The Daily Agenda for Friday, January 11
January 11th, 2013
Events This Weekend: Arosa Gay Ski Week, Arosa Switzerland; Aspen Gay Ski Week, Aspen, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Utah Gay and Lesbian Ski Week, Park City, UT; Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, Washington, DC.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Britain Lifts Its Ban on Gay Military Personnel: 2000. Once they put their minds to it, there wasn’t much dithering. It just took them a while to put their minds to it. Unlike the U.S. (in theory, anyway), Britain had an outright ban on gays serving in the military, whether they were open about it or not. Anyone was subject to being followed or interrogated by the SIB (Special Investigations Branch) for any suspicion, or even no suspicion at all. In 1997, three gay men and a lesbian sued after they were discharged from the Royal Navy and RAF. Their case went all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in September 1999 that the Ministry of Defense’s policy violated the service members’ human rights.
The following December, the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the MoD would comply with the ruling. Members of the opposition Conservative Party were appalled. M.P. Gerald Howarth said, “This appalling decision will be greeted with dismay among ordinary soldiers in the armed forces, many of whom joined the services precisely because they wished to turn their back on some of the values of modern society.” Officers predicted sexual mayhem in the barracks or — horrors! — male couples dancing at a mess function. But one month after the announcement was made, the ban was lifted, and all of the fears came to naught. A review two years later across all the branches found widespread acceptance for lifting the ban, and gay and lesbian service members served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq alongside their American counterparts who still had to remain hidden and in the closet.
Prop 8 Trial Begins: 2010. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state of California seeking to overturn Proposition 8 began their opening remarks. Attorney Ted Olsen promised to argue the case on three fundamental points:
- Marriage is vitally important in American society.
- By denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry, Proposition 8 works a grievous harm on the plaintiffs and other gay men and lesbians throughout California, and adds yet another chapter to the long history of discrimination they have suffered.
- Proposition 8 perpetrates this irreparable, immeasurable, discriminatory harm for no good reason.
Olsen and co-counsel David Boies would ultimately prevail and U.S. Federal District Judge would rule that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the lower court’s ruling but on much narrower grounds, namely that once a right has been granted and enjoyed by a class of people, it is unconstitutional to then strip them of that right. The case, now know as Hollingsworth v. Perry, is before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral arguments for March 26 at 10:00 a.m.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?