Tokyo ward Shibuya becomes first in Japan to recognize gay partnerships

TOKYO, Japan -- The Shibuya ward in Tokyo has become the first place in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships.

It passed an ordinance allowing officials to issue certificates to same-sex couples this summer.

The documents are not legally binding but the ward is calling on businesses to recognize the certificates and accord equal treatment.

Japan remains a conservative country but is seeing social shifts on issues such as gay rights. Though the country remains tolerant of homosexuality, same-sex couples do not get legal protection.

Gay killers tie the knot behind bars in Britain's first known same-sex prison wedding

An infamous killer who strangled a gay man has married a fellow murderer in the first known same-sex marriage inside a British prison.

Mikhail Gallatinov was locked up in 1997 for the murder of Salford man Adrian Kaminsky who he had met through a gay chat line before luring him to his home in Moston.

The case made headlines at the time as Gallatinov – a convicted child sex offender – was being monitored by police as part of an undercover operation and officers were sat outside his house on Ebsworth Street, Moston, at the time of the killing.

BREAKING! Did Australia's Senate debate gay marriage?

CANBERRA, Australia -- A much anticipated debate on gay marriage in Australia's Senate was postponed indefinitely on Thursday, March 26.

The private bill proposed by Senator David Leyonhjelm of the minority Liberal Democrat Party was put off because the majority Liberal Party refused to allow a conscience vote. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who leads the Liberals, has stubbornly refused to allow a conscience vote and ignored the polls that show overwhelming support for marriage equality.

The Labor Party, also in the minority in the Senate, is largely in favor of marriage equality.

BREAKING! UN committee approves benefits for spouses of gay staffers

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. budget committee has approved Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan to give benefits to all spouses of gay U.N. staffers who are legally wed in a defeat for Russia and opponents of same-sex marriage.

In Tuesday's vote, 43 countries supported a Russian-sponsored resolution that called for the U.N. chief's plan to be dropped while 80 countries opposed it and 37 abstained.

Australia: Gay marriage not mentioned in Liberal party room

CANBERRA, Australia -- Despite hopes that Tony Abbott would broker the subject of a free vote on marriage equality at today’s Liberal party room meeting, advocates are advising the issue remained untouched by the PM.

It was hoped that the PM would open discussions on a conscience vote on the issue ahead of debate of Senator Leyonhjelm’s "Freedom to Marry" bill this Thursday.

Advocates are now calling on the Government to set a timetable for allowing a free vote on marriage equality.

2nd witness IDs Marine as checking into hotel with slain transgender Filipina

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines — A second witness testified Tuesday that U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton checked into an Olongapo City hotel with a transgender Filipina whose body was found soon afterward.

Pemberton is accused of killing Jennifer Laude, 26, last Oct. 11. Laude’s body was discovered later that evening in a bathroom at the Celzone Lodge – a cheap hotel near the gates of the former U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay.

Some Uganda lawmakers balk at paying former Bush official to clean up nation's anti-gay image

KAMPALA, Uganda -- Some lawmakers in parliament are balking at a request to pay a U.S. public relations firm to clean up Uganda's anti-gay image with members of Congress.

The ministry of foreign affairs submitted a request for Shs 614m (about $210,000 U.S.) to pay Scribe Strategies and Advisors, a U.S. public relations firm run by Joseph J. Szlavik Jr., a former policy analyst during the first Bush Administration.

The Observer reports:

U.S. Marine goes on trial, accusing of killing transgender Filipina

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines — U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton went on trial today in connection with the attack, strangulation and drowning of a transgender Filipina last year.

Australia: Numbers inside Liberal Party swing in favor of marriage equality as email campaign heats up

CANBERRA, Australia -- A major shift towards same-sex marriage is under way within the Liberal Party, with marriage equality advocates saying 11 Liberal MPs have privately switched to supporting a change since January.

Liberal MPs could discuss whether they should be granted a free vote on the issue as early as Tuesday, with Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm due to begin the parliamentary debate on his "freedom to marry" bill on Thursday.

Historic case challenges anti-gay laws in Belize and Trinidad & Tabago

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Prominent gay-rights activist Maurice Tomlinson is in court on Tuesday and Wednesday, challenging anti-gay laws that prevent LGBT people and other "undesirable people" from entering the countries of Belize and Trinidad & Tabago.

Tomlinson, who lives in Toronto, Canada, is from Jamaica. His homeland is considered one of the most homophobic places on Earth, and recently reports surfaced that a gay man was stoned to death there.