French gay couples get right to ‘marry, adopt children’

Gay couples in France will be allowed to get married and to adopt children as of 2013, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has announced in parliament.

The announcement was part of a keynote speech outlining the new Socialist government’s five-year plan.

It confirms an election pledge made by President Francois Hollande.

A number of European nations including Germany, Sweden and Britain already allow gay adoption.

At present only married couples – not civil union partners – can adopt in France.

“In the first half of 2013, the right to marriage and adoption will be open to all couples, without discrimination,” Mr Ayrault told parliament.

“Our society is evolving, lifestyles and mentalities are changing. The government will respond to that.”

He announced the news during a keynote speech outlining the government’s budget and political agenda.

Symbolic gesture

Gays in France make up 6.5% of the electorate, compared with practising Catholics at 4.5%, according to figures released by pollster Ifop.

A survey carried out at the beginning of the year showed 63% of French people are in favour of gay marriage while 56% support gay adoption.

The confirmation of the new law came only days after Paris held its annual Gay Pride parade, which this year was buoyed by the new goverment’s promise to legalise gay marriage and adoption rights.

In a symbolic gesture, French Minister for Families Dominique Bertinotti turned out to see the parade floats set off.

European nations allowing gay adoption include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Britain.

via BBC News .

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Study shows over half of UK gay teens bullied at school |

Despite improvement in last five years, most lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils still face homophobic bullying at school and more likely to self harm

 More than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers in the UK are bullied at school, a study published today (3July) reveals.

According to The School Report by gay rights organization Stonewall, 55% of British youngsters aged between 11 and 18 experience homophobic bullying at school.

While 95% say they anti-gay words such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza used and 99% claim to hear the phrases ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’, The Guardian reported.

Most shocking is that 56% of those surveyed in the survey of more than 1,600 gay pupils have tried to deliberately harm themselves, including cutting and burning themselves.

Despite the figures being down on the last report in 2007, which saw 65% of gay teens admitting to being victims of homophobic bullying, there has been little improvement in occurances of anti-gay language.

‘I think some teachers – particularly those who were trained a while ago – think, mistakenly, that it is unlawful to teach children about homosexuality. Others dismiss homophobic bullying as banter,’ said Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill.

‘When a child is bullied for having ginger hair or being black, at least parents or carers can provide support at home, but many young people who suffer homophobic bullying don’t have that. Many feel so isolated they withdraw from education.’

– MATTHEW JENKIN, Gay Star News.

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Could gay marriage debate drive young Christians from church?

As the battle over gay marriage heats up in this election year, one evangelical Christian writer is calling for a truce, fearing that the outspoken opposition to gay marriage among some church leaders could alienate an entire generation of religious youth.

“Evangelicals have been so submitted to these culture wars for so long, so that’s hard to give up,” evangelical writer and speaker Rachel Held Evans, 31, told msnbc.com. But “the majority of young Christians really, really, really want to stop with the political emphasis.”

Held Evans, who regularly speaks at Christian colleges, said the young Christians she meets are much more open to gay rights than are older generations, an observation backed up by polling data.

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A 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the generation gap between young Christians and their elders is large, with 44 percent of white evangelicals aged 18-29 in support of marriage equality compared to only 12 percent of those 65 and older.

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According to the same survey, nearly 70 percent of young Christians also agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

 –  more at U.S. News.

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Soho Masses Provide Welcome and Community for London’s LGBT Community

While in London, England, for World Pride, I was blessed to be able to attend one of the Soho Masses, sponsored here by the Archdiocese of Westminster (London) for the LGBT community.  It was a beautiful service filled with a great spirit of hospitality and solidarity.

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory

The Masses are held on the first and third Sundays of the month, 5:00 pm, at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, in the Soho neighborhood of London, which is the center of the LGBT community.  When I attended yesterday, the church was packed, with what I estimated to be about 125 people.

The community gathered for liturgy was amazingly diverse in terms of age, gender, race and ethnicity.  At the social hour afterward, even I, as a newcomer, was made to feel very welcome by people I had never met, and who did not know that I was a foreign visitor

The Soho Masses are clearly doing the work of God here in London, not only providing a welcome to the ostracized, but providing an opportunity for people to be of service to one another and to the church and the world.  If you visit  London, you should be sure to schedule a visit for one of these wonderful liturgies.   For more information, click here.

– full post at  Bondings 2.0/ New Ways Ministry.

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Nairobi’s gay rights revolution

ONE BUS RIDE AND I HAD LEFT BEHIND the crowded streets of downtown Nairobi, arriving on the outskirts of the city. The omnipresent buzz and whine of traffic was gone, replaced by the call of birds and the occasional whoosh of a passing car.

I leaned up against a cement building painted neon green and pink, advertising mobile phone providers and laundry detergent. It sprang up from the surrounding dusty landscape littered with acacia trees. A young Kenyan man walked toward me wearing a t-shirt with an orange hoodie over it and jeans that were slightly flared and torn at the knee.

“Gabriel?” I said. The man smiled and stuck out his hand.

Gabriel and I walked to a building across the street and entered a cavernous, unlit room. The walls were stark and cement; the only furnishings were a desk, two chairs, and a banner that read Other Sheep Kenya. I introduced myself to the slim man slouched in one of the chairs in the corner of the room. He looked hesitant, but after I gave my name he was quick to smile and tell me that his name was Peter.

It had taken Gabriel a moment to close and padlock the iron grill placed over the front door, and after finishing he hurried over to us. He repeated the introduction. “This is Peter, my boyfriend.”

Something flashed across Peter’s face; I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. He stole a glance in my direction, trying to read my face, as I tried to read his.

* * *

Gabriel and Peter were staying at a safe house provided by Other Sheep Kenya, one of a growing number of organizations in Kenya working to further gay rights.

Gabriel grew up in Nairobi and has known as long as he can remember that he was gay. Living in the capital city gave him access to gay rights organizations, and he has been involved in activism since he was a teenager. Peter, meanwhile, comes from outside of Kajiado, a rural area in southern Kenya, and he didn’t know that gay rights organizations existed until his recent move to Nairobi.

Over the course of a decade, the fight for gay rights and the presence of gay culture have become visible in Nairobi at a speed perhaps incomparable to anywhere else in the world. Only 15 years ago, no Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organizations operated openly in Kenya. Accordingly, gay rights were seldom discussed publicly or privately.

– more at Matador Network.

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Gay Marriage and Religion: What Marriage Means to Me

Recently married in the state of Connecticut, my partner and I spent hours with family, friends, clergy, and liturgical experts crafting a service that would express out commitment to one another and also be a holyspace of joy and celebration. We combined our cultures — Black and White — in a service of welcome to those gathered to the world we are committed to cherishing and growing as a space of Spirit and justice wrapped in love and passion. Our service, without our thinking about it consciously, did not look like a traditional wedding service. Yes, we had some of the traditional elements, but we wanted to invite those gathered into our understanding of the sacred, our values, our hopes, our sense of how justice can and must have loving and celebratory leaning. And although both of us were surprised, to varying extents, to find that the relationship we seek to acknowledge we are building is that of marriage, we could find no other name for it so we have set out to live into our vows and vision for ourselves. We are both clear that we do not to conform to the standard text of marriage, but we want to find ways to breath new air and life into what it means to be married not only by the state, but even more so in the eyes of the Holy Spirit; to be committed for a life time; and to grow old and be those kind of old ladies that we so admired when we were children — truth tellers, wise, independent, but fiercely engaged in the communities they were a part of.

Folks approach gay marriage from a variety of perspectives — moral, theological, social, political. As a Christian social ethicist with womanist leanings, I am clear that the Bible says precious little about same sex relationships, though it appears to have a bit more to say about acts but even that is muddled. I am also clear that although God judges our acts, God does so out of love and mercy and would much rather spend holy time applauding our attempts at humanity than smiting our behavior. The acceptance of gay marriage (even gays who do not believe in marriage) was evident at our ceremony — both of our families, a variety of racial ethnic groups and nationalities, differing sexualities, same sex couples who are married — some with children, others not, children, traditional nuclear families, the list went on and on. The sanctuary and the dinner and dancing that followed was one of joy and celebration — not so much for us as a same-sex couple, but because of our love for one another and trying to share that with others. Politically, it is disheartening to see out love, care, compassion and commitment to one another be made into a political football by the right and the left. The bottom line for me is not “gay marriage” but “marriage.” When folks, whoever they may be, find that the only word that expresses the commitment they make to one another is marriage — we should celebrate this and give them all the support we can for it is no small thing to live out vows that are marked by “forever.”

-full reflection by Emilie Townes at Huffington Post: What Marriage Means to Me.

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God loves LGBTs says ‬Catholic Filipino author

New book by Raymond Alikpala says ‘being gay is a special grace from God’

Coming to terms with one’s self is not easy for homosexuals in a society where gender is limited to either male or female.

Raymond Alikpala, 46, a lawyer and formerly a seminarian, knows very well the anguish of living in the shadows having done so in the first 38 years of his life.

“I came out because I was tired of hiding who I really am. I wanted to be able to finally live my life honestly and proudly. I stopped caring about what others would think should they find out I  ambakla (gay),” says Alikpala.

He shares his story of growing up a devout Catholic and harboring the secret of his homosexuality in a book “Of God and Men” to be launched June 16, 2012 at  3  p.m. at  Bestsellers Bookstore,  4th Level, Robinson’s Galleria, Pasig City.

Alikpala said a number of his friends encouraged him to write his story “as catharsis for my years in the closet.” He felt however that “it was much more than that.”

Perhaps because of his years in the seminary, Alikpala’s objective in writing the book is more evangelical. “To spread the good news that God loves bakla, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders and transsexuals as much as She loves all Her other children.”

Yahoo News, Philippines

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Grieving parents: Gay teens walk a painful, lonely path

Tim and Tracy Rodemeyer, of suburban Buffalo: After the death of their son Jamey, seeking to raise awareness of the trials and solitude of gay teens or youths confused about their orientation.

In the days after the death of Jamey Rodemeyer, his parents discovered he’d kept a blog they hadn’t known about. Jamey’s Internet entries described the uncertainty of a 14-year-old coming to terms with the realization that he was gay, and the fear that it meant a lifetime of isolation.

One entry especially haunts Tim and Tracy Rodemeyer, who drove Sunday from their Erie County home to All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Syracuse, where they took part in a prayer service on bullying. They said Jamey, last September, had just started his freshman year at Williamsville North High School in suburban Buffalo. In a post on his blog, he spoke of attending a meeting of gay, lesbian and transgender students.

He didn’t mention the meeting to his parents. Instead, he told them he went to drama club.

The pain represented by that entry — the idea that Jamey thought he might be rejected by his own family — explains why Tim and Tracy so willingly speak out about their loss. At 13, Jamey revealed to Tracy that he might be gay. Tracy said she and her husband were hardly experts about raising a gay child, but she offered a gut reaction: She told Jamey she would love him, whatever path he took.

In September, nine school days into his freshman year, Jamey hung himself in their backyard.

“It’s something I’ve got to live with the for rest of my life, just wondering how long he’d had this planned,” Tracy said. “There are certain days we don’t want to talk about this anymore, and we sit back and say, ‘We just want our son back.’ But we firmly believe he was put here to get a message out.”

What they know is that their son had no choice in who he was. As a young child, they said, he preferred the company and games of little girls. Even in grade school, that led to mocking from other boys, taunts that intensified as Jamey grew older.

Twenty or 30 years ago, Tracy said, gay children could at least find safety away from school. In the age of Internet, electronic insults followed Jamey home. Since his death, Tracy and Tim have grown to realize, day by day, how unbearable his ordeal must have become.

“People don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m gay,'” Tracy said Sunday, from an altar adorned with rainbow-colored cloth and candles at All Saints. “My son, on his 14th birthday, didn’t say, ‘I want to get picked on, I can’t wait to get pushed around, so I’m going to tell people I’m gay.'”

As they went through Jamey’s room in the days after his death, his parents were surprised by what they found: Their son had written a passionate essay supporting gay marriage. He created T-shirts with slogans supporting gay rights and tolerance.

“Unfortunately,” Tracy said, “he had a harder time believing it for himself.”

The talk Sunday by the Rodemeyers, followed by a question and answer session, was part of an ongoing theme of acceptance at All Saints. Vince Sgambati, a parishioner, offered statistics from New York City’s Ali Forney Center, an organization dedicated to homeless gay youths. Nationally, Sgambati said, as many as 240,000 gay teens may be living on the streets because their parents turned away. In New York, many homeless gay youths survive by becoming prostitutes; up to 20 percent, Sgambati said, may be infected with HIV.

He recommended that gay youths, or parents seeking help and guidance, call the Q Center, an arm of AIDS Community Resources in Syracuse. The Rev. Fred Daley, pastor of All Saints and a celibate gay man, described that kind of institutional support as another step in a Christian imperative:

“It’s an opportunity to recognize that a significant population among us is hurting, that it has been hurting for a long time, and it’s a scandal that so many churches have been quiet.”

During a conversation between the Rodemeyers and the audience, Bill Tenity, a retired middle school teacher from Auburn, reassured the couple about Jamey’s reluctance to speak openly about his orientation. That’s typical, Tenity said; gay men and women often go through life with a deep fear of rejection. He recalled how he declined to reveal he was gay when he was teaching, afraid the truth might put his job at risk.

Such hesitation continues among many teachers, Tenity said, which eliminates potential role models for gay students and reinforces the sense of isolation among teens.

The Rodemeyers received a standing ovation as they stepped down from the altar. In the end, you got the sense their mission was profoundly simple: The next time any of us feel the urge to make a cruel judgment or joke, maybe we’ll pause for just a second to think about their son.

– more at Syracuse.com

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Pentagon to celebrate gay pride for US troops

US military saluted for supporting gay servicemen just months after repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy

The US military will salute gay troops by holding its first ever pride event, just months after repealing the notorious ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.

Details of the celebrations are still being ironed out, but the Pentagon’s announcement to mark gay pride month in June has been seen by activists as a sign of how rapidly the Defence Department is changing, reported the Associated Press.

‘I don’t think it’s just moving along smoothly, I think it’s accelerating faster than we even thought the military would as far as progress goes,’ said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried.

Gay Star News

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Pride for gay Catholics: Acceptance exhibition in Surry Hills

GAY Catholic group Acceptance Sydney is celebrating their 40th anniversary with an exhibition of photographs, personal stories and historical material at the Surry Hills library.

Officially opened by former premier Kristina Keneally last week, the exhibition illustrates the support groups history, the challenges it has faced and the individual stories of its members.

“For 40 years, Acceptance has practised just that: accepting people for who they are and sharing their Christian faith journey in community,” said Keneally.

“The exhibit is a chance to celebrate that history.”

Exhibition coordinator Tim has spent hundreds of hours sorting through newspaper archives and personal collections to put the exhibition together: “It’s a powerful statement to say you can be gay and Catholic,” he said.

-full report at Sydney Central

(I live in the Surrey Hills, so my immediate response to the headline was that it’s extraordinarily close to home – but this report refers to “Surry”- without the “e”).

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