Gender-neutral marriage bill reaches Finnish parliament
HELSINKI -- The Finnish parliament began debate Thursday on a proposal to allow same-sex marriage. Should the legislation become law, Finland will become the final Nordic country to pass a law on gender-neutral marriage. A previous attempt in the Parliament's last session had failed.
This latest attempt came after 166,000 Finns had signed a citizens’ initiative that forced the issue onto the Parliamentary agenda although 42,000 Finns had signed a counter petition that opposed any legislative changes, reported the Finnish-owned media company YLE.
Successful opposition from Finns Party, Christian Democrat, Centre and National Coalition members of Parliament was overridden by Finland’s law on citizens’ initiatives which ensures that any proposal that secures 50,000 signatures must be considered by MPs.
Advocates for a law on gender-neutral marriage had launched their campaign last year and within six months it was signed by 166,000 people. The proposal was presented to Speaker of Parliament Eero Heinäluoma in December.
Recent polling on the issue shows Finns' support for same-sex marriage is 58 percent, while 34 percent of those polled were opposed to the idea.
Ugandan doctor and LGBT equality rights activist detained by South African authorities
|Dr. Paul Semugoma * Twitter|
By Brody Levesque | JOHANNESBURG -- LGBTQ and Human rights activists are calling on the South African government to release a prominent Ugandan doctor and LGBTQ rights activist who is being held in an immigration detention facility at OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg pending further deportation proceedings.
Dr. Paul Semugoma could face up to 14 years imprisonment in his native Uganda for his outspoken advocacy for LGBT rights should Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni moved forward and sign the bill which would criminalize the promotion or recognition of LGBTQ people and their relations.
The bill calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction and imprisonment for life for the "offence of aggravated homosexuality."
Ugandan political analyst Kenneth Wamayi said Wednesday that “Deporting him is a very poor decision. This is at a time when President Yoweri Museveni is gearing up for elections. He will ensure that Semugoma gets arrested, charged and sent to jail to rot,” reported the SA online media news outlet The NewAge SA.
Semugoma was arrested and detained on Monday after arriving from Zimbabwe and local advocacy groups had immediately sought his release obtaining a court order from the South Gauteng High Court.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, Semugoma was arrested for having an expired visitor's visa. The spokesperson also claimed that the government was not ignoring the court's ruling, instead had placed an immediate appeal of the decision and was acting within its own authority.
“The order was granted without the Department of Home Affairs having had representation in court in line with the audi alterem partem (hear the other side too) rule,” Home Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said. “In this regard, Dr Semugoma‘s visitors visa has expired and it is on this basis that entry into South Africa has been denied.”
San Francisco based human rights lawyer/activist and native South African Melanie Nathan told LGBTQ Nation Thursday,
"I am not surprised the Sa government under leadership of President Zuma is disobeying a court order. Zuma through his appointment of known homophobe Jon Qwelane as SA Ambassador to Uganda and the roaring silence of both he and Qwelane on the anti gay bill is indicative of their support of state sanctioned homophobia.
Zuma, as head of the only country in Africa with a full equality constitution should release him (Semugoma) along with a statement condemning the bill."
Semugoma fled Uganda after his colleague David Kato, was murdered in 2011 for gay rights activism.