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Is the American Right Wing Influencing Ireland's Vote on Same-Sex Marriage?

Ireland
4th generation matchmaker Willie Daly chats up love seekers at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival in Co. Clare, Ireland. This is the 2nd year the 158 year old festival has included gay people. Ireland will hold a referendum on same sex marriage next year. Corinne Purtill Instagram

 

BY CORINNE PURTILL / GlobalPost

The whole world is watching as the Irish prepare to head to the polls next spring.

LISDOONVARNA, Ireland — Willie Daly looked a little tired on a recent Saturday night.

This is the busiest time of year for the fourth-generation matchmaker, who collects lists of love-seekers’ preferences and particularities and matches them up like a human OkCupid.

For the last 157 years, his tiny west coast village has hosted the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, a month-long mingle session created back when people were too busy toiling in the fields to find partners themselves. Although the basics of matchmaking haven’t changed much since Daly’s great-grandfather got into the business, times in Ireland have.

Since the festival opened to gay singles two years ago, the line at Daly’s table has included men and women seeking soul mates of the same gender. Depending on the result of a vote next spring, they could join the 3,000 married couples he claims to have already paired.

“All my life has been about finding love for couples,” says Daly, a gray-bearded septuagenarian with a fondness for meandering anecdotes. An intoxicated parish priest lost his birth certificate; he doesn’t know his exact age.

“I think everyone deserves to find love,” he adds. “I just never done it before with gay people and lesbian people.”

IrelandThis spring, the Irish will hold a referendum on whether the state should recognize same-sex marriages. If they vote yes, Ireland will become the 12th European country to recognize gay marriage and the first to pass it by popular vote. At the moment, the polls look good for proponents of marriage equality. Seventy-six percent of likely voters said they supported same-sex marriage when the referendum was announced in November, a number that’s remained high since.

All of Ireland’s major political parties back the referendum, the exact date of which hasn’t been set. Even a majority of farmers — traditionally a socially conservative constituency — say they favor gay marriage.

A greater percentage of people in Ireland support same-sex marriage now than did in Britain last year before equal marriage became law in England and Wales.

(Scotland passed gay marriage laws separately. Northern Ireland lawmakers have rejected several attempts to institute same-sex marriage there.)

“I’d vote for it, yeah,” said Jeremiah Murphy, 61, from the doorway of the Ritz pub in Lisdoonvarna’s village square as the matchmaking festival continued down the street. “I’m not gay meself,” the retired sugar factory worker said in a Cork accent thick as butter. “But I wouldn’t stop them. They’re not doin’ me no harm, are they?”

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Ebola Hysteria is Going Viral. Don't Fall for These 5 Myths

BY TRISTAN MCCONNELL / GlobalPost

Switch off the television and read this instead.

NAIROBI, Kenya — In the US, Ebola hysteria is spreading way faster than the virus itself.

About-ebolaCommentators on cable news are the worst offenders, stoking fears with paranoid soothsaying and inventing apocalyptic future scenarios that may scare the bejeezus out of viewers (thereby attracting more viewers) but have only the most tenuous connection to reality.

Were this just crazy bar-speak it would be harmless. But forcing issues like flight bans and border closures into the Ebola conversation might well make things worse. More importantly, the hysteria about Ebola in America distracts from the very real and present tragedy afflicting thousands of people in West Africa.

In a bid to calm the discussion down and root it in reality, GlobalPost humbly debunks a few Ebola myths. We suggest you switch off the television and read this instead.

Myth No. 1: Ebola is ALL OVER AFRICA!

Ebola is spreading in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, three neighboring countries in West Africa. There were cases of the hemorrhagic disease in Nigeria and Senegal, but those potential outbreaks appear to have been stopped by fast action. In both cases the virus was carried by a visitor from one of the three affected countries. There was a separate outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it too has been contained. Africa is very, very big and there are zero cases of Ebola in nearly 50 of its countries — so stopping flights to Kenya (yes, we’re looking at you, Korean Air) or canceling holidays in South Africa is pointless and will only pile widespread economic damage on top of the human tragedy. See what the World Health Organization has to say about it.

Myth No. 2: Soon Ebola will be spreading uncontrollably across the US, and the world, turning Earth into a scene from "Zombieland." The only answer is to stop all flights and build really high walls

Ebola is undeniably scary. Previous outbreaks have had a kill rate as high as 90 percent and its mode of dispatch is singularly unpleasant. But in the current West Africa outbreak only about half of infected people have so far died rather than survived, according to WHO figures (though the outbreak is set to worsen). Of those who do fall ill a small proportion — around one-fifth — suffer the signature symptom of uncontrolled bleeding. Nor is Ebola actually that easy to catch. You have to have contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is not only carrying the virus but is also showing the symptoms. This is why community carers and health workers dealing with Ebola patients are more prone to catching it. Ebola is not airborne, and the WHO doesn't recommend restricting air travel to control it.

MORE MYTHS, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay in Aceh, Indonesia? Brace for 100 Lashes in Front of a Jeering Crowd

Aceh

BY PATRICK WINN / GlobalPost

The Indonesian province is also now authorized to punish homosexuality with 100 months in jail or 1,000 grams of gold.

BANGKOK, Thailand — One of Southeast Asia’s strictest Islamic enclaves just got a lot more hostile to same-sex couples.

In Aceh, the most orthodox corner of Muslim-majority Indonesia, gay sex is now punishable by 100 lashes. On a public stage. By a cane-wielding figure clad head-to-ankles in dark brown robes (with a yellow decorative fringe).

CaningThe sting of a rattan cane is only part of the punishment. Aceh’s officials admit the primary objective is shame. That’s why they invite crowds to jeer and gawk and excitedly count off the lashings meted out to men and women accused of petty crimes.

Sound archaic?

That’s the point.

The lashings are administered under Sharia law, a moral code dictated in the Quran that dates back the seventh century. Aceh’s modern-day whipping sessions are meant to play out as they did in ancient times — only with teenagers recording the beatings on their iPhones.

In the 12th century, Aceh was among the first places of Asia to absorb Islam from seafaring Arabs. Today, the far-flung province remains proudly orthodox. It’s the only territory in Indonesia that enforces Sharia law, which forbids alcohol, premarital romance and women in tight jeans.

Under a newly revised interpretation of Sharia law in Aceh, gay sex is now explicitly criminalized and punishable by 100 lashes or 100 months in jail. Officials can also demand 1,000 grams of pure gold (roughly $39,000) if they catch same-sex couples in the act. Male-on-male anal sex and women “rubbing body parts for stimulation” are explicitly outlawed.

In recent years, Aceh’s officials have ramped up their anti-gay rhetoric. A popular deputy mayor has proclaimed homosexuality a “social disease.” A former Sharia police chief noted that, technically, lesbians can be beheaded and tossed in the sea.

The fact that officials restrain from Sharia’s harshest punishments — like stoning — is cited as proof that Aceh’s take on Islamic punishment is actually lenient.

Public lashings in Aceh typically don’t leave lawbreakers crippled and gushing blood. As Aceh’s former Sharia police chief Khalidin previously explained to GlobalPost: “It’s not about pain. It’s about humiliation.”

Still, some who are sentenced to lashings refuse to surrender their pride. Instead, they puff out their chests defiantly as they’re being lashed — all to prove they’ve got the guts to take a beating.

One hulking man whipped for gambling in September stepped on stage, potbelly exposed, and tried to yank away the cane while being lashed. The crowd roared with approval.

Other caning sentences are far more degrading.

Earlier this year, eight male vigilantes stormed into a 25-year-old woman’s home and caught her with a married man. Then they gang raped her and doused her body in sewage. Though the men were charged with rape in criminal court, according to the Jakarta Globe, authorities decided the rape victim was still guilty of infidelity and subject to a public whipping.

In Aceh, these appeals to hard-line Islamic purity are similar to US politicians extolling a return to “family values.” Rhetoric about old-fashioned religious morality appeal to the base. In recent years, Islamic authorities have openly complained that Aceh’s existing interpretation of Sharia only covers unmarried males and females in close proximity — leaving a loophole allowing for gay romance.

That loophole is now closed.

FreeacehmopvementMany among the current crop of leaders trace their roots to Free Aceh Movement, a separatist guerrilla faction that fought the Indonesian army for three decades.

In 2001, the Indonesian government granted Sharia law to Aceh in hopes of winning over Islamists who were otherwise sympathetic to the rebellion. After the guerrillas negotiated for peace in 2005, they transformed into politicians and retained the popular Islamic laws.

Indonesia’s human rights advocates are deeply horrified at the harsh codes against homosexuality. It’s “as if we’re going back hundreds of years,” according to Chika Noya, an Indonesian gay rights activist interviewed by the Jakarta Globe. Another activist insisted the punishment belongs in the Middle Ages.

“Gays and lesbians are human beings also,” said a female Indonesian lecturer from Aceh in an interview with GlobalPost. “Who are we to go against God’s creations?”

But she conceded that “those who are against it are the minority.” Hardliners have become so emboldened in Aceh, she said, that publishing her name, employer and pro-gay stance could bring on serious repercussions.

“It is hard for people like me in this community to say openly that we’re against it,” the lecturer said. “Because people will say we’re against what the holy book and God says ... and that means, in their interpretation, they can kill us.”

(bottom image: Kementerian Pertahanan Republik Indonesia (Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia - wikimedia commons)


This Map Shows Where Gay Couples Can Marry Across Latin America: INTERACTIVE

2_coahuila

BY IOAN GRILLO / GlobalPost

Coahuila, a Mexican state near Texas, is the newest place in the region to legalize gay marriage. But there are still some countries that ban homosexuality.

MEXICO CITY — Latin America is a staunchly conservative Catholic region with a deeply entrenched culture of machismo and homophobic attitudes. Right?

Not quite.

After sweeping reforms in the last five years, the region possesses some of the most gay-friendly legislation on the planet.

CoahuilaIn the latest move, lawmakers in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila on Sept. 1 voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

This change in a state known for cowboy hats, cattle farmers and coal mines means gay marriages will be able to be celebrated right up to the Rio Grande.

Like the United States, Mexico's been making these moves locally, rather than federally. But other Latin countries have passed reforms on a national level.

In fact, Latin America is home to three of the more than a dozen nations that have legalized gay marriage worldwide. Same-sex couples can even marry as far south as Argentina — a remarkable feat in the pope’s homeland. The region's reforms are largely passed by leftist governments, but that’s not always the case. Coahuila’s bill was backed by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), while leftist stalwarts such as Venezuela are falling behind on gay rights.

There are still some strongholds bucking the trend. Take Belize, where even being homosexual remains illegal. Caribbean islands also maintain a ban, with Jamaica punishing male homosexual acts by seven years' hard labor (but allowing sex between females).

Homophobic violence also persists, even in some countries with progressive legislation.

However, overall the map has transformed markedly in favor of gay and lesbian rights, and it looks set to keep changing. Take a tour:

Map by Alex Leff.


Mexico City's Nonchalance Toward Gay Marriage is Catching on in South America

Mancera
Mancera marrying 26 gay couples in July.

BY DUDLEY ALTHAUS / GlobalPost

Mass same-sex marriages, presided over by the mayor? Yes, and then some.

MEXICO CITY — In Mexico’s modernizing capital, the word these days seems to be “keep calm, and marry on,” a nonchalance toward gay marriage that’s slowly catching on across Latin America.

Pushing that message, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera stood witness recently to the mass wedding of 58 lesbian and gay couples, who said their vows in unison.

"This is one more event in ... the city of freedoms,” Mancera, who presided over a similar ceremony in July, told the 74 women and 42 men taking the plunge. Mexico's capital is “a city that is concerned about and working on moving ahead,” he said.

MassgayweddingThe latest gay nuptials took place at a museum just blocks from Mexico City’s central plaza — and from the cathedral pulpit of Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who has railed against gay unions as “perverse” affronts to Mexican families and the “divine project.”

But this city’s left-leaning government has been poking the eyes of Catholic leaders and other cultural conservatives for more than a decade now. Promoting diversity — sexual, political, religious — is official policy here. The Mexican capital in many ways has set the pace of social change across Mexico and the region.

Mancera told the newlyweds at the March 21 mass wedding the city is determined to push equality issues "step by step." He announced an initiative to make it easier for people to legally change their gender.

Mexico City legalized gay marriage in late 2009. Less than a year later, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the rest of the nation must recognize those marriages.

That said, same-sex unions remain illegal in most of Mexico. As in the United States, the federal system here leaves the definition of marriage up to state legislators, or the municipal council in the case of Mexico City’s federal district.

But advocates in the past year have won court rulings forcing recognition of gay marriages in several states on a case-by-case basis. Those decisions give activists hope that judges can nudge state governments toward recognizing marriage equality.

Mexicocity“We have advanced very quickly,” said lawyer Luis Guzman, 33, a leading activist in the conservative western city of Guadalajara who married his long time companion in one of Mexico City's first gay weddings. “These four years have been very important to us.”

“The courts are the easiest way to do it,” Guzman said. “The local legislatures don't want to touch the issue.”

Despite enduring discrimination, courts and congresses are changing laws and attitudes toward gay rights elsewhere in Latin America.

“There has been a gay rights revolution that has stretched from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande," Omar Encarnacion, a political scientist at Bard College in New York, noted on a recent blog post in The New York Times.

Well, perhaps not quite a revolution.

The culture clash over gay unions regionwide has been at least as fraught as that in the United States. With gay equality entwined here with a growing awareness of human rights of every kind, courts and activists across the region have been prodding reluctant lawmakers and societies alike.

Many societies remain outright hostile to same-sex couples, as GlobalPost’s Simeon Tegel reported last year. And violence stalks gays throughout the region.

“There are some advances, but they are hand in hand with backlash,” says Maria-Mercedes Gomez, Latin America coordinator for the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“We still have a long, long way to go, still far from a heavenly situation on human rights.”

Yet Latin America provides three of the 17 countries that have legalized gay marriage worldwide. The Argentine capital Buenos Aires started the charge allowing same-sex marriage in November 2009. Argentina's congress legalized it nationally in 2010 and Uruguay's did so last spring. Chile's lower congressional chamber currently is debating a senate-approved “life partnership agreement,” a form of civil union.

Bypassing legislators, a Brazilian judicial panel ruled last year that gays could not be denied marriage licenses, effectively legalizing the unions. The ruling is being challenged and congress may yet rescind or modify it.

Some form of civil union are legal in Colombia and Ecuador. Chile's lower congressional chamber currently is debating a senate-approved “life partnership agreement,” a form of civil union.

2_mexicoOutside Mexico City, gay marriages have been recognized as legal since 2011 in Quintana Roo, the state on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula that includes Cancun.

Three other states, including Jalisco, of which Guadalajara is the capital, allow civil unions. A federal court in late 2012 ruled that Oaxaca state's vague legislation rendered the marriages of three gay couples legal.

“We are recognizing realities," said Hector Maldonado, director of Mexico City's Civil Registry, which records marriages. "This is a defense of the freedom of expression, the freedom to love.

"The changes here make it clear that people have to push for their rights," he said. "Now they have to push it in the states as well."

Such attitudes remain well ahead of the average citizens. But one nationwide poll revealed last year that a slight majority of Mexicans now at least don’t opposed gay marriage or civil unions.

Public attitudes in part are shaped by religious leaders, which despite Pope Francis’ more conciliatory language, in Mexico have been almost uniformly hostile to same-sex unions in Mexico.

"Truly Mexico is suffering a lot of bad things, flu, violence, poverty, unemployement and together with these comes news of a bad and perverse law," Rivera, Mexico's highest-ranking Catholic clergyman, said when the gay marriage law was passed.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the capital’s marriages are valid nationwide, the prelate said that "de facto or supposedly legal unions between persons of the same sex are immoral, as they contradict the divine plan."

But, at least in key parts of the capital and other big cities, public opinion seems to be steadily shifting toward acceptance.

Mexico City's gay pride parade each June draws tens of thousands of marchers and thousands more spectators, including many families.

Gay men at times seem to own the Zona Rosa, or Pink Zone, which until the capital's disastrous 1985 earthquake was the city’s nightlife mecca.

Smooching same-sex couples have become common on the street and subway, where gay men often gravitate to the last car of the trains, far outnumbering straight riders.

Such public displays of affection seldom draw stares in this city of 9 million, even more rarely a public rebuke.

“It depends of course upon what part of the city you are in,” said Samuel Villanueva, a 29-year-old sales clerk, who strolled with his veterinarian partner through a recent lunchtime throng in the Zona Rosa, their arms across the small of one another's back.

“But there isn't so much discrimination any more,” Villanueva said. “There are gays in every family, in every neighborhood. People are starting to realize and accept that.”


Transgender People Voted for the First Time in El Salvador's History

Dglgbtigrupo
LGBT activists display their inked fingers after voting in the second round of the Salvadoran presidential elections, on March 9, 2014. in order to prove that a citizen has voted, fingers are dipped in semi-permanent ink after turning in the ballot. Third from left is Pati Hernandez, executive director of ASPIDH Arco Iris, and second from right is Karla Avelar, executive director of COMCAVIS trans.

BY DANIELLE MARIE MACKEY AND GLORIA MARISELA MORAN / GlobalPost

SAN SALVADOR and NEW YORK—Rubi Navas is among the first transgender women in the history of El Salvador to be allowed to vote.

In previous years, Rubi and her peers were normally barred from voting, because their physical appearances don’t match the masculine birth names on their national identification cards. The few who were able to cast ballots were lucky; an unusually progressive election official had probably let them by.

But on Feb. 1, three days before the first round of the 2014 Salvadoran presidential elections, the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal proclaimed that all people must be allowed to vote, without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

CerenWhile recent historic advances, like this one, were made by the administration of outgoing president Mauricio Funes, questions remain about whether his successor, Salvador Sanchez Ceren (pictured), will take the same proactive stance.

Despite previous progress, the climate for LGBTI rights in El Salvador is complicated by corruption and organized crime, which exacerbate the already pervasive issues of discrimination and violence.

On March 9, in the elections’ second and final round, Rubi went to the polls with a bandaged right arm to protect bullet wounds she sustained in an attack nearly one month earlier. In a violent episode all-too-familiar to many LGBTI people in El Salvador, Rubi was shot three times by an off-duty police officer.

While simultaneously enjoying a newly awarded right, Rubi arrived at the polling station still the unhealed victim of attempts on her life—an event which is representative of the state of LGBTI rights in El Salvador, and the ways in which discrimination still functions against LGBTI people.

On the night of Feb. 7, 2014, Rubi was working on a street near downtown San Salvador.

Like many transgender women in El Salvador, she is only able to find employment in sex work. An off-duty, intoxicated officer cornered Rubi, accusing her of stealing his mobile phone. When she denied the accusation, he shot her three times, hitting her once in the neck and twice in the arm.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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