LONDON – One of the few liberal victories in a conservative age in the United States has been the formal acceptance of homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is now recognized by the federal government and is legal in 35 out of 50 states.
The US is not alone. Nineteen other countries (or regions of countries) – mostly in Europe and North and South America – now allow gay couples to marry legally. South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriage is permitted, and it is not legal anywhere in Asia or the Middle East, where to be openly gay can still be extremely dangerous. Last year, Uganda enacted a law – attributed partly to the influence of well-funded evangelical missionaries from the US – mandating a life sentence for people caught in homosexual acts. In Iran, sodomy can lead to a death sentence, as is true in Saudi Arabia, Hamas-controlled Gaza, and, of course, under the lash of militant groups like the Islamic State.
So there is nothing untrue about the headline of a paid advertisement that ran in the New York Times on December 23. Placed beneath a picture of a vulnerable-looking young American male, it read: “Hamas, ISIS and Iran kill gays like me.” And the last line of the advertisement is at least fairly true: “In Israel, I am free.” That he is – but not to get married, owing to the opposition of Israel’s powerful Orthodox community.
There is something not quite right about this ad. It was paid for by the Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel “Shmuley” Boteach, a popular media performer also known as “America’s Rabbi,” who presides over an advocacy group called This World, which promotes Israel and “Jewish values.” Another major figure in the group is Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate who donates millions of dollars to Republican politicians who most actively support Israel. Favored speakers at This World galas include the right-wing Republican former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who once compared homosexuality to alcoholism.