Tuesday evening's vote was 13 to five. It came after one of the bill's eight sponsors, Democrat Patrick Leahy, withdrew an amendment that would have given same-sex couples the same legal protections in immigration questions as heterosexual couples.
Several conservative Republicans said they would pull their support for the immigration bill if this were included.
The committee approved other amendments, including one by Republican Orrin Hatch, raising the number of visas available to highly-skilled foreign workers.
The bill's core purpose is to give 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States the chance to become legal residents if they meet the bill's conditions.
President Barack Obama has called immigration reform one of his top priorities. He congratulated the Judiciary Committee for its vote, saying it is consistent with common sense reform.
He said no one got everything he wanted in the bill, but said the Senate owes it to the American people to get the best possible result.
Source: VOA News
Venner, 78, took his life inside Notre-Dame cathedral on May 21, reportedly in front of the altar.
Earlier the same day, the award-winning essayist published a blog post savaging the legalisation of homosexual marriage.
Venner also wrote that “spectacular and symbolic actions” were needed to wake up the French people.
Marine Le Pen of the National Front has hailed the suicide as a “political act”.
The French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: “Notre Dame is the cathedral of Paris, one of the capital’s and the country’s most beautiful monuments, so we realise how symbolic this event truly is.”
On the evening of the suicide, gay-rights supporters gathered in Paris’ Place de la Bastille for a live music event to celebrate the legalisation of same-sex marriages in France.
The mayor of the southern city of Montpellier, sometimes called “the French San Francisco,” intends to officiate at the first gay wedding, which is likely to be no sooner than May 29, because by French law an application for a marriage must be filed at City Hall 10 days before the ceremony itself.
“Love has won out over hate,” the mayor, Hélène Mandroux, a Socialist like Mr. Hollande, said Saturday. She has been pressing for a gay marriage law since 2009, while voicing concerns that the first such wedding could attract violent protests along with the inevitable and engineered publicity.
The government’s spokeswoman and minister for the rights of women, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, intends to attend.
One couple seeking to be the first to wed under the new law is Vincent Autin, 40, the president of Lesbian and Gay Pride Montpellier, and his partner of seven years, Bruno, 30. Bruno prefers not to provide his surname because he works for the state, though the couple has been featured on television, in newspapers and magazines.
France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage. In the United States, Washington, D.C., and 12 states have legalized same-sex marriage.
For Mr. Hollande, who is riding low in the opinion polls, the passage of the law over considerable public opposition was a significant victory, given his campaign promise to legalize gay marriage within the first year of his administration (Saturday was within days of his May 15 anniversary in office).
But considering the opposition and significant economic problems in France, now in a triple-dip recession, Mr. Hollande also wants to move on to other important and controversial changes in the structure of the French economy, including pension changes and spending cuts.
Mr. Hollande signed the bill a day after the Constitutional Council dismissed a legal challenge by the right-wing opposition. “I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages,” he said.
Gay rights advocates praised the law, while a watchdog group, SOS Homophobie, said that France “has taken a great step forward today, although it is regrettable that it was taken in a climate of bad faith and homophobic violence.”
Protests against the law, led by religious leaders and conservative groups, drew hundreds of thousands of people at their height, with scattered violence on the margins. Opponents of the measures have vowed to fight on, having already called another protest for May 26. There was a small protest Friday night near the historic Pantheon, in the Latin Quarter.
The law allows all married couples to adopt children. It does not provide state aid to help same-sex couples procreate, however.
The leader of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, Jean-François Copé, told the newspaper Le Monde on Saturday that if the right returned to power (which is hardly imminent), it would “rewrite” the measure to clarify the legal descent of children adopted by gay couples and to “better protect the rights of children.”
He said he disagreed with the law as it stood but respected the decision of the Constitutional Council. “It is a decision that I regret but that I accept,” he said Friday.
Mr. Copé said he would attend the May 26 demonstration, which he hoped would broadly include all those disappointed with Mr. Hollande’s leadership. He called on them to turn their unhappiness into political commitment.
Source: New York Times
The nightclub dancer at the centre of the sex trial of Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, has told a court that guests at the media tycoon's "bunga bunga" parties dressed as nuns, nurses and US President Barack Obama.
Morrocan-born Karima El Mahroug, better known by her stage name Ruby the Heartstealer, spoke on Friday as a witness in a trial at which several people are accused of inducing and aiding prostitution.
They include Lele Mora, a scout; Emilio Fede, a television anchor; and Nicole Minetti, a regional councillor and former showgirl.
Minetti was once Berlusconi's dental hygienist who graduated to a career in showbusiness and politics.
El Mahroug denied ever having sexual relations with Berlusconi, 76, and said she did not see him engaged in physical contact with other women at the parties.
Berlusconi is being tried separately for paying for sex with El Mahroug when she was a minor and then abusing office by having her freed from police custody after her arrest for theft.
El Mahroug's appearance is nevertheless an embarrassment for Berlusconi and a reminder of the legal threats that the billionaire businessman - who leads the centre-right and is a key partner in the governing coalition - faces.
A verdict in the sex trial is expected in June, and a conviction for tax fraud is moving to a final appeal.
Berlusconi says he has never paid for sex, denies any wrongdoing and says judges are politically motivated against him.
El Mahroug failed to appear as a witness at Berlusconi's trial in December because she was on holiday in Mexico.
In her Friday testimony, she challenged Berlusconi's assertion that events at his villa were elegant dinner parties.
Marysthelle Polanco, a glamour model and one of 14 women who became notorious after they were discovered to be housed at a Milan address at Berlusconi's expense, dressed up as Obama and Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho, according to El Mahroug.
On one occasion Minetti "dressed up as a nun ... and as she danced, she took off her clothes and was left in her underwear", El Mahroug told the court.
Cash in envelopes
Wearing a large grey scarf and her hair tied back in a sleek ponytail, she entered the Milan courtroom flanked by police, walking quickly past waiting journalists.
It was the first time she has testified about the parties.
El Mahroug said she received envelopes containing thousands of euros in cash from Berlusconi.
She said she spent the night at Berlusconi's villa on one occasion, after which she and several other women who had slept there shared breakfast with him.
El Mahroug was 17 when she attended the parties at the villa outside Milan.
She said she lied about her age and that she had told guests she was a relative of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former president.
Berlusconi's defence against the abuse of office charge is that he acted under the belief that El Mahroug was related to Mubarak, and that he needed to free her from police custody to prevent a diplomatic upset.
Following the second set of semi-finals last night, Finland’s Eurovision entrant Krista Siegfrids found herself with a place in the final, following her performance of her pro-equal marriage song, which included a lesbian kiss.
Siegfrids insisted that her song ‘Marry Me’ was not political, but did go on to say that she did want to make a statement about the lack of legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Finland. Organisers forbid “lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature”.
When an interviewer asked how Siegfrids thought viewers in countries such as Belaruse and Azerbaijan might react to her performance she said: ”I think that everybody should have the right to do that. It’s no big deal, it’s not big deal to me. It’s a show, and it’s about love and love is beautiful in any form.”
The TRT station claimed that the cancellation of the broadcast was due to low ratings, but last year a quarter of Turkish households tuned in to watch.
All Out has launched a petition urging the President of the European Broadcasting Union to address the issue, and to ensure that Eurovision would “uphold the values of unity and love”, as opposed to censoring Krista’s performance.
“All Out members are not fooled by Turkey’s weak excuse,” Andre Banks Co-founder and Executive Director of All Out said, “It is clear to the world that Turkey pulled the popular Eurovision show simply because two women expressed love through a kiss. Nothing could be more harmless than a kiss between two people.”
“The Eurovision kiss was not revolutionary. Turkish people already saw a kiss between two women on television. Two women kissed during the 2012 Olympics and that kiss was broadcast on Turkish TV,” Andre Banks said, “The world kept turning and the sun came up the next day. Love should never be feared, it is censorship we should fear.”
Source: Pink News
A US state department spokesman said such women had been victims of a "grave human rights violation".
Mr Hashimoto said on Monday that the use of such women had been "necessary".
Japan forced an estimated 200,000 women in occupied territories to become prostitutes for troops during World War II.
Many of the women came from China and South Korea, but also from the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan.
The Japanese government, which in 1993 issued a formal apology over the issue, has sought to distance itself from his remarks.
"Mayor Hashimoto's comments were outrageous and offensive," said state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
"What happened in that era to these women who were trafficked for sexual purposes is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions," she said.
Mr Hashimoto, the co-founder of the nationalist Japanese Restoration Party, which has a small presence in parliament, said enforced prostitution had been necessary to keep troops in line.
"If you want them [troops fighting a war] to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that."
He also provoked outrage on the island of Okinawa - home to a large US military presence - by suggesting that base-related crime could be reduced if US troops were encouraged to use the local sex industry so that "the sexual energy of those tough guys" could be controlled.
On Thursday Mr Hashimoto offered to meet former sex slaves and "apologise firmly" for Japan's actions, calling them "a disgraceful act" that should not be repeated.
But he reiterated his stance that Japan was not alone in exploiting local women during wartime.
"Everybody was doing bad things. I think Japanese people... should offer objections if there is a misunderstanding of facts in the world."
And on Okinawa, he blamed a cultural gap with the US on perceptions of prostitution, saying his "international sensitivity was quite poor when I had to operate beyond national borders".
Both South Korea and China have condemned Mr Hashimoto's remarks, which come at a time when historical issues and territorial rows have elevated tensions in the region.
A new right-wing government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in December 2012.
Last month, he angered China and South Korea when he suggested he may no longer stand by the wording of Japan's 1995 apology for its war-time aggression, saying the definition of "aggression" was hard to establish.
Japanese ministers later sought to play down his remarks, amid anger across the region - where the feeling that Japan has not sufficiently atoned for, or educated its population enough about, its war-time behaviour is deeply entrenched.
Source: BBC News
The French Senate has approved another essential component of the marriage equality legislation, an article approving adoption rights for same-sex couples. With both that article and the basic marriage equality article passed, it’s likely the Senate will have no trouble passing the full bill in its entirety, but that might still take several weeks. It will also have to return to the National Assembly for final approval, which will likely happen in late May.
In France, the issues of same-sex marriage and adoption are considered separately, with adoption being a much more contentious matter. The same poll that found 63 percent of French voters support marriage equality found that only 49 percent support adoption rights. Theboisterous rallies opposed to the legislation have championed the idea that children deserve a mother and a father, a talking point seemingly exported by American anti-gay groups. Opponents say they will organize another mass protest in Paris on May 26 if the legislation is approved, arguing it should be withdrawn and calling for a national referendum instead.
Source: Think Progress
In the wake of the brutal gang rape and murder of a girl in New Delhi in mid-December last year, Indian engineering students have come up with a novel idea to protect women: the innovative "electrified lingerie." Aside from being truly shocking, it carries GPS and GSM devices which send an alert to the victim's parents and the police in the event of an attack. The inventors have named it Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE) and it comes equipped with a shock circuit board near the bra. The lingerie can send up to 82 3,800-kilovolt electric shocks to the assailant - enough to cause severe burn marks, Manisha Mohan, co-developer of the product, told DW in an interview.
DW: Your SHE product has received a considerable amount of attention. How did this invention come about?
Manisha Mohan: Rape is a common occurrence in many parts of the world. We thought it would not come to an end until some innovative idea for solving this problem comes out. Discussions on rape cases alone are no solution. We need to do something practical to stop rapes. The Delhi rape incident motivated us to find ways.
How does SHE work?
It is an undergarment. This device is set up inside the innerwear of a woman in a way that when pressure is applied to it during an assault, an electric shock is generated, forcing the assailant to draw back. Simultaneously, the device sends out two messages - one to the police station and other to a family member.
Tell us about your team.
We are a team of three - Niladri Basu, Rimpi Tripathi and I. We come from different parts of India. Basu is from West Bengal, Tripathi is from Assam, and I am from Chandigarh. We are studying engineering at the SRM University in Chennai.
Have any commercial organization shown interest in SHE?
Yes. Many people have approached us. But at the moment we are not interested in commercializing our product; we are focusing on making the lingerie washable by partnering with students at the National Institute of Fashion Technology.
Will it be an expensive product to purchase?
No, we want to keep it as cheap as possible. We want it to reach every section of society and not be only affordable to the affluent. Our objective is to protect women and not to earn profit.
How are you going to market your product?
We are not aiming to market it just yet. We are busy making this equipment more compact and more effective. We still have a lot of work to do.
Source: DW World
Uruguayan lawmakers voted Wednesday to legalize same-sex marriage, making the South American country the third in the Americas to do so, after Canada and Argentina. President José Mujica, whose governing Broad Front majority backed the law, is expected to put it into effect within 10 days.
Source: New York Times
A Mararaba in Nasarawa State, Northern Nigeria ordered three men accused of gay sex to be remanded in prison and await a possibly judgment of up to 14 years in jail for their ‘offence’.
The News Agency of Nigeria named the accused as Armstrong Ihua, 40, of Ikorodu, Lagos State; Collins Ejike, 30, of Lugbe, Abuja, and Pius Bamayi, 25, of Masaka, Nasarawa State.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge.
According prosecutor Stephen Kwaza, Ihua and Ejike lured Bamayi under false pretenses to Ihua’s room in a local hotel to smoke Indian hemp.
When Bamayi fell asleep, the other two men started having sex, and then removed his trousers and attempted to performed fellatio on him.
He said the act woke Bamayi up, who hit Ihua with his elbow, causing commotion ‘alerting’ staff at the Luna Gest Inn, where the men have been staying.
The case was reported to the police by staff, Pius Bamayi and Patrick Okorie who work at the Luna Guest Inn, in Mararaba, on 31 March.
Kwaza stated that the ‘unnatural offence’ contravened the provisions of Section 284 of the Penal Code.
Section 284, which applies to the Northern States of Nigeria, provides that:
‘Whoever has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man [or] woman ... shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to fourteen years and shall also be liable to fine’.
He also demanded the judge does not grant the accused bail, so further ‘investigation’ could be carried out.
Despite pleads by defense lawyer, Messrs Charles Maduewyi, Momoh Mohammed and Gabriel Okpake for bail, Judge Vincent Gwahemba, refused the accused bail ordering the accused be remanded in prison.
He adjourned the case to April 23 for further hearing.
But the Nigerian LGBT rights activists have been warning that such cases are often more a result of the laws against gay people being used to extract blackmail and bribes.
Adebisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBT rights advocate told Gay Star News: ‘The Nigerian news reporting not only does not do its job investigating a story but aid to spread moral panic and misinformation about cases, that most of the time, are set ups.
‘This usually involves unpaid blackmail fees by gay people, or a group of guys ganging up against someone they know is gay as the law puts LGBT people in Nigeria at risk of precisely such acts’.
Alimi further stressed that this not only biases justice and inflames public opinion but further puts LGBT Nigerians in danger: ‘The increasing arrest of LGBT people and subsequent outing in the Nigerian media is of high concern and very worrying.
‘Naming of people and using their pictures without yet being convicted of a crime is not just destroying their lives and that of their family, but it is a pure violation of their fundamental human rights to privacy.
‘It seems Nigerian press is waging war against LGBT people just like the media in Britain was over 40 years ago and though I am sure this is a battle we will win. The harmful thing will be the many lives that would have been destroyed along the way’.
Source: Gay Star News