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World news: Marriage in Austria, U.S. envoy, Canada's payment
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-12-05

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Same-sex couples will soon be able to marry in Austria, thanks to a ruling by the country's supreme court that a 2009 law allowing for "registered partnerships" but not marriage was discriminatory, LGBTQ Nation reported. The ban on same-sex marriage will come to an end with the start of 2019, or earlier should Austrian parliament decide to lift it sooner. The conservative People's Party ( OVP )—whose leader, Sebastian Kurz, is expected to be sworn in as chancellor—has said it will accept the ruling.

Randy Berry is no longer the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad, The Washington Blade reported. A State Department spokesperson told the Blade that Berry is "currently serving as a deputy assistant secretary" in the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry announced the position in early 2015 as part of the Obama administration's efforts to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby is currently carrying out the "role and responsibilities" of the special envoy.

The Canadian government will pay up to 110 million Canadian dollars, or $85 million, to compensate victims of the so-called "gay purge"—decades of government-authorized discrimination against gay Canadians, according to a New York Times article. The announcement followed a speech in the House of Commons in Ottawa by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who apologized to the victims. The government program—which lasted for more than 30 years and ended only in the 1990s—caused thousands to lose their jobs and sometimes face prosecution because of their sexual orientation.

In Australia—after three inquests and almost 30 years—a coroner has found that 27-year-old U.S. mathematician Scott Johnson's death in 1988 was the result of a gay hate attack, ABC.net .au noted. Johnson's naked body was found at the bottom of a cliff at North Head, Manly, in Sydney. Coroner Michael Barnes stressed there were many reports of gangs of men, including soldiers from the nearby Army barracks, converging on the area where Johnson—and those gangs died and committing hate assaults and robberies.

Canadian YouTuber Elle Mills has come out as bisexual, MetroUK reported. The 19-year-old has come out to her 676,000 followers on YouTube in a video that has been watched nearly 1 million times. In the video, Mills admitted that a lot of people asked her if she was gay—but in reality, she is actually bisexual. She said, "Throughout the years, I have found many other guys attractive, but deep down I knew I had other attractions as well. It's a side of myself that I've been so scared of that I heavily repressed it—until I met her."

Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull has changed course and is now supporting two "religious freedom" exemptions to marriage equality legislation, LGBTQ Nation noted. Australians recently voted overwhelmingly in support of marriage equality in a postal survey, with more than 60 percent voting yes. Turnbull initially said that Parliament would not break for the holidays until the country had passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage; however, it has been reported that Turnbull is backing measures that will allow religious persons and anti-LGBTQ charities to refuse same-sex couples.

Universities in India and Pakistan have begun offering a free college education to transgender students, NewNowNext.com noted. In April, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University ( MSU ) in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu waived tuition for transgender students at all 10 of its campuses; in November, Allama Iqbal Open University ( AIOU ) in Islamabad, Pakistan, followed suit. While trans women, known as hijras, have been a part of Indian culture for centuries, they have faced harassment and persecution in more recent generations: Both countries report high rates of rejection and poverty as well as anti-trans violence and murder.

OutRight Action International is marking the Global Week of Advocacy, where dozens of LGBTIQ activists from 29 countries from every region of the world has come to participate in the organization's sixth annual United Nations ( UN ) Week of Advocacy. From Dec. 4-8, human-rights defenders meet with government representatives and UN officials. Advocates will meet dignitaries such as Karel J.G. van Oosterom, permanent representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN and United Kingdom's Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft, and UN diplomats from the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific and Latin America. They will also meet with representatives from UN Women, the UN Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF ) pilot project in Yambio County, South Sudan, is providing same-day care to many people living with HIV, according to an organizational press release. To address a gap in care despite the immense needs—HIV prevalence in Yambio is well above the naitonal average at 3.4 percent—MSF has been running a "Test and Treat" pilot program, with the support of the Ministry of Health, for the past two and a half years. Currently, two mobile teams are running six centers in Yambio's surrounding areas where people are tested and receive antiretroviral therapy immediately if they test positive rather than having to return to a clinic.

British ex-Olympic swimmer Mark Foster came out as gay in an interview with the Guardian, The Washington Blade reported. Foster, 47, has broken eight world records and won six World Championship titles; he swam for Great Britain five times in the Olympic Games. Foster said he's been out in his personal life and has dated men for 26 years—but that coming out in public was nerve-wracking.

A senior Anglican minister has said that Christians should pray for Prince George ( currently 4 years old ) to be gay in order to force the Church of England to support same-sex marriage, the UK Independent reported. The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth wrote in a blog post that Christians should hope that "the Lord blesses George with the love of a fine young gentleman" to help the progression of LGBTQ+ rights in the church. Holdsworth's blog post has prompted controversy, with former chaplain to the Queen the Rev. Gavin Ashenden describing it as praying "the child out of the intentions of God."

The British tabloids have been digging into Meghan Markle's past—and spoke with Larnelle Foster, a gay friend and self-described "soulmate" of Markle who met her while attending college and studying theater at the University of Illinois, Towleroad noted. Larnelle Quentin Foster—now 35 and a drama professor—said Markle was "very kind, very genuine, someone who cares deeply about her family, her friends and the world."

Two U.S. citizens—Joseph and Travis Dasilva—are being held in Thailand after they posted an online picture of themselves posing with their buttocks exposed at a temple, BBC.com reported. The tourists had taken the picture at Bangkok's famous Wat Arun temple, and posted it on Twitter and Instagram. Thailand has very strict laws on behavior considered disrespectful and offensive to its Buddhist religion.

Soccer lovers are preparing for the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer, but LGBT fans planning on attending the championship are being warned it's not safe for same-sex couples to hold hands in public there, NewNowNext.com reported. "If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day," said Piara Powar, director of The FARE Network, which advocates for equality in soccer. Starting June 14, 64 World Cup matches will be played in 11 different cities, with the finals taking place July 15 in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

In Britain, former Coronation Street actor Bruno Langley has been handed a 12-month community order after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting two women at a Manchester music venue, The Guardian reported. Langley played Todd Grimshaw, the soap's first openly gay character, for more than a decade—but ITV fired him when the police investigation came to light in October. His last episode will run on Christmas Eve.


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