16,000 GAYS &
LESBIANS MARRIED IN CANADA
More than 14,700 gays and lesbians have gotten married in Toronto since Ontario's highest court legalized same-sex marriage last June 10. Of those, 6,800 individuals were non-Canadians, mostly Americans.
In British Columbia, where the highest court legalized same-sex marriage July 8, 1,400 same-sex couples have tied the knot, 766 of them American.
Canada's federal government has promised to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide as soon as the Canadian Supreme Court signs off on the plan by answering four procedural questions that the government sent it.
PLANS CIVIL UNIONS
A civil-union bill will be introduced into New Zealand's Parliament shortly, the New Zealand Press Association reported Feb. 8.
It would grant unioned couples most of the rights of matrimony.
To build momentum for the bill, six gay couples got hitched in a commitment ceremony before 10,000 spectators at Auckland's Big Gay Out festival in Coyle Park Feb. 7.
The measure has the backing of Prime Minister Helen Clark.
'I think a majority [vote] is there for it,' she told festival-goers.
HOUSE OF LORDS OKs TRANS MARRIAGE
Britain's House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament, voted 155 to 57 Feb. 10 to let pre- and post-operative transsexuals obtain a new birth certificate and get married as a member of their new gender.
The bill now moves to the House of Commons.
On Jan. 7, the European Court of Justice ruled that transsexuals must have equal access to marriage and pension rights. The ruling applies in the 15 nations that presently make up the European Union, including the United Kingdom, and in the 10 countries that will join the union in May.
In 2002, the European Court of Human Rights—the court of final appeal for citizens of the 45 nations that make up the Council of Europe—also ruled in favor of transsexuals' right to marry.
GAYS STAGE MASS COMMITMENT CEREMONY IN MELBOURNE
In what was called the world's largest same-sex commitment ceremony, some 300 gay and lesbian couples got hitched at Melbourne's Midsumma Gay and Lesbian Festival Feb. 15, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Organizers from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said they hoped to highlight the federal government's refusal to recognize same-sex relationships.
'Federally, we do not exist,' GLRL convener David McCarthy told the AAP. 'We are second-class citizens and we are treated as such.'
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly denounced same-sex marriage.
'I don't support gay marriages being given the same legal and community status as a traditional marriage,' he said Dec. 8. 'I believe traditional marriage is one of the benchmark institutions of our society and I hold that view very strongly. Even if you produced an opinion poll tomorrow that showed me 80 percent of the Australian community disagreed with me, I would still hold that view.'
Last August, Howard asserted, 'Marriage, as we understand it in our society, is about children: having children, raising them, providing for the survival of the species.'
HIV RATE CLIMBS
IN THE U.K.
New HIV infections in the United Kingdom climbed 20 percent in 2003, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said Feb. 13.
There were 5,047 new cases compared with 4,204 in 2002—and the count is not yet complete. The final number for 2003 is expected to top 7,000.
At least 2,000 of the new cases are believed to be among gay men, which would be the largest yearly total since HIV testing became available.
'Increases in unsafe sex are undoubtedly the main driving force,' government epidemiologist Barry Evans told The Guardian.
There are close to 50,000 HIV-positive people in the U.K., a third of whom don't know they are infected, the HPA told the newspaper.