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International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Argentine same-sex marriage blocked, Supreme Court to rule
A national judge on November 30 blocked a city judge's ruling that legalized Gay marriage in Buenos Aires - canceling the city's first same-sex wedding scheduled for December 1 - but the nation's Supreme Court promptly announced it will rule on the issue.

Activists Alex Freyre and José María Di Bello planned their wedding after Judge Gabriela Seijas ruled November 16 in a case the couple filed that it is unconstitutional not to treat everyone equally under the law.

But Civil Court 85 Judge Marta Gómez Alsina declared December 1 that Seijas had overstepped her authority in determining that the nation's ban on same-sex marriage did not apply to Freyre and Di Bello.

Buenos Aires, some other Argentine cities and the province of Río Negro already have civil-union laws for same-sex couples. Elsewhere in Latin America, similar laws are in force in Uruguay, Mexico City, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, and the Mexican state of Coahuila, which borders Texas.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and, starting in January, New Hampshire.

Australian Capital Territory sees civil-union battle
Some Gay activists in the Australian Capital Territory have rejected proposed amendments to the ACT civil-partnership laws.

Territory Attorney-General Simon Corbell reportedly struck a deal with the federal government that allows ACT Gay couples to have an official ceremony in conjunction with a civil partnership. But to seal the deal, Corbell gave in to a federal demand that the celebrants' actions will carry no legal weight and that only the actions of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages matter legally.

"The proposed changes to the ACT laws entirely undermine the purpose of civil unions," said John Kloprogge of Equal Love Canberra. "The federal government is being held hostage by the Australian Christian Lobby, and the ACT Labor Party should not aid and abet the blackmailing of their federal party colleagues."

Equal Love's Gab Hitch said the amendments "sold out" the Gay community.

"The ACT civil-union laws have been so watered down that they are now unrecognizable to the original legislation tabled by the Stanhope Labor Government," Hitch said. "This is death by a thousand amendments to civil unions in the ACT."

EU treaty is first to ban discrimination against Gays
The European Union's Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force December 1, incorporates the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the only international governmental document that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Article 21 states, "Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited."

According to the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (aka ILGA-Europe), the charter "is the first EU consolidated document containing the values and fundamental economic, social, civil and political rights to which EU citizens should be entitled."

"The European Union made it crystal clear and provided the EU institutions and EU member states with guidelines that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is incompatible with the application of the union's law," said ILGA-Europe Board Co-chair Martin K.I. Christensen.

Three countries opted out of the charter, Christensen said - the United Kingdom, Poland and the Czech Republic.

"We are particularly concerned with Poland's reasons for not signing the charter as the Polish leaders believe the charter might compromise their sovereignty in the 'sphere of public morality, family law,'" he said.

The Treaty of Lisbon gives more power to the European Parliament, increases EU member states' and institutions' obligations to tackle discrimination and to mainstream equality, and makes the EU a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The European Union was always one of the world's leaders on human rights, but now we have a treaty ratified by all 27 EU member states which clearly identifies the duties of the EU institutions to take human rights and equality issues to the very center of their work when adopting various policies and taking actions," said ILGA-Europe Board Co-chair Linda Freimane.

UN secretary-general calls for end to Gay discrimination
In a World AIDS Day message December 1, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world must "shine the full light of human rights on HIV."

"I urge all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the AIDS response," he said.

"In many countries, legal frameworks institutionalize discrimination against groups most at risk. Yet discrimination against sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men only fuels the epidemic and prevents cost-effective interventions.

"We must ensure that AIDS responses are based on evidence, not ideology, and reach those most in need and most affected."

Sweden changes ban on Gay blood donors
Sweden will end its blanket ban on blood donation by Gay men on March 1, the National Board of Health and Welfare said December 1.

Under the new rules, Gay men who have not had sex with another man for at least a year can be approved as donors.

Some Gay activists said the change is mostly meaningless since most Gay men do not practice celibacy.

Government opens Gay bar in China
Officials in Dali Prefecture in China's Yunnan Province have opened a Gay bar in hopes of reducing stigma against Gay men and thereby slowing the spread of HIV. The prefecture spent about $17,500 to set up the venue, which is run by the Gay group Good Friend Center.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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pictures: Buenos Aires
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