Panamanian President MartĂn Torrijos Espino signed a decree July 29 repealing a 1949 law that criminalized sodomy under penalty of a $500 fine or jail time. The move followed protests by the gay group New Men and Women of Panama and other human-rights defenders, local media said. The decree, issued by the Ministry of Health and also signed by Health Minister Rosario E. Turner, said the ban was at odds with the Panamanian Constitution and international human-rights treaties Panama has signed.
It also said the law conflicted with the Health Ministryâs policy to âmaintain respect for the sexual preferences of each person, without the existence of any type of discriminationâ in the operation of its sexually transmitted diseases programs.
According to Amnesty International, 11 nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean continue to ban gay sex â Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
All of the countries are former British colonies.
President Defends Gay Rights in Draft Ecuadorean Constitution
President Rafael Correa has defended a new draft Ecuadorean constitution that grants same-sex couples the rights of marriage, El TelĂ©grafo reported Aug. 1. The document faces a popular vote Sept. 28.
Speaking in the city of Monteverde, Correa said: âJesus of Nazareth never preached hatred, homophobia or segregation; instead he knew to say, âLove one another.â
âIt is false that (the draft) is recognizing as family the union of homosexuals. What we are doing is recognizing the dignity of all people without discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, etc.â
âLetâs hope, now that thereâs been so much talk about moral incompatibilities between the new constitution and the Gospel, sometimes utilizing falsehoods, that we also can talk with equal force about the profound incompatibility of the social situation â of that inequality, of that existing social injustice â with the Gospels,â Correa said.
A poll released Aug. 5 found that 47 percent of citizens plan to vote for the constitution and 31 percent plan to reject it. A âyesâ vote of more than 50 percent is needed for the document to take effect. The poll questioned 1,160 citizens nationally and had an error margin of 4 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.
Dutch Cabinet Ministers Join Gay Pride
Several members of the Dutch Cabinet took part in the Aug. 2 gay-pride boat parade on Amsterdamâs canals. Education and Culture Minister Ronald Plasterk, who is responsible for gender equality, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that gay matters are âimportant social issuesâ and that he was representing âthe entire (governing) coalition.â
âWe encourage people to dare to be themselves and live the way they want,â he said.
A record 80 boats joined the four-hour parade, including entries by the city police, the mayor, the armed forces, several political parties, and gays from the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean.
About half a million people turned out for the festivities.
Big Turnout For Rainy EuroPride
About 450,000 spectators and 45,000 marchers turned out for the rain-drenched EuroPride parade, held this year in Stockholm Aug. 2. Marching groups included the dominant Church of Sweden, 80 businesses and six of the seven political parties represented in Swedenâs Parliament. There were a record 152 floats.
The Stockholm Fire Department took part for the first time. âWe are bad at pluralism in the fire brigade,â Fire Chief Jan WisĂ©n told EUobserver.com. âStatistically, it is not plausible that none of them are gay. Sadly, the fact that none has come out signals that they feel the fire brigade environment is not accommodating to gays, and we have to change that.â
The department has 400 members.
A wide variety of other EuroPride events took place over 10 days. Next yearâs EuroPride will be in Zurich, Switzerland.
Homophobic Outburst Ups Attendance at Belfast Pride
A recent homophobic outburst from British MP Iris Robinson, who is married to Peter Robinson, leader of the regional government in Northern Ireland, was credited with upping attendance at the Aug. 2 Belfast gay pride parade to around 4,000 marchers, despite bad weather.
During a recent Grand Committee debate in Parliament, Mrs. Robinson was quoted as saying, âThere can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.â She later said she meant the comparison to be the other way around.
Mrs. Robinson also reportedly said, in June, that homosexuality is âdisgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile.â
In addition to serving in the British Parliament, Mrs. Robinson also is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The parade began at Customs House Square and ended at City Hall. The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tom Hartley, joined the procession, calling it âthe real face of 21st-century Belfast.â
âThis is our city at its most diverse and this is one of the most creative communities we have in Belfast,â Hartley told The Observer.
Fewer Czech Gays Are Entering Registered Partnerships
Not as many same-sex couples are taking advantage of the Czech Republicâs registered-partnership law as was the case in 2006 when the law came into force, the newspaper PrĂĄvo reported Aug. 4. From July 1, 2006, to the end of that year, 235 same-sex couples tied the knot, but in the first half of 2008, only 105 couples have done so.
The report also said the largest number of same-sex unions have occurred in Prague, male unions have outnumbered female unions, and there have been nine same-sex divorces.
The Czech Republic has a population of about 10 million.
-assistance: Bill Kelley