Queen's composer denied civil partnership
The Queen of England's official composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, has been denied the right to enter an official civil partnership with his longtime partner on the remote Scottish Orkney island of Sanday, where they live.
The Orkney Islands Council blocked the wedding, claiming the local Sanday marriage registrar, Charlie Ridley, who later resigned in protest, was not authorized to perform gay unions.
Instead, the council said, Davies and partner Colin Parkinson could travel 90 minutes by boat to the Orkney capital of Kirkwall and marry at the central registration office. Later, following extensive media coverage, the council reportedly also offered to send a senior registrar from Kirkwall to Sanday to conduct the ceremony.
Reports varied as to why Ridley allegedly lacked authority to perform civil partnerships, with some saying he was unqualified because he was too new on the job, and others saying the council always intended for the ceremonies to be performed only by one or two Kirkwall-based senior registrars because it didn't expect there to be any demand elsewhere.
Davies initially sought legal help to challenge the edict against Ridley, but gave up on Jan. 10 after Ridley resigned his position.
'Everything has gone so sour, it's spoilt everything for us,' Davies told local media. 'We are under the impression that a local registrar can conduct civil ceremonies. ... I will not give the council the pleasure of me marrying in Kirkwall. We will do it elsewhere in the U.K.'
Meanwhile, the islands council appears to have taken punitive action against Ridley, who operates a small, free tourist attraction called the Sanday Light Railway. In the letter in which Ridley was informed he could not conduct civil partnerships, the council also told him his miniature railway lacks a required $10,000 annual public entertainment license, which Ridley says he cannot afford.
'The council approved the planning application for the railway and we have been operating with no problems,' he told local media. 'But as soon as I apply for this gay civil partnership, I get this letter which effectively closes us.'
As a result, Ridley has begun dismantling the $100,000 railway.
On Jan. 6, well-known British gay activist Peter Tatchell called for a tourism boycott of the Orkneys if officials don't stop being obstructionist.
'The Orkney officials seem to be creating no-go areas for civil partnerships,' he told The Sunday Times. 'It smacks of sexual apartheid.'
Sanday has 521 residents.
Archbishop of Canterbury fears Anglican breakup
Disagreement over gay issues may destroy the Anglican Communion, says the communion's spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Church conservatives object to the U.S. Episcopal Church's installation of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, U.S. and Canadian dioceses' support for blessing same-sex unions, and other liberal positions of individual bishops and various national churches that make up the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In the United States alone, at least 22 congregations have disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church and linked up instead with the 'Convocation of Anglicans' headed by the powerful, antigay Anglican primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola.
'I fear the situation slipping out of my control,' Williams said in a British ITV network documentary aired this month. 'I fear schism. ... We can't take it for granted that the Anglican Communion will go on as it always has been.'
More fuel was added to the fire recently when British media reported that as many as 50 gay or lesbian priests in the Church of England may have been allowed by their bishops to enter official civil partnerships without the bishops following a church order to confirm beforehand that the relationships are not sexual in nature.
U.K. antidiscrimination laws survive challenge
The House of Lords rebuffed an attempt Jan. 10 to block the United Kingdom's new laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services.
The unelected Lords voted down the Christian-backed proposal 199-68.
Opponents argued that it would be unconscionable for the government to punish, for example, Christian owners of a bed-and-breakfast for refusing to rent a room to a gay couple.
The antidiscrimination protections already have taken effect in Northern Ireland and come into force in the rest of the United Kingdom in April.
Trouble for Scottsdale/Marrakech sister-city plan
The Scottsdale Sister Cities Association in Arizona has come under fire from gay activists over a plan that would pair Scottsdale and Marrakech, Morocco, as 'sister cities.'
They say it's contradictory for a city with an official gay-tourist outreach program to team up with a country that punishes gay sex with up to three years in prison.
'It wouldn't have been our first pick,' said Amy Kobeta, director of public affairs at the Arizona Human Rights Fund and Foundation.
'It makes me curious about what guidelines they used in selecting a sister city,' she told the East Valley Tribune. ' [ O ] ur hope is that they would look at other areas of the world that are more tolerant.'
According to Amnesty International, about 80 of the world's 193 independent nations criminalize gay sex.
Mexican state passes civil-union law
The Mexican state of Coahuila, which borders Texas, passed a civil-union law for same-sex couples Jan. 11.
The state Congress approved the measure 20-13. It was introduced by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for more than 70 years until the election of former President Vicente Fox in 2000.
Expressing support for the bill, Coahuila PRI Gov. Humberto Moreira said 'it would be discriminatory not to ... respect the rights of every person regardless of sexual affiliation.'
The law extends most of the rights of matrimony to registered same-sex couples.
Coahuila is known for mining and ranching. Its capital city is Saltillo.
The only other locale in Mexico with a same-sex partnership law is Mexico City. That measure passed the city's Legislative Assembly 43-17 with 5 abstentions last November. It grants spousal rights in areas such as property, pensions, inheritance, medical decisions and co-parenting. Heterosexual couples and nonsexual couples also can register under the law.
Other Latin American localities with same-sex civil-union laws include Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Argentine province of Río Negro; and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Mexican gay leader murdered
The best-known gay activist in Matamoros, Mexico, was found stabbed to death in his home Jan. 15.
José Ernesto Leal López, 42, was killed just days after staging a press conference calling for the state of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, to pass a same-sex partnership law similar to those passed in Mexico City and in the border state of Coahuila.
Leal López also recently had demanded that Matamoros police stop allegedly arresting residents because of their homosexual orientation and charging them $84 to be released.
But a police department spokesman said the killing appeared to be solely 'a crime of passion,' noting that there were no signs of forced entry and that there was blood throughout the house.
On Jan. 19, the Hoy Tamaulipas Web site reported that openly gay federal congressman David Sánchez Camacho, who serves on a congressional commission concerned with 'vulnerable groups,' had arrived in Matamoros to challenge the 'crime of passion' theory.
'Enough with wanting to solve this crime by saying it was passion and wanting to sweep it under the carpet when we could be facing an antigay hate crime,' Sánchez Camacho said. 'We've come all the way to Tamaulipas to learn the realities of life for people like us on this border.'
Matamoros is across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.
Kylie Minogue is top British gay icon
Singer Kylie Minogue is the greatest gay icon of all time, according to the British market-research company OnePole. The company questioned more than 5,000 gays and lesbians on the topic.
Dolly Parton took second place, ABBA was third, Judy Garland fourth and Marilyn Monroe fifth.
David Beckham placed sixth, Madonna seventh, Audrey Hepburn eighth, Peter Andre and partner Katie Price ( aka the model Jordan ) ninth, and Liza Minnelli tenth.
Numbers 11-50 were, in order: Cary Grant, Victoria Beckham, Girls Aloud, Barbra Streisand, Pink, Sharon Osbourne, Take That, Cher, Will Young, Elton John, Barbie, Richard and Judy, Cilla Black, Simon Cowell, Julie Andrews, Sister Sledge, Wham!, Rupert Everett, The Cheeky Girls, Fern Britton, Westlife, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, Prince, Morrissey, Blondie, Boy George, Charlotte Church, the Village People, Ant & Dec, Doris Day, Gloria Gaynor, Gerri Halliwell, Donna Summer, Steps, The Human League, French and Saunders, Scissor Sisters, Gavin Henson, and Gordon Ramsay.
—Assistance: Bill Kelley