The year in GAY news
2010 was a pretty crazy year for gay news. We had our ups and downs. The battle for real human rights around the world is still being waged by LGBT people everywhere.
Here are my choices for the top gay news stories from the past year:
In January, Australia's government voted to uphold the ban on gay adoption. "There is insufficient community support to justify new legislation on the topic," they said.
Groups representing same-sex couples denounced the decision and stated that an opportunity to redress discrimination had been missed. Kellie McDonald, Co-Convenor of NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said the decision was "extremely disappointing."
"If the NSW Government's primary concern was the interests of the children, it would rectify the discrimination of the NSW Adoption Act," she said. "I'm not sure what more can be done."
GLEE'S Jane Lynch, who plays the popular cheer coach, Sue Sylvester, had this to say in an interview with the UK's Guardian Newspaper:
"Shouldn't there be safeguards against the majority voting on the rights of a minority? If people voted on civil rights in the sixties, it would have never happened. It took somebody like [President] Lyndon Johnson going, 'F--k all of you! I'm going to do this.' Obama won't do it. He's a huge disappointment to me."
Lynch (pictured above) also talked about growing up:
"I didn't know what gay was in high school. We used the word queer when someone was weird. When I finally heard what it really meant, my heart sank, and I thought, 'Oh God, that's me.'"
And about gay actors being out in Hollywood:
"I think if I were an ingénue – if I were Kate Winslet – it probably would hurt my career, but because I'm Jane Lynch and I'm a character actor, the world isn't projecting their romantic fantasies on me."
The Prop 8 trial began in the US and the Mormon church and its meddling ways were pulled into the fold...
A gay couple was arrested in Malawi and ridiculed in court. Mr Chimbalanga and his partner Steve Monjeza, 26, had been charged with unnatural practices between men and gross public indecency because they were married in a gay civil ceremony.
The two men underwent what rights groups have described as inhumane medical tests to prove whether the two had had intercourse and whether they are mentally stable.
Homosexuality is a criminal offence in the conservative southern African nation and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
The USA, Canada and the UK finally spoke out against Uganda's Anti Gay bill. Uganda responded with this from the chairman of their national task force against sodomy, pastor Martin Sempa:
"Most Ugandans do not support homosexuality. We are to launch a campaign against consumption of US, UK, and Canada products in Uganda if those countries continue to threaten our country because of the anti-gay bill. We will make people stop buying Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and other products from USA."
Ugandan observers, however, claim that while the government might not tolerate Sempa’s declarations because of the high economic stakes, Sempa’s threats, if realized, could prove risky for Ugandans as they could put a high number of people out of work.
February's first big story was of course Vancouver's own Pride House. A club house of sorts for LGBT athletes, coaches, trainers and fans. Well not officially an Olympic venue, the IOC backed the opening of Pride House in both Vancouver's west end and the Whistler village.
Plans are to now have a Pride House at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, and an organization in Russia is trying to organize the same for Sochi, 2014.
February 14th, Valentine's Day, saw the new tradition of Gay Kiss-Ins beginning to spread across the world. This is a prime opportunity for the LGBT community to make a lack of partnership rights visible, in the United States or any other country that observes the unofficial ode to lovers. The biggest is still in Paris but this year saw huge kiss-ins happen in Peru, Argentina, Chile and Mexico.
On March 4th, a new law came into effect in Mexico City allowing gays to marry AND adopt children. Resident Judith Vazquez said, "Our real battle is with our people in Mexico... Now we will have to leave our symbolic closet because we will be [considered] citizens and we have to go out to live in freedom." So far in Latin America, only a handful of cities, in Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia, allow gay unions.
March also saw the beginning of DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) protests in the USA. The most attention-getting event involved the openly gay Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo chaining themselves to the gates of the Whitehouse.
Gays attending high school proms were big in the news this month, as the story about lesbian high school student Constance McMillen from Mississippi broke. Eventually the case went to federal court and Constance got her day on the Ellen Show.
The University of Ottawa did us proud by getting 2000+ students to protest a planned speach by hate mongerer, Anne Coulter...ultimately leading to its cancellation.
We also saw the first civil partnership take place in the British Parliament.
"Bryant, a member of the governing Labour Party, won permission to hold his civil partnership ceremony with partner Jared Cranney at the Palace of Westminster — home to the Houses of Parliament. (picture below)
Bryant lobbied House of Commons speaker John Bercow to apply for a license to host his civil partnership ceremony."
This isn't a one time thing. Same-sex marriage ceremonies in Parliament will now be open to all members of the public, including same-sex couples.
Said Bryant of the ceremony: "Parliament is special because it has made it possible. We are delighted that everyone in the UK can now share in a privilege that used to be available just to straight MPs."
The end of March saw the raid and shut down of a gay conference in Indonesia.
A mob of Islamist extremistists convinced local police in Indonesia to raid the first ever conference for gays and lesbians in that country, shutting it down on its first day. The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) event was being held in the city of Surabaya and was scheduled to end today.
The Gay City News reported:
"According to Indonesian newspapers, the mob was organized jointly by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) –– which has a long history of attacking Indonesian LGBT people and was described by the Jakarta Post as a radical group of hardline fundamentalists –– and the Indonesian Council of Ulema, an association of Muslim clerics."
ILGA’s co-secretary-general, Renato Sabbadini, described the violent invasion of the hotel where attendees were guests:
“The rule of law was basically suspended during the occupation by the Islamists, and both the police and the hotel management gave in completely to the demands of the mob’s leaders, who threatened to call in reinforcements if their demands were not met," he added. "The hotel management even went so far as to give a complete list of the conference participants staying in the hotel to the mob."
“Later that evening, mob members conducted a floor-by-floor sweep of the hotel, going to the rooms of conference participants to make sure they had left.” A planned screening of the award winning documentary, Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride, by Vancouver film makers Bob Christie and yours truly was also cancelled and the film confiscated.
According to Asia News, "The members of ILGA had chosen Surayaba as the site of the event because of its atmosphere of tolerance."
On March 30th Ricky Martin finally came out in an official statement on his website saying, "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."
April saw the first of many Give a Damn videos in support of LGBT rights. The campaign was started by Cyndi Lauper as a way for everybody who cares about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality to speak up and be heard.
One of the first and most impressive videos is done by pop star Jason Mraz.
April also saw UK LGBT organization, Stonewall, release its guide on stopping Gay Hate.
The group's Website explains that the guide "gives clear, concise information for people who are victims of homophobic hate crime. The guide explains what homophobic hate crime is, why hate crime should be reported and what to say when reporting it."
You can download the guide here.
Zimbabwe joined other African nations in continuing to condemn homosexuality. As their nation looks to rewrite its constitution Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe responded to calls to make gay rights a part of the country's revised constitution by saying, "Three days ago, I heard that some people want us to discuss the issue of gays in the new constitution. How do we even begin to talk about it? Those who engage in homosexual behaviour are just crazy. It’s just madness. Insanity. We can’t do it or the dead will turn in their graves. If you are doing that (engaging in homosexuality), you are destroying nationhood."
Looks like they'll just stick with corrective rape and torture to continue to deal with wayward homosexuals...
Colin Farrell brought his voice to Ireland's Stand Up! campaign against bullying, saying, "Intolerance is not genetically encoded – it is taught. It is learned at home. It is learned in the classrooms and it is learned anywhere else we gather as a group. But it is usually learned early and added onto from there. If there is nothing to feared, there is nothing to hate. If there is nothing to hate, there is no pain. My brother was so forceful in standing up for who he was, and for the good that he knew was inside of him. Many people missed out on an opportunity, not only to enjoy him, but to enjoy themselves by embracing his difference. They missed out because they saw him as a threat – not as a testament to the kaleidoscope and diversity of this beautiful world."
Colin and gay brother Eamon
"Bullying is torture, it is another betrayal of basic human decency and its scars reach way into the future of its survivors. But the saddest truth is that not all children survive it. It is a potentially fatal societal illness and must be respected and not feared. Respected and dealt with as a very real problem and as an adversary of a potentially harmonious world, that should have no place for bullies or bullying."
I've always loved Colin...
May saw Vancouver's Michael Kandola sentenced to 12 months in prison after the brutal attack on Jordan Smith, who had been walking hand-in-hand with his partner in the Davie village.
Anti-gay Christian right leader George Alan Rekers, who was the state of Florida's star witness in support of the ban on gay adoption for which he and a colleague were paid $87,000, was found with a gay rent boy on a European vacation.
The male escort hired by Rekers told the Miami New Times that the Baptist minister "is a homosexual who paid him to provide body rubs, once a day, in the nude, during their ten-day vacation in Europe."
May also saw Lithuania's first ever Gay Pride Parade. Unfortunately, it did not go off without incident. The AP reported:
Opponents of Lithuania's first gay pride parade threw smoke bombs and tried to break through a barrier Saturday but were stopped by police firing tear gas. Later, protesters threw rocks and street signs at security forces, and two Lithuanian lawmakers were detained after trying to climb the barrier.
About 400 people took part in the two-hour march — dubbed "For Equality" — in a sealed-off area in downtown Vilnius. Holding large rainbow flags and dancing to music blaring from loudspeakers, they walked along a road near the city's Neris River.
Participants included many foreigners, diplomats and members of the European Parliament.
"We are here because we believe ... in a just society. Labels are for filing, for clothing, not for people. And we are here today to remove labels from people," said Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden's minister for European Union affairs.
May also saw the Pope's visit to Portugal where he stated that same sex marriage and abortion were among the "most insidious and dangerous challenges that today confront the common good." He expressed his "profound appreciation" for anti-abortion campaigners, who he praised for defending the right to life and the "recovery of people wounded by the drama of abortion."
What's more dangerous, or insidious? Two committed people who want to enshrine their love in law? Or a Catholic Church full of priests who molest young boys?
May 17th's annual International Day Against Homophobia saw events take place around the world. One of note was a march in Havana, Cuba where hundreds of gay and lesbian activists, some dressed in drag and others sporting multicoloured flags representing sexual diversity, marched and danced through the streets along with the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro (pictured below) as part of a celebration aimed at eliminating homophobia around the world.
The International Day Against Homophobia was marked with film screenings, marches and a great global kiss-in.
We also started to get into Gay Pride season at the end of May and in Minsk, Belarus, things quickly turned ugly:
"For just 10 minutes, 40 Belarusians and Russians waived a 12 meters long rainbow flag for a short march of approximately 200 meters. They were at first met by a large group of journalists, photographers and TV crew. But when they reached the crossing point, they were trapped by several vans of anti-riot police. Suddenly, the doors of the vans opened and anti-riot officers ran towards the participant."
"I never saw anything of the kind," said Nikolai Alekseev by mobile phone. "They were brutal and violent," he added. Another participant who did not want to be named said, "It was like a group of wild dogs." The march ended with most of the participants being arrested and violently beaten. A few managed to escape, but the police ran after them.
May also saw the launch of a video by Daniel Radcliffe supporting The Trevor Project and drawing attention to the issues surrounding gay teen suicide.
On May 20th, the sentence for the Malawi Gay couple we first heard about back in January was announced. 14 years in prison with hard labour. Seriously. I suppose they are lucky to be alive...
In June, widely identified as Gay Pride Month around the world, parades and festivals happened in over 50 cities. In Chicago, Stanley Cup- winning NHL team the Blackhawks, decided to march in that city's parade with the cup on display, along with player Brent Sopal. The hockey organization had this to say:
"We are very thrilled and honoured to have Brent Sopel and the Stanley Cup as part of the CGHA’s pride presence and we encourage everyone to share with us in celebration all weekend long. The CGHA will have a booth set up at Pride Fest on both Friday and Saturday with an opportunity for fans to enter a raffle to win an autographed Brent Sopel Blackhawks’ jersey. Be sure to stop by and show us your support and don’t forget to shout extra loud when we skate by WITH THE STANLEY CUP."
Gay Proms were back in the news in Canada at least, where it seemed like every major metropolis was hosting their own. Vancouver based OUT TV even debuted a three-part documentary on the subject.
Even though the days are long and lazy in the summer months there was still a lot of action. Argentina finally legalized same-sex marriage.
Europride staged a huge parade in Warsaw. It was the first time this event was held in a previously communist state. The AP reported:
The parade, part of the EuroPride gay rights festival, is meant to give a boost to the fledgling gay rights movement in Poland. Gay rights were strongly repressed during the communist era, and gays and lesbians have struggled since communism fell 20 years ago for acceptance in a society still strongly influenced by the church. "We feel like they are 20 years behind the Netherlands," said Ad Bakker, a 39-year-old from Holland who traveled to Warsaw to show solidarity with Polish friends. "But the atmosphere is good and we hope that EuroPride will help." A Polish friend of his, Sebastian Blaszczyk, 36, said the situation in Poland "gets better and better every year," but the country still has far to go in accepting gays.
There were, of course, protesters.
"As the activists moved slowly through the city, they passed small, scattered groups of counter-protesters who jeered and heckled them. Police said they arrested eight people — some of whom threw eggs and one of whom attacked a police officer — for trying to disturb the march."
The event drew about 8,000 people, many from western Europe and the USA. I was even there representing Canada. Check out this video I shot.
August saw Vancouver's biggest Gay Pride ever and Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional. It was a big celebratory long weekend all around.
Sadly, we started to see reports that gay teen suicides were sharply rising. We also began to hear reports of gay bashings from all over the world... especially here at home. Are more people simply reporting them or is there some sort of backlash resulting from some of the freedoms recently granted internationally?
After seeing what can happen with gay marriage in other cities and countries, Sydney hosted a popular rally for same-sex marriage.
September's top stories included a ruling stating that Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) is indeed unconstitutional. Celebrities, including Lady GaGa, rallied to support the repeal of DADT. Dan Savage and his partner launched their now-famous, It Gets Better Project on YouTube.
It seems like everyone has done a video, and I sure hope they are making a difference.
This one from Toronto, Canada, was particularly well done:
The month of October brought us a horrific story from New York where a gang of thugs was arrested for kidnapping and torturing gay men. The details are graphic and difficult to read.
From left, Nelson Falu, 17, Idelfonso Mendez, 23, and David Rivera, 21, at right, were among the seven suspects arrested in the abductions and attacks on three men in the Bronx on Oct. 3.
Serbia attempted to hold its first gay pride event in 9 years. The day right before their planned march, an estimated 7 to 10 thousand marched in protest against the gay pride parade. Participants ranged from families with children to young football supporters, some of whom gave fascist salutes and shouted for the death of homosexuals.
According to Amnesty International, who participated in the pride parade, "70% of people in Serbia consider homosexuality a disease."
The following day at the Pride event, over 100 people were injured by anti-gay protesters who also caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage by burning cars, breaking windows and looting.
Serbian President Boris Tadic had this to say: "Serbia will guarantee human rights for all its citizens, regardless of the differences among them, and no attempts to revoke these freedoms with violence will be allowed."
In November the big story was the disappointment in the United Nations, as Sexual Orientation was removed from the UN resolution on Extrajudicial Executions:
"The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and ARC International issued a press release today expressing deep disappointment with the Nov. 17th vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to remove a reference to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The resolution urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling on states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. For the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation in the list of discriminatory grounds on which killings are often based."
It was also the month that the Pope was quoted in a new book stating that it was finally OK for men to use condoms to prevent the spread of disease in cases where the user is a male prostitute.
December will obviously be remembered as the month that DADT was fully repealed and signed by President Obama, clearing the way for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.