Gay marriage legalized in historic vote
BUENOS AIRES | Argentina legalized same-sex marriage Thursday, becoming the first country in Latin America to declare that gays and lesbians have all the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage brings to heterosexual couples.
After a marathon debate in Argentina's Senate, 33 lawmakers voted in favor, 27 against, and 3 abstained in a vote that ended after 4 a.m. Because the lower house already has approved it and President Cristina Fernandez is a strong supporter, it becomes law as soon as it is published in the official bulletin, which should happen within days.
The law is sure to bring a wave of marriages by gays and lesbians, who have found Buenos Aires to be a welcoming place to live. But same-sex couples from other countries shouldn't rush their Argentine wedding plans: Only citizens and residents can wed in the country, and the necessary documents can take months to obtain. While the vote makes some amendments to the civil code, many other aspects of family law will have to be changed.
The approval came despite a concerted campaign by the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical groups, which drew 60,000 people to march on Congress and urged parents in churches and schools to work against passage. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio led the campaign, saying "children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother."
At least 20 killed in bombings
TEHRAN | Twin bombings killed at least 20 people outside a mosque in southeastern Iran on Thursday - including members of the powerful Revolutionary Guard. The attacks came less than a month after Iran hanged the leader of a militant insurgent group in the region.
Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted the deputy governor of the Sistan-Baluchistan province, Jalal Sayyah, as saying the explosions tore through a crowd of Shiite worshippers near the main mosque in the provincial capital of Zahedan.
The deputy interior minister in charge of security, Ali Abdollahi, told the semiofficial Fars news agency that members of the Revolutionary Guard - the country's most powerful military force - were killed in the blasts, which appeared to be the work of suicide bombers.
The head of the province's medical emergency department, Fariborz Rashedi, told IRNA at least 20 people were killed and around 100 wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but Sistan-Baluchistan is home to the Jundallah insurgency, a Sunni group that has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed scores in recent years, including five senior Revolutionary Guard commanders last year.
Parliaments criticize Israel, Cambodia
GENEVA | Representatives of world parliaments on Thursday criticized Israel, Cambodia and 19 other countries for their treatment of lawmakers.
The chairwoman of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's human rights committee, Rosario Green, urged Israel not to deport Palestinian lawmakers Mohammed Abu Teir, Mohammed Totah and Ahmed Abu Atoun after they were released recently from prison.
The three were ordered expelled from Jerusalem for links to Hamas. But Ms. Green, a former Mexican foreign minister, said the expulsion violates the lawmakers' human rights.
Ms. Green's panel also called a Cambodian defamation case against opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua a "complete travesty of justice."
Mu Sochua faces up to six months in prison after refusing to pay a court-ordered fine for defaming Cambodia's prime minister.
Other countries scrutinized by the committee for their treatment of lawmakers included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Colombia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Iraq, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Burma, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Zimbabwe.
2 foreign aid workers expelled from Darfur
KHARTOUM | Sudan has expelled two foreign employees of the International Organization for Migration working in the country's Darfur region, the agency said Thursday.
The expulsion order comes days after the International Criminal Court charged Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir with genocide in Darfur.
Lt. Gen. Bashir reacted similarly last year when the court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur. After that charge was announced, Gen. Bashir expelled 13 foreign aid organizations - most of which were working in Darfur - compounding the humanitarian crisis in the region.
Gen. Bashir has refused to recognize the court or cooperate with it.
Dutch lawmaker forms anti-Islam group
THE HAGUE | An anti-Islam lawmaker in the Netherlands is forming an international alliance to spread his message across the West in a bid to ban immigration from Islamic countries, among other goals.
Geert Wilders told Associated Press in an interview Thursday he will launch the movement late this year, initially in five countries: the U.S., Canada, Britain, France and Germany.
"The message, 'Stop Islam, defend freedom,' is a message that's not only important for the Netherlands but for the whole free Western world," Mr. Wilders said at the Dutch parliament.
Among the group's aims will be outlawing immigration from Islamic countries to the West and a ban on Islamic Sharia law. He hopes that, starting as a grass-roots movement, it eventually will produce its own lawmakers or influence other legislators.
Ayhan Tonca, a prominent spokesman for Dutch Muslims, said he feared Mr. Wilders' message would fall on fertile ground in much of Europe, where anti-Islam sentiment has been swelling for years.
From wire dispatches and staff reports
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