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December 28, 2012

News Briefs

Illinois may be the next state with full marriage

Springfield, Ill.--Illinois may be poised to be the next state to pass full same-sex marriage, as two lawmakers push for a vote when the legislature reconvenes in January.

Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans, who were both at the forefront of the civil union bill that passed in 2011, pointed to increasing support for marriage nationally, as well as President Barack Obama’s backing of it. In the November general election, voters in three states approved full marriage laws and Minnesotans shot down a ban amendment.

“It’s very straightforward. We treat all couples with the same respect and dignity in the eyes of the law and we protect the rights of religious institutions to either consecrate or not consecrate marriages within their faith as they see fit,” Harris told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Pat Quinn hopes to sign the marriage bill into law in January, and if it does pass, it would take effect July 1. Steans believes that they are “in striking distance of being able to get it done.”

Uganda ‘kill gays’ bill is off again

Kampala, Uganda--The draconian anti-gay bill that will not die has gone back into a coma as the Ugandan parliament recessed for the end of the year.

The bill, first introduced in 2009, would call for the death penalty for “habitual offenders” or “aggravated homosexuality,” and levies stiff penalties against people found guilty of speaking in favor of gay rights, engaging in sexual activity with a person of the same gender or other “offenses,” even something as small and innocuous as holding hands.

The speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, promised a vote as a “Christmas present” for the country. Earlier attempts to pass the bill failed partly due to international pressure, primarily from Europe and the Americas, where governments threatened to cut off aid to the African nation.

Same-sex sexual activity is already illegal in Uganda, carrying sentences of up to 14 years in prison.

3 years for texting, ‘In love with you’

Yaounde, Cameroon--An appellate court on December 17 upheld a three-year sentence for a man who texted another saying, “I’m very much in love with you.”

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, already served a year and a half of his sentence when he was released on bail in July pending the appeal. According to Mbede, he faced physical and verbal harassment in prison, which had a detrimental effect on his health.

While anti-gay laws are common in Africa, prosecutions are rare. Cameroon, however, had 14 prosecutions last year, with 12 convictions. Cameroonian law carries penalties up to five years in prison for engaging in same-sex sexual activity. According to a researcher with Human Rights Watch, Cameroon engages in more prosecutions under anti-gay laws than any other African country, and convictions are usually based on simple denunciations, rather than actual evidence.

In October, two men were convicted because they had effeminate appearances and were drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Attorneys defending clients accused of homosexual offenses are routinely threatened, including Alice Nkom, Mbede’s attorney.

Anti-gay crime is a fifth of all incidents

Washington, D.C.--A December 10 report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicated that a fifth of all bias crimes in 2011 were based on sexual orientation.

The Uniform Crime Reporting Program that 1,293 of the 6,216 hate crimes reported to the FBI last year were based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. The 20.8 percent is slightly higher than the 19.3 percent in 2010.

In the same two years, those that were racially motivated dropped .4 percent, while those based on religion stayed stable, at about 20 percent as well.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ report for 2011 showed an 11 percent increase in anti-gay murders; the NCAVP report also notes that police agencies tend to underreport anti-gay crimes, either because of a lack of understanding of what constitutes an anti-gay crime or because they do not know to report it as such.

Hagel is sorry for old Hormel comment

Washington, D.C.--Former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the Republican who may be nominated by President Obama to be the new Secretary of Defense, apologized on December 21 for a 14-year-old comment about the openly gay ambassador to Luxembourg.

After businessman James Hormel was nominated to the post, Hagel was quoted in a Nebraska newspaper saying, “Ambassadorial posts are sensitive. They are representing America. They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay--openly, aggressively gay.”

The remark raised concerns last week that Hagel as defense secretary might not fully support openly gay or lesbian people serving in the military.

“My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive,” Hagel wrote in a statement last week. “They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

But Hormel questioned his sincerity, pointing out that the statement was sent only to media outlets, and he has yet to receive any communication from Hagel.

Hormel said that Hagel had originally promised to help move his nomination by President Clinton to the Senate floor for a vote, then went back on it. Clinton then put Hormel through as a recess appointment.

Hormel did tell the Washington Blade that it presented a “watershed situation” when a potential public official must avow their commitment to LGBT equality.

He later posted to his Facebook page, “While the timing appears self-serving, the words themselves are unequivocal--they are a clear apology. Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted--perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too. His action affords new stature to the LGBT constituency, whose members still are treated as second class citizens in innumerable ways. Senator Hagel stated in his remarks that he was willing to support open military service and LGBT military families. If that is a commitment to treat LGBT service members and their families like everybody else, I would support his nomination.”

Uruguay House passes marriage bill

Montevideo, Uruguay--The lower house of the Uruguayan legislature approved a new marriage law on December 11 that makes marriage equal for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

It also lets all couples choose which surname is first in naming children. Latin American countries tend to require the father’s last name first, then the mother’s.

The law also replaces a 100-year-old divorce law, which only gave women the right to renounce marriage vows without cause. It was originally passed as a way to give women more power in a society dominated economically and politically by men.

The bill passed with a large margin, and now goes to the Senate.

Argentina and Canada also have full same-sex marriage, as do six European nations, Iceland and South Africa. The Mexican Supreme Court ruled last month that all states must honor same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City. Argentina’s law also requires parental surnames to be in alphabetical order for children of same-sex couples.

The debate in the Uruguay legislature hinged more around  provisions about the naming of children, rather than expanding marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The country is also considering a law putting marijuana sales in government hands to fight illegal trafficking. The country became the first in Latin America to legalize abortion earlier this year.

Uruguay already has a civil union law.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.














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