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WORLD Vatican meeting, anti-gay countries, trans attack, Brunei items
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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A group of international lawyers researching the criminalization of homosexuality has met with the Vatican secretary of state and urged the Holy See to publicly oppose such laws and conversion therapies for gays, The San Francisco Chronicle noted. Maryland-based New Ways Ministry—a national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church—issued a press release saying "The Vatican's meeting on April 5, 2019 with lawyers and leaders from international LGBT human-rights organizations is a great step forward for improving the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic Church, but more urgent statements and actions are needed."

Newsweek released a list of 73 countries where it's illegal to be gay. According to ILGA, an international lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex advocacy group, there are 70 United Nations member-states that still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts; and the activist site 76 Crimes adds two non-U.N. member nations, Palestine and the Cook Islands, as well as Indonesia. Just a few of the others are Bangladesh, Antigua and Barbuda, Egypt, Jamaica, Uzbekistan, Tonga, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

A transgender woman has opened up about her experience of being assaulted by a group of men at a rally in Paris, PinkNews noted. The woman—who has only been publicly identified by her first name, Julia—was making her way through a crowd at a protest against Algeria's president in Place de la Republique when the attack occurred, according to BBC News. Julia said that, among other things, one of the men exposed himself to her while others poured beer on her.

Perez Hilton has outed the Sultan of Brunei's son—fourth in line to the throne—as a gay man after his father enacted Shariah law in the country, LGBTQ Nation reported. As worldwide outrage mounts and calls to boycott the Sultan's chain of luxury hotels and airline, Hilton alleged that Prince Azim is gay in a video he uploaded to YouTube. The young royal has frequently been photographed with queer celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Gus Kenworthy. After blowback from activists, Kenworthy deleted a photo he had uploaded to social media of the two of them together at a party that the prince hosted.

Virgin Australia ended a deal with Royal Brunei Airlines over the country's passing of laws that see LGBTI people stoned, according to Gay Star News. A work email read, "Given the harsh ( including death ) penalties being introduced for activity that is legal and acceptable in Australia, the myID [staff travel] agreement between Virgin Australia and Royal Brunei has now been terminated effective immediately." It wasn't known if fellow Australian airline Qantas will cut ties as well.

Also, Deutsche Bank said it had removed Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection group from the list of hotels its employees use, reported. "The new laws introduced by Brunei breach the most basic human rights, and we believe it is our duty as a firm to take action against them," said Stuart Lewis, the bank's chief risk officer. Deutsche Bank is among the co-founders of the Partnership for Global LGBTIQ Equality consortium to promote greater LGBTIQ inclusion in business.

Hundreds of people rallied outside the Brunei-owned Dorchester hotel in London protested new Islamic sharia laws in the country that punish homosexuality, adultery and rape with the death penalty, noted. Human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said death by stoning "has no place in the 21st century." Brunei's state-owned investment agency BIA owns the Dorchester Collection hotel group, which features luxury venues such as the Dorchester, the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Plaza Athenee in Paris.

In addition, Canada is urging Brunei to suspend "inhumane" new laws that punish gay sex and adultery with death by stoning, reported. A statement from Global Affairs Canada read, in part, "We have raised our concerns directly with Brunei and we urge Brunei to suspend the implementation of its new penal code and to make changes to ensure that it is consistent with international human rights obligations." The government also has updated its travel advisory, warning that gay sex can lead to a death sentence in Brunei.

Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin announced that the government had instructed the attorney general to appeal Chief Justice Anthony Smellie's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, Cayman Compass reported. The chief justice amended the marriage law in a judgment on a case brought by couple Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, whose application to get married in Cayman was refused last year. McLaughlin said that filing the appeal was not a decision the government had taken lightly, but was necessary to address "significant and potentially far-reaching" implications to the Constitution of the Cayman Islands.

In a related item, hundreds of people came out to support the LGBTI community for the first-ever "Out of Our Shells" march in Cayman, Cayman News Service reported. The event was organized by Colours Cayman—a local advocacy group for LGBTI issues—and was promoted as not just a celebration of the legalization of same-sex marriage but also as a response to the backlash from politicians.

While an ongoing debate surrounding same-sex marriages in the Czech Republic continues to develop in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, proponents of gay marriage have a strong supporter in Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, reported. Babis voiced support for same sex marriages while appearing on a local news program on TV channel Prima. Currently, same-sex couples within the Czech Republic are able to form a registered partnership in lieu of marriage; however, that registered partnership does not include all the rights afforded to opposite-sex couples.

Australian LGBTI-health organization ACON launched a health action plan for the trans and gender diverse community in New South Wales, Gay Star News reported. The blueprint outlines the need for better access to patient-centered gender-affirming healthcare—and calls for gender-diverse services to be included in the health system. It also encourages knowledge in the health sector—with knowledge and training for employers and greater inclusion of gender-diverse people in the workforce.

Intuit India will now be extending the group medical insurance policy coverage for employees with same-sex domestic partners, Economic Times noted. Under the new benefit, employees will now be able to enroll their same-sex partners as dependents under group medical insurance. In addition, this inclusion will also be applicable to other health-related benefits like outpatient care, dental and vision reimbursement.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria—one of the 2019 European capitals of culture—has become embroiled in a homophobia scandal as local officials attempt to remove the head of the organizing committee over a photographic exhibition featuring LGBT themes, The Guardian reported. Officials have said a "Balkan Pride" photo exhibition due to open in July should be stopped. There are concerns about rising homophobia in Bulgaria; a March survey ordered by Glas foundation, an LGBT-rights group, showed that only one in three Bulgarians would not mind if his/her/their neighbor was gay.

A Catholic bishop has demanded an Amsterdam priest stop practicing for being openly gay and writing a book about his sexual experiences, noted, citing NRC. Pierre Valkering unexpectedly presented his book Ontkleed niet naakt staan ( Undressed, Not Standing Naked ) during a service celebrating his 25 years as a priest. In a statement, the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam said that "it understands human frailty and the struggle of every person to grow into a state of holiness." The fact that Valkering "does not even want to aim for an ordered, celibate life" is not something the church can accept, the statement said.

An announcement by activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina that the first official LGBT parade will take place in the capital of Sarajevo on Sept. 8 has attracted mixed response on social media but very little official comment, the BBC reported. Last October, the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina—one of the two entities that make up the country—endorsed the legalization of same-sex marriages.

Irish singer-songwriter Hozier—in advance of his new album, Wasteland, Baby!—talked with The Age about a variety of topics, including protest music. His newest CD has the lead single "Nina Cried Power." in which legendary singer Mavis Staples joins him; the song is a tribute to artists such as Nina Simone, Patti Smith, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, who stood up for their beliefs and brought the powerful to account. The previous record contained the hit song "Take Me to Church," which is a passionate protest against the Catholic Church's abuse of power when it comes to sexuality.

Rumors that Madonna would perform at this year's Eurovision event in Israel have now been confirmed, Out in Perth noted. She will perform at the international song contest as a guest artist in Tel Aviv next month. Madonna will be the second U.S. pop star to perform on the Eurovision stage, following Justin Timberlake's appearance in 2016.

Minh Thu and Truc Nhu—the two contestants on Bachelor: Vietnam who went viral for leaving the rose ceremony together—are still in a relationship, The Washington Blade noted. The rose ceremony ( when the bachelor or bachelorette chooses which contestants advance to the next round ) was interrupted when Thu unexpectedly told bachelor Nguyen Quoc Trung that she was in love with Nhu. The couple's recent social-media posts show that the two are still together; they even attended Hanoi Pride.

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