by Rex Wockner
Netherlands to examine gay rights in nations it aids
The Dutch government has launched an effort to study the situation for gay people in 36 countries to which it provides routine aid.
Gay sex is banned in 18 of the nations and punishable with fines, flogging or, in three cases, the death penalty.
Embassy officials have been instructed by Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders to conduct the research and report back in a few months’ time.
It is hoped the results will stimulate discussion between the Dutch government and officials of the targeted nations.
Embassy officials also have been told to lobby for decriminalization of gay sex in countries that ban it.
Church of Sweden takes part in Stockholm pride parade
The Church of Sweden entered its first-ever contingent in Stockholm’s gay pride parade Aug. 4.
About 76 percent of Swedes belong to the Lutheran church although only 2 percent regularly attend services.
The 30 marchers, including two senior priests, carried signs stating “Love is stronger than everything.”
A church spokesman said officials want to “break the big silence of the masses” on GLBT matters.
Next year, Sweden is expected to become the seventh country to legalize full same-sex marriage, including the right to marry in the church. The nation has had a comprehensive registered-partnership law for same-sex couples since 1995.
On Aug. 2, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt visited Pride Park, the hub of pride-week festivities. It was the first time a Swedish prime minister had attended pride while in office. On Aug. 3, RuPaul and Bananarama performed on the park’s main stage.
About 50,000 people marched in the parade and half a million watched it. The Stockholm newspaper The Local said “a large number of members of parliament and [government] ministers” joined the procession.
A day later, some half a million people turned out for Amsterdam’s gay pride parade, which takes the form of a boat procession in the city’s canals.
More than 70 boat-floats joined the official part of the parade, including, for the first time, a “hetero-boat,” a youth boat and a Turkish boat.
Key Russian activist charged with slander
Well-known Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev, chief organizer of the nation’s two ill-fated pride celebrations, was charged with criminal slander Aug. 1 for outing federal legislator Alexander Chuev on a live TV news-affairs program June 21.
Alekseev made the claim in a joint appearance with Chuev on the NTV network’s K baryeru! program.
According to GayRussia.Ru, Chuev has made anti-gay statements and supported anti-gay legislation, including a bill that would have recriminalized gay sex. He reportedly authored a bill that would have banned pro-homosexual propaganda.
“According to Russian Criminal Code, slandering means dissemination of lies which spoils someone’s reputation or dignity,” Alekseev said. “Russian authorities were caught in their own trap by opening this criminal file. On the one hand they are saying all the time that no one is discriminating [against] gays in Russia and that there is no problem being gay and on the other hand they are investigating whether the word ‘gay’ can be insulting.”
Alekseev said he believes the criminal case is political retribution for his many court challenges to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s bans on this and last year’s gay pride parades. One of those cases is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
“It is clearly another example of Russia becoming an authoritarian state where people do not have any right to express themselves and speak freely,” Alekseev said. “And Russian authorities particularly do not like those who reveal bitter truth about them.”
For details on the two disastrous attempts to hold gay pride parades in Moscow, see tinyurl.com/2nkl7p and tinyurl.com/2lt8pl.
No gay flag for Truro
Bucking a trend in nearby cities, the Town Council in Truro, Nova Scotia, refused to fly the rainbow flag at the Civic Building for the town’s first gay pride celebration, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported Aug. 3.
The council nixed the gay flag in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Bill Mills saying, “God says, ‘I’m not in favor of that [homosexuality],’ and I have to look at it and say, ‘I guess I’m not, either.'”
Mills added: “If I have a group of people that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too? I don’t want to lump them in with homosexuals, but that’s the point, the issues, and that’s my feeling. There doesn’t seem to be standards anymore. Everything is OK, everything is a go.”
Truro, population 12,000, is about 60 miles (96 km) northwest of Halifax.
Gay Bulgarian pop star fathers girl
Famous Bulgarian pop-folk singer Azis became the father of a baby girl Aug. 5.
The child, Raya, was born to Azis’ friend Gala, the Sofia News Agency said.
Last October, Azis, 28, and his partner, Niki Kitaetsa, staged an unofficial wedding in Sofia.
Ontario deputy premier gets married
The deputy premier of the Canadian province of Ontario, George Smitherman, married chocolate company manager Christopher Peloso on Aug. 5 at the Laurentian Lodge resort, 325 miles (520 km) northwest of Toronto.
“We don’t want to be gay rights activists,” Peloso, 33, told reporters. “We just love each other and want to spend our lives together. But we are thrilled if we can be a positive influence on others to feel comfortable about themselves.”
The two men have known each other for more than 10 years but only reconnected two years ago.
A huge hockey fan with a feisty political reputation, Smitherman, 43, has been a Liberal legislator since 1999 and health minister since 2003. His district includes Toronto’s gayest neighborhood.
Canada is one of six nations where same-sex couples have access to traditional marriage.