Thailand: Moving to recognize third gender in new constitution

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The nation's constitution will include the term "third gender" for the first time, a member of a panel drafting a new charter said on Thursday, in a move to empower transgender and gay communities and ensure them fairer legal treatment.

Thailand has a large gay community, but remains largely conservative, although LGBT people play key roles in its entertainment industry.

Thai law does not recognize same-sex unions, which keeps gay couples from taking joint bank loans and medical insurance, besides barring changes to gender categories on national identity papers.

UAE: Filipina, Romanian get added jail term due to lesbian affair

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A Filipina and a Romanian detained at the Dubai Central Jail in the United Arab Emirates will get added time behind bars after authorities reportedly discovered their lesbian affair.

Fellow prisoners had complained about the behavior of the two inmates, according to a report on UAE news site Gulf News on Wednesday.

The Filipina, 36, and the Romanian, 28, were meted an additional month in jail over their consensual lesbian relationship, the report said. Homosexual relations are illegal in the UAE, which punishes it with jail terms.

UK: "I’m a lesbian spy and MI5 couldn’t be more helpful"

LONDON, England -- A lesbian MI5 officer today told how she is fighting Islamist extremism as the intelligence agency revealed that more than 70 gay men and women are among the spies it employs to protect the country from terrorism.

Anna, a psychology graduate, said she was “delighted” by the way in which she and her gay colleagues had been welcomed to the service.

She works as an intelligence officer assessing the threat posed by supporters of Islamic State and al Qaeda and said that the encouraging atmosphere helped her to better perform her role.

Philippines: LGBT groups seek audience when Pope Francis visits

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino LGBT groups are seeking an audience with Pope Francis during his apostolic and state visit from Jan. 15 to 19.

In an open letter (see below) dated Jan. 7, representatives of GANDA Filipinas, The Red Whistle Campaign, GAYON-Albay, Pinoy FTM, CURLS-Cebu, SHINE-SOCCSKSARGEN, STRAP, Akbayan LGBT Collective, Task Force Pride, GALANG Philippines, TLF Share, Babaylanes Inc., and University of the Philippines Babaylan said they wanted to have a “constructive and meaningful dialogue” with the leader of the Catholic Church.

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.