Tag Archives: prime minister

Iron Lady is auction gold: Thatcher items fetch high prices

The Iron Lady is auction gold.

Speeches, books and outfits belonging to late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — including her wedding dress — have soared above their estimated prices at a London auction.

Thatcher’s red prime ministerial dispatch box sparked a bidding war and sold for $365,000.

A signed copy of the speech Thatcher made on becoming Britain’s first female prime minister in May 1979 — declaring “Where there is discord may we bring harmony” — sold for $56,460.

The blue velvet dress she wore to her 1951 wedding sold for $38,000 and her copy of the collected works of Winston Churchill fetched $49,000, 10 times its pre-sale estimate.

Branded the “Iron Lady” for her steely determination, Thatcher governed Britain between 1979 and 1990, transforming the country with her free-market policies.

She died in April 2013, aged 87, and the collection is being sold by her family — though some commentators felt the collection of power suits and iconic handbags should go to a museum.

Cambodia’s prime minister speaks out against anti-gay bias

Cambodia’s prime minister urged the Southeast Asian nation’s people on Dec. 11 not to discriminate against their gay countrymen.

Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke at a ceremony to hand land titles to villagers in southern Cambodia.

Gay rights is not a major issue in Cambodia, and Hun Sen seemed to have been inspired by discussions of the subject on International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, including on local television. Cambodian society, as in neighboring Thailand, is generally tolerant of homosexuality.

He said he had heard requests from gay Cambodians that they be able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as others.

“There are gays and lesbians in every country, so there should be no discrimination against them just because of their destiny,” he said.

In 2007, Hun Sen announced that he was disinheriting his adopted daughter because he was disappointed that she had taken a lesbian partner. However, he appealed to society to show respect for gay people, saying, “Most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles.”

Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, who died in October, caused a stir in 2004 when he wrote on his website that he supported the right of gay couples to marry.

Sihanouk said he was inspired to state his views after watching news reports about gay marriage in the United States.

The late king said that as a “liberal democracy,” Cambodia should allow “marriage between man and man … or between woman and woman.”

“It’s not their fault if God makes them born like that. … Gays and lesbians would not exist if God did not create them,” wrote Sihanouk, who abdicated in favor of his son later that year.

Same-sex civil unions are not legally recognized, but many marriages in Cambodia are common law rather than officially registered.

Australian lawmakers expected to keep gay marriage ban

The chairman of an Australian parliamentary committee that examined gay law reform said he believes lawmakers will maintain a ban on same-sex marriage when the contentious issue is voted on later this year.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs received an unprecedented number of responses on the question – more than 276,000 – and 64 percent of them were in favor of allowing gay marriage. But the committee’s eight members were divided and made no recommendation in their report published this week.

Committee chairman Graham Perrett, who has two gay brothers and supports gay marriage, said he does not believe a majority of lawmakers share his views.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an opponent of gay marriage, will allow members of her center-left Labor Party to make personal choices on how they vote on the legislation. But opposition leader Tony Abbott, a staunch Roman Catholic, will insist that members of his conservative Liberal Party reject gay marriage.

Perrett, a Labor lawmaker, said he believes lawmakers would reject gay marriage even if Abbott allowed members of his party a free vote.

“My reading of it is that would not be the case” that gay marriage would be allowed, Perrett told reporters.

Perrett noted that the captain of Australia’s rugby team, David Pocock, supported gay marriage.

“You know when a rugby player is more progressive than many of the parliamentarians, even within the Labor Party, you know that Australia has changed significantly,” Perrett said.

Greens lawmaker Adam Brandt, who has introduced one of the two gay marriage bills, said Monday that he will not allow his bill to be voted on unless Abbott allows his party to vote according to their consciences.

Brandt said he was more optimistic than Perrett that the legislation would pass.

Labor lawmaker Stephen Jones said he expected his own gay marriage bill will be voted on this year.

“We’re short of a majority at this point and a lot of that is contingent on whether the Liberals are given a free vote,” Jones said. “I can’t see that happening in the near term, but these things can change.”

Australian law was amended in 2004 with the unanimous support of Labor and the conservatives to make clear that only a union between a man and a woman can be legally recognized as a marriage.

But Labor changed it policy at its annual national conference in December last year.

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Canadian prime minister: No revisiting marriage

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his administration will not reopen or revisit the issue of marriage equality in Canada.

Harper made his statement on Jan. 12, as news circulated that a divorce case involving two women raises questions about the legality of marriages performed in Canada and involving foreign couples.

Harper, on Jan. 12, said, “We have no intention of further opening or reopening this issue.”

He was responding to a report by The Globe and Mail that the Conservative government was contending in a Toronto court case that non-Canadian gays and lesbians wed since 2004 are only considered married under Canadian law if the same-sex marriage is recognized in their home country or state.

Harper said he was not aware of the details of the case in which a lesbian couple is seeking a divorce. The two women married in Toronto in 2005.

A Canada Department of Justice lawyer, according to the G&M, argued that marriage was not legal in Canada because same-sex marriage is not legal in Florida or England, where the women live.

More than 15,000 same-sex marriages have taken place since 2004, and more than 5,000 involve couples from outside Canada.

Icelandic leader in milestone gay marriage

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Iceland’s prime minister made history last week when she wed her longtime girlfriend, becoming the world’s first head of government to enter a gay marriage.

But fellow Nordic nations hardly noticed when 67-year-old Johanna Sigurdardottir tied the knot with her longtime partner — a milestone that would still, despite advances in gay rights, be all but inconceivable elsewhere.

Scandinavia has had a long tradition of tolerance — and cross-dressing lawmakers and gay bishops have become part of the landscape.

“There is some kind of passion for social justice here,” respected cross-dressing Swedish lawmaker Fredrick Federley said. “That everybody should be treated the same.”

Gay rights activists said Europe in general has a better record on accepting gays at the highest levels of government than the United States.

“In the current climate of U.S. public opinion it is impossible to imagine a U.S. president who is openly gay and who marries their longtime partner,” said Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the London-based gay human rights group Outrage.

“In Europe the reaction is completely different — people just don’t care.”

Although no openly gay American has made a potentially winning run for president, gay men and lesbians have made significant advances in recent years in winning other elected offices in the United States, often while being open about their same-sex partners.

In Europe, the situation varies.

Several top-level politicians are openly gay, including Sweden’s Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, considered a possible contender for the 2012 presidential elections.

But a gay head of government would be impossible in strong Catholic nations.

“We will never see a gay prime minister in Italy. The power of the Catholic Church is too strong,” said Giuseppina Massallo, 60, from Sicily who lives in Rome. “We have institutions that make us believe that … being homosexual is simply not the right thing to do.”

The 32-year-old Federley occasionally swaps his parliamentary suit and tie for heavy makeup and revealing dresses as drag queen Ursula. Federley has been openly gay for nine years and his sexual identity has never been an issue in politics.

His cross-dressing only hit the headlines when critics in February questioned which Federley accepted an alleged media junket to the Canary Islands: Fredrik the lawmaker or Ursula the drag queen?

Gays in politics would be inconceivable in Africa, where 37 countries have anti-gay laws and where Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe has described same-sex partners as “lower than dogs and pigs.”

Ugandans were shocked to hear of Sigurdardottir’s marriage to her partner with whom she had been in a registered relationship since 2002. The partnership was converted into a marriage on Sunday, when a new law legalizing same-sex marriage went into force.

“Their society is finished, they have no morals,” said Uganda’s ruling-party spokeswoman, Mary Karooro Okurutu, described the marriage as “disgusting.”

The East African nation frowns on homosexuality and is considering proposed legislation that would impose the death penalty for some gays. The bill has sparked protests in London, New York and Washington.

The Nordic countries have been at the forefront of gay freedoms.

In 1989, Denmark became the first country in the world to allow registered gay partnerships and Sweden’s Lutheran church last year ordained its first openly gay bishop.

All five Nordic nations reached top-ten rankings in a 2010 study of the legal situation for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Europe.

Even Finland, the remotest country in the region, which has been slower than its neighbors in adapting to Scandinavian lifestyle trends scored six out of 10 points.

Russia and Ukraine both received bottom-rankings in the 2010 Rainbow Europe index by ILGA-Europe, a non-governmental umbrella organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

Even in the neighboring Baltic countries that have a long history of dealings with the Nordics, gay tolerance is generally low.

Same-sex marriages are not legal and are generally frowned upon in Estonia, Latvia and particularly in predominantly Catholic Lithuania.

Gay pride marches in Latvia and Lithuania typically attract crowds of angry counter-demonstrators far larger than the marches themselves.

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip concedes he is “somewhat conservative” on the question of gay marriages.

“I consider marriage a holy matrimony between a man and a woman,” Ansip said Wednesday. “But I do fully accept that same-sex partners possess the same kind of legal guarantees as registered marriages currently do.”