South Africaâ€™s top court legalized same-sex marriage Dec. 1, saying that banning it violates the nationâ€™s post-apartheid Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Constitutional Court gave Parliament one year to make the necessary changes in law. If Parliament fails to act, the court will rewrite the Marriage Act itself.
Ten judges supported the ruling and one dissentedâ€”but only so she could argue that the ruling should take effect immediately rather than after a year.
In a â€śmedia summaryâ€ť of the case, the judges said: â€śThe exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage was not a small and tangential inconvenience resulting from a few surviving relics of societal prejudice destined to evaporate like the morning dew. It represented a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples. It signifies that their capacity for love, commitment and accepting responsibility is by definition less worthy of regard than that of heterosexual couples. The intangible damage to same-sex couples is as severe as the material deprivation. They are not entitled to celebrate their commitment to each other in a joyous public event recognised by the law. They are obliged to live in a state of legal blankness in which their unions remain unmarked by the showering of presents and the commemoration of anniversaries so celebrated in our culture.â€ť
The decision came in a case brought by Pretoria couple Marie Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys, after the government refused to recognize their 2002 marriage. The ruling also covered a case brought by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project which challenged the Marriage Actâ€™s references to â€śhusbandâ€ť and â€śwife.â€ť Full same-sex marriage also is allowed in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Massachusetts.
United Arab Emirates May Give Arrested Gays Hormones
Twenty-six men were arrested in the United Arab Emirates in late November at a hotel in the city of Ghantout during what police called a mass homosexual wedding.
They face lashings, five years in jail and possible forced treatment with male hormones.
â€śThere will be no room for homosexual ... acts in the UAE,â€ť Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri told the Khaleej Times.
Interior Ministry spokesman Issam Azouri added: â€śBecause theyâ€™ve put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies. â€śIt wasnâ€™t just a homosexual act,â€ť he said. â€śNow weâ€™re dealing with a kind of marriage. There was a ritual involved.â€ť
On Nov. 28, the U.S. State Department denounced the arrests. â€śThe United States condemns the arrest of a dozen same-sex couples in the United Arab Emirates and a statement by the Interior Ministry spokesman that they will be subjected to government-ordered hormone and psychological treatment,â€ť the department said.
â€śThe arrest of these individuals is part of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals in the UAE. We call on the government of the United Arab Emirates to immediately stop any ordered hormone and psychological treatment and to comply with the standards of international law.â€ť
After the U.S. statement was released, the head of the Abu Dhabian Ministry of the Interior Public Relations Department, Colonel Mohammed Ibrahim Al Hajiri, claimed that spokesman Issam Azouri is not the ministryâ€™s official spokesman and that his remarks about â€śhormone injectionsâ€ť were â€śnothing but a personal analysis of the issue [that] does not represent the viewpoint of any of the authorities concerned.â€ť
Amnesty International Blasts Poland
Amnesty International denounced Poland on Nov. 25 for â€śa climate of intolerance ... against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, characterized by the banning of public events organized by the LBGT community, openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians, and incitement of homophobic hatred by some right-wing groupings.â€ť
The organization also expressed concern over â€śthe recent abolition of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities.â€ť
On Nov. 15, the mayor of Poznan, Ryszard Grobelny, banned the cityâ€™s gay-pride parade due to â€śsecurity concerns.â€ť Despite the ban, a few hundred people gathered Nov. 20 for a demonstration. They were harassed by members of the group All Polish Youth, who shouted â€śLetâ€™s gas the fagsâ€ť and â€śWeâ€™ll do to you what Hitler did with Jews.â€ťThe police intervened near the end of the march, roughed up several marchers, and arrested and interrogated more than 65, who were later released.
â€śAmnesty International is concerned that the events in Poznan are not a one-off event, but part of a series of bans on events by the LGBT community,â€ť the organization said.
Warsawâ€™s gay-pride parade also was banned by local officials both this year and last. Mayor Lech Kaczynski, who is now Polandâ€™s president, called this yearâ€™s parade â€śsexually obscene.â€ť An improvised march took place on June 10 anyhow, with more than 2,500 participants.
New Zealand May Ban Same-Sex Marriage
A bill to ban same-sex marriage was scheduled for first reading in New Zealandâ€™s Parliament Dec. 7. The measure also would prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages from abroad and amend the Bill of Rights Act to specify that any law designed â€śto promote or advance marriageâ€ť is exempt from being found in violation of the act.
A comprehensive civil-union law for same-sex couples took effect in New Zealand eight months ago.
Switzerland Elects Gay House Speaker
Members of Switzerlandâ€™s House of Representatives elected an openly gay speaker Nov. 28. Lawyer Claude Janiak, a Social Democrat, received 154 of the 177 votes cast.
In his first address to the body, Janiak called on fellow MPs to eschew political posturing and vote their convictions, swissinfo.org reported. Janiak is best known for lobbying for an easier citizenship procedure for young foreigners, pushing for legalization of marijuana, and denouncing the Roman Catholic Churchâ€™s opposition to same-sex partnerships. He will serve in the position for 12 months.
Push To Report Antigay Abuses To U.S. State Dept.
Activists in London and San Francisco are urging people around the world to report antigay abuses to the U.S. State Department. They hope to increase the number of such incidents that are included in the departmentâ€™s country-by-country human-rights report, which the agency must produce and send to Congress each year. Submissions must be received at the State Department before the end of 2005.
â€ś[This] will help improve the U.S. State Departmentâ€™s monitoring of such abuses and expand a data base that can be used by human rights campaigners pressing for an end to homophobia,â€ť said longtime independent activist Michael Petrelis. â€śThe data will also be helpful to corroborate the claims of gay people fleeing persecution and seeking asylum.â€ť
â€śThe massive scale of homophobic persecution worldwide is grossly underdocumented in all official human rights reports,â€ť added London activist Peter Tatchell of the gay-rights group OutRage!. â€ś[We] will be submitting evidence to the U.S. State Department based on our firsthand evidence from LGBT refugees.â€ť Reports should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assisted by Bill Kelley