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Rex Wockner
International News
Hungary's Parliament passed a civil-partnership law December 17.

Registered Gay or straight couples will receive spousal rights in areas that include finances, taxes and inheritance. Adoption rights were withheld.

The vote was 185-154 with 9 abstentions. The law takes effect at the beginning of 2009.

Veteran Spanish Gay leader Jordi Petit and his French partner of seven years, Yves Bohic, were married in Barcelona on December 15 by Mayor Jordi Hereu.

The wedding took place in City Hall's Saló de Cent, the medieval city council chambers, before 200 friends and family members. Well-known folk singer Maria del Mar Bonet performed "L'àguila negra" ("The Black Eagle").

"This ceremony by which today I am going to live with my partner was a dream for 30 years because then we homosexuals were [seen as] 'social dangers,'" Petit told reporters.

Spain is one of six nations where same-sex couples have access to full marriage. The others are Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States (Massachusetts only). Numerous nations (and nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia) offer civil unions or registered partnerships that grant same-sex couples some, most or all of the rights and obligations of matrimony.

Spain's government has decided to recognize same-sex civil partnerships from the United Kingdom.

Spain allows same-sex couples to marry but the UK limits them to civil partnerships, which nonetheless carry the same rights as marriage within the UK.

"This is a big breakthrough in securing overseas recognition and rights for British Lesbian and Gay civil partners," said leading British Gay activist Peter Tatchell. "Up to now, civil partnerships are mostly unrecognized abroad. Up to now, the Spanish government has dismissed civil partnerships as a uniquely British institution, with no international validity."

The change in policy followed a prolonged fight by Paul and Martin Ward, British civil partners who now live in Spain.

"We have had long, protracted battle with Denise Holt, the UK ambassador to Spain; Michael Holloway, the UK consul general in Madrid; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and the foreign secretary, David Miliband MP," the couple said in a statement. "We have made a little bit of history by becoming the first UK same-sex couple resident in Spain to have their civil partnership acknowledged in law and in the observations section of our passports."

New Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd supports creation of a national relationships register for same-sex and nonsexual couples, he said December 16.

"We believe that's an appropriate way to go," Rudd said. "Our position has always been that marriage is between a man and a woman, and therefore that always will form the cornerstone of our view on these matters. A relationships register ... we believe is a positive and productive way forward."

Rudd said the register should extend rights in areas such as taxes, inheritance and social security.

Australia has had a national law banning same-sex marriage since 2004, courtesy of former Prime Minister John Howard.

A Gay bishop and an anti-Gay bishop have been banned from attending the Anglican Communion's global Lambeth Conference next July in Canterbury, England. The meeting occurs only once every 10 years.

Anglican Communion spiritual leader Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, has disinvited both New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who is Gay and partnered, and anti-Gay U.S. Bishop Martyn Minns, who was consecrated a U.S. bishop by the anti-Gay Church of Nigeria.

The U.S. Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria are the local arms of Anglicanism in those nations.

The Anglican Communion has been tumbling toward schism for two years because of strong disagreements over whether to treat Gays the same as straight people.

The U.S. Episcopal Church has caused particular problems because it allows blessings of same-sex partnerships and, in 2004, elected Robinson with full knowledge he was Gay and partnered.

Dozens of conservative parishes and one diocese have left the U.S. church in protest against its Gay-friendly positions, aligning themselves instead with Anglican provinces in Africa or South America.

The defections have created numerous problems for the Episcopal Church, including expected legal battles over property ownership.

Openly Gay Swedish pop star Andreas Lundstedt came out as HIV-positive in the January issue of the local Gay magazine QX.

Lundstedt, who became famous as a member of the group Alcazar, said he has carried the virus for several years and now is "at the right stage in my life" to talk about it.

"I feel great. This is nothing that affects my daily life," he said. "I'm lucky in that I don't need to swallow masses of tablets."

Lundstedt hopes the acknowledgment of his infection will "show people a face of someone with HIV."

"I know that there are more people in my industry who have it, and it's just a shame that it's a taboo issue," he said.

Promiscuous Gay men engaging in unprotected sex are fueling a resurgence of syphilis in Europe, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Dec. 20.

Outbreaks have been documented in Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Paris.

France has seen a 1,600% increase in recent years, Britain a 1,000% increase, Germany a 300% increase and the Netherlands a 200% increase.

Symptoms of the infection include a distinctive ulcer and a rash.

Officials said that HIV-positive men having unsafe sex with each other may be particularly to blame, and that Web hookup sites have made arranging such trysts easier.

Half of Britain's recent syphilis cases have been in HIV-positive Gay men.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture - Andreas Lundstedt

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