In Australia: Guess who's coming to dinner?

Gay couples in Australia wanted to get the ear of the prime minister who opposes same-sex marriage. So they paid more than $33,000 to share her table.

The Australian activist group GetUp! bought dinner with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a charity auction last year. The couples finally dined with Gillard on Tuesday at her official home in Canberra.

Beforehand, 12-year-old Matthew Miller gave Gillard flowers and letters from him and his younger brother, saying why they wanted their mothers to get married, the Associated Press reported.

“They're basically being called not normal and we're not known as a proper family,” the news agency quoted him as saying. 

Gillard told the couples that while she opposes gay marriage, she believes that it will inevitably become legal in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Australian lawmakers have brought up three different bills to change an existing law that says only a man and a woman can marry.

GetUp! is known for playful activism. In its quest to legalize gay marriage, the group delivered more than 3,000 roses to Australian parliamentarians on Valentine's Day this year.

It also bought a surfing lesson with an Australian lawmaker who has raised worries about accommodating refugees, and used the opportunity to put him next to a former Afghan refugee.

The video above from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation shows the couples talking about gay marriage and their plans to dine with Gillard last fall, before the dinner date had been set.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Video: Gay couples who planned to dine with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard talk about the issue of gay marriage. Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Lesbian activist in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal


This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

It’s already illegal to have sex with someone of the same gender in Uganda. For three years, religious activists have prodded the African nation to impose more severe punishments.

Ugandan lawmakers are again debating a bill that would impose lengthy sentences on people for homosexuality, less than a year after shelving a similar proposal that originally called for the death penalty. Gay activists say the country has grown increasingly hostile: Activist David Kato was slain last year after a Ugandan newspaper published his name and photo under the headline "Hang them!"

What is it like to be gay in a country where it's essentially illegal? The Times talked to Jay Abang, 28, a program manager with Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex human rights organization trying to combat the law. Abang is an openly lesbian activist in Kampala.

How have attitudes toward gay people changed in Uganda?

I think it’s getting worse by the day. The community is so ignorant and misinformed. People straightaway think it’s about sex. They don’t think about the person as a human being. It makes it very difficult to change someone’s perception. And they think it’s a choice.

Some people say "they can be counseled, they can get out of that.' They say it’s not our culture, it’s against the Bible. And for the lesbians, they call us haters. They think we just hate men.

Continue reading »

Are Finns tolerant enough for a gay president?

Pekka Haavisto, left, with his partner, Nexar Antonio Flores, at a news conference.
If you're Finnish, Pekka Haavisto wants your vote. He’s an environmentalist. He was elected to the parliament in 1987. He represented the European Union in peace talks over Darfur. And he’s gay.

That last detail could be a sticking point for Finnish voters in Sunday's election, despite the fact that Nordic nations take pride in being progressive and tolerant, the Associated Press reports.

He and his conservative opponent "are very similar in their views on foreign policy -- the president's traditional domain -- and there is no obvious clash there," political analyst Olavi Borg told the AP. "But a majority of Finns are not prepared … to be represented by a homosexual."

If Haavisto does win over the voters, he won't  be the first openly gay leader in the world. Iceland elected Johanna Sigurdardottir as prime minister three years ago. In Belgium late last year, Elio Di Rupo was sworn in as prime minister.

Here in the U.S., there's also a  gay presidential candidate, Fred Karger, a Republican who spent nearly 30 years advising the top Republicans in California. It's no surprise if you haven't heard of him; Karger has struggled to get attention and credibility, The Times reported in August:

Trying to wedge his way onto the debate stage, Karger has lobbied TV networks and event organizers, urged pollsters to include him in their surveys — poll numbers being one criterion to participate — and started a website,, to make his case. So far it has been to no avail; he will look on Thursday night as others participate in the third debate of the campaign.

What may be most frustrating, though, is the way Karger, a skilled and respected political pro, is so often treated as a kook. He mentions a New Hampshire visit where a local reporter showed him photos of Lobsterman, a costumed crustacean and perennial candidate, suggesting a kinship. "Not even Pat Buchanan or Alan Keyes," Karger lamented, citing Republicans who at least debated their opponents before voters ushered them away.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto, left, talks with his partner, Nexar Antonio Flores, at a news conference in Helsinki on Jan. 23. Credit: Markku Ulander / Agence France-Presse


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