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WORLD Fleeing Russia, Cuban activist, UNAIDS, Magnum ad
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2019-08-21

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Gay married couple Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev were forced to flee Russia over concerns their adopted children could be taken away, NewNowNext.com reported. The couple married in Denmark in 2016, and Vaganov adopted the couple's two boys. When it was discovered the boys were being raised by two men, Russia launched a criminal case accusing the social workers who allowed the adoptions to take place of negligence. The Russian government has argued the boys are being subjected to "propaganda of non-traditional values."

The Cuban government recently LGBTI activist Leandro Rodriguez Garcia from traveling to the United States, The Washington Blade reported. Rodriguez Garcia—director of the Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, an independent advocacy group—said on Facebook that immigration officials detained him, and then told him he was not allowed to leave Cuba—even though he had traveled to Trinidad and Tobago a few weeks earlier to obtain a U.S. visa. He has vocally criticized the Cuban government and Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raul Castro who spearheads LGBTI-specific issues on the Communist island as director of the National Center for Sexual Education.

Ugandan human-rights advocate Winnie Byanyima is the new executive director of The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS ( UNAIDS ), according to the organization's website. She said, "The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world's reach, but I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic."

Magnum has apologized for a controversial ad comparing the "guilty pleasure" of eating a frozen treat to that of gay people expressing affection in countries with harsh anti-LGBTQ laws, NewNowNext.com reported. The ice-cream brand's new audio commercial—playing on music streaming service Spotify in the United Kingdom—features a voiceover from a man who fears persecution in his homeland. A Magnum spokesperson had initially explained that the company "wanted to remind people that what is considered a guilty pleasure isn't always what you would expect."

The Palestinian Authority banned members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community from carrying out any activities in the West Bank, The Jerusalem Post reported. The ban came after the grassroots group Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society ( Arabic for "the bow" ), which engages and supports Palestinians who identify as LGBTQ, was planning to hold a gathering for its members in Nablus at the end of the month. The group operates both in the West Bank and among Arab-Israelis; earlier this month, Al-Qaws held an event in Nablus about sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society. U.S. Congressman Ilhan Omar posted of the ban, "Pretending that this act somehow balances or mitigates Israel violating the dignity & rights of Palestinians - or undermines case for defending Palestinian rights - is deplorable!"

Two Italian men have recounted a tale of a homophobic attack in Valencia, Spain, renewing calls for stronger hate-crime protections, Out.com reported. According to Italy's Gay Center, two men—Andrea, 19, and Luca, 25—were exiting a gay nightclub in Valencia when the altercation occurred. The Gay Center claims that attackers shouted homophobic slurs while beating them, and that the victims were able to escape in a taxi. Gay Center spokesperson Fabrizio Marrazzo called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the young men and seek their attackers.

The president of an Icelandic LGBT+ organization said a planned Mike Pence visit in September is "disrespectful" to the country's queer community, PinkNews reported. Porbjorg Porvaldsdottir, the president of Samtokin '78, wrote, "Mike Pence is against our marriages. He was so wholeheartedly against them that, in 2013, he signed laws as the governor of Indiana which made it a criminal offence to apply for a marriage certificate." She went on to cite other examples on Pence's anti-LGBT+ record.

Popular gay social network Hornet has accused Google of discrimination after its app was removed from Google's Play store several times without warning, BBC.com reported. Hornet said Google often employed moderators in Malaysia, where same-sex relationships are illegal, to vet apps. A rival gay dating app told the BBC that it had also been blocked globally by moderators based in the country. Google said it did not comment on individual apps but denied that the company was anti-LGBT.

Ben Hunte, who became the BBC's first LGBTQ correspondent last year, said he received "hundreds of homophobic and racist messages" after posting photos of him and his boyfriend at Brighton Pride, Queerty noted. During a Student Pride panel earlier this year, Hunte talked about the negative treatment he receives for being both Black and gay.

Lawyers representing a man from Northern Ireland who sued a bakery for refusing to make a cake with a pro-marriage equality message are going to Europe to challenge a supreme court ruling that its evangelical Christian owners had a right to refuse to bake it, The Guardian reported. Belfast human-rights law firm Phoenix Law confirmed it had been instructed by Gareth Lee to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights ( ECHR ). In started in 2014, when Lee was told by Ashers bakery that it would not make a cake with the message "Support Gay Marriage" on it because it was contrary to the owners' religious beliefs; in 2018, a Northern Ireland court sided with the bakery.

Matty Healy—the lead singer of the band The 1975—came under fire by fans concerned after Healy kissed a male concertgoer in the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal, Newsweek.com reported. Some viewers took the public kiss as a stand against the country's strict anti-LGBTQ laws, which can land someone in prison for up to 10 years, according to Detained in Dubai. The British pop band known for their accepting attitude and for encouraging listeners to stand up against injustice; the band boasts an LGBTQ anthem, "Loving Someone," which includes lyrics that support same-sex relationships.

In Canada, police are investigating the vandalism of the gay and trans pride flags painted on the Stephen Avenue walk in downtown Calgary as a hate crime, CBC.ca reported. The word "lust" was scrawled on the rainbow pride flag and "lost" on the trans flag in large letters. "As vandals targeted these specific crosswalks, there are reasonable grounds for police to suspect a hate-motivated crime," a Calgary police spokesperson stated.

The United Kingdom's last remaining strict leather and rubber fetish gay club has been saved after a London council blocked plans to redevelop the East End site into a 12-story residential tower, The Guardian reported. Tower Hamlets ruled against the proposed 46-flat development on Mile End Road because it would "harm the long-term provision of a nightclub that serves the LGBT+ community." Dozens of men who regularly visit the Backstreet—which boasts the "strictest fetish dress code in Europe"—wrote to the council during the six-year planning battle to explain the importance of the club to them.

FBI files labelled Prince Charles' mentor, Lord Mountbatten, as a "homosexual with a perversion for young boys," Metro.co.uk reported. The celebrated war hero, who was the last viceroy of India, and wife Edwina Mountbatten were described as "persons of extremely low morals" in intelligence files, which claim both frequently had extramarital affairs. Rumors of Mountbatten's sexuality have circulated for decades. The files were started in February 1944, following Mountbatten's appointment as supreme allied commander of southeast Asia.

New Zealand officials admitted they should not have permitted the man accused of killing 51 people in a massacre at two mosques last year to send a handwritten letter from prison, The Hill reported. The letter penned by Brenton Tarrant was posted on the website 4chan, according to The Associated Press, and warned of a "great conflict." "I have made myself clear that this cannot happen again," Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said in a statement about the letter.

Ed Sheeran donated 300 items to a charity store in his hometown of Framlingham, England, IHeart.com noted, citing The Sun. The singer gave away various items—guitars, stuffed animals, a signed surfboard, a signed David Beckham football shirt, personalized ketchup and a lot more—out of the goodness of his heart to the St. Elizabeth Hospice charity shop. Given his substantial donation, the store placed Sheeran's memorabilia in its window and even put various Sheeran-inspired displays outside, including a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the "South of The Border" singer.


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