Saturday, February 24, 2007

UN Special Rapporteurs call for the withdrawal of the Nigerian Bill

Important news from the UN.

Four of the Rapporteurs for the Special Procedures set up under the UN Human Rights procedures have criticised the Bill to outlaw the freedom of association for LGBT people.

The statement has been posted to the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights here.

The Special Procedures covered Human Rights Defenders; Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Violence against women, its causes and consequences, Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The item also has implications for any country which still criminalises homosexual acts.

The reports of Special Rapporteurs aren't binding on States but are important as part of the overall mechanism of human rights at the UN.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Some depressing news

First legislation introduced by Ireland's Labour Party failed in the Dail. However in spite of this the Government is saying that they will come forward with a Government version of the Bill.

Apparently they are saying that the Irish Constitution enshrines support for the institution of mariage though I would like someone to explain how exactly allowing same sex couples to marry undermines marriage. One would have thought that ensuring an institution to be inclusive and meet the needs of all people it would be all the better for that rather than people feeling it was undermined in some way.

Also why does it take 6 months to draft? Similarly in the UK we are still waiting for the Government to publish the goods and services regulations. Why on earth are we still waiting for these? How hard can it be to draft a law?

Second, the Italian Government appears to have fallen after losing an important foreign policy vote in the Senate (I can only say that I am glad that we do not have the Italian arrangement here and that this points up the dangers of having an Upper Chamber which can rival the supremacy of the lower house). The Government had, of course, recently published legislation recognising same sex and cohabiting partners.

Keeping a Government together with 9 coalition parties and a Senate majority if only 1 is of course far from easy.

Dar es Salaam

It's actually incredibly difficult to blog about the recent meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion in Dar es Salaam. It's difficult to know whether to write it up as a victory or a defeat or even for whom. Comprehensive review and pointers to many other blogs can be found on the ever comprehensive Thinking Anglican blog. Blogs I have found helpful on this have included the Inclusive Church Blog and Anglican Scotist.

Opinion on the pro-LGBT side veers between the deepest depression and a kind of mindless optimism - I favour mindless optimism every time!

The short version is that the Anglcian Communion is going to stay together (for the time being at least) but that the US and Canadian branches will have to refrain from appointing openly gay partnered bishops and from publishing same sex blessing liturgies - though of course many existing bishops are gay (of course, how could it be otherwise?) and many relationships and Civil Partnerships are being blessed already.

Whether it's a victory or a defeat is, I suspect, less important than the fact that there is now a strong force within the Anglican Communion - including of course former Archbishop Tutu as well as his successor Archbishop Ndungane, and of course we know that while other countries in Africa may not be so positive, South Africa has already legislated for marriage equality.

There are other examples too, like the remarkable Lambda LGBT group at the American Cathedral in Paris (but part of the American Episcopal Church), or Changing Attitude in the UK and Nigeria, Inclusive Church, Affirming Catholicism and many other examples. Already in England (usually far behind other Provinces) we have Changing Attitude groups in many dioceses, includign my own of Southwell and Nottingham.

By the way I should say that the American Cathedral is a wonderful place, with absolutely beautiful worship and music. They had a special service last year following Pride (itself an amazing event with 800,000 people....) Suffice to say the bilingual service was incredibly moving with beautiful hymns and the use of a specially devised liturgy. It's a memory I don't think I'll ever forget.

In another parish I visited in England there were pictures of one of the couples of the parish having a blessing of their Civil Partnership, my own parish has adopted an equality statement which includes sexual orientation and other things like the message sent by the Baltic and Nordic Countries Deanery Synod to the Archbishop of Latvia - text here - in support of the Pride event in Riga and of the freedom of assembly in the face of some very unpleasant scenes.

It's a process and of course I would like it if it went a lot faster or was over before I arrived at the scene (even better). But alas it's not going to be like that and will take some time and the chance to dialogue about the meaning of sexuality for people who practice a religion, such as Christianity, and promote a more positive and inclusive view of things. To take a phrase from another context "Another world is possible" but probably not without a lot of work and a fair degree of patience.

As I said in a post somewhere else "The Chrch is on a journey - let's stay together".

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just back from Germany

Just got back from Germany where I was able to attend the Ver.di LGBT Conference in Berlin.

By way of explanation Ver.di dtands for Die Vereinigte Dienstleistungsgewerkshaft - the united (public ) services union - and equivalent of UNISON in Germany.

I should also say that I had never been to Berlin before but didn't get really enough time to exlpore the place - will need to go back to do that.

Needless to say the Ver.di LGBT Conference was an amazing vocabulary builder for all sorts of terms relating to unions and human rights issues but my German still has a long way to go before impressing anyone (apart from me just for trying .....) !!

Although the structure was very different from what we are used to in the UK union movement (where we usually have, certainly in UNISON, a motion based decision making process) I really learned a lot from the day and it opened up a lot of my perspectives on international working on LGBT issues. (The Ver.di LGBT website is here and well worth a look).

The things they discussed via a series of speakers followed by open questions and discussions were really interesting and thought provoking. These included some really interesting stuff on the role of trade unions in promoting LGBT rights worldwide, including a contribution from a representative of the Dutch union Abvakabo, which has also been prominent in promoting LGBT international work, with both unions taking an active role (along with UNISON) in the PSI-EI LGBT Forum - link via PSI (Public Services International) here.

Other issues discussed included some data on historical trends in workplace discrimination and harassment (including effects of stress and ill-health) as well as the flaws in the German Equality law which seems to have been watered down prior, with for instance no provision for pensions equality between registered partners and married couples and a few other significant shortcomings, some of which may contravene the EU Directives.


I was also reminded of this speech by Louise Arbour at the Montreal LGBT Conference.

The speech is well worth the read and can also be read here (Women's Rights in Development -

There is a really good Wikipedia page on the Montreal Declaration can also be seen here.