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International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
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International News
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Quebec to launch strategy against homophobia
Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil has announced the Canadian province will implement a comprehensive strategy against homophobia before the end of the year.

She broke the news at a May 17 rally marking the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).

"We see it as a major step forward here since doing so, Quebec will acknowledge officially that homophobia - and not homosexuality - is a social problem and take action, instead of passively banning discrimination," said Magazine Être Editor André Gagnon.

"As far as I know, it will be the first government in the world to adopt such a strategy that will cover all its spheres of intervention," he said.

Peru Gay police ban less stringent than reported
Peruvian Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas says recent news reports that Gays have been banned from being police officers were not quite right.

Mid-May reports said cops who have sex with people of the same sex would be banned because they cause scandal and denigrate the police's image.

But Cabanillas says the new law, which took effect May 12, will only ban Gay cops if their Gay-related public behavior is scandalous or damages the image of the institution.

She said the ministry has no desire to "get in anyone's bed" and that officials only wish to target unseemly, embarrassing or scandalous occurrences or attitudes related to sexual orientation that happen in the public sphere.

Gay groups said the law is problematic and discriminatory either way because it seems to suggest that certain public expressions of homosexuality are more likely to run afoul of the law than similar public expressions of heterosexuality.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Movimiento Homosexual de Lima have launched a letter-writing campaign to Peru's public defender, "asking her to file an Action of Unconstitutionality with the Constitutional Court to challenge the so-called 'offense' of same-sex relations and its associated penalty."

"We write to express our concern over Law 29356, which establishes a new disciplinary code for the Peruvian police, and stipulates in Article 34 that it is a serious offense to 'have sex with people of the same gender that causes scandal or undermines corporate image,'" a sample letter says in part.

"This law is a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - both of which have been signed by Peru. This regressive law also violates the Andean Charter, a regional treaty ratified by Peru in 2002. ... Finally, Law 29356 is inconsistent with human rights principles that are already codified in Peruvian law. On December 1, 2004, a new Constitutional Procedures Code, approved by Parliament, modified constitutional procedures to recognize discrimination based on sexual orientation."

Australian benefits agency recognizes Gay de facto couples
Centrelink, the Australian government's social-benefits agency, will treat Gay de facto couples as married for benefits purposes starting July 1.

While the move increases equality, it also will result in a loss of benefits for some coupled Gays, who previously qualified based on their individual income.

Centrelink assistance encompasses such things as health care, prescription drugs, unemployment payments, disaster aid, rent subsidies, aid to single parents and a wide range of other benefits and welfare programs.

"From 1 July 2009 changes to legislation will mean that customers who are in a same-sex de facto relationship will be recognized as partnered for Centrelink and Family Assistance Office purposes," says the agency's website. "All customers who are assessed as being a member of a couple will have their rate of payment calculated in the same way."

Colombian policeman added to partner's health insurance
The Board of Health of Colombia's National Police granted health-insurance benefits to the partner of a Gay officer May 14.

The extension of coverage to Fabián Mauricio Chibcha Romero followed a January ruling by the nation's Constitutional Court that granted marital rights to common-law same-sex couples in areas that include civil service, contracts with the government, housing protection and assistance, immigration, social security, death indemnification, and criminal nonincrimination.

The activist group Colombia Diversa said the ruling encompassed all the "civil, political, social, economic, criminal and immigration rights ... of a common-law union, minus adoption."

Chibcha also gained access to police housing subsidies and vacation clubs.

Church of Scotland OKs partnered Gay minister
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted 326-267 on May 24 to uphold the appointment of a partnered Gay minister at a parish in Aberdeen.

The Rev. Scott Rennie was appointed to the parish a year ago but had been unable to assume his duties as opponents sought to block the move.

In issuing its decision, the General Assembly ordered a moratorium on the appointment of any more Gay ministers until a church commission studies the issue and reports back in 2011.

Church ministers opposed to Rennie's placement have vowed to withhold collection-plate funds from the national church in retaliation.

"The General Assembly has shown itself to be seriously out of touch with its grassroots in the churches," said the Revs. David Court of Edinburgh and William Philip of Glasgow. "But it should remember that these are the people who have - hitherto, at least - kept a creaking denomination afloat financially. There will be a great deal less willingness to do that from now on."

The Church of Scotland - "the Kirk" - is Presbyterian and counts 14 percent of Scots as members, though 42 percent of the population named it as their denomination in the 2001 census.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
pictures - top: Scott Rennie
bottom: Kathleen Weil
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