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Swedish authorities detain two activists en route to human rights conference

Ugandan asylees detained for more than two hours

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psychiatric disorders, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by Håkan Dahlström via Flickr)

MALMÖ, Sweden — Swedish immigration officials on Friday detained two activists from Uganda who were en route to a human rights conference.

LGBT+ Danmark, a Danish advocacy group, in a statement said Swedish authorities “detained for more than two hours two activists originally from Uganda” at the border between Sweden and Denmark. LGBT+ Danmark notes Germany granted “legal asylum status” to the activists and they were “both carrying German identification papers accordingly.”

The activists were on one of three buses that were bringing WorldPride 2021 attendees from Copenhagen, the Danish capital, to a summit on LGBTQ refugees in the Swedish city of Malmö that was part of the WorldPride 2021 Human Rights Conference. The city is 20 miles from Copenhagen.

The conference was the largest in-person LGBTQ rights gathering since the pandemic began.

The LGBT+ Danmark statement that Copenhagen (Pride) 2021, Malmö Pride, the RFSL (the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights) All Out, Fundación AMAL Argentina, Udada Imara in Kenya and the Eagle Wings Youth Initiative in Tanzania signed says they “are aware of the challenges and often discriminatory practices that refugees and Black and indigenous migrants and migrants of color experience in cross-border situations.”

“Furthermore, Copenhagen 2021, LGBT+ Danmark, and co-signatories are painfully aware of the emotional implications unwarranted detention has on members of the LGBTIQ+ community with refugee status,” it adds.

The statement further notes the “Malmö team of Copenhagen 2021 is working with Swedish authorities to find out what happened and to ensure that it does not happen again.”

“Copenhagen 2021, LGBT+ Danmark and co-signatories call on all European border patrol authorities to review border patrol practices in order to systematically address and prevent instances of unwarranted detention and racial profiling,” it says. “Copenhagen 2021, LGBT+ Danmark and co-signatories call on all European authorities to ensure that the rights of refugees and Black and indigenous migrants and migrants of color are being observed — especially pertaining to freedom of movement within the EU and the Schengen area.”

The Los Angeles Blade has reached out the Swedish government for comment.

WorldPride 2021 Director of Human Rights Aron Le Fevre on Wednesday told the Blade his organization is in “contact with the Swedish police.” Le Fevre also said WorldPride 2021 will also “schedule a conversation with the two activists that got into this situation to sort out which documents they were using.”

“We are going to talk with the police in-depth as well also because we think they should have never detained people,” said Le Fevre. “It was unnecessary and I think it was excessive, especially because they knew what was going on in Malmö.”

Le Fevre told the Blade that WorldPride 2021 has also spoken with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ rights, about the incident.

“We are on top of it,” said Le Fevre. “We are going to follow up because we take this extremely seriously. It should have been handled differently than it was been handled now.”

European Union

Finland to allow Transgender people to change gender without sterilization

Country’s MPs approved series of amendments on Wednesday

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Finnish flag (Photo by feofan4ik via Bigstock)

HELSINKI — Lawmakers in Finland on Wednesday voted to allow Transgender people to legally change their gender without proof they had been sterilized or were unable to have children.

The Associated Press reported the amendments that Finnish MPs approved by a 113-69 vote margin will also allow Trans people who are at least 18 to legally change their name without medical intervention. Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the amendments’ passage was a priority for her government ahead of the country’s general election that will take place in April.

Seta, a Finnish LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, described the vote as a “victory for human rights.”

ILGA-Europe also praised the vote.

“We are thrilled to hear that the Finnish Parliament just adopted Translaki — a new law making legal gender recognition based on self-determination for adults,” said ILGA-Europe. “While there is more work to do, this is a significant step! Congratulations to all who have worked for so long on this!”

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European Court of Human Rights rules against Lithuanian propaganda law

Children’s book author in 2019 challenged anti-LGBTQ statute

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(Bigstock photo)

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled Lithuania’s anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Author Neringa Dangvydė Macatė in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the law after Lithuanian authorities censured her children’s book that featured two same-sex couples.

The law specifically bans the distribution of information to minors that “expresses contempt for family values, encourages the concept of entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution of the republic of Lithuania and the Civil Code of the republic of Lithuania.” The court in April 2022 heard Macatė’s case.

Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist is among those who have publicly criticized the law. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, an openly gay Lithuanian MP who is running for mayor of Vlinius, the country’s capital, told the Washington Blade the ruling will bolster efforts to repeal the propaganda law.

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Dutch Constitution to be amended banning LGBTQ+ discrimination

Enshrining the rights of LGBTQ people is a “historic victory for the rainbow community,” said advocacy group COC Nederland

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King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, addresses the 74th Session of the General Assembly of the UN (Screenshot/YouTube)

AMSTERDAM – The Upper House of the States General of the Netherlands, the supreme bicameral legislature of the kingdom voted to amend Article 1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, expanding it to prohibit discrimination against someone because of a disability or sexual orientation. 

In a 56­–15 vote in the Eerste Kamer, [the Dutch Senate] the proposal for amendment passed and is now headed to King Willem-Alexander for his Royal assent and the Dutch government. Once approved it will be published in the Staatscourant, the official government publication that formally announces new laws in the kingdom.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and activists celebrated the vote. Enshrining the rights of LGBTI people in the constitution is a “historic victory for the rainbow community,” said advocacy group COC Nederland. The Dutch LGBTQ+ rights group was founded in 1946 and is considered the oldest existing LGBTQ+ organization in the world.

Dutch media outlet NL Times noted that Article 1 states that everyone in the Netherlands “shall be treated equally in equal circumstances.” The following sentence goes on to explicitly mention several examples, including “religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex.” That list will now be expanded.

The procedure for such an adjustment takes years because it has to be voted on several times. With the Senate’s vote, that process has now been completed.

The change was the result of an initiative from coalition party D66 and left wing opposition parties PvdA and GroenLinks that has developed over the course of twelve years. “You can rightly call this day historic!” said D66 Member of Parliament Alexander Hammelburg, who helped defend the law in the Senate.

“A disability, or who you fall in love with, should never be a reason to be excluded,” said PvdA member Habtamu de Hoop.

NL Times also reported that since 2004, COC has advocated anchoring the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people in the Constitution. This has already happened in countries such as Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Mexico and South Africa.

An association representing people with physical and mental disabilities, or chronic illnesses, also called it a “historic” day. “Adding the disability basis to Article 1 is historic news,” said Ieder(in) director Illya Soffer. “The government is given an additional task to permanently improve and strengthen the position of people with a disability. Not only in legislation, but also in practice,” Soffer continued.

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France: Bullying & homophobia- 13 year old dies by suicide

According to the most recent statistics every year in France 700,000 pupils are victims of harassment at school

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GOLBEY, France – A 13-year-old student, the victim of homophobia and bullying at his school, was buried yesterday a week after he killed himself. The death shook this small township of around 8,000 people in northeastern France.

Identified only as Lucas, the young boy was a student at the Louis Armand college in Golbey. [The school is rough equivalent to an American middle school]

According to the French LGBTQ+ media outlet Têtu.com and media outlet ici par France Bleu & France 3, Valérie Dautreme, the academic director of the national education services in the Vosges, labeled the news “terrible” and acknowledged Lucas and his mother reported “mockery” related to the teenager’s sexual orientation from the first parent-teacher meeting last Fall in September. 

While the family has yet to comment on the circumstances leading to their son’s death, Dautreme says “the situation was taken very seriously by the establishment, by the head teacher,” claiming that school staff and peer groups intervened. She then said that in regards to the initial reporting of the bullying that “For us, and I mean at this stage, the situation had been resolved: Lucas said afterwards that things had settled down, that he was no longer being teased.”

Referring to his suicide she noted, “obviously, the investigation is in progress and for the moment, these are only incomplete elements.”

 “The family is destroyed by grief. The boy’s mother is asking for justice, she wants the investigation to identify those responsible so that they are punished – underlined the family’s attorney, Catherine Faivre. “Lucas had expressed that he was gay and his classmates were aware of it.”

The case drew the attention of France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron, who has intervened taking up the cause against bullying in the nation’s schools using Lucas’ case to spotlight the need for reform and prevention.

“I am in favor of raising the awareness of teaching staff and those who work in universities and high schools to better identify cases of harassment,” Macron told Le Parisien.

A portion of the teen’s diary was publicly disclosed in which he had written “I want to end it,” press accounts noted that he kept the diary locked in his desk drawer in his bedroom. The diary’s existence was disclosed as part of the ongoing investigation into the teen’s death by Frédéric Nahon, the local prosecutor [District Attorney] who noted in press accounts that the teenager’s diary was examined by the investigators who found there are no direct allusions to the reasons for the suicide.

Nahon said that the first interrogations of the family’s acquaintances and neighbors confirmed the existence of repeated homophobic teasing and insults. Nahon is trying to determine “the exact content of the insults, the duration over time of the bullying acts and any omissions by those who were aware of the facts.”  No criminal complaints have been filed.

According to the most recent statistics every year in France 700,000 pupils are victims of harassment at school.  

Last February France’s parliament adopted a new law that will make school bullying a criminal offence, which either students or staff can be prosecuted for Euronews reported.

Those found guilty under the new legislation face a €45,000 if the victim of bullying is unable to attend schools for up to eight days.

But more serious incidents can be punished with up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of €150,000 for longer periods of school absence or if the victim commits suicide or attempts to.

“Homophobia kills,” France’s openly gay Transport Minister Clément Beaune said to French media outlets after learning of the teen’s suicide. 

The Louis Armand college, which has 697 students, is involved in the national pHARe system to fight against bullying and its teachers are trained and students are also required to take classes to prevent bullying.

A crowd-fundraiser to defray funeral costs for the family was able to raise €7,554 ($8,182.76 USD).

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The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386

If you or anyone you love is experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call or text the number 988, which will direct you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It is free and available 24 hours a day.

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Irish government pledges to ban conversion therapy in 2023

Openly gay minister described practice as ‘cruel process’

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The Irish Dáil. (Photo by Honster/Bigstock)

DUBLIN, Ireland — The Irish government has committed to banning so-called conversion therapy in the country this year.

The Irish Mirror newspaper reported Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Minister Roderic O’Gorman, who is openly gay, last month described conversion therapy as a”cruel process rooted in the promotion of shame.” O’Gorman also stressed “a process that seeks for somebody to change their sexual orientation or gender identity is extremely exploitative, particularly if undertaken on someone under 18.

“I’d hope to bring the legislation into the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish Parliament) next year,” he told the Irish Mirror. “Obviously, legislation takes time but I think it’s possible we could have it passed by the end of the year. That’s certainly what I’d be working towards, but it could drift into 2024.”

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is also openly gay.

Malta, Brazil and Canada are among the countries that ban the widely discredited practice.

Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision last year to exclude Transgender people from a bill to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales sparked outrage among LGBTQ+ and intersex activists. The British government subsequently cancelled an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights conference after advocacy groups announced they would boycott it.

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Belgian Parliament approves a ban on conversion therapy

“Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights- but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal”

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Federal Parliament of Belgium, Palace of the Nation Brussels (Photo Credit: Federal Parliament of Belgium)

BRUSSELS – The Federal bicameral Parliament of Belgium approved a ban on the practise of conversion therapy according to the State Secretary for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Sarah Schlitz.

The Brussels Times, an English-language Belgian news website and magazine, reported that in a press statement Schlitz said: “Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights. Numerous legislative reforms and social efforts bear witness to this, but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal,” Schlitz said in a press release.

The Brussels based non-profit educational think tank association, Centre Permanent pour la Citoyenneté et la Participation, noted in a May 2022 report that the practices, which are aimed at changing or removing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, can take many forms ranging from the discussion table to drug treatments or exorcism sessions.

The Centre found that overall the affect of conversion therapy had long term damaging affects. The report went on to note that conversion therapy practices are “deceptive, ineffective and dangerous” practices that aim to change, suppress or eliminate the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of LGBTQ people.

Methods range from psychotherapy and electroshock therapy to beatings and even “corrective rape.” They can take place in religious, medical or sectarian environments, can be carried out by relatives or pseudo-professionals and have terrible consequences for the people who undergo them, The Brussels Times reported quoting the findings.

“The opportunity to be yourself and the freedom to live the way you want is a fundamental principle of our society that must not be compromised under any circumstances,” Schlitz said. “This prohibition is a powerful act to protect the victims from this symbolic, psychological and sometimes physical violence.”

The Times went on to report that anyone caught practising and violating the ban may be facing imprisonment of one month to two years and/or a fine of €100 to €300.

The language of the law also specifies that [the court] will also take into account whether the offence was committed by a person in a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the victim and whether the offence was committed against a minor or a person in a vulnerable situation.

Suggesting or inciting conversion practices, directly or indirectly, will also be penalised. The court will be able to prohibit people convicted of conversion practices from carrying out a professional or social activity related to the commission of these offences for a maximum period of five years, the Times noted.

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Lithuanian filmmaker uses work to advance LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Romas Zabarauskas came out in 2011 at Vilnius Film Festival

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Romas Zabarauskas (Photo by Arcana Femina)

WASHINGTON — A gay filmmaker from Lithuania who describes himself as the “Baltic enfant terrible” uses his work to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Romas Zabarauskas, 32, grew up in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

He told the Washington Blade during an interview in D.C. in August that he initially wanted to be an actor, but soon realized he wanted to direct films. 

Zabarauskas said the classic films — including John Waters’ “Pink Flamingos” and Douglas Sirk’s “All that Heaven Allows” —he watched in a local library exposed him to “the diversity of the world.” He also said Todd Haynes, Derek Jarman, Gregg Araki and other LGBTQ+ and intersex filmmakers “inspired” him.

“I enjoyed the diversity of the world,” he said. “It wasn’t just in terms of sexuality and gender identity, but also in terms of diversity of styles and ways of expression. It was amazing because it made me feel accepted.”

“It all sounds kind of trivial, but it’s true,” added Zabarauskas. “Cinema captures stories from all across the world in such different ways. That’s kind of amazing. I was definitely inspired by that.”

Zabarauskas studied at Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis University from 2009-2011 and at City College of New York: Hunter College from 2011-2012.

Romas Zabarauskas (Photo by Arcana Femina)

Zabarauskas’ first film, “Porno Melodrama,” which details a gay man’s decision to make a pornographic movie with his ex-girlfriend in order to make enough money for him and his boyfriend to leave Lithuania, premiered at Berlin Film Festival in 2011.

“There are many other films that have this kind of paranoia about gay villains, queer villains. I almost wanted to do something opposite,” Zabarauskas told the Blade while discussing the film. “It’s as though heterosexuality becomes this villain through the character of this villain, this ex-girlfriend. I wanted to play with that, allow myself that freedom to go very far. The title really hints more so, not to the erotic aspect of the film, because it’s not as explicit reality, but it’s more about the style of the film because it’s so out there.”

“Porno Melodrama” (Poster courtesy of Romas Zabarauskas)

Zabarauskas came out as gay during “Porno Melodrama”‘s premiere at the Vilnius Film Festival.

“Very few people were out (in Lithuania) then in 2011,” he noted. “I got a lot of media attention … I talked about what it means to be gay on TV, print and all kinds of media.”

“It was a double-edged sword,” added Zabarauskas. “I was happy to contribute with my openness and I continue to do so today. On the other hand, I got so much pressure … the direct homophobia is understandable and easy to dissect. You know what it is, but then there was a lot of gray zone. I feel like I was trapped. I went under this huge scrutiny.”

The Berlin Film Festival then screened “Porno Melodrama.” 

“I traveled the world, but then because I got so much media attention in Lithuania I was scrutinized by the critics and by film lovers and a lot of people (said) that I’m more of an activist,” said Zabarauskas. “I’m more of a public speaker than a filmmaker. The way I see it: Artists should be engaged or can be engaged, and it doesn’t contradict the art.”

The Lithuanian Film Center funded Zabarauskas’ third feature film, “The Lawyer,” which debuted in 2020.

“The Lawyer” highlights Marius, a gay corporate lawyer who forms what Zabarauskas describes as “an unexpected, human relationship” with Ali, Syrian refugee who is unable to leave Belgrade, Serbia, after his estranged father dies. Zabarauskas noted to the Blade that “The Lawyer” is the first Lithuanian film that portrays a male same-sex relationships and is one of the few made in Eastern Europe that shows LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees.

“I’m always interested in delving into very complicated political situations, but rather than to educate or send a direct message, I’m looking to find nuance and I’m looking to find interesting human drama,” he said. “I also don’t shy away from the kind of dialogue that they [Marius and Ali] have, in which they criticize [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad. It’s so important not to forget that that was still ongoing and actually its fueled by Russia and by Putin.”

Lithuanian television showed “The Lawyer” for the first time on Nov. 11.

Lithuanian Shorts, in 2021 screened “Porno Melodrama,” which coincided with the film’s revival. Zabarauskas’ films have also been screened at the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival and at New York City Pride’s human rights conference.

“The Lawyer” (Flyer courtesy of Romas Zabarauskas)

Zabarauskas spoke with the Blade nearly six months after Russia began its war against Ukraine.

Lithuania borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus, whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, a year before it dissolved.

Zabarauskas noted then-Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė in 2014 labeled Russia a “terrorist state” after it annexed Crimea. Lithuanian MPs in May unanimously approved a resolution that described Russia’s war against Ukraine as an “act of genocide.”

“It’s the first time that I can be so proud of my country,” Zabarauskas told the Blade, referring to Lithuania’s posture towards Russia. “I’m actually very proud that Lithuania is right in terms of its foreign policy towards Russia and has been for a while.”

Zabarauskas acknowledged there is “fear” among Lithuanians about whether Russia will target their country, but he said, “that primal fear isn’t there anymore.” Zabarauskas also noted Lithuanians have welcomed Ukrainians into their homes.

“That’s been inspiring,” he said.

Gay U.S. ambassador ‘setting a personal example’

Lithuania bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and has lifted restrictions for male blood donors who have sex with men. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, is among the more than 15,000 people who attended Baltic Pride 2022 in Vilnius in June. 

Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, the country’s second openly gay MP, is running to become Vilnius’ next mayor in 2023. Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. Audra Plepytė met with Zabarauskas when he was in D.C. 

“Us artists, we have this opportunity to build bridges, to make pressure,” said Zabarauskas. “We sometimes have more freedom than politicians in what we can say and what we can do. I always try to use that in meeting diplomats and politicians and reminding them that the Lithuania LGBT+ is a part of Lithuanian society and we should celebrate our rights and our lives and that’s important.”

Baltic Pride 2022 took place in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 4, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius)

The Harvey Milk Foundation in 2021 honored Zabarauskas for his work. Zabarauskas noted this recognition to the Blade and applauded openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist’s “personal leadership” on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

“I appreciate his leadership and I appreciate that he’s setting a personal example,” said Zabarauskas. “He’s making some impactful speeches at different events.”

Lithuania is one of only six European Union member states that do not legally recognize same-sex couples.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky in August announced his support for a civil partnership law for same-sex couples. Zabarauskas told the Blade he hopes Lithuanian lawmakers will follow the Ukrainian president’s lead and back an identical measure that has been introduced in Parliament.

“It’s so huge and a lot of people are inspired by those words, including in Lithuania,” said Zabarauskas. “I think it will be impactful in terms of our chances to get the civil unions law passed because it’s going to be very difficult to twist those words.”

Zabarauskas also said he and his fiancé want to get married in Lithuania.

“We got engaged earlier this year and we don’t want to get married abroad because it wouldn’t change anything in Lithuania,” he said.

Romas Zabarauskas (Photo by Arcana Femina)
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Poland’s highest court rules same-sex marriages aren’t forbidden

Poland has drawn condemnations from the European Union for its discriminatory laws surrounding LGBTQ+ people

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Warsaw Pride 2022 (Screenshot from video by Krystian Dobuszyński)

WARSAW, Poland – The Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Poland (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny, NSA) issued a ruling this week on Thursday that same-sex marriages of Polish citizens legally married in other countries were not expressly forbidden under the country’s constitution.

Article 18 of the constitution states: “marriage as a union of a man and a woman, family, motherhood and parenthood are under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.”

“Article 18 of the constitution cannot in itself constitute an obstacle to transcribing a foreign marriage certificate if the institution of marriage as a union of persons of the same sex was provided for in the domestic [legal] order,” the court ruled.

“The provision of the constitution in question does not prohibit the statutory regulation of same-sex unions,” said the court, adding that it was simply the case that “at present the Polish legislature has not decided to introduce such solutions” into Polish law.

The suit had been brought by Jakub Kwieciński and Dawid Mycek, a gay couple who are popular vloggers and social media celebrities who had legally married in Portugal. The case was litigated in the lower courts after the governor of the Polish province of Mazovia refused to acknowledge that their nuptials were legal.

Ordo Iuris, a Polish ultraconservative legal group that has campaigned against what it labels “LGBT ideology,” tweeted that the decision was “fake news.”

LGBTQ rights have become a hotly contested issue in Poland in recent years that has been met by a conservative backlash in this heavily Catholic nation.

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. 

According to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland is one of only six European Union member states where same-sex couples cannot marry or register a civil partnership. 

The survey reveals a stark difference between the Polish government and public opinion on LGBTQ+ rights. 

As a result of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, and the continued limits on LGBTQ rights in Poland, the country has for the last three years been ranked as the worst in the European Union for LBGTQ people by ILGA-Europe, a Brussels-based NGO.

Poland has also drawn condemnations from the EU for its discriminatory laws surrounding LGBTQ+ people. 

In September, the European Commission threatened to withhold pandemic relief funds, totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million), in Polish jurisdictions that passed measures forming “LGBTQ Free Zones.” 

Some regions have since repealed the anti-LGBTQ+ resolution. 

In 2020, Poland narrowly re-elected President Andrzej Duda, who ran a campaign that regularly attacked the LGBTQ+ community, according to Pink News

Polish LGBTQ+ advocates are also pushing back against a proposed law that would ban the so-called “promotion” of LGBTQ+ lifestyles. It would also make Pride parades illegal.

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Giorgia Meloni: Italy’s far-right anti-LGBTQ party leader wins

After years of activism she carved a space for herself in the Italian political arena & is now set to be Italy’s first female prime minister

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Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party speaks to supporters Sunday after polls close (Screenshot/YouTube)

ROME – Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party, appeared to have won in Sunday’s snap general elections according to exit polling. In a coalition with other right wing parties, Meloni’s right-wing alliance now looks to have control of both houses, with a projected 42.2% of the Senate vote.

This will lead to her forming Italy’s most right-wing government since World War Two and Meloni is now set to be Italy’s first female prime minister. However, the final say will rest with Sergio Mattarella the President of Italy, a decision that is expected to take some time according to political observers in Rome familiar with the inner workings of the Italian government.

Turnout for Sunday’s elections was dramatically low – 63.82% by the time polls closed – said Italy’s interior ministry, almost 10 points down on 2018. Voting levels were especially poor in southern regions including Sicily.

Meloni’s Facebook post made after the results had been announced translates to:

History we made today.

This victory is dedicated to all the militants, managers, supporters and every single person who – in these years – has contributed to the realization of our dream, offering soul and heart spontaneously and selflessly.

To those who, despite the difficulties and the most complex moments, have remained in their place, with conviction and generosity. But, above all, it’s dedicated to those who believe and have always believed in us.

We won’t betray your trust. We are ready to lift Italy up.

THANK YOU ! 🇮🇹

Meloni is seen as polarizing figure with some of her political stances and rhetoric on the European Union aligning her close to Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban. However, Professor Gianluca Passarrelli of Rome’s Sapienza University told the BBC he thought she would avoid rocking the boat on Europe and focus on other policies: “I think we will see more restrictions on civil rights and policies on LGBT and immigrants.”

Meloni has long displayed antagonism and intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community. She has stated that she perceives sees LGBTQ as menacing and threatening Western civilization.

The BBC noted that earlier this year she outlined her priorities in a raucous speech to Spain’s far-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!”

As LGBTQ+ equity and equality rights are foundational to the European Union and its governing commission, some see Meloni as combatting the EU over LGBTQ+ issues in the same vein as Hungary’s Orban.

On other issues Meloni doesn’t claim to “oppose” Europe, but rather she outlines a model of integration that may or may not go down well in Brussels euronews reported.

“If we had an EU more like the one we imagine, we would have developed a more effective defence policy, invested in energy security and maintained short value chains to avoid reliance on third – often untrustworthy – countries for gas, raw materials, commodities, chips and other goods,” she stated.

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Greece urged to combat intolerance, Cypriot Pride parade goes on

Despite the national LGBTQ+ equality plan, LGBTQ+ pupils continue to face “intolerant and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in school

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Courtesy of Accept-LGBTI Cyprus

STRASBOURG – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released its overview report this week of efforts by the Grecian government of President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, to curb continued discrimination to LGBTQ+ pupils in the nation’s schools and address intolerant hate speech in public especially by national media outlets.

The ECRI report congratulated the Greek governmental efforts as outlined in its 2020 National Action Plan against Racism and Intolerance, and acknowledged Greek broadcasters who have adopted use of a technical delay function, whereby the actual emission of “live” broadcasts is slightly delayed, permitting stations to stop hate speech from being broadcast.

However, the ECRI expressed concerns that Greece’s equality body – the Greek Ombudsman – still lacks competence to provide legal representation to victims of discrimination or intolerance in court, to pursue strategic litigation or to bring cases before the courts.

The report also noted that despite the national LGBTQ+ equality plan, LGBTQ+ pupils continue to face “intolerant and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in school, including from teachers.”

Another area of concern for the ECRI was that intersex persons, notably children, sometimes face “serious forms” of discrimination and intolerance, including from medical professionals who reportedly often recommend abortion of intersex children to expecting parents, while medically unnecessary surgery on intersex children is also common.

Additional highlights included that ECRI founds that frequent hate speech – at times involving politicians and even state officials – targets migrants, as well as members of LGBTQ+ communities and Roma (Gypsies).

Although the Hellenic Parliament has made improvements, the ECRI report raises concerns over the ability of NGOs in Greece to assist migrants, which was put at risk by a 2020 Ministerial Decision introducing stricter registration and operation rules for NGOs active in the sectors of international protection, migration and relocation, or the social integration of migrants. 

The report’s key findings and recommendations included:

·         Provide teachers with appropriate training to address LGBTI-phobic intolerance and discrimination in schools.

·         Take action to prevent intolerance and discrimination against intersex persons, including by prohibiting medically unnecessary sex-“normalising” surgery on young children and by developing guidelines and training on intersex equality rights for relevant professionals.

·         Establish a comprehensive monitoring system for hate speech incidents (including online), accompanied by public awareness campaigns.

·         Ensure that Roma are not evicted illegally and without proper notice or opportunity for rehousing in decent accommodation.

·         Review the applications of recent registration rules to ensure that all relevant NGOs can provide suitable support services to migrants.

·         Introduce decisive measures to enhance the effectiveness of investigations into police misconduct, be it motivated by racism or LGBTI-phobia, followed by, where warranted, effective sanctions against perpetrators.

Cyprus LGBT+ pride marchers seek equal family rights

This past Saturday, Sept 24, hundreds of activists marched in the streets of the Cypriot capital of Nicosia in a push for equal rights irrespective of sexual orientation, Reuters reported.

“Marriage for all” was the slogan of a parade using the Cypriot vernacular “Gamos Gia Oullous” to emphasize how local mentalities morphed policies. Marriage of same-sex couples is not permitted in Cyprus, while same-sex civil partnerships with a limited set of rights are legal.

Activists say a lack of a family law framework for same-sex couples deprives them from the right to adopt children, or give equal parental rights to a couple in a same-sex civil partnership.

“It’s virtually no-where, no discussion (at an official level) has started,” Antonis Papageorgiou, vice-president of Accept-LGBTI, the organizers of Sunday’s parade told Reuters.

LGBTQ+ activists are pushing the Cypriot government to finalize legal gender change recognition on state documents. Introduced in 2015 the measure approved by the executive has now gone to Parliament where it awaits final approval.

Papageorgiou told Reuters; “We simply cannot wait years for pieces of legislation to pass.”

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