Out in Asia: Gay Equality, Nepal

Progress towards queer equality has been remarkable in recent decades, with gay marriage or civil unions now achieving legal recognition in a rapidly increasing number of countries, and protection from discrimination and hate crimes being written into many statute books. Few countries though, have seen a turnaround quite as dramatic as that in Nepal, which has gone from persecution to imminent constitutional protection in just ten years.


First Gay Pride in Nepal, 2010


Gay marriage has been promised, and legal provision for it will shortly be built into the new constitution which is currently being drafted – but even ahead of the legal formalities, same-sex marriages are being conducted. Much of the credit for the remarkable transformation should go to the Blue Diamond gay  rights group, as Thai Indian reports:

Gay rights movement celebrates decade in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) The only country in South Asia to recognise same sex marriages, Nepal Sunday celebrates a decade of the gay rights movement pioneered by a single group amid widespread persecution. Read the rest of this entry »

Faith at London Pride, 2010

London Pride, 2010

As expected. faith groups were out in force yesterday at London Pride. You wouldn’t think it from the mainstream gay press though – Pink News’ major story on Pride was of the small band of protesters who are there every year, just where the route leaves Lower Regent Street.  They were badly outnumbered, though (by a factor of something like five or ten to one) by those in the march clearly identifying as members of a faith group:

Over a hundred Christians marched together wearing T-shirts declaring “Christian and Proud” and singing hymns. In addition, about thirty people marched in a Quaker group, while other Christians joined in the contingents representing bisexuals, trade unionists and other groups.

The visible Christian presence had been planned by Christians at Pride, a coalition of several groups, including the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), Changing Attitude, Courage UK and the Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Christians.

Many wore stickers quoting 1 John 4,18: “No fear in love”. Passers-by and other Pride participants were given flyers declaring “Proud to be LGBT. Proud to be Christian”. Hymns heard during the march included “We are marching in the light of God” and “We want to see Jesus lifted high”.

Large banners publicised LGBT Catholics and the Metropolitan Community Church. Quakers marched with a banner announcing “Quakers affirm same-sex marriage”. They were greeted with cheers by the many people aware that Quakers last year decided to carry out same-sex marriages on the same basis as mixed-sex ones.

The level of enthusiasm shown by Pride participants towards the Christian marchers took many of them by surprise “It was amazing,” said Kate from Wrexham, “I felt like a celebrity”.

(Read the full report on the gay Christian presence at Ekklesia)

I too was impressed by the cheers. This was the first year that I was carrying the right hand side of our banner, so I could free my right hand. From time to time I acknowledged that cheers with a little wave. (Afterwards, I realized I should have made a sign of the cross, papal style, instead.) This crowd support is always an inspiring feature of marching with a Catholic banner, but this year the cheers were louder and stronger. This may have been because our group was headed by a priest in formal clerical dress, complete with clerical collar Fr Bernard Lynch was with us again, and at his side (much of the time) was his husband, Billy. (I saw one woman in the crowd visibly drop her jaw in open astonishment that such a thing was possible.) I also say many other priests in mufti watching from the sidelines. How long will we have to wait before more will be able and willing to  march openly alongside Fr Bernard? Nearly three decades ago, he was one four priests marching together in a Pride parade, as seen in this archive picture from the New York Times: Read the rest of this entry »

Out in the Forces: UK Version

Over the last year or so there have been many notable anniversaries of landmarks on the way to LGBT equality: 40 since Stonewall (June last year), 40 years since the first gay liberation march (June this year); 20 years since the first civil unions in Denmark (last year),10 years for those in Vermont (June this year), 5 years for the first full marriages in Massachusetts. Here’s one that passed me by – possibly because it’s more difficult to pin it down to a specific date in th year, possibly because it will have been missed by the American media that so dominate our news cycle.

2010 marks ten years of openly gay and lesbian members serving in the British armed forces. Read the rest of this entry »

Slovenian Violence at Pride – Condemned by Church Justice & Peace Commission!

Two news items from Slovenia appear to be worth noting. Unfortunately, as they are both from the same subscription service, I cannot access more than just the headline and first paragraphs. From these it appears, however, that Slovenia’s Pride Parade was marred by anti-gay violence. The Church’s Peace and Justice arm has responded with a clear condemnation of violence on the grounds of religion,   – or sexual orientation.

This should not be a surprise: the Church teaching on social is clear, and even teaching on “homosexuality” insists that all people should be treated with “dignity, compassion and respect”, and that violence is to be condemned. In practice, however, it is seldom that this theoretical stance against homophobic violence is given public expression. This statement is therefore to be warmly welcomed.

From Slovenian Press Agency (28 June, 2010)

Popular Gay Bar in Ljubljana Attacked (adds)

Ljubljana, 28 June (STA) – Unknown perpetrators attacked last week a Ljubljana bar popular with the gay community with Molotov cocktails. The bar as well as the house of a judge who sentenced in March three men to prison for a 2009 assault on a gay activist were also sprayed with homophobic graffiti.

and 29 June 2010:

Church Condemns Violence Based on Religious Affiliation, Sexual Orientation

Ljubljana, 29 June (STA) – The Justice and Peace Commission at the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference condemned on Tuesday in the wake of an attack targeting the gay community in Ljubljana violence and intolerance based on religious, political affiliation or sexual orientation.

The Saints & Martyrs of Stonewall

Devotion to the saints is one of the most characteristic features of Catholic culture – but just who are the “saints”? The best known are those officially recognised by the church, those who have been formally canonized and listed in official guides by the Church. But it was not always so – in the early church, before it became an institutional industry (sometimes even a commercial enterprise) things were different: saints were recognized by popular acclamation.
In this month of LGBT Pride, worldwide, there has been a lot written about the events of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1969, events that led to the first gay liberation marches the following year, and to countless more Pride Parades, in an expanding list of locations, ever since. Can we think of those Stonewall heroes as “saints”? Kittredge Cherry thinks we can, and has written about them for her LGBT Saints and Martyrs series at “Jesus in Love” Blog.

There are many forms of sainthood, and Kitt is right to include as saints more than just those formally recognised by the institutional church. Often linked to “saints” is the word “martyrs”, from the Greek “to bear witness”. It is in this sense, that we can think of the Stonewall heroes not only as saints, but also as “martyrs”, those who bore witness to the truth. So it is too, that we are all called to “martyrdom” at Pride, to bear witness to out own truth. “Speak the Truth in Love” is the instruction from Scripture, and even from the Vatican in its infamous Hallowe’en letter. “Speaking the Truth” can also mean, quite simply, joining a Pride Parade as a religious act.

I like to think of saints in terms of the lessons they can offer us in our lives today, and in this there is another lesson we can take from the Stonewall martyrs: the importance of standing up against injustice. For them, it was the harassment of the police they were standing up to and resisting, against all expectations. For us, it is the harassment and unequal treatment meted out by the institutional church.

This is how Kitt introduces her post:

LGBT people fought back against police harassment 41 years ago today (June 28) at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, launching the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender liberation movement.

The Stonewall Rebellion (aka Stonewall Riots) became known as the first time that LGBT people rebelled against government persecution of homosexuality. It is commemorated around the world during June as LGBT Pride Month.

The queer people who fought back at Stonewall are not saints in the usual sense. But they are honored here as “saints of Stonewall” because they had the guts to battle an unjust system. They do not represent religious faith — they stand for faith in ourselves as LGBT people. They performed the miracle of transforming self-hatred into pride. These “saints” began a process in which self-hating individuals were galvanized into a cohesive community. Their saintly courage inspired a justice movement that is still growing stronger after four decades.

Before Stonewall, police regularly raided gay bars, where customers submitted willingly to arrest. The Stonewall Inn catered to the poorest and most marginalized queer people: drag queens, transgenders, hustlers and homeless youth.

She concludes with a prayer for all saints:

I think of the saints of Stonewall as I pray this standard prayer for all saints:

God, May we who aspire to have part in their joy

be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives. Amen.

(Read the full post at  “GLBT saints: The Saints of Stonewall“)


The Greatest Pride of All?

Last year, there were an estimated 3 million participants – and more, in an overwhelmingly Catholic city. Figures for this year are believed to similar, and 50 % up on just 5 years ago, and 25 times as many as 2ooo. Sao Paulo Pride has only been going since 1987.

In South America, Pride is not just a fun day out: it’s deeply political. Read the rest of this entry »