Queer Eye isnt just great fashion TV its the best show of the year

When I heard that Netflix had rebooted the gimmicky, stereotyped reality programme, I scoffed. But the new version is hilarious, fabulous and incredibly important

We are living through the golden age of Tv. Why isn’t there any decent coverage of style on it ?
Joanna, by email

I grew up as a devoted fan of CNN’s Style With Elsa Klensch, but after Elsa hung up one of her 10 m Geoffrey Beene coats in 2001 I pretty much gave up on manner Tv. After all, it so often reduces fashion to the two-dimensional visuals, when the real pleasure of style goes much deeper than that- and I’m not talking about Trinny and Susannah insisting that all Britain’s housewives need to cheer themselves up is more colorful V-necks in their cupboards.

Well, colour me incorrect, because- at last- a great way depict has arrived. But this show is about so much more than manner, as any great fashion depict should be. In fact, it is definitely the best TV prove to premiere in so far this year and one of the most important point TV depicts for a long, long time. I speak, of course, of Netflix’s Queer Eye.

” What? A gimmicky reboot of an already gimmicky reality Tv depict? Important? You’ve lost your intellect, Freeman !” I hear the readers weep as one. I, too, scoffed when I heard about Netflix’s revival of the depict- yes, scoffed, I said. After all, I detest reality TV and my feelings about the original Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, which aired from 2003 to 2007 and was predicated on the stereotype that lesbian men are stylish and straight humen are clueless schlubs, could largely be summed up as “meh”. Whatever charm the prove had came altogether from the personalities of the five gays male presenters.

But the new series is flat-out amazing. Only eight episodes long, I devoured it in two sittings. It takes on everything from Black Lives Matter to loneliness. What it is really about, though, is masculinity and the problems it causes- and it seems to me there is no more important topic on our planet right now.

But this is to construct Queer Eye audio highly po faced, when in fact it is hilarious and fabulous. Like the original demonstrate, it features five lesbian humen, AKA the Fab Five, each with his own speciality: interiors designer Bobby, who does the most impressive makeovers on the prove; silver-fox way expert Tan, who, in his Doncaster accent, is convincing American humen one at a time to toss out their combat shorts; the tongue-lollingly gorgeous Karamo, who is there for “culture”, but is essentially the therapist of the present and thus the source of some of its really amazing moments; scene-stealing grooming expert Jonathan, who has an endearing habit of dedicating exposition by asking a series of questions and answering them himself (” Did I realise this was my moment to glisten? 100%. Did I take it? Take a look !”); and” food and wine” guy Antoni, who can’t actually appears to cook. Sure, he will pronounce “tamale” with a lyrical Spanish accent, but the fanciest meal he makes is hot dogs. Now, there is a fine line between making things easy for the cooking-phobic guests who appear on the reveal and not being able to cook yourself, but Antoni looks suspiciously like the latter. Put it this way: he is no Ted Allen.

But what is really amazing about this show is its heart. I can’t remember the last time I exclaimed at a TV display and I have cried at nearly every damn episode of Queer Eye. There was Tom in the first episode, the self-described ugly redneck who wanted to win back his ex spouse, and Cory the cop in episode three, who maintains his late father’s old suits in his closet as a route to remain close to him.

But most of all there was AJ, gay and semi-closeted, who wanted to come out and stop dressing like the deputy director of a sofa store. I have now watched this episode three times and each time I have wept absolute buckets: there is so much emotional truth going on here and not for a second does it feel manipulated. It sums up the excellence of this display: it has political nous, it has heart, it has style and it feels utterly relevant to now. Fashion eventually has the Tv reveal it deserves and 2018 has the Tv it needs.

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Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando were lovers, Pryor’s widow confirms

Jennifer Lee Pryor, who was twice married to the comedian, corroborates claims by music producer Quincy Jones , noting that it was the 70 s and drugs were still good

Christians should pray for Prince George to be gay, says minister

Very Rev Kevin Holdsworth says C of E will be forced to support same-sex marriage if the Lord blesses George with the love of a fine young gentleman

Christians should pray for Prince George to be homosexual to force is supportive of same-sex matrimony in the Church of England, a senior Scottish Episcopal church minister and LGBTQ campaigner has said.

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, stimulated the comments in a blog he reposted about LGBTQ inclusion in the Church of England following the announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s involvement.

In the post, he writes that Christians should pray” for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, where reference is grows up, of a fine young gentleman “.

A former chaplain to the Queen, the Rev Gavin Ashenden, has described specific comments as “unkind” and” profoundly un-Christian”, and said the prayer was the” theological equivalent of the curse of the wicked fairy in one of the fairytales “.

Speaking to Christian Today, Ashenden said:” To pray for Prince George to grow up in that route, particularly when part of the high expectations he will inherit is to produce a biological heir with a woman he loves, is to pray in a way that would disable and undermine his constitutional and personal role.

” It is an unkind and destabilising prayer. It is the theological equivalent of the curse of the wicked fairy in one of the fairytales. It is un-Christian as well as being anti-constitutional. It is a very long way from being a blessing for Prince George .”

The full post by Holdsworth about Prince George is part of a list of nine suggestions to force-out LGBT inclusion in the Church of England.

” If people don’t want to engage in campaigning in this way, they do in England have another unique option, which is to pray in the privacy of their hearts( or in public if they dare) for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, where reference is grows up, of a fine young gentleman ,” it reads.

” A royal bridal might sort things out remarkably easily, though we might have to wait 25 years for that to happen. Who knows whether that might be sooner than things might work out by other means ?”

* The headline on such articles was revised on 1 December 2017 because an earlier version referred to the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth as a C of E minister. He is a minister with the Scottish Episcopal church. This has been corrected.

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Why is Oscar-buzzed romance Call Me by Your Name so coy about gay sex?

The much-lauded 80 s-set drama is a triumph on many levels but its conservative attitude towards indicating humen having sex remains problematic

There was a time , not all that long ago, when Luca Guadagnino’s new film Call Me By Your Name would have been something of a fringe item. A florid gay love story, set in the rarefied playground of wealthy white academics who use “summer” as a verb, awash in Euro-art flourishes inspired by the likes of Bertolucci and Antonioni, and based on an Andre Aciman novel treasured chiefly within the LGBT community, it’s the kind of film towards which enraptured critics usually struggle to steer substantial audiences.

Yet since its summery Italian vibes warmed up a snowbound Sundance back in January, Guadagnino’s film has become a somewhat unlikely crossover phenomenon, attracting the interest and approval of such rarely convergent groups as highbrow auteurist critics, middle-aged date-night cinemagoers, Oscar-voting Hollywood insiders, hipster Sufjan Stevens cultists and Reddit-lurking adolescents. The rave reviews were easily assured coming; the obsessive Twitter meme-ification of star Armie Hammer’s white-boy dance moves , not so much.

As things currently stand, it seems to be one of a scant handful of 2017 movies with enough cross-quadrant appeal to make a serious run for the best image Oscar. Earlier this week, the film’s field-topping carry of Independent Spirit nominations had pundits seriously considering the possibility that, a year after Moonlight’s history-making win, the Academy might hand its top prize to a faggot drama for the second year in a row. In a banner year for LGBT cinema, with such festival hittings as Beach Rats, BPM( Beats Per Minute ), God’s Own Country and A Fantastic Woman all finding receptive audiences, Call Me By Your Name appears to have been designated 2017′ s rainbow flag-bearer.

Does such mainstream acceptance come with a degree of compromise, however? Amid all the unreserved hosannas, a few critical voices- even largely admiring ones- have questioned whether Guadagnino, in successfully courting a wider audience for the cinema, has somewhat diluted its queerness. Call Me By Your Name may tell the story of an intensive, physically combustible attraction between a 17 -year-old boy and a 24 -year-old man- but it’s more sensually evocative than it is sexually explicit: for starters, Hammer and the breakout superstar Timothee Chalamet both had no-full-frontal-nudity clauses written into their contracts. The film’s key conversation-piece scene illustrates the younger partner masturbating into a ripe peach. Once the two lovers begin having sex for the first time, however, the camera coyly drifts over to an open window, their early coital moans gentle in the background- the kind of tasteful dodging that practically nods to Code-era Hollywood.

Opinion is divided over how much the film’s distinctly hidden sausage-hiding truly matters. For some, it’s a sellout: an evasion that betrays a kind of internalised homophobia, playing to moderate straight audiences who accept homosexuality in principle as long as they don’t have to see anything icky. Fuelling such complaints is the fact that the movie depicts an instance of heterosexual intercourse, between Chalamet’s bicurious character and a casual girlfriend played by Esther Garrel, in more graphic detail. To add insult to injury, the film’s UK distributor, Sony Pictures, promoted the cinema with a blatantly misleading tweet featuring an image of Chalamet and Garrel, under a critical quote describing the cinema as” a romance overwhelming in its intensity “.

Leaving aside such crass marketing gaffe, others find the film’s tempered gay sexuality as a mainstream concession that sets the film on equal terms with comparable straight-themed prestige drama. With sex at the multiplex a less common phenomenon than it was in the 1990 s heyday of erotic blockbusters like Basic Instinct- even the much-ballyhooed Fifty Shades movies have played things pretty vanilla to date- some have argued that toning down the sexual content of Aciman’s book, as the cinema does , normalises rather than stigmatises the romance in question. As to whether that’s a good thing, well, the debate slivers further- and even that’s before you get to the issue of the age discrepancies between the two men, a simmering, contentious point of potential dispute that is, admittedly, maybe defused by the film’s sexual mildness.

One of the film’s own screenwriters, the lauded 89 -year-old film-maker James Ivory, hinted at his own letdown with the film’s tamer approach in an interview with Variety:” Surely in my screenplay there was all sorts of nudity … and there isn’t, which I think is kind of a pity ,” he said.” It’s just this American attitude. Nobody seems to care that much, or be shocked, about a totally naked woman. It’s “the mens”. This is something that must be so deeply cultural that one should ask:’ Why ?'”

Guadagnino, however, has defended the film’s inexplicitness as an artistic option , not merely a commercial consideration.” It’s as if you said there are not enough shots of Shanghai. I don’t understand why there has to be Shanghai in this movie ,” he ventilated to Vulture . One might counter that a man’s penis has a more obvious place in homosexual Italian summer romance than shoots of the Shanghai skyline, but the director stands firm:” I pride myself on a more dignified and sophisticated sense of voyeurism than a need to stare at other people’s sexualities .”

Timothe
Timothee Chalamet, left, and Armie Hammer in a scene from Call Me By Your Name. Photo: AP

That is wholly his choice to stimulate, though the words” dignified and sophisticated” are somewhat loaded ones: it is feasible, surely, to immediately illustrate two exceedingly beautiful men attaining passionate love at no cost to the film’s cultivated elegance. For this critic, Call Me By Your Name’s skittishness in this department is a false beat in an otherwise pretty immaculate run , not because it betrays a larger cause- I look forward to the day when LGBT cinema is a sufficiently broad and accepted genre to serve different audiences with cosy comfort fare and gutsy provocations alike- but because it jars with the generous spirit of the film itself. Call Me By Your Name, like much of Guadagnino’s work, is principally a ripe, lovely celebration of sensory pleasure, be it in the form of food, flesh or music: given this context, that discreet pan away from the mattress and to the window is like having a glass of champagne rent from your hand mid-sip.

Moonlight, the film whose Oscar crown Guadagnino’s film is looking to inherit, went similarly soft on its gay sexual content. Its pivotal scene of erotic contact, a handjob between two teenage boys on a beach, was shoot and cut with reserved tact, focused on facial reaction above all else. I have no doubt that this restraint helped the cinema break through to straight audiences and awards voters- perhaps it would still have won best picture if it had culminated in a graphic scene of intercourse between Andre Holland and Trevante Rhodes, but I doubt it.

But there was a logic for such shyness in the film’s own storytelling, centred as it was on a human who had repressed his sex identity to a crippling phase, that I don’t quite are presented in Guadagnino’s very different, more blazingly romantic wallow. Earlier this year, weeks before Moonlight’s surprise Oscar coup, I asked if homosexual cinema” has to be sexless to succeeded “~ ATAGEND- an oversimplified question, admittedly, and one that should allow for flexibility and swift change at this exciting watershed point for LGBT representation on screen. The very welcome success of Call Me By Your Name, however, isn’t changing the conversation just yet.

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Sasha Velour: Drag is darkness turned into power

The winner of this years RuPauls Drag Race on LGBT activism, being gay in Russia, and how her mothers cancer inspired her to be a bald queen

Sasha Velour is the drag persona of Alexander Hedges Steinberg. Born in Berkeley, California, Steinberg analyse modern literature at Vassar College, was a Fulbright scholar in Moscow, and in 2013 received an MFA in cartooning. This summertime Velour was crowned winner of season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race . Presented by drag queen, musician and entrepreneur RuPaul Charles, the Emmy award-winning reality TV show is a competition to find” America’s next drag hotshot” in which drag queens compete in various challenges, including fashion design, acting, slapstick, and lip sync performances. Available on Netflix in the UK, the show is broadcast on American cable television network VH1; the season nine premiere, with a guest appearance by Lady Gaga, attracted close to a million viewers. Sasha Velour was praised for her avant garde runway looks, highbrow witticism, and in-depth knowledge of LGBT history.

Before you won, your style was described as too intellectual for drag . Is that a misunderstanding of you, of drag, or of intellectualism ?
A little bit of all those things. Drag has always has been very intellectual: it observes the world and comments on it in actually sharp styles, culturally, politically and philosophically. I was raised by intellectuals so I have that quality a little bit, but I’m a big disciple in entertainment first- I want to do great drag that’s creative and clever and observational. I think sometimes, particularly in America, education and learning have a bit of a bad reputation. People are put off by it, which is a problem, because information is the ultimate weapon that queer people need to arm ourselves with.

What has drag meant to you over the years ?
As a little kid I felt most represented by femme characters in pop culture, so I would dress up as Cinderella or Lady Macbeth or little orphan Annie- I wanted to explore those identities and my own femininity. But as an adult I’ve turned to drag more to deal with real sadness at times, with real suffering, and then translate it through all the glamour and glisten into something that is empowering for me. There were hours when coming up with drag performances was the only thing that “ve given me” optimism. After my mum passed away, for example, I threw myself into drag because it “ve given me” hope and elation. That’s why people connect with drag on such a personal level: it’s all that darkness was transformed into power.

How is Sasha different from Alexander ?
Sasha represents some of the most vulnerable sectors parts of myself- there’s the femininity I hid for many years, the really sensitive and emotional side of myself that I’ve protected a lot- but it also represents this constant strength of being fabulous, which is something I guess queer and lesbian people often turn to when they need strength. And that’s maybe not something I know how to access as Alexander all the time, but Sasha always represents that.

What were you like at school ?
Lost in books and in my head. I was a loner, and spent most of my hour drawing in notebooks. But at the same period I took school very seriously. Doing well in school was a route that I protected myself in the social hierarchy of school. Because I wasn’t just very gay, I was also very very small, so being book-smart was my protection a lot of the time.

What was it like when your mom was diagnosed with cancer ?
It was right after I’d finished university and had returned from studying in Russia. I was in New York, she was in Illinois, where I grew up, and I spent a lot of that year visiting her. It was such a transitionary moment- we both were in these strange moments in between things , not knowing what the future would hold- that it triggered a lot of conversations between us and our relations deepened in many important ways. We became much closer than I ever thought we would be. Which is most important because I wanted to share what I was learning about drag and about myself with her. She was really open-minded to it in a lot of ways that were really wonderful. And I learned about her experience with cancer in ways that have informed me ever since, in the way I think about beauty and health. It was a very difficult and also very impactful time. She went in and out of health for about five years before she passed away.

And she is the reason you’re a bald queen …
We had so many conversations about hair and baldness. At first we believed,” Oh, it’ll be so much fun, we’ll go pick out wigs together .” But later on in her therapy she decided to shave all her hair off, and not be afraid of what it looked like, even though that had been her first instinct. That genuinely inspired me, and I insured the beauty and glamour of being bald. I think that was very important for her confidence and for her health, to be able to see that side of it. I wanted to honour that with my representations of beauty through drag.

You have a very supportive father, known as Papa Velour, then there’s Boyfriend Velour and your greyhound Vanya Velour. How important is it to have that network ?
It’s so important. My dad has recently become part of the family of Velour- in the drag community people talk about” choose family”- which was part of my second childhood growing up as a drag queen. My dad was so supportive that he joined my chosen family as well as being part of my biological household. That is really beautiful, because not everyone has mothers who want to be involved in their fag adult lives.

Alexander
Alexander Hedges Steinberg:’ We require actual change, such as more legal and structural protection for queer people .’ Photograph: Nicole Disser/ bedfordandbowery.com

What do you think the impact of Drag Race has been since it started in 2009 ?
I watched it on TV for the very first season and was blown away by how entertaining it was. If I’d seen it on television as a little child, as a teen, it would have changed my life: find fag people succeed, win things, and nail challenges. Or struggle and then come through it in the end. Touring the country I meet young queer people with their parents, which is a new phenomenon: they watch the demonstrate together and it changes what they see as possible for their own lives.

It’s also a great platform for talking about issues, for example eating disorder in the LGBT community …
They don’t shy away from serious topics. People speak to me about being lesbian in Russia, or dealing with eating disorders, or personal loss, or cancer. These are real things that we have to deal with in our lives. Not simply queer people but all people. But then the show is also so full of life and happiness, so it’s a really safe space to have those conversations.

Your lip sync performance to Whitney Houston’s So Emotional in the final- fans will know it as the ” rose petal moment “ – was incredible. How did you come up with the idea ?
When I perform I like to tell a story on a lot of different levels, with dancing, acting, with the costume, and I love it when there are almost drag magic tricks- surprises, uncovers, twists and turns. It helps the lyrics of the sung take on their meaning. So I thought of rose petals, because roses are such an important signifier of emotion. I had only been able to practise it one time in the hotel room the night before, and then I had to re-harvest all the rose petals off the carpet because I merely had a limited supply. It was really an experiment. I’ll never forget the experience of walking off the stage afterwards, in disbelief. It was a whirlwind of an evening.

What are the biggest challenges facing drag today ?
It’s still difficult to make it as a drag queen if you have not been on the reveal- and the future of drag needs to be a lot more than only RuPaul’s Drag Race . I hope local drag starts get appreciated more, so that drag performers can support themselves. And I’m still shocked to discover there are people who think of it as a mental illness. There’s still a lot of ignorance and dislike out there.

How can drag assistance bring about political change ?
I think about that all the time. We require actual change, such as more legal and structural protection for fag people- especially people of colour and trans people. The first step in achieving anything is organisation, and drag does bring people together in a really powerful style: it’s a way to get the queer community passionate, get us talking, get us listening. And drag pushings against conservative notions, over and over again: about gender, success, family. It directly challenges a lot of notions about what normal American life should look like.

You lived in Russia for two and a half years. What was that like ?
It’s difficult to be gay in Russia, especially in a major city: to feel it’s scary or dangerous to be yourself is a strange feeling. But it’s something a lot of people have to deal with around the world. I guess I took for awarded how many liberties and how much openness we have here. And it’s important we don’t move backwards- having lived in Russia I can see what that would look like. At the same time I was so inspired by how queer people in Russia do find ways to live “peoples lives”, how they get dressed in drag and have parties and giggle and have their inside culture. That’s inspiring, that even under horrible conditions they still find a way to live vibrant lives. That gave me hope in a small way.

Your research there was about LGBT activism- how did you conceal that ?
I didn’t disclose that at all. I did talk in my proposal about wanting to see the route art has an effect on politics; what I didn’t tell them was that what I was interested in was LGBT activism. It was interesting, because Russians love political art- they love the idea that art is rebellion and resistance. Even today the art world in Russia is full of critiques of Putin and war, but there’s not much dialogue about sexuality.

Now that you have a higher profile would you be able to go back safely ?
That’s something I’ve supposed a lot about. I still have my visa, so I surely can try. I’m curious whether Drag Race has induced it to Russia yet. I know it has to a small extent because I interact with people on Twitter. But I think I would still probably bide quite under the radar in Moscow.

You are also a comic artist, and have done comics about Stonewall and about your mom … what do you like about them as a medium ?
Comics are kind of like drag in the sense that you can start with there is nothing and create a whole world. They’re almost like a movie you can create just with ink and paper, and you consider the entirety of an artist’s vision on the page: tale and world and characters. Drag does that too: we also construct worlds to stage our feelings and the fictions we want to share with people.

How do you feel about Trump as chairman ?
It’s horrible and embarrassing and dangerous for our country. We’re already insuring the style it’s inspired people with hate and violence in their hearts to act in his spirit and do real, real damage. I love that drag musicians have spoken out against him quite specifically. We have to keep doing that.

What do you induce of his transgender military forbid ( blaming” tremendous medical expenses “)?
It’s horrible: it places fund above human life. It’s very disturbing, because there are thousands of trans people who have served this country and deserve to be protected.

How long do you think the present administration will last ?
It’s hard to know, regrettably. A plenty of us have given up predicting, because we were confident we knew what the limits of dislike were in this country, and were disappointed to discover that we were not right. The challenge is to keep observing, stay informed, and help other people be informed.

Earlier this year John Oliver said RuPaul should run for chairman with the slogan” Make America fierce again “. Would you ever contemplate a future in politics ?
I’d love it if RuPaul went into politics. But I don’t know if I know any drag queens, myself included, who could deal with the bureaucracy. One of the things that defines drag queens is we don’t put up with bullshit- we’d start complaining as soon as it stopped making sense.

Sasha Velour produces the drag reveal Nightgowns in Brooklyn, New York, and Velour: The Drag Magazine

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First same-sex couple to marry in Germany celebrate after long wait

Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende, the first to take advantage of the countrys new statute, strolled down the aisle in Berlin

As they entered the golden room of Schoneberg town hall to the stress of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, Bodo Mende and Karl Kreile were only doing what tens of thousands of other couples had did before- tying the knot in front of friends and family in the southern Berlin district.

But they were also making history as the first same-sex couple able to marry in Germany, after a new statute came into force which eventually puts gay and lesbian couples on an equal legal footing with heterosexuals.

” After 38 years together, this is a day we’ve waited a long time for ,” 59 -year-old Kreile told the Guardian ahead of Sunday’s ceremony.” We’ve actively campaigned for decades for the nation to recognise us as equals. and finally we are able to celebrate a day we once guessed may never come in our lifetimes .”

Mende, 60, said it was a” huge accolade” for the couple to be the first in Germany to marry.” I recollect the dishonor we felt when we were turned away from a registry office 25 years ago when we confronted the registrar as part of an organised protest. They constructed us feel like second-class citizens .”

Instead of feeling like pariahs, Kreile and Mende were on Sunday elevated to the status of heroes. Many of those who had campaigned with the couple over the years clapped and cheered alongside them as they kissed after saying their vows and signed their matrimony documents.

Germany has now become the 14 th European country to legalise lesbian matrimony, and the 23 rd worldwide following an historical Bundestag vote in June.

Gordon Holland, the registrar overseeing the ceremony, said Schoneberg was proud to be” firing a symbolic starter handgun “. Since the 1920 s, the district has been a centre for gay and lesbian life, its free-spirited culture immortalised in the fictions of Britain’s Christopher Isherwood, who lived in different districts. It has also been the centre stage, over the decades, of strident battles for homosexual rights, a reputation it first earned when it held the world’s first gay demo in 1922.

” Schoneberg has been shaped by the way it has stood up for gay rights for the best part of a century ,” said Mende, who has lived there for years.” The world’s first homosexual and trans bars started here, and it has survived two world wars and many attempts to eliminate it ,” he added, remembering the thousands of homosexuals from the district who were murdered by the Nazis.” So it’s fitting we’re here again today to mark this historic moment ,.”

Since 2001, same-sex couples in Germany have been allowed to register civil partnerships. At the time they were introduced, Germany was praised by campaigners for its trailblazer role. But it went on to lag behind other countries that subsequently introduced gay wedding. When Ireland induced it legal in 2015, German campaigners called it highly embarrassing that Germany had been beaten even by a country with strong Catholic roots.

In June, apparently caught off-guard by a question on gay marriage fired at her at an event hosted by a women’s publication, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believed same-sex partnerships were” just as valuable” as heterosexual ones. The U-turn following years in which she had defied devoting the questions her supporting was confiscated on by the Social Democrat( SPD ), junior partners in her government, who called a snap vote on it ahead of the summer recess. The motion considered 393 voting in favour of its adoption, to 226 against. Merkel, who invited MPs to vote according to their conscience, voted against the move.

Mende said he still did not know whether he should feel grateful towards Merkel.” Was it political calculus, to take the wind out of the SPD’s sails, or was it one of those things that just happened by accident, like the opening of the Berlin Wall ?” he said, referring to the gaffe made by East German functionary Gunter Schabowski that unwittingly led to the opening of the wall.

But, he added, amid the political upheaval caused by Germany’s election last Sunday, in which the far right Alternative fur Deutschland won 94 seats in the Bundestag, lesbian rights campaigners were under no illusion that such a vote would be as easy to push through under the future government.

Karl
Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende cutting their cake. The slogan reads” matrimony for all “. Photograph: Odd Andersen/ AFP/ Getty Images

Jorg Steinert, head of the Berlin branch of Germany’s lesbian and lesbian association LSVD said now couples would be able to adopt, to enjoy equal tax and inheritance rights and the right to determine end-of-life care for a partner. Some issues still remain unresolved however, including women not having motherhood of a lesbian partner’s child automatically recognised.

Following their rite, Mende and Kreile cut into a huge wedding cake decorated with a rainbow and the phrase” Ehe fur alle”,( wedding for all ). The reception was to be followed by a short break for the two bureaucrats in Vienna.

” We partied big when we celebrated our civil partnership in 2002, so we don’t feel the need to do so in quite the same style this time ,” said Kreile.” Since then we’ve referred to each other as’ husband ‘, but the state has not insured it that way. We’re relieved they came here round eventually .”

But one obstacle still remains for the couple. Their union cannot yet be entered in the wedding register because the software has yet to be updated to allow for two entries with the same sex.

” Having built such a leap in other ways, it’s a bit embarrassing for the German state that they couldn’t rise to such a straightforward digital challenge ,” said Steinert.

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Taiwan’s same-sex marriage ruling could cement its place as Asia’s liberal beacon

Landmark court case this week is likely to determine the success or failure of draft laws currently before parliament

Chi Chia-wei will find out on Wednesday if his decades long fight to construct Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage has been a success.

Chi, 59, a pioneering Taiwanese gay rights activist, is the celebrated face behind one of the most controversial legal cases the island democracy has seen in recent years, where 14 magistrates must rule if the civil code, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

The constitutional courts landmark ruling will not only decide the success or failure of draft new parliamentary laws to introduce marriage equality, but could cement Taiwans reputation as a beacon of liberalism in a region where the LGBT community faces increasing persecution.

Chi, an equal rights campaigner since he first came out as a gay teenager in 1975, remains pragmatic about inducing civil right history. If it doesnt work out this time, Ill keep on fighting for the people, and for human rights, he said in an interview with The Guardian.

But he is determined that one day, the fight will be won.

Somebody has to do it. I dont want to see any more people commit suicide because they dont have marriage equality, he said.

Last October the suspected suicide of French professor, Jacques Picoux , who was unable to marry his Taiwanese partner of 35 years, Tseng Ching-chao, became a rallying call for Chi and other LGBT activists.

His struggle is also personal. Chis lawsuit, launched two years ago and supported by the municipal government in the capital, Taipei, is the latest of several attempts to get legal recognition for his 30 year relationship with his partner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

In 1986, when the nation was still under martial law, Chi was imprisoned for five months after submitting his first petition asking for gay marriage to be recognised.

As a flag bearer for equality, he hopes to inspire other LGBT activists opposing a crackdown across Asia.

On the eve of Taiwans court ruling, two gay men face a public caning in Indonesia. In South Korea, the military has been accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against gay recruits. In Bangladesh, 27 men were arrested last week on suspicion of being gay, a criminal offence.

Back in Taiwan, the political stakes of Wednesdays decision are also high.

When President Tsai Ing-wens ruling Democratic Progressive Party( DPP) passed the first draft of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in December, it prompted a fierce conservative backlash.

The issue has divided Taiwanese society and vocal protests from a alliance of religious and right-wing family groups have caused many legislators to have second thoughts.

The fate of the legislation, soon to face a second reading , now lies in the hands of the court, believes Yu Mei-nu, the DPP parliamentarian who drafted it.

If the court ruled clearly in support of same-sex marriage and President Tsai offered her unequivocal subsistence, it would embolden vacillating legislators to vote in favour of the new laws, she argued.

If the grand justices make a decision that is not very clear, and it depends on a legislative yuan[ parliament] vote, then it will be difficult. I suppose most legislators will abstain, she said.

We want her( Tsai) to be braver. If she can come out and say yes I support it then it will be passed.

Ahead of her election last year, Tsai voiced her is supportive of marriage equality in a Facebook video. In the face of love, everyone is equal, she said.

But as she marked the first anniversary of her inauguration this weekend with low public acceptance ratings, Tsai faced criticism from all sides over her handled in gay marriage.

Its a little bit depressing for us. Before the election, she was really pro-gay rights. But now she has kind of vanished, said student Vic Chiang, 23, at a Taipei rally last week on the International Day Against Homophobia.

Meanwhile, Robin Chen, a spokesman for the Coalition For Happiness of Our Next Generation, which connects is supportive of lesbian marriage with increased HIV infections, criticised the governmental forces for rushing the laws through.

The majority of the population does not know whats happening, he said. We need to discuss things on different levels because family is the foundation of society.

His fears were shared by Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference, who believes the court will likely back lesbian marriage. There is no debate, he said. Its a one-sided game.

Nerves are frayed ahead of the ruling, with both sides intending to demonstrate outside the court.

But for

Chi, the choice is simple.

To legalise marriage would mean that Taiwans civil code and constitution will say that gay people are people, he said. If the law can be changed, Taiwans gay community will have human rights.

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