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Rex Wockner
International News

Organizers said Sydney's 30th Gay Mardi Gras parade held March 1 was the biggest ever.

The 1-mile (1.6 km) spectacle attracted 10,000 participants, 150 floats and hundreds of thousands of spectators.

A contingent of 200 "78ers," people who marched in the first parade in 1978, drew raucous applause. That first parade ended in a clash with police and 50 arrests.

Other contingents of note included official entries by the New South Wales Police Force and the Australian Defence Force, and a group of some 100 Christian pastors who marched to "apologize" for past treatment of LGBT people by Christian churches.

Mardi Gras pumps an estimated $45 million (US$42 million) into the local economy.

A senior member of Parliament for Britain's Conservative Party will be the first Tory MP to enter a same-sex civil partnership.

Alan Duncan, who has been in Parliament since 1992, will tie the knot with James Dunseath, spokesman for London's financial futures exchange, this summer at the Westminster register office in London.

The couple met 14 months ago at a dinner party and Duncan, 50, asked Dunseath, 39, to marry him this past Valentine's Day as the couple vacationed in Oman.

"You could not find two more conventional people to enter into a civil partnership," Duncan told local media.

Dunseath told The Daily Telegraph: "Our friends say we are inseparable. He may be a politician but he's great fun. We both feel it's so right and we're very lucky."

Tory leader David Cameron said he was "thrilled" to learn of the couple's engagement and plans to attend the ceremony.

In 2002, Duncan became the first Tory MP to publicly come out of the closet.

"Living in disguise as a politician in the modern world simply isn't an option," he said at the time. "The Tory view has always been, 'We don't mind, but don't say.' Well, that doesn't work anymore. The only realistic way to behave these days is to be absolutely honest and upfront, however inconvenient that may be at first."

In a new interview with the Telegraph on March 5, Duncan added: "I knew that one day I would have to say something, because I believed honesty to be the best policy. But I wanted to do it when I was sufficiently well-established as an MP for it not to be my only label thereafter. I didn't want to be known just as 'the Gay MP Alan Duncan.' To me, I'm an MP who happens to be Gay."

Duncan also noted: "This is not a wedding. You really just go into the register office and sign. There will be no Elton John-style stuff: no white suits, no John Inman, no flouncing about."

The United Kingdom's Civil Partnership Act, which took effect in December 2005, grants registered same-sex couples all rights and obligations of marriage.

Two barebacking Gay porn movies have been pulled from the British market by their maker after a BBC investigation suggested the performers may have been infected with HIV during filming.

Said the BBC: "Two of the DVDs featured footage from a weeklong shoot during which eight British models had sex with each other in multiple combinations without condoms. Four of those who took part were diagnosed as HIV-positive soon after."

One performer told the BBC he believed the movies showed him becoming infected and that was distressing.

The BBC report claimed that 60 percent of Gay porn movies now depict barebacking - anal sex without condoms.

The constitutional arm of Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled March 4 that same-sex marriages cannot be constitutionally authorized even though the Constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court said, "If the 1999 constitutional body opted to protect monogamous matrimony between a man and a woman as the essential nucleus that gives origin to the family in the Venezuelan historic and cultural context, the extension of its [marriage's] effects to common-law unions ... should require, at the least, that these [unions] fulfill the same essential requirements - that they are stable and monogamous unions between a man and a woman who have no marriage impediment ... and that the union is based on the free consent of the parties."

But the tribunal added, "The court wants to emphasize that the constitutional norm does not prohibit or condemn common-law unions between persons of the same sex, which find constitutional cover in the fundamental right of free development of the personality; it simply does not grant them reinforced protection, which does not constitute a discriminatory act in regard to sexual orientation."

Judge Carmen Zuleta de Merchán dissented from the decision, arguing that the Constitution grants implicit rights to same-sex couples, and that the other justices were influenced by ingrained social and religious prejudices.

The Gay group Affirmative Union of Venezuela commented: "We see this decision as an advance with respect to the previous situation in which we had no legal existence, we were invisibilized and our human condition was negated in this society. ... We commit ourselves to continue fighting, with all legal means within our reach, to obtain what should be common sense: the overcoming of discrimination in Venezuelan society."

Japan saw more than 1,000 new HIV cases in 2007, the first time the tally has crossed that threshold.

The Ministry of Health and Labor counted 1,048 new infections, bringing the total for all years to 9,392, according to Gay Japan News.

Ninety-three percent of the new cases were in men, and at least 70 percent involved Gay sex.

"It is urgent that we should develop our support, counseling and medical care systems further ... in accordance with local needs and situations," said Aikichi Iwamoto, chair of the ministry's AIDS Trends Committee.

Sweden's government-run Apoteket pharmacy chain will begin selling dildos because customers want them, the Stockholm English-language publication The Local reported March 6.

"We are aware that sex is a very important part of everyone's life. It is important to help people in this area, and there is a certain demand for the products," spokeswoman Elisabet Linge Bergman told the newspaper.

In a survey conducted last year by Apoteket and the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, customers chose dildos and massage oils as the top items they'd like to see added to the chain's stock.

The dildos, oils and possibly other sex toys will become available in 50 of the chain's stores starting in May, for a one-year trial period, The Local said.

picture above: British MP Alan Duncan

With assistance from Bill Kelley

"Quote, Unquote" - by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

"I have 24 [birds] now. ... Nothing else matters to me but my birds. They were born into a life that's just not fair. I do the best I can. They're not caged, they get the best food. I don't know what I did in my life to deserve these beautiful creatures. They can live to be over 100. I say to my Gino, 'You're gonna miss me one day, Gino.' And I have my big homosexual bird, Reggie. I love him so much. He's Gay, though. There are girls around but he just loves the boys. I'm at peace with myself when I'm around those birds."
-Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss during an interview about Gov. Elliot Spitzer with Newsweek stringer Steve Friess, March 11. See

"The pilot had been picked up for Will & Grace, and now it was all about casting. And I was sitting in the Bel Air home of a very famous Gay director. And when I told him about the script he said, 'Just make sure you don't make it too butt-fucky.' And I said, 'What does that mean?' And he said, 'You never want the American public to have to think about butt-fucking.' And it could not have been better advice. ... I could have gone full-tilt in the first 13 episodes. But I chose to not do explicit stuff, and edgy, edgy Gay stuff. Because I wanted people to stay with it, get comfortable with it."
-Will & Grace co-creator Max Mutchnick to, March 5.

"I really haven't [ever kissed a woman]. And if I had, I'd have let you know. I'd have told you years ago."
-Oprah Winfrey on her TV show, February 25.

"As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for Gay and Lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). ... While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against Gay and Lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does."
-Barack Obama in an open letter to the LGBT community, February 28.

"Most heterosexuals do not understand that it's illegal to get married in 49 states in the U.S. for Gay couples; they don't understand that even if you have a legal contract with your spouse, your legal next of kin can and will challenge it, if you die or get sick; most heterosexuals have no idea that America bars Gay spouses from immigration, and bars all HIV-positive non-Americans from even entering the country. ... The main reason for this, I think, is not so much homophobia, as the fact that most heterosexuals simply cannot imagine falling in love with someone, and being told by their own government that they cannot marry him or her. The experience of Gay couples is simply beyond most straight people's experience. If it happened to any of them, there would be outrage."
-Gay writer Andrew Sullivan on his blog, February 27.

"Marriage equality for Gay and Lesbian couples is another barrier that's falling, and I couldn't be happier about that. ... I have several friends that have outlasted both of my marriages, that are raising wonderful children together, that have been together in Gay unions for over 25 years, so they're doing a better job than I am. ... When my children look at a loving, committed relationship, some of their finest role models are the Gay and Lesbian couples that they have had in their lives."
-Ugly Betty actress Vanessa Williams (who plays Wilhelmina Slater) accepting a Human Rights Campaign award at the group's annual Manhattan dinner, February 23.

"On February 12, an openly Gay 15-year-old boy named Larry, who was an eighth-grader in Oxnard, Calif., was murdered by a fellow eighth-grader named Brandon. Larry was killed because he was Gay. Days before he was murdered, Larry asked his killer to be his valentine. ... [S]omewhere along the line the killer, Brandon, got the message that it's so threatening and so awful and so horrific that Larry would want to be his valentine that killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do. And when the message out there is so horrible that to be Gay you can get killed for it, we need to change the message. ... Larry was not a second-class citizen, I am not a second-class citizen, it is OK if you're Gay."
-Ellen DeGeneres on her TV talk show, February 29.

"This is an election year and there's a lot of talk about change. I think one thing we should change is hate. Check on who you're voting for, and does that person really, truly believe that we are all equal under the law? And if you're not sure, change your vote. We deserve better."
-Ellen DeGeneres on her TV talk show, February 29.

"We are facing an uphill battle again in countries that you thought you'd crossed, you'd done that, you've covered that territory. Because people think, 'Well, you know, even if I do get HIV, I'm going to be OK.' They don't realize the toxicity of the drugs they have to take. And I just think it's so reprehensible, with the information available to them. But they do it and so we have to help them."
-Elton John to CBS News, February 25.

"I would look for love all the time and I made a decision, 'I'm not going to look for love anymore,' and when I made that decision, love walked through my front door and found me [in the person of David Furnish in 1993]. He's incredibly intelligent. He's not afraid to be honest. He had his own car, his own place. This was new for me. I mean, this is Elton who took hostages and took people's lives and completely just said, 'Right, you're putting your life on hold. You come around the world with me.' Which of course always ended in tears."
-Elton John to CBS News, February 25.

"I couldn't wear some of my giant chicken outfits to the Oscar party, A, because I wouldn't fit in them anymore, and B, because, you know, I'm 61 years of age next month and I don't dress as flamboyant as I used to. ... I'm nowhere near the fashion victim that I was a long time ago."
-Elton John to CNN's Larry King, February 25.

"I'm in a fantastic relationship. It's been about four years. I'm in love with [Christine Marinoni] because she's her. If she were a man, would I be in love with her? I don't know."
-Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) at a press event for the upcoming Sex and the City movie, according to New York's Daily News, March 6.

"I'm really just a drag queen. I'm flamboyant, over the top. I have big hair and the clothes. Maybe that's why I'm so popular with the Gay community!"
-Singer Patti LaBelle to Instinct magazine, March issue.

"I love to tell the story of the fact that a year ago we celebrated our 10th anniversary at the White House holiday party. And I got to say to the president of the United States: 'Mr. President, I think you remember meeting my partner Lauren. It's our anniversary tonight!' To which he responded, 'Well, how many years has it been?' And we told him, 'Ten years, Mr. President.'"
-Openly Lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., to the newsletter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, in the current issue of the undated publication.

"[No] peering into someone else's stall. ... No standing or climbing on fixtures. No sitting, kneeling or lying down on the floor. No sitting on fixtures not meant to be sat upon."
-Restrictions to be imposed in public toilets by a measure under consideration in the Minnetonka, Minn., City Council, which is unhappy that cruisers have turned a city park's restroom into a tearoom, according to WCCO-TV. Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor and banned from all public toilets in the city for one year.

"It's fast approaching the end of the Bush era, 12 combined years of miserable, silver-spoon governorship by one of the lumpiest, dorkiest, least appealing clans of desperately shrill powermongers in the world, Barb and Jeb and George and George Jr., Laura and Barb Jr. and Jenna and beer bongs and fake IDs and old coke habits and running AWOL from the Air National Guard and it's all felt like a particularly insufferable episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, wherein the Clampetts go to Washington and screw three generations out of any sense of hope or environmental protections while getting the world to despise us for everything we used to stand for. Wacky!"
-San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, February 22.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
pictures top: Max Mutchnick
middle: Tammy Baldwin
bottom: Vanessa Williams

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