Secretary of State John Kerry will appoint a special envoy within the State Department who will promote global LGBT rights, according to The Washington Blade. The State Department is in "the final vetting stages" for the post, and a senior official said the envoy will be an "openly gay Foreign Service officer." The announcement came less than a year after U.S. Sen. Ed Markey ( D-Mass. ) first introduced a billthe International Human Rights Defense Actthat would have created an LGBT envoy within the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Islamic State ( ISIS ) militants have reportedly thrown another gay man off a building, who was then stoned to death after surviving the fall, Gay Star News reported. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted a source as saying the man was killed in the Tal Abyad town in Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold. It is the fourth execution for alleged homosexuality that the jihadist group has carried out in the last few weeks.
In Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird rose in the House of Commons Feb. 3 to announce that he is stepping away from political life after two decades, according to DailyXtra.com . Baird, a former member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean, did not provide specific reasons for his departure, except to say that it was time for him to start a new chapter in life. Despite refraining from discussing his sexuality publicly, Baird has not been shy about fighting for gay rights, especially in the international arena. In October 2012, he clashed publicly with Ugandan parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga at a Quebec City conference, calling out her country for its proposed "Kill the Gays" bill and its poor gay-rights record.
Hungary's Supreme Court has ordered the retrial of three anti-gay protesters convicted of attacking police guarding the Budapest Pride march in 2011 because it considered the sentence too lenient, The New York Times reported. A statement from the Kuria, as the court is now called, said the sentence condemning the unidentified defendants to community service did not fit the crime. The defendants had been charged with group violence against officials, which carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison.
President Obama has been urged to raise the subject of LGBT rights in trade talks with Brunei, according to Pink News. Brunei is one of 11 nations to join the United States in signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, if passed, would create the largest trade pact in history. In April 2014, Brunei revised its penal code to include death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.
Latvia may become the next Eastern European state to formally recognize the relationships of unmarried couples in a proposal that would see same-sex couples recognized for the first time in the country's history, Gay Star News reported. Under Unity Party MP Veiko Spolitis' proposal, couples entering into civil partnerships would have to be over 18 ( compared to 16 for married couples ) and would be banned from solemnizing their relationships in religious places of worship.
A Swedish man will reportedly be jailed for two years in Tunisia for "homosexual acts," Gay Star News noted. The man in his 50s, who has been living in France for years, was imprisoned Feb. 4. The Swedish Foreign Ministry has protested the arrest, with the sentence being appealed.
In Ghana, authorities at the St Paul's Boys' High School at Denu in the Volta region saved two students, thought to be gay, from lynching by their angry homophobic colleagues, Starr FM Online reported. The two allegedly gay students were in police custody; authorities have launched investigations into the near-attack as well as the killing of one student by an officer's stray bullet in the midst of the mob attack on the gay students. The school has been temporarily closed.
A Russian politician behind a controversial anti-gay propaganda law has been caught up in a social-media storm in which he is pictured in a photograph of two women kissing, CNN reported. Vitaly Milonov was on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg when he was photographed by two women who took a selfie of themselves kissing in front of him. Milonov was the driving force behind a law that bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors." Milonov has lashed out at the photographer, saying "I am tolerant towards all sexual minorities."
Three men were rushed to a hospital after a drug-related incident at a gay sauna in London, Pink News reported. Chariots Health Club in Vauxhallone of the largest gay saunas in Londonwas closed after the incident; it has since reopened. Other Chariots branches have had troubles over the past few years, including a 46-year-old man who was found dead in the Shoreditch spa in 2012.
The producers of a popular television soap in Angola have apologized after an episode that showed a gay couple kissing caused outrage among viewers, BBC News reported. State television said it had suspended broadcasts of Jikulumessu for "technical reasons." The program was produced by a firm that the president's son owns. Jose Eduardo Paulino dos Santos, a leading artist better known by his stage name Coreon Du, has been accused of promoting homosexuality in Angola, where many people hold conservative religious and social values.
In India, a 32-year-old woman who sought fertility treatment learned that while her appearance is female, her chromosomes are 95-percent malean intersex condition known as XY gonadal dysgenesis, according to Newser.com . Moreover, thanks to hormonal treatments, she has just given birth to healthy twinsa feat that's only been reported in five previous cases.
In Australia, Melbourne Chargers and Sydney Convicts will make history Feb. 20, when they will face each other as a curtain-raiser ahead of the Super Rugby fixture between Melbourne Rebels and New South Wales Waratahs at AAMI Park in Melbourne, ESPNScrum.com noted. The Chargers-Convicts match will mark the first time that two gay rugby teams have competed as part of a professional sporting event. The match will be the first rugby fixture played at AAMI Park in 2015, and the 2014 Bingham Cup-winning Convicts will be favoured to defeat the Chargers, the Bingham Plate holders.
Also in Australia, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews led the 20th annual Pride March Feb. 1 in Melbourne in support of the LGBTI community, saying equality is not negotiable, according to abc.net .au. About 4,000 people and about 130 organizations took part in the march. Australian Equal Opportunity Party's Jason Tuazon-McCheyne said it was fantastic that both Government and Opposition MPs attended the march.
An Irish man's rant against same-sex marriage on a national television debate went amusingly awry after he inadvertently opposed heterosexual marriage as well, the UK Independent reported. The episode of The People's Debate saw presenter Vincent Browne reduced to giggles after audience member Michael O'Leary shouted, "We don't want to see men and women getting married!" The topical Irish television program has audience members participate in conversations around national issues.
Police were called to a restaurant at London's O2 after a mother was left feeling "sick" when her young children viewed an explicit gay-sex scene on a restaurant booking screen, Pink News reported. Jade Miller, 27, from New Eltham, was with her three sons at Jimmy's restaurant at The O2 in Greenwich, when they saw the footage. The computer was showing a website called Meatspin, which shows footage of two men having sex while one of them twirls his manhood.
One of the leading members of the Church of England's evangelical wing has come out as a lesbian, according to Advocate.com . Jayne Ozanne, 46, revealed her sexuality after a struggle to reconcile her faith and identity that took her through exorcism attempts, thoughts of suicide, and a mental breakdown. In another development, she has been named director of Accepting Evangelicals, a group that advocates for LGBT equality within evangelical Christianity.
Robert Van Damme, an alleged gay-for-pay porn star, is serving nine years in prison in his native Czech Republic, according to South Florida Gay News. In 2010 Van Damme, who's real name is Robert Kovarik, was arrested for repeatedly beating his then-wife. Van Damme was also wanted in his home country for a series of armed robberies he committed there in 1999 and 2000.
In the Philippines, Mandaue City has paid tribute to its LGBTI residents with a rainbow crossingthe first of its kind in Asia, according to Gay Star News. Mayor Jonas Cortes led the painting of the pedestrian lane in the city's largest barangay, or ward. Subangdaku barangay captain Ernie Manatad added that the road symbolized "gender-conscious" governance.
A survey shows that nearly nine in 10 Filipinos believe LGBTI people have the right to be protected from discrimination, Gay Star News noted. The Social Weather Stations conducted the survey in June and September 2013 but only released the results Feb. 6, 2015. The survey also shows, among other things, that 38 percent of the respondents believed that homosexuality is contagious.
Also in the Philippines, the organizers of a "League of Legends" eSports tournament in Manila have reversed themselves and will no longer limit the number of lesbian or transgender players at a women's-only tournament, Outsports noted. The quota system was roundly condemned, including by the company that developed multiplayer online battle-arena video game. Riot Games, based in Santa Monica, California, had pressured Garena eSports to remove the restrictions since the game company has a policy of welcoming LGBT players at tournaments.