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.
Study: Therapies To Attempt Change In Sexual Orientation Still Offered In UK
March 27th, 2009
Annie Bartlett, Glenn Smith, Michael King. “The response of mental health professionals to clients seeking help to change or redirect same-sex sexual orientation.” BMC Psychiatry (March 26, 2009): in press. Pre-release article available here (free registration required). Assigned DOI: 10.1186/1471-244X-9-11.
There have been remarkably few studies on attempts the change sexual orientation in clinical settings. There’s very little evidence that such attempts are effective, and there is some evidence that these attempts may be harmful to many clients who seek change. A recent study from the U.K. has looked at the issue and came to some surprising results.
According to the study, only about 4% of British therapists reported that they themselves would attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation if the client asked for such therapy. But in a surprising finding, another 10% said they would refer their client to another therapist to help them change their sexual feelings. And 17% — about one in six — reported that they had assisted at least one client to reduce his or her same sex attractions.
The study is based on a survey conducted in 2002-2003. The questionnaire was sent to 1848 practitioners, of which 1328 completed responses were returned, resulting in a remarkably high response rate of 72%. Participants were a geographically distributed random sample based on their membership in the following professional organizations:
- British Psychological Society (BPS)
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
- United Kingdon Council for Psychotherapy (UKPC)
- Royal College of Psychiatrists (RPC)
BACP members were most likely to counsel clients to accept their sexuality and least likely to assist clients to change. Psychiatrists were most likely to refer other colleagues who might help clients to adjust to their sexuality.
The first question of the survey asked therapists how they would manage a client seeking to change their sexual attractions. The responses were:
- Assist them to accept their sexuality: 731 (55%)
- Assist them or give them treatment to change their sexuality: 55 (4%)
- Refer them to another colleague who has more experience in helping clients to accept themselves: 310 (24%)
- Refer them to a colleage who may help them change or redirect their same-sex feelings 131 (10%)
- Assist them to gain more effective control of their sexual feelings with a view to reducing personal and/or social difficulties: 456 (34%)
- Other: 491 (37%)
The “other” category is surprisingly large. There’s no insight into what those respondents might have in mind in this particular survey.
The 222 (17%) therapists who had tried to reduce or change their clients same-sex attractions reported treating at least 413 clients. (The structure of the survey only permitted examining up to five clients per therapist.) These therapists were asked about their clients reasons for wanting to change:
- Confusion about sexual orientation: 236 (57%)
- Social pressures including the family: 59 (14%)
- Mental health difficulties: 45 (11%)
- Religious beliefs: 28 (7%)
- Gender confusion: 15 (4%)
- Legal pressures: 14 (4%)
- Heterosexual relationship difficulties (i.e. married): 9 (2%)
- Victims of abusive relationships: 8 (2%)
These therapists reported very little follow-up after treatment. In 117 (28%) cases, there was no follow-up. In the remainder, the medial follow-up period was only eight months. Citing the American Psychiatric Association’s opposition to conversion therapy, the authors conclude:
Thus, it is hard either to understand or recommend the actions of the one in six psychotherapists, counsellors and psychiatrists who undertook these treatments. The qualitative data suggest that they made therapeutic decisions based on privileging client/patient choice where there was a wish to avoid the impact of negative social attitudes to same sex relationships. They appeared to take little account of the potential harm of applying treatments with no evidence for efficacy. Furthermore, the commonest reason for the referral was confusion about sexual orientation rather than an expressed desire to change it. It is well known that confusion is both a feature of a developmental trajectory, often part of the “coming out” story, and a common reason for seeking help. It appears unlikely that therapists were responding straightforwardly to the demands of patients as direct requests for change were very rarely reported.
Speaking to The Independent, Prof. Michael King was much more blunt:
He said: “There is very little evidence to show that attempting to treat a person’s homosexual feelings is effective and in fact it can actually be harmful.
“So it is surprising that a significant minority of practitioners still offer this help to their clients.”
He went on: “The best approach is to help people adjust to their situation, to value them as people and show them that there is nothing whatever pathological about their sexual orientation.
“Both mental health practitioners and society at large must help them to confront prejudice in themselves and in others.”
The study was conducted by Dr. Annie Bartlett (St. George’s, University of London), Dr. Glenn Smith (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Prof. Michael King (University College London Medical School). Together, they established the web site TreatmentsHomosexuality.org.uk, which Prof. King introduced in a BTB guest post last September. That web site seeks oral history contributions in written, audio, or video form from former clients and therapists who participated in sexual reorientation therapies.
This study is an outgrowth of previous papers that the three have published on clinical attempts to change homosexuality. The British Medical Journal in 2004 published two papers which were oral histories of treatments since the 1950′s. Dr. Smith’s paper focused on the experience of patients, and Prof. King’s paper focused on the experience of professionals. Dr. Smith found that “The definition of same sex attraction as an illness and the development of treatments to eradicate such attraction have had a negative long term impact on individuals.” And Prof. King observed that:
With hindsight, professionals realised that they had not appreciated the influence of social context on sexual behaviour. Most now regarded same sex attraction as compatible with psychological health, although a small minority considered that the option to try to become heterosexual should still be available to patients who desire it.
Social and political assumptions sometimes lie at the heart of what we regard as mental pathology and serve as a warning for future practice.
In 1999, Prof. King and Dr. Bartlett published a historical overview of treatments of homosexuality in the British Journal of Psychiatry. That overview included accounts of electric shock and other forms of aversion therapy, which some therapiests continued to defend into the early 1980′s. They stated in their concluding remarks:
In December 1997, in documents released by the British government under a 30-year rule, it was revealed that ministerial approval was given for experiments in aversion therapy on gay men. Even today, criticism of the ‘treatment’ of gay men is regarded as mere political correctness. Few other psychiatric labels have led to such pain and disarray. This peculiar history has exposed the conservative social bias inherent in psychiatry and psychology, damaged the lives of gay men and lesbians, and provided grounds for discrimination.
…Mental health professionals in Britain should be aware of the mistakes of the past. Only in that way can we prevent future excesses and heal the gulf between gay and lesbian patients and their psychiatrists.
It appears that a surprising number of mental health professionals have not yet learned from the mistakes of the past.
Ugandan Gay Asylum Seeker Back In UK
March 9th, 2009
In 2001, John Bosco Nyombi, a gay Ugandan, had sought asylum in the UK based on fears for his safety back in his homeland. But last September, Britain’s Border Agency forcibly repatriated Nyombi back to Uganda, in violation of Mr. Nyombi’s due process rights and against official Home Office policy and procedures. A British judged responded by ordering the Home Office to return Nyombi back to Britain. Nyombi arrived on March 6. According to Gays Without Borders:
He fled to the UK from Uganda where homosexuality is illegal and carries a punishment of life in prison.
His case has attracted publicity in Uganda. Mr Bosco said in a statement seen by the court that, on his return to his homeland, his circumstances had become “quite desperate”. He had been beaten up during a period in detention and he had now gone into hiding to avoid being interviewed by the police about his homosexuality.
The judge said the evidence before him made it perfectly plain that Mr Bosco had come to the notice of the authorities, and this had added to the risk of his human rights being breached by reason of his homosexuality.
Mr. Nyombi’s March 6 return to Britain coincides with an anti-gay conference led by Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, which was in its second day in Kampala, Uganda. On that very same day, conference leaders announced a new recommendation that Uganda’s already draconain law against homosexuality be strengthened to force convicted gays and lesbians into sexual reorientation therapy.
British Prime Minister Weighs in on Prop 8
March 6th, 2009
California’s Proposition 8 has become an event greater than itself. No longer a vote on whether same-sex couples can call their relationship “marriage”, Prop 8 has become a symbol, a rallying cry, an event that transcends its happening. Protests over its passage have not been limited to the state’s borders, or even the nation’s.
A further evidence that this ban is representative of the global fight over equality for gay people came this week in London (BBC) from Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Speaking about Proposition 8 in California,
Mr Brown said “this attempt to undo good that has been done is unacceptable”.
He added: “This shows why we have always got to be vigilant, always got to fight homophobic behaviour and any form of discrimination.”
Those inclined to irony might note that same-sex marriage is not legal in England, either. However, over there the amost-marriage-but-by-some-other-name has federal recognition and in California it does not.