Eleven of 26 men who were arrested in November at an alleged gay wedding in Ghantout, United Arab Emirates, were imprisoned for six years on Feb. 11, local media reported.
The men were convicted under laws that ban obscenity and homosexual activity. A twelfth man was convicted only on obscenity charges and jailed for one year. The other individuals were acquitted.
A the time of the arrests, a government official had threatened that the men also could face hormone treatments. âBecause theyâve put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies,â Abu Dhabian Interior Ministry spokesman Issam Azouri told local media.
On Nov. 28, the U.S. State Department denounced the arrests. âThe arrest of these individuals is part of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals in the UAE,â the department said. âWe 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
After the U.S. statement was released, the head of the Abu Dhabian Interior Ministry Public Relations Department, Colonel Mohammed Ibrahim Al Hajiri, said that Issam Azouri is not the ministryâs official spokesman and that his remarks about hormone injections were ânothing but a personal analysis of the issue.â
Czech President Vetoes Partnership Bill
Czech President Vaclav Klaus vetoed a same-sex registered-partnership bill Feb. 16, Czech news outlets reported. He said the bill should have been approved by a majority of the members of the Chamber of Deputies rather than by a majority of those who were present for the vote. He also said gay unions undermine traditional values.
The bill passed the Chamber of Deputies 86 to 54 on Dec. 16. Seven deputies abstained and 53 were not present. It passed the Senate 45 to 14 on Jan. 26. Six senators abstained and 16 were absent.
The veto can be overridden by a vote of 101 members of the Chamber of Deputies, an absolute majority. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek denounced the veto, saying Klaus was âunable to overcome his prejudices.â The legislation extended to registered couples many of the rights and obligations of marriage.
A recent poll found that 62 percent of Czechs support same-sex registered partnership.
Three Gay âWeddingsâ A Day In Scotland
Scotland has seen at least three gay âweddingsâ a day since the United Kingdomâs comprehensive Civil Partnership Act took effect in December, The Scotsman newspaper reported Feb. 12.
The newspaper called the demand âastonishing.â The largest numbers of ceremonies have taken place in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Gay men have tied the knot at a rate more than double that of lesbians, the report said.
Israeli Court OKs Lesbian Adoption
The Ramat Gan Family Court has allowed a same-sex couple to adopt each otherâs biological children for the first time in Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported Feb. 13.
The case had been in the courts for nine years.
âItâs a very good feeling,â one of the kids, 15-year-old Arel Jarus-Hakak, told the newspaper. âWe were waiting for this for a very long time and now we are recognized as a family by the government.â arents Tal and Avital Jarus-Hakak gave birth to one child each, using in-vitro fertilization, in 1994 and 1997.
Religious Leaders, Mayor Oppose Moscow Pride
One of Russiaâs most prominent Islamic muftis said Feb. 14 that gays should be beaten if they stage a planned pride march in May, according to wire reports, GayRussia.ru, the BBC and local newspapers. âThe parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed,â said Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin of the Russian Muslim Central Directorate, according to one translation. âAlternative sexuality is a crime against God.â
Pride co-organizer Nikolai Alekseev, who also runs GayRussia.ru, called the muftiâs comments âunacceptable.â âWe have never heard yet so strong words of hatred towards sexual minorities from influential public figures,â Alekseev said. âWe will do the legal analyses of muftiâs statements and will take a decision concerning the application to the general prosecutor.â On Feb. 15, the Russian Orthodox Church weighed in on the matter, calling homosexuality âruinous behavior and sin,â according to several reports.
âA gay parade is [an] attempt to romanticize sin to make it attractive,â the Rev. Mikhail Dudko of the Moscow Patriarchateâs Department for External Church Relations reportedly said. âWe are simply obliged to come out strongly against such an activity.â
Also on Feb. 15, Russian Pentecostal leader Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky told reporters that Pentecostals and other believers are prepared to stage a countermarch by âone million people.â He called homosexuality âsexual perversion.â
Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar also opposes the march, saying it is as offensive to believers as the Danish cartoons that have sparked Muslim outrage in several nations.
On Feb. 16, a spokesman for Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said the city will not allow the parade to take place because reports about plans for the parade have outraged society and religious leaders. He said an unauthorized parade or rally would be âresolutely quashed.â
Parade organizers say they will fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary, to assure the parade goes ahead as planned.
Finland Set to Allow Lesbian Insemination
Finlandâs government has signed off on a bill currently before Parliament that would grant single women and lesbians unfettered access to fertility treatment, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reported Feb. 11.
Minister of Justice Leena Luhtanen drafted the measure to lift the restrictions that have impeded the procedures.
The bill also grants people aged 18 and above the right to learn the identity of their biological mother or father in cases of sperm or egg donation, the report said.
Assistance: Bill Kelley