By Professor Arthur S. Leonard. This article appeared in LGBT Bar NY’s LGBT Law Notes. Subscribe here!
Belgium — RadioFreeEuropeNews.com reports that Belgium has given humanitarian visas to five gay men from Chechnya. Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken stated on April 6 that the five men received visas from the Belgian Embassy in Moscow, and that more such visas may be issued to LGBT people from Chechnya in the future. When confronted with reports about persecution of gay people in Chechnya, the court’s ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the allegations, stating: “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays.”
Bermuda — OutBermuda and Maryellen Jackson filed an action in the Bermuda Supreme Court, seeking an order that provisions passed by the legislature that “have the effect of revoking same-sex marriage” are unconstitutional. The matter was expected to be heard by the Chief Justice during May. Carnival Cruise Lines, preeminent among the country’s tourist industry, is actively supporting OutBermuda’s efforts to reinstated marriage equality. BerNews, April 3.
Chile — On April 30 the government of new President Sebastian Pinera said it would adhere to an agreement signed with the LGBT group by its predecessors in office to settle a marriage equality case pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The agreement commits the government to modifying existing law to allow for same-sex marriages, gay adoptions, antidiscrimination protection for LGBTQ people, and modernizing gender identity policies, repealing homophobic laws, and implementing related policies around education, health care, work, and women. Reported by U.S. journalist Rex Wockner based on an article in El Mostrador.
Costa Rica — A heated presidential election in which the leading candidates took opposite sides on the question of Costa Rica’s compliance with an opinion issued by the Pan American Human Rights Court on marriage equality ended with the eletion of Carlos Alvarado Quesada, who supports marriage equality. It had been widely predicted that he would lose, in light of public opinion polls showing 70% opposed to same-sex marriage. So much for polls. Alvarado Quesada won by a 20-point margin. An article reporting the result Daily Mail Online, April 2, observed: “His decisive 20-point margin of victory offers hope to fellow progressives elsewhere in Latin America working to defeat an evangelical-led backlash that has grown alongside expanding acceptance of gay and lesbian rights.”
Indonesia — In Aceh Province, where Islamic Shariah law is in effect, activists called on April 3 for the government to release four people who had been detained on suspicion of having homosexual sex. The detained individuals, if convicted, could face up to 100 lashed in public as punishment. The head of shariah police in the province stated, “We are completing their files and will soon had over to prosecutors.” Last year, Aceh authorities administered public caning for the first time under a law passed in 2014. Straits Times, April 3.
Italy — A lesbian city council member in Turin, Chiara Foglietta, attempted to register her newborn, conceived abroad through donor insemination, but was turned down by City officials, pursuant to an Italian statute that makes fertility treatments available only to heterosexual couples; the law specifies that a child born to an unmarried woman must have been conceived through sexual intercourse. Conception through donor insemination is not officially recognized. AP Online, April 20.
Northern Ireland –The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom came to Belfast to hear arguments in the case against Ashers Bakery, which had declined an order by a gay activist to make a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” inscribed on it. Gareth Lee sued, winning the support of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and prevailing in the Court of Appeal. Five justices were scheduled to hear the argument in Belfast during the first week that the court would initiate the practice of hearing arguments in Northern Ireland. Ashers is mounting a religious liberty defense. In an opinion accompanying the Court of Appeal ruling, Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, stated: “The supplier may provide the particular service to all or to none but not to a selection of customers based on prohibited grounds. In the present case, the appellants might elect not to provide a service that involves any religious or political message. What they may not do is to provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.”
Paraguay — No advance for marriage equality in Paraguay as a result of April 22’s presidential election, as the winner, Mario Abdo Benitez, is a conservative whose party opposes same-sex marriage. New York Times, April 22.
Japan — On April 2 the city government of Fukuoka began recognizing same-sex partnerships. The southwestern Japanese city was the 7th municipality to issue partnership documents to same-sex couples since the first such system was established in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward in 2015. Kyodo News, April 2.
Singapore — A couple whose marriage was solemnized at the Registry of Marriages have sued the Registrar for deleting their marriage from the official records after one had sex reassignment surgery. Pro bono lawyers Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss and Suang Wijaya from the firm Eugene Thuraisingam LLP are seeking a High Court review of the Registrar’s decision to void the marriage, and an order restoring it to the books, claiming the Registrar exceeded her powers. The Registrar had challenged them at the time of the marriage, noting the “husband”’s appearance and use of a feminine name, but the husband then declared he would “not be marrying someone of the same sex and would not undergo any sex reassignment surgery to become a woman before the marriage date.” Several months after the marriage was solemnized, the husband applied to have the surgical procedure, which was completed by June 2016, after which, now identified now as Ms Faith Volta, she applied to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and was issued a new identity card stated female gender. Six months later, the Registrar contacted the couple to get an explanation, and then told them that their marriage would be “revoked,” subsequently sending them a letter with the finding that Ms. Faith had intended to undergo sex reassignment surgery at the time the marriage was solemnized. The Registrar deemed the marriage void because at the time it was performed, the couple did not plan to live as man and woman. Strait Times, April 2.
Trinidad and Tobago — Attorney General Faris Al Rawi has given instructions to appeal the April 12 High Court ruling in Jones and Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago, Claim No. CV2017–00720, that held unconstitutional the colonial-era Sexual Offences Act, which as used to prosecute participants in consensual gay sex. The opinion by Mr. Justice Devindra Rampersad stated, “There is no doubt in the court’s mind that the impugned sections infringe upon the claimant’s fundamental rights or that they are likely to be contravened. . . To this court, human dignity is a basic and inalienable right recognized worldwide in all democratic societies. . . The claimant, and others who express their sexual orientation in a similar way, cannot lawfully live their life, their private life, nor can they choose their life partners or create the families that they wish. To do so would be to incur the possibility of being branded a criminal. The Act impinges on the right to respect for a private and family life.” The law is still technically in effect despite the High Court decision, as the appellate process goes forward. Newsday.co.tt, April 13.
United Kingdom — Judge Christine Henson of Brighton Crown Court imposed a lifetime sentence on Daryll Rowe, convicted last November on five charges of causing grievous bodily harm and five charges of attempting to do so. In what the judge characterized as a “determined hateful campaign of sly violence,” Rowe, a gay man infected with HIV, apparently sought revenge after learning he had been infected by trying to infect other men through unprotected sex. After being diagnosed in April 2015, he refused treatment and medication, and told his victims, who he met through Grindr, that he was uninfected, and then would try to use “tampered condoms” during sex in an attempt to infect his victims. Stated the judge: “With the full knowledge of the risk you posed to others and the legal implications of engaging in risky sexual practices, you embarked on a deliberate campaign to infect other men with the HIV virus [sic]. Unfortunately for five of the men you met, your campaign was successful.” Under British law, he will have to serve at least 10 years and 253 days before he can be considered for parole, but the judge expressed doubts about whether he would ever be let free: “Given the facts of this case and your permissive predatory behavior, I cannot see when you would no longer be a danger to gay men.” Express (UK) April 19; Sky News, April 18.
New Zealand — The Parliament passed legislation expunging historic convictions for engaging in gay sex. Consensual gay sex was decriminalized in 1986, but men convicted before then continued to have criminal records. The bill passed unanimously on April 3 will allow those who were convicted of consensual offenses to have the records expunged. Passage of the bill was accompanied by an apology by Justice Minister Andrew Little to “all the men and members of the rainbow community who have been affected by the prejudice, stigma and other negative effects caused by convictions for historical homosexual offences. This bill sends a clear signal that discrimination against gay people is no longer acceptable, and that we are committed to putting right wrongs from the past.” The convictions in question relate to three offences under prior law: sodomy, indecency between males, and keeping a place of resort for homosexual acts. The Justice Department estimated that about 1,000 people will be eligible to apply for expungement of records when the law goes into effect next year. Agence France Presse English Wire, April 4.