Rex Wockner
International News
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Gays march in 3 Indian cities
Some 2,000 GLBT people staged pride marches in the Indian cities of Calcutta, Bangalore and Delhi June 29 - the first such parades in the latter two cities.

About 500 people marched in Calcutta, 700 in the high-tech city of Bangalore and about 800 in Delhi.

"When the pride started [in Delhi], there were about 100 people and it looked like we were outnumbered by the media and the police," said correspondent Vikram Doctor. "By the time we started [marching], though ... more and more people were coming along and getting attached to the end. I was walking back and forth, trying to help with media requests, and I got a sense of how large it was growing when I realized in addition to the main group carrying the flag upfront, there was a second large group behind with placards and doing dances - and then a really large group of stragglers behind."

Calcutta's seventh parade focused heavily on Section 377, the Indian law that bans Gay sex under penalty of up to 10 years in prison. A court case, now at a crucial phase, could see the law "read down" so it no longer applies to consensual adult Gay sex.

"India continues to stigmatize its Transgender, kothi, hijra, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and other communities of marginalized sexualities and genders," organizers said. "Section 377 ... encroaches upon a person's democratic rights, goes against the spirit of the Indian Constitution and impedes life-saving sexual health work among sexual minorities."

The parade was part of Rainbow Pride Week, which also featured movies, a photo exhibit, a panel discussion and a candlelight memorial for people lost to anti-Gay abuse or HIV.

"Clearly, Indian sexual minorities are not going to settle for status quo and are garnering support from different stakeholders, media included, in their struggle to be free from discrimination, receive respect from all sections of society, and function as equal participants in a progressive and democratic India," organizers said at the parade's conclusion.

The Queer Media Collective issued a statement saying that GLBT people in India today find themselves at about the same point U.S. Gays were when the first pride parades began in 1970.

"LGBT people face a lot of harassment from the police," the group said. "Lesbians are subject to violence and even forced to commit suicide by their families. Gay men are blackmailed by organized rackets that involve members of the police. Bisexuals are denied the chance to express same-sex love and forced into opposite-sex marriages. Transgenders are routinely arrested and raped by the police. Same-sex couples who have lived together for years cannot buy a house together, have a joint bank account or will their property to each other without being challenged by their families. ... Today in 2008, Queer Pride goes national as a sign that the time for national change has come."

Extremists attack Sofia pride, 60 arrested
More than 60 skinheads and other extremists were arrested for attacking the 150 marchers in the first Gay pride parade in Sofia, Bulgaria, June 28.

They threw bottles, rocks, eggs, firecrackers, smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails at the marchers. No one was injured, thanks to the presence of as many police officers as there were marchers.

Among those arrested was Bulgarian National Alliance leader Boyan Rassate. The alliance had plastered Sofia with anti-pride posters saying, "Be Intolerant, Be Normal."

The parade, organized by the Gay group Gemini, began at the Lovers' Bridge behind the National Palace of Culture, proceeded down busy Evlogi Georgiev Boulevard, and ended at the Red House Center for Culture and Debate on Lyuben Karavelov Street.

In Paris, meanwhile, half a million people turned out for the pride parade June 28, including openly Gay Mayor Bertrand Delanoë. A big dance party followed at the Place de la Bastille.

It rained on Berlin's parade June 28, but tens of thousands of people showed up anyhow. The parade began, for the first time, in the former East Berlin, then traversed the boulevard Unter den Linden to its destination - the Victory Column in the former West Berlin.

Czech pride attacked, 20 injured
The Czech Republic's first Gay pride parade, held in the city of Brno, came under attack from extremist and neo-Nazi protesters June 28 and at least 20 of the 500 marchers were injured.

The 150 counterdemonstrators threw tear gas, fireworks and eggs at the marchers.

Police and neo-Nazis clashed for about 45 minutes at the parade's endpoint. About 15 of the troublemakers were arrested.

Budapest Gay bar torched
Someone firebombed the Budapest Gay bar Action on June 27 after first phoning to be sure there were patrons present and to announce his plan.

The curtains in the bar's front room quickly went up in flames but were doused by a patron with a fire extinguisher. No one was injured.

Several Gay and Gay-friendly organizations have denounced the police for investigating the incident as one of "vandalism" rather than "attempted murder."

"Vandalism is when you spray paint on a wall," said Gábor Kuszing of the Association of People Challenging Patriarchy. "Throwing a petrol bomb into a bar with people in it is attempted murder. We are afraid that the police [are sending] a message that serious crimes against LGBT people will be tolerated."

A few hours before the attack, an anti-Gay website published the addresses of Gay businesses in the city and suggested attacking them.

A second attack occurred July 2 at the Gay bathhouse Magnum. Four gas bombs were tossed into the building. The fires were doused with fire extinguishers.

"We are doubtful if the police are really protecting the Gay establishments as they promised," Kuszing said.

Sweden makes it easier for Gay Iranians to stay
Sweden's Migration Board ruled June 28 that Iranian Gays who seek asylum in Sweden will get it if they were ever out of the closet while living in Iran.

Such individuals are at risk of persecution if returned to Iran, the board said.

Iran has the death penalty on the books for sodomy and is believed to have used it somewhere between a few and thousands of times since the Islamic revolution.

Western Gay activists with an interest in Iran have debated at length for years on how often Iran executes adults for consensual Gay sex, if it does at all. Accurate information on the question seems to be impossible to obtain.

At minimum, "We have documented brutal floggings imposed by courts as punishment, and torture and ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, in police custody," Human Rights Watch has said.

"The legal machinery of persecution is oiled, ready and operating in Iran," said Scott Long, head of the group's LGBT Rights Program.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
pictures top Bangalore-Pride
bottom: Delhi Pride
"Quote Unquote" by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

"Yes, we have set a wedding date. How do I feel about it? I obviously feel like it's long overdue. I think someday people will look back on this like women not having the right to vote and segregation and anything else that seems ridiculous that we don't all have the same rights."
-Ellen DeGeneres at the Daytime Emmy Awards, June 20.

"We've gone from Jerry Falwell hissing at Ellen 'Degenerate' for coming out on prime time to the Republican candidate for president coming on to her daytime chat show to wish her well in her pending nuptials."
-Syndicated Gay press columnist Chris Crain, June 25.

"Gay people get married in California, so why is God taking it out on the Midwest?"
-Host Jon Stewart on TV's The Daily Show, June 17.

"It is nearly summertime in the Year of Our Google, and here in the golden land known as California the following startling and once-inconceivable lament can now be heard: Dammit, with gas zooming toward five bucks a gallon and airlines doubling fares and charging me for a single checked bag, how the hell am I going to afford to travel to all my Gay friends' legal weddings across the state this summer? Please note the historic power therein. Because such a peculiar, momentous string of words hath never before been uttered by man. Or woman. Or LGBT. Or 'Other.'"
-San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, June 18.

"It's [same-sex marriage in the U.S.] way overdue. It's something that happened ... almost without a whisper in England, but it was basically because we weren't that concerned about the word 'marriage.' Because [the U.S.] is a much more religious society, there are a huge number of people who want [their] unions to be part of something that they can place in their religion, so [marriage is] much more important here. I think that's why it's so long in arriving here, but I think it's fantastic, obviously."
-Singer George Michael to the Associated Press, June 18.

"Mark and I are going to get married in California very soon. Then we're going to be recognized in New York as legally married. ... Like in Massachusetts, Californians will realize that Gay people getting married is not a problem for anyone, and then the rest of the country is going to fall in line."
-Angels in America author Tony Kushner as quoted by New York magazine, June 22.

"When we first got together, and moved into the apartment, it was difficult because both of us had been living alone, we hadn't had this other person to trip over. And so we'd start arguments, and Del would just go out the front door and slam it and walk around the block then come back. I tried to teach Del to argue back. And then somebody gave us a kitten, which I've said kept us together for the first year, because we couldn't work out how to divide the kitten. But we kept ourselves busy and we bought the house and we got ourselves all wrapped up in each other, and we kept ourselves in love. And basically, that did it."
-Phyllis Lyon, 83, to Britain's Guardian, June 25. Lyon and Del Martin, 87 - Lesbian activist icons - were the first same-sex couple married in San Francisco after same-sex marriage became legal in California on June 16.

"[John McCain] indicated that he would take seriously their requests that he choose an anti-abortion running mate and would talk more openly about his opposition to Gay marriage - a pledge he carried out later in the day by endorsing a ballot measure in California to ban Gay marriage."
-The Los Angeles Times, reporting on a June 26 meeting in Ohio between Republican presidential candidate John McCain and "several influential social conservatives who have been critical of him."

"It's cuckoo to me that it's against the law for homosexuals to be married; that to me is against the Constitution. I can't believe that people in the Supreme Court, who are supposed to be the wisest of all of us - it's just like slavery; it's the same thing. I think it's terrible. ... I just hope President Obama will come in and set them straight."
-Actress Sigourney Weaver to the Michigan Gay newspaper Between The Lines, June 26.

"Sexuality is a tricky question. You get into Transgender - it embraces all of that - and you have people's fear and dislike of things that are different. Nobody is more different to an average person than a Transgender person, and that makes them nervous."
-Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to New York's Village Voice, June 17.

"Barney [Frank] is a hero in many ways, but he's hung up on Trans issues. I was once too, so I know all these bullshit arguments inside out."
-Former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman to New York's Village Voice, June 17.

"The sad truth is that Gay rights has always been the disposable card of liberal politics. The very fact of our existence is still 'controversial,' even to those who make a noise about being our friends. We're still the fly in the ointment, the 'divisive issue' that can lose an election. Just look at the weak-kneed response from the Clinton and Obama camps when the California Supreme Court made its landmark decision overthrowing the ban on same-sex marriage. Both candidates hid behind a campaign spokesperson and both reaffirmed their 'separate but equal' policies of civil unions, thereby assuming a stance that would keep them in comfy solidarity with John McCain come November. The problem, of course, was that the California court had just ruled that separate was NOT equal and never would be, so Clinton and Obama both ended up looking like - there's no other way to put this - pussies."
-Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin writing in The Advocate, July 1.

"I might think what you do, Anderson, is going to put you in hell, but I'm going to defend your right to get there."
-The Rev. Al Sharpton to CNN host Anderson Cooper on CNN, June 24.

"I have no idea of his sexuality. I was not talking about him as an individual anyway. It could have been anybody. ... I support same-sex marriage and have been lambasted by the right for it."
-The Rev. Al Sharpton to New York City's Gay City News on June 26, following up on his remark to Anderson Cooper.

"I always worried what being out would do to my career. But the truth is I really didn't have a career until I was out - because I think it was the first authentic thing I had to offer."
-Actor Alec Mapa - who plays Gabrielle's Gay best friend Vern on Desperate Housewives, and plays Suzuki St. Pierre, the host of Fashion Buzz, on Ugly Betty - to San Diego's Gay & Lesbian Times, June 26.

"God knows that a drag queen on roller skates makes for much more interesting photos and video footage than the Gay Alums of Yale or the hundreds of families who push strollers down 5th Avenue or the Gay Officers Action League, the organization of Gay and Lesbian law enforcement personnel in NYC."
-Former GLAAD Executive Director Joan Garry writing at The Huffington Post, June 29. With assistance from Bill Kelley