Jamaican activist seeks asylum
QUEBEC, Canada — After the deaths of 13 of his activist colleagues, Gareth Henry, one of Jamaica’s leading LGBT rights activists, has fled the impoverished island nation to seek asylum in Canada. He has claimed refugee status because his life is in danger if he stays in Jamaica.

Henry, a highly visible and outspoken member of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), says he has been surrounded by mobs led by police officers, trapped by mobs in stores and harassed by mobs of gun-wielding civilians at his home.

“When you find police officers who are leading mob attacks, turning up at people’s home like myself, pointing guns at my window, with civilians with them, and saying that I need to leave or theyÕre going to kill me, it reinforces homophobia,” Henry said in a prepared statement.

Gay Pride parade banned
MOSCOW, Russia — Plans for staging Pride festivities encountered a major obstacle when the application for a May 1-2 parade was rejected by city hall. Vasily Oleinik, deputy head of the Moscow coordination of security effort department, made a formal declaration of rejection in a public statement:

“Proceeding from the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted on November 4, 1950, and its Article 11 in particular (which concerns the freedom of assemblies), according to which the right to a peaceful assembly may be restricted in the interests of public order, so as to prevent riots, to protect health and morality or rights and freedoms of other people, I state that the application to stage the relevant marches was rejected. The mentioned goals of the gay parade evoke negative reactions in the public, and if these public events take place, this could result in mass violations of public order, which poses a threat to the safety of its participants.”

The mayor’s office has indicated its intent to block attempts to organize an unauthorized event.

TV network gets large fine
SINGAPORE — Find and Design, a series aired on the state-owned Media Development Authority focusing on home and decor, has been fined by its own broadcasters for including an episode that revolves around a nursery redesign by a male same-sex couple. The Straits Times, a pro-State newspaper, reported that the government’s censor fined the government’s broadcasting station $11,752 for airing a program that “normalizes and promotes a gay life style (sic)” and for “gross indecency.”

The censor also objected to the episode because of scenes in which the host of the program acknowledged the two men and their baby as a family, which breaks the regulation that “disallows programs that promote, justify or glamorize gay lifestyles.”

The Singapore penal code allows for men who have homosexual contact to be imprisoned for up to two years, although enforcement is rare. The government has blocked festivals and censored LGBT films, saying that it is inappropriate to advocate homosexuality as a lifestyle. Despite these attitudes and efforts Singapore has a thriving LGBT community.

Gay Muslim director speaks out
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Parvez Sharma, director of the first documentary focusing on LGBT Muslims living in Islamic nations, gave The Advocate a statement that explained his motivation for creating “Jihad for Love,” which has been screened in nations around the world and denounced in many others (including Singapore where it was censored).

“I am coming out as a Muslim man. My gay identity is secondary. Queer cinema is filled with stories of gays and lesbians revealing their sexuality, but my film is about people revealing their religion… One personal challenge in making this film was to keep my deep respect for and belief in my faith paramount … I knew that I had to be a defender of the faith as a Muslim filmmaker and at the same time engage in a critique of what I knew was wrong in orthodox Islam’s condemnation of homosexuality… Islam needs us to step out as Muslim artists and take back the discussion of our faith… Our last battles of acceptance remain to be fought on the front lines of religion. With our ‘jihad for love’ we bring Islam out of the closet.”

Israel accepts overseas adoptions
JERUSALEM, Israel — The national government, which already recognizes domestic LGBT adoptions, has now opened a registry for overseas adoptions completed by LGBT citizens. The move confers automatic citizenship on the children in question. This, in turn, has the legal effect in Israel of also recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside of Israel.

The precedent was set when a court recently found in favor of recognizing the 2000 adoption of an 8-year-old Cambodian boy by an Israeli gay couple in the U.S. The men hold joint U.S.-Israel citizenship and they returned to Israel shortly after the adoption was completed. Initially the courts did not recognize the adoption and since 2001 the boy lived in Israel on a visa that had to be renewed annually.

The couple’s attorney, Irit Rosenblum (pictured), told local media that “the meaning of the decision is clear. The state directly and fully recognizes same-sex couples as parents, akin to heterosexual couples, who can adopt a child overseas and register without constraints as his parents.”

Gay hip-hop opera flourishes
EDMONTON, Canada – “Bash’d,” an LGBT Hip-Hop opera that made a three-month tour of the music fringe festival in Canada, will be booking theater space for performances in Off-Broadway houses in New York City. The show debuted in the U.S. at the 2007 International Fringe Festival. The opera won a GLAAD Media Award for Best Musical and focuses on a gay couple that experiences hate crimes.

Same-sex marriage is also an important topic within the fast-paced love story, which uses Hip-Hop in order to reverse the homophobic bent this art form stereotypically embraces. The producers of “Naked Boys Singing” are backing the Off-Broadway performances.