PM not authorized to rebuke MP
LONDON, England — As previously reported by Q-Notes, Member of Parliament Iris Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party — Strangford, North Ireland, pictured) has begun a radio campaign exhorting LGBT people to seek therapy and calling homosexuality an abomination. Robinson describes herself as a born again Christian and has publicly stated that it is “the duty of Government to uphold God’s law.”

An online petition signed by over 15,000 people calling for the government to censure Robinson’s comments has been brought to the attention of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The PM responded by saying, that Members of Parliament “are accountable to their electorate for their own comments.” He added that the government is committed to strong equality legislation in Northern Ireland. “The government’s vision is an equal, inclusive society in Northern Ireland, where everyone is treated with respect and where opportunity for all remains a priority.”

An opposing petition calling for the government to allow Robinson’s comment as freedom of speech and religion was signed by fewer than 30 people.

Brazil teaches diversity classes
SAO PAULO, Brazil — In response to the Federal Ministry of Education’s mandate to “address sexual diversity in schools,” several elementary and middle school principals throughout the country have begun to develop and implement diversity programs for students in grades 1-9. According to internet resources for the school district of the State of Sao Paulo, the Secretary of Education has announced that, beginning in 2009, students will be taught “the importance of respecting the sexual choice of every individual, destroying the taboos and doubts of the students.”

In Paraíba, another state in Brazil, a program called “Equal, Why Different?” will be implemented in an attempt to educate children about the wide variety of relationships people create. Faculty are already being trained in the methods for implementing the program. “The initiative seeks to bring the child to reflect on and to modify stereotypes and prejudices, as well as to combat homophobia,” says a summary posted on the State of Paraíba’s official website. “Escola que Protega” (The School that Protects) is a similar program in Grosso do Sul.

LGBT Nigerians seek better care
ABUJA, Nigeria — In the face of a penal code that criminalizes same-sex activity, a conservative cultural climate and ethnic violence, LGBT activism is making gains. At least 10 HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations have been founded in recent years and they are pushing for better information about viral transmission, better treatment for those who are sick and more equality under the law. Alliance Rights Nigeria, founded in 1999, was formed in response to the large number of gay men who were “dying in ignorance.”

One of the challenges facing any HIV prevention campaign in Nigeria will be dealing with strong taboos against anal sex. Homophobia is so rife in the country that it will not be possible to reach out directly to men who have sex with men. One anonymous researcher said, “There will be no specific intervention response that targets this group. It will be a package to address the most at-risk groups, and we’ll reach them that way, but not as a population cohort themselves.”

Gay teacher fights church firing
PRETORIA, South Africa — Johan Strydom testified in court that he was fired from his position as a lecturer in music for NG Kerk Moreleta Park Church in 2005 after he refused to discuss his sexuality with the organization’s deacons in a closed session. Strydom was told that the meeting had been called because the deacon learned that Strydom was in a long-term, same-sex relationship. Strydom is suing the church for $100,000 for loss of income and defamation. He is also demanding a full public apology from church leaders.

Deacon Dirkie van der Spuy testified in defense of the church saying that Strydom should have made his sexuality known when he applied for his position. Van der Spuy said that the church’s stance that homosexuality is a sin is widely known and that Strydom should have revealed his relationship prior to working with impressionable youth. Van der Spuy said the church had no choice but to terminate Strydom’s employment when Strydom refused to discuss his sexuality with the deacons. Van der Spuy also said that had Strydom admitted his homosexuality it would have been easier to let Strydom know that the church does not reject or judge LGBT people.

“We would have liked to walk a loving, spiritual path with him. If he had walked that road with us, we would still have supported him financially, although we would have asked him to stand back and not to give classes. If he had walked the path successfully, he would have been reinstated in his post,” Van der Spuy testified.

Despite having worked with an exemplary record for many years in other church posts with no problems, van der Spuy said that Strydom was not fit to hold a position of leadership within the congregation.

Flap over Dutch soldiers at Pride
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Defense State Secretary Jack de Vries issued a last minute veto preventing the participation of uniformed soldiers in Pride festivals this year. De Vries forbade public displays of gay uniformed soldiers because he said it would “harm the dignity of the armed forces.” In response, Minister Ronald Plasterk (pictured) publicly declared his opposition to de Vries’ decision, saying that uniformed officers “are welcome.” Plasterk was part of the Amsterdam Pride procession, floating in his personal boat in the canals. He has invited uniformed soldiers to accompany him in his personal boat next year.