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Posts for December, 2012

Jan 29: France votes

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2012

The French legislature is scheduled to vote on the marriage bill on January 29th. Of course they’ve had previous schedules so we’ll see how that goes. But, in any case, let’s keep this date as a possible day of interest.

The French symbol of anti-equality

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2012

The National Organization for Marriage is joyously reporting that France’s faithful Catholics are in opposition to marriage. And accompanying that article is this rather perplexing photograph:

I have no idea what this guy is doing, but it does raise an interesting question: Why wear neck-to-knee underwear under your skin tight body suit if your junk is going to show anyway?

Meanwhile, in France…

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2012

New York Times

The French cabinet approved a draft bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Wednesday after weeks of loud opposition, especially from religious figures and the political right.

The draft law redefines marriage to stipulate that it is “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex,” and the words “father” and “mother” in existing legislation are replaced by “parents.” The bill would also allow married gay couples to adopt children.

France Sets A Date

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2012

In an interview with AFP, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that a draft law allowing same-sex marriage will be approved by government ministers on October 31. The bill, which will be presented to  President Francois Hollande’s cabinet, has drawn fierce opposition from the country’s religious leaders and more than 1,200 French mayors or deputy mayors:

Xavier Lemoine, a mayor who has said he will not allow gay weddings to take place in his town hall in the Paris suburb of Montfermeil, said the proposed legislation would be a disaster for society.

“I can refuse to apply the law if the law is tyrannical,” he said. “Above all else, I have to respect my conscience.”

The mayors’ petition against gay marriage is being orchestrated by Jacques Bompard, mayor of the southern French town of Orange and a member of the far-right National Front. The 1,200 signatures represent less than one percent of the total number of mayors and deputy mayors in France.

Hollande predicts that the bill will become law in mid-2013, and claims to have enough cross-party support to get the measure passed. Eight European countries, including six in the EU, provide full marraige equality for same-sex couples.

More callous than Marie Antoinette

Timothy Kincaid

April 16th, 2012

Marie Antoinette got a bad rap.

As the lore goes, she was told about the plight of the French people who were suffering during a famine. And upon learning that there was a shortage of bread, a staple of the diet, she said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”. And since that day, the term “let them eat cake” has been a symbol of the callousness or obliviousness of the wealthy elite.

Actually, she probably never said it. A story written when she was a child (living in Austria) was combined with anti-royalist sentiments and, as is often the case in politics, actual truth was far less interesting than a story too good not to repeat. The real Marie was less villainous than the cartoon characterization and was reportedly concerned about the plight of the people and generous with charity. Had she also not been even more generous with herself while France was in financial disarray (or had royalists quelled the revolution) history would be kinder.

But whichever noblewoman (real or fictional) uttered the phrase, they don’t deserve to be the symbol of callousness.

The response reflects on a character so self-absorbed that it isn’t aware of the plight of others and so oblivious of the lives outside their experience that they make absurd assumptions. But at least she offered a solution. An ignorant foolish solution perhaps, but one that hints that she cared at least some little bit about their plight.

Which is more than I can say about some today in the anti-gay movement.

I don’t think we need to reiterate here that there is an epidemic of bullying in schools across the nation. At this point, it is not speculative or alleged or partisan. On this, voices as diverse as Lady Gaga and Mike Huckabee can agree.

And it is simply irrefutable that gay students are more likely to be a target than are most students. And after several kids who identified as gay (or were assumed to be) took their own lives, our community coalesced around a serious effort to reduce the terrorism that gay kids experience. One of the efforts implemented is to encourage schools to establish anti-bullying programs that specifically address anti-gay bullying. And related to that is an annual Day of Silence to bring attention to the problem and the encourage students and staff to take this problem seriously.

But solutions are not easy or obvious. Even schools that have implemented anti-bullying programs still experience levels of bullying that would have been considered unacceptable a decade ago. And people of good intention may differ on the response.

Some religious conservatives also have been worried that in their advocacy for gay kids, schools might not fully consider the consequences of some messages. Many people of faith have restrictions on sexual behavior as part of their moral code and teach their children certain rules about sex outside of marriage. Sometimes those outside the faith do not understand the nuance of such teachings. And should a public school misrepresented such teachings or declared them “harmful” and those who followed such rules as “bigots”, it could make targets out of religious kids.

Replacing gay kids as a target for scorn and humiliation with Christian kids doesn’t solve the problem, and it is valid to raise that point. And, indeed, some school districts listened to those views and were able to bring in gay people and pastors and people of diverse communities to make sure that the programs addressed everyone’s concerns and were supported by the full community. This is an area about which there should be no disagreement and, when all parties want to work together consensus is possible.

Alternately, some chose to respond directly by participating in a Golden Rule Pledge. Rather than discuss the possible implications, they sought to offset any possible negative views of Christian kids by visibly breaking the association with bigotry. By having religious kids say, “Yes, we agree, no one should be bullied and we promise to stand with you and protect you”, Christian kids could oppose the harm without having to defend their own values.

But there were those among conservative Christianity who had a less generous response. For example, Dr. Michael Brown writes today about the Day of Silence in a way that makes it clear that kids bullied to death are the least of his concerns.

Brown sets the tone by starting with dishonesty:

On April 20th, in thousands of schools across America, your hard-earned tax dollars will help underwrite the homosexual indoctrination of your kids.

Setting aside the absurd notion that protecting children from bullying is the same as “homosexual indoctrination of your kids”, the Day of Silence is not funded by tax dollars. It doesn’t really cost much of anything for students to be silent for the day and the direct costs of posters and other publicity are not paid by the schools. I suppose that one could argue that anything that occurs on a school grounds is “underwritten” by “your hard-earned tax dollars”, but by that logic it would be much more truthful to say, “your hard-earned tax dollars help underwrite the abuse of gay kids today”.

Dr. Brown is a careful writer. He usually avoids sentences or short passages that can be extracted from his writing to illustrate his animosity. He doesn’t use words like “pervert” or “abomination”. He works with innuendo and insinuation and plays on the existing biases of his target audience. Consider:

But don’t some schools already have generic, anti-bullying programs in place along with special, daylong events to highlight the destructive effects of bullying, a subject that should concern all of us? Of course they do, but that’s not enough. GLSEN insists that a special focus must be put on LGBT kids, as if bullying a gay kid was worse than bullying a fat kid.

It’s clever. In one sentence absent of any slurs he manages to insinuate that gay people are demanding special consideration, that any attention given to gay bullying takes away from other targets of bullying, and that gay activists are unfairly demanding resources that aren’t needed.

Of course, that isn’t close to true. As the epidemic of bullying illustrates, most schools have, at best, a perfunctory anti-bullying program (that isn’t implemented with seriousness) coupled with a devoted commitment to denial. The movie Bully provides an illustration of a child being tormented daily on a school bus while administrators assured the documentarian that the other children were “good as gold”.

And as any gay kid – and most fat kids – will tell you, bullying of gay kids really is worse. Fat kids have families to turn to while gay kids often do not have that option. And on most campuses there is an agreement that calling a fat kid names is “a bad thing to do” while many children attending churches of which Dr. Brown would approve do not share the belief that saying “you’re an abomination and going to hell” to gay kids is “a bad thing to do”.

But that isn’t really the most telling point about that paragraph. I’ll come back to that.

He goes on with artificial concern about ex-gays being excluded from the Day of Silence (as though there has ever been a single kid to identify as ex-gay who was in any way excluded from this student organized event). He rants about a nameless black teacher who “did not approve of equating gay activism with the civil rights movement.” He makes the usual intentionally dishonest false equation in which the balance to “don’t bully gay kids” is “a religious or moral objection to homosexuality”.

But all of that is just filler and fluff; it’s what he didn’t say that is worth noting. At no point in his 869 word essay did Dr. Brown ever express the slightest concern about the plight of tormented gay kids or provide any alternate solution. His position – that which is opposite of GLSEN’s position, can be seen in the paragraph we noted above.

Of course they do, but that’s not enough.

Dr. Brown and GLSEN are both aware of the high rate of gay teen suicides. Dr. Brown and GLSEN are well aware that openly gay teens – and even those suspected of being gay – are tormented at rates far higher than any demographic. Including the “fat kid” demographic. GLSEN believes that the current status is “not enough” and Dr. Brown disagrees.

Now Dr. Brown would never use the words. He would never say them out loud. And he’ll likely send me an email telling me that I’m misrepresenting his position and putting words in his mouth. But the message is clear.

When told that due to the famine the peasants had no bread, Marie Antoinette’s solution was, “let them eat cake”. When told that gay students are being bullied to the point that they kill themselves, Dr. Michael Brown’s answer is, “let them die.”

Marie Antoinette got a bad rap.

France to upgrade couple recognition

Timothy Kincaid

January 13th, 2012

Of those European nations which offer recognition to their same-sex couples, France’s form, Pacte civil de solidarité (PACS), is probably the weakest. And while they do offer protections and rights and there are some amusing advantages to a nation providing such a structure (many young heterosexual couples enter PACS as a sort of pre-marriage tryout), they simply do not provide equality. Gay couples are stuck in the “tryout” phase.

But that seems likely to change.

A poll to be released tomorrow will show that about two-thirds of the French (63%) support opening marriage to same-sex couples. And French politicians are scrambling to show that they are in alignment with the will of the French people. (Bloomberg)

Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate and front- runner before the two-round election in April and May, supports homosexual marriage and will add it to his platform, Manuel Valls, head of communication for the Socialist campaign, said on RMC radio today.

And President Nicolas Sarkozy, while continuing to oppose same-sex marriage, has discovered a new-found interest in establishing a civil union provision that contains all of the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage.

Regardless of who wins which position in French Government, it is inevitable that the shame of offering less liberté, égalité, or fraternité than their ancient frenemies the Spanish, Dutch and British (especially the British) will eventually lead to change.

French Protest American Ex-Gay Program in Tolouse

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2011

Organizers of Rainbow Toulouse had hoped that maybe a hundred people at the most might to show up in front of a small Evangelical church to protest a planned ex-gay seminar. Instead, they were pleasantly surprised to see between 200 and 300 protesters turning out. Michel Megnin, secretary of Rainbow Toulouse, called the showing “the most important LGBT gathering in Toulouse aside from Gay Pride.” Protesters denounced the ministry, saying “we are not sick.” Another sardonically noted the price of an ex-gay seminar that was scheduled for last weekend and said,  “At €330 (US$400), I am too poor to become straight.”

The scheduled seminar, scheduled for last weekend, is affiliated with Andrew Comiskey’s Living Waters program in the U.S.  Comiskey, a former president of Exodus International, has been aggressively expanding his Desert Stream Ministries and its Living Waters program in Canada and Europe. Former ex-gay leader Vonnie Pits issued an apology for her role in a Living Waters-based program she set up in New South Wales, Australia. Last year, Comiskey posted an admission on his blog that a staffer at DSM had sexually abused at least one teenager under their care. But instead of publicly apologizing for the appalling transgression or expressing anguish over the teen’s abuse, he talked about his own anguish over having been interrogated by police and liability insurers, and he thanked his god that “God spared us” from the humiliation of their story appearing in the newspapers. In 2005, DSM moved to Kansas City where Comiskey announcedhe was partnering with Dominionist theologian Mike Bickle (organizer of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s crusade in Houston) and the International House of Prayer. DSM  reportedly uses “extreme methods that involve forms of exorcism (deliverance/healing prayer) and rely on teachings that believe that people become gay through demonic influences and the sins of ancestors.”  

You can see a video testimony of an ex-gay survivor of Living Waters here.

France votes “no” on to marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 14th, 2011

France has a limited second-tier recognition it allows for same sex couples, pacte civil de solidarité. It appears that this will remain the case for a while (Pink News)

The French parliament has rejected a bill designed to give gay couples the right to marry.

Today, lawmakers voted by 293 votes to 222 to block the bill, which was not expected to pass.

This is a bit ironic. One of the unexpected results of offering the second tier PACS is that many opposite-sex couples are opting for PACS as a sort of trial-marriage rather than take on the full obligations in marriage. Those who voted for religious beliefs about marriage being ideal or who sought to “protect marriage” actually hurt their cause.

France’s anti-gay marriage ban upheld

Timothy Kincaid

January 29th, 2011

Of all the schemes in Europe by which various nations recognize same-sex couples, France’s (PACS) is among the weakest. Sophie Hasslauer and Corinne Cestino sued for marriage rights and the supreme court ruled that gay couples are not entitled to equality under France’s constitution. (NY Times)

The constitutional council upheld longstanding legislation on Friday that effectively bans marriage for same-sex couples. The council ruled that civil code references to marriage as a union between a man and woman were not contrary to the Constitution, and said the legislature could change the law if it saw fit. “The principle of equality prohibits neither that the legislature regulate differing situations in differing manners, nor that it depart from equality for reasons of general interest,” the decision said.

Perhaps that makes sense in French.

More sensationalistic HIV headlines

Timothy Kincaid

September 8th, 2010

Here’s a Reuters headline from France:

HIV spread “out of control” among French gay men

And here’s the meat of the story:

Thursday’s study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found that HIV in France fell significantly from 8,930 new infections in 2003 to 6,940 in 2008.

But the number of new infections among gay men was stable despite a decline in other groups, and accounted for 48 percent of new cases in France in 2008.

To Reuters “stable” = “out of control”

Yes, France has unacceptably high HIV infection rates – nearly 10% of gay men. Yes, we need to address the increase in young gay men who seem to be receiving ineffective messaging. Absolutely.

But, really!

Defenders of marriage be warned: you may be killing it

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2010

Evidence from Europe suggests that those who so ardently oppose same-sex marriage need to ask themselves a question: do you want to save marriage, or do you want to be anti-gay? It appears that doing both may not be a long term option.

It is a foregone conclusion that some form of recognition of same-sex relationships is coming to every state in the union. And soon. With two thirds of the citizens supporting marriage, domestic partnerships, civil unions, or some other model – a number which is trending favorably – it is inevitable.

So the only question is whether it will be incremental, signing a register, a few rights doled out, no responsibilities, easy termination and no formality; or if it will be full marriage (or civil unions equal to marriage)? Will it be grudging and as little as they can get away with so as to keep gays in their place, or will it be all at once?

Supporters of “traditional marriage” may have to fight their instincts and opt for equality (or near equality). Because quasi-marriage, glorified “going together”, may prove to be a tempting alternative for heterosexuals. It may actually detract from marriage. It certainly seems to in France. (BBC)

A heterosexual Austrian couple have embarked on a court battle to have their relationship legally recognised as a “registered partnership” – a new form of civil union for same-sex couples.

Helga Ratzenboeck and Martin Seydl say they don’t want a traditional marriage and insist that the law should be blind to gender and sexuality.

Meanwhile, the kind of pared-down marriage they want is proving a huge hit with straight couples in France, where 95% of couples taking up the pacte civil de solidarite (Pacs) in 2009 were heterosexual.

As the number of straight French couples opting for Pacs has grown, the number of marriages has shrunk, to the point that there are now two couples entering into a Pacs for every three getting married.

Some might look at the overall picture of a cumulative increase in those who make some form of commitment (see chart), but “traditional marriage supporters” tend not to think like that.

I, of course, think it smartest just to make marriage available to all and be done with the drama. Then we can get on with the important task of bitching about who is going where for Thanksgiving.

Adoption in France

Timothy Kincaid

November 11th, 2009

Gay rights in Europe have different difficulties than in the States. Where here the battle is over legal rights and recognition for couples, European countries tend to place more restrictions on parenting. For example, in France where PACS have been legal since 2006, only heterosexual married couples can adopt.

Radio France Internationale is reporting that a breakthrough has just been accomplished in France:

School teacher Emmanuelle B. should receive the necessary paperwork within 15 days following Tuesday morning’s decision, capping off a long court battle that has lasted more than 10 years.

Emmanuelle and her partner Laurence R., a school psychologist, have been living together for twenty years, and meet the requirements of seriousness and stability asked of prospective adopters, the judges wrote in their decision.

Her battle has been through French courts, the European Court of Human Rights, and back again. And it appears that, at least in this instance, Emmanuelle’s desire to be a parent will not be blocked by legislative roadblocks.

But the decision isn’t an outright victory for homosexual couples.

“The judge authorised a woman, who made her request to adopt as an individual, not a homosexual couple as such,” he said.

French Support Marriage

Timothy Kincaid

July 24th, 2008

Canadian anti-gay news site LifeSiteNews.com is reporting on a recent poll taken in France

According to the survey, 62% of respondents were in favor of allowing homosexual “marriage,” up from 45% in a similar survey conducted in 2006, and 51% were in favor of allowing homosexual couples to adopt, up from 36% in 2006.

France currently provides limited recognition of couples by means of a contract called Pacte civil de solidarité (PACS).

Marriage Rights Around the World

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008

The following countries offer some form of recognition to same-sex couples:

Marriage

Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, United States (Massachusetts, California)

Civil Unions

New Zealand, Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rio Negro), Mexico (Coahuila), Uruguay, United States (Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey)

Registered Partnership or Domestic Partnership

Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, , Slovenia, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy (City of Padua), Switzerland, Hungary, Australia (Tasmania), United States (Maine, Washington, Oregon)

Other Methods of Limited Recognition

France (PACS), Germany (Life Partnership), Croatia (Law of Same-Sex Relationships), Andorra (Stable Union of a Couple), Mexico (Mexico City – PACS), Colombia (Common-law marriage inheritance rights), Israel (Limited recognition of foreign legal arrangements), United States (Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits; New York – recognition of out-of-state legal marriages)

Although recognition is in a rapid state of change, this is my best understanding of the current rights provided. Several nations are in the process of adding or revising recognition.

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