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Andorran prime minister comes out as gay

Xavier Espot Zamora spoke with country’s public broadcaster

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Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora. (Photo courtesy of the Andorran government)

Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora has come out as gay.

“I’m gay. I’ve never hid it,” he said during an interview with Radio and Television of Andorra, the country’s public broadcaster, on Monday. “Now, if I’m not asked I don’t have to say it, in the sense that it doesn’t define the entirety of who I am and even less my personal politics, but at the same time I think it shouldn’t be a problem to express it. And if this helps many children, young people or teenagers who are going through a difficult time see that in the end, regardless of their condition or sexual orientation, you can prosper in this country and reach the highest magistracy, then I am happy to express it.”

Andorra is a small country known for its ski areas that is nestled between Spain and France in the Pyrenees.

Espot has been prime minister since 2019. The country’s lawmakers in 2022 extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The prime minister is one of a handful of heads of state and government who are openly gay or lesbian.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs took office in July.

Luxembourgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has been in office since 2013, while Ana Brnabić became Serbia’s prime minister in 2017. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is openly gay.

Deputy Belgian Prime Minister Petra De Sutter is a transgender woman.

Then-Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in 2009 became the world’s first openly LGBTQ head of government.

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Dozens detained after Istanbul Pride march

Anti-LGBTQ crackdown expected to worsen after president re-elected

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A Pride flag hangs from a building in Istanbul on June 25, 2023. (Photo by Tuğçe Yılmaz via Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week's Twitter page)

Turkish police on Sunday detained dozens of people after they participated in an Istanbul Pride march.

Reuters reported police in riot gear blocked access to the city’s Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square and limited access to public transportation in the area.

The news agency noted police detained at least 50 people. An activist with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Sunday said police took 60 “of our friends … into custody.”

“Two of the people the police unlawfully took from the streets to take statements are under the age of 18,” said the activist.

Turkish authorities over the last decade have cracked down on LGBTQ and intersex activists in the country.

Police in 2015 used tear gas and water cannons against people who were about to participate in an Istanbul Pride march. Authorities in 2017 arrested nearly two dozen people who defied a ban on Pride events in the city.

Police in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on May 10, 2019, arrested 18 students and an academic who participated in a Pride march at the Middle East Technical University. They faced up to three years in prison, but a court in 2021 acquitted them. Police in 2022 violently broke up a Pride parade at the same Ankara university.

The State Department in 2021 criticized Turkey after police once again used tear gas to disperse Istanbul Pride march participants. Security forces last June arrested more than 370 people who tried to participate in another Istanbul Pride march.  

The activist with whom the Blade spoke noted police in Izmir, the country’s third largest city, on Sunday detained at least 10 people who participated in a Pride march. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a former Istanbul mayor who has governed Turkey since 2003, won re-election on May 28. The activist and others across the country say they expect Erdoğan will further restrict on LGBTQ and intersex rights.

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Iceland becomes latest country to ban conversion therapy

Country’s lawmakers passed bill on June 9

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The Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavík, Iceland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Lawmakers in Iceland on June 9 approved a bill that will ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Media reports note 53 members of the Icelandic Parliament voted for the measure, while three MPs abstained. Hanna Katrín Friðriksson, an MP who is a member of the Liberal Reform Party, introduced the bill.

“This is a really important issue for all gay people and a step worth celebrating,” said Samtökin ’78, an Icelandic LGBTQ and intersex rights group, after the vote. “There is no cure for being gay and any attempt to do so is violence. It’s so good that the government recognizes it with legislation.”

Malta, Cyprus, Brazil and Ecuador are among the other countries that ban conversion therapy.

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Transgender journalist who enlisted in Ukrainian military wounded

Shrapnel from a Russian artillery shell struck Sarah Ashton-Cirillo on Thursday

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Sarah Ashton-Cirillo in Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Ashton-Cirillo)

Shrapnel from a Russian artillery shell on Thursday wounded a transgender woman from Las Vegas who is serving in the Ukrainian military.

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo told the Washington Blade that part of the artillery shell hit her in the head and right hand while her unit, the 209th Battalion of the 113th Brigade in the Donbas, was on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

“I was hit this morning,” she wrote in a tweet. “My injuries are permanent. I’ve lost part of my hand and have scarring on my face.”

A video that Ashton-Cirillo posted to Twitter shows a fellow soldier bandaging her hand.

Explosions can be heard in the distance as Ashton-Cirillo speaks.

“They can’t kill us. They can’t hurt us. Victory is ours. It doesn’t fucking matter. Why? Because we’re Ukraine,” she said. “Ultimately Putin is going to be the one dead … and this is the small price for liberation and freedom. Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!)”

Friday marks a year since Russia launched its war against Ukraine.

Ashton-Cirillo enlisted in the Ukrainian military after she covered it.

“I want to serve this fight for freedom, this fight for liberty, this fight for all of us,” she told the Blade last December while she was in D.C. to speak with lawmakers on behalf of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry about continued support for Ukraine.

Ashton-Cirillo on Wednesday sent the Blade pictures of her “from the trenches” where she and her unit are fighting. Ashton-Cirillo said “this act of war by Putin has set in motion a timely and irreversible civil rights movement in Ukraine, one that has been extraordinarily beneficial to the LGBTQ community.”

“From hundreds of openly queer men and women serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine to President Zelenskyy’s positive statement about civil partnerships and human rights as applied to the community, what Putin has done has allowed freedom to bloom in Ukraine.” 

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