by Rex Wockner
Mexico City civil-union law comes into force
Mexico City’s civil-union law took effect March 16 and journalist Antonio Medina and banker Jorge Cerpa were among the first to tie the knot.
The ceremony took place in the plaza outside the offices of the Iztapalapa delegation, one of the city’s 16 local governments. Medina, 38, and Cerpa, 31, kissed as a band played Besame Mucho.
“A history of exclusion comes to an end,” Medina told reporters. “Love between people of the same sex will now have legal recognition.”
Cerpa told La Jornada, for which Medina works, that the couple met 4 1/2 years ago while “bar cruising.”
Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly passed the partnership law last November. It allows gay and straight couples — as well as two friends, roommates or extended family members — to register their relationship and receive spousal rights in areas such as inheritance, pensions, property, co-parenting and medical decisions.
Couples must present identification, proof of residence, birth certificates and witnesses; pay a fee of about $3.90; then return in 10 business days, with the witnesses, for the ceremony. During the interim, the city’s Justice Department confirms that both partners are unmarried and not already in a civil union.
Iztapalapa and some other boroughs allowed some couples to apply before the law officially took effect in order to hold ceremonies the first day.
Gay people also have access to civil unions in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. Elsewhere in Latin America, there are gay-inclusive civil-union laws in the city of Buenos Aires, in one Argentine province and in one Brazilian state.
Polish official: Out teachers will be fired, prosecuted
Teachers who come out at work or otherwise promote homosexuality “or other sexual deviance” will be fired and fined or jailed under legislation prepared by Poland’s government, Deputy Minister of Education Miroslaw Orzechowski said March 15.
“These kinds of people cannot work with children,” Orzechowski told Tok-FM radio. “These activities need to be acted upon when there is still a chance, before it’s too late to make a difference.”
The measure also targets principals, who would be fired if they allow members of gay organizations to speak to students, the Polish Press Agency said.
According to the German news service Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the legislation is the handiwork of Roman Giertych, who serves as both minister of education and deputy prime minister.
At a recent meeting in Germany, Giertych told fellow European education ministers that “abortion must be banned immediately” and “homosexual propaganda must also be limited so children will have the correct view of the family.”
“The propaganda of homosexuality is reaching ever younger children,” he said. “If we will not use all our power to strengthen the family, then as a continent there is no future for us. We will be a continent settled by representatives of the Islamic world who care for the family.”
Homophobia seems to be the norm all the way to the top of Poland’s present government.
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has called gays “perverse” and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, shocked attendees at a recent National Forum On Europe meeting in Ireland when he warned that if homosexuality “were to be promoted on a grand scale, the human race would disappear.”
President Kaczynski banned the gay pride parade in 2004 and 2005 when he was mayor of Warsaw, and said he’d do it again if he were mayor today.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate that they should promote their sexual orientation,” he said at the Irish meeting.
France’s top court annuls same-sex marriage
France’s highest court has upheld the annulment of a same-sex marriage conducted by Begles Mayor Noel Mamere in 2004.
The Cour de Cassation ruled March 13 that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and said only Parliament can change the law.
The couple at the center of the case, Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier, have said they may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
French same-sex couples have had access to civil unions since 1999.
Following their marriage, Chapin and Charpentier were convicted of theft for forging checks and stealing 4,000 euros from their 80-year-old landlady to pay for their wedding. They each received an eight-month suspended sentence for the crime.
Quebec tackles homophobia
Full legal equality for gays and lesbians hasn’t ended homophobia in Quebec, the province’s Human and Youth Rights Commission said in a March 6 report.
The report, based on the work of the government’s Joint Task Force on Homophobia, states that sexual minorities still encounter discrimination at work, at school and within their families, as well as in health care, social services and sports and leisure activities.
It also said young gay males are six to 16 times more likely to think about or attempt suicide, compared with young straight males, and young lesbians are five times more likely to consider or attempt suicide.
The commission recommended appointing a government minister to draft, fund and implement a provincial strategy against homophobia. It said work is needed in the areas of information, awareness, training, scientific knowledge and support for GLBT organizations.
Quebec’s minister of justice has vowed to implement the commission’s recommendations.
Canadian Anglican Church embraces gay unions
Leaders of Canada’s Anglican Church declared war on the worldwide Anglican Communion’s opposition to church blessings of same-sex unions March 11.
The Council of General Synod voted to recommend that this year’s full General Synod declare “that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada.”
The council also seeks approval from the synod to consider revising the church’s marriage canon “to allow marriage of all legally qualified persons.”
Canada is one of six nations where same-sex couples have access to full marriage.
Ironically, the moves came just days after an Anglican bishop in Saskatchewan stripped a priest of his license to minister because he wouldn’t stop blessing same-sex marriages. The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck of Saskatoon refused to back down as a matter of conscience, he said.
The worldwide Anglican Communion appears to be heading toward schism because of disagreements over same-sex unions and New Hampshire’s selection of an openly gay, partnered bishop.
The battle primarily is between anti-gay national churches in Africa and gay-friendly national churches in Canada and the United States — with the Church of England and Anglican spiritual leader Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, stuck uncomfortably in the middle.
The U.S. branch of Anglicanism is known as the Episcopal Church.
Italians rally for civil unions
Tens of thousands of Italians rallied in Rome’s Piazza Farnese March 10 in support of Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s civil-union legislation, which recently was placed on a back burner as Prodi struggled to hang on to power.
The legislation reportedly was removed from the government’s priority list in late February as one of several concessions that allowed Prodi to cobble together a new parliamentary coalition large enough to save his job and prevent an election.
Scotland bans anti-gay taunts at soccer games
Scotland’s Association of Chief Police Officers has sent notice to all police forces that fans who yell anti-gay abuse during soccer matches are committing a crime.
The association said fans who taunt players with homophobic slurs should be warned and, if they don’t stop, charged with breach of the peace, according to the Scotsman newspaper.
“It’s about respecting people for who they are,” Inspector David Lyle, Scottish co-coordinator of the Gay Police Association, told the newspaper. “Screaming racist or homophobic abuse at football matches is simply horrible behavior. People used to say, ‘It’s just guys letting off steam,’ but I think we’ve moved on since then.”
Gay Arabs to meet in Jerusalem
Gay Arabs will gather in Jerusalem March 28 for a conference entitled “Home and Exile.”
Although some 1 million Arabs live in Israel, it is rare for GLBT Arabs to organize public events.
The meeting is being put together by the Haifa-based Arab lesbian group Aswat. Up to 150 attendees are expected.