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New Ecuadorean

Constitution gives gay

couples marriage rights

Sixty-five percent of Ecuadoreans approved a new constitution Sept. 28 that, among much else, grants all the rights of marriage to stable, monogamous same-sex couples who live together.

At the same time, the document bans gay adoption and says marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The constitution also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status; imposes upon Ecuadoreans a duty to respect and learn about sexual-orientation and gender differences; and requires schools to teach about sexual rights.

President Rafael Correa has spoken forcefully in favor of equality for gay couples.

'Jesus of Nazareth never preached hatred, homophobia or segregation; instead he knew to say, 'Love one another,'' Correa said in July.

'It is false that ( the constitution ) is recognizing as family the union of homosexuals. What we are doing is recognizing the dignity of all people without discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, etc.'

'Let's hope, now that there's been so much talk about moral incompatibilities between the new constitution and the Gospel, sometimes utilizing falsehoods, that we also can talk with equal force about the profound incompatibility of the social situation—of that inequality, of that existing social injustice—with the Gospels,' Correa said.

British Treasury

minister enters

civil partnership

British Treasury junior minister Angela Eagle and her partner of 18 years, Maria Exall, entered an official civil partnership Sept. 27.

Civil partnerships in the United Kingdom carry the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.

Eagle and Exall tied the knot in South London at the Southwark Register Office, accompanied by about 50 guests. A reception at Eagle's home and then a party at a bar followed.

Eagle, a Labour member of Parliament and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, is the only open lesbian in the House of Commons.

18,000 at Taipei Pride

Some 18,000 people marched in the rain in the Taipei, Taiwan, gay pride parade Sept. 27.

It was believed to be the largest gay pride parade in Asia to date, and was the city's ninth pride march.

Organizer Wang Ping said it's great that more gay people are daring to be out but that they need to also take part in gay rights activism.

Nepal recognizes 'third'

gender; gov't funds

gay programs

A 21-year-old lesbian has become the first person to receive an official Nepalese national identity card listing the gender as 'third' rather than 'male' or 'female.'

Bishnu Adhikari received the designation Sept. 17 after refusing to accept a 'male' identity card from the Kaski district administration office in central Nepal, where officials claimed Adhikari appeared to be a man.

'This is a landmark victory for sexual and gender minorities in Nepal,' said the Blue Diamond Society, the nation's most prominent GLBT organization.

Meanwhile, the national government unveiled a budget Sept. 19 that provides funds to 'accord special priority to solve the core problems of Nepali people relating to sexual and gender minorities' and to pay for 'a common house for 50 people ... to live together for their socialization.'

'This is such a great news that for the first time in Nepal's history the national budget have provision for sexual and gender minorities,' openly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant said in an e-mail.

'This ( is a ) very symbolic but very positive change of not just attitudes but also ( of ) helping marginalized and oppressed sexual and gender minorities towards ministering to the development and social/political change. We ( would ) like to congratulate ... Finance Minister Dr. Babu Ram Bhhatari for making the budget inclusive and historic!'

Pant, a well-known gay activist, was elected to Nepal's 601-member Constituent Assembly in May. The assembly is drafting a new constitution and also functioning as parliament during the process.

He was not elected directly, but was chosen by the Communist Party of Nepal ( United ) as one of its representatives when the party received enough votes to secure five proportional-representation seats in the assembly.

Police arrest

Ugandan activists

Ugandan police arrested two high-profile 'male-to-female transgender gay' activists Sept. 10, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported Sept. 19.

Georgina Oundo and Brenda Kiiza were taken into custody at Oundo's home in the village of Nabweru near Kampala and held at the Nabweru Police Post for a week.

They were beaten, kicked, denied food and urged to reveal names and addresses of other gay activists, IGLHRC said. Police also copied the activists' cell-phone address books, according to Human Rights Watch.

Oundo and Kiiza were accused of spreading homosexuality, although no such crime exists, IGLHRC said. Gay sex is illegal under threat of up to life in prison.

Police said their investigation remains open and they will seek additional evidence to bring the activists before a court.

In the past five years, nearly a dozen people have been arrested on charges related to homosexuality in Uganda.

—Assistance: Bill Kelley

Larry King quizzes

Ahmadinejad on

gays in Iran

U.S. TV interviewer Larry King quizzed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his nation's treatment of gays Sept. 23.

There have been persistent, though unconfirmed, reports for years that Iran hangs men for the crime of engaging in gay sex.

King said: 'People ( are ) protesting that they don't have the same rights as other people. Homosexuals—you said last year, you denied there were homosexuals ( in Iran ) . There's homosexuals everywhere.'

Ahmadinejad replied: 'I said it's not the way it is here ( in the U.S. ) . In Iran this is considered a very—obviously most people dislike it. And we have actually a law regarding it and the law is enforced. It is a law that was passed. It was legislated. And it is an act that is against human principles. A lot of things can happen. It can cause psychological problems, social problems that affect the whole society. Remember that God's rules are to improve human life. In our religion, this act is forbidden and the Parliament has legislated about it. Not now, 70 years ago. This is something that happened 70 years ago, before the Islamic Republic became --'

King interjected, 'So what happens to gay people?'

Ahmadinejad replied: 'Well, of course, nobody has held protests. You are—are you concerned for 70 million Iranian people or a few homosexuals? Let's assume in Iran—let's assume in the United States that 200 million people drive cars and a million violators are rounded up and they just basically violate driving laws. Should we be worried for the 199 million people whose safety we must be concerned about or the one million violators? The law is the law and it's law. And it must be enforced. Of course, we do pay attention that in Iran nobody interferes in the private lives of individuals. We have nothing to do with the private realm of people. This is at the ( level of ) not-private, public morality. In their own house, nobody ever interferes with people.'

Last year, during a speech at Columbia University in New York City, Ahmadinejad also was asked about the nation's treatment of gay people.

He responded: 'We in Iran ... don't have hamjensbaz ( a derogatory term for homosexuals ) like you have in your country. In our country, there is no such a thing. In Iran, such a thing does not—in Iran, in Iran, absolutely such a thing does not exist as a phenomenon. I don't know who told you otherwise.'

Iran is known to have executed several teens and men accused of engaging in sodomy, although in nearly all the cases that have been publicized in recent years the individuals were accused of other crimes as well, such as rape.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has said it suspects that other charges often are tacked onto sodomy cases to prevent the public outrage that would accompany executions carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult gay sex. The group also has said it believes executions solely for gay sex are taking place out of the public eye.

'Our suspicions ( are ) that their current practice really is to rid society of lesbians and gay men,' the organization said last year.

Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, has said it cannot fully document any executions in Iran in recent years carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult gay sex.

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