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God's warriors are locked in a barbaric, futile battle against marriage equality

The Guardian LogoDavid Marr

Thursday 10 December

 

 

 

 

 

 

The opposition of Australian bishops to equal marriage is ignored by the public and will ultimately be faced down. But not before the established church threatens mayhem and terrifies politicians in defence of the status quo

 The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, delivering the homily during the annual marriage mass and renewal of vows at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. ‘Fisher said nothing that cold night at St Mary’s Cathedral about his church’s rule that these men are bound for hell if they ever have sex with one another. Perhaps he didn’t need to.’ Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP


The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, delivering the homily during the annual marriage mass and renewal of vows at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. ‘Fisher said nothing that cold night at St Mary’s Cathedral about his church’s rule that these men are bound for hell if they ever have sex with one another. Perhaps he didn’t need to.’ Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

 

The power of the hard men of God is one of the great political puzzles of this country. They are the only opponents of equal marriage. They don’t remotely have the numbers. But they have log-jammed reform.

I’ve been tracking the power of these people most of my professional life. It’s no wonder. When I was a kid journalist, sex for men like me was a crime nearly everywhere in Australia.

Kissing was assault. One year in the early 1980s, a Sydney magistrate fined a man $50 for tongue-kissing another on the dance floor of an Oxford Street club. Fucking carried a prison sentence of 14 years.

In that lost world, hardly anyone was thrown behind bars. The point was the threat and the shame. The upshot was corruption and violence. Lives were ruined.

And just as they are fighting today against equal marriage, warriors of the cloth battled with everything they had to keep it that way.

They fought from the pulpit, in the press and along the corridors of every parliament in the land. They fought in the name of children – and, yes, some of these men turned out to be protecting paedophiles. They vilified homosexuals. They declared the fate of western civilisation was hanging in the balance.

Australians wanted these cruel laws changed. We are not a profoundly conservative country. Support for keeping sodomy a crime had collapsed here just as it had in the rest of the western world.

What made reform such an agonising business in Australia wasn’t overcoming public reluctance but defeating the preachers. They can’t promise votes. They can threaten mayhem.

Politicians are terrified of them. Grappling with churches is about the most distasteful contest they can imagine. The faiths remain the most resilient, most respected and the best-connected lobby in the nation.

Whether the issue is homosexuality, divorce, abortion, euthanasia or equal marriage, religion has the power to shatter party discipline.

Neville Wran, an atheist premier with a fat majority, shilly-shallied over the change for the best part of a decade. He could count absolutely on the people of New South Wales. Their support for decriminalising homosexuality was never in doubt. But he feared humiliation at the hands of his caucus.

Sydney Mardi Gras was already touted round the world before Wran acted. That was in 1984. Already over the line were South Australia, Victoria and the ACT. Tasmania was the last state to stare down the preachers in 1997.

The battle for equal marriage brings back to the field the same old rhetoric, the same fears, the same tactics and the same combatants.

This is not a pitched battle between Christian and secular Australia. Many Christians find the fight against equal marriage embarrassing, even barbaric. Their voices are hardly heard.

 

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest A letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia arguing against same-sex marriage and marriage equality. Photograph: Catholic Bishops of Australia


A letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia arguing against same-sex marriage and marriage equality. Photograph: Catholic Bishops of Australia

 

Politicians fear the defenders of the citadel: Catholic and Orthodox bishops; evangelical Anglicans; Presbyterians and other protestants who shunned the Uniting Church; mighty Hillsong and those who gather under the umbrella of the Australian Christian Lobby. Their (mostly) silent partners in the struggle are Muslims and conservative Jews.
Miraculously they are holding the line.

Much deeper than bigotry

I know many of these warriors. I’ve debated them, read their work and reported their campaigns. To call them bigots is too simple. Though without the loathing of homosexuality, there would be far fewer recruits to their crusades.

Disgust comes gorgeously packaged these days. “God made every person unique and irreplaceable as His beloved images in this world,” the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, preached this past winter. “If God loves people with same-sex attraction, so must the church.”
Fisher said nothing that cold night at St Mary’s Cathedral about his church’s rule that these men are bound for hell if they ever have sex with one another. Perhaps he didn’t need to. The teaching is so familiar.
Disgust comes gorgeously packaged these days

And though he spoke of the “justice and compassion” Catholics offer homosexuals, he forgot to mention the exemptions his church – and most faiths – demand from anti-discrimination laws so they can go on refusing to employ lesbians, transsexuals and homosexuals or sack any they discover on the payrolls of their schools, charities and hospitals.

The faiths call this just discrimination. As Fisher said so piously that night: “All forms of unjust discrimination must be opposed.”

This goes much deeper than bigotry. It’s about claiming the most intimate power over believers, the power to forbid any sex without the blessing of the church. That means never before marriage; never outside marriage; and, of course, never with the same sex.
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These ancient rules were law for centuries. Judges and police were supposed to jump to the aid of bishops and preachers. The noose and the stake sent the worst offenders to hell. Shame did the rest.
Nearly every one of these laws is dead and gone after titanic brawls we tend to put out of our minds because they seem, in retrospect, so absurd. This is a mistake. The lesson is that we’re fighting the one battle here, over and over again.
And because the warriors of the faiths know the tide of popular opinion is running strongly against them, they fight for keeps. They realise no defeat will ever be reversed. It’s once and forever.
So they dig in with a particular and at times comic ferocity. The example of the world counts for nothing in their eyes. Though equal marriage has been embraced by nearly every Western nation, the warriors are fighting to the last – just as they fought no-fault divorce, the morning-after pill, IVF for lesbians, smut on television and sparing gays the useful terror of prison.

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest George Brandis, the attorney general, criticised ‘an alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


George Brandis, the attorney general, criticised ‘an alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

Australia is the land of the warriors’ last resort.

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But the troops are deserting them. The faithful are no longer as willing as they were to obey the ancient Christian sex rules. They have shrugged off the power of their bishops and preachers.
Just like the rest of us they live together before they marry. They use the pill. They have abortions. They divorce. They remarry without annulment. They aren’t much troubled by their homosexual brothers and children. And most back equal marriage.
When Crosby Textor asked Australians in 2014 if they supported or opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry, they found support high across the faiths as well as Australia:
Total support: 72%.
Catholics: 67%.

Christians generally: 59%.

Anglican and Uniting: 57%.

The bishops aren’t speaking for their flocks. And while the Australian Christian Lobby blasts marriage reform with startling ferocity, pollsters make it clear these preachers speaks for few of us.

According to Crosby Textor only 21% of Australians oppose equal marriage. For every opponent there are three or more Australians who support equal marriage. Success should be a lay down misère.

It isn’t.

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest A composite image of Australian same-sex couples. A Crosby Textor poll found that 72% of people supported marriage equality. Photograph: Getty Images


A composite image of Australian same-sex couples. A Crosby Textor poll found that 72% of people supported marriage equality. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a pastoral letter earlier this year called Don’t Mess with Marriage. The pictures are gorgeous. Disdain for homosexuals is buried beneath the usual gauzy rhetoric about love, respect and justice.

“We wish,” say the bishops “to engage with this debate.” There’s no debate. They simply assert in various ways on page after page that marriage can only ever be “an institution designed to support people of the opposite sex to be faithful to each other and to the children of their union.”

A complaint about Don’t Mess with Marriage has been taken to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board. This is ludicrous. Homosexuals don’t need to run to tribunals for protection from the insults of the clergy.

And the case is a gift to Christian hardliners. They are crying liberty.

“Same-sex marriage ideology is incompatible with freedom,” the head of the ACL thundered. “All of the debate of the past five years has been about forcing people of conscience to bow to the new definition of marriage.”

News Corp columnists have taken up this line with extraordinary passion. In prose that wouldn’t disgrace the King James Bible, Paul Kelly warns of “a calculated strike by parliaments and anti-discrimination boards using the cover of same-sex justice to achieve a quantum reduction in religious freedom and a pivotal change in the norms of our society.”

In early November, the attorney general, George Brandis, spoke of “an alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith” by some of the most voluble elements in the community” when he opened the Human Rights Commission’s “roundtable” on religious freedom.

“It is the work of the roundtable,” Brandis said, “to develop strategies and understandings which promote a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect within a culture of freedom.”

Australians have grown cynical about claims that the faiths are the true guardians of families and children. That’s looking, after a couple of years’ evidence to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, a little shop soiled.

But we care about religious freedom. We remain tolerant of churches. We loathe interfering in their affairs. As much as possible we want to leave them to themselves. We are oddly reluctant even to name them as opponents – often the only opponents – in political contests of this kind.

This is an asset for the faiths that gives them strength beyond their numbers. And they are even stronger because this secular, respectful country doesn’t have much appetite for interrogating their claims. We say: that’s just them.

But as the fight over equal marriage takes this turn, it has to be asked what the hard men of God mean when they say liberty of faith is under threat in Australia? Is there anything at stake here other than them wanting to go on belittling homosexuals at maximum volume?

Two fundamental claims lie behind the rhetoric of freedom imperilled.

First, the warriors say abuse is forcing them into the shadows. They want to be loved as they pursue their ancient quarrels. Men who might once have faced lions for their faith are whinging about ridicule.
Here is Fisher a few weeks ago: “When people like me … enter the fray on marriage we now expect to be tagged ‘ultra-conservative’, ‘tedious imbecile’, ‘delusional nutter’, ‘evangelical clap-trapper’ and even ‘nauseating piece of filth’ not just in the anti-social media but even in the mainstream.

“What is new is that such ad hominem hails not just from fevered activists and net trolls but from respected journalists and public figures.”

The warriors of the cloth ought not to be abused. But men like Fisher are strangely unwilling to grasp why their opposition to equal marriage might stir ugly passions. Right or wrong, they seem unable to acknowledge the profound change of heart in this country to both homosexuality and marriage.

Men like Sydney Anglican priest Peter Kurti see themselves not as collateral damage in a great shift of values but targets of an “aggressive secularism that wants to drive religion out of the public square”.

“This campaign seeks completely to drive away religion, particularly Christianity, from the social and cultural realm where faith is practised, to the private and confined realm of the mind.”

That deserted public square is a key image in this debate. But men like Kurti, Fisher and Lyle Shelton are as active as ever in that space. They have all the platforms they have ever had to pursue their causes. They may not have the airtime they would like, but in a year or so there is to be a national debate on same-sex marriage on which Canberra has promised to spend $160m.

They aren’t victims. They just don’t have the traction they once had. They aren’t as respected. They aren’t as believed. They have lost their veto.

Abusing them is inexcusable, but what has happened to Christian fortitude? Aren’t the warriors of the faith supposed to boast rather than complain that standing against the zeitgeist earns them no applause?
I have read thousands of words trying to identify any freedom at stake that doesn’t involve demeaning homosexuals

The second fundamental is the claim allowing equal marriage would mean the inevitable loss of religious liberty.

It’s apparently a zero sum game for the warriors: freedom won is freedom lost. When two blokes are allowed to marry, the faiths are no longer free.

I have read thousands of words over the last weeks trying to identify any freedom at stake in this exchange that doesn’t involve demeaning homosexuals in the name of their God.

Alas, in the words of the old song, that’s all there is.

Fisher promotes a grim dystopian future should equal marriage ever become the law of the land. It’s easy slippery slope stuff: allow this, and what other horrors – like forcing churches to pay tax – might follow?

Of this mythical Australia of 2025 he said: “Already one Catholic bishop has been briefly jailed for refusing to apply the state-approved ‘LGBTIQQ safety protocols and awareness program’ to the schools in his diocese; and parents at Jewish and Muslim schools have been advised that they may not withdraw their children from such programs.

“Many clergy and teachers in faith-based schools have been cowed with threats of prosecution for ‘hate speech’ if they teach that divine law limits marriage to people of opposite sex.”

Disdain for homosexuals is key to these fears, but they go deeper than bigotry. Allow men to marry each other, and what happens to church teaching that marriage is the sacred gateway to sex?

Opposition to same sex marriage isn’t about freedom, it’s about privilege. It’s a last ditch stand to keep the most fundamental of the sex rules of Christendom entrenched in law.

Fisher and his kind know they will never be forced to perform same-sex marriages themselves. Nor would any Australian government compel them to allow their churches to be used for such ceremonies. Yet in a world that accepts same sex-marriage they see such “niggardly exemptions” as not enough to guarantee their freedom.

This is where they talk of small town martyrs in North America: men and women of profound faith compelled to bake wedding cakes, take wedding photographs and offer double beds to honeymooning gay couples.

Fisher is calling for these “ordinary believers and their businesses” to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws. Hardliners across the board want the legal privileges enjoyed – and fiercely protect – by their religious organisations to be extended to the faithful.

 Bob Katter refused to allow publicly homophobic candidates run for his party. Even a man running a breakaway party based in rural Queensland could see this was poison at the ballot box. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Bob Katter refused to allow publicly homophobic candidates run for his party. Even a man running a breakaway party based in rural Queensland could see this was poison at the ballot box. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

As each month passes, this astonishing demand to bust anti-discrimination schemes across Australia is looking more and more like a deal being offered by the faiths to government.

“The terms of their defeat are up for grabs,” says David Glasgow, an Australian lawyer working at New York University Law School. He has watched the same demands being made by the faithful across America since the supreme court approved equal marriage in June.

“Many religious people object to all homosexual activity and relationships, not just marital ones. If baking a cake makes a business owner complicit in the sin of same-sex marriage, a wide range of activities could make them complicit in the sin of same-sex relationships.

“What’s to stop an architect from claiming that it violates his or her faith to build a home for a same-sex couple, or a police officer saying the same when asked to keep the peace at a pride march … this is religious liberty on steroids.”

The end is nigh

I won’t be rushing to marry. It didn’t turn out so well the last time. And I reckon that after nearly 20 years, my partner and I are as married as two people can be. No kids of course, but absolutely married.

How Australia has changed even in those years. One marker I love of that transformation was Bob Katter’s refusal a couple of years ago to allow two candidates for his Katter Australia Party to fly the flag of homophobia.

One tweeted he would never allow a gay person to teach his children. The other equated homosexuals with paedophiles. Both were dumped. Even a man running a breakaway party based in rural Queensland could see this was poison at the ballot box

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest A rally for marriage equality in May, attended by Christine Forster, the sister of Tony Abbott, and her partner Virginia Edwards. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

A rally for marriage equality in May, attended by Christine Forster, the sister of Tony Abbott, and her partner Virginia Edwards. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

 

So why do politicians take it seriously when it’s delivered from the pulpit?

The politics of salvation are always on the boil in this country. But this is not an entirely bleak story. Within the churches, fine men and women continue to struggle against the forces of punitive Christianity. Christians everywhere have joined the fight for equal marriage.

And the wishes of the people can’t be denied forever. That’s the lesson from the brawls of my youth over gay rights. Good, secular sense wins out in the end. It always does.

Equal marriage will happen. There are more rounds to fight. But even the most hardline contenders know it will happen. God’s work is in the delay, in making change as painful as possible.

But Australia will get there in the end

INDIANS TALK STRAIGHT ABOUT LGBT

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Indian Marriage Equalityby / 0 Comments / 43 View / 03/11/2015

 

In a country where progress and regress continue to share a path, the voice of the people who believe in equality keeps challenging cultural prejudices

 

In the year 2013 during the month of December, the Supreme Court of Delhi decided to take a regressive step by recriminalizing section 377 of the Indian penal code. Taking India by shock, this 150-year-old act was recriminalized once again after the 2008 decision of decriminalising the act of consensual gay sex.

But what is section 377 of the Indian penal code?

377. Unnatural offences.—Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine‘.

This put in simpler words means, if any individual has voluntary intercourse, which is classified as not natural, such as a man and a man or a woman and a woman, they can be put in jail. Sounding completely absurd to the citizens of India, the secular country ironically put forward the argument that homosexuality is against Indian culture and actually goes against the idea of what a ‘natural’ relationship stands for.

Putting the LGBT community to the forefront for extortion and threats, the clear violation of human rights angered many other communities within the country and they decided to speak up and show their views on the issue through tweets, satires and short films.

One of the very first and most popular comments on the topic, was a video from the comedy group AIB (All India Bakchod), who very creatively did a parody of a typical Q and A video calling it ‘AIB : Imran Khan Answers Questions About Being Gay & Sec 377′. The group of stand-up comics decided to phrase out ridiculous questions about homophobia. For example: ‘why do these gay people choose to be gay, why can’t they like ungay’. And hilariously gave sarcastic answers like ‘walk over to your nearest gay person and flick the switch, gay to straight’, sending a strong message about the equal rights of homosexuals in a humorous way. The viral video made a huge impact around India and gave people the encouragement to speak about an important human rights issue.

But just like any issue, the topic died down during the three-year period. New issues came into the spotlight and act 377 took a backseat. However just when we thought people forgot about act 377, recently the fashion company Myntra decided to touch upon the topic of same-sex couples. The ‘Anouk – Bold is Beautiful’ ad campaign was the first ever marketing strategy within India to touch on the idea of same-sex couples. The viral advert doesn’t satirise the idea of homosexuality, neither does it present itself as a PSA. Keeping the authenticity of the Indian culture, the short advert introduces the idea of two cosmopolitan girls in a relationship who have the intention of revealing it to their parents. Focusing on the anxiety and nervousness of the couple, the advert really showcases the normality of these types of feelings. It wanted to represent the girls like any other heterosexual couple that is shown in the media, thereby making a necessary first step towards public acceptance of same-sex relationships.

By 2020 India will be the youngest democracy in the world, constantly being torn between modern and traditional beliefs. Basic human rights are sometimes sacrificed in the war of traditions and in the end it’s not always an easy black and white situation.

India’s 29 states are a melting pot of thoughts, values and beliefs that are constantly being changed, improved and discussed. Now that people are finally debating, protesting and projecting their opinions on difficult topics, it shows to the world the progressive attitude India has, and this is the kind of push in the right direction towards equality that a growing democratic society needs.

The DUP are risking a great deal in blocking equal marriage

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Siobhan Fenton

northern-ireland-assembly[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s fair to say that Northern Ireland isn’t exactly a trail blazer when it comes to social justice issues. Long after England, Scotland, Wales and finally the Republic of Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage, the country continues to lag behind.

However, this changed yesterday as Northern Ireland finally voted yes to same-sex marriage. A cause for celebration, you might think, but same-sex couples won’t be booking into registry offices any time soon. Despite the bill being supported by 50.5 per cent of MLAs, it still cannot pass due to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) blocking it.

This has happened because under the devolved Stormont parliament, political parties can trigger a “petition of concern” to block legislation in the chamber. Once issued, it means that a bill cannot just get a simple majority vote overall, instead it needs to get a majority amongst Nationalist or Catholic politicians, as well as a majority amongst Unionist or Protestant politicians.

Many of the DUP’s leading politicians are staunch traditional Protestants who are fierce in their opposition to what they term “sodomites” within Northern Ireland. They are resolute in their determination to block LGBT rights through any means possible, no matter how underhand or undemocratic.

Although they were unable to stop same-sex marriage being approved by a majority, the DUP were able to stop it from being approved by a majority of Unionists by triggering the petition and then voting no themselves. This technicality meant that today’s vote cannot count and Northern Ireland will remain the only part of the UK or Ireland without marriage equality.

The “petition of concern” mechanism is thought to be unique to Northern Ireland’s political structures and was embedded in power-sharing to protect either side of the religious divide if a bill was genuinely harmful or unjust towards either ‘side’. However, the DUP have begun misusing the process in order to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Today’s vote leaves Northern Ireland in a difficult position in terms of democracy. It will have significant repercussions for the nature of devolution and the relationship between Westminster and Stormont.

Westminster will now have to consider whether to intervene to circumvent the DUP’s petition in order to enable Northern Irish same-sex couples to finally marry. If they do not do so, they will be accused of letting the DUP’s bully tactics triumph and of allowing the Northern Irish LGBT community to suffer.

Yet, if Westminster does intervene, it will also face accusations of undermining the principle of devolution- that Northern Irish issues are for Northern Irish politicians alone to deal with.

Above all, the incident is yet another example of how power sharing structures negotiated in the 1990s are showing their strain. Whilst they might have proved effective elements of the Assembly in its infancy, “petitions of concern” are being misused by politicians to undermine the business of their own parliament. As Stormont’s near collapse in September proved, a number of elements of the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland Assembly are proving to no longer be fit for purpose and are doing more to impede than support democracy in the province.

'Gay Vegas' reputation has global reach

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Lincoln Tan 5:00 AM Saturday Sep 19, 2015

Same-sex couples fighting laws in own countries flock to Auckland to get married and have or adopt children.

My Kitchen Rules stars Tresne Middleton and Carly Saunders couldn't marry in Australia so had their ceremony on Waiheke Island. Photo / Supplied
My Kitchen Rules stars Tresne Middleton and Carly Saunders couldn’t marry in Australia so had their ceremony on Waiheke Island. Photo / Supplied

Auckland is being seen as the “gay Vegas” and homosexual couples from around the world are coming here to get married and have children.

Many come from countries where a same-sex relationship is considered illegal – including Singapore, Malaysia and China – or nations such as Australia, where “commitment ceremonies” are popular but do not satisfy everyone.

Australians top the list of same-sex couples coming here to tie the knot, as their country does not recognise marriage between male or female couples.

Two stars of the television show My Kitchen Rules, Carly Saunders and Tresne Middleton, got married in secret on Waiheke Island last year. They were among the 500 Australians who have married here since August 2013, when the law changed.

Couples from China, the United Kingdom and Singapore have also made the journey.

Over the same period, seven children were registered to foreign male couples through adoption and one, by birth, to a female couple from Singapore.

Gay bartender Stanley Chan, 29, who spoke to the Herald in Singapore, said Auckland was considered the “Las Vegas for gay, lesbians and transgenders”.

Las Vegas is a popular marriage destination because of the ease of registering marriages there.

Like 28 Singaporean couples already, Chan and his British-born partner will be coming to Auckland in December to wed.

“I see New Zealand as a gay paradise and on what I hope will be the happiest day of my life, I want to be able to go to a place where I can celebrate our love in the open,” he said.

“In Singapore, we have to live in a secret underground world because the silly laws make it impossible for me to even openly disclose that I’m gay.”

Under section 377a of the penal code of Singapore, a man who has sex with another man can be imprisoned for up to two years.

Last year, two Singaporeans became the first female couple to have their child born in New Zealand and registered to both of them as parents.

The couple also met the Herald in Singapore but changed their minds about being interviewed because they felt it could hurt their business and land them in trouble with the law.

However, they said the main reason they chose to have their child in New Zealand was so they could have a birth certificate that listed both of them as parents.

“In Singapore, he would have been registered as a son of a single parent and it would not have correctly reflected our situation,” the birth mother of the child said.

Social worker Yangfa Leow, 40, the executive director of Oogachaga, which counsels and supports LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) in Singapore, said legal adoption there was usually allowed only for married, opposite-sex couples and single women.

This has resulted in same-sex couples finding alternative ways to include children in their lives and commit to each other, such as going to countries such as New Zealand where these are legally recognised.

The ease of exchanging vows in NZ has the LGBT community comparing it to Las Vegas.
The ease of exchanging vows in NZ has the LGBT community comparing it to Las Vegas.

“I understand that New Zealand has legalised marriage for same-sex couples, which of course is the right thing to do in terms of ensuring equality for all,” Leow said.

Last year, Lonely Planet named New Zealand the second most gay-friendly place in the world, behind Copenhagen in Denmark.

Tourism New Zealand said it did not specifically target the gay and lesbian community, but promoted the country as a great destination for weddings and honeymoons for all travellers.

Between 30,000 and 45,000 honeymooners from overseas came to New Zealand each year, spending an estimated $160 million.

After the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act, Tourism NZ ran a campaign to show how easy it is for same-sex couples from Australia to marry in New Zealand.

“There was a very positive response from same-sex couples in Australia,” said Tourism NZ spokeswoman Deborah Gray.

She said visitors were not asked to identify their sexual orientation, so there was “no robust data” to gauge the value of gay tourists.

Brett O’Riley, Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development chief executive, said the organisation was supporting several gay-friendly tourism operators who directly target the gay market.

“We understand after the gay marriage legislation passed that a number of couples did see New Zealand as a destination to say ‘I do’ and gain legal marriage status, where their home countries may not allow them similar rights.”

Gay marriages in NZ

(since August 2013)

Female-Female

• From Australia: 264

• From China: 32

• From the UK: 22

• From Singapore: 17

• From the US: 8

• From Malaysia: 8

• From the entire world: 411

Male-Male

• From Australia: 236

• From China: 34

• From the UK: 13

• From the US: 13

• From Singapore: 11

• From Hong Kong: 11

• From Thailand: 10

• From the entire world: 401
(source: Dept of Internal Affairs)

Lincoln Tan travelled to Singapore with the help of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

NZ Herald

Ireland approves gay marriage law

UTV (Ulster Television) has reported that Human rights activists believe NI has been  ‘left behind’ as Ireland approves gay marriage law

This law follows the historic referendum in May which saw Ireland become the first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote, with 62% of people voting Yes.

In reality what this means is that N Ireland remains the only part of Great Britain and Ireland which does not have equality on same-sex marriage.

Now we all realise that with our MLA’s being unable to agree on the budget, and with the current political disagreement over whether the IRA are still active and in some way part of Sinn Féin it is unrealistic to suppose that this inequality will get resolved soon.  But, in the light of previous voting patterns at Stormont we as a community should not hold our breath for it would appear that the Unionist parties will continue to vote along their bias line, that SDLP will walk away and abstain even though the party line is supposed to be in favour, and Sinn Féin will say yes and make loud noise but not really get anywhere

 

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Further readidng:

Gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia: 3 charts that show what Catholics and Protestants really think about the moral issues dividing Christianity

Belfast Telegraph logoPUBLISHED31/08/2015

Catholics more liberal towards gay marriage than Protestants

Catholics more liberal towards gay marriage than Protestants

Catholics have a more liberal attitude towards gay marriage than Protestants – but are more conservative when it comes to euthanasia and abortion, a survey suggests.

YouGov questioned 863 Catholics and 1,707 Protestants in Great Britain – who strongly agreed with the statement “my faith is important to me” – on the three issues.

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The results show that both groups are less accepting on the issues than the public as a whole.

Both same-sex marriage and euthanasia have been widely discussed within sections of the two churches recently.

Pope Francis is widely perceived to be a liberal influence on the Catholic Church – in 2013, when asked if there was ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican, he replied: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

Last year meanwhile, the Church of England opposed legislation to legalise gay marriage in the UK.

More Catholics support gay marriage than Protestants

gaymar.jpg
Source: YouGov Get the data

Same-sex marriage was made legal in the UK in March 2014, with the exception of Northern Ireland.

It remains illegal for the Church of England to carry out same-sex marriages.

Previous YouGov research found 38 per cent of the Church of England clergy said same-sex marriage was right while the majority, 51 per cent, said it was wrong.

Protestants are more likely than Catholics to support euthanasia

euth.jpg
Source: YouGov Get the data

Both groups remain more conservative than the general population on voluntary euthanasia.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has previously said that it is a “profoundly Christian and moral thing” to allow people to “end their lives with dignity”.

An assisted dying bill is expected to be debated in Parliament on 11 September.

Former Crown Prosecution Service chief Sir Keir Starmer has said it is time for politicians to legalise assisted dying.

Catholics want more restrictions on abortion laws

abortion.jpg
Source: YouGov Get the data

Both Protestants and Catholics are more opposed to abortion than the general population.

While abortion is legal in Britain, it is illegal in Northern Ireland, where it remains a contentious issue.

Last month, a United Nations committee said Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were putting women’s lives at risk.

The report concluded by calling upon Northern Ireland’s authorities to amend the country’s laws on abortion “with a view to providing for additional exceptions to the legal ban on abortion, including in cases of rape, incest, and fata foetal abnormality”.

Independent

Full Story at Belfast Telegraph

57% in Co Antrim support same-sex marriage, says poll

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Belfast Pride

Thousands of people took part in the annual Belfast Gay Pride event in Belfast city centre on August 1, celebrating Northern Irelands LGBT community. Organisers claim there was a larger than normal turnout in the wake of the recent same-sex marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

 

A majority of Co Antrim people support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, a new poll claims.

Campaigners have welcomed the opinion poll, conducted by Ipsos MORI, one of the world’s biggest polling companies, which shows that 57% of adults living in Co Antrim agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Only 38% of people polled here disagreed with the idea, with the remaining 5% declaring they did not know, indicating a ratio of 2:1 support for same-sex marriage rights across the county.
Ipsos MORI says polling was undertaken to “establish a deeper understanding of public attitudes towards same-sex marriage across each of the counties in Northern Ireland”.

Overall, the survey found that 68% of adults in Northern Ireland think that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry – a figure even higher than the 62.1% figure who voted Yes in the recent marriage equality referendum in the Republic.

By political affiliation, support ranged from 80% of Sinn Féin voters, to 79% of Alliance voters, 61% of SDLP voters, and 49% of Ulster Unionist voters. Among voters for the DUP, whose MLAs have repeatedly blocked equal marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the poll shows that just fewer than half (49%) back the party’s stance, while 45% of DUP voters support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to wed.

The publication of the poll results follows a marriage equality rally in Belfast in June when an estimated 20,000 people marched to demand a change in the law to allow same-sex marriage in the region.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted against marriage equality on four occasions since 2012. Campaigners say the figures show that Northern Ireland’s politicians are now out of step with ordinary people on the issue and are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to bring forward marriage equality legislation without further delay.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “We welcome the positive support from the people of Co Antrim for civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. The people have spoken and it’s clear they don’t want Northern Ireland to be left behind on marriage equality.

“Northern Ireland’s politicians are badly out of step with the people on marriage equality and we would encourage those MLAs who have so far voted against or abstained on the issue, to think again and to better represent the views of voters across Antrim.

“Following the introduction of marriage equality in the rest of the UK and the overwhelming Yes vote in the Republic, it’s high time Northern Ireland said a big ‘we do too’ to equality.”

John O’Doherty, the Rainbow Project director, said: “Northern Ireland is increasingly isolated in western Europe as a region where marriage equality is not a reality. This is a shameful injustice which cannot be allowed to continue. Politicians can’t simply ignore figures like those in the Ipsos MORI poll. The tide of public opinion has shifted decisively and there can only be one outcome.
“We will continue our campaign to ensure that equality becomes a reality for all the people of these islands”

Clare Moore of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also welcomed the poll findings: “Through this poll, we see clearly that the people of Co Antrim, like people all across Northern Ireland, now back legislation for marriage equality.

“Everyone should have equal rights and opportunities including the right to marry. It is a simple matter of equality. People have a right to expect that their politicians will promote and defend equality for all.”

A review of BBC 'Nolan' talk show with Jim McAlister and other guests

NolanQuite a whlle ago, Jim McAlister was on a BBC (NI) talk show ‘Nolan’  which had a number of threads including gay marriage; our reviewer’s analysis was as follow:

 

…You owe me a serious slug of good rum, mate.  Watching an hour of of inter-Unionist wrangling is enough to make a man take to the quare stuff.

   I assume it is Series 4, Episode 5, with Jim Alister (a man who rather uncomfortably makes a lot of sense to me), and the UUP man, tho’ I note neither of them makes the obvious comment, “Why aren’t the political groups in contention to run the UK state over here soliciting your votes?”, Shaun Woodward did make subdued comment on that talking about his constituency of St Helen’s.  Generally he was talking bollix – the ‘party line’ – I’ve reasons to suspect his personal view is a bit different.  He know quite well what Alister said is right, the Scots and Welsh actively campaigned for their representative bodies, the public in NI was overwhelmingly indifferent.  The big votes for the GFA then the Assembly was about bringing the gunfire to a halt.
   Nolan, 3′ 42″ in, mentioned ‘gay marriage’, presumably on the grounds that the Assembly stopped it.  And he said (3′ 42″) “…civil partnership imposed…”, one could quibble about  the word ‘imposed’, and the implication that people in NornIrl broadly object to such things, which is probably inaccurate. 
   But it is only one interpretation of what he said – presumably a committee works on such things to find the BBC’s fabled ‘centre ground’.
   What is objectionable is the Beeb’s notion of Gays on one side being balanced by Bible-thumpers on the other, when it is quite clear that people in NI are not merely not anti-LGBT but are largely not merely tolerant, but well-disposed, as proven – beyond peradventure – by three Prides.
   And the Prides are not just tolerated, they are popular public events, and people – families – have their own spots to view them from…

Sean McGouran

Same-sex marriage is legal…..

But as a gay teenager in Utah, I keep one foot in the closet.

I’m a teenager. Seventeen, a senior, class of 2016. I’m Hispanic, middle-class, a hard worker. I live in Utah. And I’m gay. That’s the part everyone pays attention to around here.

I didn’t always live out here. I was born in New York City. I grew up for a while in a series of identical tri-state suburbs. Then my father lost his job in the ’08 crash, and we lost all our money along with it.

The house went first, then the car. We lived in hotels and cabins half-abandoned in the woods. Our lives were held up by a string of good luck days. Once, the car broke down on the side of the road the night before Thanksgiving. An old couple happened by, complete strangers — they let us borrow their Mercedes. They had three. That kind of a good luck day.

In 2013 our savings ran dry. We couldn’t pay rent. We had family in Salt Lake City willing to finance our excursion and to let us stay with them for a while. My mother decided it was time to move west.

My friends told me it would be a culture shock; they worried I could get jumped, assaulted, or excluded because of my sexuality. I ignored them, chalking their fears up to too much media hype over the LGBTQ community’s fight for rights, some lazy stereotype about red states. I thought that no place in America could be that bad.

But I was wrong. I was spoiled by New York. Here’s what I’ve learned living as a gay teenager in Utah.

Homophobia is the norm (even under the guise of acceptance)

“One foot in the closet.” That’s how I’ve described my situation. I’m out to close friends and am comfortable with myself, but the vast majority of people I interact with on a daily basis think I’m straight. I doubt I’ll ever tell them otherwise, because almost everyone, no matter how accepting or open-minded they appear on the outside, is at least a little homophobic.

I made the mistake of being too frivolous with my sexuality early on in my Utah life. Back in New York, I was out to practically my whole school by sophomore year. I was an active participant in the Gay-Straight Alliance and would give anyone who asked directly, “Are you gay?” a straight yes. (I valued those with enough courage to ask me directly rather than listen to rumors.) I think people respected me for it. I was one of the first people in the relatively small, fringe-rural school to openly declare my sexuality with pride.

When I arrived in Utah, I tried to repeat the process. No rumors and respect this time: I bombed like a lukewarm blockbuster, quickly and quietly.

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If I’m lucky, I can have a five-minute conversation about my sexuality with a friend, cold and uninspired. “Yeah,” one of them might say, “my aunt is lesbian, but we don’t really talk to her much.” They’ll avoid it like a cliff without a guardrail, punctuate sentences with sighs; “gay marriage is legalized now,” they may say with a straight face. Even modest, passing comments about a cute boy in English class are met as if I’m coming out all over again, as if they’re just remembering: Oh right. You’re still gay.

I don’t need to talk nonstop about how I like it in bed; I’ll always be the first to say that there’s so much more to people than their sexuality. But I don’t feel truly open. Even people who will smile and say they’re “accepting” are hesitant to ever bring up the topic again, against attending even a vaguely LGBTQ-related event, closed off when you ask them for advice related to sexuality. (Of course, you’re still expected to be their wingman for straight pickups. A gay guy is always less intimidating as a sideline bestie.)

Acceptance here is a promise not to jump you in the parking lot, but it’s nothing more than that. Be gay, fine, but don’t come to our dances — one of these once-every-six-weeks affairs where kids drop $2,000 in a single night— with a same-sex partner. Don’t expect to make much contact, either: On the dance floor the closest thing you’ll get to same-sex partying is a sweaty soon-to-be frat boy accidentally bumping into you while falling out of the mosh pit.

I’ve gone with women to these things before. The expectation is always the same: You’ll drive around, maybe you’ll try some Vicodin or Oxy, probably you’ll end up making out with your date on some person’s couch, somewhere in town, tired and sweaty from dancing too long. Or you’re a prude. Or you’re not a good Utahan, where all the conservative, religious stigma in the state can’t stop some liberal rule bending around heterosexual sex, so long as you don’t mention “the gays.” If you do, it’s stares and disapproval all around, even from the “accepting” ones.

High school support networks are abysmal

If you’re like me, unable to break the barriers of the gay clique at your local high school (assuming there even is one), you’re left with the internet. You can go to chat rooms and liberal havens like Tumblr in an attempt to feel included in some kind of community or support network, but that’s all.

I’ve never attended the GSA at my Utah school, but from secondhand accounts I know it’s pretty much a facade. The club consists mainly of straight “allies” (read: more pseudo-supporters, vain acceptors) who come to eat food and talk to friends and perhaps, once, mention an issue related to the LGBTQ community before returning to their snacks.

It’s not like they’ve had any backing from the school administration; the GSA isn’t listed on the official student handbook as a chartered student group, and it is for all intents and purposes banned from advertising events beyond word of mouth.

The GSA in New York was years ahead of this one. Sure, we were underfunded, and we clashed with the school administration on more than one occasion. But we were a presence. We planned and executed the first-ever Pride Week in our area, devoting each day of the week to a different sexual minority and celebrating diversity in sexuality. We made the local news. At our largest meetings we drew in around 30 kids; I’d be hard-pressed to find 30 kids at my current school in Utah who can even name what all the letters in LGBT Q stand for, let alone define those terms past G.

Which leaves a scary hole in the support network of Utah that everyone seems keen to ignore. Last year, a student at my Utah high school committed suicide. Two years ago, another local high school had five suicides within nine months. I don’t know how many of those, if any, were motivated by sexuality. But back in my New York school, we never had a single one.

In a way, the flamboyant ones have it easier

I’m not flamboyant. On the outside, I “look straight,” “talk straight,” “walk straight.” When I came out in New York, at the beginning of my freshman year, reactions from friends and family landed largely between shock and denial. Never a pregnant pause waiting for the second half of the sentence. Never: “I knew it all along.”

I think if I were more like what people imagine when they think of a gay teenager, coming out in a place like Utah might have been easier. The flamboyant ones know what to do after they come out. They cluster into cliques and circles, backs turned out to shield each other from bigotry. Everyone knows the crowd that hangs in the choir classroom at lunch is “the gay crowd,” and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to see it. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about them behind their backs, rumors spread about who’s with who — sometimes they’re even beacons for bullies to prey on, verbally and physically.

But at the end of the day it’s a brotherhood bound together by a common knowledge of each other’s sexual orientation and the way the world deems them second-tier. The more a society pressures them, the more they push back in any way they can. Call it equal and opposite, hair dyed cyan and pink as a warning to all those bigots who pass: This is not your crowd. We are not your friends.

I am not part of this club. I never have been, and I likely never will be. I look too much like the straight guys who have oppressed them for too long; they’re understandably wary of letting me in. Why would you trust someone who looks like a threat? This is an exclusive club, and admission requirements are fierce: a strut like Beyoncé, a rainbow flag buttoned to your backpack, and a wrist flip as you tell off an outsider.

But I’m an outsider to the mainstream too. I’m stuck. I’m not flamboyant enough for the gay clique, not fraternal enough for straight culture. But here in Utah, there’s hardly a middle ground.

Straight guys are a lot more willing to be touchy

I recently went on a field trip that involved rooming with three other guys. Two were acquaintances, one I hardly knew at all. We were paired up, assigned two to each bed, and I discovered something strange: The other guys became remarkably close, in a way that would be considered borderline sexual back in New York.

I would come back from a coffee run in the lobby to find two of them lying side by side under the blankets in bed, eyes gleaming at each other, talking in hushed voices like girls at a slumber party. Games of footsie were common, and sharing of household items —socks and deodorant — was a daily occurrence. They had no qualms about being naked in front of each other, even if I demurred. Sweat and secrets: That Hilton room became a den of testosterone and camaraderie for a good four days. I was shocked.

But in retrospect, it makes sense.

In a conservative state like Utah, we don’t talk about gays. There’s never an assumption that anyone is gay; the few who exist are the ones in the choir room, relegated to their own social circles. Otherwise it isn’t a part of ordinary life.

The idea that someone could appear masculine and also be gay is ridiculous in a society like this; more than ridiculous, it just isn’t considered. So there’s no fear of footsie. There’s no worrying about what the late-night pillow fights or stark, aloof nudity in the hotel room mean, because it will always be just two straight buddies playing around.

It’s the same sort of attitude you see in organized sports: Butt slapping in the locker room is no big deal until one guy out of 20 is gay, and then it’s weird because what if he means something by it? What if he hits on me?

In a strange way, it’s almost more sexually liberating than the climate back in New York. Men aren’t afraid of being labeled homosexual, so there’s no reason to hide a brotherly love. My first time in a Utah locker room featured multiple men openly stripping down, showing it all, and nobody batting an eye. While doing a bench press, my spotter shoved his groin in my face. “You don’t want this, do you?” he asked, prompting me to move down on the bench. It was casual, fraternal.

But this is the height of heteronormativity. Homophobic slurs are still casual, part of the cultural norm. “You don’t want this, do you?” No, of course I don’t. Because I’m straight. It doesn’t even need to be clarified.

The oases of open-mindedness are that much more special

The pressure to conform is intense for everyone in high school, but arguably no teenage minority group has received more attention in recent years than the LGBTQ community. Teenage LGBTQ suicides are marks of a time we can only hope is coming to an end, albeit slowly. Gay marriage is now legalized nationwide, but there’s more work to be done. Homophobia is an ugly illness in the midst of being treated, but it will be generations before the symptoms are gone — if they ever disappear at all.

Too many areas of the country are still caught up in past decades, openly oppressing those who don’t fall into the mainstream, those who are too loud or flamboyant, “too gay to pass.” A typical day is filled with a million subtle, mostly unintentional digs at a piece of who I am. Every passive comment between buddies about a “hot chick” or “cute babe” is a reminder that you’re different. It’s the definition of living as a minority: The world is built for the powerful, and you aren’t it.

I’ve lived here for almost 18 months. I have another year before I can leave the state for college. I’ve realized in that time that the people who accept you — truly accept you, not just on a surface level — are the people you remember most.

My best friends, interestingly, have not been met inside school; rather, they’ve been met at the oases of open-mindedness: coffee shops and universities, queer-centered events. I don’t disregard the love I garnered in New York, but it was ultimately expected. It’s a place bound to accept people of all personalities, sexualities, shapes, and sizes.

In Utah, acceptance is hard sought and, therefore, much more precious when it’s found. I know the network of friends I’ve made here will last because it’s built on a mutual drive, a fight against that which cages us. I know we are a force to be reckoned with. It’s much more than equal and opposite. We want to push back, at least in the little ways.

William Wheeler is a high school student living in Salt Lake City with his family.

SDLP challenged on gay stance as SF readies new vote

 

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06:00Thursday 20 August 2015

 

 

 

Gay Marriage

 

The SDLP has been challenged over its stance on gay marriage, after one of its council leaders declined to toe the party line during a vote on the issue.

Despite the official SDLP policy of supporting gay marriage, its leader on the Causeway Coast and Glens council abstained on the matter on Tuesday night, and then refused to explain why when asked.

Sinn Fein accused the SDLP of trying to “ride two horses”, and revealed that it will soon bring another motion to Stormont asking MLAs to back gay marriage.

It will be the fifth such motion since 2011, something which the DUP described as a bid to “flog the same dead horse”.

On each occasion the matter has come up at the Assembly, MLAs have rejected it – with the most recent such rejection coming just four months ago.

When a pro-gay marriage motion came before a committee of Causeway Coast and Glens councillors on Tuesday, only one out of its three SDLP councillors was present – group leader Maura Hickey.

Asked why she abstained, Councillor Hickey politely told the News Letter: “I don’t wish to comment at this moment in time, if that’s alright.”

By contrast, the very same night the SDLP’s Newry branch was hosting a tribute event to PA Mag Lochlainn, a veteran gay campaigner who died in 2012.
When it comes to the differing approach shown towards gay marriage by SDLP members across the councils, Sinn Fein said last night: “Their hypocrisy on this issue knows no bounds…

“This is not the first time that the SDLP has attempted to ride two horses on the issue and their failure is another let down to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.”

When Sinn Fein’s criticisms were put to her, SDLP Causeway Coast leader Maura Hickey she said: “Again, I don’t wish to comment on it at this moment in time.”

She added that the other two SDLP councillors who could have voted at Tuesday’s meeting (Orla Beattie and Stephanie Quigley) had been on holiday at the time.
She would not comment on how they would have voted if they had been present.

The SDLP’s party headquarters said last night: “The SDLP remains committed to marriage equality with robust protection for faith groups.

“This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly, where a majority of SDLP MLAs continue to vote in favour of the change.

“Since its inception, the SDLP has believed in the power of persuasion and we will continue to make the case for equal marriage and pursue equal rights for the LGBT community.”

Fellow SDLP Causeway Coast councillor Gerry Mullan said: “Obviously it’s a very, very emotive issue, and one people will have very, very strong personal views on.

“And whilst the party may have a line on issues, individuals at the end of the day are free, and given the freedom, to decide which way they want to vote themselves.

“So this is obviously a case of Maura having her own very strong opinions for either religious or moral grounds. And I am happy to support her and her own personal view, but it may not well reflect the position of the party itself.”

His own view is that he supports gay marriage.

Asked about Sinn Fein’s criticisms, he said: “They would say that. They’re playing politics with it obviously, as usual.”

Although the Causeway Coast motion supporting gay marriage failed, it will come back to the full council, possibly as early as next Tuesday.

At that stage all councillors – not just those from that one committee – can debate the matter and vote.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein’s pledge to bring the matter to Stormont yet again was derided by the DUP last night.

Chief whip Peter Weir MLA noted it had been voted down on each consecutive occasion it had appeared.

Mr Weir said: “It’s hard not to see this as a certain form of Groundhog Day, with people trying to flog the same dead horse.”

He noted that the make-up of the Assembly has barely changed since 2011, and added: “When something has been brought forward for the fifth time with the same people, I would assume the result would be the same.”