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Gay Australian Envoy to France Offers Resignation After PM Tony Abbott Snubs His Partner

Abbott

Stephen Brady, Australia's ambassador to France, offered his resignation this week after Prime Minister Tony Abbott sent advance instructions that Brady's partner of 32 years should wait in the car rather than join Brady to greet the PM on the airport tarmac in Paris, the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

According to multiple sources, the ambassador, Stephen Brady, was on the airport tarmac with his partner of 32 years, Peter Stephens, waiting to meet the incoming plane around 7pm Paris time.

The prime minister's travelling party sent an instruction that Mr Stephens should not take part in the greeting but should wait in the car. It is understood that no explanation was given.

The ambassador, a career diplomat and formerly the official secretary to two governors-general, refused the instruction.

Abbott's office has denied there was any controversy at the airport, AFP adds:

According to the Herald's sources, Brady was “literally screaming” at the protocol officer who passed on the request. Brady reportedly refused, took Stephens along to meet Abbott and later offered his resignation to the foreign affairs department, but it was rejected, the report said.

A spokesman for Abbott told AFP “the prime minister was very happy to have been met by ambassador Brady and his partner when he arrived in Paris”.

The SMH adds:

One theory doing the rounds on Tuesday night was that it was simply a matter of protocol. Mr Abbott was not accompanied by his wife Margie and therefore it was not protocol for Mr Brady's partner to be present.

Mr Brady, a career diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs, was said to be furious with the request for his partner to wait in the car. He was, according to sources in Paris, "literally screaming" at the protocol person.

Watch a report on the incident from 9 News Australia, AFTER THE JUMP...

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EU Court Rules In Favor Of Easing Gay And Bisexual Blood Donation Restrictions

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An EU court of justice ruled in favor of easing restrictions that keep gay and bisexual men from donating blood reports expatica.com. The court reviewed the case of a French gay man who protested the ban on his blood in 2009 and came to the conclusion that a French blood ban introduced in 1983 during the HIV/AIDS crisis potentially violates EU's principle of "non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." However, the court also ruled that a ban against "high risk" men may be justified depending on the situation:

"It must be established whether those persons are at a high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases, such as HIV, and that there are no effective detection techniques or less onerous methods for ensuring a high level of health protection for recipients."

The EU court noted that if new testing methods can guarantee donated blood is free of infectious disease, then a ban may no longer be necessary. The French government reviewed a proposal to end the ban in April with many LGBT activists saying the blood ban stigmatizes the homosexual community. 

Britain ceased its ban in 2011 and the U.S. followed suit late last year but with the stipulation that men donating blood remain abstinent for a full year. LGBT activists have called the stipulation unrealistic and garnered the attention of U.S. politicians who are urging the Federal Drug Administration to develop concrete policies based on reputable science.


Pope Francis Meets With France's Openly Gay Nominee for Ambassador To The Vatican

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After months of radio silence from the church, Pope Francis has met with Laurent Stefanini, France’s openly gay nominee to serve as its ambassador to the Vatican. Up to this point the Vatican had flatly refused to comment on Stefani, who was confirmed for the position by the French government soon after he was nominated. The Church’s decision to drag its heels not only held up Stefani’s full confirmation, but it also sent the message that it wasn’t likely to accept him as an ambassador. The Vatican resorted to similar tactics in 2007 when it implicitly rejected Jean-Loup Kuhn-Delforge, another openly gay potential ambassador from France.

"There was a meeting between the Pope and Mr Stefanini," government rep Stephane Le Foll said in a meeting earlier today. "Nothing has changed: France has proposed a candidate and for the time being we are waiting for the Vatican's reply after the usual discussions and review of his candidacy."

News of the meeting between the Pope and Stefani was first reported in Le Canard Enchaine, a satirical French newspaper. The paper also added that during the meeting it was decided that Stefani would not be confirmed as ambassador, something that Le Foll denied during today’s briefing. Vatican officials similarly insisted that no decision has yet been made.


France Defends Its Openly Gay Ambassador to the Vatican

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In January the French government nominated Laurent Stefani, an openly gay man, to serve as France’s ambassador to the Vatican. Before being considered for the position Stefani acted as chief of protocol to François Hollande. He had also previously served in a senior role within France’s Vatican embassy, though not as its official ambassador.

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Stefani’s nomination was swiftly confirmed by the French cabinet on January 5th, but his official appointment has been held up by a slow to respond Vatican. Typically this confirmation process takes about a month or so to complete. In the three months since Stefani’s appointment, the Vatican has yet to acknowledge France’s decision, a move that many are interpreting as an implicit rejection of the ambassador’s credentials. It’s believed that the Vatican is stonewalling Stefani because of his sexuality.

"France has chosen its ambassador to the Vatican,” affirmed Stephane Le Foll, a governmental spokesperson. “This choice was Stefanini and that remains the French proposal."

Stefani is the second openly gay ambassador the French government has attempted to appoint as its representation to the Vatican. In 2007 the Vatican rejected Jean-Loup Kuhn-Delforge (pictured right) another gay would-be ambassador, in a similar fashion by flat out refusing to recognize his appointment. After months of radio silence the French cabinet was forced to put forth a straight alternate who was later accepted by the Vatican. The French government has not announced whether it intends to select an alternate this time around.


Vatican, Pope Said to Block French Ambassador Candidate to Holy See Because He's Gay

The Vatican is blocking the approval of Laurent Stéfanini as French Ambassador to the Holy See, and most suspect it is because he is gay, the Guardian reports:

StefaniniStéfanini, a 55-year-old practising Catholic, has been described in the Italian press as an exemplary candidate and a man of “exceptional culture”. He is a senior diplomat and chief of protocol in the French government of François Hollande.

His nomination was put forward in January but the Vatican has not responded, usually an indication that the potential ambassador has been rejected. Reports in the French and Italian press suggested the decision was clearly connected to Stéfanini being gay.

The endless stalling is seen as a sign that the candidate has been rejected.

The Washington Post adds:

The rumors about the meaning of the Vatican’s apparent non-response to the appointment seem to stem from a report in “Le Journal du Dimanche.”The report, citing an unnamed Vatican insider, alleges that a decision to essentially freeze the application came from the “pope himself.”

No matter what’s going on privately at the Vatican over the appointment, the decision to appoint an openly-gay ambassador to the Vatican (even one as experienced in Paris-Vatican diplomacy as Stéfanini) was interpreted by some Vatican watchers as both a provocation and a challenge to the Vatican by the French government.

The Vatican has yet to comment.


Germanwings A320 Co-Pilot Deliberately Crashed Plane: Prosecutor

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Andreas Lubitz, identified as the co-pilot of the Germanwings A320 that crashed in the Alps on Tuesday morning, intentionally put the aircraft into a dive while the pilot was locked out of the cockpit, a Marseille prosecutor told reports today. Death was "sudden and immediate" for all aboard.

The Guardian reports on the press conference.

The co-pilot, a German citizen, was reportedly alive until the time of impact:

The first 20 minutes of conversation between the pilot and co-pilot was amicable, then the co-pilot took over when the pilot left to make a “natural call”.

At this point, the co-pilot accelerated the plane’s descent using the keys of the monitoring system. The prosecutor described it as a “voluntary” action.

In the remaining 10 minutes there are a number of appeals by the pilot to get access to the cockpit but there was no access, the prosecutor said. The pilot knocks on the door but there is not response. There is the sound of breathing from the co-pilot until impact.

 “The intention was to destroy this plane," said the prosecutor.

“He was breathing normally, he did not utter a single word...He had no reason to disable contact with other planes...We could hear the cries minutes before the plane crashed.”

“Absolute silence inside the cockpit. Nothing, no word during the last 10 minutes...I think he refused to open the door and turned the button to get down the plane. It was a voluntary action on the part of the co-pilot... He is not known as a terrorist, absolutely not...We do not have sentiment that there was panic (in cockpit) as he was breathing normally.”

The prosecutor declined to call the pilot's action a suicide. "When you commit suicide, you die alone. With 150 on the plane, I wouldn't call that suicide."

The most recent report from the BBC, AFTER THE JUMP...

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