by Rex Wockner
Amnesty takes on Lithuania
Amnesty International says Lithuania is failing to respect GLBT people’s rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
On Oct. 24, the City Council in the capital, Vilnius, refused to permit the display of a 30-meter rainbow flag in Town Hall Square.
The event was planned as a focal point for the International Lesbian and Gay Association European Region’s annual convention that was taking place in the city.
The city banned the display on claims that construction activity in the square could endanger participants.
However, the square remained open to the public, and officials offered ILGA-Europe no alternative venue.
Vilnius banned an identical flag display in May during the city’s first gay-pride activities. It also banned the European Union’s traveling “anti-discrimination truck” from visiting the city at the same time.
On the national level, Parliament is considering legislation to ban “propagation of homosexuality” to children.
The proposal amends the Law on Protection of Minors Against Detrimental Effects of Public Information, which currently bans portrayals of physical or psychological violence or vandalism; displays of dead or cruelly mutilated human bodies; and information that arouses fear or horror, or encourages self-mutilation or suicide.
The bill’s authors have written that “the propagation of a non-traditional sexual orientation and exposure to information containing positive coverage of homosexual relations may … cause negative consequences for the physical, mental and, first and foremost, moral development of minors.”
Amnesty urged “the Lithuanian authorities to respect the right to peaceful freedom of assembly for all [and] the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Thai activist to sue insurance company
Leading Thai gay activist Natee Teerarojjanapongs says he may sue the American International Assurance Company for refusing to sell him a life-insurance policy.
Natee claims a sales agent told him AIA does not insure gays or bisexuals.
“We need equal treatment,” Natee told the local Nation newspaper. “We will file a petition to the Administration Court because such behavior violates the 2007 Constitution.”
The company denies it excludes particular groups of people across the board yet also acknowledged it rejects applicants who face a higher risk of HIV infection, according to the Bangkok Post.
Belgian same-sex marriage rate remains high
Belgian gays and lesbians continue to marry at a high rate.
Belgium is one of six nations where same-sex couples have access to full marriage.
In 2006, 1,124 same-sex couples tied the knot, compared to 1,027 in 2005. The nation legalized same-sex marriage in 2003, and 854 gay couples married that year.
Brussels has the highest rate of gay-male marriages while Antwerp leads in lesbian marriages.
The country has 10.3 million residents — slightly more than the population of Los Angeles County, California.
Malaysian police raid gay sex party
Malaysian police raided a “gay sex party” at a sauna in Penang Nov. 4 and arrested 37 men.
Officials said they confiscated new and used condoms, lube, gay magazines and porn videos.
The men could be charged with engaging in unnatural sex acts, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine or whipping.
“We will not tolerate the presence of such joints,” district police chief Azam Abdul Hamid told The Star newspaper.
Spain grants asylum to Algerian transsexual
Spain granted political asylum to an Algerian transsexual Nov. 6.
“B.B.” was able to prove she had faced persecution and social and workplace discrimination in Algeria based on her gender identity. Gay sex is banned in Algeria under penalty of three years in prison.
The government applied Spain’s new Law on Equality to its Law on Asylum, and determined that B.B.’s case met Geneva Convention criteria for political refuge.
B.B. was given a five-year residence card and assurance she will not be sent back to Algeria.
Swedish Web site cleared of anti-gay hate charges
Sweden’s Supreme Court on Nov. 7 overturned the conviction of Web site editor Leif Liljestroem on charges of being an accessory to incitement of anti-gay hatred.
A district court had sentenced Liljestroem to two months in jail, and the Court of Appeal had upheld the conviction but reduced the sentence to one month in jail.
Liljestroem did not write the hateful words that appeared on his Bibeltemplet site, but he allowed readers to post comments such as, “[M]en who cannot summon up the energy to abstain from intercourse with other men should be sentenced to death and hanged from posts in the town square.”
Liljestroem said such remarks promoted discussion.
In letting Liljestroem off the hook, the Supreme Court determined he may not have known the comments were illegal.
Two judges on the five-person panel voted to uphold the conviction, saying the postings “went far beyond the bounds of reasoned debate.”
Hungary is not ready for same-sex marriage
The Hungarian Parliament’s human-rights committee declined Nov. 6 to open debate on a bill to allow same-sex marriage.
The legislation was introduced by the Free Democrats party, which claimed banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
But members of the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party said society is not yet ready to go down that road.
South Korea nixes gay protections -photo
South Korea’s Justice Ministry has removed “sexual orientation” protections from a proposed law aimed at strengthening anti-discrimination statutes.
Christian groups and some business owners had vocally opposed including gays in the measure.
Human Rights Watch denounced the development.
“A supposed landmark nondiscrimination law has been hollowed out to exclude Koreans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, who are in need of protection,” said HRW researcher Jessica Stern.
An HRW report on the matter is at tinyurl.com/yrnp85.
Jamaican gay man wins U.S. asylum
A Jamaican gay man, Ven Messam, won asylum in the United States Nov. 8 because he had been threatened by anti-gay mobs that run rampant on the island.
With the assistance of Columbia University Law School’s new Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, Messam convinced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that he faced persecution or death if forced to return to Jamaica.
“Within just the last month, gay Jamaicans have been murdered and the government has not intervened,” the clinic said in a statement. “Rampant rumors that hostile groups are plotting the social cleansing of hundreds of gay people by year’s end have forced countless GLBT people into hiding. Far from a tropical paradise, this Caribbean nation continues to imprison and kill its gay citizens with relative impunity.”
“I am grateful to the United States government for saving my life,” Messam said. “My life in Jamaica was constantly in danger, with angry mobs carrying machetes, stones, knives and guns threatening to kill me because I am gay. When I tried to contact the police for help, the police instead threatened to arrest me and told me to leave the country if I wanted to stay safe.”