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Montenegro approves same-sex civil partnerships


Young people celebrated at a Montenegro Pride event in 2017. Photo: Courtesy AP
Young people celebrated at a Montenegro Pride event in 2017. Photo: Courtesy AP  

This month, Montenegro became the first Balkan country to grant civil partnerships to same-sex couples.

Montenegro's parliament voted 42-5 July 1 for the measure. Other lawmakers in the 81-seat legislature who opposed the measure claimed it was imposed by "world Satanists," during the June 30 debate and abstained from voting.

The vote comes nearly a year after the country's parliament rejected a similar measure last August.

The new law will go into effect within a year and gives same-sex couples the same rights as married straight couples, except that same-sex couples will not be able to adopt children.

The move was made in order to advance the Balkan country's quest to become a part of the European Union. It is also part of its 2019-2023 action plan to promote LGBTQ rights, reported the Balkan Insight. Montenegro is currently undergoing advanced negotiations with the E.U.

LGBTQ activists were taken by surprise by parliament's swift action on the bill.

The bill was on the agenda prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, due to the global pandemic and the forthcoming general elections August 13, many weren't sure lawmakers would vote on the issue until later this year, Danijel Kalezić, executive director of Queer Montenegro, the first LGBTIQ organization in the country, told OutRight TV.

"We are feeling more equal to other people in our country for the very first time in our life," said Kalezić, talking about the relief the LGBTQ community was feeling following an eight-year battle to have same-sex relationships recognized.

John Barac, executive director of LGBT Forum Progress in Montenegro, told German newspaper Deutsche Welle, "It's really extraordinary; it's a big day for all of us."

Kalezić noted that the new law is about more than just his country.

"It's not just a victory for our community in Montenegro but a victory for all the region," he said.

In a tweet, Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic declared the vote "a confirmation that our society is maturing." The country is home to just over 600,000 people.

"This is a huge leap in the right direction for the Montenegrin society," Markovic told the Associated Press. "In a European Montenegro, there is not and there should not be any room for sexual discrimination."

Human rights and equality for minorities are key elements to gain membership into the E.U.

Montenegro is one of five nations including its Balkan neighbors Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia, along with Turkey that are in accession negotiations to join the E.U. Montenegro applied in 2008.

Three Serbian lesbian couples are currently challenging that country's lack of recognition of same-sex couples.

Life remains challenging for LGBTQ people in the conservative nation.

Last year, Serbian lawmakers blocked LGBTQ couples from forming families after the country's lesbian prime minister, Ana Brnabic, had a son with her partner.

Russia bans same-sex marriage
In a July 2 national election, Russians supported a ban on same-sex marriage.

The amendment to the country's constitution, effectively defining marriage as between a man and a woman, was one of more than 200 constitutional amendments included in the referendum that won more than two-thirds approval during the seven-day vote.

The move is only the most recent attack against LGBTQ Russians by President Vladimir Putin, whom Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David called a "threat to the human rights of all."

Putin has repeatedly taken no action and actively ignored the LGBTQ purge in Chechnya by his strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, since it began in December 2016 and came to global attention in April 2017.

Captured in the new HBO documentary, "Welcome to Chechnya," Putin dismissed numerous external confirmations of what is happening in Chechnya and recommendations by global bodies.

HRC listed several incidents involving LGBTQ Russians: In 2019, Moscow blocked LGBTQ groups from officially registering in the country. In 2018, Pride events were banned. In 2014, Human Rights Watch found a jump in anti-LGBTQ violence in a report. In 2013, Putin signed the so-called gay propaganda law.

The list doesn't include the toxic environment and botched hate crime investigations against LGBTQ Russians.

It appears Putin will remain a threat to human rights.

After the election, Putin can now effectively hold power through 2036.

Russia charges feminist and LGBTQ artist
"Artivists" are rallying behind Russian feminist artist and LGBTQ activist Yulia Tsvetkova, calling for authorities to drop her case.

Tsvetkova is being charged with alleged pornography and violating the anti-gay propaganda law.

More than 40 demonstrators who took to the streets in support of the 27-year-old artist in Moscow were arrested June 27.

The protest was a part of a "Media Strike" the same day, where Russian activists inundated 100 Russian websites and news platforms with vaginal art and banners using the hashtags #FreeJuliaTsvetkova and #forYulia to demand Tsvetkova's prosecution be stopped.

Nearly 240,000 people signed the online petition (https://tinyurl.com/FreeJuliaTsvetkova) calling for Russian authorities to drop her case.

Tsvetkova was already charged with distribution of pornography in October 2019 and was placed under house arrest for pre-trial restriction in November when she was charged with violating the gay propaganda law. She also was fined 50,000 rubles ($707.35).

The law is ostensibly to protect children, but it has been used to suppress LGBTQ activists. Since its enactment, attacks against gay Russians has increased exponentially, according to studies.

Tsvetkova's alleged crime was drawing a picture of two same-sex families with the caption, "Family is where love is. Support LGBT+ families!" and posting it on her social media account.

The artist, who lives with her mother in far-east Russia in Komsomolsk-on-Amur on the west bank of the Amur River, can't go more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) from her home and faces up to six years in prison.

Her other alleged crimes are creating an online community called the "Vagina Monologues," named after Eve Ensler's best-selling one-woman show and book, where artists posted drawings of vaginas, and her own body-positive drawings of nude women published on her own website.

This isn't the first time Russian authorities have taken to attacking LGBTQ people on the internet and social media. In 2015, Elena Klimova, founder of the LGBT youth support group Children-404, was convicted for violating Russia's gay propaganda law.

Gay attorney Max Olenichev with the Coming Out LGBT Group based in St. Petersburg, Russia, explained why so many LGBTQ organizations are involved in Tsvetkova's case. He told the Washington Blade that LGBTQ Russian activists see Tsvetkova's arrest as a potential catalyst for similar charges in the future.

"This tactic of harassment is probably going to be subsequently used against other LGBT people," Olenichev said in a statement to the Blade.

"Yulia is the latest target of a long-running and intensely homophobic campaign," said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International's Russia director, in a July 1 news release by American artist and activist Nicole Garneau.

Garneau met Tsvetkova in St. Petersburg in November 2019, right before her house arrest. She is campaigning to free Tsvetkova with petitions published on the Artists 4 Yulia (www.freetsvet.net) and #500Solidarity, which she invites people around the world to travel 500 meters and post their experience in solidarity with Tsvetkova.

To watch the campaign video, visit https://youtu.be/zBNl3Bv3M5w

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp: 415-517-7239, or Skype: heather.cassell, or oitwnews@gmail.com

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