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World news: Marriage in Vietnam; speedskater; Irish pol comes out
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2015-01-20


Gay-rights advocates in Vietnam are celebrating after the government repealed a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage, but there's a catch: Marriage equality isn't yet recognized, either, according to Care2.com. Lawmakers initially planned to give full recognition to same-sex marriage but decided instead to simply repeal the country's ban on gay marriage as an interim step, saying Vietnam needed more time to accept the change. This leaves same-sex couples in an odd position where they technically can marry without government interference but they do not gain access to the legal rights of marriage.

New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup surprised fans by announcing his engagement to boyfriend Saul Carrasco on Instagram, according to The Huffington Post. "Sunset over #Cleveland with my fiancé," Skjellerup wrote. On Aug. 10, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Skjellerup, who moved to New York in February and was in Cleveland for Gay Games 9, and Carrasco ( a fashion stylist and blogger for Trend Styled ) are tentatively planning a 2015 wedding in Hawaii.

Leo Varadkar, a senior cabinet minister in Ireland, has come out gay, On Top Magazine reported. Health Minister Varadkar made his announcement on state radio, making him Ireland's first openly gay high-level government official. Varadkar, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Jan. 18, said he wanted to publicly discuss his sexuality ahead of a May referendum on whether to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

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A lesbian couple have said they were "humiliated" after security at a London cinema kicked them out of the women's toilets because they were mistaken for men, Pink News reported. Tracey Seaton and Keira Williams ( who went to see Annie ) told the Standard that they were shouted at in front of a crowd at a Cineworld in London. The couple said the manager offered them two free tickets and a voucher, but that they had to explain that they are both women—so the women rejected the offer.

The panel drafting Thailand's new constitution confirmed that the document will include references to a "third gender" for the first time, according to an Advocate.com item. The nation joins other Asian countries, including India and Nepal, who has recently legally recognized third genders. "We are putting the words 'third gender' in the constitution because Thai society has advanced," panel spokesperson Kamnoon Sittisamarn told Reuters. "There are not only men and women; we need to protect all sexes. We consider all sexes to be equal."

In Australia, the New South Wales ( NSW ) Parliament's first openly gay MP, Paul O'Grady, has died at 54 of cancer, The Newcastle Herald noted. O'Grady served as a Labor MP in the NSW Legislative Council between 1988 and 1996, and disclosed his sexuality publicly in 1990. Upon retiring from parliament, O'Grady revealed in a television program that he had HIV/AIDS.

Fernando Arias Amparo and Victor Aguirre Espinoza exchanged vows, ending nearly two years of legal wrangling to become the first gay couple to marry in Baja California, Mexico, according to On Top Magazine. The couple, together 10 years, married during an impromptu wedding outside the City Hall of the state's capital of Mexicali. Previously, protesters had blocked the couple's attempt to marry, and a top city official told the men that the wedding had been canceled due to a complaint that the men "suffer from madness."

Two male witches have tied the knot in the UK's first pagan same-sex marriage, Yahoo! News reported. Tom Lanting, 34, and Iain Robertson, 39, who have been together for 12 years, were married in a ceremony in the 16th-century vaulted cellars of Marlin's Wynd in Edinburgh, Scotland. The men are both described as being hedge witches, who use herbal remedies to deal with medical and spiritual ailments. Scotland is the only part of the UK that allows pagans, and other minority and religious-belief bodies, to solemnize legal weddings.

A gay Palestinian asylum-seeker who converted from Islam to Christianity said he faces deportation from Canada for his close family ties to Hamas, and fears he will be executed if forced to return to the West Bank, according to The Times of Israel. John Calvin ( not his birth name ), 24, told CTV News that his family was among the founders of the Islamist terror group, but said he rejected Hamas's extremist ideology and converted to Christianity at 18. Calvin added that his refugee application was suspended in 2012, and on Dec. 31, 2014, he received an official letter of deportation. He was given 30 days to appeal.

A priest was arrested in Cameroon for being gay, Gay Star News reported. The Cameroon Foundation for AIDS has said the religious leader and a young man were detained for homosexuality in Yaounde. The priest claims officers blackmailed him, with him being forced to pay 100,000 Cameroon francs ( about $175 U.S. ) to help protect his "reputation, honor and freedom."

Pink Triangle Press ( PTP ) announced a major strategic repositioning to an all-digital publishing company. As a result, next month PTP will close print editions of the Xtra gay and lesbian community newspapers in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, according to a press release. PPTP will focus on developing its journalism website, DailyXtra.com, and gay adult dating website, Squirt.org. The final issues of Xtra Vancouver and Xtra Ottawa will appear on streets Feb. 12. The Toronto edition of Xtra will close on the newspaper's 31st anniversary; the final issue will be on streets Feb. 19.

Speaking in the Philippines, Pope Francis made one of his strongest calls against movements to recognize same-sex unions as marriage, Catholic News Service reported. "The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage," the pope said Jan. 16, hours after warning that Philippine society was "tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family." At one point, the pope called on his listeners to resist "ideological colonization that threatens the family," referring to same-sex marriage, among other items. Pro-LGBT groups expressed their dissatisfaction with the pontiff's remarks.

A Chinese court ruled against a clinic that gave patients electric shock therapy as part of treatment to cure them of homosexuality, The Australian reported. Yang Teng, 30, filed the civil case against a clinic in Chongqing that he attended after his family threatened him when they found out about his sexuality. Yang alleged he was given six electric shocks as part of the treatment, which the clinic said had a high success rate in curing homosexuality. The clinic was forced to pay him 3,500 yuan ( about $565 U.S. ).

In Britain, schools for gay students could become a reality under new plans being drawn up by a youth group in the northwest, the UK Telegraph reported. LGBT Youth North West hopes to open a school with 40 permanent places for LGBT children in the heart of Manchester within three years. However, one senior MP warned that the scheme would create segregation. Tory MP and former education minister Tim Loughton said, "We need to do a lot more to combat homophobic bullying and to create a more tolerant society." Also, the gay-rights charity Stonewall said that segregating LGBT students is "not the answer."

Austria's Constitutional Court has ruled that gay couples have the same right as heterosexuals to adopt children, the Associated Press reported. Before the decision, same-sex partners could adopt a child only if one of them was the child's biological parent. Explaining the decision, chief judge Gerhart Holzinger says there is "no objective argument for a differing rule based solely on sexual orientation" of the parents. Gay people still cannot marry in Austria, although couples formally registered as living together enjoy many of the rights that married heterosexual couples do.

The Australian Capital Territory ( ACT ) has moved to expunge historic convictions of homosexuality, the UK Guardian reported. Consensual sex between men was a crime in the ACT until 1976. The move follows similar moves by South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The UK announced it would expunge the criminal convictions of gay men in 2010.

Also in Australia, Australian Capital Territory ( ACT ) Labor lawmaker Yvette Berry has become only the second person in the history of Australian politics to be given a ministerial portfolio that covers LGBTI Equality, according to Gay Star News. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr made the announcement as part of an expected cabinet reshuffle, handing Berry ministerial responsibility for the areas of Housing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Community Services, Multicultural Affairs, Women, and Social Inclusion and Equality.

In Italy, a gay chef in Rimini was told by his boss to pay to sleep with a female prostitute or lose his job, according to Pink News. Marco Toni—the founder of the Rimini branch of Arcigay, an LGBT-rights group— called on other restraunts in the popular seaside town to offer the man work as a show of support.

Lynx has featured a gay kiss in an advert for its hair products in Australia, the UK Independent noted. The brand appears to be pioneering a new strategy after having past campaigns labelled "sexist" and even banned in the UK for objectifying women. Lynx's YouTube channel has been flooded by commenters praising the ad.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is to give an award to a young lesbian for her activism work, Gay Star News reported. Donnya Piggott, a 24-year-old from Barbados, was chosen among hundreds as one of the 60 inspiring people inducted into inaugural Queen's Young Leaders Programme. The founder of Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination ( BGLAD ) will fly to London in June, when she will be given a medal by the monarch of the Commonwealth.

In the UK, John Ssenkindu said he had his asylum application denied because he failed to "prove" his sexuality, Pink News reported. He is from Uganda, where being gay is illegal and can be punishable with life in jail. Ssenkindu, a qualified teacher who lives in Leicester, told the Leicester Mercury, "The Home Office is asking me to prove that I am gay. How do you prove your sexual orientation?"

A leading Sri Lankan LGBTI-rights group has expressed hope that Sri Lanka will move forward to protect the needs of sexual minorities and transgender people now that the New Democratic Front coalition have taken power, Gay Star News reported. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, the executive director of Sri Lankan LGBTI rights group Equal Ground, is hopeful President Maithripala Sirisena's reforms can also include better protection of the rights of LGBTI people in the country, and hopes the government will be prepared to listen to them in drafting any reform.

In a historic event, students in the Cayman Islands are holding a series of free lectures on gay rights, Pink News noted. Despite the Cayman Islands being a British Overseas Territory—meaning residents in many ways are treated as British—the territory does not have many of the protections for LGBT people. The students, supported by the governor and premier, aim to host a series of debates, opening a dialogue about LGBT rights in the Cayman Islands.

On May 9-16, Brazil Ecojourneys invites women to catch some waves during South America's first-ever lesbian surf camp, according to a press release. Marta Dalla Chiesa, owner of Brazil Ecojourneys, said, "Here's the chance for a group of women of all sizes, ages, skill levels and nationalities to come together to learn a beautiful sport and enjoy an amazing vacation together." The camp will take place in Santa Catarina, a popular LGBT destination.

Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, an Olympic swimmer and the first openly gay elite male athlete in Finland, was recently named Finland's sports role model of the year for 2014, Outsports noted. Liukkonen, 25, came out last year to protest the anti-gay laws in Russia on the eve of the Sochi Olympics. Last summer, the 6-foot-10 Liukkonen won the bronze medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships in Dubai.

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