Saturday, May 17, 2008

Some Italian stuff

Louise has already posted about In Veglia.

Have navigated around and found some great sites. Really good for learning Italian (that is to say not say easy to read if you don't speak Italian, great if you want to start learning - heck why not)

Main link here at Gionata seems from what I can tell to be an Italian LGBT Christian site with an incredible amount of content already - as well as links to In Veglia.

It's a great site and I hope to pop in and out as my Italian (...) improves.

Faith bodies should end discrimination

Recent Employment Tribunal case of constructive dismissal on the grounds of religious belief by a charity with a supposedly Christian ethos.

Reports in:

Thinking Anglicans

British Humanists Association

Ekklesia has a correct view here in that the Christian values of the gospel leave no space for discrimination.


I prefer Idahobit (International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia).

We are getting to the point where there are so many days (Pride, LGBT History Month and Idaho/Idahobit) it gets a bit difficult to mark each one.

Idaho as the mark of the 17th May 1992 when homosexuality was no longer classified as a mental disorder by the World Health Organisation is an important date to mark and also a goo dday to focus our thoughts on the many countries where homosexuality is outlawed and where there is no protection on the gounds of sexual orientation.

Another reason that we must, in Europe, have a 'horizontal directive outlawing discrimination across all major grounds (including sexual orientation) and we need to be engaging (via governments, international NGO's and so on) against the criminalisation of homosexuality and in favour of protections against hate crime and discrimination against LGBT people.

In this context a link from ILGA-Europe from Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe (also refers to the Yogyakarta Principles).

See also in today's Comment is Free (CiF) Love is a Human Right.

Also from the Council of Europe the revised Convention on adoption which is now inclusive of the ability of same sex couples to adopt. Hopefully all states will ratify the Convention.

Women still need safe, legal abortions

Early next week sees the controversial votes on the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill.

The Bill itself has had extensive scrutiny already (considered by a Joint Committee) and already passed throught the Lords.

On top of the 3 so-called controversial areas (need for a father, hybrid embryos and 'savious siblings') there will the tabling of motions to reduce the time limit on abortion.

Personally I support 'abortion rights' for women i.e. access to safe and legal abortions where a woman decides she needs it. This is not the same as saying that aboriton is right or wrong only that it the individual woman's own choices over her own body and reproductive rights rather than society defining it.

In that sense our abortion laws are imperfect. They lay out all sorts of conditions to be met for the abortion to be lawful. I would allow only one condition, that a woman decides after all options are explained to have an abortion and there is no compulsion or coercion (i.e. it's a free and informed decision - the usual standard for important medical procedures.)

Whilst I have no problem whatever for different groups believing different things (abortion is wrong under all or some circumstances/after a certain time limit) I tend to take a more rigorous position about where the law should be.

The right of a woman to choose is the woman's and hers alone in this matter.

Link to Abortion Rights

It is not too late to contact your MP ahead of these votes. The best way is through

I do not object to the decision to grant free votes in the Bill (it's a bit misleading as no-one would be forced against their will to vote and so in that sense the votes are always free) but I think it's odd to allow a 'free' vote on the 'need for a father' when it's Governement policy to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and to support same sex parenting.

Children born to lesbian parents are of course going to meet boys and men in their immediate family, school, community and wider society and in any case it is far more important for children to have good, loving and balanced role models of either gender than having strong role models but bad ones.

For more extensive coverage see Lou's Blog


Why I'm against referendums and why Brown should take heart

I only partly agree with Martin Kettle on referendums/?referenda.

I am a firm believer in representative democracy. It's a good thing. It works and I don't believe in diluting it by having referendums all of the time.

Practice between countries varies considerably. Germany has no referendums as they are not permitted under their Constitution. Ireland has them all of the time. De Gaulle introduced them in France as a means of bolstering the power of the President as against the Assemblee and the government. The record of referendums in France is not that great and seems to point to what we know - they are often used as a means of registering disapproval of the sitting government of the day (often mid-term).

Britain held a referendum on EU membership (it seems to have the opppsite to any intended effect of 'settling' what was already settled by our Acsession to the EU). The referendum was held because Wilson's government was rent asunder and could only hold itself together by holding a neverendum (and then only just).

That's the only UK wide referendum we've ever had and so I'd only have referendums where:

  • the governing party can't maintain a parliamentary majority on an issue
  • a government decides as part of its policy to put something to a referendum because it's contentious and it prefers to deal with it in that way
  • there's a convention that is virtually assured that devolution measures be put to a referendum in the area directly affected (seems reasonable given that the status quo of a unified state should only be departed from if there is a substantial demand for it from voters). I think the 'bring it on' pov from Wendy Alexander is a bit odd - I think that Scotalnd votes on independence every two to three years - they only have to vote by a majority for the SNP in one of these and the deal is done - negotiations start immediately on making Scotland independent.

My thinking on this tells me what I want Gordon Brown to do with his remaining two years.

To have the power for two years of being the leader of a parliamentary majority is a great thing (more is usually considered better ...) and you can achieve great things with that political space. And some small things as well.

Governments that proceed steadlily, doing the things it wants to do, achieving real change, even though they're behind in the polls - these are the exception rather than the rule. And these rarities are, I believe, recognised by voters.

Come election time we have the ultimate referendum in our system of government. I think it's perhaps a bit of a contrast that under Blair we had a lot of electioneering but not that much governance, maybe in this respect Brown is the ying to Blair's yang. Or vice versa.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Same sex marriage in California

Very significant news from California that that the Supreme Court has declared that same sex marriage is required by the Californian State Constitution by a 4-3 ruling.

Of particular interest is the application by the majority of Justices of the principle of 'strict scrutiny', not usually used in cases of sexual orientation.

So this is a massive landmark case, following the adoption by the Legislature (Senate and House) of a marriage bill (though not passed into the law by Schwarzenegger, the Governor - who has though said he will abide by the ruling and not support a proposed constitutional amendment with the intention of reversing this ruling.

The ruling makes California the second US State (alongside Masachussets) which will have same sex marriage along side countries such as Canada, South Africa, Belgium, Netherlands and Spain.

I gather the ruling will come into effect in 30 days time. It will however be subject to review by the electorate in November when a constitutional amendment is voted on.

When the Campaign starts it will of course not be the first jurisdiction to have done this (whether by legislative or judicial means or a combination of both) . It will be supported by the view of the elected legislature (Schwarzenegger has said he would sign into law if allowed to under the Constitution), the support of the Republican Governor.

If the vote is successful it will have had the support of elected Legislature, Judiciary and General Electorate in a referendum and will therefore be of the highest kind of support and legitimacy possible, rendering it more difficult for the US to enact a Constitutional Amendment whose rationale is to protect voters from so called 'activist judges'.

Of course the vote could go the other way. That is always an option and one would have very big consequences in other US States, though again rendering rather otiose the proposed US Constitutional Amendment, given the ability of voters in the States to amend State constitutions by referendum.

Equality California

Pink News
Washington Post
Andrew Sullivan
New York Times
Human Rights Campaign

The ruling (172 pages including dissents)

Having been voted by the Legislature, having been found in favour by the Supreme Court, following Massachusetts and Canada it lies entirely in the hands of the voters in California this November.

I do not personally think that this will have quite so much of a negative impact on other States that some fear. Most of the most 'promising' (from a right wing point of view) have already enacted such bans, the more States they go after as same sex marriage becomes more widely practised in the US and its neighbour Canada the greater the chance that it will fail in the popular vote in one or more States. And where such a ban is passed it can only be passed once, limiting its political pay off.

P.S. The Campaign

Now California (and US) lgbt folk are in THE campaign of their lives. If the initiative is defeated 10% of the US will be able to marry equitably and many of those in other states may be able to marry there - with differing levels of recognition.

The ones to watch will be:

  • fundraising - the religious right will pour all of their resources into this fight - they are right to as if they fail here they fail utterly and have nowhere else to go. If you're rich and LGBT and live in America donate and make a difference. Otherwise the campaign will be massively underspent.
  • the unions - if memory serves most of them have robust pro equality positions - they can make a real difference. See also link to Pride at Work.
  • faith groups - really important to mobilise supportive faith voices in order to win the fight
  • the Democratic Party - California usually votes Dem in any case (and if they don't the election's lost anyway) so using the Democratic Party to mobilise a 'No' vote will be crucial. See link to California Democratic Party Platform and also the immediate and supportive reaction of Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives from San Fansisco.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pre-Queen's Speech

List of measures announced:
  • Banking
  • savings
  • housing
  • welfare reform
  • patients, parents and citizens
  • education bill,
  • apprenticeship - right to
  • second chance in education - workplace rights to time off to train
  • welfare reform - skills needs
  • benefit traps
  • right to flexible working
  • NHS reform bill, including a constitution and patient satisfaction
  • further action on antisocial behaviour
  • directly elected representatives
  • police - cutting paperwork
  • serious crime
  • managing migration
  • citizenship - emphasis on speaking English
  • constitutional renewal ill
  • reform of the House of Lords
  • Bill of Rights and duties
  • agency workers
  • equality bill
Text of statement on No10 website.