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Forth Worth mayor Mike Moncrief apologized for June raid on gay bar Rainbow Lounge

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Forth Worth’s mayor has apologized for a June raid on a Texas gay bar after attendees at a city council meeting on Tuesday asked him to acknowledge the incident.

About 250 people packed City Council chambers Tuesday and another 150 watched on televisions in the hallway or overflow rooms as officials briefly discussed the raid conducted by the Forth Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 that left one male bar patron hospitalized with a serious head injury.

At one point during Tuesday’s meeting, someone in the audience called out for an apology.

Mayor Mike Moncrief then said: “If you want an apology from the mayor of Fort Worth: I am sorry about what happened in Fort Worth.” The crowd erupted in applause and stood.

Two council members had called for independent investigations into the raid, after which Moncrief started to discuss other items on the meeting agenda. Blake Wilkinson, founder of Queer LiberAction, interrupted and said those who wanted to comment on the raid shouldn’t have to wait. Moncrief tried to explain that public comments are always last on the agenda.

Wilkinson and another person kept arguing with the mayor, and several people in the hallway started shouting, “Hear us now!” “Hear us now!” Wilkinson and six others were then led out of the building.

But Moncrief changed his mind nearly three hours later and allowed people to speak about the Rainbow Lounge issue after the council had addressed only a few of the numerous agenda items.

Tom Anable told the meeting that on the night of the raid he saw an agent slam one man into a pool table after the man said he was drinking water and shouldn’t be arrested.

Kevin Crook said the incident had created such widespread negative publicity that it paints the city as “one remaining bastion of discrimination.”

Sarah Bryant fought back tears as she said she had seen fights at bars before, but that night at Rainbow Lounge “was the first time that I was really afraid of the police.”

“We need to know what happened”, said Reverend Carol West, who is part of an advocate group called Fairness Fort Worth. “I really think this incident means that officers need more training in diversity”.

Mayor Moncrief said that the local police department and the TABC continued to investigate the raid, which occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Chad Gibson was severely injured with a head trauma which resulted in him being sent to intensive care with bleeding in his brain. His full recovery may take as long as two years. The mayor said the U.S. Attorney’s Office will review the findings at his request.

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July 15, 2009 at 4:16 pm

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Gay couple detained and handcuffed by security guards on a plaza owned by the Mormon church

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A gay couple say they were detained and handcuffed by security guards on a Salt Lake City plaza owned by the Mormon church after one man gave the other a kiss on the cheek.

Matt Aune, 28, said he and his partner Derek Jones, 25, were walking home from a concert nearby on Thursday night, cutting through the plaza near the Salt Lake City Mormon temple. Near the edge of the plaza, Aune says he stopped, hugged Jones and kissed him on the cheek. The couple were then approached by a security guard, who asked them to leave, telling them they were being inappropriate and that public displays of affection aren’t allowed on the property. He said other guards arrived and the men were handcuffed.

“They targeted us,” Aune told The Associated Press. “We weren’t doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other couple.”

“We were kind of standing up for ourselves,” Jones said. “It was obviously because we were gay.”

The guards put Jones on the ground and handcuffed him, he said. Aune said he was also cuffed roughly, and suffered bruises and a swollen wrist.

In a statement, church officials denied discriminating against the couple, saying they were asked to leave like any other couple would. But when the paper asked what is considered inappropriate behavior, spokeswoman Kim Farah refused to answer.

Farah said the two men were detained and the police were called because they “became argumentative,” used profanity and refused to leave.

Aune admits he used profanity: “When I was handcuffed, I was very pissed and I unleashed a flurry of profanities.”

Police later arrived and both men were cited with misdemeanor trespassing, Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Snyder said.

“It doesn’t matter what they were asked to leave for,” Snyder said. “If they are asked to leave and don’t they are … trespassing.”

The church has been the target of protests over its support of a ban on gay marriage in California. Though Salt Lake City sold the property to the church in the late 1990s, it remains a popular pedestrian thoroughfare, and a site where couples often pose affectionately for photos.

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July 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

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Singapore will keep its ban on homosexuality

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The decision by the Delhi high court last week to repeal a ban on homosexuality will not lead Singapore to overturn a similar colonial-era law, according to the city-state’s law minister, as reported by Agence France-Presse via Singapore media.

Last week, the Delhi High Court ruled that the 1860 statute banning homosexuality violated basic individual rights guaranteed by the constitution.

But Law minister K. Shanmugam said Singapore was unlikely to decriminalize homosexuality because most of the public does not support such a move. “If the majority of our population is against homosexuality, then it’s not for the government to say we are going to force something against the wishes of the people,” he was reported as saying in the Today newspaper.

However, Shanmugam pledged the government would not enforce the law.

“We have the law. We say it won’t be enforced. Is it totally clear? We, sometimes in these things, have to accept a bit of messiness,” Shanmugam told a neighbourhood residents’ meeting, according to the paper. “The way the society is going, we don’t think it’s fair for us to prosecute people who say that they are homosexual.”

Singapore’s ban on activities associated with sexual intercourse between gay men punishes offenders with up to two years in jail, although it has rarely been enforced.

Last Thursday the Delhi high court struck down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which contains a 148-year-old British colonial-era law that made sexual intercourse between gay men punishable by up to 10 years in prison. While the decision applies explicitly only to New Delhi, it sets a precedent that other state courts will find difficult to contradict, law experts say. The ruling represents a huge step forward in India.

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July 8, 2009 at 3:35 am

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Indian High Court adds momentum to a broader regional movement for gay rights

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With one sweeping judgment Thursday July 02, the Indian High Court decriminalized homosexuality, shook off a stubborn piece of colonial baggage and may have added momentum to a broader regional movement for gay rights.

The decision by the Delhi High Court was hailed by gay activists here as a historic step in their struggle to achieve equal rights in a conservative society that largely regards homosexuality as a taboo illness.

The court ruled that the existing ban on homosexual acts was discriminatory and therefore a violation of individual rights guaranteed by the constitution.

“This is a huge step forward,” says Anjali Gopalan, executive director of the Naz Foundation, a gay advocacy group based in New Delhi that successfully brought a public interest petition to overturn India’s anti-sodomy law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

“This is just the beginning. The battle will continue till every member of this community gets all the rights that an ordinary citizen has,” Gopalan told reporters.

The law was enacted in 1860 by India’s British rulers, but the most stubborn opposition to repealing it in India has come from those who argue that homosexuality goes against traditional Indian sensibilities. In July 2001, according to a report last year by Human Rights Watch, four HIV/AIDS outreach workers were arrested under Section 377 for distributing medical literature; a judge denied them bail, accusing them of “polluting the entire society.” In 2003, the Indian Home Ministry – then under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party – argued that it “responded to the values and mores of the time in the Indian society.” Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said today’s ruling was “against all religions. It is against the culture of Indian society.”

The High Court soundly rejected that argument. “Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individuals’ fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things Constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view,” the court said in its ruling. Going even further, the court found that Section 377 went against the Indian tradition and guiding political principle of inclusiveness.

That sends a strong signal to Indian gay rights activists, who cheered not just the decision but the principle affirming homosexuals as part of Indian society. “It’s the first judgment of its kind,” says Siddharth Narrain, an attorney with the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore. “It looks at the concept of inclusiveness, not just life and liberty.”

“I feel very proud to be an Indian today,” said openly gay fashion designer Wendell Rodericks.

Ashok Row Kavi, a prominent gay rights campaigner since the 1970s, told AFP from Bangkok, where he was attending a UN AIDS conference, that the court’s decision opened a new era.

“I will return to India as a free gay man… free from extortion, violence and blackmail from the police, free from discrimination and free to access all health services,” Kavi said.

Bollywood actress and gay rights campaigner Celina Jaitley said the ruling was historic.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Jaitley told AFP in Mumbai.

“It’s great not to be criminalised for being a human being and what you do in your bedroom,” she added.

New York-based Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling, saying it was overdue.

“This legal remnant of British colonialism has been used to deprive people of their basic rights for too long,” said Scott Long, director of the watchdog’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Programme.

“This long-awaited decision testifies to the reach of democracy and rights in India,” Long said.

Versions of Section 377 – often identified by the same three digits – exist throughout the former British colonies of Asia and Africa, and there is some hope among activists in the region that today’s ruling will help efforts elsewhere. Nepal has already overturned the law, but as the largest country in South Asia, India’s repeal effort has been watched especially closely. “We have had a very progressive leadership, and I sincerely hope that the Indian decision will help us in the right direction,” says Sahran Abeysundera, a gay rights activist in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.

Shakhawat Hossain, moderator of Boys of Bangladesh, an online community that helps and supports gay Bangladeshis, says that India, because of its cultural and historic ties to Bangladesh, can influence the direction of the gay rights movement there. “This ruling certainly would boost up the work that is going on in here,” Hossain says. “Most importantly it will pave the way for a discussion in the wider society and media here in Bangladesh.”

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July 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm

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Christopher Street Day – Berlin Gay Pride 2009 pictures

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June 30, 2009 at 4:18 pm

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Bruno in Paris

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June 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm

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Roma Pride 2009 photos

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June 15, 2009 at 4:59 pm

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