International News: January 2014

Barack Obama Picks Openly Gay Delegates for Winter Olympics

President Obama has announced several openly gay members as part of the U.S. delegates to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Two lesbians chosen as U.S. delegates are tennis legend Billie Jean King and ice hockey Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow. Another member of the delegation, figure skating Olympic medalist Brian Boitano, just recently came out as gay.

Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama will not be attending the opening ceremony. This marks the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympics that a president, vice president, first lady or former president won’t be part of the opening ceremony.

Putin has faced international criticism for his persecution of Russia’s gay community. President Obama has openly denounced Putin’s treatment of gays and made a point to meet with Russian advocates of the GLBT community during his September trip to St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit.

German President to Boycott Olympics

German President Joachim Gauck has announced that he will not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, citing Russia’s anti-GLBT “propaganda” laws and abuses against its GLBT citizens as the reasons for his decision.

Gauck, whose office is largely symbolic, is the first major political figure to boycott the Olympics publicly. German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out a boycott earlier this year.

In related news from Germany, German GQ has launched the ‘Gentleman against Homophobia’ campaign to “spread love and stamp out intolerance across Europe and the world.”

The campaign, called “#Mundpropaganda” – a pun on ‘word of mouth’ and ‘kissing propaganda’ – features straight, male celebrities kissing.  The photographs will be published all over Germany on buses, posters and billboards.

Sochi Will Have a Pride House

The city of Toronto has promised to host a GLBT Pride House in the Olympic Village during the 2014 Winter Olympics. The tradition of having a safe space for GLBT athletes began at the 2010 games in Vancouver and continued in London, for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Russian officials declined to put in an application for a Pride House.

Barbara Besharat, of PrideHouse Toronto told The Canadian Press that they want to use this opportunity to raise awareness for GLBT during what is being called the “anti-gay games.”

“We need Pride House,” said Konstantin Iablotckii, co-president of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation. “It’s already part of the Olympic movement, it’s not a political demonstration, it’s not a gay parade, it’s just a safe peaceful place for celebrating equality in sport.”

No Marriage Equality in Croatia

Croatian citizens overwhelmingly supported a countrywide same-sex marriage ban in what is being called a major victory for the Catholic Church-backed conservatives in the European Union’s newest nation. The state electoral commission said 65 percent of those who voted answered “yes” to the referendum question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?”

President Ivo Josipovic, a proponent of marriage equality, vowed to respect the voters’ wishes but also promised that the government will continue working for GLBT rights.

Taiwan to Allow Legal Gender Changes Without Transitioning

Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare has decided to allow people to change their legal gender without transitioning. According to Gay Star News, individuals intending to change their legal gender no longer need go through any medical procedures, including psychiatric evaluation. The new rule also applies to minors, who have been subject to parental “veto” powers.

After further review and discussion, the Ministry of Interior will come up with relevant policies and details to help put the new decision into practice.

India Top Court Outlaws Gay Sex

India’s high court has upheld a law that criminalizes gay sex, saying that it was up to Parliament to legislate on the issue. The Supreme Court upheld a 153-year-old colonial law calling a same-sex relationship an “unnatural offense” and punishable with up to 10 years in prison. They wrote in their decision that changes in legislation are to be made by lawmakers, not the courts.

According to The Guardian newspaper, a crowed gathered in the Indian capital, Delhi, to protest the court’s decision. In 2009, a Delhi High Court order decriminalized homosexual acts, a surprising decision in the notoriously conservative country.

India’s Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters the government would respect the ruling but did not say whether there were plans to amend the law.

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