Ten days of Gaelife: Thu 11th to Sat 20th December
Between the jigs and the reels of holiday goings-on, we’re a tad overdue our regular news round-up, so here’s a slightly extended remix. Feel free to add any notable items that I may have omitted in the comments!
Thursday, 11th December
Thursday’s news featured reports of the campaign in the US for LGBT people to call in sick to work, on account of feeling queer (groan..). The aim, it seems, was to demonstrate the importance of LGBT members of the work-force in the face of unequal recognition of our relationships. Unfortunately, perhaps, it transpired that participation was not very widespread – could well be to do with a little worldwide recession we’re all experiencing, who can say..?
Perhaps on a more constructive note, that nation’s Human Rights Campaign called on President-elect, Barack Obama to implement numerous reforms to benefit LGBT people during his administration. Their document can be downloaded via this article.
Friday, 12th December
On Friday, The Irish Times reported that the (now former) CEO, Niall Crowley (pictured left), of the Equality Authority had resigned. Crowley cited the government’s budget cut-back – of an eviscerating 43% – as the reason for his resignation, a cut-back which renders the Authority “unviable”. According to The Irish Times, Crowley accused the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform of “victimising” the Authority for “doing well what it was established to do” and said the “only credible explanation” for the treatment of the Authority was that some of its case work, “particularly in relation to allegations of discrimination in the public sector, has been experienced as a threat by senior civil servants”.
(And for some reason, on Friday, “wacky” Kevin Myers was wittering on about turkeys with lesbian VD. Very odd, and certainly not worth linking.)
A legal challenge seeking recognition of a same-sex marriage has been laid before the Iowa Supreme Court. Several couples (one such couple, Sean and Tim McQuillan are pictured left) have taken a joint action seeking legal recognition of their commitment to one another. And while pundits are predicting that the Justices will find against the plaintiffs, the fact that Iowa does not offer domestic partnership or civil unions (which were available to same-sex couples at the time of the recent challenges for recognition of same-sex marriages in California and Connecticut) as an alternative to marriage may yet sway the judges to a more reasonable outcome.
Saturday, 13th December
In very important news, Martina Navratilova came third in the I’m A Celebrity… thingy; fabulous homosexualist man, George Takei, was voted second; and some chirpy straight guy was first. But most importantly, second and third places went to the gays. (We don’t talk about Brian Paddick.) Go team!
Poor wee Lindsay Lohan was photographed somewhere (again) on Saturday. Okay, this was a bit of a slow gay news day. Although, interestingly, the author notes that Linds’s misses is in a bit of a pickle with some litigious type, and suggests that if matters come to court, the details of their relationship might be aired to all and sundry. Eek.
Sunday, 14th December
On Sunday, the London Times ran an article on a recent report, published in the International Journal of Palliative Nursing and commissioned by the Irish Hospice Foundation, concerning the experiences of Irish LGBT people and grief. The importance of such a report cannot be over-stated. The authors – Michelle Glackin of St Angela’s College, Sligo, and Agnes Higgins of Trinity College, Dublin – describe how partners are either excluded as being next-of-kin altogether, or are “euphemistically referred to as a ‘friend’ or ‘special friend’ in religious ceremonies” – an experience which sounds all too familiar, and hurtful. One man interviewed for the report told how, “during a meeting for newly bereaved people at a hospice, a man whose wife had died said: ‘You’ve only lost a friend. I’ve lost my wife.’ Legislators – and government – should take note.
Meanwhile, and compounding problems which could be faced by those who are grieving, the Sunday Tribune carried an article which detailed the ways in which cohabiting couples – including, necessarily, same-sex couples since we are not permitted to marry – will continue to be discriminated against. In a U-turn move, the government has halted plans to allow public servants to pass on their public service pensions to their partners. Clearly, same-sex relationships are just not cost-effective in the current economic climate. We should take note.
In international news, police in Brazil now believe that a serial killer may be responsible for the violent killings of, to date, 13 gay men. The authorities in the country’s largest and most liberal city, São Paolo, are investigating the deaths, since July of last year, of the men, most of whom were found killed in the same park and in almost exactly the same circumstances.
In more optimistic news, organisers of the first ever gay Pride march in Hong Kong, estimated that the turnout there was 1,000 people. The parade included participants from the rest of China and Taiwan, where they celebrated along a two-mile stretch, despite having been refused permission to hire a double-decker bus for the event.
Monday, 15th December
News reports on Monday revealed the death of Australian lesbian poet, Dorothy Porter (pictured left), due to deterioration in her health in her struggle against cancer. She was noted for her 1994, award-winning work of fiction about a lesbian detective, written entirely in verse.
In circular-reasoning-of-the-month-news, a policeman in Britain who was eventually dismissed after circulating emails to his colleagues implying that homosexuality was sinful, and who posted a link to Christian groups claiming to “cure” homosexuality, has now taken a case against Norfolk Police to an employment tribunal. He is supported in taking the case by the Christian Legal Centre and by the Police Federation, the organisation representing rank and file police officers. He should keep an eye on this lady‘s chances..
And he’s right, too – just look at this for unnatural sexual behaviour: dirtee, dirtee lesbian necrophilia! The culprit is the bdelloid rotifer, and frequents seedy locations such as moss and small pools of water. Just like The George, then. This sinful micro-organism will be well on its way to the bowels of hell by the end of its life-cycle.
Tuesday, 16th December
In news of recognition for same-sex relationships, Tuesday brought us mixed results. In Europe, Hungary’s highest court ruled that a new law on registered partnerships was unconstitutional. All is not lost, according to activists, as the ruling states that the law is flawed since, for heterosexuals, it duplicates marriage which is already provided for in the constitution; in respect of same-sex couples, the court had no difficulty with the law. Things were a little worse for a Swedish couple who married in Canada. This couple have battled all the way through the Swedish courts system in a bid to have their Canadian marriage recognised as such, and not as a “civil partnership” as the tax authorities have done. Sounds rather familiar.
In equal parts bizarre and equal parts infuriating news, Sweden again provides. This time, it’s about the sponsorship of sex-education materials by two companies, Libresse (aka Bodyform in the UK and Ireland) and O.B. An LGBT youth group, RFSL Ungdom, has expressed its anger at aspects of sex-ed material, which according to The Local describes in the following terms:
One of the books indicates that, for young people, the idea of being homosexual “is enough to send a shiver down their spine.” There is also a passage that states: “If you are a Muslim, you may not be allowed to have a girlfriend or boyfriend”.
In another section, Muslim girls concerned that they might not bleed on their wedding night are advised to contact a gynecologist who can sew stitches in their vaginal opening.
Although, on the other side of the Atlantic – and with the same common law system as Ireland and the UK – things are looking far more optimistic. There, a New Jersey commission has issued its final report on the pros and cons of civil unions and marriage equality – and they have concluded that equality is the only game in town. Their report is strongly-worded and all too human. It is well worth reading.
Hey, there’s a lesbian in the White House! Get in… (Ahem.) Also in the United States, President-elect Barack Obama has announced that his nomination for Chair of his Council on Environmental Quality in the White House is Nancy Sutley (pictured left), a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and a past, future and current lesbian. Not only that, but his nomination for Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, approved a high school for LGBT pupils. The new administration is looking very interesting..
Wednesday, 17th December
“Gandalf does not put up with bullies!” In the exotic climes of Wigan, Lancashire, the exquisite Ian McKellen came to visit Golborne High School to provide his fabulous support for the anti-homophobic bullying campaign there. The Wigan native and member of Stonewall took a tour of the school, and spoke to pupils where he issued his warning. Sir Ian had earlier made another declaration, this time of a political nature. According to him, he believes that Britain has had “one or two” gay Prime Ministers. Tell us more, Ian!
In Europe, MEPs have quizzed EU Commission chief, Jose Manuel Barrosso, over anti-gay violence in Russia and Belarus. Three parliamentarians from the Liberal Democrat political grouping have pointed out the lack of human rights in those countries, and want to know what the EU will do about it. The world has seen recently, particularly in coverage of violence at Moscow Pride and the persistent banning of these peaceful gatherings, the dangers of homophobia in Europe’s neighbouring states.
The site of one of the earliest televised lesbo-snogs on British television has been sold. Yup, it’s Brookie: Brookside Close, where we watched Anna Friel wear the face off yer wan, has gone at auction for a mere £735,000. That’s the entire cul de sac, sold to the highest bidder. Oh dear…
Thursday, 18th December
European activists seeking equality in marriage were left weighing the pros and cons of the new EU anti-discrimination directive which includes protections for gays and lesbians but does nothing to advance parity in the recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. German currents affairs mag, Der Spiegel, highlighted some of the problems (including potential loss of citizenship!) facing some gays and lesbians on the continent and how these issues will not be remedied by the proposed directive. This is particularly disappointing as the directive provides protection in the emploment sphere only and specifically opts out of proffering protection in ”national laws on marital or family status and reproductive rights.”
The national Senate of Uruguay took a brave and bold step in embracing the State’s transgendered community by passing a piece of legislation which will allow people aged 12 and older to legally change their name and gender on their identity papers. The measure not only seeks to relieve the hostility experienced by the nation’s transgendered and transvetite citizens, but has also been hailed as opening the door towards the recognition of gay marriage because the new measure stipulates that whoever changes their name and gender can “exercise all of the rights inherent to the new condition.” Of course, the usual social right-wingers and opposition mouthpieces have denounced the measure as “deviant” and an “outrage”. Yawn. The measure will be debated and voted upon by the Chamber of Deputies in 2009.
Friday, 19th December
The constructive disbanding of the Equality Authority and the contraversial appointment of the secretary general of the Department of Justice (who allegedly had breached employment equality legislation while holding a prior post in the prison service) caused sparks to flitter around Leinster House. Specifically the catty exchanges between Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, and Labour Spokesman, Pat Rabbitte, got so heated that the Dáil session had to be suspended for ten minutes to allow for the two deputies to cool off. Incidentally, if you’re interested in seeing just how far our Minister for Justice is willing to take his filibustering on the recent resource-disabling of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission, check out Maman Poulet’s chronicling of the exchange over here. Also, see David Norris’s blog entry lambasting the circumstances which led to Niall Crowley’s resignation here.
Meanwhile over in the chambers of the United Nations, member nations have divided over a draft declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality. The Holy See (Oh yes indeed, the Catholic Church has a voice in the United Nations as a non-member State permanent observer) was eager to congratulate those involved in the measure for their contribution while simultaneously calling for the measure to be quashed as it “challenges existing human rights norms.” Oh, Benedict, vos iuguolo nos per pietas. Sponsors of the draft text which originated in France and the Netherlands, noted that the UN had never debated gay, lesbian or gender identity equality issues throughout the duration of organisation’s existance and although the UN Declaration on Human Rights saw its 60th anniversary on December 10th, homosexuality remained a crime in 77 nations (although Peter Tatchell over at The Guardian, citing ILGA, puts this figure as high as 86) and punishable by death in seven. Incidentally, Tatchell’s article privides a really worthwhile summary of how the motion came to be and of why it would prove a vital and symbolic human rights instrument, even though it willl not be legally binding on member states. The motion will be debated and put to vote within the next two weeks.
Saturday, 20th December
A Cypriot MEP has his boxer-briefs firmly in a twist over the pending installation of a photo exhibition entitled “Different families, same love” in European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg. Marios Matsakis MEP grew furious with repeated invitations to the launch of the exhibition which features such racy images as a lesbian couple sitting with their two children, or a mixed race male couple sitting arm-in-arm on a greassy verge. Triple-X stuff indeed. The collection of 12 photographs will be shown in all 27 member states throughout 2009. The exhibition launch also marks the launch of a report of the same name, which examines the legal framework in place in 47 European nations for the recognition of the rights of children of LGBT parents. At present, an astonishing 43 of 47 nations do not allow for same-sex parents to gain legal recognition for their families through marriage. The report was produced by ILGA, in conjunction with the European Parliament’s LGBT Rights Intergroup and Hélèn Goudin MEP.
The San Francisco Gate carried a report of a tragic story, in which a woman was kidnapped and gang raped by four men for an hour. Police are seeking the assistance of the public in apprehending the men who carried out this vile and torturous act. The assault is also being treated as a hate crime as the men made several comments about the woman’s, who is a lesbian, sexual orientation.
Meanwhile over in the UK, a Catholic bishop has threatened to disown one of the Church’s 11 adoption agencies, Catholic Caring Services, because the agency has indicated its intention to comply with the Sexual Orientation Regulations which take effect from January 1st, 2009. The new regulations will prohibit fostering and adoption agencies from discriminating against gay and lesbian couples on the basis of their sexual orientation. Of the 11 adoption agencies under the auspices of the Catholic Church, five have declared their intention to comply with the regulations, five remain undecided and one has announced that it will be shutting-up-shop.
US-based house of fashion, Urban Outfitters, was in hot water this week with gay and lesbian campaigners and customers. It all began with the removal of one of its t-shirts from the shelves of its stores. The t-shirt in question bears the slogan “I support gay marriage”. And while Urban Outfitters has claimed that the t-shirt just wasn’t selling, the real reason for the shirt’s sudden disappearing act appears to be a whole lot more political. Urban Outfitters’s founder and current chairman, Richard Hayne, has previously supported right-wing Republicans who dominate a staunchly anti-gay platform. One of these lovelies is infamous Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum (err, sorry, here’s Rick Santorum). In response, British gay and lesbian advocacy groups were calling for a boycott of the clothiers and a targeted letter and email campaign voicing their discontent with the removal of the t-shirt.
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