Utah House Passes Bill Against Sex Education and other stories…

The Utah capitol, where the House passed legislation banning sex education in public schools.

(Utah)Apparently, Santorum is rubbing off around the nation(no pun intended) and even Africa, as the Utah House passed a bill to allow the state’s schools ridding them of  sex-education classes. The bill also specifically prohibits school instruction on how to use contraceptive devices. House Bill 363 was passed by a 45 to 28 vote.

Although both sides agreed that sex before marriage is wrong, proponents of the bill claimed that Utah schools should not be teaching students how to “get away with it”, it being sex, while opponents claim that students learning about the consequences of sex actually works as a deterrent. Opponents said students that know they may contract a sexually transmitted infection or create a child are less likely to engage in sexual activity.

President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

(Zimbabwe) Another government leader not representing his people, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe,  spoke against homosexuality and the U.K Prime Minister’s request that human rights abuses end on the African continent. The U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, had previously threatened to cut bilateral aid to nations that fail to protect lesbian and gay human rights.

Mugabe turned 88 last week and stated during his televised birthday celebrations:

“Nature is nature…It has created male and female.”

“You David Cameron, are you suggesting that you don’t know that or is it some kind of insanity or part of the culture of Europeans. In their newspapers, that’s one of my sins. That I called [gays] worse than pigs and dogs because pigs know there are males and females. It’s even in the Bible that you create through the system of marrying.”

“That’s how we were born, so we reject that outright and say to hell with you. I won’t even call him a dog because my own dog will complain and say, but what have I done.”

I am always impressed by a government leader who cites the Bible and compares his citizens to animals, impressed with sympathy for his people.

Erika Stroud

(Massachusetts) Meanwhile, in Boston three women, who identify as lesbian, have been criminally charged with a hate crime. Erika Stroud, her sister Felicia Stroud, and Erika’s partner Lydia Sanford attacked a gay man at the Forest Hills MTBA Subway Station. The man allegedly bumped into the women in a stairwell, and was repeatedly called homophobic slurs and suffered a broken nose amongst other injuries. The women claim that the man used racial slurs inducing them to respond with their own anti-gay commentary.

Massachusetts prosecutors and the American Civil Liberties Union claim that no matter the defendants’ own sexual orientations they can still be found guilty of a hate crime against gays. The ladies, and I use that term loosely, may be convicted of assault and battery with the intent to intimidate through use of hateful language and face up to a 10-year prison sentence.

I do agree that lesbians could be found guilty of a hate-crime against a gay man. Despite the collective efforts of sexual minorities(gays, lesbians, transgender, and bisexual individuals) to gain civil rights, we are still distinct groups If they targeted him specifically because of his sexuality, I don’t see the problem. The problem I do see is that four adults got violent over bumping into each other in a stairwell. Grow up.

(Idado) On a more positive note, activists in Idaho have pledged to continue their fight for LGBT rights after the Senate Affairs committee put an end to a proposed amendment to the Idaho Human Rights Act that would have provided for LGBT protections. One setback doesn’t end the game.

Have a great Monday!!

 

 

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Liberian Senate Pushes to Toughen Anti-Gay Legislation/Cameroon Police Arrest 10 Lesbians

Jewel Howard Taylor, former Liberian first lady turned senator, has been pushing for the passage of a new anti-gay bill that aims to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. The bill comes as Liberia has seen a recent growth in gay rights debates as activists across the nation seek greater public recognition.

Under Liberia’s 1976 Revised Liberian Statutes Section 14.74, any person found guilty of voluntary sodomy has committed a first-degree misdemeanor. The government has defined “voluntary sodomy” as individuals engaging in “deviate sexual intercourse” including but not limited to “forced sexual relations, sex with a minor or a person of diminished capacity, or by duress or fraud”.  Same-sex sexual activity has been successfully prosecuted under this law. The new bill proposed by Taylor would not only prevent same-sex marriage, but would raise the categorization of same-sex sexual activity from a misdemeanor into a felony.

Taylor and other proponents of the bill claim it will protect and preserve Liberia’s traditional culture and marriage, mind you Taylor is a divorcee. Obviously, she is committed to the sanctity of marriage, and treated her marriage vows as binding, mhm…

Down the  west coast of Africa, in Cameroon, the fate of gays and lesbians doesn’t look much better. Cameroon Radio Television reported the arrests of 10 suspected lesbians last Thursday, and that the women will be held in Ambam until their trial.  I remember Bebe Zahara Benet(Marshall Kudi Ngwa) speaking of her experiences in Cameroon  watching the AIDS epidemic and the abuse of gays and lesbians, and sadly the situation doesn’t seem to be improving.

Homosexuality is chargeable under Section 347 bis of Cameroon’s penal code, and those found guilty may serve a sentence of up to five years and a fine.

Liberia and Cameroon’s actions add to the list of animosity toward sexual minorities throughout the African continent. Two years ago, the nation of Uganda proposed a law that would make homosexuality punishable by death. The bill was voted down last year, but was reintroduced this month.(And don’t judge me for linking to Fox News, their stories are accurate when they are focused on oppressing minorities.  The Spring Sphere story is still one of my favorite lies they’ve released. I digress…) Last year, another African nation took a stance against gay rights when  Nigeria passed legislation making same-sex marriage a criminal offense as well as prohibiting the creation of gay advocacy groups and same-sex public displays of affection.

I may be critical of the United States’ policies toward sexual minorities, but at least in this nation I don’t have to face arrest every time I kiss a guy. The good that may come from all of these African anti-gay activities is that they show that a social movement is coming about on the continent.  These new laws almost guarantee that discussions about sexual minorities will increase, and with those discussions we can hope for greater understanding and tolerance in the future.  For those of you unsure about your African geography, below is a map of the continent:

 

 

 

Federal Court and Maine Both Furthering the Fight for Marriage Equality

Same-sex marriage has had two victories in the nation this week, after Maine’s legislature passed a marriage equality bill and a federal court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Maine approved the marriage equality bill after some debate and a close Senate vote of 25-22. Maine’s Governor, Martin O’Malley, is expected to sign the bill into law making Maryland the 8th state to permit state-recognized same-sex marriages. Gov. O’Malley released the following statement after the vote:

“…The common thread running through our efforts together in Maryland is the thread of human dignity; the dignity of work, the dignity of faith, the dignity of family, the dignity of every individual…”

As Maine stepped closer to joining other states in recognizing equal legal protections for lesbian and gay couples, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California made its own strides when it found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

In Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, Karen Golinski, a federal employee, challenged her employer’s decision to deny federal health insurance benefits to her wife. Golinski was represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Specifically, the case challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act(1 U.S.C. Section 7,), defining marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman against the 5th Amendment.

The Department of Justice urged that the court review the legislation under strict scrutiny which has been used in the past for legislation affecting members of a suspect class, typically members of a particular race. Golinski alleged that her spouse’s denial or health insurance benefits was a violation of the 5th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which prohibits the Federal Government from depriving citizens of life, liberty, or property without  “due process”.  Here, the Court considered a marriage a liberty right, similar to Lawrence v. Texas, where a person’s right to engage in same-sex sexual activity was also found to be a liberty right by the Supreme Court.

Karen Golinski and her wife Amy Cunnighis

The extension of strict scrutiny to federal laws affecting sexual minorities would make it that much more difficult for the government to defend discriminatory laws affecting the LGBT communities. Previously, under the rational basis standard (the standard used when a law is not affecting a suspect class), the government only had to prove that it had a legitimate interest at stake in a newly created law and that the means used to enforce that interest were rationally related to the goal. Under strict scrutiny, the government interest must be compelling, and the means to achieve that interest must be strictly tailored to affect the issue using the least restrictive means possible. For those of you who aren’t law students, this may sound like a riddle and I’d have to agree with you, it pretty much is. The Court has discretion to interpret it as it sees fit according to precedent.

Basically, the Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act did not meet the strict scrutiny standard and is unconstitutionally harming the rights of American citizens. The next step is for the Supreme Court to agree to hear the case and make its own ruling, if it finds the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional the act will be removed from law.

Enjoy your weekend!

Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bill Against Same-Sex Parent Led Households Adopting

Last Friday, the Virginia state legislature passed a bill permtiting private adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex parents seeking to adopt. The bill was passed on the grounds that child placements in same-sex parent households conflicts with some of the agenies’ religious or moral beliefs.

The state House voted 71-28 to pass the bill after the Senate endorsed it 8-7. Republican Governor Bob McDonnell has committed to signing the bill.

Opponents of the law claim the state government has licensed and contracted with many of these agencies and is effectively condoning discrimination. As cliche as it may sound, the real victims here are the children. Although they may be placed in foster homes, these are not necessarily permanent placements, and I am always suspicious of people doing seemingly altruistic acts while receiving a monthly check for doing so. The state of Virginia is clearly saying that we put the ignorance of some over the happiness and security of children who need homes. Not just a roof over their head, but real homes they can call their own.

Proponents of the law claim that it promotes religious freedom. If you want religious freedom stop accepting money from the government to serve the public. Am I crazy, or do people not understand what the separation of church and state actually means? It does not mean that you should be able to receive funding from the government and do whatever you like with it, it means that when the “representative government” makes laws it doesn’t include religious ignorance as a factor in their creation. It also doesn’t mean that the government funds you to evangelize. Here, Virginia’s legislature got it wrong. An entity that discriminates against a population should not be receiving government funds. If that means that places like Catholic Charities go belly up, good. There are plenty of people that can start more tolerant agencies and clean up this divine mess. Some may argue that the legislature is just being “representative” of a majority religious population. Taking civil rights away from individuals because a majority says so is never a good idea. If the majority of the country’s population were gay and lesbian, as Rick Santorum fears it will be after we are done recruiting, and we voted to end heterosexual marriage would this be permissible?

Another person who doesn’t understand that the government should not be on a religious crusade is Rick Santorum. He spoke to students in 2008 about Satan having his sights on the United States and using “pride, vanity, and sensuality” to reach his ends.  What concerns me most is that people are getting behind him. On NPR this morning, citizens of Michigan were being interviewed about who they would like to see in the November elections. More than a few of them said that they wanted Santorum to win. They didn’t care about the bail out payments made to the auto industry by Obama, they want to see the economy get up and going and “know” that lowering taxes will make everything better. First of all without the bail out, many of you would be jobless if you aren’t already. Secondly, lowering taxes will not only ensure that the government’s deficit keeps growing, but it isn’t going to help you keep a job or get back your house. If you want to see the source of your woes look into executive greed and why an executive making millions per year retains that salary and lays off thousands of people. The government’s settlement with the five major banks over their mortgage practices not only allows them to retain most of the profits they made off abusing their customers, but will not help many to retain their homes. Read a book with all of your down time!

Any way, back to Santorum. Santorum stands by his statements, and at a recent speech in Arizona claimed that “the United States will stand up and call evil by its name”. Are we exorcising the devil? Will Osama Bin Ladin re-animate and end up tied to a bed as his head spins 360 degrees? If Santorum is actually concerned about evil, why is he focusing on gay marriage and not corporate greed? Is gay marriage why the economy is shot, or why gas prices keep rising? No. I suspect that the economy is a mess partly because banks abused their powers, and gas prices keep rising because drilling companies and fuel vendors know that the public is subject to their whims. We don’t have an option, meanwhile President Obama has focused on finding alternative energy sources so we aren’t trapped and he has become the know-nothing president.

People like Santorum, and those Virgina legislators who voted to pass a discriminatory adoption law are a threat to the progress we have made in civil rights and unseating religious zealots from power. Let’s keep moving forward.

Today, seemed like a good day for a rant. I’m giving up sweets for Lent, despite not being Catholic. I’m tolerant 🙂 Take notice Virginia

Sweden Proposes End to Required Sterilizations During Sex Reassignment Surgeries

Officials in Sweden have announced that they plan to repeal a policy requiring those who receive sex reassignment surgery to also be sterilized under a 40 year old law.

Under Sweden’s  Lag (1972:119) Om Fastställande Av Könstillhörighet I Vissa Fall (Act on the determination of gender in certain cases) of 1972, an individual undergoing sex reassignment surgery must be  unmarried, at least 18 years of age,  infertile by operation or natural occurrences, and a Swedish national.

This law needs to be repealed. It does not follow with Sweden’s progressive approaches to society, and it takes away an individual’s right to reproduce. Some may think a trans person would not be a good parent, but that is a very personal choice that the government should not be involved in until a child is actually in danger.

On February 18th, the ruling party of Sweden, the Christian Democrats, announced that they have reversed their view on the sterilization practice and will support a ban. You can sign the online petition to the Swedish government here if you like, even though it seems unnecessary now it’s still fun! You can watch one of the major proponents of the ban below, his name is Love how cute.

VIA AllOut

Washington Governor Set to Sign Same-Sex Marriage Law at 11:30AM Today

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is set to sign legislation today making the state the 7th to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. The signing ceremony will take place today in the State Reception Room at 11:30 A.M., and the law would go into effect on June 7 of this year.

Despite the governor’s signature on the bill, the measure may not make it into law if opponents are able to secure 120,577 valid voter signatures petitioning a vote on the measure in November’s election. Opponents have until June 6th to gather all signatures.  Here’s hoping they fail!

You can watch TVW’s coverage of the signing ceremony live on the web here: Signing Ceremony

VIA SpokesMan

In the Australian Parliament, two bills have been introduced that if passed would permit same-sex marriage in the nation. The bills were introduced weeks after the ruling Labor Party announced that it no longer opposed same-sex marriage’s legalization. One bill has been introduced by a Labor Party member while the other by a Greens member. Both bills include provisions allowing religious officials to legally refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

I am not sure why this religious refusal right has become an issue in so many nations considering the legalization of same-sex marriage, religious institutions are not even forced to perform heterosexual marriage ceremonies. For example, to be married in the Catholic Church both partners must have been baptized as Christians. The only exception to this is a special order from the local bishop of the diocese. Churches are not required to marry random people off the street, they have always had the right to refuse.

Good luck Australia, although many have said that the bills would both fail if put to an immediate vote, maybe the Australian LGBT community can gain some ground in the interim for a more solid proposal in the future.

VIA ABC

Weekend Update

Just a few updates from the weekend…

Sad news for Idaho’s lesbian, gay, and transgendered residents as the Senate State Affairs Committee killed legislation intended to add sexual minority protections to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Although the legislative committee didn’t hear testimony from citizens as to the need for the bill, they were sure to hear the collective gasp as the proposal fell. The bill only received two votes in its favor. Despite its failure, there is still hope for future bills. Maybe this failure will light a fire under the behinds of LGBT Idahoans to make the next bill stick.

Also in the news this weekend, Whitney Houston died at the age of 48. After hearing the news I immediately put on “Waiting to Exhale” and some of Whitney’s old pop songs. It is sad to realize how far she declined over the years, and how talents can be hampered by our own self destructive nature. I remember being 7 or 8 and listening to “I Will Always Love You” incessantly. I, along with my sister, tried to hit every note dreaming of some Kevin Costner-like man sweeping me away from a stressful childhood. I was a very private child, and this was one of the few songs my mother openly recognized as my favorite. It always feels nice to know someone is paying attention and knows things about you without your telling.

If nothing else, we can take from the story of Whitney Houston a call to overcome our vices and excel. RIP Whitney, below is another one of my favorite songs by her, “How Will I Know”. This version, sans background music, really shows off the talent that brought Whitney into household usage, enjoy:

On a more uplifting note, on the federal level, President Obama secured $1.4 Million last Thursday at a private fundraiser of LGBT individuals. President Obama reminded the crowds of his commitment to LGBT rights, and his victory in the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. He also spoke about his executive order which compels hospitals receiving Medicaid or Medicare funds to permit same-sex couple visitation for patients.  President Obama has made some advances for our communities, but there is a still a long way to go. He has my vote, god knows Romney and Santorum make me worry about the world’s future.

 

VIA: MagicValley,  The Edge

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