Prodded by a reporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first public remarks about gays Feb. 1. Responding to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkovâ€™s recent denunciation of gay-pride parades as â€śsatanic,â€ť Putin said: â€śI respectâ€”and will respectâ€”freedom of people in all their manifestations. [But I will not be drawn into] statements made by leaders of the regions.
â€śMy attitude to sexual minorities is simple,â€ť he added. â€śIt is connected with my fulfilling of my official obligations. One of the main problems of the country is demographic.â€ť Putin was referring to the loss of population caused by Russiaâ€™s declining birthrate.
Moscow gay pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev called Putinâ€™s remarks â€śa great breakthrough ... the first serious reward for all our efforts to give input into the development of [a] free and democratic Russia, [although] we were expecting slightly more from him.â€ť
â€śBut we did the main thing,â€ť Alekseev said. â€śBecause of the mere idea of gay pride, [the] Russian president started to talk about sexual minorities.â€ť
Alekseev balked at the notion that homosexuality is to blame for Russiaâ€™s low birthrate. â€śIt is hardly possible to imagine ... five or seven percent of the population of a huge country to be responsible for the decrease of birthrates,â€ť he said. â€śThe problem of demography lies, first of all, in the economic area, and it should be solved [by] enhancing of health protection level, education and elementary increase of the quality of lives of people.â€ť
On Jan. 29, Mayor Luzhkov had told reporters: â€śLast year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as satanic. We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future. ... Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools. Such things are a deadly moral poison for children.â€ť
Last yearâ€™s pride ban, supported by the courts, led organizers to replace the planned parade with attempts to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a rally across from City Hall. Participants in both small events were violently attacked by neofascists, skinheads, Christians and riot police. Organizers again have vowed to march this year, on May 27.
Luzhkovâ€™s comments came on the day pride organizers filed suit in the European Court of Human Rights over last yearâ€™s ban. They seek the right to march and $26,000 in compensation. â€śNot a single European legal expert we have spoken with doubts in the success of our application to the court,â€ť Alekseev said.
Ontario Sperm Banks Can Ban Gay Ejaculate
The Ontario Court of Appeal in Canada ruled Jan. 29 that regulations requiring sperm banks to reject donations from men who had sex with a man since 1977 do not violate the nationâ€™s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The case was filed by a Toronto lesbian who wanted to use a gay friendâ€™s sperm, had been unable to get pregnant via self-insemination, and sought a clinicâ€™s help. The court called the ban a â€śrational and health-basedâ€ť approach to minimizing the possibility of HIV and hepatitis transmission.
There is a process under which men who have sex with men can donate sperm. They must submit a special request to the minister of health, have their ejaculate tested for diseases, have it quarantined for six months, then have it tested again. But the unnamed lesbian plaintiff called that process unfair to lesbians who personally know their gay-male donors.
Jerusalem Registers Same-Sex Marriage
Two Jerusalem men who got married in Canada were officially registered as married in Israelâ€™s Population Registry Jan. 29. Binyamin and Avi Rose were allowed to record their marriage following last Novemberâ€™s ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice that same-sex couples who marry in a place where it is allowedâ€”Belgium, Canada, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, South Africa or Spainâ€”are considered married in Israel.
The case was brought by five Israeli same-sex couples who married in Canada. â€śThe protests last year over the gay pride parade in Jerusalem really spooked us, and many of our friends here chose to leave the city,â€ť Avi Rose told the Jerusalem Post. â€śBut we are very committed to building our lives in Jerusalem and the Interior Ministry provided us with a very positive experience today.â€ť
Feds Again Squash Australian Capital Territory Civil-Union Bill
Australiaâ€™s federal government has again shot down an effort by the Australian Capital Territory to legalize same-sex civil unions. Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly had reformulated their bill, thinking they addressed the federal governmentâ€™s objections to the first version, but Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the revised measure still violates the Marriage Act, which says marriage is between a man and a woman.
Ruddock again vowed he would instruct the queenâ€™s representative, Governor-General Michael Jeffery, to override the law if it were passed.
The governor-general possesses such power only in regard to laws passed by the Capital Territory, which is politically similar to Washington, D.C. The ACT government will set the bill aside for now, with plans to move it forward if Prime Minister John Howardâ€™s conservative Liberal Party is ousted in the next federal election later this year.
But ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell is fuming over the delay. He accused the federal government and Ruddock of â€śarrogance and high-handedness ... by press release.â€ť
African Gay Paper Celebrates 200th Issue
The South African gay newspaper Exit held a party at Johannesburgâ€™s chic Oh Bar on Feb. 2 to celebrate its 200th issue. Publisher and Editor Gavin Hayward told the South African Press Association, â€śExit will never make me a millionaire, but I earn a living out of it.â€ť The monthly, free publication is 12 years old.
Transsexual MP Quits
The worldâ€™s first openly transsexual member of a national parliament, New Zealandâ€™s Georgina Beyer, is quitting this month. She has served for seven years and always intended to leave office by the time she turns 50, which will be in November. Beyer said her departure also will assist the Labour Partyâ€™s â€śrejuvenationâ€ť process.
After leaving office, Beyer will appear onstage in the Dunedin Fortune Theatreâ€™s production of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. She also is considering running for mayor of Wellington in the next election.
Assistance: Bill Kelley