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Another Victory for the LGBT Community: Gay Marriage Ruled Constitutional in France

Another Victory for the LGBT Community: Gay Marriage Ruled Constitutional in France

 

 
France’s constitutional council today rejected a challenge by conservative legislators to the country’s new gay marriage law, claiming the law was constitutional. This ruling means the nation of France could see its first gay marriages commence by the end of this month.
 
The nation’s parliament passed the law legalizing gay marriage last month after a heated national debate. Opponents of gay marriage, including the prominent UMP party, immediately contested the law in France’s Constitutional Council. 
 
The gay marriage law is set to be published in the official journal; President Francois Hollande, who promised to legalize gay marriage during his campaign last year, has pledged to see the law published as quickly as the legislative process allows. 
When signed, France will become the 14th county to legalize same-sex marriage, joining a group of eight other European nations: Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark, and Iceland. 
 
The bill was approved on the 23rd of April by parliament, but was promptly challenged on constitutional grounds by the right-wing UMP party of former leader Nicolas Sarkozy. The conservative party opposed what it felt was a fast-track voting process and argued that homosexual marriage represented a fundamental change that could not be justified by merely passing a law. 
 
The UMP party has not made clear whether it aims to strike the law down if it comes to fruition. Several media outlets in France have reported that some prominent party members believe that such a route would be legally plausible. 
 
Harlem Desir, the head of the ruling Socialist Party, claimed the passing of the law “marks a victory for the nation and for equality; it is day of great pride for the Socialist movement.”
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Terrible Act: Crowd Led by Priests Attacks Gay Rights Marchers in the Nation of Georgia

Terrible Act: Crowd Led by Priests Attacks Gay Rights Marchers in the Nation of Georgia

 

 
A massive group of thousands led by priests in black robes stormed through police barriers in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia last week and attacked a group of 50 or so gay rights demonstrators. 
 
Carrying banners reading “no to gays,” and “no to mental genocide,” the masses of mostly young men hurled eggs and rocks at the gay rights supporters. The police forced most of the demonstrators onto minibuses to evacuate them from the rally; however, the attackers swarmed the buses, and attempted to shatter the windows with trash cans, metal gratings, and rocks. 
 
At least a dozen people were hospitalized, including three police offers and up to nine gay rights marchers.
 
“The rioters wanted to kill us all,” said the head of the Tbilisi-based gay rights advocacy group that organized the march. A lawyer for the gay rights group claimed that if the marchers and supporters had not been close to the buses when the clash began, the rioters would have turned every gay rights supporter into a “corpse.”
 
Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of Georgia spoke strongly against the violence in a news release last week, as the police urged the rioters to leave the city’s central avenue. 
 
This attack comes amid an increase in anti-gay rhetoric and sentiment in Georgia and Russia, whose Orthodox churches are gaining more and more political influence. 
In a statement released last week, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church compared homosexuals to drug addicts and called the march a “violation of the rights of the majority.”
 
Conservative-minded citizens of Georgia traveled from other cities to speak against the gay rights marchers, and one told a media station that she had come to “cure them of their illness.”
 
“We are attempting to protect our orthodoxy, and prohibit anyone from wiping their feet on our faith,” said a member of the church. “We must not allow these individuals to hold a gay demonstration here.”
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Gay Marriage Passes in the House of Commons

Gay Marriage Passes in the House of Commons

 

Gay Marriage Passes in the House of Commons
 
The House of Commons voted to permit gay marriage in Wales and England, despite 161 members of Parliament opposing the British government’s plans. 
 
Several Tory Members of Parliament spoke openly against the bill, which have caused a rift in the party, but leaders of the Labour and Democratic Party backed them. 
The Same Sex Couples Bill will not go before the House of Lords for final approval.  
Prime Minister David Cameron hopes the Same Sex Couples Bill to become law soon with the first gay marriages taking place by next summer. 
 
If passed the Same Sex Couples Bill will allow gay couples, who are currently allowed to hold civil ceremonies, to legally marry in Wales and England. 
 
According to the bill, religious institutions would be required to “opt in” to offering same sex weddings, with the Church in Wales and the Church of England being banned in law from doing so. 
 
The Secretary of Wales Mr. David Jones and Environment Official Owen Paterson voted against the Same Sex Marriage bill at its third hearing—these two officials were joined by 10 junior ministers of the nation. 
 
In total, 133 Tories opposed the same sex marriage bill, along with 15 Labour Members of Parliament, four members of the Liberal Democratic Party, one independent, and eight Democratic Unionists. Again, the proposal will now go to the House of Lords tomorrow, where it is expected to generate heated discussion. 
Demonstrators who oppose the proposed law held a vigil across from the Palace of Westminster as the vote took place. A woman was arrested by police after attempting to drive an automobile through the gates of the Palace as the vote was underway. 
The bill’s third reading was supported by 366 Members of Parliament, giving it the necessary majority of 205. There was a smattering of applause in the chamber after the results were announced. 
 
The result represents a marginal improvement for the Prime minister compared to the second reading, when 175 Members of Parliament opposed the plans. 
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Boy Scouts of America Take Monumental Step

Boy Scouts of America Take Monumental Step

 

 
Delegates to the yearly meeting of the Boy Scouts of America issued a landmark statement today, voting to allow openly gay young members to join their organization. 
Boy Scouts of America is comprised of a 1,400-member national council, which voted for the policy change that is set to take effect on the 1st of January next year. 
 
“No young person shall be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of their sexual orientation or their sexual preferences,” says the approved resolution. The Boy Scouts of America; however, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders. 
 
“Today is a monumental day for Boy Scouts across the United States who want to be a part of this great national institution,” said Chad Griffin, the President of the Human Rights Campaign. “However, the new policy does not go far enough. Adults and parents of good moral characters, regardless of their sexual preferences, should be able to volunteer to mentor the next generation of great Americans.”
 
“The Boy Scouts of America can do a better job with their inclusion of homosexual members,” said Zach Wahls, the Executive Director of Scouts for Equality and an Eagle Scout. “We welcome the news with open arms that the ban on homosexual scouts is now a part of the past; however, our work is not over until we honor the Scout Law by making this great American institution open to all.”
 
In addition to the ban on homosexual scout leaders, the new policy does not answer the issue of employment discrimination. Currently, the job application for the Boy Scouts of America for positions for “professional commission” explicitly states that gays should not apply. The job application, which comes from the organization’s national office and appears to be used across the United States, reads: “The Boy Scouts of America will not accept applications from atheists, agnostics, and known homosexuals.”
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Going Backwards: Nigerian Lawmakers Vote to Outlaw Gay Marriage

Going Backwards: Nigerian Lawmakers Vote to Outlaw Gay Marriage

 
Nigerian lawmakers approved a bill today that outlaws gay marriage and significantly hampers gay rights, including placing criminal penalties on public displays of affection between homosexual couples. 
 
The Nigerian House of Representatives unanimously approved the measure which provides lengthy jail terms of up to 14 years for homosexual marriage. 
 
A subsequent bill was also approved by the Senate, but it has not been made clear if the two laws are identical. If the two bills are virtually the same, the bill will now go to the President for his final approval. 
 
Under the new bill, “individuals that entered into a same-sex marriage or civil union will be found guilty of an offense and will be jointly held liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison.”
 
Beyond concerns about gay rights in Nigeria, some prominent legislators have wondered whether funding delivered through non-government organizations in the nation for AIDS and HIV treatment would be jeopardized by the passing of the bill. 
Leaders and lawyers for various human rights groups claim that the passing of this bill is simply a publicity stunt or a sign of legislative showmanship due to the fact that homosexual couples have never approached any government office or registrar asking to be married in the nation of Nigeria. 
 
Many of those connected to the bill argue that Nigerian politicians are likely seeking to defy the mounting Western pressure over homosexual rights. 
 
British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a warning that his nation will consider withholding aid from countries that do not fundamentally recognize gay rights. The United States has also expressed significant concern over the Nigerian legislation. 
Last year, President Barack Obama ordered all public agencies that play a role in foreign policy to encourage foreign nations to place a premium on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights. 
 
The nation of Nigeria is a highly religious society, with its 160 million people divided in half between Muslims and Christians. 
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

New Poll: Seven in Ten Young Adults Support Gay Marriage

New Poll: Seven in Ten Young Adults Support Gay Marriage

 

 
Support for same-sex marriage is now seemingly a wide held belief among adults born after 1980 as 70 percent claim that they believe lesbian women and gay men should be able to marry.
 
These results were released today from Pew Research; the poll showed millennial support for same sex marriage far outpaces any other generation in the United States. Among those Americans born between 1928 and 1945, only 31 percent support gay marriage. Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent of Baby Boomers and roughly half of Generation X-ers say they believe gay men and lesbian women should be allowed to legally marry. 
 
The prodigious support of the millennial generation has driven a significant shift in the country’s overall attitude toward same sex marriage. Presently, roughly 50 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing gay marriage while 44 percent are opposed to the formation. This is a dramatic reversal from just 10 years ago, when over 58 percent of Americans opposed gay marriage and just a third of Americans were in favor of gay marriage. 
 
Last Tuesday, Rhode Island became the 10th state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage. The state Senate of Delaware is set to vote tomorrow on a measure that only narrowly passed in the state House that would also allow gay men and lesbian women to secure a legal marriage. 
 
Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court heard a pair of cases that challenged the constitutionality of a federal law that prohibits the government from conferring benefits on gay spouses and a California state law that prohibits the formation of gay marriages. The results of these cases are expected to be rendered sometime in June. Gay rights activists and supporters are hoping that the Court will rule in a matter that will legalize gay marriage in more or all of the 50 states in the U.S. 
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Gay Marriage Bill Temporarily Falters in Illinois

Gay Marriage Bill Temporarily Falters in Illinois

For supporters of gay marriage in the state of Illinois, this moment was supposed to a landmark time in a collective “I do” from state legislators.

Thousands participated on social media and live streams throughout the day on Friday of last week, sending messages and tweets of hope as they anxiously waited for the House to undergo a vote on the legalization of same-sex marriage. Homosexual couples who had traveled to the Capitol were invited to view the vote from the speaker’s gallery, and during breaks, families snapped pictures with sponsoring lawmaker Greg Harris.

However, as the hours passed, the energy and optimism faded away due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church and conservative African-American church groups, leading Harris to announce that he would not address the bill as a result of a lack of support.

“It felt like someone punched me to the floor,” said Robyne O’Mara who has been involved in a same-sex relationship for the past 30 years and took off work to witness the vote.

The state had appeared ready to become the 13th state to approve same-sex marriage. Governor Pat Quinn guaranteed residents to sign the bill, and Democrats held veto-proof majorities in the Senate and House. Moreover, President Obama called for its passage during a fundraiser in his home city, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also expressed support.

As anticipation mounted on Friday, so too did lobbying efforts from Harris and his fellow democrats. Harris spent several hours going desk to desk to gauge interest among his colleagues, occasionally going as far as holding meetings and huddling on the floor with various senators and House Speaker Michael Madigan.

In the end; however, Harris declined to blame any group of lawmakers for failing to proceed with a  vote, claiming individual members should make up their own mind and that several of his colleagues had asked to have the summer to contemplate the issue in their district, with the promise they would vote to pass the bill in November.

“This was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life,” said Harris of the decision to postpone the vote.

According to the bill, the definition of marriage in the state would change from an act between a man and a woman to one between two people. Moreover, the bill would convert civil unions into marriages within a year of the law being affirmed. Also, the legislation would not require religious groups to perform a gay marriage, and church officials would not be required to open their facilities to homosexual couples looking to marry.

This push for gay marriages comes just two years after the state legalized civil unions for homosexual couples and reflects shifting attitudes in favor of gay marriage. 

 

Source: Human Rights Campaign

President Obama Meets with President Park of South Korea

President Obama Meets with President Park of South Korea

 

 
Today, President Barack Obama welcomed President Park Guen-hye of South Korea to the White House to celebrate 60 years of bilateral partnership between the United States and South Korea. 
 
Established after the Korean War, the United States-Republic of Korean Alliance is a linchpin of security and peace on the Korean Peninsula and within the Asia Pacific Region. 
 
Today, the two leaders affirmed that they would continue building on the last sixty years of stability by adapting and strengthening the alliance to adhere to the security challenges of the 21st century. 
 
“Guided by our shared vision, we are investing in the shared technologies and capabilities and missile defense systems that allow our forces to operate and succeed with one another,” said President Obama. The President added, “we are determined to be fully prepared to meet fully any challenge or threat to our nation’s security.”
President Park and President Obama also agreed to continue implementing the historic trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, which is already yielding benefits for both of our nations, President Obama said. 
 
“The United States is selling more exports to South Korea, more services, more manufactured goods, and more agricultural products,” the President said. “And even though we have a long way to go, our automobile exports are up nearly 50 percent, and the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler, and GM) are selling more and more cars in South Korea.
The agreement between the two nations is expected to boost American exports by roughly $10 billion and support tens of thousands of American jobs, in addition to creating employment opportunities in Korea, President Obama said. 
 
President Obama thanked President Park, who is the Republic of South Korea’s first female President, for choosing the United States of America as her first foreign trip. The visit between the two presidents reflects South Korea’s progress over the past 60 years,” President Obama said, “from the lowly depths of war, to one of the globe’s strongest economies; from a recipient of international aid to a donor that now helps other countries develop.”  
 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov

Mark another One Down: Republican Senator Mark Kirk Announces Support for Gay Marriage

Mark another One Down: Republican Senator Mark Kirk Announces Support for Gay Marriage

 

Mark another One Down: Republican Senator Mark Kirk Announces Support for Gay Marriage
 
Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois announced today that he supports gay marriage. The announcement makes Kirk the second sitting Republican senator to affirm support for same-sex marriage. 
 
Senator Kirk, who previously opposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, said in a post on his website “gay couples should be given the right to civil marriage.”
 
“Our time on this planet is limited, I know this better than most,” said Kirk, who survived a stroke in January of 2012. “Life ultimately comes down to who you love and who loves you back, and the United States government has no place in the middle.”
 
Kirk was required to go through months of rehabilitation before returning to the nation’s capital earlier this year. Kirk, through his posting, said that when he went back to the Senate he promised he would return “with an open mind and a greater respect for people.”
 
Kirk is the ranking Republican lawmaker in the state of Illinois, and his announcement comes less than one month after Senator Rob Portman of Ohio became the first conservative Senator to support gay marriage and one week after the United States Supreme Court held two days of arguments on the subject. 
 
The announcement also comes as the Illinois Legislature is giving consideration to a measure that would make Illinois the 10th state in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage. 
 
The state senate voted in February to lift a ban on Illinois same-sex marriage; this legislation was then approved by a House committee, but has yet to be brought to the floor for a formal vote. House Speaker Michael Madigan believes that supporters are a dozen or so votes short the required mark to pass the bill. That said, Governor Pat Quinn announces that she would sign the measure if approved on the floor. 
Kirk’s announcement could offer political cover to the Republican party in the Illinois House who are for the first time considering a yes vote but remain fearful of a backlash from the conservative base. 
 
Senator Kirk served five terms in Congress representing Chicago’s northern suburbs before he secured the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov

Enjoy your Stay: Thousands Await Putin’s visit to Amsterdam to Protest the President’s Position on Gay Rights

Enjoy your Stay: Thousands Await Putin’s visit to Amsterdam to Protest the President’s Position on Gay Rights

 

 
Over 3,000 people gathered in Amsterdam to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit on Monday. The throng of gay rights activists and supporters flew rainbow flags at half-mast around the city that prides itself on expression and enjoying every kind of freedom. 
 
The cheerfully dressed crowd constantly chanted “Go home Putting!” during a festive protest outside the museum where Putin enjoyed dinner with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 
 
Amsterdam in 2001 became the first nation to legalize gay marriage. 
Protesters were primarily targeting a bill before the Russian parliament that outlaws homosexual “propaganda” among minors, but also a broad rights clampdown in the nation of Russia, where Putin is serving his third term as president. 
 
Western governments and activists have expressed considerable anger over the measure, which imposes fines of up to 500,000 rubles (roughly $15,850) for any “public acts” that promote homosexuality or pedophilia. 
 
“The law does not impose violations on the rights of sexual minorities in our nation,” said a defiant Putin. “These people enjoy full liberties and rights like everyone else in Russia.”
 
Putin went onto say that gay couples could not produce children and that “Russia and Europe have demographic problems.”
 
“We need to reach a majority with this community; we need to work collectively and not insult each other.”
 
Dozens of police units were deployed in the highly secured area, including anti-riot forces. Dutch police reported that they had briefly detained one individual, a gay activist who wrote expletives against the Russian President on the window of his Amsterdam studio. 
 
Putin’s visit centered on trade negotiations with the Netherlands; many business leaders traveled with Putin discuss trade deals. 
 
Russia and The Netherlands have a detailed trade relationship as many Russian companies are registered in The Netherlands because of its favorable tax regime. 
 
Source: CNN