Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Rex Wockner
Protester found guilty in Riga pride attack
An assistant to Latvian MP Dainis Turlais was found guilty of gross public disorderliness Jan. 15 for throwing what was likely a bag of feces at celebrants attending the 2006 gay pride events in Riga.
Janis Dzelme was sentenced to 100 hours of compulsory labor by the Vidzeme District Court for demonstrating what the court called an obvious lack of respect toward the public by ignoring universally accepted norms of behavior.
“This is an enormously important precedent which will send very strong signals to those people in Latvia who believe that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech should be limited with violence,” said Kristine Garina, chair of the pride-organizing group Mozaika.
Turlais is among the parliament’s more anti-gay members. He reportedly has called gays “faggots” and “scum.”
Last year’s Riga pride went relatively smoothly but in 2005, when activists first attempted to march, the 150 marchers were heavily outnumbered by around 1,000 anti-gay protesters who hurled insults, bottles and rotten eggs; blocked the streets; and forced the parade to be rerouted. The protesters chanted “No sodomy” and “Gays fuck the nation.”
Then, in 2006, the City Council banned the parade. Organizers responded by holding a religious service at a church and meetings at a hotel. Attendees at both were attacked by Christian, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi protesters who pelted them with eggs, rotten food and feces.
Last year, armed with a court ruling that the 2006 ban was unconstitutional, more than 500 GLBT people marched around a fenced-in park under heavy police protection, dodging only a paint-bomb, an ice-cream cone and a few firecrackers.
Police outnumbered the marchers and the approximately 100 jeering anti-gay demonstrators.
Scotland to pass GLBT hate-crime law
Scotland’s hate-crime laws will be expanded to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, the Scottish Executive pledged in a Jan. 15 media release.
“I am delighted to announce today Government support for a bill which will extend statutory aggravations to cover crimes motivated by malice or ill will towards victims based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability,” said Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
“Our clear aim is to prevent and deter crimes. But where crime does happen it will not be tolerated.”
According to the GLBT Equality Network, a quarter of Scottish gays have been a victim of homophobic violence and two-thirds have been threatened or harassed.
The Scottish Conservative Party opposes the change. The party’s justice spokesman, Bill Aitken, said, “In Scotland, we pride ourselves in the fact that we are all equal in the eyes of the law but some it now seems are more equal than others, which cannot be right.”
GLBT-inclusive hate-crime laws already are in force in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Homosexual convictions of six Moroccans upheld
A Moroccan appeals court Jan. 15 upheld the convictions of six men from Ksar el Kbir who were jailed for homosexual acts in late November after a YouTube video showing them at a supposed gay-wedding celebration provoked public outrage.
The 10-month sentence against the party’s alleged organizer, who also was charged with selling alcohol, was upheld in full, while the other five men saw their sentences reduced from between four and six months to between two and four months.
Amnesty International says the men are prisoners of conscience, and the men’s lawyers claim that prosecutors have presented no evidence that any crime took place.
Morocco’s Penal Code Article 489 bans “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” under penalty of six months to three years in prison and a fine of $15 to $150.
Human Rights Watch has said the men were convicted “without apparent evidence.”
“The men’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression have been violated,” said North Africa programs director Sarah Leah Whitson. “They should be set free.”
Wrongly arrested BBC host awarded damages
The host of the British Broadcasting Corporation program One Man and His Dog has received a $4,000 payout and an apology from the Gloucestershire Police after he was wrongly arrested for making a joke that referred to blacks and lesbians.
Robin Page was taken into custody on suspicion of inciting racial hatred several months after a 2002 speech at a pro-hunting rally in which he said, “If you are a black, vegetarian, Muslim, asylum-seeking, one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you.”
He was held in jail for 40 minutes until he agreed to be interviewed without a lawyer present, then was released without charge.
Page said the police accused him of committing a hate crime and that documents he later obtained using the Freedom of Information Act show his name is on a homophobic-incidents register.
“I believe I have scored a significant victory over the ludicrous and sinister, politically correct ‘hate crime’ culture that is currently doing so much to prevent free speech in this country,” Page said in a Jan. 15 statement.
“How can you be included on a homophobic-incident record for using the word ‘lesbian’ once in a speech? It is just incredible. Political correctness is the new McCarthyism.”
One Man And His Dog went off the air in 1999 after a 23-year run.
ILGA to meet in Quebec City
The 24th World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association will take place in Quebec City, Canada, May 14 to 18.
ILGA is a 30-year-old federation of more than 600 GLBT organizations and associated members, such as city governments, from 90 countries.
It has played a key role over the years in developments such as Amnesty International’s decision to adopt persecuted homosexuals as prisoners of conscience and the World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of illnesses.
Gay nursing home opens in Berlin
The first gay nursing home in Europe opened in Berlin this month.
The state-of-the-art facility will house 28 patients, who will be allowed to bring their own furniture and sundries.
The man behind the home, activist and architect Christian Hamm, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency that gay people often feel ostracized in ordinary nursing homes.
“When you are old, the last thing that you want to do is to have to hide,” he said.
The home is the first piece of a planned complex that will include apartments, a cafe, function rooms, a gym and a health-care center with doctors and therapists, DPA said.
Assistance: Bill Kelley, Filed from San Diego