Australiaâ€™s federal government introduced a bill in Parliament on Sept. 4 to extend spousal rights to same-sex de facto couples in areas such as health care, taxation, public benefits, veteransâ€™ affairs, workersâ€™ compensation and educational assistance. â€śThis is a long overdue reform which will help make Australia a fairer society,â€ť said Rodney Croome, spokesman for the Australian Coalition for Equality. â€śWe now urge the government to quickly move on to removing discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in family law, as it promised at the last election.â€ť
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the bill rewrites 68 Commonwealth laws and affects 19 government departments. â€śThe changes will make a practical difference to the lives of a group of our fellow Australians who have suffered discrimination for far too long,â€ť he said. â€śImportantly, the reforms will ensure children are not discriminated against because of the structure of their family. ... It is time to stop treating people differently under Commonwealth laws or programs because of who they love.â€ť
McClelland added that ending discrimination against gay couples has no impact on heterosexual marriage. â€ś(The) governmentâ€™s policy on marriage ... reflects the widely held view in the community that marriage is between a man and a woman,â€ť he said.
Some opposition parties have denounced the legislation, arguing that it sanctions â€śpolygamy,â€ť given that some people recognized as being in de facto partnerships also may be in estranged marriages.
â€śItâ€™s a fact of life that in some de facto relationships one partner may still be married, at least on paper, and that unless such de facto relationships have some legislative protection the unmarried partner is legally and financially vulnerable, especially if their de facto relationship breaks down,â€ť Croome commented. â€śThe governmentâ€™s initiative is about giving equal protection to de facto partners no matter what their personal circumstances, and we strongly urge both the government and the Senate not to cave in to the Oppositionâ€™s prejudices.â€ť
5,000 March in Glasgow
About 5,000 people marched in the gay pride parade in Glasgow, Scotland, Aug. 30, walking from Blythswood Square to George Square. The rainbow flag flew above the City Council chambers.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the crowd at the paradeâ€™s end, saying that â€śa successful Scotland is civilized, fair and inclusive and provides equal opportunity and choice for all its people.â€ť She said the government is committed to those goals.
Brits Win Gay Soccer Championship
The English gay soccer team Stonewall Lions defeated Argentina to capture the Gay World Football Championship trophy Aug. 30 in London. The tournament, organized by the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, drew 40 teams from Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden and the United States.
Leading British gay activist Peter Tatchell said gay soccer â€śchallenges the machismo and homophobia that is often associated with football.â€ť
â€śGay footballers help break down stereotypes and prejudice,â€ť he said. â€śThey are ambassadors for gay inclusion and equality.â€ť
The English team Leicester Wildecats FC won the World Second Division title. And Hackney Womenâ€™s FC won the World Womenâ€™s League competition. â€śIt is an amazing achievement that England has won all three titles,â€ť said tournament chair Mikey Collins, â€śWeâ€™ve firmly established our country as the No. 1 gay football nation in the world.â€ť
Alarm Over South African Gay Ruling
South Africaâ€™s Christian Democratic Party and the Apostolic Faith Mission Church have expressed alarm over a recent Pretoria High Court decision that fined a church for firing a music teacher because he was in a gay relationship, the South African Press Association reported. The bodies said churches should be allowed to hire and fire teachers based on religious tenets.
They said that while the constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, it also protects freedom of association and religion â€” and that the former should not trump the latter guarantees.
Apostolic Faith President Dr. Isak Burger said Christian values should not be subject to â€śan extremely secular and liberal constitutionâ€ť because the constitution should not be â€śabove the Bible and ... God.â€ť
The court determined the church, Nederduits Gerefor-meerde Kerk in Moreleta Park, had discriminated against Johan Strydom and must apologize to him and pay him $11,200.
Lesbians Jailed in Dubai
A Lebanese woman and a Bulgarian woman caught making out on a beach in Dubai were jailed for a month Aug. 31 after the Dubai Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling. The women were charged with committing indecent acts in public for kissing and fondling each other on Al-Mamzar beach.
When released from jail, the women will be deported, said the 7Days newspaper.
Italian Gay Cops, Troops Form Organization
Gay military members and police officers in Italy have formed an organization called Polis Aperta to confront â€ścreeping discrimination,â€ť group leader Nicola Cicchitti told the ANSA news agency. The group will meet officially for the first time Sept. 26 in Bologna.
About 200 people have joined so far â€” from the state, tax and traffic police; the armed forces; and the paramilitary Carabinieri corps.
Pride Canceled in Wales
Pride was canceled in Cardiff, Wales, Sept. 6 because the field in which it was to be held was flooded out by rain. Organizer Haydn Price told the Wales Echo that the waterlogged turf made the site dangerous to health and safety. Some events reportedly were relocated to a street in the downtown area.
Bosnian Pride Festival Provokes Opposition
Posters advocating â€śDeath to Gaysâ€ť appeared around Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in early September, in advance of the nationâ€™s planned first gay pride activities scheduled to begin Sept. 24. The five days of events, which will coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, have been denounced by some imams and politicians, who called them immoral and contrary to the teachings of the Quran.
The posters and anti-gay statements were condemned by local officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who said politicians should stress that discrimination and promotion of violence against gays is illegal.
â€śIt is unjustifiable that such intolerance has been met by silence from public officials and the government as a whole,â€ť said spokesperson Mersiha Causevic-Podzic.
-assistance: Bill Kelley