Equality in Marriage Blocked Again

Government is put in place to govern, that we can all accept.  However it is supposedly done on the basis of consent and democracy.  Government is supposed to listen to the electorate (not just at ballot and election time) but throughout the duration of its time in office!  In consequence, I would draw First Minister Arlene Foster’s attention to the Mori poll published in the Belfast Telegraph in June of this year,  which shows that 70% of the electorate agrees with gay marriage. (Survey shows 70% support for same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland) – this poll clearly  indicates that the electorate has moved on, and that gay marriage is acceptable.  How much longer will the DUP continue to bury not just its head, but its whole body in the sand about what is a right – this is about equality and fairness.  Dave McFarlane, Community JournalistEquality for all

Attempts to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland are set to be thwarted for at least another five years after the Democratic Unionists insisted they would continue to block a

Source: First Minister Arlene Foster vows to continue blocking attempts to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Consign homophobia to history, urges ex-Irish president Mary McAleese

Homophobia Not AllowedJeff Dudgeon MBE, is part of the history of Northern Ireland, and with his court case made the case for homophobia to be abolished in N Ireland.  Unfortunately until 1982 it was still a crime to be a homosexual in Ulster, indeed people were still persecuted under other laws for being gay, and their lives destroyed by what can only be called vindictive police cases which should never have ended up in court subsequent to this repeal.

Today, liFe has improved, but there are still problems; only within the last two weeks was a gay man attacked for challenging two men passing by who called him’queer’ and other words.

People are regularly still harassed in their homes. and probably more worrying is that fact that being young and gay is still open to abuse in schools, colleges and universities.

This is not acceptable in today’s world, and the more that we stand up against any form of persecution the more we as human beings earn the right to be called ‘human’.

Homophobia Not Allowed

President Barack Obama talks with Irish President Mary McAleese during a courtesy call in the Drawing Room of the President’s residence in Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mary McAleese has said homophobia should be consigned to history in Northern Ireland.

Source: Consign homophobia to history, urges ex-Irish president Mary McAleese – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Russian Embassy mocks Europeans as ‘gay pigs’ as warships taunts Bris | Daily Star

RussiaRussian Humour.

As with all reporting, you need to take a step back and try to see if it is balanced.  Lovely headlines do not make for in depth reporting.  Yes, the Russian fleet (or part of it) did sale up the North Sea; however we did know about it, it was a planned sailing, so why the big headlines from the papers.  Secondly, Russia is doing no more today than it has been doing for the last 10 plus years, and whilst the West is in disarray it will continue to do so!

If the UK, which is now going to disconnect from Europe, is worried then it needs a cohesive defence plan, not the piece meal one which it now seems to offer to its voting population.  If we have restrictions due to our balance sheet, then we must be realistic about what we can and can’t do.

For me the worrying thing in Russia, is its backward stepping in terms of LGBT rights, the rights of woman and in particular their right to a free, safe abortion when necessary.  For a country which has as its political background and current leanings Communism, it is very funny (and not funny amusing) on how much the church and indeed now outside American groups seem to be influencing Russian policy!

 

Russian humourSource: Russian Embassy mocks Europeans as ‘gay pigs’ as warships taunts Bris | Daily Star

IBM VP Claudia Brind-Woody

Diversity Policies

Claudia Brind-Woody, vice president and managing director IBM

Diversity Policies: A policy on workplace diversity: Makes a commitment to anti-discriminatory practices and fosters equal opportunity through the removal of systemic barriers. Can reinforce compliance with human rights legislation. Is a statement of an organization’s values

LGBT diversity policies, procedures, advocacy and impact – Business Insider

Claudia Brind-Woody, vice president and managing director, speaks to BI about LGBT and  diversity and how it is shaping the wider tech and business community.

Source: IBM VP Claudia Brind-Woody: LGBT diversity policies, procedures, advocacy and impact – Business Insider

‘Gay cake’ row: born-again Christian bakers lose court appeal | UK news | The Guardian

The Cake and Ashers'Court Case Settled. A lot has been written over the months regarding this court case, and indeed some of it was factually wrong.  The facts were that an order was placed with no intention of setting up any individual, business or organisation up for in-adverse publicity.  A contract was entered into, and money was exchange – a normal business transaction.  Therefore the contract should have been honoured, possibly with a note to the person who placed the order that the business would not be able to fulfil any future orders of this nature.

A judgement from the court has now been made, the decision reach, and it is now time to step back and try to move on amicably.

Judges uphold ruling that Ashers Bakery discriminated against gay man by refusing to make cake with pro-gay marriage slogan

Source: ‘Gay cake’ row: born-again Christian bakers lose court appeal | UK news | The Guardian

Human Rights – The Legal Act in the UK

Human Rights ActI asked a friend who is retired with a wide set of experiences in dealing with Human Rights, to give me his impression on the removal of the Human Rights Act from the UK, and what impact it would have.

He believes that repealing this Act which brings into domestic law the European Convention on Human Rights, will be a difficult job for the UK Government. Attempts here (N Ireland) to have a Bill of Rights expanding on those rights conferred by HRA are doomed in the short to medium term, despite the Good Friday obligations. He is part of the Human Rights Consortium and during the past 10 years or more since he started to attend, virtually no progress has been made.

He believes that Brexit will further complicate matters as various parts of these islands work out relationships between each other and the EU.

On the Consortium, they have encountered a lack of interest in the Bill of Rights, with the UK Government, the Irish Government and the NI Executive playing each other off. The DUP, mean as usual, don’t really have much of an idea about the value of rights, unless they are to their narrow benefit. It’s rather depressing!

He feels that one possibility is that Scotland, opposed to repeal or amendment of the HRA, might have its own Bill of Rights. It has vehemently opposed the “regressive” proposals for a British Bill of Rights.

On a case by case basis, any repeal of the HRA will be aired by the UK courts, ending up in the Supreme Court. The courts will not want to have to do what is essentially the work of Parliament. That relationship between Parliament, Government and Judiciary can be fractious at times, particularly here (N Ireland) where issues such as sexual orientation and abortion grab the attention of a very religious and conservative Attorney General.

hr-actN Ireland is still awaiting the reserved judgements in the two marriage cases and the Ashers appeal. And it looks like the current Attorney General in N Ireland is being very wide in his interpretation of his role, and there have been requests that he stand down or stop pursuing his own agenda which seems to definitely have a very select bias from my own and others  observations.

As with all these things we will have to wait and see how things develop, but of one thing I am certain the removal of the current Human Rights Act will not be to our benefit, and I honestly believe that LGBT rights and other diversity groups will suffer if it is taken away.

Links to further reading

‘The Pulse’ gay night club in Orlando

Onlookers

Onlookers

The Pulse

The Pulse

I was deeply shocked to hear of the sheer scale of the casualties at ‘The Pulse’ gay night club in Orlando.
It is hard to comprehend the enormity of the act and the awful nature of the suffering of the members of the LGBT community.
Those who survived will never be the same again, while the lives of so many, mostly young victims out enjoying themselves on a Saturday night have been cruelly and abruptly ended.
Such attacks on gay venues, with high casualty rates, have occurred before – in London, the US and Israel, while there have been single murders in Belfast like that of Darren Bradshaw at the Parliament Bar (and the Rev David Templeton), and more recently three gay men who were killed in London by a bomb at the Admiral Duncan pub.

 

Northern Ireland is no stranger to mass murder.  Our community knows there is a reservoir of hatred out there that can be motivated to action by political organisations and by religious hate speech. In this case it was Islamist.
The people of Belfast will I know express their solidarity with the people of Orlando, a city in Florida many of us know well and have visited.  Your pain having to bury so many fine people will be hard to bear.

I have asked that our City Hall officials put arrangements in place to allow citizens to show their sympathy to our American friends and that the City Hall gates be opened for people to gather in the grounds on Tuesday at the planned demonstration of support.
Jeff Dudgeon (Belfast City Councillor and NIGRA Treasurer)

 

Further reading:

 

 

 

Onlookers

Onlookers

Swat Team

Swat Team

Equality or Freedom of Expression?

Cake and eat it

Editorial

This morning Jeff Dudgeon along with MIckey Murray were interviewed on ‘Good Morning Ulster‘  (click the link for the discussion which starts about 2hr 12 minutes into the programme) in relation to a statement issued by Peter Thatchell regarding his current thoughts on the Asher Cake case, which is being reviewed as we speak.

The interview lasts about 8 minutes, and in the main followed lines previously discussed.  However I believe we all have our own opinion, and also because of the review ruling due from the courts which as Jeff, indicated the judgement will probably be looking at the following points of law:

  • Freedom of Expression etc.

  • Equality

we should await the judgement.

I will draw the attention of everyone to the following extract taken from an artile on the ifex website:

 

“The Camden Principles demonstrate that the rights to equality and freedom of expression go hand-in-hand and mutually reinforce each other, and that neither one of these indispensable human rights can be achieved at the expense of the other,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “They uphold the key principles of universality and indivisibility where too many have tried to impose exceptions and hierarchy.”

ARTICLE 19 launches the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality

 

Further reading:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Britain’s concentration camps for gay men

 

concentration-camps_640x345_acf_cropped

Historian and author Simon Webb writes about the gay men who were kept in concentration camps in the UK.

We are most of us aware that gay men were routinely sent to the concentration camps of the Third Reich for no other reason than that their sexuality was unacceptable to the Nazis.

A special section of the Gestapo, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1936, with the avowed intention of rooting out homosexuality wherever it was to be found in Germany.

In Britain during the 1930s and 1940s, gay men were certainly imprisoned for what was then classified as criminal behaviour, but few people know that there were also concentration camps operating in this country between 1940 and 1946, to which one special category of gay men were sent.

In 1940, following the fall of France, an estimated 30,000 Polish soldiers arrived in Britain; men who had fought alongside the French army in an effort to stave off the invading Germans.

They were led by a former Prime Minister of Poland, General Wladyslaw Sikorski. Fearing that this country was itself about to be invaded, these troops were rushed to Scotland to defend the east coast against possible landings of German troops launched from Norway.

Britain was thus indebted to the new Polish government-in-exile, which was led by Sikorski. Without the Polish troops, Scotland would have been all but undefended against German attack.

General Sikorski was not universally popular with his fellow countrymen and opposition groups emerged which threatened his position as leader of the Polish government and commanding officer of the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers.

The solution, at least as far as Sikorski was concerned, was simple. These enemies would have to be neutralised.

General Sikorski – the man responsible for the concentration camps in Scotland
On 18 July 1940, General Sikorski told the Polish National Council in London: “There is no Polish judiciary. Those who conspire will be sent to a concentration camp.”

Since he and the others were likely to be in Britain for the foreseeable future, it was plain that the concentration camp of which he talked, would be set up in this country.

General Marian Kukiel, appointed Commander of Camps and Army Units in Scotland by Sikorski, received a secret order relating to what were described as, ‘an unallocated grouping of officers’, who were to be held in a special camp.

Not only did Sikorski wish to see senior officers and political rivals who might challenge his authority tucked out of the way, he also wished to purge the Polish army of what he termed, ‘Person of improper moral level.’

General Sikorski was an austere and autocratic leader and had very strong ideas on what constituted acceptable behaviour.

He loathed drunks, gamblers, the sexually promiscuous and especially homosexuals.

So it was that along with all the men he feared might interfere with his leadership of the Polish government-in-exile, generals and senior politicians from pre-war Poland, Sikorski made the decision to lock up many other men of whose conduct he happened to disapprove.

The site chosen for this, the first concentration camp to be established in Britain, was the Isle of Bute.

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, before the Second World War. The first Polish concentration camp was established here in 1940

The inmates of the new camp were at first housed in tents. Not all were military men.

Among the first to be imprisoned there were men such as Michael GrazynskI, President of the Polish Scouting Association. Another important prisoner was Marian Zyndram-Kosciakowlski; who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1935-1939.

The atmosphere in the camp on the Isle of Bute was toxic.

The senior officers, no fewer than twenty generals were held captive there at various times, refused to have anything to do with what were known as the ‘pathological cases’; I.e. the drunks and homosexuals.

This led to the development of a sub-culture of gay prisoners, who tended to stick together; a situation which represented something of a scandal to those running the camp and it was decided that the ‘pathological’ types should be separated from the political prisoners.

A new and harsher camp was set up on the Scottish mainland at Tighnabruich and the gay prisoners transferred there.

This village, voted in 2002 ‘the prettiest village in Argyll, Lomand and Stirlingshire’, is on the coast, facing the Isle of Bute. The commandant of the new camp was Colonel Wladyslaw Spalek.

How was it possible that the Polish government-in-exile was allowed to operate concentration camps in this way, without any objections from the British government?

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British needed all the help they could get to defend their country against a German invasion.

The Allied Forces Act was accordingly passed that same year.

This gave the governments-in-exile of Poland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and Czechoslovakia the legal right to raise their own independent forces from among citizens of their countries resident in Britain.

Their army camps and military bases were to be regarded as the sovereign territory of the various countries concerned and, as such, immune from interference by the British police or any other authorities.

How this worked in practice was that if General Sikorski took a dislike to any Polish person living in this country, he was able to draft that person into his army and then have him arrested by the military police and taken off into captivity as either a deserter or mutineer.

This neat little trick meant that any Polish man whose behaviour, sexual or otherwise, did not meet with Sikorski’s approval was apt to find himself being shipped off to Scotland and held behind barbed wire.

In another grim echo of the situation in Nazi Germany, not only were gay men marked down for imprisonment in the camps; communists and Jews were also likely to fall foul of the Polish government in London.

One of the most famous prisoners on the Isle of Bute was the writer, journalist and biographer of Stalin; Isaac Deutscher.

Although born in Poland, Deutscher, a Jew, had emigrated to Britain where he made a life for himself before the outbreak of war in 1939.

In 1940, following Dunkirk and the Fall of France, he travelled to Scotland to volunteer for the Polish army which was now based there.

No sooner had he joined up, than Deutscher found himself arrested and sent to the camp at Rothesay.

Being both a Jew and also a communist, he was regarded as a dangerous subversive by senior figures in General Sikorski’s administration.

Rumours began to circulate among MPs in London that something unsavoury was going on in Scotland.

Names began to emerge of Polish citizens being held for no apparent reason in secret installations.

In all cases, the men being detained seemed to be Jews.

On February 19 1941, for example, Samuel Silverman, MP for Nelson and Colne, raised the question in the House of Commons of two Jewish brothers called Benjamin and Jack Ajzenberg. These men had been picked up by Polish soldiers in London and taken to a camp in Scotland.

The following year, Adam McKinley, MP for Dumbartonshire in Scotland, asked in the House what was happening on the Isle of Bute.

The government, which had no wish to upset a valuable ally, refused to provide any information.

Under the terms of the Allied Forces Act, the British had in any case no legal right to interfere in what was happening at camps and army bases being operated by the Polish Government in Exile.

Having found that they were apparently able to operate concentration camps on British soil with complete impunity, the Polish leadership opened new facilities for holding political prisoners and others at Kingledoors, Auchetarder and Inverkeithing.

The last named of these was located just eight miles from Edinburgh.

These were dreadful places which looked like the traditional idea of a concentration camp; barbed wire fences, primitive accommodation and watch towers containing armed guards.

Those living nearby heard rumours of maltreatment, starvation, beatings and even the death of inmates.

In a number of cases, the reports of deaths by shooting turned out to be quite true. On 29 October 1940, for instance, a Jewish prisoner called Edward Jakubowsky was shot dead in the camp in Kingledoors, for allegedly insulting a guard.

The Polish camps were to operate for another six years.

Increasing unease on the part of British MPs and others, led to questions being asked in the House about what precisely was going on in Scotland.

Matters came to a head on 14 June 1945. Robert McIntyre, the Member for the Scottish constituency of Motherwell, stood up in the House and asked the following question:

“Will the government make provision for the inspection, at any time, by representatives of the various districts of Scotland of any penal settlements, concentration camps, detention barracks, prisons, etc. within their area, whether these institutions are under the control of the British, American, French or Polish governments or any other authority; and for the issuing of a public report by those representatives?”

This caused something of a sensation; the suggestion that there were concentration camps in Scotland.

That same day, Moscow Radion made the same accusation, citing the detention of a Jewish academic called Dr Jan Jagodzinski in a camp at Inverkeithing.

This provoked widespread interest and the world’s press began to ask what was happening in these Polish camps.

Cutting from the Brisbane Courier and News, 15 June, 1945

In an attempt to defuse the anger being felt, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to allow journalists to visit the camp at Inverkeithing.

This action did little to reassure anybody. The first prisoner to whom reporters spoke turned out to be yet another Jew, by the name of Josef Dobosiewicz.

He alleged that a prisoner had recently been shot dead in the camp. The commandant conceded that this was true, but claimed that the dead man had been trying to escape.

Once again, the local police had been powerless to act, under the terms of the Allied Forces Act.

A year after the Second World war had come to an end, the camps were still in existence and still seemingly holding Jews.

On 16 April 1946, the MP for Fife West, William Gallacher, asked the Secretary of State for War to look into the case of two more Jews being held in a camp in Scotland; David Glicenstein and Shimon Getreudhendler.

It is impossible at this late stage to know precisely what was happening in these camps.

That they were in fact concentration camps is undeniable; that after all is what general Sikorski had announced that he would be setting up.

We have no idea at all how many gay men were sent to the camps, nor how long they were held there.

The same is true for the statistics relating to communists and Jews.

What is beyond dispute is that from 1940 onwards, men in this country were being arrested and taken to concentration camps for no other reason than that they were gay.

Simon Webb is the author of ‘British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900 – 1975′.

LGBT Seniors Shouldn’t Die Penniless and Alone

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BY BRUCE WILLIAMS
JANUARY 19 2016

seniors

Systemic inequities, which are finally changing, still meant a disadvantaged life now for many LGBT seniors

At 68 years old, having led a responsible and productive life, I find myself living in poverty with the prospects for the final third of my existence only getting worse. I wake each day only to hope that I will die before my funds and limited resources run out completely. I also find that I am in the company of hundreds of thousands of other LGBT seniors who, through no fault of their own, are in the same tragic and inhumane situation.

Putting aside any pride that I once may have had, I share my story in an effort to create an awareness of these inequities that have devastated the current generation of LGBT seniors.

I have worked since I was 12 years old: part-time when school was in session and full-time each weekend, during every summer recess and every day of each holiday vacation. I have paid into the Social Security system for well over 50 years — over one half of a century! At 21 years old, I assumed the responsibility for raising my three brothers and helped to care for my mom until her death from lung cancer.

In my professional career, I have gone from cleaning dirty toilets at minimum wage to serving as the executive director of a continuous care retirement community with some 500 residents and nearly 200 employees. In the late 1990s, I was earning a very comfortable six-figure salary. I have led a frugal life in an attempt to build a nest egg for my own golden years.

But LGBT seniors of today have endured a past that was and still is not at all conducive to planning and providing for a comfortable and secure retirement existence. During the working years of today’s LGBT seniors, there were four fatal bullets that prevented our financial success: We were refused employment solely on the basis of our sexual orientation, we were paid less money for equal work, we were denied promotions, and we were fired with no recourse at the whim of ignorant employers. Fortunately I was able to dodge the first three bullets, but that was only to tragically fall victim to the fourth.

I was fired because of my sexual orientation less than two months before my 25th anniversary of employment. After dedicating nearly a quarter of a century of my life to the same company, I found myself unemployed in my early 60s and looking for work during one of the most disastrous periods of our nation’s economic history. Making things even worse, with absolutely no income, I was forced to accept early retirement Social Security benefits at a 25 percent reduction, a desperate decision that will negatively impact my existence for the rest of my life.

So here I am, a 68-year-old gay man who has led a productive and responsible life but who now has to work just to survive. I am fortunate enough to have found a job at the Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors, Fla., that pays me to pursue my passion of advocating for the elderly and gives me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of other LGBT seniors like me.

It is my passion in life to convince folks of the need to embrace aging and to set out on a journey to improve the “third third” of our lives. I aspire to raising awareness of the special needs of our LGBT senior population. This is a group often with far less family support, with fewer financial resources and many more societal scars than other aging populations, and at the Pride Center we provide programs that help to maintain independence, that boost mental and physical health and that provide a raison d’etre — a reason for being and enjoying life. We strive to increase the connections between service providers and our seniors in need of those services. And for those who are serving as caregivers, we offer support, education and respite to ease their burden.

Our Coffee & Conversation gathering draws nearly 200 LGBT seniors every Tuesday and serves to provide a fun and free opportunity for socialization to ward off the isolation that is so prevalent with many seniors. I solicit a different sponsor each week, which may be a long-term care facility, an elder law attorney, a home health care agency or some other business normally utilized by an aging population, so that our attendees cannot only enjoy free coffee and goodies but also build an arsenal of information about available area service providers for the times they need help the most.

The Pride Center partners with other local and national organizations to help improve the lives of LGBT seniors. In conjunction with SAGE USA we have been providing the SAGE Works program that, through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, helps LGBT seniors find work or hone their skills to get a better job. Our Fund, a Broward-based community foundation that supports the LGBT community, just recently provided a program of LGBT Cultural Competency Certification that now enables several of us from the Pride Center to go out into the community and make caregivers more aware of and sensitive to the needs of the LGBT senior community.

As a society, we have made great strides in LGBT awareness and rights that today’s LGBT seniors never expected to see in their lifetimes. Yet for myself, and for so many other LGBT seniors, change has come too late. After an exhilarating period of celebration, we settle back and wonder how our lives would have been different had the changes come during our younger years. We know one cannot reclaim missed experiences nor amass fortunes never earned. We now need to focus our efforts toward securing equality in health care, housing, and employment so that no old people have to go to bed at night hoping to die in their sleep.

BRUCE WILLIAMS is leads programming for LGBT elders at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Florida.
BRUCE WILLIAMS leads programming for LGBT elders at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Fla.