by Rex Wockner
Ugandan tabloid outs gay citizens
The Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red Pepper on Sept. 9 again outed several citizens as gay.
Under the headline “HOMO TERROR! We Name And Shame Top Gays In The City,” the paper called homosexuality “an unnatural habit that is eating up our beloved nation.”
The paper named 40 individuals, by first name only, but, in many cases, provided details about their physical appearance, place of employment, neighborhood of residence and the kind of car they drive.
In response, a new international grassroots activist network called Gays Without Borders (GWB) has been organizing various actions against the newspaper and protests to the Ugandan government. The network communicates via a Yahoo! group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gayswithoutborders.
But a spokesman for the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, who just returned from Uganda, urged GWB to reconsider its campaign.
“[The] coalition of LGBT organisations in Uganda SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) have decided to ignore the publication, as did even most of those who were outed,” wrote ILGA-Europe Programs Director Maxim Anmeghichean.
“[In the] absence of any national pressure, letters … from abroad may be strategically awkward and support the idea promoted by the government that the fight for LGBT rights in the country does not belong to Ugandans and is promoted by the West. [T]hink twice before sending a letter and check with a number of Ugandan activists before proceeding with action!”
Human Rights Watch GLBT program director Scott Long agreed that foreign activists should take care to work through established Ugandan gay organizations, such as member groups of SMUG, both to be certain the foreign assistance is welcome and because some individuals in Uganda have attempted to raise funds from abroad by setting up sham gay groups.
Ecuadorean defense minister quits amid gay conflict
Ecuadorean Defense Minister Lorena Escudero quit Aug. 30 amid controversy over her plan to allow people in the military who come out as gay to remain in the forces.
Escudero said Ecuador’s constitution, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, mandated the change in policy. At the same time, Escudero was not advocating that open gays be allowed to join the military.
Reports said Escudero resigned after high military commanders expressed strong opposition to her proposal.
Escudero reportedly moved to a new job heading the government’s Migrant Office.
New Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval said he has no plans to “politicize” the armed forces.
Brit Tories advertise in gay press
Britain’s Conservative Party, the Tories, is advertising in the gay press for the first time.
The popular Web site PinkNews.co.uk agreed to accept the party’s ads, saying it is “proud of our ability to engage with all political parties and interest groups [and] the messages that the Conservative Party in 2007 want to share with the gay community are ones we feel comfortable with.”
The party reportedly also has bought ads on Facebook and the gossip portal Popbitch. British political parties are prohibited from advertising on television.
“We are aware that some of our readers will be angered that PinkNews.co.uk has decided to take adverts from the Conservative Party,” the Web site noted. “We can only stress that we look forward to the day when all the parties see the value of advertising on our site and understand the value of the unique access to clued-up, engaged and switched-on gay and lesbian readers that we can offer.”
Euro court rules for Lithuanian transsexuals
The European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling Sept. 11 strengthening the rights of transsexuals in Lithuania.
Such individuals already had the right to officially change their gender but the nation has failed to pass enabling legislation necessary for them to gain access to full sex-reassignment surgery through the country’s health care system.
In a 6-1 ruling in a case brought by a female-to-male transsexual, “Mr. L.,” the court said the lack of access to full surgery violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ guarantee of respect for one’s private and family life.
“This is a very positive judgment [that] highlights a problem with some European countries which formally permit gender reassignment and amendment of identity documents but lack legal clarity and consistency, and available medical facilities,” said the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
The court gave Lithuania three months to fix the problems or face a 40,000 euro (US$55,612) payout to Mr. L., who was granted 5,000 euros in damages immediately.
Mr. L. was prescribed hormone therapy in 1998 but denied further therapy in 1999 because it was not clear he would have access to a sex-change operation. He continued the therapy on his own and, in 2000, had his female breasts removed.
In 2003, a new law granted transsexuals the right to gender-reassignment surgery when medically possible, but additional measures that were necessary to implement the law were never adopted, and medical facilities to carry out a full female-to-male sex-change operation apparently do not exist in Lithuania.
In court, the government suggested that individuals such as Mr. L. might be eligible to undergo surgery abroad at state expense.
But, for now, the court said, Mr. L. faces unacceptable and distressing uncertainty regarding his private life and recognition of his true identity.
City bans all flags to avoid the gay flag
The Town Council of the small city of Truro, Nova Scotia, which has been hauled before the provincial Human Rights Commission for refusing to fly the rainbow flag over the Civic Building during August’s gay pride festivities, has decided to stop flying flags altogether — except for the city, provincial and Canadian flags.
The council previously had welcomed temporary displays of flags representing various groups and organizations on its five official flagpoles.
When it rejected the gay flag, in a 6-1 vote in August, Mayor Bill Mills remarked: “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.’ If I have a group of people that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too? … There doesn’t seem to be standards anymore.”
In adopting the total flag ban Sept. 10, a majority of the council also apologized to pride organizer Charles Thompson for Mills’ homophobic remarks, saying they didn’t share his opinions. Mills said he had no further comment.
Thompson told The Chronicle Herald newspaper that the new policy is an easy solution that doesn’t “deal with homophobic attitudes that we feel exist in this town [and] sends the message that they still don’t want to deal with us.”
Truro, population 12,000, is about 60 miles (96 km) northwest of Halifax.