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World news: French elections, Church of England, Bollywood actor
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Far-right French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen has quietly pledged to close off same-sex marriage, according to PinkNews. Front National leader Marine Le Pen is currently leading in first-round polls ahead of France's Presidential election. Despite any "reforms," Le Pen has now quietly confirmed plans to end same-sex marriage in the country, burying the policy announcement in a list of 144 pledges released recently.

On a related note, France has warned the Kremlin against meddling in its elections after a leading candidate was forced to publicly deny he is gay and his aides accused Russian media of waging a smear campaign against him, The Daily Mail noted. Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault threatened 'retaliatory measures' in the event of interference in upcoming presidential elections in April. Russia's Sputnik news agency said staunchly pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron was backed by a "wealthy gay lobby." Macron, who is married, denied rumors of having had a same-sex affair.

Leading bishops have apologized to members of the Church of England who may be alienated by a report on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, BBC News noted. The report by the House of Bishops, which the General Synod is debating, calls for a "fresh tone." However, it maintains that marriage in church should only be between a man and a woman, and services should not be held to bless same-sex relationships. The Bishop of Norwich said the Church "owes much" to gay members and clergy.

The New York Times profiled Bollywood actor/director/producer Karan Johar, called the "most famous Indian ever to almost be openly gay." Times op-ed writer Aatish Taseer says in the article, "Johar may not have uttered the three magic words ['I am gay'], but his life and his work are a portrait in courage," having subtly introduced homosexuality into viewers' homes. Taseer adds that India is experiencing a strange sexual split, as many men are having same-sex relations ( often through dating apps ), but that "the legal recognition of same-sex love is stuck firmly in 19th-century Britain." In Johar's memoir An Unsuitable Boy, Johar says, "The only time I'm tight-lipped is when I'm asked about my sexuality. It's the only part of me I feel I've caged."

A senior European diplomat has directed that all European countries must move toward allowing same-sex unions, PinkNews reported. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, the Latvian-American Nils Muiznieks, outlined his view in a report. In it, he draws on existing international human rights protections to assert that the 47 member states of the Council of Europe must all provide protections same-sex couples.

Norway's Evangelical Lutheran Church adopted a new liturgy that will allow same-sex couples to marry in church weddings—an issue which had previously divided the country's main denomination, The Local Norway reported. After a first rejection in 2014, a synod voted 83-29 in favor of a new liturgy, or service, that is now available. It will serve in addition to one that blesses heterosexual couples. Kjell Frolich Benjaminsen, 63, and his partner Erik Skjelnaes, 70, became the first gay couple to wed, Instinct Magazine noted.

In Ecuador, transgender people, on Feb. 19, voted for the first time according to their chosen gender, in what activists say are signs of progress in the socially conservative and Catholic nation, Reuters reported. After years of lobbying by the LGBT community and despite opposition by Catholic and increasingly powerful evangelical groups, Ecuador passed a law last year allowing people to choose a gender on their identity card. An estimated 200 people in the country of 16 million have changed their gender on their ID card since the law changed last year, said activist and National Assembly candidate Diane Rodriguez.

British Christian charity Oasis has warned that the Church is driving LGBT people to suicide because of its negative and discriminatory attitude toward same-sex relationships, The Telegraph reported. The charity found that every major denomination of the Christian church in Britain, except for the United Reformed Church, held positions that actively discriminate against people with same-sex partners. Rev Steve Chalke MBE, founder of Oasis, said, "Tragically, it is ... common knowledge that the resultant anguish and distress often leads to spiritual, mental and physical harm, and in the worst of cases to people making the desperate decision to take their own life."

In South Africa, a 20-year-old student has been expelled from Coastal College in Umlazi because he is gay, according to . Bheka Khanyile said his teacher told him she could not teach a gay student; he had been mocked for braiding his hair and wearing make-up. College spokesperson Sne Zuma said the college was not hostile to gay students; however, she said, Khanyile should have approached the SRC or Student Support Services.

An Australian Senate inquiry into equal marriage has moved the issue a step closer as it unanimously rejected several measures to discriminate LGBT people, PinkNews noted. The report by the committee examined the government's bill and rejected a number of proposals, including the ability for civil celebrants to reject marrying a same-sex couple. In the report, it recommends creating a new category of independent religious celebrants who, because of their religious beliefs, would be allowed to refuse to marry a couple.

A Nova Scotia judge has cleared Canada's most prominent gay pastor of sex-assault charges that recall a time when homosexuality was punishable by jail time and whippings, The Globe and Mail reported. Brent Hawkes, who officiated the world's first legal gay marriage and is considered an icon of Toronto's social-justice community, was facing charges of indecent assault and gross indecency for allegedly forcing oral sex on a teenager four decades ago.

Pioneers of Vancouver's Pride Parade are petitioning to keep the Vancouver Police Department ( VPD ) in the event, reported. This petition comes after members of the Black Lives Matter Vancouver chapter pushed last year for the VPD to voluntarily withdraw all uniformed officers from the parade. The chapter is also asking police not be allowed to march in the 2017 parade.

A Brazilian same-sex couple were verbally assaulted during a photo shoot in Cape Town, South Africa, reported. Platao and Rafael Terra allege that a middle-aged man threatened them and called their relationship "unnatural" as wedding photographer Wesley Vorster was taking photos of them at Glen Beach. The couple have been together for 11 years and married for three years.

George Michael's boyfriend Fadi Fawaz was reportedly banned from the star's funeral, PinkNews reported. The "Amazing" singer's cousin, Andros Georgiou, claims that Fawaz, his boyfriend, would not be allowed to attend because the Michael family "hate[s] him." Georgiou blasted the late singer's boyfriend, saying, "Fadi has not been invited to the funeral. He is not welcome, the family hate him. Heaven help him if he turned up. Fadi was not really his boyfriend. No one has spoken to him and he just seems to be getting on with his life. It makes my stomach turn."

Eurovision begins in Ukrainian capital Kyiv on May 9, but the event has been plagued with multiple delays and setbacks, PinkNews noted. European Broadcasting Union execs previously threatened to pull the contest out of Kyiv over behind-the-scenes troubles, which has seen major decisions run months behind schedule. A decision to withdraw the contest from Ukraine was averted just months ago after the Ukrainian Parliament issued extra emergency funding to cover the cost of the contest, after delays on security, site preparation, set design, ticketing and transport.

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