Kirk criticised

The Church of Scotland has been asked to apologise for its “history of discrimination” against homosexual people and could be a step closer to allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriages.

A report by the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland to be debated at the Kirk’s General Assembly in May proposes having a church committee research allowing nominated ministers and deacons to carry out the ceremonies while retaining the ability for “contentious refusal” from those opposed to same-sex marriage.

The report also calls for “the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better”.

More to do

Writing for Third Sector, Kevin Curley notes that

It is 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales. The extent to which our society has changed since then is illustrated by the fact that the Westminster parliament, with 35 out gay MPs, is the most diverse of any in the world in terms of sexual orientation. But many challenges remain for those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and others community.

Giving young people support and safe places is a constant theme in my conversations with local activists. So too is the need to challenge prejudice. Proud2Be’s Price says it’s a misconception that “the battle for LGBTQ+ rights has been won”. He says there have been great advancements in terms of securing equality under the law, but “we are by no means there yet”.

Brooke shows me the videos produced with her young members and says: “We are a long way from achieving equality in practice.”

Omelettes all round in Boston!

A South Boston veterans council, facing withering criticism, reversed course on Friday and extended an unconditional invitation to the group of gay veterans it had barred from marching in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

OUTVETS, a group of LGBT veterans, will now march in the March 19 parade with its rainbow banner and logo, a point of contention that the Allied War Veterans Council had cited when it voted on Tuesday to reject the organization.

The war veterans council on Friday night agreed unanimously to invite OUTVETS to the parade with no restrictions on the display of the rainbow flag.

And they have enough egg on their faces to provide plenty of free omelettes.

Here we (don’t) go again…

Some of Massachusetts’s top politicians said today that they would not attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston after organizers told a group of gay and transgender military veterans that they would not be allowed to march on March 17. For two years they have been included in the event.

The parade organizers, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, voted 9 to 4 to exclude OutVets. Dan Magoon, the executive director of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, resigned as the parade’s chief marshal over that decision.

The Allied War Veterans Council says the parade does not ban gay groups, but it “will not allow the advertisement or display of one’s sexual orientation as a topic that should in any way be depicted as a theme of our parade.”

Sponsors of the parade began to drop out today. The supermarket Stop & Shop said it would no longer sponsor the parade, and Anheuser-Busch said it was “evaluating” its continued participation in the event.

The committee may rethink the matter tomorrow.

Tanzania: the new terrorists


Undated | Uncredited | Picture Alliance/DPA

On Saturday, Tanzania announced it will publish a list of gay people allegedly selling sex online. Just days ago the government shut down dozens of AIDS clinics which it accused of promoting homosexuality.

Deputy Health Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla wrote on Twitter that his government was investigating “the homosexuality syndicate” and would arrest and prosecute those involved in the gay sex business. “I will publish a list of gay people selling their bodies online,” Kigwangalla wrote. “Those who think this campaign is a joke, are wrong. The government has long arms and it will quietly arrest all those involved. Once arrested, they will help us find others.”

Tazanian men suspected of being gay have been detained and taken to hospitals for an anal examination to find out if they are homosexual.

Tanzania is still in the Commonwealth.

Last year there was pressure on the UK Government to review its foreign aid to Tanzania, which was around £200,000,000 a year.

Football gets red card for homophobia from MPs


Nigel Owens | Sky | 17029

Football and other sport fans who hurl homophobic abuse should be handed immediate and “lengthy” stadium bans in a “zero tolerance” approach. The Culture, Media and Sports Committee said attitudes towards gay people within sport – particularly football – are “out of step” with wider society.

They were “particularly disturbed” by the inclusion of boxer Tyson Fury on the shortlist of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year in 2015, despite his history of homophobic comments.

Football had a “problematic” history with homophobia, with anti-gay chants “relatively commonplace” at games, and homophobic leaflets were reported to have been handed out outside West Ham United’s ground in 2016.

Citing surveys which suggest that 72% of football fans have heard homophobic abuse at matches, MPs said they were “concerned” it was not taken seriously enough.

10 years ago, international rugby referee Nigel Owens came out as gay. His courage helped other players come forward and break down barriers within rugby. He agreed there should be “zero tolerance” towards homophobia.

There are no openly gay footballers in the Premier League, and MPs said attitudes inside clubs could be part of the problem; and some sports are being “robbed of talent” because of a high drop-out rate among young gay members.

Tory MP slams his party for section 28

Conservative MP Iain Stewart, the MP for Milton Keynes South, told Parliament how he questioned whether he would be able to pursue his dream of entering politics because he feared a backlash over his sexuality. He worried about being “cast aside”. Homophobic bullying was rife while he was a boy at school in Glasgow, and it took him many years to get over the feeling of being different and isolated.

Then he criticised the Tories’ defeated and discredited section 28 legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government banning schools and councils from promoting homosexuality.

“Just looking at a career you want to pursue, and thinking you can’t, is very damaging. I, for a long time in my teenage years and early 20s when I decided that politics was my passion and this was a career I wanted to pursue, I did think for a time, “actually I can’t do it”. I would live in fear of being revealed for who I was, something that was so innate in me – I can’t change being gay, that’s the way I was born. It’s as natural as being left-handed, right-handed, or the colour of your hair, or whatever. But I felt I can’t pursue a career in politics because I’m so afraid that I’d be cast aside and prevented from doing it, exposed, whatever, because of who I was. And that was in the late 1980s, early 1990s.”

That’s why we fought it.

Survivors face more problems as they age

Older people now represent 1 in 3 of those living with HIV, but the government isn’t ready for this fast-growing aging population, and social care is a ticking ‘timebomb’ as more older people living with HIV face loneliness and poverty, says the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Michael said he is worried about life in a care home where HIV treatments are not widely educated and a stigma is still present. “Care home staff are not usually trained in working with people who have HIV, as they’ve never had to deal with it before. So like anyone else, they will have their own pre-conceived ideas about HIV, which could be decades out of date.”

As HIV diagnoses are rising in people over 50, Michael said the only way to improve social care is education. “We also need to educate GPs, care homes and society as a whole about HIV, so that those of us who are growing older with HIV are getting the support we need to live well in older age.”

The report also reveals that six out of ten older people with HIV are living in poverty – double that seen in the general population; eight out of ten experienced moderate to high levels of loneliness – three times more than the general population; one in four respondents said they would have no one to help them if they ever needed support with daily tasks, and eight out of ten are concerned about whether they will be able to access adequate social care in the future.

For Your Activist, it is quite simple. It is wrong to discriminate against people with a sniffle; and it is wrong to discriminate against people with HIV.

What does the future hold for people growing old with HIV?

Yes, why?


Tamzin B. Smith/Rolling Stone | 17015

Why Is It So Hard for Gay Men to Give Blood? asks Rolling Stone, mainly concerned with the US.

Yes, why? HIV can be detected in days and the stigma around it has decreased dramatically – but the FDA still makes gay men abstain from sex for a year before donating, similar to the UK. I’m not so sure about the stigma decreasing though.

As usual, Rolling Stone get the rock’n’roll sorted.

Last year, the LGBT community was powerfully reminded of that statistic following an attack on Pulse nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 more were injured after a gunman opened fire on the Orlando gay bar. Although OneBlood, a Florida-based donation center, estimated that over 28,000 people donated the week following the tragedy, MSMs were not among them. For gay and bisexual men who will remain sexually active throughout their lives, a one-year deferral amounts to a lifetime ban. This means that these people were not allowed to help their own community members during a time of extraordinary need.

Quite. So get on with it, medical experts, and stop discriminating against law abiding citizens with rights.

An upgrade worth having


Mr Spires (right) | Getty | 17013

A 91-year-old US serviceman who was sacked from the US Air Force in 1948 because he was gay, has succeeded in getting his dismissal reclassified as an honourable discharge.

Edward Spires served as a chaplain’s assistant before being removed because he was deemed “undesirable” and forced out of the military after a probe into his sexual orientation.

The Air Force announced a discharge upgrade today. Mr Spires filed a lawsuit in November.

He was initially denied an honourable discharge because the Air Force said his records had probably been destroyed in a 1973 fire. He is now entitled to financial benefits and a military funeral because of the discharge upgrade.