City moves parade after threats
SOFIA, Bulgaria — A recent Pride event was relocated to a different section of the city after organizers and city officials were made aware of threats. The Bulgarian National Alliance (BNA), a right-wing extremist anti-gay hate group, had declared it would be present at the local Pride parade scheduled to take place on one of the largest boulevards in the capital’s center. The mayor moved the event but did not cancel it, saying that he intended to protect the marchers from the protestors.

Marchers criticized the mayor for capitulating to threats while protestors criticized the mayor for showing preference to minorities. The BNA complained that moving the Pride rally from the main boulevard to the parks was even more “inconvenient” and “inappropriate” since the parks are heavily trafficked by pedestrians on weekends. The BNA (pictured) attempted to get the Pride event cancelled by citing the precedent of another LGBT event that was disallowed in the major port city of Varna due to the disruption it would cause.

Indian LGBTs making strides
NEW DELHI, India — Despite laws making same-sex activity illegal and a cultural climate that makes LGBT culture taboo, hundreds of demonstrators came together in three cities to call for equality. Activists in Calcutta, Bangalore and New Delhi assembled in the streets and other public venues in order to stage rallies demanding an end to discrimination. Alok Gupta, a lawyer from Mumbai, said “This is a national coming-out party. This is a simple thing: We are seeking the right to love.”

Calcutta has seen marches staged in the past; however, the rallies are a first-time occurrence in New Delhi, a city known for its rampant homophobia. The demonstrations were staged in order to bring attention to legal cases that have been brought before the Delhi High Court seeking to overturn the British Penal Code’s regulation of homosexual sex. These penal codes have remained in place, despite the fact that India has not been under British rule for over 50 years. The laws are rarely enforced but can be used by those who wish to exclude LGBT people in housing and employment.

Iceland OKs same-sex ‘marriage’
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — The island nation became the latest in a string of European countries to make moves toward marriage equality; however, the cohabitation laws are also being criticized because they are not identical for LGBT and heterosexual couples. Árni Thór Arnthórsson and his American fiancé, Paris Prince, will be the first LGBT couple to be wed in a church once a new law concerning the right of religious associations to confirm cohabitation of gay couples is implemented.

Rev. Bjarni Karlsson, who will marry Arnthórsson and Prince, said, “We live in a society where we not just tolerate other people, but respect them and their lives.” Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (pictured), high chieftain of Ásatrúarfélagid, a religious organization for those who believe in the pagan Icelandic/Nordic gods, agrees. “We have fought for this matter for a long time, that is, to have the right to marry gay couples.”

Still, there are complaints that the changes won’t truly change anything. “The laws on confirmed cohabitation are mostly an optical illusion,” said Jörmundur Ingi Hansen, former high chieftain of Ásatrúarfélagid. “They neither give gay people nor straight people any rights to my best knowledge. Various people have claimed they give the same rights as marriage, but that is unfortunately not true. They do not include a reversionary right and do not provide the kind of safety that marriage is supposed to provide.”

He continued, “I think it is poor behavior to make people believe that this is marriage when it isn’t. If confirmed cohabitation is supposed to be such a good thing then why can’t priests confirm the cohabitation of straight couples? Until now I have not had the right to confirm the cohabitation of a man and a woman. There is no law that states that the cohabitation of two individuals of the opposite sex can be confirmed. I just don’t understand what the legislature is trying to achieve with this. It is like a band-aid for an undefined wound,” he concluded.

City’s first Pride march held
NEW DEHLI, India — Along with demonstrations that were organized in an attempt to pressure the local judiciary to overturn outmoded sodomy laws, New Delhi Pride has also organized its first march. Over 500 assembled to celebrate the initial events and to bring visibility to LGBT Indians and the issues affecting their lives. The turnout, while small by Western standards, was considered “beyond belief.”

Marchers who had not yet come out were provided with rainbow colored masks. LGBT Indians walked nearly one mile through the main street of the business district joined by additional groups such as workers unions and equality groups for women and other minorities. “This is amazing,” said Ranjit Monga, a public relations executive. “No one would’ve believed 10 years ago a gay parade was possible in Delhi.”

Army accused of gay bias
KATHMANDU, Nepal — As previously reported by Q-Notes, recent elections included a successful campaign by gay rights activist Sunil Pant (pictured), director the Blue Diamond Society. With the strides being made in LGBT visibility have come greater scrutiny of discrimination in government agencies.

Bahkti Shah, an openly lesbian physical trainer in the Nepalese army, is one of two women recently expelled after several weeks of incarceration related to a charge of sexual misconduct. Although the army denies Shah was barred because of her lesbianism, an ongoing investigation and court appeal are being pursued by the Blue Diamond Society and another activist organization on her behalf. Shah also denies the army’s claim that she took money from cadets for personal use.