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International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Australian Senate rejects same-sex marriage bill
Australia's Senate rejected a measure to legalize same-sex marriage February 26. The vote was 5-45. Twenty-six senators failed to vote.

The bill, introduced by the Greens, was opposed by the Labor, Family First and Liberal/National/Country Liberal Coalition parties.

"The Coalition believes the [opposite-sex] definition of marriage, as contained in the existing provisions of the Marriage Act, reflects the standards and mores of contemporary Australia," said Liberal Sen. George Brandis.

The organization Australian Marriage Equality denounced the vote and vowed to make same-sex marriage an election issue.

"It is arrogant of [Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd and [Liberal leader] Tony Abbott to ignore the 60 percent of Australians who, opinion polls show, support same-sex marriage", said AME National Convener Alex Greenwich.

"However, the fact that 26 senators were absent from today's debate is an indication that there is dissent in the ranks of the major parties, dissent which we believe will only grow. Because the leaders of the major parties are clearly deaf to the wishes of mainstream Australia we have no choice but to make this an election issue when the nation goes to the polls later this year," Greenwich said.

AME said "there's no such thing as half equal" and criticized same-sex "relationship registers" as conferring an unacceptable second-class status.

A Galaxy poll released last June found that 60 percent of Australians support same-sex marriage, including 64 percent of Labor voters and 50 percent of Coalition voters.

Transgenders file suit against Guyana cross-dressing ban
Members of Guyana's Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination filed suit in the Supreme Court on February 19 against the nation's ban on cross-dressing.

The "originating notice of motion" says the cross-dressing law is "irrational, discriminatory, undemocratic" and unconstitutional.

The law makes it an offense when an individual "being a man, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in female attire, or being a woman, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in male attire."

The law is part of a section of Guyana's legal code that also bans Gay sex.

A year ago, in a series of crackdowns, Guyanese police arrested several male-to-female Transgender people. They were convicted under the cross-dressing ban and fined 7,500 Guyanese dollars ($36) each by Georgetown Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson, who told them to go to church and give their lives to Christ.

"It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life," said Seon "Falatama" Clarke, one of the arrestees and a plaintiff in the case. "I felt like I was less than human."

Gays file complaint against Quebec sportscasters
The Quebec Gay and Lesbian Council filed a complaint February 22 against sportscasters Alain Goldberg and Claude Mailhot, who said on the air that Olympic skater Johnny Weir hurts figure skating's image and should take a gender test or maybe compete in women's events.

The broadcasters made the remarks on the show Le Réveil Olympique on the RDS sports network.

"They'll think all the boys who skate will end up like him," Goldberg said. "It sets a bad example. ... We should make him pass a gender test at this point."

CQGL complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and demanded that the duo publicly apologize. The organization called the remarks "outrageous and homophobic" and "offensive and derogatory."

"It is unacceptable that a sports commentator and a host mock and denigrate an athlete based on his appearance," CQGL said. "These men have undermined not only the integrity of the athlete, but also that of Gays and heterosexuals who do not conform to social stereotypes."

Russian Gay marriage group denied registration
Russia's Justice Ministry on February 22 refused to register the activist group Marriage Equality Russia.

The ministry said the group's aims contradict a law that defines "marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

The organization will appeal as far as the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary, said spokesman Nikolai Alekseev.

"Russia is a country where you cannot hold a march in the streets if you openly advertise it as Gay, and this is the same with registering an openly Gay organization," Alekseev said.

Attempts to stage Gay pride marches in Moscow over the past four years have been met with official bans from Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Small groups of activists who tried to march anyway were violently attacked each year by riot police and anti-Gay mobs.

Indian professor who had Gay sex driven from university
An Indian languages professor at Aligarh Muslim University in Lucknow, India, was driven from his job in mid-February after a TV news crew burst into his house and taped him having sex with a male "rickshaw puller," the Times of India reported February 18.

The report said that students sent the TV crew to Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras' residence and that the footage was later shared with university officials.

University spokesman Rahat Abrar called the incident "a scandal that no institution of repute can overlook."

The school suspended Siras for "gross misconduct" and he then decided to leave.

A Delhi High Court decision last year legalized Gay sex in India.

Groups target Trans abuses in Turkey
Recent murders of two Transgender women in Turkey highlight an ongoing pattern of violence and the urgent need for government intervention, four human rights organizations said February 22 in a letter to Turkish authorities.

The groups Pembe Hayat (Pink Life); Human Rights Watch; European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association; and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission urged Turkish officials to launch educational programs, pass antidiscrimination laws, repeal laws used by police to harass LGBT people, and create communication channels between police departments and LGBT communities.

"Protecting people and preventing violence means more than investigating after the fact," said HRW researcher Juliana Cano Nieto. "Without meaningful government action to affirm their rights and ensure their safety, Transgender people in Turkey will continue to live in fear."

Since November 2008, at least eight Transgender people have been murdered in Istanbul and Ankara. The most recent victim was Aycan Yener, who was stabbed 17 times February 16 in her apartment in Istanbul's Fatih neighborhood.

With assistance from Bill Kelley and Andrés Duque

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