[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [judgment] Thursday that gay people who live in African countries where they could be persecuted for their sexuality have grounds for asylum in the EU. The decision came after the Netherlands asked the ECJ for advice regarding three Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal citizens who were seeking asylum. Dutch authorities initially denied their applications, reasoning that gay people could "exercise restraint" to avoid prosecution. The ECJ rejected the Dutch policy and ruled that it was unreasonable to expect people to conceal their sexuality to avoid persecution. The court held that "[a] person's sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it." However, a country's ban on homosexuality in itself is not grounds for approving asylum requests, the ECJ said. National authorities must determine whether an applicant's country of origin actually practices its terms of imprisonment.
Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals still face discrimination and criminal punishment throughout the world. Last month the Singapore Supreme Court [official website] again rejected [JURIST report] a challenge [case summary, PDF] to an anti-gay law [Section 377A] criminalizing sexual conduct between men. In September the first UN ministerial meeting on the rights of LGBT individuals was held [JURIST report] during the General Assembly's high level debate. That same month US Secretary of State John Kerry announced [JURIST report] that the US will begin processing same-sex visa applications the same way opposite-sex visa applications are processed. Speaking at the US embassy in London, Kerry stated, "As long as a marriage has been performed in the jurisdiction that recognizes it, then that marriage is valid under US immigration laws." In June Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] signed into law [JURIST report] a bill banning the promotion of "homosexual propaganda" among minors.