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FRENCH P.M. MEETS GAYS
World News
by REX WOCKNER
2003-07-30

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Conservative French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin met with gay activists July 18 and promised to introduce anti-discrimination legislation.

Raffarin had separate meetings with members of the Joint Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, and with members of Gay Lib, who are affiliated with President Jacques Chirac's center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party.

Attendees said Raffarin refused to budge on two of their requests: residency and pension rights for gay couples who tie the knot under France's civil-solidarity pact law.

EUROPEAN COURT EXTENDS PARTNER RIGHTS

The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously July 24 that an Austrian gay man who was evicted from his home after his partner died was the victim of unlawful discrimination. The home had been in the partner's name.

The ruling will extend protections to gays, lesbians and bisexuals in 45 countries. Benefits and rights granted by governments to opposite-sex cohabitants now will have to be granted to same-sex couples who live together.

The court declared that 'differences [in treatment] based on sexual orientation require particularly serious reasons by way of justification.'

Austria's contention that it was 'protect[ing] the family in the traditional sense' was not a 'convincing' or 'weighty' enough reason for discrimination, the court said.

MP BANNED FROM HOUSE OF COMMONS

Gay British Member of Parliament Clive Betts was banned from the House of Commons for seven days in July because in February he gave a Commons job to a former prostitute he was dating. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee determined Betts broke the MPs' Code of Conduct by undermining public trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament.

GAY JOURNALIST'S TRIAL BEGINS

The sodomy trial of openly gay journalist Ruslan Sharipov began July 23 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

According to Human Rights Watch, Sharipov's May 26 arrest likely was retaliation for articles he has written on police corruption and human-rights abuses. He was also charged with having sex with minors and pimping.

The trial has been closed, allegedly to protect the identities of the boys Sharipov allegedly violated.

'Sharipov's longstanding history of criticizing government policy, combined with past harassment against him and his colleagues, raise strong suspicions that this is a politically motivated case,' said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's

Europe and Central Asia division. 'That the authorities would charge him with committing homosexual acts, violating his fundamental rights to non-discrimination and privacy, makes it doubly egregious.'

Only three of the 15 former Soviet republics still ban gay sex—Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

CIVIL UNIONS BEGIN IN BUENOS AIRES

Latin America's first civil-union ceremony took place July 18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Activists Cesar Cigliutti and Marcelo Suntheim got hitched at the Civil State Registry office under the city's new Public Registry of Civil Unions law.

Registered couples receive spousal rights in areas such as insurance, health care, hospital visitation and bank loans.

Outside the office, gays celebrated with firecrackers, confetti and cider.

'I am overcome with emotion,' Cigliutti said. 'This law frees gay men and women to be citizens.'

Activists with the Comunidad Homosexual Argentina organization are continuing their push for a national civil-union law.


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