Friday, July 04, 2008

Confusion reigns at TUC LGBT Conference

Extraordinary scenes at the Conference - a prominent UNISON activist wanting to perform "Recital 22" (not sure which composer) and going on and on about a 'Verruca case' and telling everyone in earshot about some Yoghurt Carton principles........

Confusion indeed!

To cap it all, in the blood debate, one very excited young delegate exclaimed "It's my blood and I'll give to whoever I want". To which the person sitting next to me said "I don't want your blood!".

One delegate also stated that they felt the Conference was at times verging on the experimental and avant garde.

Playfulness apart...

No it wasn't all about recitals, verrucas and Yoghurt Cartons..... I think the reference was to excitement (for one delegate at least) about the ECJ judgment in the Maruko case, with particular reference to recital 22 (EU Directives have a series of recitals which elucidate how a Directive is to be implemented and interpreted). Well I haven't clue what's in recital 22 but I'm going to have to look it up.

For yoghurt carton principles read Yogyakarta.....

Monday, June 30, 2008


In today's Times an interesting article which is worth a read 'The Borisophobes are on the march (or not).

I have a few quibbles. The article veers a bit by taking Boris at his word - however the fact is he has been a typical homophobic Tory, supporting Section 28, comparing Civil Partnership to 'a union of 3 men and a dog'.

Anyway London voted for him. Not of my doing - I was supporting another candidate.......

I hope very much Boris attends Pride (I wouldn't be averse to a bit of booing - as David Davis is keen to remind us we do retain our civil liberties).

But any way I am glad if he attends, especially if he is indicating his commitment to LGBT equality within the capital - something about heaven rejoices over one sinner that repenteth......

Minus a bit of public spirited booing (we are obliged to be nice but not obliged to gild Boris' equality credentials or kiss the hand that until recently has been smacking us) an elected Mayor should support Pride and demonstrate support by being there and writing to the Mayor of Moscow and Lithuania to get them to do the same (a bit like the previous incumbent?) and maybe even talking to his homophobic Tory colleagues.

All elected officials are obligated to stand up for the dignity of all citizens.

Finland upholds current criteria on blood donor selection

Pink News carries this news that Finland's blood donor selection criteria (substantially the same as those in place in the UK and most other countries) is not unlawful and is not contrary to the Finnish constitution and does not, in fact, discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation but is based on expert opinion about the level of risk posed given that men who have had sex with men compared to other groups in society.

This follows similar decisions in Sweden and Canada and there is no evidence of the UK blood services changing their approach in this matter in the immediate future, though campaign groups continue to raise the issue to ensure it us kept under regular review.

Gays and guns?

I have often felt tempted to drop a line about this curious US case, where the US Supreme Court has overruled a strict handgun bad in Washington DC.

The constitutionality of gun control in the US is of course fascinating and long running and slightly odd for us Europeans where a) we have by long tradition believed in the State's monopoly of violence (a la Weber) and b) we are struggling with both gun and knife crime - as is the US for that matter.

Well the whole gun control agenda has just hit the buffers big time in the Heller ruling issued 5 years to the day to Lawrence v Texas.

Various right wing gay groups are in favour of the right for gay people to carry arms:

  • The Constitution allows people to bear arms and form a militia - this can't be the regular army as gay people are - for the time being - excluded from it (an argument enough in itself to send the right on the Court rushing to support the individual right to bear arms)
  • Gay people are at much higher risk from lethal and near lethal 'gay bashing' - carrying arms means they will be able to defend themselves effectively (right to life) and if more gay people carry guns - and make that known - this will make people think twice before making a physical attack.
  • Groups such as Pink Pistols (who made a submission to the Supreme Court on these lines) encourage gay people to get trained in the use of fire arms and carry them to the extent the law allows.
So they you have it. You might be safer with a gun but of course the risk of 'gun inflation' (we probably have that anyway) and cases of both accidental use and people running amok and killing many people (as in recent school cases - e.g. Columbine). Most commentators think carrying a gun (or a knife for that matter) actually makes you less safe - mainly because such weapons are not easy to use effectively in self defence and make you more likely to stay and fight instead of getting out of the situation.

There are two further cross cutting issues in this:

  • The ability of States to have a certain latitude to define laws in their own remit (states' rights) - in this case the Court over rules States' own legislation (under some circumstances - not all gun laws are invalidated).
  • Different ways of construing the Constitution (living document versus the original document as intended at the time) there is in this case a literal words of the 2nd Amendment, although, in this case it is the words of the Amendment and their import that is the key issue, without much constitutional precedent to weigh up (in this case Heller is now the constitutional precedent in this matter).
The mere fact that there are people wanting recourse to violent means to protect themselves from physical violence means there is a huge need for our laws to eradicate homophobia and transphobia and for police forces and local government to work towards effective prevention of violent hate crime.

I am sure this is the better way to address the problem - but this is maybe an example of how far apart are the US and Europe in such matters.

A nice rejoinder to the case (and critique of the conservative justices' judicial activism - usually pinned onto pro-gay rulings of any kind by the right) in E.J. Dionne's piece in the Washington Post:

I also hope this decision opens people's eyes to the fact that judicial activism is now a habit of the right, not the left, and that "originalism" is too often a sophisticated cover for ideological decision-making by conservative judges.

Pride events


Pride events held for the first time in several Indian cities. This is significant coming ahead of hearings by the Indian Supreme Court on the constitutionality of section 377 of the penal code which criminalises same sex activity.


The far right Bulgarian National Union opposes the march in Sofia and police arrest 60 skinheads attempting to disrupt the march.

In the Czech Republic it was reported that right wing extremists used tear gas to attack the march, injuring 20.


Pink News carries a report from New York where the recently appointed Mayor was in attendance after he has indicated New York will accept marriages carried out in California and reports a turnout of over a million.


Paris, as is now usual, had a march of upwards of 700,000 people ending up in a dance party in Place de la Bastille. It included prominent politicians including leading socialist Bertrand Delanoe (gay mayor of Paris and potential presidential candidate). This year's theme was for a school without discrimination.

Coverage from Inter-LGBT with clips from French (extensive - we never had this in Britain) TV for French speakers.

I am genuinely impressed by how successful Pride (La Marche des Fiertes) has been in Paris at being political and educational at the same time.

It was followed by a service at the American Cathedral in Paris "Annual celebration of the inclusive love of God"

Berlin also held a successful CSD (St Christpher Street Day = Pride) as usual. Click here for a round up.

Why Pride is significant for us

Seeing people march for the first time in India, or to see people bravely marching under the assaults (verbal and physical) of the far right in Central Europe gives added poignancy to marching in a parade in support of LGBT equality.

Just simply saying you are gay and walking down a street will earn you physical violence in many parts of the world.

This is what is meant by the freedom of association, the freedom of peaceful assembly. But it's a hard won freedom and in many places of the world (in particular our part of the world - the European Union) LGBT communities are at the cutting edge of the fight for nothing more than the right of peaceful assembly and association.

Such rights are too precious to be taken away by the early stirrings of a new form of European fascism or the old fashioned homophobia of religious authorities.

The Big Labour Party Train Wreck

Coming 5th behind the BNP has really got to be some kind of historic low point which causes us to reflect on how bad things are at the moment.

Whilst it is clear we have a number of exogenous problems (those not of our own making) - notably the price of oil and commodities and the credit crunch, we are in a position where the Party is kind of punch drunk and resigned to defeat at the next election.

This is not good and as a Party we have to ask if this is the best we can offer to the British people.

As blogged previously there is a need for a new government, by which I mean a drastic reshuffle (i.e. more than just shuffling the cards around) with a leading team that can infuse confidence in the Party with a bit of fight in it. It is the political arts that are in demand at this time.