Massachusetts is calling.

It has been legal for same-sex couples to marry in the Bay State since 2004. In July, Massachusetts repealed an arcane law that had prohibited out-of-state couples from getting married there. Unfortunately, Proposition 8, which passed November 4, states that only a marriage between a man and a woman will be recognized in California, so you shouldn’t expect any legal rights when you return home after marrying in Massachusetts or Connecticut, which legalized gay marriage in October. But the press secretary for California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Christine Gasparac, told the Bay Area Reporter that the question of whether California would have to recognize out-of-state marriages would ultimately be an issue that the courts would likely decide.

Tourism officials in Massachusetts are embracing the state’s long-standing gay-friendly political climate and you should be hearing more about that soon. The state plans a promotional campaign to attract more LGBT visitors.

As the state’s capital and largest city, Boston will take center stage next year when the city hosts the 10th International Conference on Gay and Lesbian Tourism. Tourism officials in Boston are hoping that its reputation for being one of the gay-friendliest cities in the world will translate into more tourism dollars.

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Yet another specialist operator has collapsed following the unexpected demise of XL Leisure and its subsidiary XL Airways, leaving 200 holidaymakers stranded.

Gay operator Lidana – which traded as Respect Holidays and Wildwind Holidays – was forced to declare bankruptcy over the weekend after Atol called in a bond of more then £108,000.

Its failure comes on the heels of XL’s unexpected collapse two weeks ago, which left some 80,000 travellers stuck abroad and has heightened concerns over the state of the industry.

Around 46,000 XL passengers have now been repatriated, and while the numbers abroad with Lidana are far lower, Travel Mole reports that only half had flown out on Atol-protected packages.

An additional 1,000 or so holidaymakers have now had their forward bookings cancelled, prompting Andrew Roberts of Amro Worldwide to advise all travellers to ensure they are covered.

“We would urge all travel consumers – whether lesbian, gay or mainstream – to always be sure that their travel agency is bonded with Atol before booking their travel,” he commented.

“Do not be fooled if your supplier says that they are ‘fully bonded’ – this is not enough. What consumers must be sure of is that the supplier and their websites state categorically that they are Atol-bonded.”
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American gays and lesbians represent about 10 percent of the travel industry, and surveys have shown that the community travels more, stays longer and spends more while on vacation (in general) than their heterosexual counterparts. From a tourism standpoint alone, it makes sense to highlight locations that might appeal to such a lucrative group of travelers. If you Google “gay travel”, you’ll find numerous web sites direct you to travel agencies that do just that.

Miami Beach has designated gay beaches, and I see how cities like Atlanta, with its thriving gay and lesbian community, would be considered friendly to gay travelers. But what makes a place “so gay”? Is it activities targeted to the homosexual population, the number of gays and lesbians living there, or the general attitude toward homosexuals among the population?

If you are gay or lesbian, would you seek a “so gay” locale? Does that designation mean anything or would such a label impact your travel plans?

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Iris Robinson, the Democratic Unionist MP who believes homosexuality can be cured by psychiatry, made a ‘guest’ appearance at yesterday’s annual Gay Pride parade in Belfast.

The Strangford MP appeared in the ‘guise’ of several marchers wearing Iris masks in what turned out to be Northern Ireland’s largest Pride rally for years. One float called the ‘Iris Mobile’ joined the procession through Belfast city centre with a giant papier-mâché image of Robinson on the front. The parade took place in a city labelled the most homophobic place in the UK or Ireland.

Organisers claimed the large turn-out was in response to the controversy stirred up by the DUP MP, who recently also likened gay sex to child abuse. Her remarks prompted one organisation to become the first Christian gay group to march in the Belfast parade.

Changing Attitude Ireland, a new organisation representing gay Christians throughout the island, said they had decided to join Pride in response to the MP’s remarks. ‘This is the first time our banner has been displayed at Pride in Belfast because it was important to increase our visibility and to show people that there are alternative Christian views than those espoused by Iris Robinson,’ said a retired Church of Ireland minister, the Rev Mervyn Kingston.

He said there was growing support within the Church of Ireland for equality for gay people inside the Anglican Communion.

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Hundreds of gay rights supporters have marched in the Indian capital, Delhi, for the first time.

Gays, lesbians and transgender people gathered in the central Connaught Place area in what was the country’s largest ever display of Gay Pride. Activists also marched in the cities of Calcutta, which has seen similar events in the past, and Bangalore.

The marchers were demanding an end to discrimination in a society where homosexuality is still illegal. The gay pride marches are a global event held in the last week of June every year.

They commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York which broke out after police raided a gay bar.

‘Celebrating sexuality’

Marchers in Delhi on Sunday shouted “long live queer movement” and danced merrily and waved the rainbow flag, revered by sexual minorities around the world.

“This is for the first time Delhi is organising a pride festival to celebrate sexuality and people of all sexualities,” student Mario Depeno was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.

“Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and even straight are coming together here to talk and to celebrate, it’s a party, to celebrate themselves,” he said.

The participants danced and raised slogans People in same-sex relationships are often persecuted in India. In the eastern city of Calcutta, thousands of people gathered to watch the march which has now become an annual event. “This is a space, this is a public space, this is a space for reclaiming,” Reuters quoted one participant, Anindya, as saying.

“This is a rally to reclaim our space, the right to live without violence, without coercion, the right to live freely with equality and with dignity,” he said. Homosexuality is illegal in India and various groups are lobbying the government and the courts for a change in the law, which has been in place for more than 145 years. Brought in under British rule, the legal system recognises gay and lesbian relationships “as an unnatural offence”.

In some Indian states people have taken their own lives because they have found the law unbearable.

The US-based group Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about India’s colonial-era law.

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