Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Gay Jamaican man challenges country’s anti-sodomy law

Javed Jaghi, Jamaica, gay news, Washington Blade

Javed Jaghi is the first person to challenge Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law from within the country. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

A Jamaican gay rights activist last week filed the Caribbean island’s first domestic challenge to its anti-sodomy law.

AIDS-Free World on Feb. 7 filed the complaint with the Jamaica Supreme Court on behalf of Javed Jaghai, who said his landlord kicked him out of his home because of his sexual orientation. The Dartmouth College graduate talked about his case in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

“It is a reminder that there is much more work to be done to achieve equality for gay Jamaicans,” Jaghai wrote. “We can sit patiently while our humanity is denied and wait for the paradigm to shift in a generation or two, or we can aggressively agitate for change now. I choose to do the latter.”

Those convicted under Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, which dates back to 1864, face up to 10 years in prison with hard labor. Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis are among the 11 English-speaking Caribbean countries that continue to criminalize homosexual acts.

The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all criticized the Jamaican government for not doing enough to curb anti-LGBT violence in the country.

Jamaican lawmakers in 2011 unanimously approved a new constitution that explicitly guaranteed the right to privacy for the first time. Although the anti-sodomy law remains in place, Jaghai’s lawyers maintain it’s now impossible to enforce it.

Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican lawyer with AIDS-Free World who fled his homeland last February after he received death threats following local media reports about his marriage to a Canadian man, told the Washington Blade the eventual outcome of Jaghai’s case could reverberate throughout the region.

The Dutch island of Saba remains the only jurisdiction in the Caribbean that allows gays and lesbians to tie the knot. Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten do not allow same-sex marriage, but the Netherlands requires them to recognize those performed within the country.

Tomlinson said Jaghai’s case could potentially have an impact on relationship recognition of same-sex couples in the Caribbean.

“That would be a long-term effect we expect,” he said. “Right now it’s to get the courts to acknowledge that at least in private same-gender loving individuals have the rights of everyone else.”

The court is expected to hear Jaghai’s case on June 25.

12
Feb
2013

Same-sex marriage bill advances in New Zealand parliament

New Zealand, parliament, gay news, Washington Blade

Parliament building in New Zealand (Photo by Midnighttonight via Wikimedia Commons)

A New Zealand parliamentary committee on Wednesday recommended lawmakers approve a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

The New Zealand Herald reported the Government Administration Committee endorsed the measure introduced by lesbian Parliamentarian Louisa Wall with an amendment that would allow clergy to not perform gay weddings if they go against their religious beliefs.

“Marriage equality is about fairness and choice,” Wall told the newspaper. “This process has showed that that message has really resonated with New Zealanders.”

Parliamentarians last August approved the same-sex marriage bill in its first reading by an 80-40 vote margin. It’s second reading is scheduled to take place on March 13.

Prime Minister John Key supports the measure.

Canada, Argentina, Spain, Denmark and South Africa are among the countries that currently allow same-sex marriage.

The British House of Commons earlier this month approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples tie the knot in England and Wales. The French National Assembly on Feb. 12 passed a similar measure that would also extend adoption rights to gay men and lesbians.

The Mexican Supreme Court last week formally found the state of Oaxaca’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court next month will hear oral arguments in two cases that challenge the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We’re very aware that New Zealand’s progress towards allowing same sex couples to marry mirrors what’s happening in a number of other western countries,” Jackie Russell-Green of the New Zealand Campaign for Marriage Equality told the Washington Blade. “This is part of a broader tradition of ever increasing human rights throughout the western world and the belief that the law should be equally applied to all. I am sure that members of Parliament are mindful of what’s happening overseas as they consider the issue of marriage equality in New Zealand.”

28
Feb
2013

Anti-gay marriage march in Paris draws 350,000

An anti-gay marriage rally in Paris on Sunday drew more than 350,000 people. (Photo courtesy of Xavier Héraud/Yagg.com)

An anti-gay marriage rally in Paris on Sunday drew more than 350,000 people. (Photo courtesy of Xavier Héraud/Yagg.com)

More than 350,000 people marched through the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest the French government’s proposal that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The Roman Catholic Church, Jewish and Muslim groups and right wing political parties endorsed the three separate marches spearheaded by comedian Frigide Barjot that converged near the Eiffel Tower. Same-sex marriage opponents traveled from across the country to attend what Charles Roncier, a gay blogger who is an assistant editor-in-chief for the website VIH.org, told the Washington Blade from the French capital that Sunday’s demonstration that organizers claim drew more than 1 million people was the largest against the proposal that “we’ve seen so far.”

“It’s not only people from Paris,” he said, noting the Catholic church reportedly spent €1 million to bring protesters to French capital from other parts of the country. “They would never have enough people, especially in Paris where people are more progressive than the rest of the country.”

President François Hollande endorsed same-sex marriage and adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples during his 2012 presidential campaign.

The country’s lawmakers are expected to begin debate on the proposal on Jan. 29. Even though Hollande’s Socialist Party controls both chambers of the French Parliament, Roncier said he expects a lengthy debate.

“They probably won’t have any trouble passing the law, but what the opposition can do is try to push some modifications over and over again, so it can be quite long actually,” he said. “I think it’s going to pass. It doesn’t matter what they say.”

Neighboring Spain and Belgium are among the European countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. The British government is expected to introduce a bill later this month that would allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in England and Wales.

France’s civil unions law took effect in 1999.

15
Jan
2013

Canadian lawmakers approve transgender rights bill

Canada, Parliament, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Parliament (Photo by Maria Azzurra Mugnai via Wikimedia Commons)

Canadian lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the country’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

“Today’s vote represents a significant step toward recognizing and affirming the equality rights of trans and gender variant people in Canada,” Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, an LGBT rights group, said after the measure passed in the House of Commons by a 149-137 vote margin. “For too long, social and political invisibility have enabled discrimination, harassment and hate-motivated violence against the trans community to continue unnoticed and unchallenged.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Labor Minister Lisa Raitt and Heritage Minister James Moore are among the Conservatives who backed the measure that Parliamentarian Randall Garrison of British Columbia introduced. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is among those who opposed his bill.

“Today, New Democrats are proud to have contributed to ensuring equal protection under the law from discrimination and hatred based on gender identity,” Garrison said in a statement to the Globe and Mail after the vote. “Transgender and transsexual citizens are among the most marginalized and are too often victims of harassment and acts of violence.”

Parliamentarians approved the bill less than a month after the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled a Saskatchewan street preacher violated the province’s human rights ordinance when he distributed anti-gay flyers in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002. Members of the Ontario Liberal Party in January elected Kathleen Wynne as the country’s first gay provincial premier.

Kennedy urged members of the Canadian Senate to approve the transgender rights bill.

“MPs have taken a clear stand against hatred and discrimination and for the full equality and protection of all people in Canada,” she said. “This is a huge step forward, and the onus now falls to the Senate to ensure that we as a country continue to move forward in our commitment to human rights. The Senate must take all measures necessary to ensure swift passage of this vital piece of legislation.”

21
Mar
2013

Honduran gay leader appeals to U.S. for help

Jose Pepe Palacios, gay news, Washington Blade

Jose Pepe Palacios is scheduled to meet with members of Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s staff. (Photo courtesy Gay Liberation Network)

Jose Pepe Palacios says his mission is to inform the U.S. government and LGBT Americans that at least 89 LGBT people in Honduras, including gay rights advocates, have been murdered since military leaders ousted his country’s elected president in a 2009 coup.

Palacios, a resident of the capital city of Tegucigalpa, began a seven-city U.S. tour in Chicago on Jan. 30. He was scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, where, among other appearances, he was to speak on Friday at noon at a public gathering at the offices of the National Council of Churches at 110 Maryland Ave., N.E., on Capitol Hill.

He told the Washington Blade that he hopes to build support in the U.S. for a coalition of LGBT and progressive groups in his country that seek to peacefully challenge anti-democratic forces they believe are responsible for many of the murders.

“The Obama administration has said they will promote human rights and LGBT rights,” Palacios said. “And Hillary Clinton said that human rights are gay rights. So one of the reasons I’m doing this is to ask for support to pressure the Honduran government to investigate these cases and also to create awareness of the number of these cases.”

Palacios was scheduled to meet this week with members of the staff of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, which is one of the sponsors of Palacios’ U.S. tour, said human rights activists in Honduras believe many if not most of the LGBT murders following the 2009 coup were motivated by political retribution. According to Thayer, a majority of the LGBT community in Honduras has been supportive of a resistance movement that has opposed the post-coup government and participates in demonstrations against government leaders.

Palacios said that among the LGBT people murdered since the coup were gay activist Walter Torchez and gay candidate for the Honduran Congress, Eric Martinez Alvia, an organizer for the Liberty and Refoundation Party, or LIBRE, which represents many of the resistance groups protesting against the current government.

Palacios is a founding member of Diversity Movement in Resistance (MDR), an LGBT advocacy organization. He is also a member of the National Steering Committee of the Honduras National Front of Popular Resistance (NRP), which has staged protest demonstrations against the government.

Thayer called the LGBT murders “a systematic campaign of targeted hate crimes and political assassination.” He said that as the country gears up for its first contested election since the coup, set to take place in November, “many fear that the violence will get even worse.”

The LGBT murders come at a time when Honduras has the distinction of having the highest murder rate of any country in the world. The U.S. State Department’s country report on Honduras says many of the murders are related to warring drug cartels and abject poverty that forces desperate people to commit armed robberies often resulting in killings.

The report acknowledges that some of the murders are due to political rivalries. Human rights observers have said corrupt police officers or law enforcement officials allied with entrenched political factions are also believed to be responsible for some of the murders, including the slayings of LGBT activists.

Palacios said that of the 89 LGBT murders since 2009, 52 of the victims were transgender women.

“The United States is focused on helping the Honduran government combat impunity, resolve murder cases, reform the Honduran police, and strengthen human rights institutions,” said Evan Owen, press officer for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The 2009 coup, which resulted in the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, took place amid a constitutional dispute over whether Zelaya had authority to call a non-binding referendum to determine whether public support existed to hold a constitutional convention and make significant changes in the nation’s political system.

As an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya’s move toward constitutional changes alarmed the conservative factions in the country, who feared he would put in place a Chavez-style socialist government. Supporters, including many LGBT activists, believed Zelaya was seeking to make needed reforms to lift the majority of the country’s population from conditions of poverty and despair.

The Obama administration denounced the coup and called for an immediate restoration of the country’s democratic institutions. But activists in the U.S. and Honduras have said the U.S. appeared to have been privately supportive of the coup. Palacios said it is widely known in the country that Honduran military leaders, who took Zelaya into custody, flew him to a U.S. military base in Honduras before flying him to Costa Rica, where he remained in exile for several years.

Further suspicions of U.S. motives surfaced a few months later, when the U.S. gave its backing to elections called and arranged by coup leaders under supervision of international observers. The country’s current president, Porfirio Lobo of the conservative National Party, won that election.

Owen of the State Department declined to comment on allegations by activists that the U.S. support for the current government was giving tacit support for violence against gays and others by corrupt elements, including police, associated with the government.

“We strongly support the rule of law and respect for the constitutional separation of powers as well as a fair and transparent democratic process,” Owen said of the U.S. policy toward Honduras. He said the U.S., among other things, is providing assistance to the Honduran government to “strengthen its investigative capacity” to combat possible human rights abuses.

With that as a backdrop, the left-leaning LIBRE Party last year nominated through a primary election Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, as its candidate for president in the November 2013 election. In a development that has thrilled LGBT activists, including Palacios, the LGBT supportive Castro (who’s not related to Cuba’s Fidel Castro) has emerged as the leading candidate in a Gallup Poll conducted in January.

Her husband, who can’t run for president under the constitution’s term limit provision, is running for a seat in the Congress.

In what LGBT advocates consider a historic development, a transgender woman and an openly gay man ran in last year’s primary for congressional seats as LIBRE candidates. Both lost their races, but Palacios called their candidacies and the LIBRE party’s support for LGBT equality a major advance for his country.

With the candidates from the two longstanding “establishment” parties — the right-wing National Party and the center-right Liberal Party — trailing Castro in the polls, Palacios said he fears conservative forces will manufacture a “crisis” in an attempt to postpone or cancel the election. None of the other candidates have expressed support for LGBT rights, Palacios said.

“That’s why we are asking a number of organizations from the international community to go in delegations in November to observe the electoral process and make sure it’s a just process.”

14
Feb
2013

Chilean LGBT rights advocates honor murdered gay man

Chile, vigil, Santiago, gay news, Washington Blade, Daniel Zamudio

Roughly 300 people took part in a candlelight vigil in honor of Daniel Zamudio in Santiago, the Chilean capital, on March 2. (Photos courtesy of Fundación Daniel Zamudio.)

Roughly 300 people took part in a candlelight vigil in the Chilean capital on Saturday to honor a gay man who was brutally attacked last March.

Daniel Zamudio’s friends and family members joined LGBT rights advocates and others who marched to the park in downtown Santiago in which four self-described neo-Nazis allegedly attacked the 24-year-old with bottles, rocks and other objects on March 3, 2012. Zamudio succumbed to his injuries several weeks later.

The attack sparked widespread outrage across Chile.

President Sebastián Piñera last July signed an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that had languished in the South American country’s Congress for seven years. Jaime Parada Hoyl, spokesperson for the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation who last October became the first openly gay political candidate elected in Chile, told the Washington Blade last fall while in D.C. on a State Department-sponsored trip he feels Zamudio’s death highlighted efforts to combat anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in the country.

“On the first anniversary of the attack against Daniel Zamudio, his legacy is more alive than ever,” Parada told the Blade from Santiago on Monday. “The Zamudio case revealed that there had been a profound disconnect and incomprehension with respect to our value as citizens and people.”

He added Chileans are now “more sensitive” to the needs of their LGBT countrymen.

Movil said prosecutor Ernesto Vásquez assured Zamudio’s parents during a Feb. 25 meeting the trial of the four men who allegedly attacked their son will begin in May.

Patricio Ahumada Garay, whom prosecutors maintain masterminded the attack, could face life in prison if found guilty. The three other men charged in Zamudio’s death could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

05
Mar
2013

European court rules religion cannot justify anti-gay discrimination

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, gay news, Washington Blade

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled religion cannot justify discrimination against same-sex couples. (Photo by CherryX via Wikimedia Commons)

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled religious beliefs cannot justify discrimination against same-sex couples.

The tribunal in Strasbourg, France, ruled against two British Christians who claimed their employers unfairly discriminated against them because of their opposition to relationship recognition for gays and lesbians and homosexuality.

Registrar Lillian Ladele claimed the Borough of Islington outside London unfairly disciplined her because she refused to officiate civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after the United Kingdom’s civil partnership law took effect in 2005. Gary McFarlane accused the Relate Federation, an English counseling service, of firing him in 2008 because he said he may object to providing sex therapy to gay and lesbian couples because of his religious-based opposition to homosexuality.

“We welcome the ECHR’s ruling,” Relate Chief Executive Ruth Sutherland said in a statement. “We believe that it is further endorsement that Relate acted in an appropriate manner and fully in compliance with the law in the case regarding Gary McFarlane. The ruling supports our view that Relate acted properly and that it was Mr. McFarlane who was in breach of his agreed terms and conditions of employment. For Relate, this case has always been about protecting the right that every Relate client has to impartial, unbiased and empathetic counseling and sex therapy in line with our charitable aims.”

The court also ruled against a nurse who claimed she lost her job at an English hospital because she refused to remove her necklace with a cross. British Airways employee Nadia Eweida received €32,000 in damages after the airline suspended her for wearing a cross necklace to work.

“Today’s judgment is an excellent result for equal treatment, religious freedom and common sense,” Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, a British human rights group, said in a statement. “Nadia Eweida wasn’t hurting anyone and was perfectly capable of doing her job whilst wearing a small cross. She had just as much a right to express her faith as a Sikh man in a turban or a Muslim woman with a headscarf.”

The Religion News Service reported that Alliance Defending Freedom, an American anti-gay organization, said “Christian employees should not be singled out for discrimination,” but categorized the court’s decision to reject the other three cases as “extremely disappointing.”

LGBT rights advocates in the U.K. and across Europe quickly applauded the decision.

“With this ruling, the court has established that freedom of religion is an individual right,” Sophie in ‘t Veld, vice-president of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said in a statement. “It is emphatically not a collective right to discriminate against LGBT people, women, or people of another faith or life stance. Religious freedom is no ground for exemption from the law. The court showed conclusively that the principle of equality and equal treatment cannot be circumvented with a simple reference to religion.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall, agreed.

“Today’s judgment rightly confirms that it’s completely unacceptable in 2013 for public servants to pick and choose who they want to serve on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said. “Gay people contribute over £40 billion annually to the cost of public services in this country. They’re entitled to nothing less than equal treatment from those services, even from public servants who don’t happen to like gay people.”

The court’s ruling coincides with the expected introduction of a bill in the British Parliament in the coming weeks that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers are expected to consider a similar measure this year.

French legislators on Jan. 29 will begin to debate a proposal that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples in France. More than 350,000 people marched through the streets of Paris on Sunday in opposition to the bill.

COC Netherlands, a Dutch LGBT advocacy group, said the European Court of Human Rights’ decision “clears the way” to repeal the exemption to the country’s 2001 same-sex marriage law that allows civil servants to refuse to marry gays and lesbians.

“Now that even the European Court rules against civil servants that refuse to marry gay couples, the way to ending this phenomenon in the Netherlands has been cleared,” COC Netherlands President Tanja Ineke told the Washington Blade. “We call on the Dutch government to take measures to end this phenomenon immediately and put an end to this long lasting debate.”

Tamás Dombos of the Hungarian LGBT advocacy group Háttér noted to the Blade that the Constitutional Court of Hungary has ruled registrars cannot legally discriminate against couples based on their sexual orientation. The country’s domestic partnership law took effect in 2009, but a new constitution with an amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman took effect last January.

“We welcome the decision, although the reasoning of the court is quite moderate claiming that national authorities have the power to settle the clash between the two competing claims (non-discrimination and freedom of religion,)” Dombos said in reference to the European Court of Human Rights decision. “So it is questionable whether the decision can be used later to fight national decision that prioritize religious freedom instead.”

16
Jan
2013

Russian court overturns regional gay pride ban

Russia, Moscow, Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, gay news, Washington Blade

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square (Photo by Dmitry Azovtsev via Wikimedia Commons)

A court in the Russian region of Kostroma on Wednesday overturned a ban on gay pride marches and gatherings.

Gay Star News reported the Civil Chamber of the Kostroma Regional Court issued its decision after Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, appealed a lower court’s decision that banned several gay-specific events that had been scheduled to take place last March.

Kostroma lawmakers in Feb. 2012 approved a prohibition on so-called “propaganda of homosexuality,” but the website reported the court concluded rallies and marches did not fall under the ban.

St. Petersburg along with eight other regions have adopted similar laws, while the Russian Duma in January approved a measure that would prohibit the “promotion of homosexuality” to children across the country.

“This is important,” Alekseev told Gay Star News after the Kostroma court issued its ruling.

Madonna and Lady Gaga are among those who have spoken out against the St. Petersburg law. The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and other groups have criticized the proposed countrywide ban on so-called gay propaganda to children.

More than 60 members of Congress earlier this month also urged lawmakers in the neighboring Ukraine to reject two bills that would ban the distribution of gay-specific information and materials in public gatherings and the media.

23
Mar
2013

Lawyer advocating for gay Cameroonians speaks in D.C.

Michel Togue, Cameroon, gay news, Washington Blade

Cameroonian LGBT advocate Michel Togue (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A lawyer who represents LGBT Cameroonians on Thursday urged his African country’s government to stop the persecution of gay men and lesbians.

“Gay people are not seeking everyone to approve of their behavior,” Michel Togué said during a roundtable at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Northwest D.C. “They are seeking freedom.”

Authorities since 2010 have prosecuted nearly 30 people under the section of the country’s penal code that imposes a sentence of up to five years in prison and a roughly $400 fine against anyone convicted of same-sex sexual activity. These include Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, whom police in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé arrested in March 2011 after he sent a flirtatious text message to another man.

Police in July 2011 arrested Jonas Kimie and Franky Ndome outside a Yaoundé nightclub and charged them under Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law.

A judge referenced the couple’s clothes and their “feminine” speech before sentencing them to five years in prison. Kimie and Ndome last month went into hiding after an appellate court released them. (The Washington Blade’s attempts to interview them were unsuccessful.)

Togué, who represents Mbede alongside fellow Cameroonian lawyer Alice Nkom, said those charged under the anti-homosexuality law routinely face human rights abuses while in custody.

He said a doctor asked Mbede to bend over during an examination at a local hospital to prove whether he is gay.

Togué further alleged authorities also beat Mbede, who received a three year prison sentence and was re-sentenced in December after he unsuccessfully appealed his original conviction, while in custody. He said they also distributed naked pictures of Mbede they took inside the police station.

“There’s no dignity there,” Togué said. “There’s no respect or dignity of humanity.”

All Out, Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department are among the groups and governmental agencies that have criticized Cameroon’s LGBT rights record in recent years.

President Paul Biya told journalists last month after meeting with French President François Hollande that attitudes towards gay Cameroonians are changing.

“Cameroon is part of a global community and the world has become a global village,” Togué, who moved his family to Silver Spring because of the death threats he said he and his colleagues continue to receive, said. “It is not in the interests of my beloved country to not live in isolation.”

Togué’s D.C. appearance coincided with the possibly imminent debate in the Ugandan Parliament on the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts. It also took place less than a month after President Obama mentioned gay men and lesbians, marriage rights for same-sex couples and the Stonewall riots in his second inaugural address.

Lawmakers in France, which partially colonized Cameroon until it gained independence in the early 1960s, earlier this month approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to marry and adopt children.

“It can have an impact [in] my country and of the LGBT issues in Cameroon,” Togué told the Blade after the roundtable. “My president is really aware of what international opinion thinks about what he is doing.”

He returned to Cameroon on Sunday.

19
Feb
2013

Cardinal admits sexual misconduct with priests

Catholic Church, Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, gay news, Washington Blade

Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien (Photo public domain)

In a dramatic development just days before the selection process for a new Pope was to begin at the Vatican, a British Cardinal admitted in a public statement on March 3 that he engaged in sexual misconduct with priests over a period of more than 30 years.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 74, the highest-ranking Catholic leader in the United Kingdom and an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, issued his statement one week after he abruptly resigned from all of his church duties.

Last week, the Washington Blade reported that the Vatican was downplaying reports of a gay sex scandal after several allegations, including those against O’Brien.

Church insiders believe his resignation was ordered by outgoing Pope Benedict XVI following a report in the British newspaper The Guardian that three priests and a former priest filed formal complaints accusing him of engaging in “intimate” acts with them against their will in the 1980s.

The complaints were filed with the Vatican’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public,” O’Brien said in his statement. “Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them,” he said.

“However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal,” he said. “To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness.”

He added, “To the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland, I also apologize. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

O’Brien had served as head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, where the three current and one former priest said he made inappropriate advances toward them when three of them were young priests and one of them was a seminarian.

O’Brien’s statement of admission and apology came one day after The Observer published a follow-up story providing specific details of the allegations made by the three priests and former priest.

“He started fondling my body, kissing me and telling me how special I was to him and how much he loved me,” The Observer quoted one of the priests as saying.

The former priest told The Observer he was a seminarian when O’Brien used bedtime prayers as an opportunity to make advances toward him.

“I knew myself to be heterosexual, but I did say to others that I thought it would be easier to get through seminary if you were gay,” The Observer quoted him as saying.

The Observer said it chose to report the additional details with the full consent of the three priests and former priest, whose motives had come under attack by some church defenders because they haven’t publicly disclosed their names.

According to The Observer, the four men disclosed their names in the written complaints they filed with the Vatican ambassador to the U.K., Archbishop Antonio Mennini, in early February.

The Observer reports that the four decided to file their complaint after they discovered for the first time earlier this year that each of them had encountered what they believed to be improper advances from O’Brien years earlier.

The paper said the men chose to contact the media about their complaint when church officials led them to believe that little would be done about their revelations and that O’Brien would be going to Rome to help select a new Pope.

“I’d never wanted to ‘out’ Keith just for being gay,” the former priest, who is now married, told The Guardian. “But this was confirming that his behavior towards me was part of his modus operandi. He has hurt others, probably worse, than he affected me,” The Observer quoted him as saying.

“And that only became clear a few weeks ago,” he told The Observer, in noting his recent discovery of the three others to whom O’Brien made inappropriate advances.

The Observer and other British newspapers have reported that support by church critics for exposing O’Brien’s inappropriate behavior toward priests whose careers and duties were under his control was based also on what they believe to be his blatant hypocrisy.

In recent years, O’Brien spoke out harshly against same-sex marriage and warned the Scottish Parliament that Scotland would suffer dire consequences if it legalized civil marriage for same-sex couples.

He called same-sex marriage a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right. Gay activists in the U.K. said they were especially offended by his description of same-sex relationships as unhealthy and inferior to heterosexual relationships. Among other things, he told the media that legal recognition of same-sex marriage would result in schools being required to teach kids “homosexual fairy stories.”

O’Brien’s statement admitting to sexual misconduct makes him the highest ranking Catholic Church official to make such an admission, according to Vatican observers.

The admission came one week after Vatican officials denounced reports in the Italian press that an underground network of gay priests assigned to the Vatican organized meetings for sex and may have been subjected to blackmail.

06
Mar
2013