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Scotland same-sex marriage bill receives final approval

Scottish Parliament, Scotland, United Kingdom, gay news, Washington Blade

The Scottish Parliament (Photo by Klaus with K; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Scotland on Tuesday received final approval.

The 105-18 vote in the Scottish Parliament took place after more than three hours of debate.

Iceland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Spain are among the 15 countries in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

Same-sex couples in England and Wales will be able to tie the knot next month. The Irish government last fall announced a referendum on whether to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians will take place in 2015.

The Luxembourg Parliament later this year is expected to consider a same-sex marriage bill. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, said after he took office last December that he would like to see his country allow nuptials for gays and lesbians this year.

Gays and lesbians have been able to enter into civil partnerships in Scotland and across the U.K. since 2005.


Scotland legalizes gay marriage, becomes 17th country to do so

Members of Parliament voted 105 to 18 in favor of the new law.


Hookup app users not opposed to STD info

Grindr, social media app, gay news, Washington Blade, hookupLONDON — A survey of men who have sex with men in Scotland found that users of hookup apps such as Gaydar and Grindr are not opposed to sexual health promotion on such sites, but they object to health workers initiating contact with them, AIDSmap reports.

Based on an online survey conducted with 1,326 men who were recruited through sites such as Facebook, Gaydar, Squirt, Grindr and more, researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University found that 54.6 percent of website users and 40.5 percent of app users said they support health workers soliciting participants for information on safe sex though 85.7 percent of website users and 74.5 percent of app users said a more “passive” approach to disseminate safer sex practices was acceptable, AIDSmap reports.

Participants said they primarily use the sites for sex but also said there’s a social aspect to them, especially for those in non-urban environments. Sex, dating, swapping erotic photos and messages and making new friends were among the most common reasons participants said they use the sites. About a third of them said “killing time” is also a factor.


Scotland same-sex marriage bill advances

Scottish Parliament, Scotland, United Kingdom, gay news, Washington Blade

The Scottish Parliament (Photo by Klaus with K; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Scotland on Wednesday cleared its first hurdle.

Members of the Scottish Parliament passed the measure by a 98-15 vote margin more than three hours after they began debating it.

“Equal marriage is an idea whose time has come,” MSP Jackie Baillie of Dumbarton said.

Gay MSPs Marco Biagi of Edinburgh and Ruth Davidson of Glasgow are among those who also spoke in support of the bill.

“I believe in marriage,” Davidson said. “I believe it is a good thing and [something] to be celebrated and I want everybody in Scotland to know it is open to them.”

MSP Elaine Smith said the measure does not go far enough to protect freedom of speech and religion.

“This bill may well have detrimental consequences for many people,” she said.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in 15 countries that include Iceland, France and the Netherlands.

Same-sex couples in England and Wales will be able to tie the knot next year. The Irish government earlier this month announced a referendum on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the country will take place in 2015.

Gays and lesbians have been able to enter into civil partnerships in Scotland and across the U.K. since 2005.

A Scottish parliamentary committee will consider the same-sex marriage bill before it returns to the full legislative body. A final vote on the measure is expected to take place early next year.

“This legislation does not in any way redefine our own marriage,” Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said. “What it does do is extend the eligibility of marriage.”


Church of England to allow partnered gay bishops

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Church of England on Friday announced that clergy in same-sex civil partnerships can become bishops as long as they remain celibate.

“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships and living in accordance with the teaching of the church on human sexuality can be considered as candidates for the episcopate,” Rt. Rev. Graham James said on Friday on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. “The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.”

The House of Bishops said in 2005 before a law that allowed same-sex couples to register as civil partners in the United Kingdom took effect that gay celibate men could become clergy. The body voted to extend the policy to bishops last month during a meeting outside London.

The ordination of gay bishops in the Church of England has remained controversial since Rev. Jeffrey John in 2003 became the first person in a same-sex relationship successfully nominated as bishop. He stepped down before he was to have been officially consecrated.

Gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson’s 2003 election sparked a firestorm of controversy that threatened to divide the broader Anglican Church — he wore a bullet proof vest during his consecration that took place inside a hockey area on the University of New Hampshire. Sharp-shooters were stationed on nearby rooftops during the ceremony, while protesters gathered outside the venue.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams barred Robinson from attending the decennial Lambeth Conference in England in 2008.

Los Angeles Bishop Mary Glasspool in 2010 became the first partnered lesbian to be ordained within the Episcopal Church. John had been considered a candidate to become Bishop of Southwark the same year, but his nomination was blocked.

LGBT rights advocates largely mocked the church’s statement — and especially its insistence on celibacy.

“We’re sure many Anglicans will be happy to hear of the church’s latest epiphany on gay clergy, although many lesbians will be disappointed that they remain unable to serve as bishops,” Ruth Hunt, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT rights group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade earlier on Friday. “I’m sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the church.”

Reverend Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, an LGBT Anglican group, did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment. He told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the church’s statement “will be laughed at by the majority in this country.”

Conservative Anglicans criticized any effort to allow gay bishops within the church.

“That would be a major change in church doctrine and therefore not something that can be slipped out in the news,” Rev. Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, an evangelical group within the Church of England, told the BBC. “It is something that has got to be considered by the General Synod.”

The church’s announcement coincides with the British government’s plan to introduce a bill later this month to introduce a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers are expected to consider a similar measure this year.


Same-sex marriage bill introduced in British Parliament

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall, gay news, Washington Blade

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill (Photo courtesy of Stonewall)

British Culture Secretary Maria Miller on Thursday formally introduced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales.

The BBC reported that the House of Commons is scheduled to consider the measure on Feb. 5.

The Churches of England and Wales would be legally prohibited from marrying same-sex couples unless they opt into the law — the Church of England announced earlier this month that clergy in same-sex civil partnerships can become bishops as long as they remain celibate. It maintains marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman.

A law that allows gay couples in the United Kingdom to register as civil partners took effect in 2005.

Scottish lawmakers are expected to consider a same-sex marriage proposal later this year, while French legislators are scheduled to begin debate on the issue on Tuesday. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden are among the other European countries in which gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot.

“We’re pleased that the government has introduced this bill and we’ll be working hard over the coming weeks and months to secure this final modest measure of legislative equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” Andy Wasley of the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall told the Washington Blade. “It’s now vital that the seven in 10 people in Britain who support equal marriage call on their members of Parliament to stand up and argue for it.”


British House of Commons approves same-sex marriage bill

Great Britain, parliament, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Takasunrise0921 via Wikimedia Commons)

The British House of Commons on Tuesday approved a proposal that would allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales.

The 400-175 vote came after an hours-long debate on the measure.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller stressed the bill “is about fairness.” She said it also protects religious freedom and registrars would receive the same protections under the law.

The European Court of Human Rights last month said religious beliefs cannot justify discrimination against same-sex couples. A registrar who said the Borough of Islington outside London unfairly disciplined her because she refused to officiate civil partnerships for same-sex couples after the United Kingdom’s civil partnership law took effect in 2005 is among the two British Christians who claimed their employers unfairly discriminated against them because of their opposition to homosexuality and relationship recognition for gays and lesbians.

Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Yvette Cooper noted President Obama’s support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

“Parliament shouldn’t stop people getting married simply because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex,” she said.

Gay MP Stephen Gilbert, who represents St. Austell and Newquay in Cornwall, highlighted the struggles he said he faced when coming out as he spoke in support of the proposal that he described as “historic legislation.”

“We have a come a long way in a short space of time,” Gilbert said. “But it is absolutely right in my view that the House take the next step and deliver full equality to gay men and lesbians in this country.”

MP Nadine Dorries, who represents portions of Bedfordshire, said the bill “actually highlights the inequalities that are going to be there.”

“Marriage is based on the definition of sex,” she said.

The vote took place three days after French lawmakers approved an amendment to a same-sex marriage bill that defines marriage as between two people of the opposite or same sex. Legislators continue to debate the proposal that would extend both marriage and adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are among the European countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. Scottish lawmakers in the coming months are also expected to consider a similar measure.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall, gay news, Washington Blade

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill (Photo courtesy of Stonewall)

“As the last piece of the legislative jigsaw providing equality for gay people in Britain, this is a truly historic step forward,” Ben Summerskill, executive of the LGBT advocacy group Stonewall said. “We’re absolutely delighted that MPs have demonstrated so overwhelmingly that they’re in touch with the twenty-first century.”

Summerskill said he expects “a tough battle” in the House of Lords on the same-sex marriage bill, but he remains optimistic about the measure’s prospects. Prime Minister David Cameron also supports the proposal.

“The size of the Commons majority seen tonight — much larger than for most normal government business — will make it very difficult for peers to suggest that the bill should be rejected,” Summerskill said.


Scotland drop-in site offers quick HIV tests

HIV, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

EDINBURGH, Scotland — A new sexual health testing service for gay and bi men has been launched in Glasgow, Scotland, the Journal, an Edinburgh-based newspaper reported.

The unnamed site will offer HIV and other STD tests with an emphasis on speed. Organizers said it wants to normalize the notion of getting tested regularly. HIV tests can generate results within 20 minutes while other test results can be picked up at a later date.

The initiative is being launched by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde group in partnership with the Gay Mens’ Health and Sandyford Steve Retson Project, the Journal reported.


Vatican denounces reports of gay sex scandal

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

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

Vatican officials this week 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.

Criticism of the press reports by a high-level Vatican spokesperson came less than a week before yet another gay-related scandal hit the Catholic Church – this time in Scotland.

British Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who has called same-sex marriage “grotesque,” announced he decided to step down a month ahead of previously announced retirement plans after allegations surfaced on Feb. 23 that he engaged in “intimate” acts with priests in the 1980s.

O’Brien denied the allegations but said on Monday he cancelled his trip to Rome this week, where he was expected to participate in the selection of a new pope. He said he didn’t want the allegations against him to overshadow the conclave of cardinals set to convene within the next week.

The Vatican immediately accepted his decision to step down from his church duties, which it viewed as a resignation.

News of the alleged network of gay priests at the Vatican surfaced last week when the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the Italian news magazine Panorama reported that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on the same day he learned of the allegations.

In a development that created an uproar at the Vatican, La Repubblica reported it received detailed information about a 300-page Vatican report prepared by three cardinals who uncovered the network of gay priests during a nine-month internal Vatican investigation.

Among other things, the report says the investigation discovered a “faction” within the Vatican “united by sexual orientation,” according to La Repubblica.

The newspaper said it had no confirmation that Benedict based his decision to resign solely on the explosive findings of the investigation. But it reported sources as saying Benedict planned to keep the findings confidential and decided to leave it up to his successor to determine how to address the matter.

“It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long,” La Repubblica reported in its Feb. 21 edition while discussing Benedict’s resignation.

Vatican officials have since confirmed that the investigation took place but have refused to comment on its findings. Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi acknowledged the reports by La Repubblica and Panorama that the investigation was launched last May after one of the pope’s butlers was arrested for allegedly stealing papal correspondence and leaking it to the media.

La Repubblica reported several other findings of the investigation, including problems associated with the Vatican bank. Vatican observers in Italy speculated that various rival factions of cardinals and other Vatican officials were likely responsible for leaked information about the investigative report.

Efforts to portray rivals in a negative light are “part of the great game of the conclave, whose tools include political attacks and efforts to condition consensus,” Vatican observer and author Alberto Melloni of Bologna, Italy, told the New York Times.

Other observers have said intrigue and infighting that sometimes takes place in the process of selecting a Pope appears to be occurring at a greater intensity this time, as conservative and more progressive factions of cardinals line up behind different candidates under consideration for the papacy.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State, its highest office, issued a statement on Feb. 23 denouncing the press accounts of the contents of the investigative report or “dossier” as “unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories.”

In a separate statement, the Vatican said Benedict dissolved the three-cardinal investigative committee on Monday and expressed “satisfaction for the results of this investigation,” according to a report by the Washington Post.

“The Holy Father has decided that the acts of this investigation, known only to himself, remain solely at the disposition of the new Pope,” the Post quoted the statement as saying.

La Repubblica reported that the investigation uncovered an underground network of gays working at the Vatican who organized “sexual meetings” in several locations, including a sauna in Rome, a private villa just outside Rome, and a beauty salon inside the Vatican.

The newspaper also reported the investigation found some of the gay priests may have been subjected to blackmail by men not associated with the Vatican with whom they had “worldly” relations.

“When you have this culture of secrecy and guilt and repression you have conditions which foster the potential for blackmail and for manipulation,” said gay British journalist and former priest Mark Dowd in an interview with CNN.

The cardinals who headed the Vatican investigation have been identified as Julian Herranz of Spain; Jozef Tomko of Slovakia; and Salvatore De Giorgi, the former archbishop of Palermo.

The British newspaper The Guardian broke the story about Cardinal O’Brien’s alleged “gay” scandal in a story in its Feb. 23 edition.

According to The Guardian, three priests and a former priest, all from Scotland, filed a complaint against O’Brien with the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain one week before Benedict announced his resignation.

One of the complainants, The Guardian reports, charges that O’Brien “developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counseling.”

Another, identified only as “Priest A,” described being visited by O’Brien and “inappropriate contact between the two took place,” the newspaper reported. “Priest B” claims he was invited to spend a week at the then archbishop’s residence, where he encountered “unwanted behavior by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.”

The Guardian said “Priest C” had been seeing O’Brien for counseling over personal problems and alleges that O’Brien “used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.”

The four who filed the complaint called on the Vatican ambassador to take steps to prevent O’Brien from going to Rome to participate in the conclave to select a new pope, saying the papal selection process would be tainted if the cardinal was part of it.

O’Brien, who announced he had cancelled his trip to Rome the day after The Observer published its story, said he would obtain legal counsel to fight the allegations, which his accusers say took place in the 1980s.

The press reports about the alleged network of gay priests at the Vatican reportedly involved consenting adults, and the allegations against O’Brien involved adult victims. But the revelations of these developments prompted news media outlets in the U.S. and Europe to bring up longstanding allegations of the sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests that have plagued the Catholic Church for more than two decades.

Organizations representing victims of sexual abuse by priests have called on the Vatican to bar cardinals in the U.S. and elsewhere from participating in the selection of a new pope if they knew about priests that sexually abused juveniles but did not act to stop the abuse.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that advocates for LGBT equality within the Catholic Church, told the Blade the unfolding gay sex scandal, if true, is due in part to the Vatican’s harsh position on homosexuality.

“They have created a situation where people can’t express their sexuality in healthy ways,” he said. “They can’t even deal with their sexuality in the open. So it creates a climate of suspicion and a climate of fear.”

Jeannine Gramick is a Roman Catholic nun who co-founded New Ways Ministry and serves as national coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns. She told the Blade she is hopeful that the scandal would nudge the church into adopting a more tolerant position on gays.

“I think the impact it should have is to point out the hypocrisy of having a very negative stance about homosexual activity between loving persons and the private secret condoning of activity that is not in the context of a committed relationship,” she said.

“So my hope is that it will bring about a re-examination of the church’s approach to sexuality to become more realistic and honest,” Gramick said.


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.