gay news: london’s mayoral candidates unite over gay rights

It seems the one thing that could unite London’s mayoral candidates in the mad scramble up to the election on May 3rd, is gay rights.

Good ole Boris Johnson stepped in to stop a series of ads, set to appear on London’s buses, by a Christian group preaching they can cure gays with “reparative therapy”. The Core Issue Trust (CIT) was set to run the adverts on five routes through the centre of the capital.

The ads read: “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” which is an obvious dig at gay rights organisation Stonewall and their well known slogan, “Some people are gay – Get over it”. The mayor thwarted the campaign in response furious protest on twitter.

In spite of the incumbent Mayor’s block on the campaign, the Christian group have still managed o draw a fair bit of attention to themselves promoting the use of therapy to change the sexual orientation of gay people . The leader of the Core Issues Trust, Mike Davies, describes homosexual behaviour is “sinful” and his orgaisation offers to sponsor the cost of the treatment.

This episode prompted Boris to promise he will set manifesto on gay rights, before next month’s mayoral election, at a recent hosting. His four political rivals for the London Mayor’s job were quick to jump on the bandwagon at the gathering in London’s South Bank, brandishing Stonewall t-shirts and setting out their gay-friendly agendas to grab the pink vote and court the potential 350,000 gay voters in the city.

Former mayor and Labour candidate, Ken Livingstone told the audience Muslims have now become the target for the bigotry of right-wing groups that had been previously reserved for blacks, Irish and gays. He has promised to appoint a LGBT advisor if he is elected. Liberal Democrat candidate reveled he was bullied at school for being gay and pledged to stamp out homophobia and racism in the police force.

The CIT adverts may have become part of a media frenzy and vehicle for politicians’ hook, but the silver lining is the forum becomes open for discussion. Stonewall’s CEO, Ben Summerskill, made it clear he was happy to see that the main candidates for mayor are vying for the attention of LGBT Londoners.

Leading medical and psychiatric organisations reject the idea of a ‘cure’ for homosexuality, and believe this kind of practice only serves to breed a culture of prejudice. But if therapy could be effective to change the way we are, shouldn’t we start research into a cure for small-minded and bigoted behaviour?


Gordon Brown praises gay community in World Aids Day message

In a video recorded especially for World AIDS Day 2009 Gordon Brown commends the early contribution the UK gay community made in addressing the disease.

In reference to the 1980’s when AIDS devastated gay communities around the world Brown said: “”Even in the midst of so much sorrow, those who had lost loved ones refused to accept the silence and the stigma and set up pioneering charities which are still saving and changing lives today.”

It is estimated that more than 80,000 people are now living with HIV in the UK however the number could be far greater because most people with HIV, it is believed, remain undiagnosed.

“More than a quarter of people with HIV don’t know they have the disease because they haven’t been tested” he warns, adding that the government is committed to increasing HIV testing and tackling the stigma that persists.

During the two minute piece recorded for The National AIDS Trust website Brown also praises activists world-wide who have “refused to give up in the face of HIV and AIDS”

Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT, said: “We are delighted that Gordon Brown has provided a message for our World AIDS Day website.  We are especially pleased he has spoken about HIV in the UK in particular the need to increase HIV testing as well as fighting prejudice.  He is right to say there is no room for complacency in tackling HIV.
We hope the concern and commitment the Prime Minister had expressed today will be remembered beyond World AIDS Day.”

World AIDS day 2009 takes place on December 1st.

By Gary Cosby

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Human Rights Watch condemns gay death sentences in Iran

Dr_Ahmadinejad Iran

Three Iranian men are facing the death penalty for having gay sex when they were teenagers.

Nemat Safavi, Mehdi P and Moshen G are currently on death row and human rights campaigners warn that their executions are imminent.

Under Iranian law, “Lavat” (homosexual activity between males) is “punishable by death so long as both the active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will”.

It has been reported that all three men were under the age of 18 at the time of arrest.

Campaigners claim Mehdi P. and Moshen G. denied the charges, and that no witnesses have testified against them. Safavi was arrested at the age of 16 in 2006, and tried by a court in Ardebil, where he is being held.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the rulings and has called for Iran to revoke the sentences on the grounds that men were minors at the time.

“Killing people for what they did as children is wrong and repellent, and killing them for alleged homosexual conduct is just as wrong and repellent,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Campaigners argue that the sentences are a gross violation of international law, which forbids, under any circumstance, the execution of juvenile offenders.

Iran leads the world in executing young offenders according to Human Rights Watch. In 2005 footage of two youths being hanged for homosexual crimes was posted on the internet and sparked media attention worldwide.

When questioned two years ago about gay youths being hunted down and executed in Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded that there were no gays in his country. A statement he later contradicted by accusing political rivals of “officially recognizing thieves, homosexuals and scumbags”.

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By Gary Cosby

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Transsexual Jesus sparks protests


“Jesus Queen of Heaven”, a play by and starring transsexual Jo Clifford began its five night run embroiled in controversy this week.

Its short run at Glasgay! – an arts festival which celebrates Scotland’s gay, bi-sexual and transsexual culture – has upset Scottish Christians who have branded the depiction of Christ as a transsexual ‘totally blasphemous’.

Brandishing placards saying “Jesus, king of kings, not queen of heaven” and “God: My son is not a pervert” around 300 protesters picketed on Tuesday outside the Tron theatre where the play is currently being staged.

Further condemnation from the Christian Institute and The Catholic Church prompted Glasgay! organizers to issue a statement.

“Jesus, Queen of Heaven is a literary work of fiction exploring the artist’s own personal journey of faith as a transgendered person.

“Glasgay! supports the right to freedom of expression and offers audiences a diverse view of LGBT life. This work is not intended to incite or offend anyone of any belief system however we respect your right to disagree with that opinion.”

In an interview with Herald Scotland Clifford defended her work saying prejudice has no foundation in the Bible, and revealed that she is in fact a regular churchgoer herself.

“Being transsexual, I think an awful lot about where ¬prejudice comes from” she said.

“I would say about 95% of the play has the most profound respect of the gospel and the figure of Jesus. I really have no wish to offend anybody, which means that it is a big shame that everyone has taken great offence. That was genuinely not my intention.”

Jesus, Queen of Heaven concludes tomorrow evening at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

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By Gary Cosby

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Vigils held in London and Liverpool following gay attacks


London: 30/10/09

On Friday 25th September 2009, Ian Baynham, a 62 year old gay man, and his friend were subjected to homophobic abuse in Trafalgar Square, London.

When Ian challenged this unacceptable behaviour he was violently assaulted by three youths, two women and a man. He later died of his injuries on the 13th October.

Ian is not alone, he is just one of thousands of people who have been victims of Hate-Crime.

In response to the death of Ian Baynham Facebook group 17-24-30 and Pride London have invited the public to attend a silent candle light vigil, commencing at 8pm in Trafalgar Square tonight.

Over 10,000 people are expected at the event which includes a call for a world-wide two minute silence at 9pm GMT.

Paul Birrell, chair of Pride London says: “I am sickened and saddened by this needless death. This is the fourth homophobic murder in London in the last 12 months and this has to stop! I am confident the Metropolitan Police will bring Ian’s killers to justice and we will offer them any and all assistance in doing so.

“I urge Londoners to join us in Trafalgar Square on Friday, 30th October to remember Ian. As we prepare for World Pride 2012 this is a timely reminder that even in a city as progressive as London LGBT people still suffer abuse and even murder.”

BBC radio presenter Sandi Toksvig will be introducing speakers during the evening with performances from The Gay men’s Chorus and the London Gay Wind Symphony Band.

Liverpool will stage a further vigil on Sunday night for trainee police officer James Parkes who remains in a critical condition after being beaten by a gang of up to 20 youths last weekend.

The 22 year old was attacked while leaving a club with his partner and friends in the city’s gay village at 10pm on Sunday evening. So far police have arrested and bailed six youths between the ages of 14 and 17 and are appealing for new witnesses to come forward.

The vigil will commence at 8pm on Stanley Street where the attack took place.

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By Gary Cosby

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Government rejects bill protecting gays from hate crimes


Italy: Despite a recent increase in Anti-gay violence the Italian government yesterday abandoned a bill aimed at protecting gay people from hate crimes.

The proposal was forwarded in response to a wave of gay-related attacks that have taken place primarily in the capital, Rome. Parliament however rejected the measure on the grounds that it would “violate” the country’s national constitution.

Last month a 30,000 strong crowd, including politicians from all the main political parties, marched through the capital in protest over the attacks.

In a statement issued yesterday Arcigay, Italy’s largest gay civil rights organization, condemned the government’s response.

“We are outraged and appalled at the wave of homophobia we are seeing growing every day, and at the increasing number of hate crimes being committed against people because of their sexual orientation, both in Italy and abroad.

“The Italian Parliament’s justification for throwing out the bill – which would have raised penalties against acts of violence motivated by homophobia – was simply absurd: they said that it would give “unequal protection” to gays compared to other groups, violating the principle of equality.”

Arcigay claims a number of MPs motivated the decision by classifying the term “sexual orientation” as “ambiguous”, arguing that the expression could therefore include paedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and incest.

“This is delirious and insulting for our own dignity of Italians, but also for the dignity of every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual person living anywhere in Europe and in the world.” Said Arcigay

Following the bill rejection, the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the Italian Parliament’s stance is a “step backward for human rights in Italy”.

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by Gary Cosby

Tories camp up the Conference with Gay party

spirit bar

Margaret Thatcher’s famous adlib ‘The Lady’s not for turning!’ took on a whole new meaning in Manchester this week as the Conservatives threw their first ever gay party.

Topless go-go boys, pink feather boas and a drag queen or two – not something you’d normally associate with a Tory event (well, not a public one).

However, despite their rather chequered past when it comes to supporting gay and lesbian rights the Tories camped it up on Canal Street last Tuesday for “Conference Pride”, an official knees up for gay Tories and their friends.

Spirit Bar in the heart of Manchester’s gay village was draped with an ‘LGBTory’ banner whilst inside revelers enjoyed cocktails created especially for the occasion including the “Cameron PM” and “Tory Martini”.

“We’re very, very proud of this event tonight and I think that this has shown just how far the Conservatives have come” announced party chairman to the 650 capacity crowd, “Next year I want to see another official gay pride night and I hope to see you all there!”

But not everyone was there to have a gay old time, with the party being picketed by Christian groups and the gay community itself.

Local resident Mathew Helbert told gay media site “I find it offensive that the Tories are here today, we fought for so many years for equality which they tried to stop and now they’re here. I’m worried that if the Tories get back in to power then all of the good work that we have done will have been for nothing. The gay village wouldn’t have existed if they had their way”

Meanwhile in direct response to the Tory celebration regular Manc Tuesday gay club night Poptastic presented “Tory Shame” hosted by gay celebrity Ame Lame, sporting a flyer with the strap line “They may have taken our milk but they’ll never take our cheeky vimto!”

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By Gary Cosby

Sshh! It’s a GAY couple holding hands!

A Day in Hand

The site of two men walking down the street holding hands (in the Western world) is still, ridiculously, rare. Well hold onto your hats, same-sex hand-holders are coming out…tomorrow!

Guaranteed to stop traffic and draw a crowd, well, at least a bout of rubber-necking, two men or women holding hands in public still manages to strike fear into the hearts and souls of, sadly, a lot of people. Silly, really.

A Day In Hand, a new equal rights initiative that aims to inspire same-sex couples world-wide to hold hands in public, is calling on the gay community to publicly express their affection on the last Saturday of each month.

The first international Sshh! (same-sex hand-holding) Saturday will be on September 26th and held in memory of the recent shootings at a Gay & Lesbian centre in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Campaign founder David Watkins said: “Same-sex hand holding is a silent revolution for LGBT people, because nothing needs to be said: no bold speeches, no reactive arguments, no war of words. Each LGBT person has the power to change the hearts and minds of people in their local community quietly, subtly, by simply holding hands publicly and owning their space. However, hand holding is a simple powerful gesture that can happen anywhere, at any time.”

Watkins is inviting participants the world over to upload photos of themselves holding hands with same-sex friends or partners to the A Day In Hand website.

In areas of the world where it is impossible or unsafe for gay people to express affection publicly the campaign reminds people not to ignore their “survival instincts” but to consider safer gestures.

“If you can’t hold hands in your immediate area, how about resting your head on your partner’s shoulder at the cinema, or kissing them good-bye in the car? We have to start expressing our love in the mainstream.”

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By Gary Cosby