Britain cracks down on freedom of speech
January 27th, 2011
Two men in the UK are being prosecuted for distributing leaflets that violate the law forbidding the incitement hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. (Independent)
The men charged were named last night as Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27. They are accused of handing out a leaflet entitled “The Death Penalty?” in Derby.
The leaflets, which were also pushed through letterboxes, are understood to have called for homosexuals to be executed.
What does this accomplish? Who wins when speech is stifled? Certainly not our community, who now appear to be intolerant of religious view. Certainly not Muslims, who now are cast as murderous. Certainly not people of good will, who now have to take sides and play the which-minority-do-we-support game.
I think it far wiser to allow haters to say outrageous things and then use that as an opportunity for dialogue and interaction. Give Muslim clerics in the UK the opportunity to side with the gay community through public discourse, rather than force them to take a ‘religious freedom’ position that calls for the death penalty.
I know that other cultures have other values, but I am glad that the US values freedom of speech over freedom not to be insulted.
Commons Deputy Speaker comes out
December 19th, 2010
Nigel Evans, the Deputy Speaker of the Commons, has had a less than stellar history on gay-supportive legislation. His past has included voting for Section 28, legislation that banned affirmative discussion of homosexuality in schools, though in recent years he has been supportive of the community.
Now he is announcing what has long been an open secret, he is gay. Further, he is helping found a gay caucus within parliament. (mailonline)
The Deputy Speaker of the Commons is to come out as gay tomorrow to mark the launch of a Parliamentary group that will help MPs and staff be open about their homosexuality.
Senior Tory MP Nigel Evans, who deputises for Speaker John Bercow, says he is ‘tired of living a lie’ and has received threats of blackmail in the past from political enemies.
In what is perhaps an ironic turn, of the 22 out parliamentarians, 13 are Tories, the conservative party. (Though I rather suspect that if truth were known, Republicans might have a similar ratio in the US). His party leadership is fully behind his decision to come forward. The Tories have made a concerted effort to distance themselves from old anti-gay positions and to adopt a pro-gay image and platform.
In addition to response to a new openness within the Tories, there is also speculation that Evans’ announcement serves as “clearing the air” for a potential run at Speaker of the Commons.
Papa Ratzi protested in London
September 20th, 2010
With a crowd of around 11,000 for Saturday’s protest, the protest drew upon a wide base of discontent with the current pontiff. (Telegraph)
Among the marchers were a wide range of groups, including gay and lesbian Catholics, child abuse survivors, atheists and anti poverty campaigners. Organisers said the turnout was five times greater than expected.
Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, criticised the Pope for obstructing police investigations into paedophile priests.
He said: “The Pope’s apologies do not ring true. Even today he is refusing to hand over Vatican files he holds under lock and key. Priests who sexually abused children should be brought to justice and the church should do its bit.”
Calu Lema, a Columbian-born graphic designer who works in London, said that, as “a tax paying lesbian”, she opposed the state visit.
She said: “The Pope has a right to come here and people have a right to come and hear him.
“But why should I, as a lesbian taxpayer, pay for his state visit when he is opposed to women’s rights to contraception, opposed to gays and gay marriage and opposed to human rights?
“I respect the rights of Catholics to their faith, but they should respect my rights.”
Of course others were supportive of the Pope.
“We’ve also seen his warmth with people, such as the children he’s picked up and kissed. That’s changed people’s view of the Pope.”
The logical (dangerous, nonsensical) conclusion of careless reporting on HIV
September 10th, 2010
As I noted earlier this week, the story of an HIV study out of Ghent, Belgium, has been reported in a very irresponsible manner. Now the conservative Christian zealots in the UK have latched onto the story and repeated it in a way that is so far from the original as to be laughable (if it wasn’t disgusting and dangerous).
Running the headline Young homosexual men are fuelling HIV in Europe, the Christian Institute has declared the following:
Men who have sex with other men are fuelling HIV infections in Europe, according to a new report supported by the UK’s largest sexual health charity.
The study noted that “unprotected sex between men” is often reported as the main transmission route for the virus. However, the study itself examined all homosexual contact and did not distinguish between protected or unprotected sex.
Medical experts note that anal intercourse is, by its nature, the most risky form of sexual activity.
This deliberate attempt to distort the science to suggest that there is no risk difference between safer-sex and unprotected sex is immoral and reprehensible. This is the exact opposite of the intention of the research and efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
I don’t know how “Christian” these monsters are (they certainly seem to be outside the mainstream in the UK) but I’m sure their god has a very special place for them in the afterlife (and perhaps they should invest in asbestos jumpsuits).
Tatchell applauded at UK Christian festival
August 30th, 2010
Peter Tatchell has been an untiring and unflinching advocate for international gay rights. His willingness to be arrested, harassed, and beaten has given him the credibility to command attention. And Tatchell has a character trait that sets leaders apart: the ability to find commonality where others might only see enmity.
Tatchell, who has long since abandoned his Christianity, may seem like an odd choice to speak at Greenbelt, one of Britain’s largest Christian festivals. But finding “more in common than divides us”, he went to harness the power of faith to do good in the world.
Tatchell was harshly critical of Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, whom he accused of colluding with the persecution of GLBT people by the Anglican Church in Africa and of “conservative evangelical groups from the USA” who went to Uganda to argue that the country’s biggest problem is “not poverty, not corruption, not human rights abuses, not rigged elections” but homosexuality.”
But he also found Christians to praise and to hold up as an example. (Ekklesia)
He was keen to make a distinction between Christians who oppose homosexuality and those who encourage persecution. “It’s one thing to say that homosexuality is wrong, and people are entitled to that belief,” he said, “What they’re not entitled to do is to say that the law of the land should discriminate”.
But Tatchell was quick to praise Christians who have stood up against such attitudes. He singled out South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo, who has “paid a very, very heavy price” and been denied his pension.
He also spoke passionately of LGBT African Christians, including Davis Mac-Iyalla and Jide Macauley, who have risked their lives by being open about their sexuality.
“For all of those, gay and straight, who do take a stand, I salute you, I thank you,” he concluded.
Tatchell received a standing ovation.
Civil Unions signed in Ireland
July 19th, 2010
From the Irish Times:
The Civil Partnership Bill, which provides legal recognition for same-sex couples in Ireland for the first time, has today been signed into law.
The Bill was signed into law by President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin this morning
It extends marriage-like benefits to gay and lesbian couples in the areas of property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax.
Meanwhile, its neighbor is still talking about full marriage rights. (Pink News)
Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, has said that the government will give gay couples the right to civil marriage.
He predicted that the change would be made before the next general election.
Mr Hughes said a consultation would take place in the coalition government on taking civil partnership to the next level.
Speaking in a video interview, he said: “It would be appropriate in Britain in 2010, 2011, for there to be the ability for civil marriage for straight people and gay people equally.
UK civil unions may edge closer to marriage
July 4th, 2010
The distinctions between civil partnerships and marriages in the UK are peculiar to American notions of religious liberty and freedoms of speech. And one of them may soon disappear. (AP)
Britain’s government is considering letting same-sex couples include religious elements in civil partnership ceremonies.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone says the government’s review of gay equality rights will consider allowing homosexual couples to include hymn singing and religious readings in their union ceremonies.
Parliament recently removed the ban on same-sex unions in churches and other places of worship.
Yes, you soon may gain permission to sing hymns of rejoice to God (though, oddly enough, some religious ministers object to that).
However, this change could result in an oddity which challenges the distincions between all civil and religious recognition and some think the new conservative government may take a different step. (Times)
Mr Bryant said he believes the Government will eventually have to allow full homosexual marriage rather than creating the unusual situation under which same-sex couples can have religious language in their civil partnerships, but heterosexuals cannot in civil marriage.
During the election campaign, the Conservatives were the only main party to suggest that they would consider allowing full homosexual marriage, a move that although contentious would be easier to legislate for than altering existing laws on civil partnership and civil marriage.
UK: we’re going to the chapel (or synogogue)
March 3rd, 2010
From the Times:
The House of Lords voted to lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in churches and other religious premises last night.
Peers voted by 95 to 21 – a majority of 74 – to lift the ban which previously prevented gays and lesbians from getting “married” in such places.
This amendment, which only applies to churches that endorse same-sex ceremonies, lifts one of the last distinctions between civil partnerships and marriage. The commons has yet to approve the change but that is fairly certain.
UK gay activist seeks to remove ex-gay therapist’s license
February 25th, 2010
Earlier this year, Patrick Strudwick reported on an under-cover investigation into the UK’s ex-gay therapy movement. One of the therapists he exposed was Dr. Paul Miller, an ex-gay whom had previously receive notoriety when he was mentioned by Iris Robinson, wife of North Ireland’s First Minster (Pink News)
“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.
“And I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual.”
Now Strudwick has now reported Dr. Miller to the General Medical Council and is seeking to have him “struck off” from being able to practice due to his reorientation efforts.
I hope his effort fails.
Or, to be more specific, I hope that if the GMC does strike off Dr. Miller, it will not do so for the reasons that Patrick Strudwick is stating. (BBC)
Patrick Strudwick wants the medical governing body, the GMC, to take action against Dr Miller.
“I’m actually the first person in British history to try and get a doctor struck off for treating homosexuality,” he said.
“If Dr Miller is struck off, which I hope he is, this is a test case and will serve as a warning to other psychiatrists and mental health professionals attempting to do this.”
I think that Dr. Miller’s behavior was highly unethical and based in ignorance and prejudice. He crossed borders and sexualized the therapy in ways that should never be allowed. He made wild assertions about the bases of Strudwick’s orientation and provided “information” that is not credible. He chose to believe the bizarre and baseless theories of fringe “counselors” and attempted to apply them to clients. I would not be at all sympathetic if he were seriously curbed in his ability to continue in these behaviors.
But I do not want Dr. Miller to “struck off for treating homosexuality.”
Let me be clear. I do not believe that therapy is effective in changing sexual orientation. If there is any change in attraction, it does not appear to be consistent, permanent, thorough, or traceable to specific therapy protocols. And it appears that the vast majority of persons who seek change in sexual orientation – a change from primarily or exclusively same-sex attracted to primarily or exclusively opposite-sex attracted – never achieve this goal.
But I don’t believe that an out-right ban on therapy for persons who wish to change their orientation is appropriate. While I find the evidence of “change” to be unsubstantial, we do know that some individuals do achieve a change in life patterns which they find to be meaningful and rewarding. Some find tools to manage their sexual impulses, others find coping skills for aligning their faith with their attractions, and some few find a spouse that adequately fulfills their desires.
I would not (and probably could not) find meaning in choosing social goals over internal cohesion, but I have no right to demand that others make the same priorities as me. And I would not want that their ability to seek supporting therapy to be eliminated.
And on a pragmatic level, I know that Mr. Strudwick’s efforts will be trumpeted across the anti-gay media network as an “attempt by militant homosexual activists to silence Christians.” The next attack on our freedoms will include a distorted telling of this tale which, of course, will highlight the reporting to the GMC and will conveniently forget Dr. Miller’s creepy and inappropriate sex talk. I don’t want their dire predictions about how “the UK has banned Christian therapists and we’re next” to have basis.
What I would like to see is a tightening of regulations for those who counsel unhappy same-sex attracted people. I would like for the medical community to disallow affirmative claims for cures that have not been studied, require that clients be provided with the official positions of mental health organizations, enforce prohibitions on inappropriate violations of boundaries, and hold ex-gay therapists to the same standards that other therapists must follow. In other words, if you want a professional license, you have to behave professionally.
Religious Groups in UK beg for religious marriage freedom
February 23rd, 2010
Marriage equality is a freedom of religion issue. Currently, in most US states, the voters have acted under pressure from some religious entities to deny the rights of other religious entities to have their sacraments accorded the same respect and legal standing. Your Congregational Church or Reformed Synagogue may conduct holy vows and say sacred prayers that have been a part of their faith for centuries, but socially conservative Christian denominations have convinced civil government that they, and only they, get to determine what is defined as marriage.
In the United Kingdom, things are both better and worse. Better, because the civil government does allow for civil partnerships that are in most ways identical to marriage. And better because most of the citizenry sees these unions as being weddings.
But the UK is worse in that civil partnerships cannot take place in premises that are either designed for, or are in use mainly for, religious purposes. And they cannot include language that is sacramental
and churches are barred from offering blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.
That is an unequivocal violation of the religious freedoms of those churches which wish to sanctify, solemnize, and bless the union of their same-sex parishioners. And three have come forward to protest.
In July of last year we informed you that the Quakers (the Society of Friends) in Britain formally requested that the government change the law to allow them to worship in accordance with their faith. And last month Liberal Judaism joined the Quakers and the Unitarians when Baroness Neuberger, president of Liberal Judaism, called for a change in the law to allow civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples to be held in synagogues.
Now these minority religions have received the backing of some powerful allies. A number of leaders in the Church of England have issued a letter in which they call for religious freedom.
Sir, The Civil Partnership Act 2004 prohibits civil partnerships from being registered in any religious premises in Great Britain. Three faith communities — Liberal Judaism, the Quakers, and the Unitarians — have considered this restriction prayerfully and decided in conscience that they wish to register civil partnerships on their premises.
And in their call for religious freedom, these Englishmen turn for moral authority to a most curious document:
To deny people of faith the opportunity of registering the most important promise of their lives in their willing church or synagogue, according to its liturgy, is plainly discriminatory. In the US it would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise . . . of religion.
The wording of the First Amendment is clear to our friends across the pond; a powerful religion cannot usurp the spiritual independence of smaller communities. Let’s hope that American jurists and political leaders can come to find the obvious meaning in our Constitution.
UK rugby player comes out
December 18th, 2009
Gareth Thomas is not just a rugby player; he’s a legend in what is probably one of the toughest, most macho of sports. He was the first Welsh player to earn 100 caps and served as captain of Wale’s team. And he’s gay.
He told BBC:
“I just happen to be gay,” he added. “It’s irrelevant.
“What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby.
“It’s pretty tough for me being the only international rugby player prepared to break the taboo.
“Statistically I can’t be the only one, but I’m not aware of any other gay player still in the game.
“I’d love for it, in 10 years’ time, not to even be an issue in sport, and for people to say: ‘So what?'”
Thomas is a welcome addition to those few other sports stars that have come out. He is especially welcome in that he is still a professional player in a sport that has not been historically seen as particularly welcoming to gay athletes or fans.
Gays In the Military: UK Armed Forces Lead By Example
July 27th, 2009
This month’s cover of Soldier magazine, an official British Army publication, shows Trooper James Wharton with his Iraq medal, with the word “Pride” highlighted. This is the first time in the magazine’s history that an openly gay service member has been featured on the cover. While the debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continues to rage in the U.S., the British are showing us how it’s done:
Restricted guidance signed by the chiefs of staff and sent to commanding officers gave answers to a long list of possible queries such as: “How should I protect young people in the Service from predatory homosexuals?” (the response: “It would be wrong to assume homosexuals were predatory”) and, “Will homosexuals be able to bring their partners [to mess functions]?” (the response: “It will be for the Mess President to exercise discretion”).
“The thought of two men dancing at a mess function was more than some people could cope with,” explained one officer. “They thought they would get raped in their beds.”
But the predictions proved wrong and the military entered its brave new world with surprising ease. A confidential review two years later across all three services found that most officers and junior ranks, particularly among the younger ones, had accepted the lifting of the ban without much comment. It was only amongst the older Senior Non-Commissioned and Warrant Officers that it had met significant resistance.
According to The Independent, senior US officers are quietly holding talks with their British counterparts to learn some valuable lessons in preparation for the day when gays and lesbians can serve openly in the US military.
BTB Reader Makes a Difference
July 15th, 2009
We know that many of our readers are not content to see injustice and let it pass. Many take steps, speak out, volunteer, or contribute in order to make the world a better place.
AdrianT is one such example. He volunteers for the Albert Kennedy Trust, a London / Manchester based organization seeking to address the issue of homeless LGBT kids (perhaps 25% of the UK’s homeless youth).
[Albert Kennedy Trust] has launched a quality mark, ‘Making The Difference’ – a nation-wide standard of good practice in delivering services to LGBT young people, for ‘mainstream’ housing / homelessness associations.
Many associations’ hearts are in the right place, but don’t know how to deal with issues on sexual identity at all – lack of policy leads to incidences of homophobia, or an inability to make LGBT people feel welcome, or be open about the causes of their problems. As a result AKT have put together structured training courses to enable service providers to set up a proper framework, get the procedures in place, and bring staff up to speed on issues that affect their clients.
This was launched at a reception at the House of Commons on Monday; several members of the UK Parliament turned up to support this on Monday afternoon including minister for homelessness, Ian Austin; as well as David Borrow, Nigel Griffiths and the Conservatives’ Nick Herbert, and AKT patron Sir Ian McKellen.
Thank you for your efforts, Adrian. And let this be another inspiration to all of us to help where we can.
Britian’s Gays Go Conservative
July 6th, 2009
The Tories, the conservative party in the UK, have decided that you can be conservative and pro-gay at the same time. And over the past few years they’ve made a concerted effort to change the image of their party, promote gay MPs into positions of leadership, and just last week apologized for a 1988-2003 law that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality or teaching of its “accepability”.
“I’m sorry for Section 28. We got it wrong. It was an emotional issue. We’ve got to move on and we have moved on,” [Conservative Leader David Cameron] said.
He insisted that under his leadership the party was embracing gay rights and predicted it would produce Britain’s first gay prime minister.
The Conservatives even found that “pro-family” can be a policy of support for relationships, both gay and straight, instead of a code word for exclusion.
When David Cameron used his first conference speech as party leader to talk about the importance of marriage, he added that the commitment was as important for gay couples as for those who are straight. The conference audience applauded. From that moment, any doubt that the Conservative party was changing its attitude towards gay people should have been dispelled.
And it’s working. An op-ed in The Guardian reports
A reputable new poll has found that 38% of gay men intend to vote Conservative at the next election – more than any other party, and a swing away from Labour of 14.2%.
There are still remnants of homophobia in the party, and Liberals indignantly warn that this is just a ruse, an appeal for votes that has no substance.
But whether this is just a cynical deception or a sincere change of heart, it is definitely a win-win for gays and for the Tories. For the first time, UK gays have both major parties competing for their votes. And the Tories benefit by appearing more tolerant and modern – and by winning a larger share of the “pink vote.”
Someone send a memo to the Republican Party.
NARTH To Export Ex-Gay Message To London
April 21st, 2009
PinkNews is reporting that two American ex-gay proponents will conduct a conference in London this coming weekend. The conference is sponsored by an organization called Anglican Mainstream, which seeks to push the Anglican mainstream to the far right.
Speaking at the conference will be Joseph Nicolosi, a co-founder and past President of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). He is well-known for his “reparative therapy,” which blames a male child’s homosexuality on the father. He is fond of telling stunned audiences, “Fathers, if you don’t hug your sons another man will” Nicolosi used to be a featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences in the U.S. until he displayed his famous temper on CNN.
Jeffrey Satinover is the author of Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, in which he contends that homosexuality was improperly declassified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental illness. He contends that there is no such thing as “sexual orientation,” and therefore there should be no civil rights extended for something that doesn’t exist. This line is now a pervasive theme in ex-gay circles.
The conference is to be held at a thus-far undisclosed location in central London. Anglican Mainstream, despite its name, is a far-right organization which cites the work of discredited “researcher” Paul Cameron, as well as holocaust revisionist Scott Lively.