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Conclave chooses next pope

Cardinals on Wednesday elected Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio as the church’s next pope

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Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Catholic Church, Washington Blade, gay news

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Photo by Aibdescalzo via Wikimedia Commons)

The College of Cardinals on Wednesday elected Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio as the Catholic Church’s next pope.

His election as the first Latin American pontiff took place less than two days after the papal conclave to choose Pope Benedict XVI’s successor began. The white smoke that symbolized Bergoglio’s election rose from a chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel shortly after 7 p.m. in Rome after the cardinals chose him on the fifth ballot.

Bergoglio, who took the name Francis I, was born in Buenos Aires to an Italian immigrant father in 1936.

He became archbishop of the Argentine capital in 1998.

Bergoglio, a Jesuit who was elected cardinal in 2001, was reportedly the runner-up in 2005 when the College of Cardinals elected Benedict to succeed Pope John Paul II. He is also among those who led the opposition to Argentina’s same-sex marriage law that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed in 2010.

“We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he said before Argentine lawmakers passed it. “Here also is the envy of the devil through which sin entered the world, which deviously seeks to destroy the image of God, man and woman who have received the mandate to grow, reproduce and dominate the Earth.”

Esteban Paulon, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Federation of Argentina, highlighted these statements against nuptials for gays and lesbians as he spoke about Bergoglio’s election from his home in Rosario.

“At least in terms of LGBT rights it was a clear signal that the church was radicalizing the discourse,” he told the Blade.

Fernández also criticized the now pope’s position on that issue–and his claim that adoption rights for gays and lesbians constitutes discrimination against children.

A human rights lawyer in 2005 accused Bergoglio, who has also described abortion as the “death penalty,” of conspiring with the country’s military junta to kidnap two Jesuit priests in 1976.

In spite of the aforementioned controversies, he has reached out to people with HIV/AIDS.

The National Catholic Reporter reported he kissed and washed the feet of 12 AIDS patients during a 2001 visit to a hospice.

“As a cardinal, this man who is now Pope Francis has said some pretty harsh things in the past,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, a group for LGBT Catholics, told the Washington Blade. “We would hope that he recognizes that he is a pope for a church that includes lots of LGBT people and our families and that he would take the time to listen to us, to our experiences, to the experiences of kids who’ve been raised by same-sex parents before he starts making papal pronouncements on these issues and risks alienating even more people.”

Francis DiBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., echoed Duddy-Burke.

“As he begins his papacy, we request that Pope Francis make one of his top priorities the re-evaluation of the Catholic hierarchy’s approach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues,” he said, referring to Francis’ statements against same-sex marriage and adoption rights for gays and lesbians. “We hope that in his new office, he will have the wisdom to hear all sides of these complex issues and that he will inject pastoral messages into his statements.”

Ryan Fecteau, a gay student at the Catholic University of America in D.C., also reacted to the new pope’s election.

“Though Pope Francis has expressed anti-gay sentiment in the past, he comes from a country that has legalized marriage for same-sex couples,” he told the Blade. “We must have optimism in knowing that the first Jesuit pope has witnessed the power of love without exception. And we must hope it has changed his views for the better.”

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown is among those who welcome the pontiff’s opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio will follow in the steps of Pope Benedict XVI and provide a consistent and strong voice in support of marriage and children,” he said in a statement. “Our prayers go out to Pope Francis as he leads the world’s over 1 billion Catholics in the weeks, months, and years ahead.”

Benedict on Feb. 11 became the first pope to resign since 1415.

Italian newspapers reported in the days after Benedict’s surprise announcement that he announced his resignation on the same day he learned male prostitutes are blackmailing gay Vatican priests. La Repubblica said report also detailed an underground network of gay priests.

Vatican officials denounced the reports as “unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories.”

Argentines react to the new pope

Fernández congratulated Francis in a statement she issued shortly after the College of Cardinals elected him.

“It is our desire that you have, assuming the helm and guidance of the church… successfully carry out your extremely important pastoral charge in pursuit of justice, equality, fraternity and peace for mankind,” she said.

Paulon again highlighted to the Blade the role Francis played in the campaign against Argentina’s same-sex marriage law.

He also noted a sense of pride among Argentinians over his election.

“Of course in Argentina there is a sense of joy among a good part of the population for the pope,” he said.

Duddy-Burke further acknowledged the church’s center continues to shift away from Europe.

“It’s a time of transition and prayer for all Catholics,” she said. “We join in praying for the pope and his ministry.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. bayhuntr

    March 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    What does this mean? “Bergoglio, who became a cardinal in 2001, strongly opposed the opposition against Argentina’s same-sex marriage law that President Cristina Fernández signed in 2010” He apposed people who were against same sex marriage? Meaning he supports same sex Marriage? But then he goes on to talk as if he is doesn’t.

    What I like most was his very well stated description of the Catholic church… “a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children”

    We all should be happy, that we now have another infallible person in the world. …like all the evangelicals weren’t enough!

  2. El Dorado

    March 14, 2013 at 12:06 am

    No support on GLBT issues has ever really been provided by the papacy except in perhaps compassion for those with AIDS so it should be of no surprise that you can expect little empathy or support from this new pope. We know the cardinals were chosen by prior popes for being conservative to preserve the church as its been for centuries not change it!

    The only saving grace is that many civilized nations are secular by law and aren’t influenced less and less by religious dogma. As long as the pope doesn’t make himself a forceful opponent of gay equality on the world stage, we should all be able to co-exist peacefully going forward!

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World

Jamaica man attacked after using gay dating app

Victim’s penis partially severed before he was set on fire

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A Jamaican and Pride flag fly on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Oct. 15, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson's Facebook page)

An 18-year-old man in Jamaica remains hospitalized in critical condition after he was targeted on a gay dating app.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports the victim on Oct. 11 went to a neighborhood in Montego Bay, a resort city that is the capital of Jamaica’s St. James Parish, to meet the man with whom he was speaking.

The newspaper reports the man and two other men abducted the victim, robbed him and partially severed his penis before they set him on fire. Officials said the three men took his cell phone and used his bank card to withdraw money from his account.

“He is a very lucky young man because although they left him in a critical condition, he managed to make his way to a security checkpoint in the community where they assisted him to the hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition,” a local police officer told the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported a 43-year-old man in St. James Parish disappeared in January 2020 after he went to meet someone with whom he had spoken on a gay dating website. Authorities later found the man’s body, and two men have been charged with his murder.

Violence against LGBTQ Jamaicans remains commonplace. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in the country.

J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBTQ rights group, has condemned the latest attack.

“Like all well-thinking Jamaicans at this time, JFLAG is outraged at the recent attack on an 18-year-old man in St. James,” tweeted J-FLAG on Sunday. “His attackers must be brought to justice.”

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Botswana attorney general seeks to recriminalize homosexuality

High Court heard case on Oct. 12

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(Public domain photo)

GABORONE, Botswana — On June 11, 2019, Botswana moved toward being a state that no longer held some of its citizens (and, by extension, visitors) as criminals if they identified within the LGBTQ spectrum. However, the government didn’t take too long before it declared its intention to appeal the High Court judgment that asserted that consensual same-sex sexual activity in private was not to be a criminal act.

The appeal hearing took place on Oct. 12.

There are some key things to understand about what the High Court did for people in Botswana. The judgment, written and delivered by Justice Leburu, not only put a clear delineation between the state’s powers to intrude in people’s private sexual lives, but it also stated that laws that served no purpose in the governance of the people they oversaw were most likely worthy of “a museum peg” more than being active laws of the land.

In the hearing on Oct. 9, a full bench of five judges of the Court of Appeal was treated to the government’s case—as presented by advocate Sydney Pilane of the Attorney General’s Chambers—along with hearing the rebuttals from the legal counsel representing Letsweletse Motshidiemang, who brought the original case against the government, and LEGABIBO, an NGO admitted as amicus curiae, a friend of the court. The appeal, two years in the making, would have been expected to be based on facts rather than opinions of what could and could not be accepted by hypothetical Batswana. Pilane even went so far as to contest that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s utterances about how people in same-sex relationships were “suffering in silence” were taken out of context as he was talking about gender-based violence and not endorsing their relationships.

The 2019 ruling of the High Court, the most supreme court of incidence in the country, not only declared people who were or had interest in engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity not criminals, but it also allowed non-queer people to engage in sex acts that would otherwise be considered “against the order of nature” freely. The latter clause had often been interpreted as being solely about non-heterosexuals but on greater interrogation one realizes that any sex act that doesn’t result in the creation of a child was considered against this ‘order of nature’ and that nullified much of heterosexual sexual exploration—further painting these clauses as out of touch with contemporary Botswana as Leburu expressed.

In some of his appeal arguments, Pilane stated that Batswana “do not have a problem with gay people”, yet he based his contention on the fact that Batswana “respect the courts’ decisions;” as such they would not take up arms at the court’s decision to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Pilane maintained that the decision to decriminalize should be left to the Parliament on the recommendation of the courts. The bench was swift to query whether a body of politicians elected by a majority would be the best representatives of a minority that was oppressed by laws that the very politicians benefitted from.

Botswana’s legal system allows for the High Court ruling to remain the law of the land until such a point as it’s struck down. The Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Batswana’s sexual liberties will be a nail in the proverbial coffin of residual colonial sex-related laws plaguing Botswana. This will not be the end by any means though. Where the attorney general can form a case stating that decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations could be likened to people locking themselves in their houses with animals and having their way with them, we know that mindset changes need to be prioritized to ensure that all Batswana understand their constitutionally protected rights to privacy, expression, and freedom of association as relates to their personal and sexual lives.

The 2010 Employment Act of Botswana already protects people from being discriminated against based on their sex or gender identity. The nation’s sexual violence laws were made gender neutral, thus covering non-consensual sex (rape) in all its possibilities. In upholding the ruling of the High Court, the Court of Appeal will allow the LGBTQ and SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics) movements in Botswana some respite as attention is then channeled toward other pressing matters such as name changes, access to healthcare, and other culturally pertinent issues.

The Court of Appeal is expected to hand down a judgement following their deliberations in 4-6 weeks (mid to late November), however, this remains at their discretion. As it stands, since the High Court ruling in 2019, Botswana has experienced increased social accommodation for LGBTQ matters and figures—however, this is not to say there have not been any negative instances. With the continued sensitization, the expectation is that the courts, the government and NGO players will all contribute to a broad, national, culturing of LGBTQ rights in Botswana devoid of colonial residues.

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U.S. regains seat on U.N. Human Rights Council

Previous administration withdrew from body in 2018

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global forum, Human Rights Day, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

The U.S. on Thursday regained a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, three years after the previous administration withdrew from it.

The U.S. won election to the council alongside Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and United Arab Emirates.

The council in recent years has emerged as a champion of LGBTQ rights around the world, even though Cuba and other countries with poor human rights records are among the 47 countries that are currently members. Venezuela and Russia are also on the council.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first of more than two dozen anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, remains in custody and faces eight years in prison. The Washington Blade last month spoke with several Venezuelan LGBTQ activists who said persecution forced them to flee to neighboring Colombia.

Russia’s crackdown on LGBTQ rights and the Kremlin’s close relationship with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov continue to spark criticism around the world.

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley during a 2018 press conference that announced the U.S. withdrawal from the council noted Cuba and other countries “with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights record” are members. Haley also said the council has a “chronic bias against” Israel.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.  Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday in a statement said LGBTQ rights will be one of the U.S.’s focuses once it officially rejoins the council on Jan. 1.

“Our initial efforts as full members in the Council will focus on what we can accomplish in situations of dire need, such as in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen,” she said. “More broadly, we will promote respect for fundamental freedoms and women’s rights, and oppose religious intolerance, racial and ethnic injustices, and violence and discrimination against members of minority groups, including LGBTQI+ persons and persons with disabilities.  And we will oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country.”

President Biden in February issued a memorandum that commits the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The previous White House tapped then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead a campaign that encouraged countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, but many LGBTQ activists in the U.S. and around the world have questioned its effectiveness. The Washington Blade in August filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department that seeks Grenell’s emails around his work on the decriminalization initiative.

“The President and Sec. Blinken have put democracy and human rights—essential cornerstones of peace and stability—at the center of our foreign policy,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday after the U.S. regained a seat on the council. “We have eagerly and earnestly pursued these values in our relationships around the world.” 

“We will use our position to renew the council’s focus on the core human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Charter, which undergird the council’s founding,” added Price at the beginning of his daily press briefing. “Our goal is to hold the U.N. Human Rights Council accountable to the highest aspirations of its mandate and spur the actions necessary to carry them out.” 

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