South Africaâ€™s National Assembly passed the governmentâ€™s Civil Union Bill Nov. 14. The vote was 230-41 with 3 abstentions. The ruling African National Congress party ordered its 293 MPs to vote in favor of the legislation. There are a total of 400 seats in the chamber. The measure now moves to the National Council of Provinces, where it should pass easily, then to President Thabo Mbeki for his planned signature.
But the bill may be unconstitutional. A 2005 Constitutional Court ruling gave the government until Dec. 1 of this year to end the Marriage Actâ€™s discrimination against same-sex couples, finding that it violates the 1994 Constitutionâ€™s prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The court said that if lawmakers did not take satisfactory action by Dec. 1, the Marriage Act automatically would be construed to allow same-sex marriage.
The unusually worded bill just passed provides for the â€śvoluntary union of two persons, which is solemnised and registered by either a marriage or civil union.â€ť The bill did not change the wording of the Marriage Act itself. It also permits discrimination by allowing marriage officers and clergy to opt out of performing same-sex unions as a matter of â€śconscience, religion or belief.â€ť
South Africaâ€™s Human Rights Commission has called the bill unconstitutional, discriminatory and stigmatizing, and said the government should simply amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriages.
Outgames Lost Money
The 1st World Outgames, staged in Montreal last summer, lost $5.3 million, Quebec government auditors said Nov. 14. Organizers had reported a $200,000 surplus, but provincial accountants claim to have set the record straight. Games Co-Chair Marielle DupĂ©rĂ© blamed â€śa lack of public support, and the competing Gay Games in Chicagoâ€ť for the deficit. Montreal was supposed to host the Gay Games. But a nasty fight between Montreal organizers and the Federation of Gay Games led to the founding of the Outgames and relocation of the Gay Games to Chicago.
The Chicago games also lost money. Organizers there have been selling off assets and marketing Gay Games DVDs to recoup the loss. â€śWe owe about $190,000 in vendor bills and expect all to be paid off by end of first quarter 2007,â€ť said Chicago Games Inc. Co-Vice Chair Tracy Baim.
The next Outgames is scheduled for 2009 in Copenhagen and the next Gay Games is slated for 2010 in Cologne.
Jerusalem Parade Canceled A Fourth Time, Rally Held
Jerusalemâ€™s gay pride parade was canceled this month for a fourth time. Instead, organizers staged a small rally at Hebrew Universityâ€™s sports stadium on Nov. 10. Each time the parade had been scheduled, the police complained that some new threatening development in the nation was sapping their manpower and, as a result, they didnâ€™t have enough officers available to protect marchers from violent antigay zealots. Each time, parade organizers decided the policeâ€™s story seemed legitimate, and backed down from holding the parade.
The rally at the sports stadium attracted about 4,000 participants and 3,000 police officers. It followed days of antigay rioting in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods by forces opposed to any gay parade. Police said it would have taken 9,000 officers to protect a march.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmertâ€™s openly lesbian daughter, Dana, took part in the rally. â€śI was happy to be there with the sweetest people there is,â€ť she told Army Radio. â€śBut on the other hand, there is a sad feeling in that they took us into a closed area. It was a feeling of being in jail. At the entrance we were asked to put on a pink ribbon and the feeling was that the event is too sterile.â€ť
Singapore Will Continue To Ban Gay Sex
The final version of government-proposed amendments to Singaporeâ€™s penal code will legalize oral and anal sex for straight people but not for gays. The amendments, hammered out over a three-year period, were made public Nov. 9. A note from the Home Affairs Ministry that accompanied the amendment proposals said Singapore is â€śa conservative society [and] many do not tolerate homosexuality.â€ť But the government said it will not be â€śproactiveâ€ť in enforcing the remaining ban on male-male sex, which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison.
Another clause set for repeal punishes â€śunnaturalâ€ť sex of any sort with up to life in prison.
Argentine Crossdressers Decriminalized
Crossdressers in Argentinaâ€™s Mendoza province can now go out in public without fear of being arrested. Legislators repealed Article 80 of the Code of Misdemeanors which punished with 15 days in jail people who â€śin daily life wear clothes or attempt to pass as someone of the opposite sex.â€ť
Thirty-three people have been arrested under the law this year, and 19 were arrested last year.
-assisted by Bill Kelley.