| Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev.
Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russiaâ€™s seniormost religious leader, told European MPs on Oct. 1 that homosexuality is like compulsive thieving. Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Alexy said homosexuality is â€śan illness [and] distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.â€ť
â€śWhy donâ€™t we have advertising for kleptomania?â€ť he asked. Alexy added that â€śno one should force me and my brothers and sisters in faith to keep quiet when we call something a sin when it is a sin according to the word of God.â€ť He noted, however, that Orthodox Christians must â€ślove sinners despite their sins.â€ť
Some MPs from other Orthodox Christian nations applauded the patriarchâ€™s remarks.
The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, promotes democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and similar agreements. Forty-seven nations are members.
Decisions are made by the Committee of Ministers, which is composed of the 47 foreign ministers or their deputies. The 640-member Parliamentary Assembly, composed of members of the 47 national parliaments, conducts investigations and makes recommendations. The secretariat, headed by the secretary general, who is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly, employs some 2,000 people recruited from the 47 nations. Other council components include the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, a voice for Europeâ€™s regions and municipalities; and the European Court of Human Rights.
Russian Blood-Donation Activists Fined
Six Moscow gay activists arrested outside the Ministry of Health and Social Development while protesting Russiaâ€™s ban on gay blood donors were each fined $20 or $40 Sept. 26. Tverskoi District Court Judge Natalya Dyatlova determined the demonstrators had violated Article 20.2 of the Code on Administrative Offenses by staging an unauthorized public event. Only protest organizer Alexey Davydov received the higher fine.
Russia banned gays from donating blood in 2001. The general prosecutorâ€™s office has since determined that the ban is illegal but the ministry has failed to lift it, said Nikolai Alekseev of Project GayRussia.Ru.Â â€śWe are going to appeal the court decision [and if] necessary, we are ready to take the cases of those activists up to the European Court of Human Rights,â€ť he said.
Irish Government Accused of Hypocrisy
Irelandâ€™s Equality Authority, an independent agency created by the government, has accused the government of hypocrisy on gay issues. The authority criticized the government Oct. 1 for excluding religious schools from laws that ban firing people based on sexual orientation. Schools and other religious institutions are allowed to oust homosexuals in order to protect their religious ethos.
Over 90 percent of elementary schools in Ireland reportedly are run by churches. â€śThe ... government makes a commitment to rights for same-sex couples but that commitment means nothing for people who work in schools or other religious institutions,â€ť said Equality Authority chief executive Niall Crowley.
Activists say that in predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland, the legal exemption also could affect teachers who are divorced or who cohabit with an opposite-sex partner. Catholic teaching considers as serious sins such things as masturbation, sex outside of marriage, gay sex, any sex act (even within a marriage) that canâ€™t lead to pregnancy, and any second marriage that is not accompanied by an official church annulment of the first marriage.
Guatemalan Bill Targets Gay Families and Single Parents
Legislation pending in Guatemalaâ€™s Congress would define â€śfamilyâ€ť solely as a father, a mother and their child or children. The Integral Protection for Marriage and Family Act would bar single parents and same-sex couples from the definition of â€śfamilyâ€ť and punish any Guatemalan official who publicly contradicts the definition.
â€śFamily essentially originates, exclusively, from the conjugal union between a man and a woman ... through marriage or through a legally declared de facto union and other social forms, such as a religious ceremony or ritual, custom or cultural practice, as the only natural design,â€ť the bill states.
Human Rights Watch denounced the measure Oct. 1, saying it â€śwould declare that nearly 40 percent of Guatemalan families ... are not families at all.â€ť
â€śThis bill takes aim at lesbian and gay couples, but it has almost half of Guatemalan children and parents in its sights,â€ť said HRW LGBT-rights researcher Juliana Cano Nieto. â€śTargeting children and their caregivers in the name of a political agenda is not only unjustifiable, it is morally reprehensible.â€ť
Lesbians and Gays March in Soweto
About 150 people, mostly lesbians, staged a gay pride march in Johannesburgâ€™s large, black Soweto district Sept. 29. Wearing shirts with the slogan â€śPissed off woman,â€ť the participants demanded, among other things, protection from homophobic attacks.
In July, a lesbian couple was murdered â€śexecution styleâ€ť and their bodies were found dumped in a field in Meadowlands township. Sizakele Sigasa, 34, and Salome Masooa, 23, were tortured and raped, then shot to death. Police have yet to arrest anyone for the crimes.
The pride march began at Mphuthi Street and Roodepoort Road in Central Western Jabavu, proceeded to the Meadowlands police station and ended at Credo Mutwa Park.
Norwegian Bishops OK Gay Pastors
The Bishopsâ€™ Conference of Norwayâ€™s dominant Lutheran church voted 6-5 Oct. 2 to allow openly gay pastors. The conference offers advice but does not set policy. The matter now advances to the Church of Norwayâ€™s General Synod, where a formal decision can be made. The body next meets Nov. 12-27.
Saudi Men Sentenced to 7,000 Lashes
Two Saudi men convicted of sodomy have received the first set of 7,000 lashes in punishment, the Okaz daily newspaper reported Oct. 4. The whipping took place in public in the southwestern city of Al Bahah on Oct. 2, the paper said. The men were not named. After the beatings, they were returned to prison to await further sets of whippings. The report did not specify how many lashes are meted out each time.
Assistance: Bill Kelley