Portuguese same-sex marriage bill passes
As expected, Portugal's Parliament passed a bill Jan. 8 to legalize same-sex marriage. The vote was 125-92 with seven abstentions.
President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is not expected to veto the bill, but even if he does, it would delay the law only by a few weeks. Should Cavaco Silva sign the bill, the first gay marriages will happen in April.
Socialist Prime Minister José S�"crates said legalizing same-sex marriage "rights a wrong" and increases freedom and equality.
The bill specifically excludes access to adoption for married same-sex
"This is the main step towards same-sex civil marriage in Portugal, but not the last one," said correspondent João Paulo from PortugalGay.pt. "The president can still delay the implementation of the law."
The board co-chair of the European Region of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said same-sex marriage is rapidly becoming the norm in Europe.
"It is truly a fantastic start of 2010 for LGBT people in Portugal and Europe as a whole," said Martin K.I. Christensen. "It is clear that a European consensus is fast emerging on marriage equality." In addition to signing or vetoing the bill, President Cavaco Silva has a
third option, correspondent Paulo said. He could send it to the Constitutional Court because of the adoption exclusion.
The court would then pronounce the bill constitutional or not. If the court said it is constitutional, Parliament would pass it again in the same form. If the court said it is unconstitutional, Parliament likely would pass a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage and opens adoption to married same-sex couples, which neither the president nor the prime minister supports.
Mexico City gay marriage law takes effect in March
Mexico City's law allowing same-sex marriage will take effect in March.
It was approved by the Legislative Assembly on Dec. 21 and published in the official register on Dec. 30.
Legislators voted 39-20 for the bill, which redefines "marriage" as "the free uniting of two people."
The bill also explicitly legalizes adoption by gay couples. Federal benefits, such as pension, inheritance and social-security rights, will remain off-limits to married gay couples without changes in federal law to recognize the Mexico City marriages.
City officials say they hope gay couples will come from around the world to get married. The city is working with travel agencies to offer packages that include flights, hotel, sightseeing, a wedding and a banquet.
Same-sex marriage also is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden; in Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province; and in the U.S. states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. It will become legal in March in Washington, D.C., and in Portugal later this year.
'Engaged' gay couple jailed in Malawi
Two men in Blantyre, Malawi, got engaged to be married in a traditional ceremony Dec. 26, local media reported.
Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, formalized their relationship before hundreds of observers, then were promptly arrested and charged with gross public indecency and unnatural practices between males.
The couple pleaded not guilty in a Dec. 30 court appearance, after which prosecutors threatened that medical tests would be performed to prove the couple had sex together. They remain jailed at Chichiri prison.
Gay sex is banned in Malawi under threat of up to 14 years in prison.
Amnesty International on Jan. 6 demanded the men be released, saying "their rights to freedom of conscience, expression and privacy" have been violated and they are "prisoners of conscience."
"Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have committed no criminal offense and should be immediately and unconditionally released," said Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen. "The Malawian authorities' attempt to subject them to forcible anal examinations is appalling. Such practices and the criminalization of homosexuality in Malawi should be ended without delay."
In the meantime, on Jan. 4, Malawian police arrested Bunker Kamba, an activist from the Centre for the Development of People, for possessing "pornographic" HIV-education materials.
Kamba was released on bail. Amnesty said police also want to arrest CEDEP activist Gift Trapence on the same charges.
Serbian gay film festival deemed a 'success'
Serbian LGBT activists say the nation's first International Queer Film Festival, "Merlinka," staged in December in Belgrade, was a "success."
Ten films were shown over four days, and a public discussion titled "Gay and lesbian moments in domestic film" was attended by actresses Ana Franic and Lena Bogdanovic, actor Aleksandar Lazic and directors Mladen Dordevic and Zelimir Zilnik.
The audience award, called "Dorothy's Shoe," was given to Canadian Bruce LaBruce's gay zombie film "Otto; or, Up with Dead People."
The festival is named after the late transgender actress Vjeran Miladinovic ( "Merlinka" ) who starred in Zilnik's film "Marble Ass."
Supporters of the festival included the French Cultural Center, the British Council, the Goethe Institute and the Center for Nonviolent Action.
Cross-dressers arrested in Bahrain
Gulf News reported Jan. 4 that nine cross-dressers were arrested at a hotel discothèque in Manama, Bahrain, on New Year's Eve and charged with public debauchery. The report said the men were of differing Arab nationalities.
Gulf News also reported that two journalists in Cairo have been jailed for a year for outing three celebrities. Al-Balagh Al-Gadid Editor-in-Chief Abdou el-Maghrabi and reporter Ehab al-Agami reportedly filed a story claiming that three actors had been caught in a compromising homosexual situation at a hotel.
Iranian transgenders reclassified
Iran's military will no longer classify transgender people as "mentally
disturbed," said Hasan Mousavi Chelk, who heads the Socially Vulnerable Groups section of the State Agency for National Well-Being.
Chelk said Jan. 6 that putting such a determination on transgender people's military discharge papers creates problems for them.
From now on, transgender people being separated from the military will be labeled as "diabetics" or "people with a hormonal imbalance," he said.
In reality, Chelk said, Iran's 4,000 self-identified transgender people have a "sexual identity disorder." They are citizens, he said, and the government views them "favorably."
Assistance: Bill Kelley