Friday, June 20, 2008

Bloggin from Gatwick

Just a few updates before leaving the country for Poland for a Conference in Warsaw on Trade Unions and LGBT equality.

This is an important initiative where hopefully the different unions (including UNISON, Ver.di (German Public services union) and OPZZ in Poland).

So only a few minutes to blog some issues of interest.

UNISON National Delegate Conference

Last day today. Yesterday saw the traditonal Thursday afternoon 'rules amendment' debate. Of particular interest to me was the proposal to create a Disabled Members position on the branch committee, but without the requirement that the position be held by a Disabled member.

No doubt it was well intentioned but there hadn't been consultation with the other self organised groups and the proposal wasn't particularly well thought through, either by Disabled Members or the NEC.

I hope that the proposal's rejection by the Conference on a card vote will allow a time for reflection so that better though out proposals can be brought forward. Branches, in the mean time, are able (and many are doing) appointing equality officers for the different areas of equality.

The Union also launched its Equality Scheme and there will be a workplace equality rep scheme which again will be another way forwards in promoting equality in the union at branch level.

Kudos to Louise who gave an excellent, well thought out and weighty speech laying out the reasons for our opposition and there were a number of other very good speakers as well making the case that we need to move forwards together with well thought out solutions.

Horizontal Directive

A change of jargon (instead of 'horizontal' it is now being descrived as 'cross cutting') the Commission has reversed its position and stated it will propose a Directive covering discrimination across all article 13 grounds (including sexual orientation) after intense lobbying by trade unions and other campaign groups.

Will update as and when I am able....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jewish same sex wedding ceremony on the streets of California

Some nice footage on BBC website.

Reminds me a bit of the scenes accompanying the introduction of Civil Partnerships in the UK - seems we are still arguing about that.

Marriage now legal

The California Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage has now entered into force and several couples (some of whom have already been together for years - or decades in some cases) are planning to marry immediately at State offices that are staying open for the occasion.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Andrew Sullivan on same sex marriage in 1997

Ahead of the introduction (maybe only for a few months) of same sex marriage in California and in the midst of all of the (somewhat overblown in my view) broohaha about the so called Anglican gay wedding I am putting up a weblink to a talk by Andrew Sullivan on same sex marriage from 11 years ago.

It's well worth watching - and can be found here - the Daily Dish.

Dr Who does theology

Watching last night's Dr Who I could not avoid thinking that the episode was in large part about the thinking of Rene Girard, in artcular his references to the scapegoat mechanism and the need for sacred unity at the expense of indivuals seen as troubling or threatening.

Interesting that in the episode it takes no time at all for sacred unity to be established against whatever person was being designated as the scapegoat.

What he is able to show (exhaustively) is the relationship between that distorted human desire and the foundational mechanism of what he calls surrogate victimage (more popularly called “The Scapegoat Mechanism”). That is to say, human desire, as we live it (and thus the formation from within of our ‘self’ and our consciousness) derives, as a cultural fact, from desire becoming distorted by rivalry, until there is a point where there is so much group violence that unanimity (and thus peace and the avoidance of the collapse of the group) can only be restored when, apparently mysteriously, all become fixated on someone who can be held responsible for the collapse of unity and order within the group and then expelled, permitting the establishment of a new social unity over against the expelled one.

That is to say, an act of collective fratricide against a victim is foundational to all human cultures, with its being absolutely vital for the cultures so founded that they believe in the culpability of the rejected one (or group), and continue to bolster up this belief by forging prohibitions, myths and rituals.

Can the Treaty work with 26?

This is currently being mooted around the capitals of Europe.

Reuters UK Germany says EU may still pursue EU Treaty

It's a fascinating legal and political question. I'd have thought not, but I think at a minimum there would need to be agreement from the Commission, unanimous agreement from the Council (including Ireland) and the parliament not to mention the ECJ' at least tacit agreement (maybe someone should ask them).

In practice I think it's a lot harder, you could end up with "Lisbon" members and "non-Lisbon" members of the EU. It's quite difficult to determine how you can be in the EU and not be affected by Lisbon if it enters into legal force. Proposals to end the rotating Presidency can't be adopted in part. Of course, if there's only one "non-Lisbon" member....

For this exercise to have any legs at all the Associate membership option ("non-Lisbon" membership) might be worked up into something attractive and non-punitive (keepng your MEP's and Commissioner etc). It would become an EU membership status for a member state that had not ratified a Treaty provision and under it the country concerned would retain their legal position as to internal law (and therefore any cases before the ECJ) as per the last treaty that had been ratified and in force.

And of course the Irish government would have to be willing participants.

Is this realistic? Is it pure fantasy? Denial?

All eyes now on Sarkozy and Merkel for the next chapter in what promises to be a long running saga.

UNISON National Delegate Conference is about to start

UNISON's yearly annual Conference starts on Tuesday and runs through to Friday.

As usual there are many motions to be debated (most are not reached so usually motions that are quite high up in the prioritisation process get heard).

LGBT motions this year include Making LGBT Equality a Reality, emphasising the launch of UNISON's Equality Scheme and Human Rights are Fundamental on the importance of human rights frameworks - especially when religious groups claim the right to discriminate.

Conference will also see the launch of the Union's Equality Scheme.

There will also be some controversy during the rules debate as there is a proposed rule change from the Disabled Members group that will be opposed by the LGBT group (two thirds majority required).

I won't (at least I don't think I will) be blogging from the Conference. Jon Rogers (although I do not concur with him on all of his views) will probably provide some incisive blogging from a left perspective.

I am sure that Louise will also blog as well.

An EU without Ireland and the UK?

Firstly Will Hutton in the Observer (Europe must not be derailed by lies and disinformation) envisages the EU will proceed without Ireland in the event of 26 countries ratifaying the Lisbon Treaty.

Second an editorial in Le Monde points the way to a new Treaty body (based on Lisbon, presumably).

What is therefore looking likely at the moment is the creation of an EU Associate status - probably designed for Ireland, the UK and Turkey.

Le Monde:

Pour sortir de ce cercle vicieux, il n'y a qu'une possibilité : créer, à côté de l'Union européenne actuelle, une avant-garde composée de pays prêts à accepter la règle de la majorité qualifiée pour approfondir l'intégration. L'idée n'est pas nouvelle, mais elle n'a jamais été mise en oeuvre. Elle suppose des dirigeants convaincus que l'unité européenne est une ambition nécessaire. S'il aidait à cette prise de conscience, le vote des Irlandais serait finalement une chance pour l'Europe.

Rough translation:

There is only one way out of this vicious circle - the creation, alongside the current EU of an 'avant garde' made up of countries ready to accept the rule of qualified majority voting in order to deepen integration. It's not a new idea, but it has never been put into practice. It would require leaders convinced that European unity was a necessary ambition. If it's any help toward such a position then the Irish vote might end up being a real opportunity for Europe.

Will Hutton:

On top of these there is the political problem that the treaty can't be rewritten to accommodate specific Irish concerns because it already does; Ireland's 'no' campaigners told lies. The voters' great concerns had been met. There is a specific protocol that guarantees Ireland's neutrality and excuses it from membership of any joint European defence effort, if any surfaces. There is no possibility of Ireland being told to enforce abortion. And all states have autonomy over tax policy.

Crucially, the treaty contains a clause that states that do not agree to its provisions are required to leave the European Union. The existing treaty can certainly be made more obviously Ireland-friendly within its existing provisions, but beyond that, the EU will have to get tough and invoke the clause. It will have to ask Ireland to resubmit essentially the same treaty for a second referendum early in 2009, rather as Ireland held a second referendum over the Nice treaty in 2002.

If Ireland votes similarly again, then it will have to accept associate status in the EU and not be a member of its governing structures. The EU will proceed without Ireland.

I don't entirely agree with Will Hutton's analysis but the logic of a Treaty being negotiated by all heads of government and ratified by 26 out of 27, and one of the countries stating they are unable to ratify means there is at least a possibility of being asked to accept associate status.

The irony is that for associate status to be enacted it would require an Ireland-EU Treaty ... probably requiring a referendum.

The real risk is for Britain as an incoming Tory government (in the event of that happening) might quite like associate status.

Let's be clear however, what associate status would mean. It would be more than free trade - this is already enjoyed by Norway and Switzerland as continuing members of EFTA as part of the European Economic Area (described on its website as being for [members] to:

participate in the Internal Market, while not assuming the full responsibilities of EU membership. The Agreement gives them the right to be consulted by the Commission during the formulation of Community legislation, but not the right to a voice in decision-making, which is reserved exclusively for Member States

in other words to have the right to have decisions made by others without your involvement.

It would therefore mean still being part of EU common policies (agriculture, fisheries), still paying a budgetary contribution, still being bound by EU law but having no MEP's, no Commissioner and no presence at the Council of ministers.

I am sure there are many eurosceptics who would vote for this as a stepping stone to rejoining EFTA (i.e. leaving the EU).

On the positive side, if the EU develops as a free association of peoples (as it undoubtedly is) then maybe it should allow for stepping stones, both to exit and entry via an associate status.

And I am sure that eurosceptics would then campaign to come out of the EEA to avoid being told what to do by the EU that we had just left.