban: They will be everywhere."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under attack for a post-Christmas holiday in Egypt 01/02/02

Blair, his wife Cherie and their four children spent nearly a week visiting the pyramids in Giza and seeing other tourist spots in what was described by Downing Street as a purely private trip.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) condemned the trip as hypocrisy and a slap in the face for lesbian and gay people around

the world.

Blair's trip comes just over a month after Egypt convicted 23 men for their "immoral behavior" and "contempt of religion" and imposed prison sentences with hard labor on them.

GALHA secretary George Broadhead said: "At the Labour party conference last year, Blair said that human rights would be at the center of his foreign policy, and yet here he is offering support to a regime that persecutes gays."

Saudi Arabians behead three accused gay men 01/02/2002

Saudi Arabia officials executed three men on Tuesday for homosexual acts and molesting boys, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The men were publicly beheaded in the city of Abha after being convicted in an Islamic court.

The charges against Ali bin Hattan bin Saad, Mohammad bin Suleiman bin Mohammad and Mohammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah included "engaging in the extreme obscenity and ugly acts of homosexuality, marry among themselves and molesting the young."

At least 122 people were executed in Saudi Arabia during 2001, according to a Reuters report. Public beheading is a reportedly common means of execution in the Islamic kingdom for murderers, rapists, homosexuals and drug dealers.

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