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Out4Marriage urges the Government not to create ‘future inequality’

Out4Marriage broadly welcomes the Governments plans made today, which support same-sex civil and religious marriage, but echoes caution over a ‘fourth-lock’ which would limit future religious freedoms.

Out4Marriage believes that the proposals at the moment seek to differentiate the Church of England and the Church of Wales, from other religions in the way they go about ‘opting-in’ to permitting same-sex marriage. The proposals, which are not yet in a published legislative form, would have four locks, with the fourth requiring the Parliamentary Act to ‘explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so’.

If these religious governing bodies of the future seek to change ‘canon law’, it would require another Act of Parliament for them to be able to practice their belief, and they could in theory have their religious beliefs stymied by the State.

James-J Walsh, Campaign Director at Out4Marriage released a statement saying, ‘Maria Miller’s comments today create a real feeling of hope around the Governments position for marriage equality in England & Wales, and it is right that Parliament will legislate only for same-sex religious marriage in institutions that choose to welcome same-sex couples wishing to marry.’

‘This Bill’s purpose is to decouple restrictions placed on religious organisations by the State, allowing new religious freedoms for both religious groups and the LGBT community. There is a question around the ‘fourth-lock’ and whether this will achieve it. Current proposals require another Act of Parliament to undo, creating future possibility where religious freedom is limited by statute, rather than religious belief, and could, unless fully thought about, have the exact opposite intention to its purpose.’

‘It is our belief that any religion has the right to believe, or not to believe in equal marriage, but that should only be a theological debate, between religious institutions and their congregation, and no enforced bar should be put in place by the State. Maria Miller is right to seek protections for Religious Belief from judicial interpretation, but in so doing should avoid future inequalities.’

‘The Governments intentions and sensitivities have been progressive, and we will support the Government in identifying the nuances and detail that will ensure that this Bill satisfies the needs and rights of all groups involved’.

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Sir Ian Mckellen reveals he’s been living with prostate cancer for ‘several years’

Openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen has revealed that he’s been living with prostate cancer for several years.

In an interview with The Mirror he told them how he’d been living with the disease for a while now, but currently requires no treatment. He said, ‘You do gulp when your hear the news.It’s like when you go for an HIV test, you go ‘arghhh is this the end of the road?”

McKellen, who is attending the premier of his new movie The Hobbit in London tomorrow (Wednesday 12 December), went on to say that he’d had prostate cancer for six or seven years, ‘when you have got it you monitor it and you have to be careful it doesn’t spread…But if it is contained in the prostate it’s no big deal.’

‘Many, many men die from it but it’s one of the cancers that is totally treatable so I have ‘waitful watching’. I am examined regularly and it’s just contained, it’s not spreading. I’ve not had any treatment.’

Prostate cancer, which affects one in twelve men, is the third biggest killer of men in Britain. Other famous faces who have battled with the disease include Robert De Niro, Nelson Mandela and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The 73-year-old also had some advice for people of a similar age, and thinks dong some exercise, like pilates which Mckellen enjoys, can help dramatically. He said, ‘I recommend it to anyone of my age because the temptation is not to exercise as you get older. Well you should.’

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Poll: 55% of public support gay marriage, but Tory voters divided

After the recent Government announcement to legalise gay marriage in Church, a majority (55%) of the British public have said they support changing the law to allow same-sex marriage, but Conservative voters are still divided on the issue.

In a recent poll, 46% of Conservatives were in favour, whilst 48% opposed and the rest said they ‘didn’t know’. The poll comes amidst a declaration by Ukip leader Nigel Farage that the Prime Minister’s decision to legalise gay marriage would ‘rip apart’ the Conservative Party.

Over in Labour, 60% of voters support same-sex marriage, and an overwhelming 77% of Liberal Democrats are in favour of the change. There was also a considerable divide between men and women on the issue, with only 48% of men in support of same-sex marriage (43% are opposed), compared to 62% support amongst women (28% are opposed).

According to the poll, 45% of the public support changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry in registry offices and licenced venues, but want to keep religious weddings in churches to those between a man and a woman. Meanwhile, 53% say they support giving churches the choice of whether or not to offer same-sex marriages, whilst 37% oppose this.

When asked what is more important, the right of same-sex couples to get married or the right of churches to keep religious marriages to those between men and women, a plurality say that the right of churches should take priority, but a substantial proportion are unsure.

Commenting on the poll, YouGov Director of Political and Social Research Joe Twyman said, ‘All of the recent polling we have done on this issue has found that a majority of the British public support the right of same-sex couples to have full equal marriage. However, dig a little deeper and we can see that Conservative voters remain more divided on this issue, with a slightly higher proportion who are opposed.’

‘Ukip has already pledged to seek the votes of those who abandon the Conservatives over the issue, and so the government’s decision to plough ahead with same-sex marriage legislation could very well intensify divisions within the party over the coming weeks.’

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Simon Callow: I’m Out4Marriage

Yesterday on BBC2′s Daily Politics show, the actor Simon Callow, described the Government’s detailed proposals on gay marriage, set out in the House of Commons yesterday, as ‘a bit bewildering’ and a ‘sort of medieval idea’.

Before the Government announcements full details of the new laws this week, Mr Callow offered his support to the campaign group Out4Marriage.

In his video address he says:

‘My name is Simon Callow.’

‘I’m an actor director and a writer, and I’m in favour of gay marriage, because I’m a gay man who would like to get married. I have a partner with whom I live very, very happily with, and we would like to have exactly the same privilege as everyone else in society who pays their taxes and are contributing members of society. So I would like to enshrine my relationship in the full glory of the institution of marriage.’

‘I’m Out4Marriage, are you?’

Former Prime Minister John Major is another famous face who recently added his voice to the growing Out4Marriage campaign.

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Thousands more gay men know HIV status due to National HIV Testing Week

Thousands more gay men have been tested for HIV, after more than 55 sexual health clinics and organisations from across England participated in the country’s first ever National HIV Testing Week.

The week, which ran from 23 to 30 November 2012, was launched by Terrence Higgins Trust and coordinated through HIV Prevention England. HIV Prevention England, which is a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health, commissioned a number of regional organisations to promote the campaign in their local communities during the week, resulting in over 800 additional hours of HIV testing events across England.

During the week, a home sampling service launched by GMFA saw more than 200 home HIV sampling kits posted out to gay men in London. The kits, with which men post saliva samples to a lab and receive a result within two working days, are designed to appeal to those that are too worried to attend a clinic.

Also, in Leeds, Yorkshire MESMAC worked with local clinicians and sexual health nurses to provide 56 hours of community testing during the week. This resulted in 111 additional HIV tests being given in the city, compared with five tests during the same period last year. As well as this, Terrence Higgins Trust’s centre in Brighton extended its clinic opening hours throughout the week, testing an extra 51 local people for HIV.

The initiative also received high-profile support from Mayor of London Boris Johnson, NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh, actor Stephen Fry, and singer Annie Lennox.

Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said, ‘We are thrilled with how successful the week has been, and the great response we had from clinics and community organisations. As a result of increased testing activities during the week, thousands more gay men across England now know their HIV status. Whether you’re positive or negative, knowing your status is the first step in being able to protect yourself and your partners from infection.’

‘National HIV Testing Week is a great annual reminder for gay men to test. However, not everyone’s sex life is the same, and some men will need to test more regularly than others. We hope the message of the week, of how important testing is to both individual and public health, will last all year round.’

As part of HPE’s Think HIV campaign, the partnership is encouraging gay men to visit their website and complete a short survey about their sex life, to receive personalised advice about how regularly they should be testing for HIV. Those participating in the survey will also be entered into a prize draw to win an iPad Mini.

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Uganda ‘Kill the Gays’ bill stalled before Christmas

The Ugandan Parliament has failed to pass a bill that would sentence LGBT people to death, before closing for their end of year recess.

In a recent speech, Rebecca Kadaga (pictured), speaker of the Ugandan parliament, promised to bring a vote on the proposed law – first introduced in 2009 – as ‘a Christmas gift’ to the population. After weeks of posturing, the bill was officially moved to the bottom of the Parliament’s schedule at the end of last week, before adjourning until February 2013.  LGBT and human rights organisations in Uganda celebrated the moment, while committing themselves to continue the fight should the bill return next year.

Gay or lesbian acts are already considered a crime in Uganda, and can lead up to 14 years in prison. While the final bill has not been made publicly available, the proposed law – nicknamed the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ – allegedly makes the existing legislation even stricter. It establishes life imprisonment as the punishment for being in a same-sex relationship and the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ which is loosely defined as a homosexual act committed by an HIV-positive person or acts with minors.  So-called ‘serial offenders’ would also face the death penalty.

‘This bill won’t stop us,’ said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an All Out Ugandan partner. ‘We will continue to fight until we are free of this legislation. We cannot have oppression forever.’

All Out, the world’s largest global LGBT equality movement, led a chorus of protest across the globe in support of Ugandan organisations calling for an end to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  Across 2 years, All Out mobilised more than 750,000 people in every region to rally the public and national governments to act decisively against the law.  On Friday, in response to this effort,  an anonymous donor challenged the global membership of All Out to continue the fight against anti-gay laws around the world, promising to donate US $50,000 to a new global fund if 2,000 of All Out’s members commit to a small donation to fight laws like the one in Uganda.

‘This is a victory for Ugandans who have risked everything to demand fairness, justice and the ability to live openly and love who they choose,’ says Andre Banks, Executive Director and Co-Founder of All Out. ‘All Out members from all over the world have raised their voice and they have been heard.  But we are not finished.  Parliament reopens in February and this generous matching grant could provide the support we need to fight this bill and dozens like it around the world.’

Ugandans have been fighting back against the so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ bill since 2009 when David Bahati first introduced the bill. The bill was shelved after Ugandans and the international community decried the legislation, until Rebecca Kadaga resurfaced the bill when she became speaker in 2011.

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LGBT news in a nutshell: 10-16 December 2012

It’s all about marriage equality this week in the LGBT news world. Been too busy shopping for presents and trying to cover up your shame at the office Christmas party? Well don’t panic, you can catch up on all this weeks biggest stories here. And once you’re done, don’t forget to vote for your favourite stars of the year in our 2012 So So Gay Awards!

Monday 10 December 2012- Former Prime Minister supports Out4Marriage campaign

Sir John Major, former Conservative Party Prime Minister, has released a statement in support of equal marriage. In his statement the former Prime Minister said, ‘The Prime Minister’s instinct to support equal marriage is a courageous and genuine attempt to offer security and comfort to people who – at present – may be together, yet feel apart. I fully understand that there are many who will find this difficult to accept, as will the Churches. But the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Churches will be free to make their own decisions upon whether to conduct such marriages – and that is entirely the right approach.’ The proposed legislation, which will seek to allow same-sex religious marriage, is being initiated by the coalition government and led by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches also released a statement this week saying, ‘Unitarians look forward to the announcement next week of the Government’s response to the equal marriage consultation and are hopeful that this will mean we will be free to conduct same-sex marriages in our places of worship.’

Russian Prime Minister calls proposed anti-gay laws ‘unnecessary’

Russian Prime Minister Medvedev told journalists on television last week that a proposed law banning so-called ‘gay propaganda’ was unnecessary. He said, ‘not all relations between people can be regulated by law’. If enacted, the law would prevent LGBT people from accessing accurate health information and health care. Medvedev confirmed that the majority party, United Russia, agreed with his position on the anti-gay law. AllOut.org said, ‘Contrary to the claims of the law’s supporters, opposition for the bill is coming from both inside and outside of Russia’s borders. Laws that tell you who you can love – and even what you can say about love – don’t change who people are…If this bill passes, the law would force lesbian and gay Russians, and their friends and families, to live in fear and isolation.’ The first hearing for the ‘Bill on Administrative Responsibility for Propaganda of Homosexuality Among Minors’ is planned for this week. Similar laws have already been adopted locally in some regions of Russia.

Wow Women: New lesbian dating app launches

Wow Women, a new lesbian dating community with a green commitment, is about to be launched. The aim of Wow Women is simple: to make it easier to find a lesbian dating partner. Long-term lesbian partners are getting harder to find in traditional clubs or bars, according to a survey conducted by Wow Events. Unlike most online dating sites, Wow Women is run solely by lesbians, which will be reassuring for users and make them feel much safer. The site also includes photo recognition software which will keep away fake profiles. With lots of user-friendly features, the company looks all set to redefine the idea of dating for gay women with an app designed for meeting others close by. Other noteworthy features of the site include VIP dating, speed dating, Facebook connect, match making, GPS location and much more.

Same-sex couple win CBS’s ‘The Aazing Race’

Partners Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, commonly known as The Beekman Boys, won last Sunday’s season finale of CBS’s Emmy-winning reality competition The Amazing RaceTeam Beekman is the second same-sex couple to win the competition over the American reality television game show’s 21 seasons, but this is the first time CBS has aired a gay couple celebratory kiss.  When the first gay couple, Reichen and Chip, won the reality show their kiss was actually edited out of the finale. The recently engaged duo took home the $1 million prize after travelling over 25,000 miles through nine different countries.

Tuesday 11 December 2012- Government to push ahead with same-sex marriage proposals

Marina Miller, Minister for Equalities, announced that the Government is pushing ahead with changes to laws to allow same-sex couples to marry in England, but will include ‘lock-outs’ for the Church of England and other religious organisations opposed to the changes. Miller noted that the consultation on changes was not about whether, but how the changes would be introduced. 228,000 people responded to the consultation. She noted that in each century parliament has legislated to keep marriage ‘relevant and meaningful’, and now was the time to allow same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals. Miller expects the Bill to be launched in January 2013, and be law within a year.

Wednesday 12 December 2012- Out4Marriage urges the Government not to create ‘future inequality’

Out4Marriage echoes caution over a ‘fourth-lock’ in the new equal marriage proposals, which would limit future religious freedoms. Out4Marriage believes that the proposals at the moment seek to differentiate the Church of England and the Church of Wales from other religions in the way they go about ‘opting-in’ to permitting same-sex marriage. The proposals, which are not yet in a published legislative form, would have four locks, with the fourth requiring the Parliamentary Act to ‘explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so’. James-J Walsh, Campaign Director at Out4Marriage said, ‘It is our belief that any religion has the right to believe, or not to believe in equal marriage, but that should only be a theological debate, between religious institutions and their congregation, and no enforced bar should be put in place by the State. Maria Miller is right to seek protections for Religious Belief from judicial interpretation, but in so doing should avoid future inequalities.’

Sir Ian Mckellen reveals he’s been living with prostate cancer for ‘several years’

Openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen has revealed that he’s been living with prostate cancer for several years. In an interview with The Mirror he told them how he’d been living with the disease for a while now, but currently requires no treatment. He said, ‘You do gulp when your hear the news.It’s like when you go for an HIV test, you go ‘arghhh is this the end of the road?” He went on to say that he’d had prostate cancer for six or seven years, ‘when you have got it you monitor it and you have to be careful it doesn’t spread…But if it is contained in the prostate it’s no big deal.’

Thursday 13 December 2012- Poll: 55% of public support gay marriage, but Tory voters divided

A majority (55%) of the British public have said they support changing the law to allow same-sex marriage, but Conservative voters are still divided on the issue. In a recent poll, 46% of Conservatives were in favour, whilst 48% opposed. The poll comes amidst a declaration by UKIP leader Nigel Farage that the Prime Minister’s decision to legalise gay marriage would ‘rip apart’ the Conservative Party. Over in Labour, 60% of voters support same-sex marriage, and an overwhelming 77% of Liberal Democrats are in favour of the change. When asked what is more important, the right of same-sex couples to get married or the right of churches to keep religious marriages to those between men and women, a plurality say that the right of churches should take priority, but a substantial proportion are unsure. Commenting on the poll, YouGov Director of Political and Social Research Joe Twyman said, ‘All of the recent polling we have done on this issue has found that a majority of the British public support the right of same-sex couples to have full equal marriage. However, dig a little deeper and we can see that Conservative voters remain more divided on this issue, with a slightly higher proportion who are opposed.’

Simon Callow: I’m Out4Marriage

On Wednesday’s BBC2′s Daily Politics show, the actor Simon Callow described the Government’s detailed proposals on gay marriage, set out in the House of Commons the day before, as ‘a bit bewildering’ and a ‘sort of medieval idea’. Before the Government announced full details of the new laws this week, Mr Callow offered his support to the campaign group Out4Marriage in an online video.

Thousands more gay men know HIV status due to National HIV Testing Week

Thousands more gay men have been tested for HIV, after more than 55 sexual health clinics and organisations from across England participated in the country’s first ever National HIV Testing Week. The week, which ran from 23 to 30 November 2012, was launched by Terrence Higgins Trust and coordinated through HIV Prevention England. During the week, a home sampling service launched by GMFA saw more than 200 home HIV sampling kits posted out to gay men in London. Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said, ‘We are thrilled with how successful the week has been…We hope the message of the week, of how important testing is to both individual and public health, will last all year round.’ As part of HPE’s Think HIV campaign, the partnership is encouraging gay men to visit their website and complete a short survey about their sex life to receive personalised advice about how regularly they should be testing for HIV.

Find all the latest news as it happens at So So Gay or follow our Twitter: @SoSoGay_News.

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April Ashley, one of the first Britons to undergo gender-reassignment surgery, receives MBE

April Ashley, one of the first Britons to undergo gender-reassignment surgery, was awarded an MBE last week by Queen Elizabeth.

Back in 1961, Ashley hit the news when a confidante sold her story to the Sunday People, causing an instant tabloid flurry of interest. Having had the surgery in 1960, Ashley went on to work as a model and actress, whilst constantly fighting for the rights of the trans community. Appearing in Vogue magazine, and winning a small role in the film The Road to Hong Kong, which starred Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, although when her story was revealed to the papers, her film credit was removed.

Her marriage to British noble Arthur Corbett was annulled after seven years in 1970, on the grounds that she’d been born male, even though Corbett was aware of her background when they wed. It wasn’t until the passage of the UK’s Gender Recognition Act in 2004 that Ashley was able to legally receive a new birth certificate, with help from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who she’d met in the 1950s.

In 2006, Ashley released her autobiography The First Lady, and it’s rumoured that a film about her life is currently in production.

Ashley, 77, was escorted by actor Simon Callow to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony, which took place last Thursday (13 December 2012). Others honored as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors list were actor Kenneth Branagh, and Take That’s Gary Barlow.

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Cameroonian man denied freedom after anti-gay conviction upheld

Today, December 17 2012, the Court of Appeal in Yaoundé, Cameroon upheld the conviction of Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who had been convicted under the law in Cameroon that makes ‘homosexual behavior’ illegal.

Mbédé was jailed after sending a text message to another man saying he loved him. So far he had served over one year of his 3-year sentence, and was out on bail while he appealed his conviction. Now, he will have to return to jail to serve the rest of his sentence.

The news came as a shock to Roger’s supporters, including almost 120,000 All Out members who have been following and supporting his case around the world. At an earlier hearing, a Cameroon magistrate had stated that the charges against Roger were ‘incoherent’ and ‘inconsistent’.

Michel Togué, one of Roger’s attorneys who will appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, said, ‘This isn’t just a tragedy for Roger, this is an embarrassment for Cameroon’s justice system. The law criminalising ‘homosexual behaviour’ was used here merely to persecute an innocent man. It’s time to end this law and prevent more injustice.’

All Out, which launched a petition to ask Cameroon’s President Biya to free Roger from these charges and end the laws making it illegal to be gay in Cameroon, released a statement from their Executive Director Andre Banks saying, ’Over 119,000 All Out members from all over the world – including Cameroon – still stand proudly behind Roger as he continues to fight for his freedom. Now is the time for President Biya to end the law that makes it illegal to be gay – and release all those in jail because of it.’

In the lead up to Roger’s hearing, his lawyers, Alice Nkom and Michel Togué, also received numerous death threats for defending people believed to be gay. ‘I have received many death threats via SMS and mail, all because I insist on standing for human rights,’ said Alice Nkom. ‘But I won’t back down. These anti-gay laws are used to attack innocent Cameroonians, rather than protecting them. We can’t let this continue.’

The United Kingdom High Commissioner to Cameroon personally attended at least one hearing of other individuals, named Francky and Jonas. The pair also live in Cameroon and are similarly appealing their conviction under the anti-gay law. The judge that convicted them used their clothes and their liquor preferences – in this case drinking Baileys – as proof that they are gay. Their next hearing will be on December 21, 2012.

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Trinidad PM promises to end all LGBT discrimination

In a letter to the Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has said she wants to ‘put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation’.

Kaleidoscope- a charity that deploys resources and expertise in support of those threatened by prejudice and criminal sanctions, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity- encourages dialogue and cooperation between countries at different stages in the development of a diverse, prosperous and homophobia free society.

Lance Price, Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, met Mrs Persad-Bissessar in Port of Spain earlier this year. He then wrote to her urging her to remove from the statute books those pieces of legislation that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Mrs Persad Bissessar said she agreed that ‘stigmatisation of homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago is a matter which must be addressed on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every individual is entitled under international law.’

This week, a Trinidad newspaper published her letter, which was written in August, and a spokesman for the Prime Minister said it was ‘self-explanatory’.

In the letter the PM goes on to say, ‘I am pleased to inform you that I have mandated my Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development…to prepare and present a National Gender Policy to Cabinet over the coming months. It is expected that once adopted, this policy will forge the way forward for Trinidad and Tobago as my government seeks to put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.’

‘Please rest assured that my government is doing its utmost to uphold the human rights of all citizens and residents of Trinidad and Tobago as we remain committed to a democratic, people-centred approach to governance and development.’

Lance Price said, ‘The Prime Minister’s letter to me is the clearest statement ever given by a Caribbean leader of the need to get rid of laws that undermine the basic human rights of LGBT people. I was delighted to read her unequivocal opposition to discrimination in any form against people because of how they were born. What she says indicates a position of strong moral leadership on this issue. We applaud her for what she has said and look forward with great interest to seeing the new Gender Policy when it is published.’

Currently, homosexual acts are illegal in Trinidad and Tobago under the Sexual Offences Act. The maximum sentence is 25 years in prison. Under the Immigration Act homosexuals are legally barred from entering the country.