LONDON – British Immigration Minister Phil Woolas publicly thanked the Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Trans Rights (LGBT Labour) organization on Feb. 25 for their campaign against the homophobic group Westboro Baptist Church.
The campaign led to a ban on Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper from entering the U.K. by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
The Home Secretary responded to calls from LGBT Labour and others to ban the hateful preachers who run the homophobic website, godhatefags.com, he said in a statement issued at lunchtime by his House of Commons office.
“Thank you to the LGBT Labour the Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Trans Rights for their persistence and vigilance,” Woolas said. “The lobbying on the Westboro Baptist Church was timely and precise. The Home Secretary has confirmed the exclusion order.
“I am grateful to the group whose arguments were strong and convincing. The Labour Government will always oppose homophobia,” he pledged.
Simon Wright, co-chair of LGBT Labour had written to Woolas about the Westboro Baptist Church’s planned visit to the U.K. Subsequently, the group met with Woolas and spoke regularly on the phone about the issues as they developed.
Fred Phelps had announced that his church, which is not part of the Southern Baptist Convention, would be picketing a production of “The Laramie Project” on Feb. 20 by a theatre group at a Basingstoke school. In his press release Phelps attacked the Queen, using a derogatory remark.
Following the announcement that the Westboro Baptist Church had been banned from entering the country. Wright said that the ban showed that the government was taking homophobia very seriously.
“We are very pleased that the Home Secretary has barred these preachers of homophobic hatred from our country. It sends a strong message that homophobia, like other forms of hatred, are not welcome in the U.K.”
In the last weekend in February, the Westboro Baptist Church was due to picket another production of “The Laramie Project,” the widely acclaimed documentary play about the brutal murder of gay student Matthew Shepard.
The production was being staged at the Performing Arts Center at Dominican University in River Forest, a suburb of Chicago. Students at the university had vowed to stage a silent counter-protest.
“[All the students] have been sick since they first heard about the Phelps plans and saw their website to check it out. They couldn’t believe the hateful talk on it,” a spokesperson told UK Gay News by email.
The Westboro Baptist Church congregation is made-up from the extended Phelps family Fred Phelps has 12 children who are all adults. The group is based in Topeka, Kan.
In addition to their notorious pickets at productions of “The Laramie Project,” they also demonstrate at funerals of those who die from AIDS. The church s most infamous demonstrations are at funerals of military personnel who have been killed while serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
– by Andy Harley . UKGayNews.org.uk
Polish gay media unite
WARSAW – At the end of Februrary, the owners of leading gay internet portals and gay media publishers met in Warsaw for a national gay media summit. The meeting is a first in the history of Polish gay media.
The owners and co-workers of seven gay portals and three magazines from Poznan, Cracow, Lodz and Warsaw came to the capital. For two hours, gay media representatives discussed common business and social policies as well as a policy for non-profit organizations in Poland.
The representatives present shared their deepest concern over the practice of using lawsuits to resolve issues inside the LGBT community. According to some, this has created a negative image of the media, particularly in such cases where parties in conflict are important organs of gay society (such as associations, foundations, portals and clubs or community leaders).
Representatives of gay media declared their disapproval of such practices, and offered their assistance in negotiation between parties, who prefer mediation and are willing to resolve conflicts in the community amicably.
This constructive meeting between the representatives of the LGBT media, who have had conflicting interests, certainly proved that it is possible to resolve conflicts in the community in a friendly way.
At the end of the meeting, representatives of the media agreed that it would be useful to build stronger alliances, on many levels, which would result in higher professionalism in sharing and providing information, education, and entertainment to the gay and lesbian community in the future.
Attending the meeting were the magazines Adam, AYOR and Gejzer. Electronic media present included Egay.pl, Fellow.pl, Gay.pl, Gaylife.pl, Gejowo.pl, Innastrona.pl and Polgej.pl.
– by Lukasz Palucki . UKGayNews.org.uk guest commentary. Palucki is the International Lesbian and Gay Culture Network Ambassador to Poland. He coordinated the meeting.
World congress set for May
PARIS – The World Congress Against Homophobia is set to be held in Paris in May. The proposal for the congress, UK Gay News has been told, was made by Rama Yade, the French minister for human rights. Yade says the congress will be a major French contribution to International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) which the government officially recognized last year.
The founder of IDAHO, Louis-Georges Tin, speaking at a press conference in May last year said that the French government s recognition of IDAHO was not just a symbolic gesture.
“[It] will help to better prepare and coordinates actions with the different ministries next year,” he said.
Apparently, his wish has come true.
The congress, which is being held in Ms. Yade’s Human Rights ministry on May 16, will be part of an official program organized by the French government to celebrate one year of recognition of IDAHO in France.
It is the first time that French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative government has planned an LGBT event at a ministerial level.
A preliminary agenda includes discussions on the French initiative leading the proposal for a pro-LGBT United Nations statement being signed by 66 countries. The statement was read in December in the UN General Assembly by Argentina.
Tin first spoke of his ambition to get a declaration read in the UN more than three years ago in Paris, repeating his ambition in London early last year. It was last May when the French government officially recognized IDAHO and when detailed discussions on the UN project were started with Yade’s ministry. A number of international gay and lesbian non-governmental organizations were brought in to help.
The World Congress on Homophobia could be a recurring event. This year, the theme will focus on combating transphobia.
– by Andy Harley . UKGayNews.org.uk