500,000 at Sydney mardi gras
Mardi Gras, Sydney's annual gay blowout, attracted some 500,000 people to Oxford Street March 3.
The famous parade was led off by 300 dykes on bikes and featured 175 floats and around 8,000 marchers.
This year's theme was gay and lesbian parenting. The lead float, Behind the Pink Picket Fence, carried pink flamingos holding wrapped babies in their beaks.
The parade and its satellite events inject the equivalent of more than U.S. $60 million into the local economy, according to tourism officials.
It is the highest-earning sporting or cultural event on the Aussie tourism calendar.
DUTCH WEDDINGS SET FOR APRIL 1
At midnight on April 1, several gay couples in Amsterdam will become the first same-sex couples in the world to legally marry under the regular marriage laws used by heterosexuals.
That's the day legislation passed by the Dutch parliament takes effect granting gays access to ordinary marriage.
Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen will officiate at the midnight ceremony in the Royal City Marriage Hall of The Grand Hotel, where Queen Beatrix was married.
Several nations have special partnership laws that give registered gay couples many or nearly all rights of matrimony, including Denmark ( and Greenland ) , France, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and, in the U.S., the state of Vermont. A few other nations, including Canada, grant gays many rights of marriage under common-law marriage statutes.
( This reporter will travel to Amsterdam for the April 1 events. )
AMNESTY DENOUNCES AUSTRIA
Amnesty International denounced Austria Feb. 26 for having a higher age of consent for male-male sex ( 18 ) than for male-female or female-female sex ( 14 ) .
The organization said the discrepancies violate Austria's obligations under international law to prohibit discrimination and arbitrary interference with the right to privacy.
Article 209 of the Austrian penal code states: "A man over 19 years of age who engages in same-sex lewdness with a person who has attained the age of 14 but not yet the age of 18 shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years."
The law is enforced routinely, including a recent case in which a 19-year-old man was arrested for having sex with his 16-year-old boyfriend.
The Czech government has drafted a new gay partnership law and will introduce it in Parliament before July.
Many rights of matrimony would be granted by the legislation, but not the right to adopt children.
Australian lesbian Sarah Johanson has won her lawsuit against a Sydney butcher shop that gave her a dog bone purposely carved to look like a penis.
She won the equivalent of U.S. $2,385 from Michael's Meats for sexual harassment. The shop also must pay $16,000 in court costs.
Johanson also had sought damages for depression counseling and stress.
"If they had apologized in the first place it would not have cost them all this money. I just wanted an apology," she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
DRUG COMPANIES TAKE SOUTH AFRICA TO COURT
More than 40 drug companies took the South African government to court March 5&emdash;including Boehringer-Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche.
They are fighting a law passed by the South African parliament which allows HIV drugs and other life-saving medicines to be imported from countries where they are produced generically rather than from countries where they are available only as patented brand-name drugs. The pharmaceutical companies claim the law infringes intellectual property rights.
Nearly five million South Africans carry HIV. Only a tiny minority can afford the patented drugs that have enabled richer countries to transform AIDS from a killer into a frequently manageable illness.
"These companies, with the support of some Western governments, are protecting their monopolies at the expense of millions of lives," said South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign. "This legal action shows that the pharmaceutical industry is more concerned with staving off competition and protecting their high profit margins than with genuinely increasing access to medicines.
"We believe that this lawsuit is legally flawed and morally reprehensible," the group said. "We call on the companies involved to drop the case and on Western governments to provide clear support to the South African government as it strives to tackle the urgent HIV/AIDS epidemic."
HONG KONG PHONE COMPANY LAUNCHES GAY ADS
Hong Kong's first mainstream ad campaign aimed at gays was launched by the Sunday phone company this month.
According to Singapore's The Straits Times, one ad shows three men in revealing dress with one kneeling beside the words "You can't miss this opportunity." The Chinese character for 'opportunity' is pronounced 'gay' in Cantonese and has come to mean 'homosexual' as well.
The ad also urges customers to be "happy together," which is the title of a gay movie by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai.
"This is a very good way of testing how tolerant the public is of this kind of message, and recognizing that there is a gay community here," Jeffrey Yu Pui Man, chairman of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Hong Kong, told the Times.
Following up on his three Grammy awards, rapper Eminem won the Best International Male Artist trophy at Britain's version of the Grammys, the Brit Awards, on Feb. 26.
Openly gay Elton John presented the prize.
About 20 gays protested outside in the rain accusing Eminem of being a homophobe.
Lyrics on Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP include: "You faggots can vanish to volcanic ash and re-appear in hell with a can of gas, and a match ... I'll knock you fuckin' faggots the fuck out ... I don't get fucked in mine like you two little flaming faggots ... Suck my fuckin' dick, you faggot ... My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That'll stab you in the head whether you're a fag or lez / Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest / Pants or dress &emdash; hate fags? The answer's 'yes' / Homophobic? Nah, you're just heterophobic."
Full lyrics to The Marshall Mathers LP at eminemworld.com/lyrics.html.