Saint Lucia: Caribbean island's LGBT community seeks acceptance

CASTRIES, Saint Lucia -- One of the Eastern Caribbean's first LGBT groups is seeking greater respect for sexual diversity in Saint Lucia.

The group United and Strong, representing the country’s LGBT citizens, has set an ambitious agenda for 2015, one that includes plans for greater dialogue with policy makers.

Serbia: Army accused of forcing out transgender officer

BELGRADE, Serbia -- A rights group accused Serbia's defense ministry of discrimination on Wednesday over the forced retirement of a veteran officer whose transgender identity was deemed a threat to the reputation of the army.

Aspiring to one day join the European Union, the Balkan country is under pressure to promote greater tolerance for minorities within a society that is strongly conservative.

Egal, an activist group, submitted a complaint to Serbia's Commissioner for the Protection of Equality over the retirement in October of a transgender army major identified only as Helena.

UK: Man jailed for assaulting transgender woman repeatedly with her own wig

LIVERPOOL, England -- A man who assaulted a transgender woman with her own wig on her first day out in public and stole her make-up has been sentenced to 20 months in a young offenders’ institution.

The 25-year-old victim, who can’t be identified, was returning from a support group meeting when she was followed from Liverpool Lime Street station in March 2014.

Ryan Kenny, 20, from Birkenhead, and a male friend approached the woman and shouted at her. His friend made an inappropriate comment about her gender, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Northern Ireland: Couple challenges ban on gay marriage

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- A gay couple have launched a High Court bid to have their marriage declared lawful in Northern Ireland.

The two men issued legal proceedings in a bid to secure a ruling that their relationship status should have equal recognition throughout the UK.

The couple, from Northern Ireland, were married in England after same-sex weddings became lawful there in March last year. But on their return home it was confirmed that they would still only have civil partnership status in the province.

India: Amid outrage over Goa minister's gay "cure," UN chief blasts "intolerance"

NEW DELHI, India -- United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has accused India of fomenting intolerance with its ban on gay sex amid uproar over a Goa minister's plans for centers to "make homosexuals normal."

Speaking in New Delhi, the UN chief referred to India's colonial-era law banning gay sex and said he "staunchly opposed the criminalization of homosexuality."

Philippines: "Homosexuality is not a sin," archbishop says

MANILA, Philippines — “Being a homosexual is not a sin. It is a state of a person.”

That was the response of Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, to a question whether Pope Francis condemned members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual (LGBT) community.

Villegas, speaking during the Inquirer Conversations forum hosted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, said the church had echoed time and again that Jesus Christ died for all people.

India: Goa state to set up centers to "cure" LGBT youth

PANAJI, India -- Goa's sports and youth affairs minister Ramesh Tawadkar on Monday said the government was planning to set up centers to administer treatment to the LGBT youths to make them "normal."

"We will make them (LGBT youth) normal. We will have a center for them. Like Alcoholic Anonymous centers, we will have centers. We will train them and give them medicines too," he said.

The state's new policy lists the LGBT community among the stigmatized groups that need focused attention.

Baja loco: Gay couple denied marriage due to "madness," complaint says

MEXICALI, Baja California, Mexico -- For the third time, Mexicali's civil registry is refusing to marry a gay couple whose wedding has been mandated by Mexico's Supreme Court.

Victor Manuel Aguirre and Fernando Urias have become martyrs for marriage equality in Baja California, trying since June 2013 to get hitched. But anti-gay forces and civil officials are being accused of colluding to postpone the inevitable after three tries.

Russia bans the trans from driving

Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences.

Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as "mental disorders" now barring people from driving.

The government says it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents.

"Pathological" gambling and compulsive stealing are also on the list. Russian psychiatrists and human rights lawyers have condemned the move.

The announcement follows international complaints about Russian harassment of gay-rights activists.

Vietnam abolishes gay marriage ban, taking lead in LGBT rights in Southeast Asia

HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam taking the lead in gay rights in Southeast Asia by abolishing a ban on same-sex marriage has medical doctor Thuan Nguyen planning a wedding ceremony with his boyfriend of two years.

“I am ready to have a wedding,” he said. “Many, many young people in love are optimistic about the acceptance of gay weddings.”