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International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

India's Gay sex ban struck down
Following an eight-year court battle, India's Delhi High Court legalized Gay sex July 2 in a forceful and poetic ruling that had GLBT activists crying in the courtroom.

The ruling took effect immediately - nationally - and will remain in effect unless the Supreme Court reverses it. Several major Western media outlets erroneously reported July 2 that the ruling only applied in New Delhi.

The court decision "read down" Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code so that it no longer applies to the activities of consenting adults. The section bans "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" under penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

The court smashed 377's application to Gay people in myriad ways, finding it violated a constitutional guarantee of equality under the law, a constitutional ban on discrimination based on sex, and constitutional promises of personal liberty and protection of life.

The ruling is chock-full of soaring statements in support of India's GLBT population, including:

* "The criminalization of homosexuality condemns in perpetuity a sizable section of society and forces them to live their lives in the shadow of harassment, exploitation, humiliation, cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the law enforcement machinery. ... Section 377 IPC grossly violates their right to privacy and liberty embodied in Article 21 insofar as it criminalizes consensual sexual acts between adults in private."

* "Section 377 IPC targets the homosexual community as a class and is motivated by an animus towards this vulnerable class of people. ... It has no other purpose than to criminalize conduct which fails to conform with the moral or religious views of a section of society. The discrimination severely affects the rights and interests of homosexuals and deeply impairs their dignity."

* "When everything associated with homosexuality is treated as bent, Queer, repugnant, the whole Gay and Lesbian community is marked with deviance and perversity. ... The result is that a significant group of the population is, because of its sexual non-conformity, persecuted, marginalized and turned in on itself."

* "We hold that sexual orientation is a ground analogous to sex and that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not permitted by Article 15. ... A provision of law branding one section of people as criminal based wholly on the State's moral disapproval of that class goes counter to the equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 under any standard of review."

* "'[R]ight to personal liberty' and 'right to equality' are fundamental human rights which belong to individuals simply by virtue of their humanity. ... A Bill of Rights does not 'confer' fundamental human rights. It confirms their existence and accords them protection."

* "Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual. ... We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution."

What happens next?

The national government could appeal the ruling to India's Supreme Court, though that is considered unlikely; the national government could both accept the ruling and use it as ammo to introduce a bill in Parliament to duplicate the ruling in national law; and/or anti-Gay parties to the lawsuit could appeal to the Supreme Court.

But until such time as the Supreme Court overturns the Delhi ruling, India's GLBTs - who comprise more than 17 percent of all GLBT people on the planet - are no longer criminals. India has a population of nearly 1.2 billion people.

The erroneous reports that the ruling did not apply outside of New Delhi appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, on the Associated Press wire and elsewhere. (For correct information, see bit.ly/WeXyO and bit.ly/7su4o.)

"Every major media outlet in the world got this wrong because they don't understand how the Indian courts work," said journalist Vikram Doctor of India's Queer Media Collective. "It will apply nationally until somebody challenges that at the Supreme Court, which is where this case is going to end up anyway."

In most common-law court systems, including India's in this case, the decision of an appellate court binds lower courts within its territorial jurisdiction and also is the "last" word on the subject nationally unless a court of equal authority elsewhere makes a contrary decision or the Supreme Court reverses the decision. An appellate decision also binds the parties in the case (which include the Indian government in this case) regardless of where they are in the country.

Meanwhile, Gay pride parades were staged in four Indian cities June 27-28 - New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Bhubaneshwar.

At least 2,000 people marched in New Delhi. Marches are still to come in Mumbai and Kolkata.

Liza does Paris Pride
Singer and Gay icon Liza Minnelli danced on a float in Paris' Gay pride parade June 27.

Minnelli is the daughter of Gay icon Judy Garland, whose death five days before the Stonewall Riots 40 years ago is thought to have contributed to the foul mood of the Gays who decided to fight back against the police raid of the Stonewall Inn.

"Freedom," Minnelli shouted from the float. About 700,000 people took part in the festivities. "We knew that she [Minnelli] had a concert this evening in Paris but when her agent told us that she could come, we thought it was a joke," Pride spokesman Philippe Castel told Agence France-Presse.

Berlin also held Pride on June 27. About 550,000 people turned out, reports said.

Gay pride goes well in Jerusalem, for a change
About 2,000 people marched in Jerusalem's Gay pride parade June 25 without incident, but for one tossed egg.

Previous years' marches have been met with violent protests, stabbings and the arrest of a man carrying a bomb.

Police protection was reduced this year, to a mere 1,600 officers.

Gays attacked at Slovenian Pride event
A cafe in Ljubljana, Slovenia, that was holding a Pride week cultural event was damaged June 25 by rock-throwing, hate-spewing anti-gays.

Eight men carrying stones and torches attacked Cafe Open and shouted that gay people should be killed.

They also set upon gay activist Mitja Blazic outside the cafe, injuring his head and burning him. Activists said Blazic was "severely beaten up" and required hospital attention.

300 march in Sofia
Around 300 people marched in the second Gay pride parade in Sofia, Bulgaria, on June 27, twice as many as last year.

Police and private security officers, hired by pride organizers, protected the marchers to prevent a recurrence of last year's violence, when skinheads and right-wing extremists attacked the parade with bottles, rocks, eggs, firecrackers, smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails, resulting in 80 arrests.

This year's march, which traveled from the National Palace of Culture to the Red House debate club, encountered nothing more serious than some booing.

Organizers called for a law to ban anti-Gay discrimination in employment.

Irish gov't introduces civil-partnership law
Ireland's government has introduced a civil-partnership bill in Parliament, where it should pass easily. The law is expected to be in effect by the end of the year.

The measure extends to registered same-sex couples nearly all rights and obligations of marriage.

However, most Gay activist groups have denounced the plan, saying it amounts to second-class status for same-sex couples. The organizations have cited inequalities in the areas of inheritance, taxation and children's rights.

"The bill is forcing Lesbians and Gay men to accept a second-rate set of rights, and ensures that Lesbian and Gay relationships will be regarded as inferior to married couples," said the group MarriagEquality, urging that Gay couples be granted access to marriage instead.

The group Equals likewise complained, "Civil partnership will create a two-tier society and will legislate Gay and Lesbian people into inequality."

On June 26, activists protested against the measure outside Leinster House, seat of the two houses of Parliament, the Dáil Éireann and the Seanad Éireann.

Activist Will St. Leger climbed atop a pillar and remained there for three hours before being arrested. He was later released without charge.

Protester Lisa Connell chained herself to the Dáil gates. Police used a bolt cutter to remove her, then ordered her to leave the scene.

Meanwhile, thousands of people took part in Dublin's Gay pride parade June 27. Marchers chanted: "What do we want? Marriage. When do we want it? Now."

Lithuanian president vetoes 'no promo homo' bill
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus on June 26 vetoed a bill that banned from schools and public places information that agitates for homosexual, Bisexual or polygamous relations.

The vote for the bill in the Seimas (parliament) had been 67-3 with 67 MPs not voting. Seventy-one votes would be needed to override Adamkus' veto.

The proposed "Law on the Protection of Minors Against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information" has been denounced by Amnesty International, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, foreign governments and various arms of the pan-European bureaucracies.

Should it become law, the measure likely would end up before the European Court of Human Rights, where it probably would be found to violate the European Convention on Human Rights.



With assistance from Bill Kelley

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pictures - top: Paris Pride
below: Mumbai march
bottom: Bangalore march
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