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Russia Wants To Block Benefits For Families of Gay U.N. Employees

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Russia has demanded that the United Nations (UN) reverse last year’s decision to offer marital benefits to LGBT employees, reports Foreign Policy.

Speaking on Monday morning at a UN budget committee, Russian diplomat Sergey Khalizov said that the administrative ruling announced by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (above) last June violates a General Assembly resolution that left it to UN employees’ governments to determine whether employees are eligible for spousal benefits.

2000px-Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svgRussia’s spokesman told Foreign Policy:

“For us it is a very important issue. We would prefer to make a decision…by consensus but if some delegations do not demonstrate a constructive approach to the concerns raised by us and shared by many other member states, then we’ll have no other choice but to call for a vote.”

It is thought that Russia could win if it calls for a vote on the issue, partly because the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) cannot use a veto at the budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee.

The move is seen as a cynical political maneuver that aims to check the authority of a UN leader who has clashed with Moscow over its policies from Syria to Ukraine.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said:

“[Russia] is looking for any excuse to curtail the UN Secretary-General’s authority. It’s no secret that the Secretary-General and Russia have been at cross-purposes over Ukraine and Syria, and the Russians have found the perfect political vehicle for attacking him.”

Philippe Bolopion, the UN representative for Human Rights Watch, said member states “should push back hard against Russia’s backwards efforts to impose on the UN the same kind of homophobic attitudes Moscow promotes at home.”

UN officials say if the Russian initiative were to succeed, it could have an impact well beyond same-sex marriages, risking benefits for children adopted in a foreign country.


UN General Assembly President Takes Swipe at Gay Activists Upon Return to Uganda

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Sam Kutesa, the President of the United Nations General Assembly whose election was protested internationally by LGBT rights groups because of his hand in Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality law and comments referring to gay people as "disgusting", returned to his home country this week and immediately engaged in some braggadocio with regard to that controversy, Uganda's Daily Monitor reports:

Mr Kutesa, who is in the country on an official visit since his election last June as president of UNGA, said he has not been mistreated nor has Uganda been depicted in bad light over the Anti-Homosexuality Law, which was struck down by the Constitutional Court.

“It is not a problem. I had been nominated by my country Uganda and the African continent had endorsed me,” Mr Kutesa said.

To drive the point home that the pro-gay could not succeed in blocking his candidature, Mr Kutesa used an adage: “No matter how much noise the frogs make, they cannot stop a cow from drinking water.”

Commenters on the Monitor aren't too pleased with Kutesa's behavior.

Writes one:

"When will NRM ministers learn to show some magnanimity? Kutesa has better things to talk to the press about than dwelling on the past and noisy frogs and a cow drinking water for he is acutely aware that his government is milking the cow without feeding it."


NCLR Hosting #BornPerfect Twitter Town Hall On Conversion Therapy

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Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 4.44.43 PMThe National Center for Lesbian Rights said it's hosting a Twitter town hall today at 6:30 p.m. ET to discuss the dangers of conversion therapy, the efforts to stop these practices once and for all and what the community can do in a release issued to the public. The town hall comes days after the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn, who took her life after facing years of rejection and enduring the harmful effects of conversion therapy. Twitters users can submit their questions using the hashtag #BornPerfect.

Town hall panelists include NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, conversion therapy survivor and marriage and family therapist James Guay, Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis of the the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and co-author of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, NCLR Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Samantha Ames and Maris Ehlers-sister of Kirk Murphy who took his life at the age of 38 in 2003 after undergoing conversion therapy as a child.

NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign in June 2014, an initiative geared toward eliminating the practice of so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy through increased public awareness and the passage of laws across the country to protect LGBT kids from the serious harm caused by these practices. Recently NCLR helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia to ban the dangerous practice of conversion therapy. In November 2014, members of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) questioned U.S. Department of State representatives asking why the use of conversion therapy is still considered a valid practice despite reputable medical organizations condemning the practice.


U.N. Committee Members Find Use Of Conversion Therapy 'Troubling'

Picture 2The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) finds the discredited practice of conversion therapy used on LGBT youth in the U.S. cause for concern as reported in a press release today from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Leaders from the NCLR testified before the committee and the U.S. State Department asking the U.S. government to address the use of the archaic practice.

Notable CAT members Sabtyabhoosun Gupt Domah of Mauritius, Jens Modvig of Denmark and Sapana Pradhan Malla of Nepal repeatedly questioned U.S. Department of State representatives why conversion therapy is still considered a viable treatment for LGBT youth despite receiving condemnation from every major, reputable medical organization and is a treatment that is clearly known to lead to depression and suicide in its "patients." NCLR's Samantha Ames, a campaign coordinator behind NCLR's #BornPerfect campaign who testified before the U.N. Committee yesterday on the issue, praised the committee for addressing the issue.

Said Ames:

"Today, for the first time, a United Nations committee recognized that conversion therapy is an issue of international human rights. We are incredibly grateful to the Committee Against Torture for raising up the voices of conversion therapy survivors, and ensuring their suffering is finally being vindicated. Today was a historic day for LGBT people in the United States and around the world. There is no going back."

NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is a national effort aimed at ending conversion therapy within the next five years by introducing and passing laws across the country to protect LGBT youth, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these unsanctioned and dangerous practices. California introduced a bill banning conversion therapy in 2012 that was later challenged this year by therapy practitioners. However, the U.S. Supreme Court later upheld California's bill banning the controversial therapy.


Sam Smith, Coldplay, Adele, Others to Re-Record 'Do They Know It's Christmas' for Ebola Relief

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Bob Geldof is getting the Band Aid back together again. In a press conference on Monday, Geldof and Midge Ure announced that the iconic (and some say annoying) charity hit "Do They Know It's Christmas" will be re-recorded to raise funds to fight ebola, with new artists like Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, One Direction, and Adele joining megabands like Coldplay and U2 (who were on the original 1984 recording). The lyrics of the song will be slightly adjusted to reflect the situation of ebola rather than famine, which was their original cause celeb. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 5.35.03 PMGeldof said that the new group, named Band Aid 30 in honor of the 30th anniversary of the first recording, was inspired not by nostalgia but by the United Nations. "Three weeks ago I got a call from the UN saying they required a 20% increase across the board [in funding to fight ebola]," said Geldof, known as much for being a humanitarian and a musician. "They are very concerned about the situation in west Africa.”

Geldof will gather all the artists in a London studio this weekend with an online release next Monday. This marks the fourth time the song will be recorded to help a humanitarian cause, the last effort being in 2004 with a hip hop-oriented cover to raise money for war torn Darfur. Geldof also mentioned that he had contacted Quincy Jones to see about enlisting American artists to help. Can a "We Are The World"-redux be next?

Watch the 1984 original and Geldof's presser, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Sam Smith, Coldplay, Adele, Others to Re-Record 'Do They Know It's Christmas' for Ebola Relief" »


Meet France's New, Openly Gay Ambassador to the U.S. Gérard Araud

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Over the summer, Gerard Araud, 61, became the first openly gay French ambassador to the United States. Now, in Vogue profile, he lets loose with undiplomatic candor about U.S. policies in Iraq, his "fiery Twitter feed", and a personal pass on gay marriage. “I am not interested at this moment in marriage for myself,” Araud says, regarding his relationship of 19 years with photographer Pascal Blondeau. “But I don’t see any reason why anyone should be denied this right.”  In his home country, marriage equality became legal in 2013 after some violent protests.

Araud, a career diplomat who started working in Washington in the early '80s, was previously France's outspoken representative to the United Nations, where he developed a close friendship with the U.S. rep Samantha Power. He even talks about how they still keep in touch via cute text messages (i.e. "On behalf of the French mission, I have to tell you: you are beautiful"). While Power appreciates the compliments, she praises Araud on his mastery of diplomacy and his strength as a savvy international strategist. This being Vogue, there is less discussion of this topic than the fashionable Araud's feelings regarding the boxy, black suits that diplomats are prone to wear, not to mention his role in the gut renovation of the famed French residence in Washington. But his frank nature comes across loud and clear and is remarkable given his post as one of the highest profile diplomats in D.C.

Cehck out the full article here

[photo via Twitter]


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