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Rex Wockner
International News
President Chávez: I'm not Gay
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says he isn't Gay.

"I've been accused of everything," Chávez said Sept. 15 at a rally in Barquisimeto. "The only thing they haven't accused me of is being homosexual. Well, now they've started to accuse me of being homosexual. I don't have anything against homosexuals because I respect whichever human condition, but the thing is: I consider myself sufficiently macho to pulverize any accusation along those lines.

"It doesn't matter to me," Chávez continued. "Let them say about me whatever they have the urge to. ... I couldn't care less that they say what they say about me, and that they threaten me with what they threaten me with."

Protests target Nicaraguan Gay sex ban
Amnesty International activists staged various protests and embassy and consulate visits targeting Nicaragua's ban on Gay sex Sept. 13 - in Berlin, Stockholm, Montreal, Mexico City, Santiago, Asunción and Taipei.

Nicaragua is one of only two nations in North, Central or South America that ban Gay sex (the other is Guyana). Nicaraguan Penal Code Article 204 states, "Anyone who induces, promotes, propagandizes or practices in scandalous form sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex commits the crime of sodomy and shall incur one to three years' imprisonment."

"This article potentially criminalizes not only Gay men, Lesbians and Bisexual people in same-sex relationships, but is vague enough to permit the prosecution of individuals for activities such as campaigning for LGBT rights or anyone providing sexual health information or services," said AI LGBT coordinator Tony Pitman. "Anyone imprisoned under this law would be considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience."

Pitman urged activists around the world to "flood the Nicaraguan authorities" - in Nicaragua and at diplomatic outposts - with protest letters calling for repeal of Article 204.

Elsewhere in the region, several Caribbean islands still ban Gay sex, including Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Iraqi Gay group needs money for safe houses
The London-based group Iraqi LGBT says it has run out of money to fund its five "safe houses" in Iraq.

Targeted Gays flee to the houses to hide out from the Mahdi Army, the police and other "militant death squads" that have executed "hundreds" of Gay people solely for being Gay, the group said.

"Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gay people in Iraq have suffered particularly intense persecution," Iraqi LGBT said in its plea. "The United Nations and the U.S. State Department have issued reports documenting some of the more recent killings."

The group said each safe house costs about $1,800 a month to operate - $800 for rent, $400 to pay two armed guards and $600 "for gas, fuel for electricity generators, food, clean drinking water, hygienic supplies and the like."

Each house has between 10 and 12 residents, the group said.

Iraqi LGBT said it has been funded in the past by its own members, friends, Heartland Alliance, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Rev. Patricia Ackerman, an Anglican priest.

Checks or money orders can be sent to K. Sahi, 13 Campden Hill Mansions, Edge Street, London W8 7PL, England. More information is available at http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com.

Air New Zealand goes way Gay
Air New Zealand will offer a Gay flight Feb. 26 from San Francisco to Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia.

The flight will feature drag queens, flight attendants performing a cabaret show, pink cocktails, pink feather boas, Gay movies (not that kind), Gay music, Gay goodie bags and contests, among other gimmicks the airline thinks appeal to Gay men.

The affair reportedly also includes a "Get Onboard, Girlfriend" party before departure.

The roundtrip fare for the 14-hour flight is around $1,000.

Portugal expands Gay equality
Portugal's new penal code, which took effect Sept. 15, includes several new laws concerning sexual orientation, Portugalgay.PT reported.

Same-sex couples are now treated the same as opposite-sex couples in areas such as domestic violence, murder (the penalty is higher if the victim is one's partner) and obstruction of justice (the penalty is lower when one is protecting a partner).

The code also enhances the penalty for murders committed because of a victim's sexual orientation, and criminalizes the organizing, assisting or promoting of group actions that "foment discrimination" based on sexual orientation, under penalty of one to eight years in prison.

It also makes it illegal to "promote ... violence against a person or group of persons based on sexual orientation" in the media or on the Internet, under penalty of six months to five years in prison.

The code also equalizes the age at which it is legal to have sex - 14, if there is no "abuse of inexperience"; 16, otherwise - and the laws on sexual abuse.

The maximum penalty for any crime in Portugal is 25 years in prison.

Nova Scotia changes birth certificate rules for Gay parents
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia changed its regulations regarding birth certificates Sept. 20 so that a Gay couple can be recorded as a newborn's parents.

The province previously had registered only biological parents, but determined that the policy violated the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lesbian mom Jamie O'Neill had filed a complaint with the provincial Human Rights Commission after being told the only way she could be named as the parent of her partner's newborn daughter was by adopting the infant.

Ottawa Gays take over straight bar
A new group in Ottawa, Ontario - Guerilla Gay Fare - took over a straight bar the evening of Sept. 14, the Gay newspaper Capital Xtra! reported.

The group, which signed up 600 members in two weeks via a Facebook.com profile, plans to infiltrate a different straight establishment monthly to reclaim public space and get Gays to mingle with straight people.

About 100 people took part in the first action at Tila Tequila in the Byward Market area.

Organizer Tim Campbell told Capital Xtra! that Tila Tequila employees seemed "really happy" about the event, with staff saying, "You guys are welcome to party here" and "This is a great thing."

Similar guerrilla Gay groups exist in a few U.S. cities.
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

"Couples, such as plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage ... by reason of the fact that both persons comprising such a couple are of the same sex. [State marriage law] must be read and applied in a gender neutral manner so as to permit same-sex couples to enter into a civil marriage."

-Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson striking down Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act on Aug. 30. He said the law violates the state constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection. One same-sex couple managed to marry the next day before Hanson issued a stay of his decision while the county appeals the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.

"The states have always determined age of marriage, other conditions and over time we've gotten rid a lot of discrimination that used to exist in marriage laws. That's now happening. People are making decisions. Civil unions, marriage. They're deciding in the states and I think that's the appropriate place for that to be."

-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Aug. 31.

"People in California have to be prepared to march in celebration or in protest. If he signs it, then there should be a massive celebration, and if he doesn't sign it, there should be a humongous demonstration of anger, which there wasn't last time. It's shocking that the Gay population in California has been invisible on all this. You also need to have a massive protest before Schwarzenegger acts. Tell him, 'Sign that bill or else.' You need to have a lot of angry Gay people. You tell him, 'We are angry you sold us down the river so far, and we won't let you do it again.'"

-Author and activist Larry Kramer to this column Sept. 1 on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's expected veto of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Schwarzenegger vetoed an identical bill in 2005 - the only time any U.S. legislature has voted to open the institution to same-sex couples.

"The big, open secret in Republican politics is that everyone knows someone Gay these days and very few people - excepting some committed anti-Gay activists - really care. It's the kind of thing that drives religious conservatives crazy because it makes the party look like it's not really committed to traditional sexual morality."

-Syndicated Gay-press columnist Dale Carpenter in an Aug. 29 filing.

"[A] closeted Gay Republican [lives] a life of desperation and fear and loneliness, of expressing one's true feelings only in the anonymity of the Internet, of furtive bathroom encounters, of late nights darting in and out of dark bars, hoping not to be seen. It [is a] life without a long-term partner, without real love."

-Syndicated Gay-press columnist Dale Carpenter in an Aug. 29 filing.

"My gut wrenched when I read of Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom arrest. I remembered my own late-night encounter with the law at a Garden State Parkway rest stop following a political dinner in north Jersey. I pulled into the rest stop, parked my car, flashed my headlights, which was 'the signal,' and waited. Glancing in my rearview mirror, I saw a state trooper approaching. I desperately tried to convince the trooper of my innocence, showing him my former prosecutor's badge, a gift from the office when I left. The trooper radioed his office and returned. 'I never want to see you here again,' he said. I survived for another day. I was in my late 20s. It would be another 25 years before my parallel lives collided and I was coerced out of the 'closet.'"

-Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey writing in the Washington Post, Sept. 3.

"While many Americans may only be vaguely familiar with the idea of 'cruising,' there is a secret world of sex between men that exists in public places across the country. ... Public places like men's restrooms, in airports and train stations, truck stops, university libraries and parks, have long been places where Gay and Bisexual men, particularly those in the closet, congregate in order to meet for anonymous sex. Over time, people familiar with cruising told ABCNEWS.com, Gay men began using a codified system of signals to indicate to others that they were interested in sex."

-ABC News covering the Sen. Larry Craig toilet-sex scandal, Aug. 28.

"Tapping of the foot is pretty standard for men who cruise in toilets. They will usually go to the stall at the far end of the strip of toilets. They will see each other and usually decide to go someplace else. The vast majority have no interest in being seen. They may be meeting in public locations, but they will be as discreet as possible."

-Keith Griffith, owner of CruisingForSex.com, discussing the Sen. Larry Craig toilet-sex scandal with ABC News, Aug. 28.

"Sen. Larry Craig ... has been publicly denying assertions that he's Gay since at least 1982, when a whisper campaign implicated him in a House page scandal. Back then he called allegations of homosexual conduct 'despicable.' Last year he called new charges brought by notorious Gay-rights activist Mike Rogers 'completely ridiculous.' On Monday, Craig denied 'any inappropriate conduct' in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport (even after he pleaded guilty). And today, he declared 'I am not Gay and never have been.' And in between his 1982 denial and last year's, he called President Bill Clinton a 'naughty boy' and talked of giving the president a little spanking for his Oval Office tryst and denial of it."

-Mary Ann Akers writing on the Washington Post's blog about the Sen. Larry Craig toilet-sex scandal, Aug. 28.

"It seems as that Sen. [Larry] Craig would rather risk a lifetime - literally, a lifetime - of national ridicule and mockery, of whispers that his marriage is a sham, of suspicion every time he ducks into a Capitol Hill bathroom, than he would engage in an intense, scary, period of introspection."

-Marc Ambinder writing at TheAtlantic.com, Aug. 29.

"[Sen.] Larry Craig isn't simply 'a nasty, naughty, bad boy,' as the senator famously called Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Larry Craig is a confused and closeted Gay man unable to connect the dots between his sexuality and his belief in marriage and family. ... Craig's personal story is a cautionary tale in support of Gay rights as consistent with marriage and family values. Craig should never have married a woman in the first place, and his scandal is a reminder that legal recognition for Gay relationships can help other closet cases see an alternative to attempting heterosexual marriage, with all the collateral damage to unwitting spouse and children."

-Syndicated Gay-press columnist Chris Crain, Sept. 4.

"When [Sen. Larry] Craig said, 'I am not Gay,' he might even have believed it. That wasn't him in the men's room. That was another guy with whom he happens to share the same body and consciousness. And that guy is bad! There should be laws to stop that guy! And yet, no matter how many laws Craig votes for or against, that guy, that doppelganger, keeps appearing, interfering with his simple attempts to use the bathroom of a large regional airport."

-Columnist Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 4.

"The officer first saw a man [Sen. Larry Craig] gazing into his stall through the opening between where the stall door and divider come together. After someone else using the facilities left, the man moved his suitcase to keep anyone from seeing under the door. The man then passed his left hand under the stall divider into the police sergeant's stall with his palm up. I always thought that was the universal sign for 'please pass me some toilet tissue. I'm all out over here.' But in the underworld of secret sex, that, along with tapping your foot several times, is the universal signal 'communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct.'"

-Margaret Carlson writing at Bloomberg.com, Aug. 29.

"Somehow, the idea of furtive bathroom sex seemed more in vogue when pop icon George Michael was arrested. Now, the guy in the stall next to you is likely a Gay obsessed mayor, an undercover cop or a crusty old conservative legislator. With such unappetizing menu choices, one has to be quite desperate and pathetic to try to find his man in the can - especially with the advent of the Internet, which can deliver a pick-up faster than a pizza. So, the few remaining men who seek to cruise the commode are mostly married conservative hypocrites looking for love on the sly."

-Syndicated Gay-press columnist Wayne Besen, Aug. 29.

"Poor [Sen.] Larry Craig. He's being held to the same standard of sexual conduct he imposed on the U.S. armed forces. Fourteen years ago, in his first term as a Republican senator from Idaho, Craig helped enact the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. The Air Force, for instance, now says any airman will be discharged if he 'has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act.'"

-William Saletan writing in the Washington Post, Sept. 2.

"What is shocking about Senator Larry Craig's bathroom arrest is not what he may have been doing tapping his shoe in that stall, but that Minnesotans are still paying policemen to tap back. For almost 40 years, most police departments have been aware of something that still escapes the general public: Men who troll for sex in public places, Gay or 'not Gay,' are, for the most part, upstanding citizens. Arresting them costs a lot and accomplishes little."

-Laura M. MacDonald writing in the International Herald Tribune, Sept. 2.

"Why are undercover cops hanging out in airport restrooms? Are we all done with terrorists? Does this mean that Appalachian grandmothers can pass through airport security without being frisked for explosives? Just asking."

-Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writer's Group, Sept. 2.

"The New York Times ran 15 articles on [Sen. Larry] Craig's guilty plea to 'disorderly conduct' in a bathroom. The Washington Post ran 20 articles on Craig. MSNBC covered it like it was the first moon landing - Three small taps for a man, one giant leap for public Gay sex!"

-Conservative commentator Ann Coulter in a Sept. 5 column.

"[W]hile it is possible to note (and rightly so) the hypocrisy of [Sen. Larry] Craig, and while it is sensible to believe that a sitting Senator should not be putting himself in such compromising positions, the large implications of an almost laughably petty misdemeanor are revealing of problems deeper than one man's personal tragedy. One problem is the cruelty of public discourse. Yes, Craig is a public figure, but he is also a human being, and a Gay human being, and I feel for him, for the lies he has told himself and others, for the psychic pain that led him to this place, and for the obvious lack of self-control that his profoundly split identity entailed. I don't think he even knows he's Gay. Yes, he deserves criticism for poor judgment, for trying to use his position to get out of a sticky situation, for opposing Gay equality and dignity, while being Gay himself. But this was a victimless incident, in which no one tried to harm anyone else; and he also needs support and help and compassion. The glee at his exposure came from both sides. It was ugly wherever it came from."

-Gay writer and blogger Andrew Sullivan, Sept. 4.

"As you already know and as any D.C. therapist or male prostitute or honest historian will happily remind you, this is the way it's always been; incidents like Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's toe-tapping in the tearoom merely reinforce the great Rule of Conservative Hypocrisy - the louder and more self-righteous the indignation over a given 'moral' issue, the more sure you can be that the screamer in question is simply oozing with repressed fantasy/lust regarding that very issue - and what's more, is very likely acting on it, right now, in a fetish dungeon, brothel or bathroom stall near you."

-San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, Sept. 7.
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