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France, Greece end restrictions for MSM blood donors

Calls for U.S. to remove abstinence requirement grow

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gay blood ban, gay news, Washington Blade
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PARIS — France and Greece this week announced they will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood without restrictions.

Têtu, a French LGBTQ magazine, noted men who have sex with men previously had to remain abstinent for four months before they could donate blood in France.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran on Tuesday announced this requirement would no longer be in place as of March 16. Têtu also noted officials will no longer ask potential blood donors about their sexual orientation.

“It’s a whole new relationship with the blood donor that we want,” said Véran.

Greece on Monday also said it would allow MSM to donate blood without restrictions.

Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris and Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga issued a decree that will become official once the Government Gazette publishes it.

Greece and France are the latest countries to lift restrictions for MSM who want to donate blood.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently allows MSM to donate blood if they have not had sex with another man for three months.

The American Red Cross this week declared a blood crisis because of the surge in COVID-19 omicron variant cases. The declaration sparked renewed calls for the U.S. to allow MSM to donate blood without restrictions.

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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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Europe

Greece bans conversion therapy for minors

Bill passed in country’s Parliament on Wednesday

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Greek parliament building (Photo by katatonia82 via Bigstockphoto)

ATHENS, Greece — Greek lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that will ban so-called conversion therapy for minors.

Media reports note mental health providers will face fines and prison if they subject a minor to conversion therapy without their consent. The bill will also ban the advertisement of conversion therapy in the country.

“There were some false treatments that stated that when a minor has chosen a different sexual orientation, his parents could supposedly proceed with ‘treatments’ for this child to ‘return to normality'”, Health Minister Thanos Plevris said before the vote, according to Reuters. “Obviously these treatments not only are not a therapy but they are not supported scientifically.”

Laws that ban conversion therapy have taken effect in New Zealand, France and Canada in recent months.

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Ireland

Vicious killing of two men has Irish LGBTQ+ community on edge

Yousef Palani, 22, has been charged over the murders of the two men, police are investigating if the murders were hate crimes

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Michael Snee and Aidan Moffitt (Family photos/BBC)

SLIGO, Ireland – The LGBTQ+ community in the city of Sligo, in the north of Ireland, is reeling from the brutal murders of two LGBTQ+ men and the vicious assault of another man, crimes that were so horrific that Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland) Micheál Martin issued a statement on Twitter.

Thousands of people have attended vigils across Ireland in memory of the two men killed, both were found dead in their own homes in the city by the Sligo Gardaí (Police) this past week.

Sligo: Thousands attend vigils in memory of two murdered men:

According to the Irish Examiner, the Gardaí in Sligo are examining whether there is a homophobic motive for the grisly killings of two men in the town over the past two days. 

Michael Snee, 58, was found dead in his home in Sligo Town Wednesday night, while Aidan Moffitt, 42, was found dead in his home in the town on Monday night.

Yousef Palani, 22, has been charged over the murders of the two men- police are investigating if the murders were hate crimes.

Yousef Palani (Screenshot/SKYNEWS UK)

He will also be questioned about an attack on a man at the start of the weekend in which the victim lost an eye.

Sligo Gardaí superintendent Aidan Glacken told reporters in a press conference that Palani was arrested on Wednesday afternoon after the discovery of Mr Snee’s body in his apartment at around 10.30pm on Tuesday.

Mr Snee had been subjected to “serious physical assault and had suffered significant injuries”,  superintendent Aidan Glacken said. Mr Moffitt’s body was discovered in his house in Cartron Heights at around 8.30pm on Monday. He had also sustained “significant physical injuries,” Glacken added.

According to the Examiner police stated that use of a mobile phone dating app was a critical component in the investigation. Glacken told reporters that the Gardaí “will endeavour to seek out all the available evidence, and ultimately it will be for a Court to decide on the motivation behind these appalling crimes.”

“I am appealing to any person who may have been subject of any unwanted approaches or who was assaulted or otherwise attacked to contact the incident room at Sligo Garda Station. 

“I have a dedicated diversity team here, we need to hear from you, we are here to listen to you and we are here to support you.

“I continue to appeal to anyone with any information on these crimes to contact us at Sligo Garda station,” he said adding, “No matter how insignificant you think it may be, we need to hear from you.”

Sligo Pride, which organized one of the nationwide vigils for the two victims wrote on Twitter, “If you are meeting someone online in person for the first time, give a trusted friend as much information on this other person as you can and let your friend know where you are. We understand the worries and concerns at this time.”

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