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WORLD Swiss vote, Northern Ireland wedding, Tanzania report, bishops convene
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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In Switzerland, voters backed a referendum to extending anti-racism legislation to cover sexual orientation—defying critics who had claimed such a move would be an infringement of free speech, The Guardian reported. Unlike many of its western European neighbours, Switzerland has no law in force that specifically protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination or hate speech. In the Feb. 9 vote, 63.1 percent of the public voted in favor of expanding the anti-discrimination law, although the results revealed splits across the linguistically and culturally varied country.

Lesbian couple Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples will hold Northern Ireland's first same-sex wedding as the conservative province overcomes deep division to catch up with the rest of the United Kingdom, Reuters reported. The twentysomething couple voiced excitement at making history but said equality remained out of reach so long as same-sex couples could not convert civil partnerships to marriage. Edwards and Peoples were slated to marry in the coastal town of Carrickfergus on Feb. 11—their sixth anniversary as a couple.

Human Rights Watch ( HRW ) released the report "If We Don't Get Services We Will Die," which details the anti-LGBTI crackdown in Tanzania under President John Magufuli's rule, Business Day reported. Tanzania has long criminalized same-sex relations and social stigma has always existed, but under previous governments homosexuality was not a public discussion. However, since 2016, Tanzanian authorities have carried out numerous raids on private meetings held by LGBTI organizations, arrested and carried out forced anal examinations on suspected LGBTQ people, and blocked crucial healthcare services and HIV-prevention programs.

The German bishops' conference committed to "newly assessing" the universal Church's teaching on homosexuality, sexual morality in general, and the sacraments of ordination and marriage, Catholic News Agency reported. The commitment comes at the beginning of a controversial two-year "Synodal Process" by the German hierarchy. Following consultations in Berlin, the chairman of the Marriage and Family Commission of the German bishops' conference declared that the bishops agreed that homosexuality is a "normal form" of human sexual identity.

The Croatian Constitutional Court published a ruling made at the end of January that obliges courts and relevant authorities to give all competent appliers to foster equal opportunities, including same-sex couples, Balkan Insight reported. Explaining the decision, Constitutional Court President Miroslav Separovic said the court found that the current Foster Care Law "produces general discriminatory effects" on same-sex couples. Same-sex couples have received mixed messages over this issue and their rights in recent months, as the Social Welfare Center in Zagreb reportedly again rejected the application of same-sex couple Ivo Segota and Mladen Kozic—after the Zagreb Administrative Court ruled in favor of the couple.

Mumbai police charged at least 51 persons—mostly students—with sedition for raising slogans in support of Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU ) student Sharjeel Imam at the Mumbai Pride solidarity gathering held Feb. 1 at the sports venue Azad Maidan, The Wire reported. Imam was arrested on January 28 for making controversial speeches at anti-Citizenship ( Amendment ) Act protest sites in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh; he was detained for sedition as well.

A transgender woman was found dead in El Salvador on Jan. 17, The Washington Blade reported. The body of Briyit Michelle Alas, 22, was found in the Santa Margarita 2 neighborhood of Ciudad Delgado; she had been shot three times in her torso, once behind her ear and once in her shoulder. LGBTQ activists and organizations helped Alas' family cover her funeral costs because they have few resources.

A gay British firefighter of more than 33 years was subjected to homophobic abuse from Brexiteers for pointing out that a comment was racist, PinkNews reported. Leighton brigade member Patrick Carberry—who has won countless national wards for his activism—was dubbed a "f**kin useless gay piece of s**t" and told he deserves "to be shot." The message rattled Carberry, who felt the comment was "extreme" and did "not reflect" Brexiteers; he has since filed the incident to local law enforcement, which was referred to Bedfordshire Police's hate-crimes unit.

Veteran British television host Phillip Schofield revealed he is gay, noted. Schofield, 57, said on Instagram, "You never know what's going on in someone's seemingly perfect life, what issues they are struggling with, or the state of their wellbeing—and so you won't know what has been consuming me for the last few years. With the strength and support of my wife and my daughters, I have been coming to terms with the fact that I am gay." Schofield has hosted This Morning on ITV since 2002, and addressed his coming out on the show.

A planned U.K. tour by U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham is in question after every venue booked by the preacher canceled planned appearances, following an outcry over his homophobic and Islamophobic comments, reported. Graham—the son of the late preacher Billy Graham—called Islam "evil," attacked laws increasing rights for transgender people, and told his followers that the legalization of same-sex marriage was orchestrated by Satan. Also, Graham has expressed support for conversion therapy, and called homosexuality a sin and abomination.

A few copies are still available of Limitless Africans: Celebrating Over 30 LGBTQ African Immigrant Narratives through Photography—Mikael's Owunna's book of photographs of LGBTQ African immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, noted. Owunna, a queer Nigerian-American photographer, has a mission: to debunk the myth that it is "un-African" to be LGBTQ. To accomplish that goal, he photographs LGBTQ African immigrants and tells their stories.

Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot had a video shoot that was shut down by police who claimed the group was violating the country's ban on "gay propaganda," LGBTQ Nation reported. Pussy Riot was shooting a video for a song, and it involved the participation of 150 mostly queer and female activists. According to Pitchfork the group says that police ordered the Lenfilm studio to shut off power while the group was recording the video; however, the Lenfilm CEO Inessa Yurchenko has since claimed the power outage was accidental and that the cops in the video are actors.

Australia-based non-binary singer/songwriter/producer/designer Wolfjay released the single "In Memory Of"—described in a press release as "a song not only written before coming out as queer but as a song they wish they would've heard growing up." They said, "'In Memory Of' is about the pressure and tension felt when leaving behind old things and moving forward." In 2019, Wolfjay signed with Brooklyn-based indie label Sleep Well Records, founded by Alyse Vellturo ( also known as pronoun ).

Madonna vented her anger at the London Palladium after the venue cut short her concert for running over an 11 p.m. curfew, The Washington Blade noted. The singer was still performing when Palladium staff closed the stage curtain and switched off the sound when she went past the deadline, prompting an expletive-laced outburst from the "Vogue" hitmaker, who emerged from behind the curtain and continued the show despite the house lights being on and her microphone being off. The pop icon later took to Instagram to further express her fury at the Palladium, accusing the venue of attempting to "censor" her "Madame X" performance—but some fans criticized her for starting late.

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