Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for August, 2010

Tatchell applauded at UK Christian festival

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2010

Peter Tatchell has been an untiring and unflinching advocate for international gay rights. His willingness to be arrested, harassed, and beaten has given him the credibility to command attention. And Tatchell has a character trait that sets leaders apart: the ability to find commonality where others might only see enmity.

Tatchell, who has long since abandoned his Christianity, may seem like an odd choice to speak at Greenbelt, one of Britain’s largest Christian festivals. But finding “more in common than divides us”, he went to harness the power of faith to do good in the world.

Tatchell was harshly critical of Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, whom he accused of colluding with the persecution of GLBT people by the Anglican Church in Africa and of “conservative evangelical groups from the USA” who went to Uganda to argue that the country’s biggest problem is “not poverty, not corruption, not human rights abuses, not rigged elections” but homosexuality.”

But he also found Christians to praise and to hold up as an example. (Ekklesia)

He was keen to make a distinction between Christians who oppose homosexuality and those who encourage persecution. “It’s one thing to say that homosexuality is wrong, and people are entitled to that belief,” he said, “What they’re not entitled to do is to say that the law of the land should discriminate”.

But Tatchell was quick to praise Christians who have stood up against such attitudes. He singled out South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo, who has “paid a very, very heavy price” and been denied his pension.

He also spoke passionately of LGBT African Christians, including Davis Mac-Iyalla and Jide Macauley, who have risked their lives by being open about their sexuality.

“For all of those, gay and straight, who do take a stand, I salute you, I thank you,” he concluded.

Tatchell received a standing ovation.

UK Scouts Condemn Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

March 1st, 2010
Uganda's top scout: MP David Bahati is honored during an East African scouting conference in Kampala. (Click to enlarge)

Uganda's top scout: MP David Bahati is honored during an East African scouting conference in Kampala. (Click to enlarge)

On first blush, that’s doesn’t look like a headline that would strike fear in the hearts of those who support Uganda’s proposed “kill the gays” bill, but there is an important angle to it. Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, sponsor of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also happens to be chairman of Uganda’s Scouts Board.

According to a press release from UK LGBT advocate Peter Tatchell, the Chief Executive of the Scout Association UK, Derek Twine, has condemned the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill as “discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, [and] completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.” Twine continues:

We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee.”

Tatchell adds:

“Scouting is very big in Uganda and Mr Bahati derives great prestige from his position as Chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda. If we can get him removed from office it will be a significant personal blow to him. He’ll be weakened and his credibility undermined.

“OutRage! is urging the disaffiliation of the Ugandan scout organisation from the world scouting movement, as a way of adding further pressure on the Ugandan government to drop the Bill. Our request for disaffiliation was immediately forwarded by the Scout Association UK to the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Geneva.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Peter Tatchell’s Correction

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2010

Veteran UK LGBT activist Peter Tatchell has issued a correction to yesterday’s assertion that Ugandan MP David Bahati, author of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, “is demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts.” In an email sent to BTB, Peter’s statement reads:

On 16 February, I issued a news release about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda and the Bill’s sponsorship by David Bahati MP, who is also Chairman of the Scout Board of Uganda.

I should have made it clear that Mr Bahati was not explicitly calling for the execution of gay scouts and scout leaders. His Bill proposes the execution of gay serial offenders, which could, of course, include gay scout members. But his Bill does not target gay scouts in particular and he has not specifically called for the execution of scouts who are gay. The threat to gay scouts in Uganda is implicit, not explicit.

Apologies for my lack of clarity. Below is a revised, corrected version of the news release, together with some new information about the Uganda Bill.

Peter Tatchell – London, UK

In his revised press release, Tatchell asks that UK readers write to their members of Parliament about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Click here to read the revised news release.

More on the “Kill The Gay Scouts” Meme

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2010

I didn’t like the whole “kill the gay Ugandan scouts” meme, and felt the need to set the record straight. But I have to admit that it appears to have gotten the attention of the world scouting headquarters in Geneva, according to a press release Peter Tatchell sent to BTB:

“The world scout headquarters in Geneva has written to the Chief Scout and the Chief Commissioner of the Uganda Scout Association concerning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the sponsorship of this Bill by the Chairman of the Uganda Scout Board, David Bahati MP,” reports LGBT human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell  of OutRage!

“This swift response came just hours after protests against Mr Bahati to the Scout Association UK by the London-based LGBT human rights group OutRage!.

“OutRage! is urging the disaffiliation of the Ugandan scout organisation from the world scouting movement, as a way of adding further pressure on the Ugandan government to drop the Bill.

“Our request for disaffiliation was immediately forwarded by the Scout Association UK to the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Geneva.

“OutRage!’s actions are an attempt to open up a new front in the campaign against the Bill and to graphically expose the ramification’s of the proposed legislation on youth and civic organisations in Uganda (which has received little coverage so far).

“By highlighting the particular threat to LGBT scout members, we have not intended to detract in any way from the wider issues and consequences of Mr Bahati’s draconian legislation.

“LGBT scouts and scout leaders are, of course, only one section of the Ugandan LGBT community. All Ugandan LGBTs are at risk if this Bill becomes law. We are concerned about the danger to them all – and the threat to their straight families, friends, supporters and allies,” said Mr Tatchell.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Does Ugandan MP Want To Kill Gay Boy Scouts?

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2010

That’s what UK LGBT Activist Peter Tatchell said:

“The leader of the scout movement in Uganda is demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts,” reports human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

“Chief of the Scout Board of Uganda, David Bahati, is proposing that all serial homosexual offenders, including scouts and scout leaders, should be hanged – even children.

“Mr Bahati is a Ugandan MP. His Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently before the Ugandan Parliament, stipulates the death penalty for repeat same-sex relations and life imprisonment for all other homosexual acts, even for mere kissing, touching or caressing.

“Scout leaders who fail to report gay scouts to the police will face three years in jail. Any scout leader who provides supportive advice to a gay scout will be jailed for five to seven years.

“This Bill is an expression of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence, contrary to scout principles,” said Mr Tatchell.

That appeared on the Gays Without Borders website. I’ve been badly burned by them before and have learned that this is not a trustworthy source. This story is nevertheless starting to make the rounds on the web.

Uganda's top scout: MP David Bahati is honored during an East African scouting conference in Kampala. (Click to enlarge)

Uganda's top scout: MP David Bahati is honored during an East African scouting conference in Kampala. (Click to enlarge)

Since the information that Bahati is the head of Uganda’s Boy Scout movement appears to have come from BTB, I feel a special responsibility to correct the record. Last December, we received a tip from an anonymous reader in Kampala along with several scans of a newspaper clippings, including one identifying MP David Bahata as chairman of the Uganda Scouts Board. Since that was sent to us exclusively by someone who does not have a web site himself and this article did not appear online, I’m quite confident that this is where Tatchell learned of Bahati’s role in Uganda’s scounting movement. We were the only major website to report this and we are the ones who first posted this photo.

Now, it’s true that his proposed bill would impose the death penalty on anyone who engages in sex with someone of the same gender under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive (disclosed and consensual or not), who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not).

So, by this accounting it would appear that under certain circumstances, Boy Scouts could be convicted and hanged for “aggravated homosexuality” if they have sex with someone of the same gender and approximately the same age (under 18) — and if Uganda’s death penalty law allows for hanging people under the age of 18. So far, I have not been able to determine whether Ugandan law permits this. But more specifically, I can find no reports anywhere that Bahati is specifically “demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts.”

Focusing on Boy Scouts, while a nice trick, misses the larger point. This bill would impose the death penalty on Boy Scouts, altar boys, choir girls, soccer players, pastors, members of Parliament, chiefs, cooks and bottle-washers — everyone who falls into its trap. And it would impose criminal penalties to anyone else, gay or straight, who would help them in any way or fail to report them to police. The scope and breadth of this bill is beyond breathtaking. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the depth of evil behind this bill. But it is easy to pretend the bill says something that it doesn’t say, whether someone opposes the bill or supports it.

With all due respect to Mr. Tatchell, who has put his own health and safety on the line in Russia, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere around the world on behalf of LGBT people everywhere — and he is due all the respect that bravery warrents — this trivial sideshow distracts from the larger point. David Bahati did not call for the execution of gay Boy Scouts in his capacity as chair of Uganda Scouts Board. He called for the execution of almost all gays in his capacity as a member of Parliament for the ruling party which hold more than two-thirds of all the seats in Uganda’s legislature. And all of this in what is effectively a one-party state, in which real power rests in the hands of President Yoweri Museveni. We must never forget that it is Museveni, who easily blocks opposition political rallys and shuts down radio stations he doesn’t like, who can stop this bill with a wave of a finger.

Since Tatchell’s remarks made the rounds, I am now happy to see that he has issued a clarification:

(Bahati’s) Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not, of course, specifically cite or single out LGBT scouts or scout leaders. But, like other LGBT Ugandans, scout members who commit repeat homosexual acts will be liable for execution – if Bahati’s is Bill is passed. The Bill does not specify from what age the death penalty will apply. I am told that it could apply to young LGBT people under 18. Does anyone know what the age of criminal responsibility is in Uganda? Is there any Ugandan law specifying the minimum age at which a person can be executed? Good news: The World Organisation of the Scout Movement is, as a result of OutRage!’s representations, considering action against the scout movement in Uganda.”

Learning the World Organization of the Scout Movement’s position would be very useful, as would discovering whether Ugandan law actually allows the execution of those under the age of 18. That’s a question I’ve been trying to discover the answer to myself.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Russian Riot Police Break Up Slavic Pride

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2009
Nikolai Alekseev being arrested by OMON riot police.

Nikolai Alekseev being arrested by OMON riot police.

Police in riot gear swept in and forcibly broke up an attempted Slavic Pride march near Moscow State University shortly after noon today just as the march was getting underway. Between twenty and forty people were arrested in all.

The march had only been underway for about a minute when OMON rushed in and began hauling off marchers to waiting buses. Riot police then began detaining other gay activists who appeared shortly after and were speaking with media. They were arrested even though they hadn’t participated in the march itself. There are reports that as police hauled away Ksenia Prilebskaya, they ripped off her shirt and bra and roughly pushed her into a police bus.

Moscow authorities had earlier denied permission to hold the march, and they vowed to break up any attempt by activists to march without permission. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has described Pride marches as “satanic,” and his spokesman yesterday said the march sought to “destroy the moral foundations of our society.”

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Among those in custody are Slavic Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Theyer. Alekseev and another activist were were at an adjacent park popular with newlyweds dressed as a groom and bride while giving interviews with media when police spotted and arrested them. Alekseev was held down by five riot police as he was arrested. British activist Peter Tatchell was arrested but has since been released. One activist has already been taken before a judge who pronounced him innocent, but he still remains in police custody.

There is currently no word from Alekseev since his arrest. He has reportedly been segregated from the other arrested activists and his cell phone has been confiscated.

The detentions come as Moscow prepares to host the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s most prestigious pop music event. Russia had reportedly spent some 24 million euros on the contest in an attempt to bolster its international image. Some singers had threatened to boycott the wildly popular world event if the Slavic Pride march was broken up. Today’s arrests are highly embarrassing for the Eurovision organizers, which has a big gay following across Europe. According to the U.K.’s Telegraph:

Advance questions about the march drew embarrassed silence from Graham Norton, the BBC’s commentator for the competition, and Andrew Lloyd Weber, who co-wrote the song for Britain’s contestant, Jade Ewen. Both men claimed not to have heard of the protest, while Lord Lloyd Weber suggested that it might have been banned to avoid traffic congestion.

A few hours earlier, Russian Orthodox nationalists held a counterdemonstration against Slavic Pride. That counterdemonstration was held with the approval of Moscow city authorities. Demonstrators there chanted “Glory to Christ! Death to the Antichrist!.”

UK Gay News continues to provide hour-by-hour updates on the situation.

Russian Police Vow To Break Up Tommorow’s Slavic Pride March

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2009

Moscow authorities have vowed to clamp down on any gay pride march which LGBT advocates try to hold on Saturday. Organizers of Slavic Gay Pride had planned on holding a march on Saturday to coincide with the high visibility of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which is being held in Moscow. The Dutch contestants have already threatened to boycott the Eurovision Finals if the Gay Pride march is not allowed to go ahead. the French Eurovision delegation have announced their intent to join the march while displaying their Eurovision credentials. U.K. LGBT activist Peter Tatchell has also arrived in Moscow to participate in Pride activities.

According to continually-updated reports at UK Gay News, Slavic Gay Pride organizers have gone into hiding as police try to track them down and arrest them. One Moscow daily has reported that police are planning to arrest Moscow Pride leader Nikolai Alekseev. For his part, Alekseev isn’t deterred. Speaking from his secret location, he declared:

Nikolai Alekseev

Nikolai Alekseev

“Everyone is very excited about tomorrow and more than ever ready to go in the street despite the threats reported by the Moscow police tonight. It is just hard to believe that despite we are organizing the action for the 4th time, we have this year 55 activists from several regions of Russia and Belarus who checked in for the event and who since Thursday are just working on it and who more than everything want to march tomorrow.  For the forth time, we are just showing to Russian that gays and lesbians are not cowards and that they are not scared to march for their rights. And looking at the high number of reports in the Russian media, the message is delivered!”

The situation is getting very tense. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in UK has issued a “travel advisory” for LGBT visitors in Moscow. Russian Nationalists have already announced their own brand of an “ex-gay cure”:

Russian nationists are threatening to “cure” anyone who takes part in Saturday’s Slavic Gay Pride Parade in Moscow. “We will cure them for sure. We will help them to the hospital to be treated by the doctors. They are ill people,” Alexei Samsonov, a right-wing activist, told Reuters.

Last year’s Moscow Pride was conducted in a similarly clandestine manner, as Alekseev and other activists pulled off several different Pride activities while Moscow police scampered like Keystone cops. In 2007, an unauthorized march ended in violence and massive arrests.