NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ROMANIA IS GAY
The new U.S. ambassador to Romania is openly gay
That's ironic, activists say, since Romania repeatedly has rejected the European Union's demands that it repeal all anti-gay laws prior to joining the EU.
According to the Washington Post, Ambassador Michael Guest will be joined in Bucharest by his partner, Alex Nevarez, who was onstage at Guest's swearing-in and was verbally acknowledged by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"That small gesture spoke volumes," said Human Rights Campaign spokesman David Smith.
Moscow gay leader Nikita Ivanov agreed. "This is fabulous," he said.
When Bill Clinton tried to appoint openly gay Jim Hormel ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997, the Senate blocked him for 21 months. Clinton finally appointed Hormel in 1999 without Senate confirmation while the Senate was in recess.
"It is amazing, the contrast of the opposition to Mr. Hormel and the ease with which this gentleman was confirmed," Smith said. "In normal circumstances, this probably would have received a lot more attention.
"Mr. Guest's confirmation hearing transcript did not contain any mention of his sexual orientation, though he said he was not married," Smith added. "He is a career foreign service officer, has a lengthy career within the State Department, and was head of the legislative office, so he likely enjoyed stellar relationships with every Senate office."
Sydney Levy, communications director for the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said Guest's confirmation "shows progress on the part of the U.S. government."
"It is ironic that it's Romania," Levy said. "Ambassador appointments have great symbolic importance, but we also need the U.S. government to say loud and clear that human rights for sexual minorities in Romania are important."
State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs spokesperson Kate Byrnes said Sept. 20 that Guest would not be granting any interviews prior to his departure for Romania.
EGYPTIAN TEEN JAILED
A 15-year-old Egyptian was jailed for three years Sept. 18 for engaging in gay sex ( "practicing sexual immorality" ) .
Mahmud Abdel Fatah was one of the 53 men arrested in the May 11 swoop on Cairo's Queen Boat gay nightclub. He was tried separately because he is a minor.
Prosecutors claimed that medical exams proved Fatah engaged in gay sex. Fatah screamed and cried when the verdict was handed down.
The rest of the detainees remain jailed at Tora Prison as their trials continue in an emergency state security court, the rulings of which cannot be appealed.
They are charged with practicing sexual immorality and "forming a group which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas."
The immorality offense carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and the religion offense carries a maximum penalty of five years. International human-rights groups, including Amnesty International, have denounced the arrests.
The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission is worried there will be a loss of interest in the men's predicament as attention focuses on the United States' planned war on terrorists.
"We are concerned that the United States will forsake human rights consideration as it tries to forge its worldwide [ anti-terrorism ] coalition," said Program Director Scott Long. "If this happens, the U.S. government will have not only abandoned the [ men ] to an unfair and lengthy prison stay but it will also betray the very values it has sworn to defend."
IGLHRC Communications Director Sydney Levy added: "Many news agencies are focusing most of their attention on the dreadful September 11 attack and its after-effects, leaving little room for anything else. The Egyptian government is using this moment to seal the fate of the [ detainees ] , knowing that its actions will go unchallenged by the world's public opinion."
THE TALIBAN EXECUTE GAYS
Homosexuality is routinely punished with death in Afghanistan, the New York Post reported Sept. 23.
Under the Taliban version of religious law, men who have sex with men are forced to lie in a hole in the ground while a wall is knocked down on them. Afterward, the bulldozer that knocked down the wall runs over them.
Taliban leaders considered but rejected two other options for killing gays, the Post said -- pushing them off a cliff or forcing them to jump from a tall building.
Collapsing a wall on them "was deemed closest to recommendations in the Haddiths, the apocryphal comments by Muhammed on Allah's teachings," the Post said. "But because many victims survived the punishment, the reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, decided a bulldozer would crush their bodies as well."
In 1999, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors detailed at least six cases where Afghan gays had been purposefully crushed by falling walls.
According to the U.S. State Department's 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, "Those found guilty of homosexual acts were crushed by having walls toppled over them. ... In 1998 at least seven such punishments were reported; five persons died after having walls toppled on them."
REPARATIONS AVAILABLE FOR NAZIS' GAY VICTIMS
The 100 or so living gay men who are survivors of Nazi concentration camps are being urged to file claims for compensation with the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration.
Unlike other groups targeted by the Nazis, homosexuals rarely have received any compensation, mostly due to the anti-gay sentiment of past eras. Some 50,000 homosexuals were believed to have been imprisoned by the Third Reich.
ELTON JOHN THRILLED TO BE GAY
Elton John could not be persuaded to go straight, he says in the current issue of the German magazine Amica.
"I am gay and wouldn't want to be heterosexual for all the money in the world," he said. He also loves his carefree life.
"I've got enough money, don't have to follow any rules, don't have to be in the office from nine to five and take the kids to school in the morning," he said. "It is simply a fantastic life when you don't have any parameters. It's brilliant."