The World's Aaron Schachter tells us about a small gay rights movement that's picking up steam in Lebanon.
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LISA MULLINS: This has been a good month for supporters of gay marriage. Several same-sex couples in Iowa have tied the knot since gay marriage became legal there yesterday. And tomorrow, the New Hampshire state senate will take up the issue once again. There's been no such movement, thought, in the Arab world. And yet, there are signs of activism, even there. From Beirut, The World's Aaron Schachter tells us about a small gay rights movement that's picking up steam in Lebanon.
AARON SCHACHTER: Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code states unnatural sexual acts contradict the laws of nature and could land you a year in jail. The law doesn't mention homosexuality but it's been used to arrest and harass gays. Still, things are opening up in Lebanon.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: ...It's nobody's business but ours.
HEATH LEDGER: You know I ain't queer.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Me neither.
SCHACHTER: In 2006, Lebanon was the only Middle Eastern Country other than Israel to show "Brokeback Mountain," a movie about a love affair between two cowboys. And there are now gay support groups here. This year those groups held what may have been the Arab world's first gay rights street protest. And today, some of them held a seminar at American University of Beirut.
MAN: Tonight's event is called "homosexuality, dispelling the myths and presenting the facts..."
SCHACHTER: The auditorium wasn't packed but there was a good turnout. One of the organizers, Rita Haddad, was pleasantly surprised. She says Lebanese lawmakers should mind their own business when it comes to personal behavior.
RITA HADDAD: Who are they to decide what's against nature? If they want to ban homosexual sex then they should ban pre-marital sex and arrest every single person who has pre-marital sex, they should arrest every person who kisses in public. It's not an issue of whether you agree with it or not; you don't have to agree with it, we're not trying to get everyone to agree with it, but you have to tolerate and accept it. Just like we tolerate religious people, we tolerate atheists; we tolerate tall people, short people, gay people, straight people; it's not an issue.
SCHACHTER: But gay rights are a tough sell even here at arguably Beirut's most cosmopolitan campus.
RAJA SABRA: Personally-speaking, I think that homosexuals are very disgusting and very repugnant, and I truly hate them.
SCHACHTER: Student Raja Sabra was at the conference hall but passed up on the seminar.
SABRA: It's a very bad thing to be a homosexual, or to say that, or to practice it. So culturally speaking it should be illegal, in our culture. We have family values and principles that we won't deviate from.
SCHACHTER: As we spoke, Sabra's friends stopped to say hi. Each one kissed him on his cheeks, the typical Lebanese greeting. I pointed out that even in some cities in the US, that might be seen as, well, kind of gay. Sabra replied that affection between men or between women is normal, but it shouldn't go beyond that. That would be a very slippery slope, says Sabra's friend, student Riwa Sawaya.
RIWA SAWAYA: It's a step by step thing: when you would legalize it you would legalize marriage and then you would legalize adoption. It's a continuous spectrum; you can't just say, "Okay I'm just going to legalize the act" and get rid of everything else.