Australians Say ‘Yes’ to Same-Sex Marriage, Clearing Path for Legalization

A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.

Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots.

“The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ for marriage equality,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the survey in a move described by advocates as a delay tactic devised to appease his party’s far-right faction. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love.”Australia gay marriage

The high turnout and unequivocal result amounted to a rebuke for Australia’s most conservative politicians, many of whom saw a majority of their constituents vote to support same-sex marriage despite their arguments against it.

Proponents of gay rights spent the day celebrating. They gathered in cities around the country to watch news broadcasts of the survey results. The largest crowd, at Prince Alfred Park in Sydney, broke into cheers, with hugs, dancing and tears, as soon as the news was announced.

“This is our proudest moment as gay and lesbian Australians,” said Chris Lewis, 60, an artist from Sydney, who waved a large rainbow flag he bought in San Francisco about 30 years ago. “Finally I can be proud of my country.”

But many Australians said it was also late in coming.

Annika Lowry, 42, who brought her 4-year-old daughter to the celebration, said the vote revealed a widening gap between Australia’s political class and voters who have been demanding same-sex marriage legislation for years.

“It was not just about us,” she said. “It’s for our kids, so that they know equality is important.”

Alex Greenwich, a state lawmaker from New South Wales and the co-chairman of Australian Marriage Equality, an advocacy group, said the vote “shows that Australians have truly come together in support of their gay and lesbian mates and have said that everybody should be able to have the freedom to marry.”

Germany Must Allow Third Gender Category, Court Rules

Germany must create a third gender category for people who do not identify as either male or female or were born with ambiguous sexual traits, the country’s constitutional court ruled on Wednesday, finding that binary gender designations violated the right to privacy.

In 2013, Germany became the first European country to allow parents to register newborns as neither female nor male, if the child was born with characteristics of both sexes.

The new decision, by the Federal Constitutional Court, goes further, giving lawmakers until the end of 2018 to either allow the introduction of a third gender category or dispense with gender altogether in public documents.Germany transgender

The ruling arrives as society, medicine and law increasingly recognize the ways in which gender is socially constructed and not necessarily fixed or stable.

According to Lambda Legal, an American organization that works for the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people, at least eight countries — Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan — recognize more than two genders on passports or national ID cards.

Thailand recognizes a third gender in its Constitution but has not yet made that an option on government documents.

In June, for the first time in Canada, a newborn was issued a health document without a gender: a health card that listed U as the gender, for unspecified or unknown. In August, Canada began issuing passports with a third gender option, designated with an X.

Several American states have offered residents gender-neutral options on drivers licenses, and last month, California passed a law that allows nonbinary and intersex people a nonbinary category on their birth certificates.

While much of the change worldwide has involved transgender people, the discussion has also focused attention on intersex people, those born with traits of both sexes.

“Children who are born with atypical sex characteristics are often subject to irreversible sex assignment, involuntary sterilization, involuntary genital normalizing surgery,” a 2013 report from the United Nations special rapporteur on torture found, noting that they were left “with permanent, irreversible infertility and causing severe mental suffering.” Human Rights Watch has condemned such procedures.

‘Traditional Values’: A Potent Weapon Against LGBT Rights

In April, news broke of a widespread anti-gay purge in Chechnya; in September, gay men and transgender women were rounded up in Azerbaijan; and in October reports emerged that a registry of gay men and lesbians was being compiled by the authorities in Tajikistan.

How might we understand these disparate events as part of a trend in these three former Soviet countries?  

The rhetoric of regional leaders and their modus operandi show that these events are linked by a discourse on so-called traditional values that situates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as the aberrant ‘other.’  The idea of a timeless, unchanging tradition is particularly powerful in these times of social uncertainty, political instability, and economic pressure. traditional values

This chain of events began in earnest in 2013 with Russia’s federal propaganda law, banning the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors.”  The law had a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Violence with impunity against LGBT people in Russia spiked.  The propaganda law doesn’t ban sexual relations between members of the same sex. Rather it targets all media and public activities which ”try to portray homosexuality as normal behaviour.”

Similar propaganda-style legislation has been discussed in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine, leading to an increase in public discourse on traditional values as a way to sabotage the rights of LGBT people throughout the region. The echoes of traditional values rhetoric can of course be heard much further afield including in Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Uganda.  Russia is not directly responsible for this proliferation of laws outlawing the promotion of homosexuality, or for the renewed zeal for using existing morality laws against LGBT people, such as in Egypt. But Russia has positioned itself as the champion of traditional values, both domestically and internationally.

‘Decadent Modernity & Wholesome Tradition’

Russia and Egypt have long led the charge against the advance of the rights of LGBT people at the United Nations, focusing their efforts on traditional values and family values and opposing any mention of sexual orientation, gender identity, or even gender. 

Traditional Values is the staple language of Russia’s alliance with countries from the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Africa Group at the United Nations.  The rights of LGBT people are the wedge issue used to undermine the universality of human rights and to position Russia in opposition to the West on the global stage.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, used this approach in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014:  “A number of countries have recently seen a sudden and sometimes rather aggressive rise in the activities of those who support ultra-liberal ideas, advocating permissiveness and hedonism and demanding a revision of norms of morality and ethics shared by all world religions.” Lavrov articulated a powerful rhetorical divide in which the world is split between decadent modernity and wholesome tradition. It has served its purpose well, as a clever shorthand against human rights.

It is in this geopolitical context that the words and actions of leaders in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Chechnya, a region within Russia, need to be understood. 

By Graeme Reid, November 4, 2017 – emerging-europa.com

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Irish government to pay for couples to have IVF treatment and outlaw commercial surrogacy

The Government will today commit to funding IVF treatment for couples unable to conceive from 2019.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to bring a memo to Cabinet this morning outlining proposed regulatory measures for the area of assisted human reproduction.IVF

It is understood Mr Harris will commit to outlawing commercial surrogacy and the payment for egg, sperm or embryo donors.

The memo will provide for an ethical framework with clear rules for the welfare of the child, woman and informed consent.

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Harris said that by the end of the year he wants to clarify for families what financial assistance would be available for IVF from 2019.

“I made it very clear that I want to put in place supports to help subsidise the cost of IVF for families,” Mr Harris said.

“One in six of us could experience infertility challenges at any time and I would like to by the end of the year be in a position to provide clarity to families in terms of what supports we may be able to provide from 2019.”

Mr Harris said the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill will “regulate this whole area”.

“I hope to send it to the Oireachtas Committee subject to Cabinet approval for pre-legislative scrutiny and get it passed into law in 2018 with the idea of having public subsidies for IVF for 2019,” he said.

The Irish Times, October 3, 2017

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A man tortured in Chechnya for being gay dares to go public with his story

For the first time since gruesome accounts of the systematic detention and torture of gay men began leaking out of Russia’s republic of Chechnya, a young man has gone public with his story.

Maxim Lapunov, 30, told reporters on Monday that he was demanding justice from the Russian government for the 12 days he spent locked in a blood-soaked jail cell, led out daily with a plastic bag over his head to be beaten by police officers demanding he confess to being gay.Chechnya victim

Human rights activists and journalists say that up to 100 people, mainly young gay men, were caught up in what has been called a “gay pogrom” carried out by Chechen police and officials earlier this year. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the campaign of violence, saying that Chechnya “has no gays.”

Lapunov, who moved to Chechnya in 2015 and made a living as an entertainer, said he was selling balloons in March near a mall in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, when he was detained by plainclothes police officers and forced into a car. He was driven to a police station.

“The charge was that I am gay,” Lapunov, dressed in a white T-shirt and blue cardigan, told reporters on Monday in a news conference at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which has published several explosive reports on the alleged torture of gay men in Chechnya. 

When he refused a confession, he was led into a jail cell soaked with fresh blood, where he could hear “screams and groans” coming from somewhere in the bowels of the police station. Officers placed a plastic bag over his head with just a hole to breathe through, led him to an interrogation room, and forced his face against a wall and beat his “legs, hips, buttocks, back,” he said. “They would stop briefly just to let me breathe. They made me get up when I was falling, and it went on and on.”

“I thought they would kill me no matter what happened,” he said, wiping away tears. 

Lapunov, who is ethnically Russian, is the first person to make a formal complaint to Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee challenging a government narrative that the “gay pogrom” in Chechnya never existed because no victims have come forward. Tanya Lokshina, the local head for Human Rights Watch, said that ethnic Chechen victims have been resistant to go public because of fear of retribution by their families.

by Andrew Roth – Washington Post, October 16, 2017

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LGBT activists worry about Trump impact in Africa

Gay rights activist Joseph Achille Tiedjou is worried every day that he will be harassed or arrested in Cameroon.

Defending LGBT rights can be dangerous in Africa, where many countries have laws against homosexuality. But in recent years activists have stepped out of the shadows, empowered by the support of the Obama administration and the international community.Africa Gay

Now many fear the Trump administration will undermine those gains, and that their exposure could make them more vulnerable if support fades.

“I have so many worries with the new administration,” the 32-year-old Tiedjou said, pointing out Trump’s ban on transgender people in the U.S. military. “Obama was known to be very engaged. Hillary Clinton was a champion of LGBT rights and made many guarantees in addressing these issues specifically.”

Obama’s administration made LGBT rights a major domestic and foreign policy, though some in Africa saw it as pushing “Western ideals.” The Obama administration also created a special envoy position on LGBT rights. The Trump administration has said it will keep the post, but concerns remain.

“The difference with the previous administration was that the rights of LGBT people were explicitly part of foreign policy. So LGBT groups around the world could absolutely rely on the moral and, indeed, material support that came from the U.S. government and that made a huge difference,” said Graeme Reid, director of Human Rights Watch’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program. “Under this administration, we are no longer going to be seeing that proactive engagement around LGBT rights.”

Though the Trump administration’s overseas policies on LGBT rights remain to be seen, the erosion of domestic advances directly undermines the authority of the U.S. to speak out internationally, Reid said. He cited the pushback against federal protections and the appointment of “openly homophobic officials” to senior government positions.

The U.S. recently joined a dozen other countries to vote against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that urged countries not to use the death penalty for specific forms of conduct, including consensual same-sex relations. State Departmentspokeswoman Heather Nauert said the vote was made “because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances” but said the U.S. “unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality.”

Same-sex acts are illegal in more than 33 African countries and can lead to death sentences in parts of at least four, including Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria and southern Somalia, according to Amnesty International.

Homosexuality is criminalized in the East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. In Tanzania, authorities recently stopped health providers from non-governmental organizations from providing services to LGBT people.

In Cameroon, a strong ally of the U.S. in the fight against extremism, Human Rights Watch has documented high levels of arrests of LGBT people.

October 15, 2017 – By CARLEY PETESCH, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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The evolution of LGBT parenting in the UK: Celebrating a decade of change

Insights in LGBT Parenting in the UK

In the UK, we’re fortunate to live in an open-minded inclusive society, but the law has not always reflected that – as recently as the 1990s, UK legislation actively discriminated against non-traditional families seeking fertility treatment to become parents. But the past 15 years spans a legal and social revolution for same-sex parents, and it is now easier than ever before for LGBT parents to start a family in the UK.lgbt parenting in the UK

As the UK marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality (following the Sexual Offences Act 1967), here is an overview of some of the key milestones in the journey to increase access to family-building options for same-sex couples:

1990: the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act introduced regulation for UK fertility clinics. Under the new law, fertility clinics had to consider a child’s ‘need for a father’ before offering treatment, aiming to restrict fertility treatment for single women and lesbian couples.

2004: the Civil Partnership Act created – in all but name – marriage for same-sex couples, giving property, pension, inheritance and other benefits to couples who registered as civil partners.

2005: same-sex partners were allowed to adopt their partner’s children, and couples were allowed to adopt unrelated children together. For the first time, children in the UK could have legal parents of the same sex.

2008: following a review of 1990 laws, fertility clinics no longer had to consider the child’s “need for a father”, and it was made clear they should not discriminate against same-sex couples. New parenthood laws also enabled female same-sex couples to be recorded on their children’s birth certificates together if they conceived through sperm donation, and enabled male same-sex couples to apply for a parental order (giving them a birth certificate recording them both as their child’s legal parents) if they conceived through surrogacy.

2015: same-sex parents with a child born through surrogacy were given the right to adoption leave (so that one parent could claim the equivalent to maternity leave and pay, and the other paternity leave and pay).

2016: a key High Court decision ruled that the law discriminated unfairly against single parents who conceived through surrogacy. In response, the government announced plans to change the law to allow single parents – as well as couples – to become the legal parents of a child born through surrogacy.

What does the future hold?

We have come a long way over the past 15 years, but we are not quite there yet. There remains problems with the law on surrogacy, and for birth certificates for transgender and multiple-parent families.

by Natalie Gamble – gaystarnews.com, September 29, 2017

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Same-Sex Couples Wed in Germany as Marriage Law Takes Effect

Cheers rang out in the City Hall of Berlin’s Schöneberg district on Sunday as two men, who met 38 years ago, when the German capital was a divided city, became the country’s first same-sex couple to legally marry.

The couple, Bodo Mende, 60, and Karl Kreile, 59, were wed in a civil ceremony, surrounded by a crush of photographers and television cameras eager to capture the historic moment.

Not even the crying of a child among the relatives and friends who attended the event interrupted their joy as the couple exchanged a long kiss after they were pronounced husband and husband.

“This is an emotional moment with great symbolism,” Mr. Kreile told reporters before the event. “The transition to the term ‘marriage’ shows that the German state recognizes us as real equals.”

In June, Germany became the 15th European country to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, after a swift vote in Parliament that followed a brief but emotional debate. A previous German law had allowed civil unions between same-sex couples since 2001, but those unions did not offer couples the same legal rights and were considered by many to be a second-class form of marriage.

Across the country, city halls that are normally closed on the weekend opened their doors to allow marriages on the first day the law took effect. Dozens of couples were expected to exchange vows in Berlin, as well as in Cologne, Hamburg, Hanover and Kiel on Sunday and the days beyond.

by Mellisa Eddy – New York Times, October 1, 2017

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UK High Court awarded woman damages for surrogacy following missed cervical cancer diagnosis

In a legal first, the UK High Court has awarded costs of £74,000 to a woman for surrogacy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies.

This first of its kind award from a UK High Court formed part of an overall damages award of £580,600.

As a result of a delayed diagnosis, the claimant developed invasive cancer of the cervix and required chemo-radiotherapy treatment.  This treatment rendered her infertile and caused severe damage to her bladder, bowel and vagina.  The late diagnosis meant she was unable to undergo fertility sparing surgery, which would otherwise have been available to her. The claimant, then 29, had always wanted a large family and postponed urgent cancer treatment twice for alternative medical opinions.  She also underwent a cycle of ovarian stimulation and harvested and froze 12 eggs before undergoing surgery and chemo-radiotherapy. The Defendant admitted liability and the case focused on the level of damages to be awarded to the Claimant.UK high court

Women awarded damages for surrogacy following missed cervical cancer diagnosis

In a legal first, the English High Court has awarded costs of £74,000 to a woman for surrogacy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies. This first of its kind award formed part of an overall damages award of £580,600.

Michaelmores Blog by By Louisa Ghevaert

As a result of a delayed diagnosis, the claimant developed invasive cancer of the cervix and required chemo-radiotherapy treatment.  This treatment rendered her infertile and caused severe damage to her bladder, bowel and vagina.  The late diagnosis meant she was unable to undergo fertility sparing surgery, which would otherwise have been available to her. The claimant, then 29, had always wanted a large family and postponed urgent cancer treatment twice for alternative medical opinions.  She also underwent a cycle of ovarian stimulation and harvested and froze 12 eggs before undergoing surgery and chemo-radiotherapy. The Defendant admitted liability and the case focused on the level of damages to be awarded to the Claimant.

In giving judgment Sir Robert Nelson allowed the claim for the cost of two surrogacies in the UK but rejected the claim in respect of costs for surrogacy in California on UK public policy grounds.  He also rejected a claim for the cost of donor eggs saying this was not truly restorative of the claimant’s loss.

Louisa Ghevaert, Head of the Fertility and Parenting team at Michelmores, provided expert evidence in this case.  In doing so, Louisa expressed the view that surrogacy law in the UK is “due for reform as life has moved on”.  In relation to that evidence Sir Robert Nelson stated:

“… Ms Ghevaert may be right in saying that attitudes have changed and are indeed changing in relation to surrogacy but such change must be brought about by the Law Commission and Parliament, or perhaps the Supreme Court.”

Michelmores Blog by By Louisa Ghevaert, September 19, 2017

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Israeli government ends opposition to same-sex adoption

The Israeli government on Tuesday formally ended its opposition to adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, cited media reports that indicate the Israeli Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services told the State Attorney’s Office “it has no objection to the practice.”

Same-sex couples in Israel are able to adopt children, but Haaretz reports they can “only adopt children for whom no adoptive heterosexual married couple can be found.” The newspaper notes gay and lesbian couples must wait longer to adopt than those who are heterosexual and Israeli law considers adoptive parents who are of the same sex “individual adoptive parents.”Israel Surrogacy

The Association of Israeli Gay Fathers and the Israel Religious Action Center challenged the law in a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court it filed against the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. Haaretz last month reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a brief said, “it has been decided by the professional bodies in the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry not to act at the present time to change the existing law.”

Haaretz on Tuesday reported the ministry’s new adoption criteria “will address the potential parents’ suitability for a given child, regardless of sexual orientation.” The Knesset has to formally act on amending the country’s adoption law in order for the proposed regulations to take effect.

“By acknowledging that same-sex couples are able to be parents and adopt, the Ministry of Social Services has straighten line (sic) with experts and the Israeli public,” Chen Arieli, chair of the Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, told the Washington Blade in a statement. “Now it’s time for members of the Knesset to do their part, and we expect them to change the law as soon as possible.”

by Michael Lavers – washingtonblade.com, August 30. 2017

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