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International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Euro court moves on Russian Gay-pride cases
The European Court of Human Rights has combined cases stemming from Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's bans on Gay-pride events in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and instructed Russian authorities to file a response by January 20.

"Our actions and pressure finally made them move," said plaintiff Nikolai Alekseev. "It means that in one year we should have a decision."

In February, Alekseev and others picketed the court demanding that the cases be prioritized.

"This case is about a systematic denial of freedom of assembly for LGBT people in Russia since 2006," Alekseev said. "But it goes beyond the LGBT borders and will help all human rights defenders and political groups as it will force Russia to change its law on demonstrations and public events."

"We hope to have a decision before the fifth Moscow Pride scheduled for May 29, 2010," he said. "Justice always comes, it's only a matter of time."

Luzhkov has banned pride for four years and has sent riot police to violently arrest small groups of activists who ignored the bans.

The mayor has said the bans are for Gays' own good so that "radical Christians" don't "kill them." Russian society, he has said, "does not accept all these homos."

But Luzhkov also has called Gay pride parades "satanic" and, reportedly, "weapons of mass destruction."

Court says Russian Lesbians can't marry
Moscow's Tverskoi District Court ruled October 6 that city officials were right to deny a marriage license to Lesbian couple Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko.

The court said that under Russian law, marriage is a "union between a woman and a man."

The couple now plan to go get married in Canada, then return and demand that Russia recognize that marriage.

The women's lawyer, Gay activist Nikolai Alekseev, said: "During the hearing, the judge asked Irina Shipitko, 'Are you husband or wife?' But perhaps the most surprising [thing] came later when we were waiting for the decision and an employee of the court came to us saying that he does not understand why the girls cannot be allowed to register their marriage."

"Overall, the media coverage was positive with several Russian agencies quoting this campaign as an effort to raise awareness," Alekseev said. "Here we show a couple that is ready to go overseas to get married at any cost - and not a one-day PR action."

Obama names Gay ambassador
The White House said October 7 that openly Gay David Huebner will be named U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.

Huebner, who must be confirmed by the Senate, is general counsel for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, though he is based in Shanghai, China, where he works for a U.S. law firm.

"This is great news," said Jon Davidson, Lambda Legal's legal director. "David and I worked together at my old law firm years ago, [he] was on the board of GLAAD, and did a great job ensuring inclusion of anti-Gay discrimination issues in the Christopher Commission's report on the LAPD."

Turkish Gay websites blocked
Two big Turkish Gay websites, hadigayri.com and gabile.com, have been blocked by the Telecommunication Directorate, according to the English-language newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review.

No reason was given for the move. The sites' owners said the sites do not contain illegal or pornographic material.

The report said the sites - which offer news, commentary, reviews and forums - have a combined membership of about 225,000 Turks.

Queer Culture Festival succeeds in Russia
The first International Festival of Queer Culture held in St. Petersburg September 17-27 was "the first successful openly Queer event of this scale in Russia," organizers said.

The festival included concerts, plays, photo exhibits, poetry events, seminars and workshops at multiple locations.

"As a result of the festival, different human rights groups and organizations have made plans for future collaboration and the queer community of St. Petersburg has been empowered to continue full participation in the social and cultural life of their city," organizers said.

The local group Coming Out was the main force behind the festival, with assistance from the Russian LGBT Network, Lesbi Partiya, Gender-L, Ksenofobii-Net and other organizations.

The Dutch and Swedish consulates helped fund the festival.

IGLYO to hold general assembly in Edinburgh
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation will hold its biennial general assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland, December 10-12.

Hosted by LGBT Youth Scotland, the gathering is being funded by the European Commission's Youth in Action program, Scotland's Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Edinburgh City Council and the Edinburgh University Student Association.

For more information, see iglyo.com.

U.S. speaks up for Gays at Euro conference
The U.S. government has defended Gay people at an important European human-rights conference, the Council for Global Equality reported October 8. The move was believed to be the first such action by the U.S. in a European context.

At the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, held in Warsaw, the U.S. delegation spoke out "against violations of the rights to freedom of association, especially those targeting Gay pride marches in Eastern Europe, while also noting patterns of extreme violence targeting LGBT citizens in the United States and Europe," said CGE Chair Mark Bromley.

"This is the first time that the United States has used its position within the OSCE to address these alarming human rights trends," he said.

The head of the U.S. delegation, Dr. Michael Haltzel, said that anti-GLBT violence discourages Gay people from coming out and fighting for their rights.

"Acts of violence and human rights abuses toward individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are ... a worrying - and increasing - trend that often goes unnoticed," he said. "The extreme nature of violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender individuals has a chilling effect on these individuals' speaking openly and advocating for their rights."

Haltzel also called on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan "to decriminalize homosexuality."

U.S. delegate Erika Schlager told the gathering that the U.S. is "concerned over the denial of permission for pride events in [various] countries and the violence that has been directed at participants in marches that do occur."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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