Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pastoral letter from Bishop Andrus regarding same sex marriage in California

I am indebted as ever to Thinking Anglicans for this and thought it so important I reproduce fully below:

Web link

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry. I am writing to you now to recommend a path to use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers, and our continued witness to God’s inclusive love.

Clergy and lay leaders in the diocese have been working for the rights of LGBT people and for their full inclusion in our Church for more than forty years. Today, we continue to walk a journey that includes:
  • Bringing the witness of our LGBT sisters and brothers to this summer’s Lambeth Conference,
  • Combating a ballot initiative this November that will attempt to take away
    the rights recently recognized by the California Supreme Court,
  • Providing leadership at next summer's General Convention to bring our marriage practices and theology in line with our fundamental baptismal

For far too long the onus has fallen on marginalized people to bear the burden of inequalities that exist within the Church, and the decision by our state’s Supreme Court has given us the opportunity to level the playing field.

To that end, the Diocese of California seeks to provide, by advocacy and example, a way forward for The Episcopal Church so that the marriage of same-sex couples will be a part of our official marriage rites, without distinction.

Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples be treated equally by the Church, as they are equally loved by God.

I therefore provide you with the following pastoral guidelines:

I urge you to encourage all couples, regardless of orientation, to follow the pattern of first being married in a secular service and then being blessed in The Episcopal Church. I will publicly urge all couples to follow this pattern.

For now, the three rites approved for trial use under the pastoral direction of the bishop, adopted by resolution at the 2007 Diocesan Convention (see appendix), should be commended to all couples (again, regardless of orientation) to bless secular marriages.

All marriages should be performed by someone in one of the secular categories set forth in California Family Code, section 400 (see appendix), noting that any person in the state of California can be deputized to perform civil marriages. The proper sphere for Episcopal clergy is the blessing portion of the marriage.

The understanding of The Episcopal Church currently is that blessings are an extension of the pastoral office of the bishop. I ask that you continue to inform me of all same-sex blessings.

Couples who have been married under the auspices of the California Supreme Court ruling must have the same pre-marriage counseling as that required of any couple seeking marriage or blessing of marriage in The Episcopal Church. This should be understood as an offering of the Church’s support for marriage.

I urge Episcopalians, clergy and lay, to volunteer as Deputy Marriage Commissioners. There are over 4,000 civil same-sex marriages planned in a short period of time in the city of San Francisco alone and the city is asking for help in meeting demand. I intend to volunteer for this at my earliest opportunity. This would be one sign of affirmation for the Supreme Court ruling from our diocese. By city requirement, clergy will not be allowed to wear collars when presiding at secular marriages. (For more information about how to be deputized, see the attached appendix.)

All people receiving blessings of civil marriages in the Diocese of California are free to use the same degree of publicity (e.g., newspaper notices).These are interim measures as the Diocese of California and The Episcopal Church continue our journey in the context of this prophetic opportunity provided by the California Supreme Court’s ruling. I have already initiated a process to arrive at a more studied, permanent answer for Episcopal clergy presiding at same-sex marriages in this diocese. That process includes the formation of a panel of diocesan clergy to make recommendations about how to move toward equality of marriage rites for all people. These recommendations will be discussed across the diocese resulting in an official diocesan policy.

In the coming days, I will publicly state my opposition to the initiative to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. The Diocese of California will publish advertising around June 17 celebrating the Supreme Court ruling and inviting same-sex couples to our churches for pre-marital counseling and nourishment in communities of faith. As always, I welcome your wisdom, your insights and your input on these matters, and I continue in my commitment to work for a Church that sees all of God’s children through the same eyes that God does.

The guilty parties

Who's to blame for the Lisbon Treaty fiasco?

I have two candidates.

I think Google and the Internet means that all information is at the fingertips of everyone and therefore allowing the great and good to go off and do their own thing in a well meaning way is increasingly not an option. Makes the politics of such treaties harder and harder to sustain against insurgent populist campaigns. Voters are less and less willing to trust their elected leaders on such matters and less tolerant of treaties they can't read.

But surely the single person most clearly blameworthy person has to be France's very own Valery Giscard D'Estaing.

After British politicians warned against calling it a Constitution - he went ahead and called it a Constitutional Treaty..... thereby guaranteeing the opposition of the die hard anti-Europeans, and incidentally pushing the French and Dutch to hold their own referendums, killing the first version of the Treaty stone dead and carrying the Reform Treaty in its wake.

Finally he gave this quote about the Lisbon Treaty, which wasn't the greatest help in the ratification campaign:

public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals we dare not present to them directly

When the Lisbon Treaty has friends like these, I don't think there's really much of a role for eurosceptic No campaigns.

Putting it all back together again

The biggest complaint that I hard against the Treaty of Lisbon is that it was too long and full of legal sounding phrases.

If you want a minimalistic treaty that does not grant excessive powers to the EU, seems to me that you will end up with a carefully written, long, legalistic, international treaty.

Whether this is appropriate material for a referendum is open to debate - I don't think it is and I am a firm believer in Parliamentary democracy.

I do not, in fact, believe that referendums are a more valid expresion of the popular will than representative democracy and I think the Irish result demonstrates that in abundance.

The Irish referendum demonstrates that people are wont to vote on all sorts of things, both real and unreal - the current government, fears over abortion, neutrality and so on, not focusing on the text of the Treaty which will (even if realy pared down) be too long and complicated for the electorate (how many people in the UK read the parties' respective manifestos?).

Any way, the fact of the matter is that Ireland does have this constitutional requirement of a referendum which is queering everyone's pitch so far as I can tell.

There might be some point adding protocols and binding declarations to the Treaty and then getting Ireland to vote again but that is not likely to work, as most people now admit.

Many of the No campaign in France and also Ireland state they are in favour of a "social Europe" and yet that is the first thing that has been killed off - it is now all but impossible to get things like the Charter of Fundamental Rights through the ratification process, and as for the rest. Certainly new accessions now seem very remote.

Future treaties are likely to be very simple, one issue only where the heavens will not fall in if the vote is not carried and where the matter at hand is so technical and minor only Ireland will have a referendum. And written on one side of A4, so it can be read by voters before casting their ballot.

There might even be a way of making changes to practice without a new Treaty, perhaps proceeding intergovernmentaly, perhaps by setting up new Treaty bodies that countries can opt into (and out of?) at their leisure.

I am sure, with Denis McShane in today's Times, that the EU will continue, but the EU that our political elites have imagined over the past decade is now well and truly at an end.

Comment in today's Guardian:

Fintan O'Toole The fear factory that devastated Ireland's political class
Colm Toibin A godsend to every crank in Ireland

Friday, June 13, 2008

Intergroup reports EU Commission agrees to propose a horizontal Directive covering all major strands of discrimination

Report from the Lesbian and Gay Intergroup, picked up by Pink News (at the same time as the Irish Lisbon train wreck) that the Commission has, in the face of widespread lobbying from around the EU agreed the new Directive covering discrimination outside employment would include sexual orientation.

There is of course a steep road ahead as the Directive needs to pass with unanimity and there will be a lot of tough arguing over the content and scope of any exemptions.

The news is not yet posted on the EU Commission website, so I am holding off from premature celebrations for the moment.

EU Lesbian and Gay Intergroup web site

Ireland scuppers Lisbon (according to early reports)

Making three countries that voted No in referendums on the Constitution/Lisbon process.

Maybe we should look at plans B, C, D, E and F.

Time report

Guardian report

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Will Ireland scupper Lisbon?

Many of Europe's capitals are now on tenter hooks as they await the result of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

In the event of a No options will be to tweak the Treaty and vote again or just abandon the whole thing.

If abandoned, options will include annual mini treaties (not the same as mini treats) with each individual item of the Lisbon Treaty or a core of European countries going it alone with Britain and Ireland on the outside.

David Davis throws himself out of the shadow cabinet in protest against the Govenment.......

Words quite frankly fail me as he commits £75,000 of public money to stand against the Raving Looney Party (should be an interesting contrast) to make way for Dominic Grieve (a much more balanced and dependable politician and less of a liability to his leader).

Davis' record is of supporting section 28, hanging .....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Norway adopts same sex marriage bill

Norway's Parliament is being reported as having adopted a bill which would equalise the marriage law for same sex couples as well as allow for donor inseminaiton for lesbians has been carried by 84 votes to 41 (i.e. by a 2:1 margin).

It is reported as being due to become law by the end of the year or early next year.

Norway will therefore follow Netherelands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and Massachussets in enacting equal marriage laws.

Such a move is also being actively considered by Sweden.

AFP report
Pink News
Rainbow Rose

News just in - Govt wins 42 days by 9 votes

After a number of concessions the Government staves off defeat and wins on 42 days.

The concessions though are quite extensive and produce a rather strange legal apparatus to deal with situations where a longer period than 28 days is required, though the alternative would be to rush through legislation on the hoof in 1 day which, on balance, means the 42 days might be the least worst solution.

Very good coverage on the Guardian blogging on developments throughout the day.

What Gordon Brown should do over the summer

Firstly, rest.

Secondly delegate to (probably) Jack Straw, possibly Miliband over a long summer holiday.

Ideally he should rent a cottage in Devon for the first part of the holiday and be seen going for lots of country walks, a couple of shots of chatting with locals but no politicking.

Then aborad where there are no voters to interact with and (hopefully) no media apart from a few syndicated photos and clips of him reading something slightly trashy (if he's seen reading an economics text book that's not good).

Where? Can't be the US or he'll get caught up in the US elections. Can't be in the EU or he'll end up talking about the Lisbon Treaty.

So preferably somewhere he can completly unwind and be photographed wearing slacks and short sleave shirts.

No where immediately springs to mind but I wonder if Cliff Richards still has that yacht in the Bahamas.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Congratulations to COC

COC (it appears to be the world's first gay organisation, set up in 1946 in the Netherlands) has been recommended by the ECOSOC Committee on NGO's to obtain consultative status.

COC will join a number of LGBT organisations who have already recently gained consultative status at the UN (ILGA Europe and a number of other organisations such as LBL, LSVD and RFSL).

The UK appears to have played a key role in the committee, speaking in favour of the LGBT organisations and also persuading the USA to support (voted against on a previous occasion).

It was a 6-7 vote with 5 abstentions. In favour - Colombia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, United Kingdom, United States; against - China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sudan; abstained - Angola, Burundi, Guinea, India, Turkey.

Pink News report - Gay groups gain observer status at the UN
ECOSOC Report - Approving gay-rights federation in 'breakthrough' decision

Obama's gay campaign

This on the Obama campaign's efforts to involve LGBT people, including previous supporters of Hillary.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Yesterday's Prides

Reuters - Pride events in Italy

Gay NZ - Pride events in Rome, Athens, Warsaw

Amnesty welcomes British embassy flying the rainbow flag (after being flown in Riga recently).

Open letter about Riga Pride

The letter from a wide number of signatories (including ILGA Europe) welcomes the event was upheld and took place whilst still pointing out disappointing ways in which the event was restricted.

In spite of all of the negatives, it's instructive to compare this year's Riga Pride with that of 2005 which was banned by the City Council but went ahead after a Court order, and with 2006 where significant violence and disruption occurred from anti-gay campaigners.

Apart from the sheer tenacity of LGBT campaigners in Latvia (and similarly in other Eastern European countries) we should improved policing, support from organisations such as ILGA-Europe and Amnesty International and high profile politicians from within the EU and in neighbouring countries.

THT interview on blood donation

PinkNews interview with Lisa Powers of THT.

Excerpt dealing with blood donation here:

There is a perception that THT is supporting a policy that is discriminatory.

They need to actually think why would we do that, since we come from the gay communities, being part of the gay community.

I myself have been a gay activist for over 30 years, and I didn't understand it till I sat down at length with people from the National Blood Service and really went into it very carefully and now I understand it.

I don't blame people who don't understand the ban and think it's all about prejudice, because 99 times out of a 100 when someone tells someone they can't do something because they are gay it's prejudice.

The ban around blood is a real problem, and it needs to be constantly checked.

Our view is that we support the blood service as long as they keep reviewing the evidence and we recently had a meeting with the NBS, two months ago, and they are currently going into another review.

They are looking at all the evidence and they are going to be sharing it with us.

They also finally understand they they haven't done enough with the gay community.

I would say to any gay organisation which has tried to engage with the blood service in the past and failed because the NBS hasn't wanted to engage with the community, I would say go back and re-engage.

If you want you can come and ask us at THT about who to talk to.

Get in touch with the blood service, get in touch with the right people at the top and persuade them that they need to explain themselves better.

We now have a FAQ policy about blood donation which is on our website, which tries to explain in as simple terms as possible.

Now sometimes people don't like what we are saying, literally last week we had a phone call to our department here from a gay man who was very upset about the blood policy and said how dare the blood service refuse the blood of gay men.

We said you have to understand that gay men are disproportionately at risk of HIV and then he started shouting at us 'how dare you pick on gay men, how dare you say we are disproportionately at the risk of getting HIV.'

But the fact is that in this country gay men are massively at risk, and what the blood service does, which they have been scared to admit in the past, is they play the odds.

They look at how much blood they need and they look at how many risks they need to take to get the blood they need and what kinds of blood, and they don't take any more risks that that.

Though the risk is relatively low, that something could go wrong, there is risk there.

When we talk to people about this, they are surprised to find out that that no-one from England can give blood in the US, because there is a tiny risk from BSE.

And it wouldn't matter if you are a vegetarian, and for a vegetarian to give blood in the US is like the gay man being refused to give blood here in England.

The dream ends

Clinton finally ended her campaign yesterday though I didn't manage to watch the speech. Here is a collection of some nice clips. As can be seen, she gave a thorough and full endorsement of Barack Obwma.

Whilst I didn't take to some of the tactics used by Clinton in her campaign (and Bill in particular has not come out of the campaign with his reputation enhanced) I have to admire Hilary Clinton's tenacity and energy in campaigning.

I am sure she'll carve out a powerful role for herself but I think that Hilary as VP is a recipe for disaster at some future point.

When the two candidates are so evenly matched it would be confusing as to which one felt more entitled to be President so you can imagine all sorts of difficulties - recent experience in the UK is perhaps not so good in this respect.