Ugandan president feels the heat
by Rex Wockner
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is feeling the heat over a bill pending in that nation's Parliament that would jail gays for life and punish some with the death penalty.
"The prime minister of Canada came to see me, and what was he talking about? Gays," Museveni told the New York Times on February 12. "Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to see me, and what was he talking about? Gays. Mrs. Clinton rang me. What was she talking about? Gays."
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 would imprison for life anyone convicted of "the offense of homosexuality," punish "aggravated homosexuality" – including repeat offenders and anyone who is HIV-positive and has gay sex – with the death penalty, forbid "promotion of homosexuality" and incarcerate gay-rights defenders, and jail individuals for up to three years if they fail to report within 24 hours the existence of all LGBT people and LGBT sympathizers they know of.
Remarkably, given the situation, more than 200 LGBT people gathered February 14 in the capital city, Kampala, at a conference organized by the International Day Against Homophobia Committee.
The gathering, "Standing on the Side of Love: Reimagining St. Valentine's Day," featured keynote addresses by retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda's West Buganda diocese, IDAHO Committee President Louis-Georges Tin, and U.S. Unitarian ministers Patricia Ackerman and Marlin Lavanhar.
"This strong focus on religions during the meeting was aimed to show that religious arguments, so often used by homophobic people against LGBT citizens, can be defeated, including by religious arguments," organizers said.
Kenyan police reportedly stop gay 'wedding'
Police reportedly stopped a gay "wedding" in Mtwapa, Kenya, on February 12 after a large mob formed and threatened to stone the couple and set them on fire.
At least six supposed gay people were arrested in connection with the incident and police said they would conduct medical tests purportedly to learn if the arrestees had violated the ban on gay sex.
A district police spokesman said it was appropriate for citizens to alert police to gay goings-on because homosexuality is "repugnant."
Gay sex is punished with up to 14 years in prison.
Anglicans OK gay pensions
The General Synod of the Church of England voted February 11 to give pensions to the same-sex widows and widowers of clergy members.
Speakers at the synod session said it was a matter of fairness and justice.
The church's pensions board and commissioners must assess the affordability of the policy change and approve it before it can take effect.
It's okay for Anglican priests to be openly gay and enter into legal civil partnerships, but they are not supposed to have sex.
United Kingdom civil partnerships carry the same rights and obligations as marriages.
Sydney Mardi Gras bans Tasmanian gay vacation material
Officials of Sydney's LGBT Mardi Gras extravaganza banned Tourism Tasmania from Mardi Gras' Fair Day because it planned to promote Tasmania as a gay-friendly holiday destination.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group activist Rodney Croome said Mardi Gras "interpreted its sponsorship contract with Events NSW (New South Wales) to preclude the promotion of any other state as a tourist destination at any Mardi Gras event."
"Whether a ban is motivated by hate or, in the case of the Mardi Gras, by money, censorship is censorship and should be resisted," Croome said. "Mardi Gras seems blind to the fact that the cost of exclusive contracts in terms of community ill-will far outweighs whatever short-term financial benefit they may have."
Gay-owned Tasmanian travel operators, who usually promote themselves from Tourism Tasmania's stall, reportedly were given refuge by other vendors but still were prohibited from distributing material promoting Tasmania as a state.
Fair Day, held February 21 this year, is a huge festival of exhibits, information, food, drinks, entertainment, contests, music, dancing, and other merrymaking.
St. Petersburg refuses to fund anti-homophobia campaign
Officials in St. Petersburg, Russia, have refused to include funding to fight homophobia in the city's Program for Tolerance.
A funding request for posters, a film festival and other actions had been submitted by the LGBT group Equality.
The chairman of the city's Committee on Culture, Anton Gubankov, agreed that homophobia is a problem but said that "publishing and distributing [material] about LGBT people can be negatively perceived by the majority as the promotion to the public of sexual and gender minorities."
Equality spokeswoman Maria Efremenkova called the rejection un-European.
"St. Petersburg, which aims to show itself as the most European city in Russia, acts in contradiction to most European cities, which sponsor large-scale campaigns against homophobia and transphobia," she said.
Efremenkova's group is planning the city's first gay Pride Parade on June 26.
Attempts to stage pride parades in Moscow over the past four years have been banned by that city's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. Small groups of activists who ignored the bans have been violently attacked by riot police and anti-gay thugs.
Latin American LGBTs protest on Valentine's Day
LGBT people in several Latin American nations staged public actions on Valentine's Day.
In Peru, members of the Lima LGBTI Student Bloc held a kiss-in outside the Plaza San Miguel mall after being thwarted by security officers from doing it inside.
In a separate action, in Lima's Love Park, members of the Peruvian TTLGB Network staged five symbolic weddings between same-sex couples. Spokeswoman Susel Paredes said the group demands equal "civil rights."
In Chile, members of the United Movement of Sexual Minorities gathered in Santiago's Army Plaza to insist on marriage equality.
Spokesman Fernando Munoz said Chile lacks any formal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
In Guadalajara, Mexico, gay student groups staged a march for equal partnership rights.
Some 350 people set off from the University of Guadalajara and proceeded to downtown's Guadalajara Plaza in front of the Roman Catholic cathedral, where they held a kiss-in and 11 symbolic weddings.
Mexico City recently legalized same-sex marriage. The law will take effect in March.
Costa Rica may see same-sex-marriage referendum
Ten Costa Ricans have turned in more than 130,000 signatures of registered voters requesting a popular referendum on a bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Tribunal of Elections will determine if a minimum of 130,751 signatures, representing 5 percent of registered voters, are valid.
If they are, the referendum could appear on the ballot in December's mayoral elections.
Bill Kelley and Andrés Duque contributed to this report.