Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Singapore retains criminalisation of homsexuality

Report on the BBC.

A petition had been presented to Parliament to include same sex acts in the repeal of heterosexual sodomy laws but the Parliament voted to retain the current legislation.

This is just one country amongst many where sex between men is still made into a criminal offence and shows how much progress there is to be made.

Meanwhile the report on details the many restrictions to freedom of association and expression which are occuring in Singapore under the current laws.

See also the letter from IGLHRC to Singapore's Prime Minister on this subject.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great news from Poland

As everyone is no doubt aware the rather unpleasant right wing homophobic government in Poland has been roundly defeated in a 'snap' election by a much less but still right wing party and its ally. Especially gratifying that the more extreme smaller League of Polish Families (and coalition member) has gone from 18% to 3% and is no longer in the Parliament.

Together the two parties have an absolute majority of 20 seats in the lower house, though it is anticipated that the President who is in office until 2010 may oppose much of the government's legislation.

This is great news for LGBT people living in Poland and hopefully will demonstrate that homophobic governance cannot be relied upon to garner votes come election time. Hopefully it will allow further progress to be made in Poland as well as being an object lesson to the rest of the EU.

Guardian Editorial

Ekklesia - which describes the result as being a "defeat for extreme Catholic nationalism" according to 'analysts'.

BBC coverage

Pink News article

This report by the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia on the general situation of LGBT people in Poland is also interesting, though doesn't refer to the election.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rees Mogg is at it again

Article in today's Times by Rees-Mogg - one of many to come I should think - basically a thinking person's way of saying Gordon Brown is dishonouring the war dead of many centuries with cartoons of spitfires and war graves (you need the Sun for that).

Just a brief reminder of where Rees-Mogg (he is actually a person and not a cat) is that he is opposed to anything connected to the EU, and actually took the then Conservative Government to Court as far back as 1993 arguing that the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty was unconstitutional. He lost......

He won't have any difficulty accomodating himself to today's Europhobic Tories however.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I support the Reform Treaty

Not only do I support it, I hope it is ratified through the Parliamentary mechanism after extensive debate and line by line scrutiny, which is in accordance with the UK parliamentary tradition that the Tories are trying to overthrow.

I must say that in this regard I disagree with the handfull of euro-sceptic Labour MP's wanting a referendum. There should only be a referendum when we are choosing to go into something like the euro, or creating radically new arrangements or institutions (e.g. devolved Parliaments) or where the governing party is hopelessly divided like Wilson's Labour government in the early 1970's.

Although there's a lot of bluster from the Tories I think they are making a big mistake putting so much effort into being anti-European and think they'll suffer from it in the longer run.

And an excellent article on why we should support the Reform Treaty from some time back in the Guardian.

Craig's back

After a long absence to allow me to rest I am now back at blogging and apologise for the interuption of service....

Well, I am back - but Ming is gone. As someone said to me recently - Gordon Brown makes the mistake and Ming is the one that has to go.....

I think all the excitement of having a new PM, preparign for a General Election, then having the election cancelled, then all the stress of Ming resigning - well it's all too much!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blindel's Blunder

I'm a little late on this one which has stirred a certain reaction in some qaurters.

Julie Bindel's original article appeared in the Guardian and can be read here.

She also argued her case on Radio 4's hecklers programme (a lot tamer than the title suggests and very little actual heckling, which in this case is a pity).

Julie Bindel makes a number of points but boils down to (you'll have to forgive me for not reproducing her views in extenso - I can't be bothered) feminist theory puts a lot of stress on gender roles being socially constructed and therefore anyone who has gender reassignment is buying in to the idea that gender is a given thing and therefore reinforces this concept of gender which according to feminism (or at least one version of feminism) reinforces the oppression of women.

So many logical fallacies and so little time to deconstruct them.

Julie Bindel has also gone on to look criticially at the whole gender reassignment thing and has some major critiques of hte whole thing from which she deduces it's all some kind of antifeminist plot by the medical profession. Again som many fallacies, so little time.

The first thing to state is that Julie Bindle is a bit of a 'Jonny come lately' to the argument about gender reassignment and the argument has been taking placeover many years within the trans community and is at the root of the original use of the term transgender which originally referred to people who did not wish for gender reassignment (as an example see this article), a fact she conveniently fails to mention in order to make her own critique appear more powerful than it is.

Many of her criticisms around the way gender reassignment works have some validity - yes of course it should not be rushed into, there should the provision of therapy and counselling for those who wish for it both pre and post and of course there is no guarantee that people are happy after surgery - hence the need for counselling and support. Yes there needs to space to encourage more freedom of gender expression apart from gender reassignment.

The promotion of the concepts of gender expression and gender variance is something that's being promoted by trans communities who are alot more political and diverse than Julie Bindle portrays them as - it's always easier to combat people when you portray them as unified and monolithic where no internal debate or dissension occurs (the gay community thinks etc).

But it does in the end come down to whether you think gender reassignment is the right thing under some circumstances. Clearly there are many people who are happy after transitioning and who were very unhappy prior to this.

Of course I can also see that people should have the widest choices available to them and that it takes a political community of people who have made some of those choices to make them possible and the medical community is not often able to reflect or offer that.

Before wrapping up I should state that I don't think that gender is completely a matter of social conditioning (though of course it is in large part - or at leat how it plays out). If people have a clear sexual orientation of being attracted to one gender that means to me that I can have a gender identity myself and that gender means something - though is maybe more varied than the binary male/female divide we are trained to think in.

I think Julie Bindel does raise some interesting points but the manner of attacking people's freedom to make decisions about their lives in the name of a doctrine (albeit secular as opposed to religious) is unfortunate and unhelpful.

Rather than be opposed gender reassignment provision needs to be improved.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Channel 4's 40 years after 1967 season....

Channel 4's season commemorating 40 years after the passage of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 is nearly over.

So far we have had A Very British Sex Scandal. An excellent and very well done recounting of the sensational trial of Peter Wildeblood and Lord Montagu showing the impact that criminalisation had on gay life (people being wary of telling each other their names, burning their letters to each other so they wouldn't risk being incriminated against for example) in conjunction with reconstructions of hearings of the Wolfendon Committee.

The most poignant moment is during the trial where Peter Wildeblood admits to being a homosexual and starts to turn the tide of public attitudes leading to the setting up of the Wolfendon Committee which, ten years later led to decriminalisation (over 21 and in private - prosecutions actually went up after the 1967 Act).

I found How Gay Sex Changed the World to be incredibly old hat and tedious but with some interesting moments in the telling. Certainly didn't talk about the World though, which was a shame.

Most controversy attached to Clapham Junction. It's well worth watching but from the reaction and commentary I have seen appears to have been understood by very few people at all, with most people's reaction being "This doesn't represent gay life" as though the purpose of drama is to give a faithful representation of something - it isn't. Drama is there to give insights not representations; as though we all need showing what the gay life is really like; as though Romeo and Juliette is a faithful representation of what heterosexuality is like.

Put simply what Clapham Junction portrays (so far as I can tell) is how prejudices from a previous era are disrupting the lives of people today born into a world where there are Civil Partnerships, openly gay people in high ranking professions and so on.

Their lives are disrupted by the threat of violence - often through being in the worng place at the wrong time - the young gay man in murdered after using a toilet frequented by gay men but not doing anything himself and then getting chased into the common. No matter. He's not being bashed because of his having sex (he wasn't) but because the nexus of homophobia from when there weren't Civil Partnerships is ready and waiting as well as affecting the way people construct their relationships, through isolation, lack of role models and so on.

It is quite simply about the legacy of discirmination that still weighs heavily upon gay people and in some ways on all of us. To test this out would be very simple - have two men walk hand in hand throught he streets of most UK cities and I think it would be clear what the result would be.

Finally and most retro of all, the "discussion" programme chaired by David Aronovitch (whose writing I really like). This was utterly tedious, worthy and for the most part unwatchable garbage, starting off with the complete failure to understand the meaning of Clapham Junction but failed to achieve any sense of lift off or purpose with David Aronovitvh trying depsreately hard to be a hip with it heteresexual and completely at ease with the vacuous non-discussions around him - even descending at one point to talking as a cultural authority on account of his gay friends..... In the words of Sir Alan Sugar "What a load of old tut!", though I think Catherine Tate's Nan Taylor would have said it better.......

Hullo? Homosexuality still a criminal offence in around 90 countries of the world? Stonewall's recent report on the failure of schools to provide any kind of protection from homophobic bullying (which one of the commentators - no less than Mark Simpson - (who?) describes as being an expression of "homo-unease" which shouldn't worry us unduly....... I see, so that's all right then.

So two cheers for Channel 4 who have actually covered the bloody thing (shame on the BBC) and made an attempt and for two really good and challenging programmes, even though the utter lack of sophistication when reviewing the drama could have been ameliorated by a kind of interpretative 'key' to help well meaning heteresexuals (who were mercilessly parodied in Clapham Junciton by the way - deservedly so in my view) make any sense of it all.

Cash for honours....

Surprise surprise the CPS has abandoned any intention of a prosection (much to the chagrin of the Metropolitan Police who after several high profile cases have gone wrong - Burrell, Who wants to be a Millionnaire - were aching for something that would come somewhere near justifying more than a million quid being spent on such a hopeless case).

The people of London must be fortunate indeed to have so little real crime that they have a couple of millions to spend on various wild goose chases initiated in this case by the SNP, who may well have won the Scottish election as a result.

Of course there is a statistical correlation between being a donor and receiving an honour - this is well known under both parties - a case for reform not criminal sanction. I for one think that people who donate to political parties and other good causes should be eligible for honours (though not positions in Parliament) - provided all is out in the open. And there are numberous bodies that can investigate including the Electoral Commission itself.

(I've previously blogged on the need for an entirely elected Upper Chamber).

Anyway - it is clearly illegal for honours to be sold to the highest bidder, like on ebay and there's a strong case for an elected chamber to remove any such considerations in the case of becoming a member of the Upper Chamber. Similarly there's a case for more state funding of political arties, especially in the field of political education and policy work as well as things like a limit on spending and so on.

But if we don't have state funding we have funding by individuals and I think that to say that you can be given an honour up until the point where you make a donation is ludicrous.

Yes we need reform of party funding as well as of the House of Lords - but these are political issues and arguments and should not be driven by a politicised police force using leaks via the tabloid press and certainly seeking to prejudice the public in a way that would be unacceptable in any other investigation.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Richard Rorty has died

After Derrida in 2004 Richard Rorty died on June 8th 2007.

The wikipedia article on Rorty can be found here.

Obituaries from the Times, Guardian and one form Jurgen Habermas.

Hi most accessible book is easily Philosophy and Social Hope.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back from various Conferences

Well have been back a few days now from the TUC LGBT Conference and the UNISON Labour Link Forum.

The TUC LGBT Conference is a two day event where each affiliated union can send a delegation to debate LGBT issues (would be surprising if they debated anything else).

Big issues this year included:

Census 2011 - the inclusion of sexual orientation. In my view the Conference passing a motion asking for gender identity as well when the main Trans organisation (Press for Change) is not supporting this may well lead to difficulties in the campaign i.e. ONS saying well it's all too difficult and complicated to deal with ahead of 2011.

Framework for Fairness - This was an emergency motion submitted by UNISON and UCU. Its focus was on guidance given on the impact of sexual orientation regulations, which states that it is perfectly legal for teachers to tell a student that same sex activity is sinful, as well as relating some of the concerns about the Discrimination Law Review Green Paper - A Framework for Fairness. This motion was selected to go to Congress.

The UNISON Labour Link Forum debated a number of motions including 'LGBT Equality - Finishing the Job'. I also managed to ask a question to the MEP Panel, explicitly about Poland and LGBT rights actross Eastern and Central Europe.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Gays cause flooding - again

Or so the Bishop of Carlisle seems to think according to news reports.

Apparently the floods are a sign of God's distress over the sexual orientation regulations. I don't want to appear to mock the Divine Will but this is all a bit odd and I have a few questions:

  1. How on earth is flooding people's homes, leading to a small number of deaths, in any way an appropriate punishment when many of the victims are not gay and had no part in the sexual orientaiton regulations? (of course the distress caused by flooding is extreme but there actually is no law of nature that says you have to have mild and predicatble wheather all of the time, though the Western European climate usually is) Unless God is saying that indiscriminate collective punishment is morally acceptable - seems to me that Al-Qaeda is working to the same principle already.
  2. What sin was Britain committing in 1953 when over 300 people lost their life, Civil Partnerships were approx 50 years away and homosexuality was still illegal?
  3. Apparently Texas leads the US in fatalities from floods and yet they have banned same sex marriage and are very conservative - just what is it that Texas is getting wrong? Whatever it is they don't seem too eager to correct it.
This is all clearly ridiculous nonsense and exposes church folk to the charge of being silly and supersticious at the best. Makes the likes of Richard Dawkins look positively balanced and sane in comparison and just brings old fashioned theism into disrepute as a load of supersticious old hooey.

I will try to pass on this interesting and useful link to Wikipedia's entry under 'extreme weather' seems most inicdents are caused by cyclones and so on rather than a comunication of divine displeasure at this or that law being passed at the time.

Of course, globally, it's poverty that leads to higher death rates in the event of natural disasters. But I don't expect Bishops have any understanding of things like that.

Mental Health Bill completes Parliamentary stages

In the end 'ping pong' was rather limited, with the Lords agreeing to the Commons' amendments and the Government agreeing a few more (rather significant) amendments and the Commons agreeing to the Lords' amendments.

The Bill has therefore now fully completed its passage through Parliament and awaits Royal Assent so as to become law and doubtless will enter into force in a year or two's time.

The final stages saw a further clause agreed by the Government which includes as one of the fundamental principles:

"respect generally for diversity, including in particular, diversity of religion, culture and sexual orientation"

which in my view is by far preferable to the 'exclusions' previously proposed, which muddy the water to a considerable degree.

Further amendments included sensible amendments to the process for renewal of detentions as well as improvements to the criteria for Supervised Community Treatment.

The Bill, whatever critics may say, is now much improved - hence the reason for it passing with relative ease (in the end......). Campaigners and amendments from the opposition have improved the original proposals but much time was wasted by caricaturising the Bill and seeking to defeat it completely rather than engaging on sensible improvements which in the end have been acheived.

The sense one gains from reading a lot of the wildly exaggerated campaigning material is one of having marched your troops to the top of the hill and now marching them down again but without necessarily achieving any more for adopting an exagerated and at times misleading stance.

The links to the latest parliamentary debates are:


All of the debates can be viewed here.

In the words of Tony Blair in another context "That's that - The end"

Post Script to the Mental Health Bill

Although the Bill itself contains vast areas of work for the Government to get its teeth into there are still significant areas for all of us to work on. Here's a few:

  • Dealing with unequal outcomes for people from BME communities. At the very least this will mean undertaking clear measures to promote race equality at local level, clear and consistent monitoring at all stages, the use of positive measures, community outreach and mental health promotion and consideration of the need for alternative service models (the DoH Delivering Race Equality is a start)
  • putting equality at the heart of all mental health service provision, across all strands and in particular ensuring that the forthcoming Single Equality Act includes a clear requirement to promote equality across all strands of equality
  • monitoring the use of Community Treatment Orders to ensure they are being used in a sensitive and benefical way and do not discriminate
  • a lot more still to be done to counteract stigma and discrimination associated with mental ill-health
And finally, there is considerable scope for issues of concern to be addressed in the Code of Practice which is going to open for consultation - link here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gordon and Harriet

Harriet Harman elected on the 5th round, having been led by Alan Johnson until the final round.

Both Harriet and Gordon Brown's speeches were truly inspirational with particular references to housing (which is now a key priority for many people), civil liberties and improving the constitution and pledges on education and the NHS.

For the Party the Deputy Leader becomes the Party Chair, rather than a Prime Ministerial appointee - as a result would seem that someone else will become Deputy PM (Straw?) - we'll see.

News on the Labour Party website and on the BBC. The Labour Party website has the text of Gordon Brown's speech.

Well it's been an interesting few weeks of Deputy Leadership election, it's allowed party members to debate both policy and presentation. I was sad that Peter Hain didn't win as I thought he'd be an excellent deputy leader but Harriet Harman was my No 2 (no, really....). In any case she has grown in stature during the campaign and her speech today was simply fab.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Voting over ...

If you haven't voted yet - it's too late!

Voting has now closed (unless you're an MP). Result due on Sunday.

I am still hoping for Peter Hain to win, but of course the result is rather unpredictable and I note that Gordon Brown has been making rather free of late with his current job (though he may have better things in mind for him), what with offering the post to Paddy Ashdown. More on this later.

On a spearate note Gordon seems to be engaging in an interesting version of Fantasy (Shadow) Cabinet..... Of course in a few days' time he'll be doin' it for real

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Links from Hansard

Here are some really good bits. Links taken from This is a really good website that allows you to very simply email your MP, find out who you MP is and also Hansard on this site is laid out better than on Parliament's website.

Here is the debate including Chris Bryant's excellent speech moving his amendment on 'therapeutic benefit'.

Here is the entire debate - though it's quite brief - on exclusions (including sexual orientation etc) with excellent speeches by Chris Bryant and the Minister, Rosie Winterton.

Here is Rosie Winterton's informative speech in third reading summing up the whole bill, followed by some other contributions.

The voting lists can be seen on The Public Whip:

Vote on exclusions - govt majority of 86
Vote on imparied judgment - govt majority of 83 (Lynne Jones and Jeremy Corbyn voted with the opposition)
Third Reading - govt majority of 70

For access to all debates in Commons and Lords (well you may mish to be selective in your reading.....) you can access these by clicking on the bill's Parliament website. The Hansard record for the ping pong - if there is any may prove interesting.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mental Health Bill (Tuesday)

Final day of the Commons stages.

As urged by the Mental Health Coalition, who have in fact proved surprisingly effective in gaining concessions on key areas from the Government during the Bill's passage, the Governemtn accepted a compromise proposed by Chris Bryant on treatability, eerlly similar to the way forward I suggested to the Government in my own correspondence.....

In the end the Bill passed its Third Reading with a majority of 70, which in the circumstances aint too bad, certainly shows there has been no significant rebellion by Labour MP's.

The debates from yesterday's debate can be seen here (on - you need to scroll down to 'Orders of the Day' and then click on 'next debate' and probably scroll past the full text of the amendments which are ....... long.

Report on the Bill from the BBC.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mental Health Bill (Monday)

Two remaining days in the Commons for the Mental Health Bill and I am going to try and watch as much of today's proceedings as I can.

The Government have made significant concessions as indicated in an earlier post and in several cases these are about making explicit (on the face of the Bill as parliamentarians are wont to say....) what was already the case and helping to dispel some of the myths as well as legitimate fears people may have that the powers of the Bill were too far reaching.

More compromises may be in order to stave off a lenthy ping pong session, but some of the things the opposition is asking for are contrary to the policy of the democratically elected government and on those issues - provided there is a Commons majority behind them - the Lords should not persist in their opposition.

The latest press release from the Mental Health Alliance does give recognition to the Government for the changes the Government has introduced and seems more conciliatory in tone.


The Government introduced new clauses on independent advocacy, as well as indicating support for specialist advocacy services for Black and Minority Ethnic service users, age appropriate services for people under 18, improvements to safeguards in relation to consent and improvements (campaigned for by UNISON and the newly formed Mental Health Coalition) to the proposed Community Treatment Orders to ensure that they are not misused so as to place restrictions on people's lifestyles.

The Government also responded to lobbying by the Mental Health Coalition on the Nearest Relative issue (the Bill already allows you to seek a change in the NR where the current NR is unsuitable, with a patient being able to identify any other person so long as they are suitable) the Government has clearly stated that the NR is not the Next of Kin, and recognised you can choose who your Next of Kin is, agreeing to strengthen guidance in this area in the Code of Practice.

The Government won all of its votes today with majorities varying between 59 and 66.

Tomorrow is the final day of debate in the Commons.

The Department of Health website has latest documents including helpful correspondence with and reports from the Joint Committe on Human Rights (otherwise known as the Liberal Democrats at prayer).

In particular you can see the Government's response to some of the Joint Committee's rather incoherent (though no doubt well meaning) arguments on some aspects of the Bill, for instance on the need for 'exclusions'. I must say I find Rosie Winterton's argument to be particularly robust and succinct when speaking on the proposal to exclude sexual orientation, religious and cultural beleifs from the definition of mental disorder:

[...] They are not recognised mental disorders. It would be legally redundant to exclude them from the definition of mental disorder for the purposes of the Act. Indeed to do so might appear to suggest, quite wrongly, that they were mental disorders for other purposes - which would be particularly inappropriate in the case of sexual orientation. Moreover, to include any exclusions which are of no legal effect risks them being misunderstood or misinterpreted to have a substantive effect, which they would not in fact, have.

Which I think is a good paraphrase of the case I made out against such exclusions in my submissions to the Government over the Bill - nice to see they listened......

Sunday, June 17, 2007

French results - socialists do better than expected

Today is the last day of the French legislative election.

As the Presidential election was in 2 rounds, so also is the of the Assemblee Nationale, the final round being today.

Results are predicted to give Sarkosy a very substantial majority and there are fears that the Parti Socialiste will have one of its worst historic results.

More later as the results come in.

Some analysis ahead of the results here:

Sydney Morning Herald, BBC, The Australian, Washington Times

And if you can read French an excellent analysis (with historical comparisons) in Le Monde and as well as this article.

More comment when there are some early indications of the result. Already, however, it is clear that the result will not be good for the French socialists, who will have a real job to do to reinvent themselves after the election.

Results start to come in BBC, Guardian

It now seems the Parti Socialiste is doing quite well, having gained a number of seats in the Parliament, which allows it to be a substantial opposition to the Government.

There is though a general consensus that there needs to be a process of 'rebuilding' in the Parti Socialiste, though exactly what form that takes remains to be seen, with at least a risk of a period of bitter infighting between the followers of a handful of political heavyweights.

Final results are now in

See the BBC site for the full details of the composition of the Assemblee Nationale with 07 compared to 02.

It's a little difficult to work out what's going on as the French system means there are lots of small groupings along side thw two big parties.

It seems the socialists have gained around 40 seats. The communists have lost a number of seats and therefore lose their status as a 'party group' in the Assembly.

The right wing UMP lost approx 40 seats.

Lesson - the importance of expectation management (especially difficult in a two round election). As a consequence the party that lost the election feels like it has won it as the first round predicted a wipeout for the Left and the party that actually won it feels like it's lost it...... Well that's politics for you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Govt moves on Mental Health Act - gives credit to UNISON

Press release here detailing Government amendments to the Mental Health Bill which represent significant movement and go a long way to meeting campaigners' legitimate concerns in a number of areas.

UNISON along with other trade unions are specifically mentioned as having made representations to the Government (on the issue of Supervised Community Treatment).

So far as I can tell, the Mental Health Alliance put up a statement welcoming these changes, then took it down again and then put one back up saying, amongst other things:

Our members will welcome the fact that the Government has begun to listen to and act upon the concerns of the people who live and work with the Mental Health Act. We hope that today’s changes mark the beginning of a new government approach to this issue that will lead to a genuine consensus before the Bill becomes law.

We believe that the Government and the Mental Health Alliance can still work together to deliver a new Act that is defensible and workable.

Is this the opening of a genuine era of co-operation breaking out? Given the Tories and Liberal Democrats have their minds seriously set on mauling the Government (of course that is the role of opposition parties, so I'm not criticising them for that) I harbour some doubts - we may be in for a very long ping pong.

The Mental Health Alliance is still wanting exclusions which are, in my view, patronising toward LGBT people and suggests that in some way being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is a mental illness. We all know this isn't the case, so the exclusion is unhelpful as it suggests the opposite.

Firstly being of one sexual orientation would never be able to meet the stringent tests contained in the Mental Health Act for compulsory admission, secondly because the law in Council of Europe countries on sexual orientation and gender identity is actually very clear and thirdly because UK legislation is explicit in recognising the legitimate existence of LGBT people (examples including Civil Partnerships, Gender Recognition, protection from discrimination in employment, goods and services and in the exercise of public functions - including acts under the Mental Health Act and finally the Bill contains 'fundamental principles' including non-discrimination and the least restrictive alternative.

Empty scaremongering versus equality

But at the same time some of the professional groupings in the Alliance (especially Psychiatrists) could do a lot more to promote services that are supportive to LGBT people and do more to challenge discriminatory attitudes that still abound in psychiatric practice.

No, not trying to lock you up for being gay but not really listening to you either, or not creating a safe environment for LGBT people (staff and clients) to be out or always seeing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity as the case of their mental distress, even when it has nothing to do with it.

Rather than joining in the scaremongering we should be demanding that as professionals in charge of NHS care we start to put our own house in order.

For the Government's pages on LGBT equality in the NHS (the Department of Health's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisory Group) with some fantastic material the Government is producing on sexual orientation and gender identity.

There's some really great stuff there, but as we all know getting it put into practice when discriminatory attitudes go very deep is the real challenge. So in addition to all of the Government's other progress in dealing with discrimination, there is an urgent need to extend the equality duty to cover all strands of equality inlcuding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bid to reverse same sex marriage in Massachusetts fails

News just in.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have voted 45 to 151 to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment. It had already received votes in one session and needed votes in a second to be placed on the 2008 ballot (there only need to be 50 votes in favour in two sessions to allow the amendment to go to ballot). The next opportunity to place the question on the ballot will be 2012.

You can see the news here.

The bid to kill off the amendment was supported by the leaders of both Houses and the State Governor Deval Patrick.

Some really good pictures of the day here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Single Equality Act proposals now out

These have just been made public by the Government.

The full proposals can be seen here and the press release is here.

The consultation will last until the 4th September 2007.

In addition the Government has published the proposals to add protection against discrimination in goods and services on the grounds of gender reassignment, by way of regulation under the European Communities Act.

Much of the reaction to the proposals is somewhat muted at the moment. TUC, Equal Opportunities Commission, Disability Rights Commission,

There are no clear proposals at this stage for an equality duty acorss all strands of equality or for harmonising provisionson harassment.

It will obviously be important to make sure there are forceful voices pushing the Government to use this once in a generation opportunity to actually deliver a lasting legacy, a step change in creating a more equal society, with the promise of real change.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Time to Vote!!

Labour's deputy leadership election is now in full swing.

If you are a member of the Labour Party (well duh....) or a member of a trade union and pay the political levy you have a vote (as well as members of Socialist Societies - including LGBT Labour) you will have the chance to vote. The elction is divided into three sections, each of which has a third of the final vote (MP's, MEP's; Party members; affiliated trade union members and socialist societies).

Please use your vote(s)!!

It is vital for ordinary people to be able to have a say and that is why the Labour Party is set up in the way it is, allowing millions to have a say in the elctions for Leader and Deputy Leader.

(I should say at this point that I would have wanted to have had an election for Leader - but not an artificially created one with a candidate who needed people to nominate him just to get him on the ballot (even if they had no inention of voting for him and didn't think he'd be any good as a Prime Minister) - what would have been the purpose of that?).

So now it's time to get voting!!

I am supporting Peter Hain (this may by now be a statement of the "bleedin' obvious" but it's good to let everyone know where you stand). I think he has fought a good campaign, has solid values and will be a real asset as a Deputy Leader in ensuring that we establish a genuinely progressive agenda that will sustain a progressive government over a fourth term.

He has a good basis of support from Trade Unions, a genuinely radical past (in the Anti-apartheid movement), good ministerial experience (notably in Northern Ireland), a clear commitment to equality and human rights (again his clear determination to bring in equality laws against stiff opposition in Northern Ireland) and a clear sense of direction as to how Labour can make a difference in government to ordinary working people.

If you are voting for another candidate please use your second preference vote for Peter Hain (the winner is unlikely to be elected on 1st preferences alone and the second preference only comes into play when your preferred candidate has been eliminated).


  1. Voting is by preference (1,2,3 etc) if you use a cross it won't count
  2. You don't have to use all of your preferences - preferences are only used if your preferred candidate is eliminated
  3. If you are using a union or socialist society vote remember to tick the declaration box to say you support the Labour Party and aren't a member of another party (or your vote won't count)
  4. Vote by returning your ballot paper in the envelope provided or to the address on the ballot form (if you lose the envelope you can still vote.......) by the closing date.

If you want any more reasons to vote for Peter Hain you will find them aplenty on Lou's Blog or of course, Peter Hain's campaign site.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Campaigning on the Mental Health Bill

A good example of some of the exaggerations that are being put about concerning the Government's plans form the website for 'Black Information Link' with my comments added in parentheses.

"The Bill includes provision to:

- allow anyone to be detained and medicated against their will even if they will not benefit from treatment.

Not true. The law will broadly operate as now. To be detained to hospital you have to have a serious mental health problem which is not amendable to treatment by your GP, local community mental health and home treatment teams. An appropriate treatment will have to be available.

- allow anyone can be forcibly medicated against their will within their homes.

Absolutely not true. There is no provision for forcible treatment in people's homes unless in emergency situations. People who have been discharged from hospital under Supervised Community Treatment (a small number of people as opposed to "anyone") are amenable to being brought back to hospital if unwell and given medication.

- allow practitioners to restrict the lifestyle and behaviour of those anyone who has had contact with the services.

Not true, though the wording used by the Government in the legislation has led to some confusion and would benefit from being clarified. There are, though, no plans to restrict people's lifestyle and behaviour.

- Extend doctors powers to detain patients against their will to other professions

Not true. Only certain doctors will be able to detain (as now) under the Mental Health Act. The Bill will, however, allow other professionals (only if they meet cartain competencies) to be the responsible clinician, allowing them to renew detention (subject to certain safeguards). This will allow people to move away from the medical model of psychiatry where everyone has to be under the care of a Consultant Psychiatrist, but, if approriate (and perhaps with a degree of patient choice) have a nurse, Occupational Therapist or Psychologist as their responsible clinician.

I think it is really good that the Government has to justify any proposals in the field of mental health law and that there is the widest possible degree of involvement and criticism from community groups and, yes, in some areas the Government needs to reflect and seek ways of improving the legislation.

However it is most unfortunate that some campaigners (no doubt with the very best of intnetions) are proceeding by means of half truth and exaggeration to raise fear and anxiety around the proposed legislation, making sensible criticism and debate almost impossible and seeking to create long term mistrust of mental health services which can only be harmful in the long run.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Declaring for Hain

Labour's Deputy Leadership election is now well and truly under way.

Having given deep thought as to who to support and of course consulting others (especially Louise) I have finally reached a view and will be voting for Peter Hain.

It's quite difficult to choose from a field of 6 candidates where many have different things to offer.

In the end however it was a combination of Peter's anti-apartheid work in the past, his work in Northern Ireland - including the introduvtion of the sexual orientaiton regulations ahead of the rest of the UK that made the difference. His manifesto speaks of a positive renewal for the Labour Party including trade unions and affiliated organisations and the need to broaden Labour's appeal so we can rebuild a movement around progressive ideals.

Here is Peter Hain's website. The link to his "manifesto" can be found here.

There's also an excellent site for Trade Unions affiliated to the Labour Party with pages dedciated to the Deputy Leadership elections here.

Freedom of Assembly

Reports from Moscow of public disturbance and the arrest of two Western MP's and of Peter Tatchell when trying to hand in a request for a Pride March to take place.

This is in clear breach of clear rulings form the European Court of Human Rights on the freedom of assembly and expression, important given that Russia is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Coverage can be seen:

On the BBC, Times (UK), New York Times.

Mental Health Bill

There continue to be a build of press stories attacking the Government's Mental Health Bill.

Meanwhile, the Mental Health Alliance which is in some disarray as 5 key organisations (UNISON, Amicus-CPNA, RCN, BAOT/COT and the British Psychological Society) representing a number of disciplines (Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists...) and a large majority of mental health professionals have suspended their membership over (see also here for the full press release) the Mental Health Alliance's failure to represent the diversity of opinion of its membership - especially on the issue of renewals of detention where a non-medical professional is the lead clinician involved in a patient's care.

Of course there are always two ways of looking at everything. My own view, though, is that not everything in mental health should be built on the medical model and that many service users could do really well with a nurse, OT or psychologist in charge of their care. There are of course no guarantees, but the chance for service users to develop strong working relationships with their clinicians and inclusing disciplines where the focus can be less on medicaiton and more on social and psychological aspects has to be something we should be supporting in a modern mental health service.

Also the Observer has printed my letter in response to this story which is very much slanted towards the Mental Health Alliance slant on things, though the story (actually heart rending reading) really seems more in support of the Government's plans (they also included a correction stating that Scotland wouldn't be covered by the Bill). There has been so much misinformation in the media exaggerating the impact of the bill in a quite irresponsible way that many people have a completely unrealistic view of what the Government is proposing. I really do start to worry about the impact that all of the MHA's campaigns will be having on scaring people away from seeking help form mental health services which would be a great diservice to people who may need help from mental health services. We all have a responsibility in this area.

The text of the letter is as follows:

We all feel for mentally ill people not receiving the care they need ('Did my sick husband have to die in jail?', News, last week). But I am far from sure that the conclusions this article seeks to draw - that the new Mental Health Bill for England and Wales would inevitably make things worse - were justified by the story.

First, this tragedy occurred in Scotland under legislation which opponents of the government's plans for south of the border hold up as a better guarantee of patients' rights and want to replicate.

Second, the article seems to imply that people who breach their community treatment order in England and Wales will be committed to prison. If true, this would be deeply alarming, but it isn't. Patients who are unwell can only be brought back to hospital.

The mental health campaigners trying to stop the government's bill are actually trying to hold up powers that may in some cases be necessary in keeping people safe while they are unwell.

Craig Nelson


The legislation has now completed its committee stage. There are still a number of issues the Government has said it is considering and the next stages are Report and Third Reading and then ping pong to see how many changes are accepted by the Lords where the Tories and Liberal Democrats are working together on the bill.

Again, there are many areas where the Mental Health Alliance is acting in a well inentioned way and on several areas I support their point of view. They just need to gain a little more balance and realise that in the area of mental health a certain amount of moderation and aherence to accuracy should be observed.

Monday, May 21, 2007

UK government supports LGBT rights worldwide

Government Minister Ian McCartney has published (on IDAHO or should that be IDAHOBIT? - International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) a really good statement on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website pledging to work against discrimnination worldwide, especially countries who criminalise same sex acts and use either the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Its an excellent statement which can be accessed here. But it's so good I include it in full....

On the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney today affirmed Britain’s commitment to the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality. Announcing the development of a new UK strategy on international LGBT rights he said:

'We have taken a lead in ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the UK. But elsewhere the picture remains bleak. More than 70 countries totally prohibit consenting same-sex relations, and nine countries punish them with death, denying people their basic human rights. Every year hundreds of LGBT people are killed simply because of their sexual orientation. Some by State execution; many more while the State looks on indifferently. Many thousands more live in fear of persecution. Human rights belong to everyone. Sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor.
'The Foreign and Commonwealth is developing a strategy for promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBT people overseas. This year sees the 40th Anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act in the UK, which began the decriminalisation of homosexuality. We can mark this milestone by speaking up for those millions around the world who are branded as criminals simply for being who they are. I look forward to working in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders to develop our strategy.
'LGBT people have struggled to gain recognition of their human rights internationally. Many states refuse even to consider these issues and strive to keep them off the international agenda. Millions of our fellow human beings live in societies still blighted by stigma, prejudice and shame. Their suffering is unseen and unheard. These will be difficult issues to raise, but we must speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.'

In an addition to efforts on decriminalisation there are 5 other areas where UK action can make a difference:

  • non-discrimination in the application of human rights;
  • support for LGBT activists and human rights defenders;
  • health and health education;
  • raising LGBT issues at international / multilateral institutions;
  • and bilateral engagement with key countries.

Equally Ian is due to speak at the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights AGM on Saturday 26th May at 3pm at an open meeting (the AGM business itself is from 1pm till 3pm for members and affiliates) and will address the issue of international LGBT issues as well as agreeing to answer questions.

If you're in London at the time, why not drop in? Its at the UNISON building, Mabledon PLace, London (by St Pancras/Euston).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Brown - Prime Minister elect

News just in. John McDonnell has finally conceded that it is mathematically impossible for him to obtain the magical 45 nominations needed to stand against Gordon Brown for leadership of the Labour Party. See the latest on BBC News

Monday, May 07, 2007

And Scotland?

Just a few thoughts on the Scottish results.

Apart from all the difficulties over the voting process (which has probably killed PR for UK elections) I have a few thoughts.

Firstly I think we shouldn't exaggerate the result. All this doom and gloom about the imminent demise of the Union ( see for instance this rather insulting peice in the Independent and this gloomy scenario in the Times), which I actually find to be in rude health.

I don't think we can realistically expect Scotland to elect the same Government in perpetuity - it needs to be able to throw out the current lot in favour of someone else - at some point that is going to happen and that's what democracy is all about and that party couldn't be the Lib Dems (they're a coalition partner and part of the Government with Labour) and can't be the Conservatives who have not been able to rebuild after being wiped out in the 1990's and are still seen as tainted as well as being traditionally anti-devolution.

So here we are with the SNP with a 1 seat advantage. The majority of parties and voters are against having a referendum on independence, so that's not likely to come close to rearing its head. They're not likely to get a bill through any of its Parliamentary stages.

Yes, Alex Salmond can posture and gesture against a London based Government. It will be an irritant, but the other parties can pull the rug on him when it suits them - as any minority Government is always vulnerable to a confidence vote or to a defeat on the budget.

Also - yes, there is the SNP as the biggest party. Yes, the Executive is likely to have no majority of its own. But that's not so bad. It means the budget gets passed and all other laws are voted on by their merits - including private members bills. Its not unlike the situation in the US where Congress doesn't necessarily pass the laws proposed by the President. They seem to get by reasonably well and if voters are unhappy they can vote differently in another election. Democracy - and voter choice - in action (well for those whose vote actually got counted).

Also not a bad idea for a precedent to be set in favour of having a minority administration - all this obsession with forming coalitions is a little unhealthy and means that the smallest parties have inordinate power over the biggest.

So overall I've decised to be relaxed about all of this. It's democracy in action and we should welcome it. There'll be no referendum, unless there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament for that, which I don't foresee happening anytime soon.

So let's all relax and just let them get on with it - and be proud of the fact it was a Labour Government which delievered devolution in the first place and be pleased that voters are making it work for them.

To use a fabled term from the past (with not entirely positive resonances I admit) "Crisis? What Crisis?".

Sunday, May 06, 2007

ECHR ruling on freedom of assembly

A unanimous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of the organisers of Warsaw Pride event, upholding the right to the freedom of assembly.

The link can be found on the ILGA website. The ruling is not too long and is well worth a read.

It s a very interesting and forthright ruling and has made a ruling that has applicability for all countries of the Council of Europe (including EU countries such as Latvia and countries such as Russia) as well as strengthening an already impressive ECHR case law on issues of sexual orientation. I also anticipate it will have an impact on the law regarding peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in general, which Governments will have to adhere to.

On a similar note ILGA -Europe has launched a campaign on freedom of assembly, seeking wxpressions of support from , amongst others, mayors and leaders of councils.

Also on the ILGA website, news and links about recent European Resolutions on Homophobia in Europe.

Finally, this may be of some interest. Here is the website for 'GenderDoc-M', the LGBT organisation in Moldova where permission for a Pride event has been denied, in spite of a ruling from the Moldova Supreme Court. Also contains a link to an expression of support from Ken Livingstone.

Elections, elections, elections.....

First of all, good news from Nottingham where Labour won the election, gaining all 3 seats in my own ward (taking one from the Tories) and with a net gain of 4 seats overall.

That island of good news (as well as Labour retaking Leicester Council and gaining seats in York) was somewhat overcast by results elsewhere, especially in Scotland, Wales and the rest of England.


Well it certainly is true that Governments in power lose local elections. It happened under the Conservatives and under previous Labour administrations (including spectacular losses in the 60's and 70's - the BBC has a good page of recent local election reversals, which is quite instructive). A bad performance in local elections doesn't always mean losing the next General Election.

The Labour Party won in Nottingham for a number of reasons - first of all recognising that we would lose the election if we didn't do something radically different. Secondly by pulling out all the stops in the campaign. The Lib Dems complained that Labour won because of union support (I can't see it did much good any where else). The truth is that there was a well run campaign which started just after the 2005 election and a number of individuals putting in a phenomenal amount of work as well as a lot of people working hard on the day.

So I do not think that the next election is lost, but it will be a hard fight. The Scottish vote is very portentious of new developments and I will blog about that at some later point.

And to add to the general depression, tonight the French look likely to elect Sarkozy - if all of the opinion polls are correct (and I do mean all .... there will be some seriousl explaining to do if Segolene Royal wins, though I earnestly hope she does).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Day One of the Sexual Orientation Regulations

With little media coverage the Sexual Orientation Regulations covering the provision of goods and services enters into force today.

It is anticipated that the regulations will be incorporated into the new Single Equality Act, due later this year, with the proposals being worked up by the Discrimination Law Review and is due to report in May - no doubt their work has been much delayed by all of the controversy over the sexual orientation regulations....

The link to the regulations is

Friday, April 27, 2007

First two days of the mental health bill

The Government is now proceeding apace with the reversal of the Lords' amendments to the Mental Health Bill.

The amendments were voted by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in line with a campaigning organisation called Mental Health Alliance. The "Alliance" includes any organisation that matters, speaks for all professionals, all service users, all carers, has a complete harmony amongst its 80 organisations. Apparently. So there is no need for any mental health organisation to put any thought into mental health matters as the MHA speaks authoritatively on behalf of all its members at all times. All the thinking has been for you and all there is left for you is to agree.

Now I don't want to be over harsh. I certainly respect where the MHA (though probably not the Conservatives) are coming from, and on some of the issues they are either raising entirely legitimate concerns or have ideas that deserve to be taken seriously.

However they have tended to exaggerate and over simplify making it very difficult to have a sensible debate at all.

Day one of the committee saw the Government reverse the amendment on exclusions from mental disorder (including sexual orientation, political and cultural views etc). The Government's argument is that as these are not mental disorders it would be strange to exclude them as if they were and would muddy the waters considerably.

I am sure the Government are right in this. In particular I note contributions from Chris Bryant:

I can see several reasons, therefore, why it might seem intrinsically a good idea for the Bill to contain the proposed exclusions. However, on sexual orientation in particular, it seems bizarre that we would want to cover it in the Bill. We should assume that nobody believes that somebody’s homosexuality is a reason for them to be sectioned. We should make that assumption, together with the assumption that nobody should be sectioned for their political, religious or cultural views [.....]

That is why, despite understanding the reasons why people might wish to include them, I find the exclusions patronising and therefore inappropriate. I also believe that they would be a legal nightmare. The person who does not want to be sectioned, and whose lawyer says that his claim to be God is a religious belief, will be able to advance that argument before the courts. That gives a much more complicated set of decisions to the courts than would be appropriate.
And the Minister (Rosie Winterton) put it very well when she stated:

As I said, including something that is not a mental disorder in a list of exclusions of mental disorders is not only unnecessary but, particularly in matters such as sexual orientation, gives the impression that we do think that it is a mental disorder and therefore must be excluded. It is stigmatising in that respect.

Day Two of the committee saw debate over the 'imparied decision making' test that the Conservatives want inserted. The debates were very revealing as there seemed a lot of confusion on the Tory and Lib Dem side as to what exactly they were proposing and what such a test would mean.

As a mental health worker myself I have to admit that it isn't immediatley clear what they are wanting to propose. Some state (and I think that this is the guidance given in Scotland, where they have adopted such a test) that if you are suicidal or posing a risk to others then, by definition, your decision making is impaired. Well - that seems to make the test hopelessly circular and subjective rather than a clear and genuine test.

Others said it was similar to the test for capacity (if not identical to it) and therefore if you met the test and wanted to commit suicide you should be allowed to do so; if you were a risk to others you could not intervene to stop them.

So the Tory/Lib Dem position lacks the benefit of being thoroughly worked out.

Again the sentiments are good but this is no way to make law. Legislation should aim at relative clarity and tests should be just that, not completley open to divers and contradictory interpretation.

The committee went on to debate that vexed question of 'treatbility' or 'therapeutic benefit' test for detention, but that debate continues in the next session.

The link to the committee debates can be seen here, though the exchanges are quite in depth and occasionally technical, as well as quite argumentative on occasion.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Second Reading of the Mental Health Bill

After this Bill (amending the Mental Health Act 1983, covering England and Wales - Scotland has its own Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2003), has been seriously mauled by the Lords the Government has announced it is going to valiantly seek to overturn the Lords' amendments.

In the second reading debate many Labour MP's expressed some sympathy for some of the Lords' positions so we shall see. The really interesting part will come in the ping pong that might follow by way of getting the same version of the Bill passed in both Houses.

I managed to watch the whole second reading. There were some interesting comments made by members but ulitmately many of the comments were a little superficial in nature.

I was moved though to hear many first hand accounts of people experiencing mental illness and remembered that in fact many MP's do have quite a lot of contact with service users and their families. The Government seemed very confident of their case and I think are going to reverse as many of the amendments as they possibly can and compromise only at the ping pong stage - if at all.

On many I think the Lords' amendments may be well intentioned but probably shouldn't be retained.

I do think that principles should be included in the Bill (bizarrely and for reasons I don't entirely grasp you can't put 'principles' in an amending Bill......). This is something I think the Government should think again on as I think it would satisfy a lot of people and give much needed reassurance.

Other areas I think the Government should think again are the choice of Nearest Relative and the provision of advocacy.

I definitley do not agree that the Government should accept the Lords' amendment on exclusions, which in my view is mischievous and misbegotten.

Yes it says you can't be detained solely because of your sexual orientation (as well as other things such as culture and religious beliefs etc).

Now we are going to get headlines saying 'Govt removed protection from homophobia'. This illustrates how mischevous the amendment is, in that it creates fear that it seeks to address - that it is possible detain people 'solely because of their sexual orientation'. This is clearly ridiculous (it's not possible to detain someone solely on the grounds of anything, actually - even a serious mental disorder), and therefore would be bad legislation and should be removed so there is a much simpler definition of mental disorder.

The other big issues are 'treatability' - where you have to demonstrate 'therapeutiv benefit' in order to detain someone and a restriction on the use of Community Treatment Orders. This is really the nub of the debate and it will be interesting to see how it proceeds.

It is of ocurse important to get it right and will be interesting to watch.

PS I should add that much of the media coverage is grossly distorted and really beside the point to the current debates.

One example is the BBC which has been asking:

Should the mentally ill be detained against their will?

MPs will be debating controversial plans in the Mental Health Bill that would allow the government to detain the mentally ill, even if they have not committed a crime.

All of this is of course grossly misleading as well as being unfortunate because it is designed to make many people who have a mental health problem fearful of mental health services in a way that is completely groundless.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lawyers Christian Fellowship on the regs

LCF has now published guidance advice on the sexual orientation regulations. On the whole it is much more balanced and dare I say truthful than we have come to expect.

There are still some exaggerations and deliberate scare (expressed as "there's a possiblity that") which you kind of expect, coming from LCF.

Also an actual lawyer has put his name to it, which is good.

Funny that they weren't able to release this before the vote - then it was all scare stories and exaggeration. Now the regs have been voted through they are eble to portray more honesty (they seem to be able to turn that on and off at will).

The link to the advice is here.

Of course, there are aspects to the regs that they don't like. That's to be expected. The LCF has been opposed to any measure of legal equality for LGBT people and of course that's their democratic right.

I do, though, have a few quibbles.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, and I could be wrong but I tend to disagree with the item dealing with the perennial 'Christian printer' being obliged to print books that they don't agree with. Actually the printing of books is more like publishing than printing.

In my untrained view, I think that a printer (or a publisher) can not be forced to print something he doesn't agree with (i.e. to promulgate ideational content he disagrees with), and so, in my view the question doesn't arise.

I personally think that in any case wouldn't be upheld by the Courts under the Human Rights Act.

There is of course the famous Canadian case but that wasn't about printing a book or a 'flyer promoting gay sex' it was about the printing of a letterhead and business cards for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (for a reference to this by now famous case see here, for a summary of the original ruling itself see here). And I do anticipate that a similar case would have a similar outcome in the UK under the sexual orientation regulations.

Apart from that and a few minor quibbles it's quite well researched and even includes the reference to the landmark ruling from the High Court on the Employment Equality regulations where they quite correctly state:

Is it a defence to argue “I am not treating this person differently (discriminating) because of their sexualorientation but because of their sexual practices”?

No. The Government have never accepted this distinction in law and neither (to date) have the courts.

The reference in the ruling itself can be seen here:

"29. Part of the background to the wording of regulation 7(3), and one of the matters that will need to be considered in examining the challenge to that provision, is a distinction drawn between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. As regards the protection conferred by the Convention, however, I do not consider there to be any material difference between them. Sexual orientation and its manifestation in sexual behaviour are both inextricably connected with a person's private life and identity."

But this is a digression, though one that the Bishop of Hereford might have benefited from having had prior to the Employment Tribunal case.

I would also quibble with any suggestion that preaching and membership might potentially be covered under the regulations under a variety of scenarios. This is a failure to read in the provisions of the Human Rights Act and also the no doubt forthcoming Belfast High Court case on the Northern Ireland regulations which will no doubt say the same thing.

Any way, all of this apart, what they're putting out now is much more balanced than the scare stories they were putting forth before the regulations were passed by Parliament.

Bishops' madness

Well Easter is well and truly over isn't it?

Bizarre opinions being expressed by various Bishops expressing a favourable comparison between....... Iran (of all places) and our own society in the UK and presumably the terribly corrupt Western World.

Apparently Iran is a superior kind of country to ours. They have clearly defined religouse based values whereas we don't.

I think Al Qaida thinks exactly the same and that's why they would like to install a similar regime in the UK to the one which the bishops so clearly value in Iran.

Do they have any inclination of what kind of country Iran is? Do they really believe that their religious inspired dictatorship is superior to our democracy just because, having taken UK forces hostage, they then cite the Prophet when releasing them?

Whilst I don't want to use the phraseology of Axis of Evil, it's clearly not the most wonderful of places to live.

I can't help but wonder though whether the bishops views mean they regard Iran with a certain amount of envy. Nobody is allowed to question the dominant religion. Religious law runs the country and no need to lobby the Government over the Sexual Orientation regulations and suffer the humiliation of being rebuffed - you are the Government and if people disagree they tend to meet a sticky end. Is that secretly what they would like for us with our 'free floating' values?

I shudder to think.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter time

Most of my blogs are securely from a secular perspective (that is to say that I blog secular and even from time to time refer to 'Christians' in the 3rd person...), which is kind of funny when I spend so much time in churches....

So I thought (the thought came to me during the Maundy Thursday Vigil last night) that I might blog a few words about how I'm experiencing Easter.

I should say that this is now my 4th Easter observed in the Anglo-Catholic way and of course the liturgy is by and large the same but the experience and how it changes you is different each time.

The service is very striking but the Vigil allows for a mental discipline of just remaining in the side chappel with little other than you thoughts, the candles on the altar and some flowers. The stilling of the mind lingers on and makes you think you should pray like that more often....

The Good Friday service is one of simplicity and quiet and the remembering of the sufferings of our Lord.

Saturday - Easter Vigil - a long service, starting off with a bonfire and with the renewal of baptismal vows. The strong points for me are the procession in near darkness into the Church, the procession down to the font and trying not to be covered in hot wax from the Paschal candle; Gloria in Latin for the first time after Lent with the ringing of bells, the first Regina Caeli.

Followed by the Easter Sunday service itself (the first service I attended my conversion as a young teenager was an Easter Sunday Mehodist service so it has a special resonance), followed by a service of benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the evening.

Christmas is a very strong time for celebrating the faith but for me it's Easter that is the strongest time and when you are most open to reflection and introspection.

We are only at the mid point at the moment of the Triduum and I feel very differntly to the experience compared to how I thought I would. The Maundy Thursday never fails to be a full stop to all the thoughts that are swirling around in your head and hopefully reorienting towards the things that are in fact important.

The sense of being taken out of time by an ageless liturgy that is being celebrated all over the globe. And a special sense of grace after recent disputes that I've blogged about (extensively) elsewhere.

For now'll just leave my favourite verses from today's hymn:

The strife is o'er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.

The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.

He closed the yawning gates of hell,
the bars from heaven's high portals fell;
let hymns of praise his triumphs tell!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Not an April Fool; but still foolish

Well seems I was wrong (though thses days every story in the Observer seems equally improbable, whether published on April 1st or not - does that mean I'm getting older?).

Covered by the BBC here.

Anyway it seems that the Church of England (or parts of it) is practicising (allegedly) discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and placing itself above the law.

I await the outcome of the case with interest.

A catalogue of this year's crop can be found on this BBC page - though I must say I thought the one about Tony Blair becoming an actor was genuine....

Brilliant April Fool in today's Observer ....

Todays Observer (bearing in mind the date is April 1st) has this hilarious report about a Bishop Priddis (obviously a made up name) who is being taken to an Employment Tribunal for refusing (allegedly) to employ someone on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Well I must congratulate the Observer on a really funny and ingenious April fool which really had me going for a few minutes until I remembered the date.

Of course it has to be made up. We do in fact know that while "there is a range of opinion amongst the Christian Churches over the issues of Human Sexuality [presumably they're completely agreed about non-human sexuality.....] we would oppose all forms of discrimination based on a person's sexual orientaiton" as is so often repeated to us ad nauseum.

I for one chide myself for not taking the Church of England at face value when giving such clear assurances. Who could be more honest and straight forward than a Christian?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A positive report about the Archbishop of Canterbury

In a recent post I reported on a number of people syaing very uncharitable things about the current Archbishop of Canterbury and said I would write something positive as soon as someone was willing to put forward a positive opinion.

Well I'm not sure this counts but it's kind of positive and there's a good report of it on the Ekklesia website titled Archbishop of Canterbury says churches must be 'safe' for gays.

There is also further discussion on the Thinking Anglicans (is there any other kind?) website.

Some of the quotes are quite interesting as he appears to say that apart from churches being safe places for "gay and lesbian people" he also appears to both criticise certain Provinces who are actively in support of oppressive measures, notably in Nigeria, although he underlines the presence of hate crimes even in Western countries.

His support for the "proper liberties [freedom of association, assembly and expression perhaps?] of homosexual people" is clearly very important. You can see his statement here.

Here's a chunk of the statement (I underlined some bits):

“ The commitments of the Communion are not only to certain theological positions on the question of sexual ethics but also to a manifest and credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people, a commitment again set out in successive Lambeth Conference Resolutions over many decades. I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties. It is impossible to read this report without being aware that in many places – including Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes – hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms."
Just timed right for the release of the Yogyakarta principles - let's hope he's willing to sign up.

And while on the subject of the Yogyakarta principles I was pleased to see this article on the Comment is free (Guardian) site - Righting wrongs with some interesting discussion of how in previous UN debates countries who do not exactly have a shining record of human rights managed to block and vote down the Brazilian resolution on sexual orientation.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Yogyakarta principles launched

The 'Yogyakarta' Principles have been launched on Monday, 26th March. The website relating to these principles can be accessed here. The principles were adopted unanimously by a number of human rights experts in 2006 and are due to be launched officially during the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

This comes after 54 member states supported the Norway statement on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2006.

The Yogyakarta principles are summaried as follows:
The Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights standards and their application to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Principles affirm the primary obligation of States to implement human rights. Each Principle is accompanied by detailed recommendations to States. The experts also emphasise, though, that all actors have responsibilities to promote and protect human rights. Additional recommendations are addressed to other actors, including the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, the media, non-governmental organisations, and funders.
It will be very interesting to see how many churches and church organisations are able to sign up to these principles of international human rights law.

Ongoing turmoil in the Anglican Communion

Lots of things going on there and there's quite a pace to it all. I am only blogging about it here because some of it is very important and significant - other blogs give a more 'blow by blow' account.

Notably this excerpt as a resolution of The Episcopal Church (TEC - the American 'Anglicans'):

"We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."

This quote is very significant and it's well worth reading it out loud a few times to get its full impact. (I am indebted to a variety of sources notably Ruth Gledhill and Andrew Sullivan for drawing attention to this passage, plus I added emphasis to some bits).

The full text of the resolutions carried can be found here.

The main decision by the US bishops is to decline the 'gracious offer' of the Primates meeting at Dar es Salaam recently to set up a committee to jointly run the US Episcopal Church (in effect and I am simplifying here as this isn't a blog destined to church experts).

The Telegraph has an interesting blog which reacts to this by slamming the Archbishop of Canterbury here, concluding with:

"For almost his entire period in office, the treacle-voiced Welsh Primate with the Fu Manchu eyebrows has been bending over backwards to appease people whose views he privately abhors.

I thought Rowan Williams was going to be the finest Archbishop of Canterbury for decades. Instead, he has been a disappointment on every level – even in his own area of expertise, theology.

He does not put his foot in it as often as his predecessor, George Carey – but, then, you can’t commit a gaffe if nobody has a bloody clue what you’re talking about. He is obviously afraid that he will go down in history as the Archbishop on whose watch the Anglican Communion fell into schism.

But that’s not how I, and many other people, will remember him. For us, he will always be the Archbishop who laid down his friend for his life."

I might blog a more positive view of the Archbishop of Canterbury later - when I find someone who's prepared to go public with one.

For excellent ongoing coverage of the ins and outs of the slow Anglican schism your best bet is Thinking Anglicans which has frequent updates from both sides of the divide and some interesting comment threads.

For a view of the Conservative side of things I recommend taking a look at Titusonenine (T19) - but be warned its like entering a parrallel Conservative and not very friendly world.

For the UK there is always the commically named 'Anglican Mainstream' which is actually on the extremist fringes of debate (just take a moment to look through their 'related links' section). Anglican Mainstream is something we should all be aware of. Forget Christian Voice, The Christian Insitute, CARE or even the Evangelical Alliance (which I think is trying to be more moderate these days),it's Anglican Mainstream that is at the heart of the political religious right in the UK (along with the Lawyers Christian Fellowship of course - who organised the Prayer Vigil outside Parliament - though it seems that they got other groups to do the publicity for this).

Anglican Mainstream is also the main proponent in the UK of the largely discredited ex-gay movement. It's obvious that are using the ex-gay movement as a battering ram to oppose LGBT equality in the political sphere, though as I have pointed out elsewhere the idea that "innate and immutable" characteristics are the only reason or justification for civil rights protections is not sustainable - even for areas such as race where such a restriction appears to have actually been introduced from within the US debates over desegregation and the racism that was rife within the US at that time.