Royal Wedding: Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy wedding dress down the aisle

Royal Wedding: Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy wedding dress down the aisle

(BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) Meghan Markle has worn a dress from designer Givenchy for her wedding to Prince Harry.

There had been a great deal of speculation about the Royal Wedding, including a lot about the dress of the bride to be, which had been kept secret until Saturday.

As she arrived at Windsor Castle, it was revealed that the upcoming Duchess of Sussex wore a gown by Clare Waight Keller, the Artistic Director at the Givenchy fashion house. (ANDREW MATTHEWS/AFP/Getty Images) The traditional dress, an off the shoulder and high necked floor length dress, featured a long train and tiara at the ceremony for St George’s Chapel.

Waight Keller became the first female Artistic Director to head the iconic French brand. (OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images) Multiple other designers including Erdem, Ralph and Russo and Stella McCartney were all suspected of secretly designing the elegant dress.

Roland Mouret, a famed gay French designer was also pipped to design the dress, as well as getting an invite to the ceremony. Markle arrived shortly after Princes William and Harry, who both wore frockcoat uniforms tailored by Dege & Skinner on Saville Row.

Even former Spice Girl turned fashion icon Victoria Beckham was suspected by many of having designed the dress for Markle, with bookmakers putting odds at 4/1 for a Beckham designed gown. (Andrew Matthews – WPA Pool/Getty Images) The most recent Royal Wedding was that of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 and featured a lot of the same speculation around the famed dress.

Middleton, who became the Duchess of Cambridge with her marriage, wore a dress designed by the fashion house of Alexander McQueen, who died in 2010.

Sarah Burton, the creative designer of Alexander McQueen, designed the iconic floral dress for the Duchess of Cambridge. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images) A new film about the iconic gay designer is expected to be released later this year, including exclusively-revealed home video footage.

On May 2, the trailer for the upcoming biopic McQueen hit our screens , which tell the story of a child who had no links to the rag trade, but opted to start working aged 16 for Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard.

The one-man force of nature behind the pop culture tidal wave that was Cool Britannia will be placed under the microscope, as interviews with family, friends and collaborators are revealed to the world. More:

Royal Wedding: Pro-LGBT bishop quotes Martin Luther King and tells royals ‘love is the way’

Royal Wedding: Pro-LGBT bishop quotes Martin Luther King and tells royals ‘love is the way’

(Owen Humphreys – WPA Pool/Getty Images) An unexpected star of the show has emerged during the Royal Wedding – the head of the US Episcopal Church Bishop Michael Curry.

Bishop Michael Curry gave a lively address at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday, as one of three clergy members involved in the ceremony.

During his uplifting address to the congregation, the Bishop told the royals and guests at the St George’s Chapel that love in all its forms had the power to change the world, drawing from civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King . Bishop Michael Curry (Steve Parsons – Pool / Getty Images) “There is power in love – don’t underestimate it, don’t even over-sentimentalise it,” the bishop stated.

“Love has the power to heal the world.

“When love is the way, the whole human family will come together.”

Many have said that the choice of the bishop for the address was heavily influenced by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interest in civil and LGBT rights.

Curry stated that the power of love had to be “harnessed like fire” in order to make social change, but could be a powerful force.

He said: “Imagine a world where love is the way.

“No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that. Poverty would become history in such a world as that.” (Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images) Curry quoted civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King as the address drew to a close, stating: “Dr King was right, we must discover love, the redemptive power of love. When we do that we will make of this old world a new world.”

Curry drew some parallels to drag queen RuPaul as he told the couple, “whilst you at it, love yourself,” prompting a wave of GIFs and drag-themed reactions on social media. ( @ / Twitter) The bishop was also praised for his lighthearted approach to the ceremony, including one moment where he told the royal couple: “we’re going to sit down, we gotta get y’all married.”

Curry has a clear record in favour of LGBT rights.

Speaking previously about the role of LGBT people in the church, Curry told the New York Times : “God didn’t make anyone to be a second-class citizen… He says, ‘Come unto me all of you.’ He didn’t limit love. The dude, he got it.”

In 2016, the head of the Episcopal Church faced a backlash from the international Anglican Church for being inclusive of LGBT people .

US Episcopal Church has welcomed gay members for years, even appointing openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 – but provoked the wrath of hardline African churches within the Communion by voting last year to embrace equal marriage. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Michael Curry (Steve Parsons – Pool / Getty Images) However, the church’s head Bishop Michael Curry vowed not to back down on equality – even as his church was blocked from Anglican decision-making bodies and suspended from the Communion.

During the wedding, many people praised the Bishop on social media for livening up what could have been a dull ceremony. Huw Edwards of the BBC summarised the Bishop’s speech as: “an address the likes of which hasn’t been heard in a royal wedding in many years – if ever.”

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was one of those to take to Twitter in response to Bishop Curry’s address. (@EdMiliband / Twitter) Miliband wrote: “Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer.”

Others said that the Bishop had definitely made the most of his time in the spotlight. (@cmclymer / Twitter) One viewer wrote: “Goodness gracious, Bishop Michael Curry sure did seize the opportunity there. Wow. Great speech.” (@GloriaFallon123 / Twitter) “Bishop Curry is the liveliest priest to ever hit St George’s Chapel and the Brits are legit looking frightened,” added another fan of the Bishop.

Another viewer wrote: “A Black American bishop officiating the British royal wedding of a Black ‘princess,’ referencing slavery and quoting the words of MLK, who transformed the world with radical speech of love despite the hate that was (still is) ever so present…just wow!”

Even fashion icon and model Naomi Campbell posted a tweet in support of Curry. (@NaomiCampbell / Twitter) “Bishop Michael Curry giving me life,” she wrote. More:

Royal Wedding: the LGBT guests and allies who watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry

Royal Wedding: the LGBT guests and allies who watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry

(Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – the new Duke and Dutchess of Sussex – have married with a host of LGBT+ guests and allies in attendance.

The wedding, which took place at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, was a more intimate affair than Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials in 2011.

About 600 people attended the ceremony at St George’s, while an additional 2,640 members of the public were invited to the grounds of Windsor Castle to cheer on the couple. (Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images) The new Duke and Dutchess of Sussex were married in front of a star-studded audience of royals, family and several celebrity guests, including several who are known for their pro-LGBT stance.

Prior to the ceremony, there had been some rumours that Sir Elton John would be performing for the newly wedded Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however these were proved to be false. (DANNY LAWSON/AFP/Getty Images) John was seen at the ceremony wearing his trademark pink glasses with his husband David Furnish. Earlier reports had stated that the singer cancelled two concerts to make sure he’s free for the big day.

The performer was a close friend of the late Princess Diana, William and Harry’s mother, and was a guest at William and Kate’s wedding back in 2011.

Prominent human rights lawyer and actor Amal and George Clooney were one of the first couples to arrive. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images) Both of the celebrities are outspoken civil rights advocates.

In the wake of the 2017 Charlottesville riots, Amal and George Clooney made a huge $1 million donation to the Southern Poverty Law Centre in order to “stand up to hate.”

Related: Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy wedding dress down the aisle and it looked stunning

Victoria and David Beckham were also in attendance at the internationally-broadcast ceremony. (GARETH FULLER/AFP/Getty Images) Victoria Beckham was one of a number of designers pipped to design Meghan Markle’s wedding dress, with bookmakers placing 4/1 odds on her being the designer of the moment.

The dress was instead designed by Clare Waight Keller, the Artistic Director at Givenchy.

Early reports had claimed that all five members of the Spice Girls had been invited to the Royal Wedding, with Mel B announcing in February that they had all received invitations and sparking rumours of a potential performance. (Getty) However, it was later rumoured that only Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner had been invited to attend the ceremony.

Beckham was the only member of the iconic group to attend Saturday’s ceremony, prompting thoughts that only one invite was given in the former group.

Late night host James Corden attended the wedding with his wife Julia Carey, who have both been publicly outspoken about their support for LGBT rights. (TOBY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images) Last year, after President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he wanted to ban transgender people from the military, Corden sang on his show to rebuke the policy.

The British TV host, who has three children, said the subject of same-sex couples had not come up with any of them .

Corden said in March: “They haven’t brought it up, but we have lots of gay friends – like our friends Chris and Mark – who have come over a lot and stayed with us.

“I think my son has never questioned it as it’s always been there,” he added.

“And if he did, I would know what those answers were, which is that these are simply two men that really love each other in the same way I love mummy and grandma loves grandad and that’s it.”

Television host Oprah Winfrey was another prominent attendee at the Royal Wedding. (IAN WEST/AFP/Getty Images) The star was one of Hollywood’s earliest and most prominent LGBT allies, giving a platform on her show as far back as 1991 , when she held a pioneering discussion about same-sex marriage. In 1997, Oprah interviewed Ellen DeGeneres as she came out as a lesbian – a watershed moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement considered by many to be the key turning point for gay equality.

A prominent Christian, Oprah has also been clear in condemning the use of religion to spread homophobia.

Model and actress Cara Delevingne was rumoured to attend the ceremony but later revealed that she was excited to watch from afar with her friends and was happy for the Prince. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty) Delevingne told People on Friday: “I’m really happy that he found love. You know when love just changes someone completely? He’s really come so far.

“I’m really happy for Harry.”

The wedding sermon was conducted by Michael Curry, the head of the Anglican church in the US. (Owen Humphreys – WPA Pool/Getty Images) The bishop became the surprise star of the wedding with his lively address, prompting former Labour leader Ed Miliband to tweet: “Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer.”

Curry is the first African-American to preside over the Episcopal Church. His father, the late Rev. Kenneth Curry, was a civil rights activist.

The bishop has long fought for LGBT rights and was one of the first bishops to allow same-sex marriages to take place in churches in North Carolina. More:

Royal Wedding: A gay couple have also tied the knot today in a ‘fantastic’ ceremony

Royal Wedding: A gay couple have also tied the knot today in a ‘fantastic’ ceremony

(Jon Mansfield and James Aldridge) A gay couple has married on the same day as Prince Harry and the new Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle after twenty years of waiting.

Jon Mansfield and James Aldridge, both artists in their forties, knew after just two months of meeting in 1998 that they wanted to get married, but equal marriage was not yet legal in the UK.

On Saturday, they finally tied the knot after two decades of waiting, though they hadn’t originally planned to clash the date with the royal couple.

Marrying near their home in Wiltshire, John told PinkNews: “It was fantastic. It went really quickly!!” (Jon Mansfield and James Aldridge) The pair decided not to change their surnames and Jon and James married in an intimate ceremony in a beautiful Georgian town hall.

They walked down a small aisle together and left the hall as married men to the duet George Michael and Mary J Blige duet ‘As.’

The two 45-year-olds had started to plan their long-awaited wedding four years ago, but after the Royal engagement was announced, the thoughts of clashing were clear. (Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images) “Jon bet we’d end up getting married on the same day as the royals!” James told PinkNews before the ceremony.

“It’s quite bizarre it’s turned out that way, to be honest.”

When the UK law changed in 2014, and their son began asking “When are you going to get married?” they decided it was time to plan the wedding.

Despite giving each other engagement rings 20 years ago, they admit they never expected the law to change.

James told PinkNews: “At first we didn’t think it would become legal.

“Obviously later civil partnerships came into law, but I felt that was gay people being fobbed off and I wanted to wait until a full marriage was possible.” Jon and James Jon added: “I was quite shocked that it came out of a Conservative government – I thought good on [former Prime Minister David] Cameron for the first time.

“The Labour government made huge changes to LGBT lives so when Cameron did something positive, it was quite a shock.”

They plan to spend their honeymoon in Greece where they’ve previously been on holiday together as a family.

The pair explained they wanted to share their story to send a message to other LGBTQ people that “you can be a happy gay person. James and Jon back in the day “We’ve been joined at the hip for 20 years almost and now there’s a small person wedged in between us,” Jon said.

James added: “We’re quite private people but when I was younger I couldn’t see anyone like me so I couldn’t see a future path for myself, so I think it’s important to share this story.

“We want to add to the visibility of happy gay people.”

Ugandan Minister of Ethics shuts down IDAHOBIT Day event

Ugandan Minister of Ethics shuts down IDAHOBIT Day event

© Corrie Wingate Uganda is one of the deadliest places in the world to be LGBTQ, however brave activists still fight for their right to a peaceful life.

On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), Sexual Minorities Uganda were holding an event as part of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance’s PITCH programme .

The PITCH programme aims to build up the capacity of local civil society organisations in order for them to advocate for equal rights and for services to gain access to HIV treatment for those affected by the disease.

However, before the event was able to start, Ugandan police closed it down, on the orders of Uganda’s Minster for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo. This is the eighth time the state has shut down or interfered with an LGBTQ-related event in the past two years.

Under the Ugandan Constitution, the rights and freedoms of all citizens should be protected. However, many Ugandan officials operate under British colonial era laws which criminalised homosexuality.

Christine Stegling, the executive director for the HIV / AIDS Alliance said: “We strongly condemn the actions of the Ugandan government, which are a blatant disregard for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

“The discrimination and stigma LGBTI people face in Uganda affect all areas of their life, including their right to access health services and is a major driver of the HIV epidemic within this community.”

Richard Lusimbo, a research and documentation officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda said: “Intimidation and threats from government officials make it so difficult for civil society to even reach out to their constituents.

“We should be independent and supplementing the work of government, but government is doing everything possible to hinder the work of civil society, which is a huge violation of our rights.

“Access to HIV services are greatly affected, both for testing and getting on treatment. People are scared they will face discrimination in clinics and be chased away. And the service providers are in a difficult situation, because they never know if their premises will be raided by the police.”

Lusimbo added: “The minister of ethics’ actions are gross. His portfolio is clear – to look into ethics and integrity – and what he is doing is the complete opposite.

“He should be focusing on ensuring people have access to quality services and information, tackling corruption, and ensuring all people’s right to associate and assemble. Instead, he is breaking the law with impunity.” Dr. Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, further added: “We will not be intimidated. As members of Uganda’s LGBTI community, it is important to remain steadfast and resilient in the demand for the respect of our human rights and dignity, especially in the face of adversity.”

Homophobia is rife in Uganda. In 2011, David Kato, who was a gay rights activist and advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda was bludgeoned to death in his home after winning a court battle against a tabloid which called for homosexuals to be killed.

And just last month, Ugandan politicians signalled their support for bringing back harsher anti-LGBTQ laws. Currently, people convicted of same-sex activity are sentenced to a life in prison, but if the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 was brought back, then the punishment would be death. MAY TIMES. Get inside the latest Gay Times to discover exclusive interviews with Antoni Porowski, Dexter Mayfield, Daniel Newman, Casey Spooner and many more!. BUY NOW .

French minister Mounir Mahjoubi comes out as gay to challenge homophobia

French minister Mounir Mahjoubi comes out as gay to challenge homophobia

Wikimedia / Indilo Mounir Mahjoubi, who serves as the Secretary of State in charge of the Digital Sector in the Economy and Finance Department, made the announcement on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia.

Writing on Twitter, Mahjoubi wrote: “Homophobia is an evil that eats away at society, invades colleges and high schools, infects lost families and friends.

“Worse, it haunts the minds of homosexuals, and sometimes forces us, often, to adapt and lie to avoid hatred, to live. #IDAHOBIT2018″

Following the post, Mahjoubi received a lot of praise from across the political spectrum, one person wrote: “Bravo for Coming out it’s brave!” and another said: “Hello mounir we are not (at all) the same political edge and our disagreements are numerous. I commend you, however, for your courage and this coming-out! Respect!”

Related: American squash player Todd Harrity comes out as gay

Speaking to Franceinfo following his coming out, Mahjoubi said: “What was important was to talk about the subject: yesterday was the day against homophobia.

“It was necessary to recall the consequences of homophobia in everyday life, especially among the youngest. And it also had consequences for me.

“We are in 2018, I live my life, even public, in a quiet way. But if, on that day, I could pass the message by reinforcing it by my personal experience, I think it had to be done.”

He later added: “I think it’s important to give visibility to homosexuals, but I also think that everyone should do this when they’re ready to do it.

“Everyone has their history, their culture, their family … We do not have to impose transparency on anyone. Everyone manages his life as he wishes.”

When asked if he anticipated the positive reaction of his coming out, Mahjoubi downplayed it, saying: “Since this morning I have been traveling officially in the Creuse, so I did not follow the reactions too much!

“I live it quite calmly, I never made it a subject, but if it helps to fight against homophobia, I do it.”

Related: British model Zander Hodgson comes out as gay in heartfelt video MAY TIMES. Get inside the latest Gay Times to discover exclusive interviews with Antoni Porowski, Dexter Mayfield, Daniel Newman, Casey Spooner and many more!. BUY NOW .

Conservative MP Bob Stewart apologises for voting against same-sex marriage

Conservative MP Bob Stewart apologises for voting against same-sex marriage

YouTube The MP for Beckenham since 2010 was one of the 136 Conservative MPs who voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Bob Stewart MP has apologised for voting against same-sex marriage during a debate that was held on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia.

Speaking in the debate, he said: “I voted against the equal marriage act, and I was wrong. I was wrong. I’ve seen the joy it’s given so many people, and I was wrong.

“I do think the established Church of the country should follow what this House has decided, and that gay people should be able to marry in Church.”

His comments attracted cheers from both sides of the House of Commons.

He later added: “One of the guards’ battalions in the Second World War was widely recognised as being full of gay men.

“That battalion was reckoned to be the bravest and most steadfast battalion of the guards.”

Stewart isn’t the first Conservative MP to have changed his views on the issue. Nicky Morgan voted against the legislation, but later said that she was “wrong” and that her “position had changed.” Caroline Dinenage and Nigel Adams have also both apologised for voting against the legislation, with Adams saying that he “deeply regret[s]” his votes.

Michael Curry: Who is US preacher at Royal Wedding?

Michael Curry: Who is US preacher at Royal Wedding?

American Bishop Michael Curry has captured the world’s attention with a long and powerful address at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Bishop Curry, from Chicago, spoke passionately about the power of love, quoting Dr Martin Luther King.

"There’s power in love, don’t underestimate it," he said.

The Most Reverend Michael Curry became the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church – like the Church of England, part of the Anglican Communion – when he was appointed in 2015.

The colourful speech, replete with historical references, had churchgoers, including David Beckham and Camilla Parker Bowles, smiling.

The bride and groom sat near the preacher and held hands as they watched him speak. Prince Harry and Meghan married at Windsor

Follow the wedding live

Bishop Curry addressed the audience as "brothers and sisters".

"When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook," he said, raising his arms.

"When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.

"When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.

"When love is the way, there’s plenty good room, plenty good room for all of god’s children.

"Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we’re actually family."

But Bishop Curry appeared to realise he may have gone on speaking for too long, saying towards the end of the speech that he had better wrap up, as "we gotta get you all married!"

Content is not available

Before the ceremony, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who is officiating the ceremony in St George’s Chapel, said he was thrilled the prince and Ms Markle had chosen Bishop Curry, describing him as a "brilliant pastor, stunning preacher". The speech – described by some as the "fire" speech for the large number of references made to fire by the preacher – lit up social media. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said the reverend could "make me a believer".

Content is not available Who is Michael Curry?

He was ordained as a priest in 1978, is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and has spoken on issues including social justice, immigration policy and marriage equality

He most recently campaigned for the creation of family day care providers, educational centres and investment in inner-city neighbourhoods in all three of his parish ministries – North Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland

In North Carolina, he helped to refocus the church’s development goals to fund malaria nets to save more than 100,000 lives

Bishop Curry defended the Episcopal Church’s move to allow same sex couples to marry in church in 2015, which caused some churches to cut ties

The US Episcopal Church is one of only two Anglican churches worldwide that allow gay marriage in church – the other being the Scottish Episcopal Church

Meet Michael Curry, the pro-gay US bishop at the Royal Wedding

Meet Michael Curry, the pro-gay US bishop at the Royal Wedding

Bishop Michael Curry. | Photo: UrbanPromise / Flickr Bishop Michael Curry just gave a powerful speech at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The 65-year-old became a deacon of the Episcopal Church in 1978. He became a priest and then the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

And now he’s the hilarious and insightful bishop giving the address at the Royal Wedding in St George’s Chapel in Windsor today (19 May). Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at World AIDS Day event. | Photo: Kensington Palace / Twitter In his moving speech during the ceremony, he said: ‘Two young people fell in love and we showed up.’

Some of his inspiring words of advice include: ‘Love God, love your neighbors and while you’re at it, love yourself.’ ‘God love you and God bless you’

The US bishop also mentioned the plight of slaves in the south of North America.

Focussing on the idea of love, he added: ‘When love is the way, we are brothers and sisters and children of God.’

He finished the powerful sermon with a direct message to Harry and Meghan: ‘My brother, my sister – God love you and God bless you.’

The Episcopal Church – based in New York – is one of just two Anglican churches which allows gay marriage in church.

Michael Curry is also outspoken on issues of social justice and immigration.

He condemned last year’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville as fascist.

Following the announcement of his reading at the ceremony, he said: ‘The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness.

‘And so we celebrate and pray for them today,’ he said.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be the most pro-LGBTI couple in English royal history.

The couple embrace LGBTI charities, particularly HIV charities – following in the footsteps of Princess Diana.

Beirut Pride’s Hadi Damien Q&A: Lebanon’s LGBT movement is ‘growing’

Beirut Pride's Hadi Damien Q&A: Lebanon's LGBT movement is 'growing'

Beirut Pride’s events have been cancelled both years it has attempted to run (Facebook) Earlier this week, Beirut Pride’s second edition was in full swing, with events such as concerts, a workshop on health and HIV, and a conference on LGBT legal rights scheduled up until Sunday.

The festival, which first ran last year and is a rarity in the Arab world, comprised activities aimed at celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities, due to be run over nine days.

But on Monday, just three days in, the event was suddenly halted.

Zoukak, a drama company that made its name through theatre therapy projects with Syrian refugees, was preparing a reading at its studio.

However, the rendition in Arabic of Ogres , a play by Eugen Jebeleanu and Yann Verburgh that evokes a succession of homophobic crimes in several countries, was ended before it even began.

Shortly before the readings started, members of the Lebanese security forces stepped in and suspended the event, and detained Beirut Pride organiser Hadi Damien overnight before questioning him.

The morning after his detention, Damien was released, but only after committing in writing to end the festival’s activities.

Rights groups have decried the crackdown.

"Official interference with Beirut Pride is an outrageous step backward in a country where the judiciary and some politicians seem to be moving forward on LGBT rights," Lama Fakih of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

"There’s no justification for shutting down cultural events and health and legal workshops in the name of morality."

Organiser Damien told MEE about his run-in with authorities, the festival’s troubled history, and the present and future of Lebanon’s increasingly prominent LGBT scene.

MEE: What happened that night at Zoukak’s studio?

Damien: On Monday evening, a reading of the play Ogres in Arabic was scheduled at Zoukak’s studio. The company asked the General Security censorship bureau if a censorship permit was required for the reading. The bureau replied that it was not necessary, since it was a simple reading, not a performance.

A few minutes before the event began, members of the censorship bureau arrived at the studio, demanding the immediate cancellation of the reading for failing to obtain the censorship permit. We tried to negotiate, but without success. At the same time, officers from the vice squad, General Security and the intelligence bureau arrived. Part of the audience left in fear of escalation or arbitrary detention.

Thirty minutes later, two men arrived and asked me to accompany them immediately to the Hobeish police station, the headquarters of the vice squad. I went there with my lawyer. I was held at the police station and spent the night in a cell with 39 other detainees. The cell was designed for five people. The next day, on Tuesday, around 11am, I was called in for questioning.

MEE: Authorities said your detention was linked to a text on Beirut Pride’s website. What elements caught the police’s attention?

Damien: The vice squad chief told me that I was arrested because of a text describing the festival’s activities published on the Beirut Pride website. I invited him to show me the text so that I could clarify. He presented me with an Arabic version of the text. For your information, the text in question was never communicated in Arabic.

At first glance, it was a falsified, edited and altered text. In fact, its author selected events in the festival and changed their content and description, adding sensationalism and words that resonate with debauchery, incitement to immorality and vice.

I invited him to visit the website to read the original text, and I have contested the text in Arabic, point by point. He asked that my statement be written; I read it and signed it. Despite this, Beirut’s attorney general decided to cancel the Beirut Pride events. As for me, two options were offered to me. The first option was to sign a pledge guaranteeing that the festival’s events scheduled to last until May 20 would not take place.

The second option was to refuse to sign this pledge. Then I would be detained and the case transferred to the prosecution for organising demonstrations that incite immorality and disrupt public morals, which is punishable by imprisonment. However, the case is not yet closed and can be reopened by order of the prosecutor.

MEE: Beirut Pride had already experienced difficulties for "security reasons" last year. Do you feel that the authorities are looking for justifications to have the event cancelled?

Damien: Last year there was some pressure from religious groups on two NGOs participating in the Beirut Pride. As a result, the venues hosting the two NGOs’ events decided to cancel their bookings.

The first NGO refused to relocate the event and cancelled it instead. The second NGO preferred that its event be held behind closed doors and broadcast it on social networks.

MEE: More generally, how do you view the evolution of the LGBT movement in Lebanon?

Damien: Lebanon’s LGBT movement is growing; 2017’s Beirut Pride presented a new model that NGOs took up again this year, such as a wide range of events across several days. The evolution is positive. But each evolution is accompanied by deadlocks.

We are trying to get past them and we are moving forward. Why are some events targeted and others not? This depends on the scope of the event, its resonance, the audience, the communication around it. The more organised you are, the more attacked you get.

MEE: Lebanese citizens voted a few weeks ago in the first parliamentary elections in nine years. Do you feel that there is an awareness of the interests of the LGBT community in the different political parties and among citizens?

Damien: Beirut Pride has been at the forefront of the electoral scene through lobbying actions. For more than three months, we met with leaders and executives of traditional political parties and new parties to discuss the situation.

At least four MPs who raised the LGBT issue were elected. Many others are sensitive to our ideas and ready to work on them. Politicians are aware of the electoral base of this population. We have opened communication channels with all political parties and religious centres in the country.

Our approach to citizens is better understood. The simple fact that Beirut Pride exists is progress in itself. It is a public initiative that says things as they are. Our annual events on politics, religion, business and families are an expression of its longevity, in addition to the Pride Days which take place around May 17.

There is a "destigmatisation" that is present and natural in society. It’s an organic evolution. Gays, for example, are increasingly visible in the professional, academic and social spheres.

MEE: For years there have been calls to amend Article 534 of the penal code, which punishes what it calls "unnatural" sexual relations. How is the LGBT community tackling this?

Damien: The legal amendment is very important. This law provides the legal framework for the prosecution to order arrests that reflect the state’s homophobia. But the road is long, and the work is transversal. It cannot stop at Article 534. There is in-depth work that needs to be done at the social level, in the media, so that our approach is understood.

This story originally appeared on Middle East Eye’s French website .