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Montenegro to recognize same-sex civil partnerships

Lawmakers in former Yugoslav republic narrowly passed bill on July 1

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census, gay news, Washington Blade

Montenegro on July 1 became the first European country outside of the European Union to officially recognize same-sex couples.

Reuters reported a bill to recognize same-sex couples’ civil partnerships passed in the 81-seat Montenegrin Parliament with 42 votes. Prime Minister Duško Marković is among those who celebrated the measure’s narrow passage.

“I welcome the adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnership in Parliament,” he tweeted.

Marković added the bill’s passage is “a great step in the right direction for MNE (Montenegrin society, it’s democratic maturity and integration process.”

“Equality and same rights for all are the cornerstone of human and European values,” he said.  

Montenegro is a former Yugoslav republic that borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. Montenegro has begun the process to join the EU.

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United Kingdom

The Royal Mint marks 50 years of ‘Pride UK’ with first LGBTQ+ coin

This is first ever UK coin dedicated to Britain’s LGBTQ+ community, with color printing technology capturing the spirit of Pride UK

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Courtesy of The Royal Mint

LONDON – The Royal Mint this week revealed a commemorative 50p (50 pence) coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pride UK. This coin marks the first time Britain’s LGBTQ+ community has been celebrated on official UK coinage, and forms part of The Royal Mint’s wider commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The coin has been designed by Dominique Holmes, an east London artist, writer, and LGBTQ+ activist with a varied artistic background that includes tattoo artistry. The coin design features Pride in London’s values of Protest, Visibility, Unity, and Equality in rainbows. With state-of-the-art color printing technology, the iconic colors of the Pride progression flag are recreated with special-edition color versions of the silver and BU coins.

Since the first official Pride UK event in 1972, the Pride UK movement has been one of significant political and cultural importance. Now in its 50th year, Pride UK is more popular than ever and continues to fight against societal oppression and stand up for rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“As part of the launch, The Royal Mint will make a financial contribution to London LGBT Community Pride. The 50p will not enter circulation but will be available to purchase via The Royal Mint website this summer.”

Asad Shaykh, Director of Marketing and Communications at Pride in London said, “It was a privilege to visit The Royal Mint as part of our partnership and see our coin being made.

“It humbles me greatly that the words that I coined for the brand, PROTEST, VISIBILITY, UNITY & EQUALITY – will be on an actual coin, opposite the Queen. This queer brown immigrant has come a long way, powered by hope, love and this city. Nowhere in the world had this been possible, except the UK. Pride in London feels very proud today.”

Clare Maclennan, Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said, “The 50th Anniversary of Pride UK is a milestone celebration, and it is a privilege to mark 50 years of progress with this 50p coin. This is the first ever UK coin dedicated to Britain’s LGBTQ+ community, with color printing technology capturing the spirit of Pride UK with its iconic rainbow colors.

“It was an honour to host representatives from Pride in London at The Royal Mint recently to strike their own coins as part of the launch and discuss with them our commitment to diversity and inclusion within the business and show how we are reinventing for the future.”

As part of the launch, The Royal Mint will make a financial contribution to London LGBT Community Pride. The 50p will not enter circulation but will be available to purchase via The Royal Mint website this summer. The range includes gold, silver, and brilliant uncirculated versions.

The launch of the new LGBTQ+ coin forms part of The Royal Mint’s wider commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion. Alongside D&I training for all employees, a network of D&I Champions has been established to support The Royal Mint’s wider vision of celebrating differences for an inclusive future. 

This commitment also extends to an LGBTQ+ society for employees at The Royal Mint; established last year.  Named ‘Enfys’, the Welsh word for Rainbow, the group has hosted Q+A sessions, shared their personal stories and encouraged visibility and allyship amongst employees.

To find out more information about the 50th Anniversary of Pride 50p and to register for updates please visit The Royal Mint website.

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Europe

LGBT ‘Free Zones’ tossed, UK LGBTQ ranking, Pussy Riot singer escapes

A look at top LGBTQ+ stories from Europe & the UK this week as a court rules against bigotry, the UK falters, plus a true-to life spy novel

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Sopot, Poland vice-mayor (right) Magdalena Czarzyńska-Jachim and LGBTQ marchers (Photo credit:Magdalena Czarzyńska-Jachim)

LONDON – LGBTQ+ news from Europe this past week saw a major development in Poland after a Provincial Administrative Court annulled actions taken previously to declare ‘LGBT Free Zones’ by provincial governments.

Large parts of Poland were labelled “LGBT-free zones”, where regional governments declared they were against LGBT ideology. Last fall the executive branch of the European Union, the European Commission, sent letters out last week to the governors of five of Poland’s voivodeships, (provinces) warning that pandemic relief funds totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million) will be withheld over anti-LGBTQ measures passed in their jurisdictions.

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups backed by nationalistic extremists in this heavily Catholic country of 38 million, which have led to passage of measures to restrict pride parades and other LGBTQ+-friendly events from taking place.

Proponents of these measures claim the necessity of the provinces to be “free of LGBTQ ideology” saying this is mandated by average Poles as well as by the anti-LGBTQ+ views of the Catholic Church.

The majority of Polish people support LGBTQ+ rights surrounding marriage and family, according to research by Miłość Nie Wyklucza (Love Does Not Exclude). 

The survey found 56% of respondents believe same-sex marriage should be legal to ensure the safety of their children. Even more, 65%, said they felt “a biological parent raising a child with a same-sex partner” fits the definition of family. And 58% of people said a same-sex couple is a family even without children. 

Lublin Regional Assembly passed a resolution in April 2019 declaring that LGBTQ+ rights aim to “annihilate” the “values shaped by the Catholic Church” PinkNewsUK reported.

In the same month, Ryki County, a district in Lublin, passed a resolution voting to protect “children, young people, families and Polish schools” from an apparent wave of “homoterror” being unleashed by “left-liberal groups”.

PinkNewsUK also reported that the Provincial Administrative Court in Lublin found the resolutions were “adopted without legal basis and in gross violation of the law” after a legal challenge by the Polish Ombudsman.

They become the eighth and ninth “LGBT-free zones” voided by the courts following interventions by the Polish Ombudsman. Municipal councils in Istebna, Klwów, Serniki, Osiek, Lipinki, Niebylec and the Tarnowski County Council all scrapped such measures in 2019.

This past June, the leaders of 17 European Union countries had signed a letter that urges the EU to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The EU has also called out the anti-LGBTQ measures taken more recently in Hungry.

ILGA-Europe, a Brussels based advocacy group promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people, at the European level, in a statement it sent to the Blade in June after the EU letter was issued, notes that both Hungary and Poland, another EU country in which lawmakers have sought to restrict LGBTQ rights in recent years are at odds with the EU position on LGBTQ+ people.

“For quite some time now, we’ve been informing EU ministers about systematic breaches of EU law committed by Hungary and Poland, which impact on LGBTI rights and the lives of LGBTI people,” says ILGA-Europe.

The UK has dropped to 14th in the ILGA Rainbow Europe’s rankings for LGBTQ+ rights, scoring 53 out of a possible 100

ILGA-Europe, which produces a yearly “rainbow map” of 49 countries across Europe, revealed this past week that the United Kingdom had the most significant drop in ranking for LGBTQ+ equality rights this past year falling from 10th to 14th place.

Leading contributors to the loss in ranking and standing on the ILGA annual listing was due in part to the ongoing battles over transgender rights with a failure by the Tory-led government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to set gender recognition policies especially in regard to a total ban on LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.

ILGA-Europe’s advocacy director, Katrin Hugendubel, described the UK’s plunging status to The Guardian UK newspaper as “a sad reminder that when governments don’t stand strong on their commitments to advance minority rights, a powerful opposition can use that space to spread hate and division”.

The chief executive of Stonewall UK, Nancy Kelley, warned that “years of progress on LGBTQ+ policy that was achieved under successive administrations has been rapidly eroded by a UK government that has taken its foot off the pedal”.

The ILGA highlighted the UK government’s failure to extend a ban on conversion practices to transgender people, as well as abandonment of promised reforms on gender recognition and its equality action plan. It added that the UK also lost points because the government’s equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), was “not … effectively protecting on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity” the Guardian reported.

 Stonewall’s Kelley called on the prime minister to “step back into the game” as a leader in protecting and promoting LGBTQ+ rights.

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first Pride in the UK, we call for his active leadership to rebuild our human rights institutions and to deliver a strategic policy programme that enables all LGBTQ+ people in the UK to live their lives in freedom and safety.”

Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot escaped from Russia disguised as a food delivery worker

In what could be best described as a story worthy of a Cold-War era spy novel, the leader of the Russian activist band Pussy Riot fled Russia disguised as a food-delivery worker. Maria V. Alyokhina said in an interview with the New York Times that she was able to get to her girlfriend’s home in Vilnius, Lithuania after evading Russian Federal Security Services agents.

The queer singer-songwriter musician and human rights activist who was on house arrest at the time of her escape was set to be transferred to a penal colony in the Russian Far East after being arrested six times in the past year protesting the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and more recently his order for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

According to the account in the NY Times, Alyokhina left her apartment in the food-delivery worker disguise, and an unnamed friend drove her to the Belarusian border. The problem then became exiting from Belarus to Lithuania as she was turned away at the border twice by Lithuanian border agents.

The Times reported that Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson eventually helped Alyokhina acquire the necessary travel documents from an unnamed country that in turn assisted her entering into Lithuania — where many Pussy Riot members had already escaped to, including Alyokhina’s girlfriend, Lucy Shtein.

The band has now kicked off their European tour in Berlin.

Pussy Riot concert with activist after escape from Russia

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Russia

Brittney Griner detention extended for another month

WNBA star taken into custody at Moscow airport in February

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Brittney Griner (Photo by Lorie Shaull, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

KHIMKI, Russia — A Russian court on Friday extended WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention for another month.

Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

Griner is among the WNBA players who play in Russia during the league’s off-season.

The State Department earlier this month determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. The National Black Justice Coalition is among the groups that have also criticized Russia over Griner’s detention.

Griner on Friday appeared in court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki. Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told the Associated Press that her trial could begin soon.

Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.

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