Monday, 30 June 2008

News Room Finland: Finnish ombudsman clears gay blood donation ban

Riitta-Leena Paunio, Finland's parliamentary ombudsman, said in a statement Monday that the Finnish Red Cross blood transfusion service's policy that sex between men was a permanent impediment to donating blood could not be considered unlawful.

The statement added that Ms Paunio's had based her decision on expert opinions.

"These statements contain appropriately reasoned epidemiological information to the effect that sex between men clearly increases the risk of contracting serious blood-transmitted diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, and thereby increases the safety risk in blood transfusion," it said.

"The ombudsman emphasises that the ban is not due to sexual orientation, which enjoys constitutional protection against discrimination, but rather to sexual behaviour."

The ombudsman underlined that in addition to gay men, the Finnish Red Cross did not accept blood from anyone over 65 years of age or people who had been to Britain during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy outbreak.

Spiked: Homosexuality: it isn’t natural
Ignore those researchers who claim to have discovered a ‘gay gene’, says Peter Tatchell: gay desire is not genetically determined.

Printer-friendly version Email-a-friend Respond

A few years ago, Dr James Watson, the Nobel Prize winner who co-discovered DNA, reopened the controversy over the so-called gay gene when he defended a woman’s right to abortion. He was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph as saying: ‘If you could find the gene which determines sexuality, and a woman decides she doesn’t want a homosexual child, well, let her [abort the foetus].’

Much of the reaction to Dr Watson’s statement focused on its homophobic versus freedom of choice implications. Largely overlooked was the fact that such an esteemed scientist was giving credibility to the flawed theories which claim a genetic causation of homosexuality.

Now, these theories have been given a boost by research suggesting differences in the brain structures of gay and straight people. Last week, a team of scientists at the University of Padova in Italy made headlines around the world when they claimed to have discovered that homosexuality in males may be caused in part by genes that can increase fertility in females (1).

According to gay gene theory, genetic factors are responsible for sexual orientation, with our genetic inheritance programming us to desire one sex rather than the other. This is a very simple, deterministic thesis: A causes B.

I don’t disagree that genes (and hormonal exposure in the womb) influence sexual orientation. The scientific evidence for these biological influences is presented in the book Born Gay (2005), written by Glenn Wilson of the Institute of Psychiatry in London and Qazi Rahman, a lecturer in psychobiology at the University of East London.

But contrary to what the authors seem to suggest, an influence is not the same as a cause. Genes and hormones may predispose a person to one sexuality rather than another. But that’s all. Predisposition and determination are two different things.

There is a major problem with gay gene theory, and with all theories that posit the biological programming of sexual orientation. If heterosexuality and homosexuality are, indeed, genetically predetermined (and therefore mutually exclusive and unchangeable), how do we explain bisexuality or people who, suddenly in mid-life, switch from heterosexuality to homosexuality (or vice versa)? We can’t.

The reality is that queer and straight desires are far more ambiguous, blurred and overlapping than any theory of genetic causality can allow.

After studying the sexual experiences of thousands of men, Dr Alfred Kinsey presented evidence, in Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male (1948), that ‘many males combine in their single histories, and very often in exactly the same period of time, or even simultaneously in the same moment, reactions to both heterosexual and homosexual stimuli’.

Some years later, the Kinsey researchers famously reported the case of a happily married young woman who, 10 years into her marriage, unexpectedly fell in love with a female friend. Divorcing her husband, she set up house with this woman. Many years later, despite a fulfilling ongoing lesbian relationship, she had an equally satisfying affair with a man. Examples of sexual flexibility, like that of this woman, don’t square with genetic theories of rigid erotic predestination.

One of the main original proponents of gay gene theory, Dr Dean Hamer, now concedes that it is unlikely that something as complex as human sexuality can be explained solely in terms of genetic inheritance. He seems to accept that while genetic factors may establish a predisposition towards homosexuality, a predisposition is not the same as a causation.

Many studies suggest social factors are also important influences in the formation of sexual orientation. These include the relationship between a child and its parents, formative childhood experiences, family expectations, cultural mores and peer pressure.

By about the age of five or six, a combination of biological and social influences seem to lay the basis of an individual’s sexual orientation. Because our sexuality is fixed at such an early age, many lesbians and gay men feel they have been homosexual all their lives and therefore mistakenly conclude that it must be genetic and that they were born queer.

They also see the gay gene explanation as a useful defence against the arguments of the religious right, which dismisses same-sex relationships as a lifestyle choice. But no one sits down one day and chooses to be gay (or straight). Sexual orientation is not a choice like choosing which biscuits to buy in a supermarket. We don’t have free will concerning the determination of our sexual orientation. Our only free will is whether we accept or repress our true inner sexual and emotional desires.

The relative influence of biological versus social factors with regard to sexual orientation is still uncertain. What is, however, certain is that if gayness was primarily explainable in genetic terms we would expect it to appear in the same proportions, and in similar forms, in all cultures and all epochs. As the anthropologists Clellan Ford and Frank Beach demonstrated in Patterns Of Sexual Behaviour (1965), far from being cross-culturally uniform and stable, both the incidence and expressions of same-sex desire vary vastly between different societies.

They found, for example, that young men in some tribes (the Aranda of Australia, Siwan of Egypt, Batak of Sumatra, Anga of Melanesia and others) had relationships with boys or older male warriors, usually lasting several years, often as part of manhood initiation rituals. Eventually ceasing homosexual contact, they subsequently assumed sexual desires for women.

If sexual orientation was genetically prefixed at conception, as the proponents of the gay gene claim, these young men would never have been able to switch between heterosexual and homosexual relations with such apparent ease.

Likewise, a glance at history reveals huge disparities between configurations of homosexuality in different eras down the ages. Same-sex behaviour in Ancient Greece was very different, in both its prevalence and particular manifestations, from homosexuality in Confucian China, Renaissance Italy, Meiji Japan, Tudor England and late twentieth-century America. Moral values, social ideologies and cultural expectations - together with family patterns and parent-child interaction - seem the only credible explanation for these massive historical divergences.

Despite obvious theoretical and empirical weaknesses, the claims that certain genes cause homosexuality have been seized upon and vigorously promoted by many in the lesbian and gay rights movement (especially in the US).

The haste with which these unproven, questionable theories have been embraced suggests a terrible lack of self-confidence and a rather sad, desperate need to justify queer desire. It’s almost as if those pushing these theories believe we don’t deserve human rights unless we can prove that we are born gay and that our homosexuality is beyond our control: ‘We can’t help being fags and dykes, so please don’t treat us badly.’ This seems to be the pleading, defensive sub-text of much of the pro-gay gene thesis.

Surely we merit human rights because we are human beings? The cause of our homosexuality is irrelevant to our quest for justice. We are entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of whether we are born queer or made queer, and irrespective of whether our homosexuality is something beyond our control or something freely chosen.

The corollary of the ‘born gay’ idea is the suggestion that no one can be ‘made gay’. This defensive argument was used by some gay leaders during the campaigns in England against Section 28, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality, and again during the lobbying of the UK parliament for the equalisation of the age of consent.

Supporters of Section 28 and opponents of an equal age of consent justified their stance with the claim that people need to be protected against ‘pressure’ and ‘seduction’ into the homosexual lifestyle. Some gay spokespeople responded by arguing that it’s impossible to ‘make’ someone gay, and that a same-sex experience at an early age cannot ‘persuade’ a heterosexual person to become homosexual.

At one level, they are right. Sexual orientation appears to become fixed in the first few years of life. For most of us, it is impossible to subsequently change our sexual orientation.

However, what definitely can change as people grow older is their ability to accept and express formerly repressed queer desires. A person who is ostensibly heterosexual might, in their mid-30s, become aware of a previously unrecognised same-sex attraction that had been dormant and unconscious since childhood. Society’s positive affirmation of homosexuality might help such a person discover and explore those latent, hidden, suppressed feelings.

The homophobes are thus, paradoxically, closer to the truth than many gay activists. Removing the social opprobrium and penalties from queer relationships, and celebrating gay love and lust, would allow more people to come to terms with presently inhibited homoerotic desires. In this sense, it is perfectly feasible to ‘promote’ lesbian and gay sexuality and ‘make’ someone queer. Individuals who have a homosexual component in their character, but are inhibited by repression or guilt, definitely can be encouraged to acknowledge their same-sex attraction and act upon it.

Were future generations to grow up in a gay-positive, homo-friendly culture, it’s likely that many more people would have same-sex relationships, if not for all of their lives at least for significant periods. With this boom in queer sex, the social basis of homophobia would be radically undermined.

In this state of greater sexual freedom, where homosexuality becomes commonplace and ceases to be disparaged or victimised, gayness would no longer have to be defended and affirmed. Gay identity (and its straight counterpart) would thus, at last, become redundant. Hurrah!

Peter Tatchell is a human rights campaigner, and a member of the queer rights group OutRage! and the left wing of the UK Green Party. Visit his website here.

Times: Rent law should also apply to political parties - AD

Monday, 30th June 2008

Alternattiva Demokratika this afternoon welcomed the publication of the rent reform white paper.

Party chairman Arnold Cassola said the reform should address three issues: Justice with landlords who have been carrying a burden on behalf of the state for so long while ensuring that the state steps in to protect the most vulnerable in society; measures which would lead to empty dwelling being put into use; and measures to discourage new construction on unbuilt areas.

Dr Cassola said AD was satisfied that on its insistence, rent law reform had been put on the national agenda.

"AD will study the proposals in detail. What stands out is the preference being afforded to political party clubs. We feel that the Rent Law should apply equally to all citizens. The parties in parliament already share some €250,000 of public funds between themselves supposedly for EU related political work, why should they be preferred over others in this matter too?"

He said that some proposals in the White Paper if left unchanged, would mean the state would again be abdicating its social responsibility and transferring its responsibility onto individuals - the €185 minimum rent per annum is risible when thousands of people are constrained to enter into long term mortgages to buy a place of residence. The state should step in to support vulnerable people through rent subsidies and social housing which should benefit the worse off."

Dr Cassola said another anomaly in the White Paper was its reference to just the traditional family, ignoring completely the Maltese reality.

"There is no mention of cohabiting, divorced or same-sex couples. Ignoring social realities will not make them go away. Civil rights should be equal for all."

He said the 20 year transition period proposed for commercial property to bring their contract with market rates was far too long and should be shortened drastically.

AD Film Nights

Click on image to enlarge

Time and Place
Friday July 18, 2008 - BAD EDUCATION, Pedro Almodovar
Time: 8.30pm - 11.30pm

Saturday July 19, 2008 - LIVE FLESH, Pedro Almodovar
Time: 8.30pm - 11.30pm
Gnien l-Istazzjon, St. Anthony Street, ATTARD

Contact Info:

Facebook Event:

Illum: Ugwaljanza għal kulħadd – fiż- żwieġ ukoll
Bernard Muscat, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Mosta
29 ta' Ġunju 2008 Nr 87

Fl-artiklu tiegħu tal-Ħadd 22 ta' Ġunju, Kurt Sansone kiteb li
"Għall-maġġoranza kbira tan-nies iż-żwieġ hu msejjes fuq il-kunċett
reliġjuż ta' għaqda bejn mara u raġel." Sfortunatament, iva: ħafna
nies għadhom jassoċjaw iż-żwieġ ma' kunċett strettament reliġjuż.
Iżda l-prattika li żewġ persuni jingħaqdu f'relazzjoni bejniethom ġiet
qabel kull forma ta' żwieġ reliġjuż. Iż-żwieġ hu qabel kollox
istituzzjoni soċjali li tagħti rikonoxximent legali lil żewġ persuni
li jinħabbu u jixtiequ li l-unjoni tagħhom tkun rikonoxxuta
mill-istat. Bis-sitwazzjoni preżenti f'Malta, ħafna koppji gay jgħixu
flimkien u jqattgħu ħajjithom flimkien bħalma jagħmlu koppji
eterosesswali, però mingħajr ir-rikonoxximent ta' l-istat.
Għall-istat, dik l-unjoni qisha ma teżistix – iż-żewġ persuni li
jiffurmaw dik il-koppja ma' huma xejn ħlief żewġt iħbieb li jiddeċiedu
li jikkoabitaw.
Ħafna jibżgħu li l-għotja tad-dritt taż-żwieġ għal koppji ta' l-istess
sess b'xi mod se tirriforma ż-żwieġ ta' persuni eterosesswali. Din
m'hi xejn ħlief ħrafa. Fil-pajjiżi fejn ġie rikonuxxut id-dritt ta'
koppji gay li jiżżewġu, koppji oħrajn eterosesswali bl-ebda mod ma
sofrew tnaqqis fil-validita` taż-żwieġ tagħhom! Huma sempliċement
koppji gay li jingħataw drittijiet ugwali ta' koppji straight u
filwaqt li għall-koppji straight ma jkun hemm assolutament l-ebda
differenza, għall-koppji gay tagħmel differenza enormi għaliex
fl-aħħar ir-relazzjoni tagħhom ma tibqax waħda anonima u ineżistenti
iżda tkun rikoxxuta mill-istat bl-istess validità ta' dik ta' kull
koppja oħra.
Koppji gay li jixtiequ jingħaqdu fi żwieġ ċivili ma jixtiequ xejn
iktar minn dak li jgawdu minnu koppji straight – iridu biss aċċess
għall-istess istituzzjoni u għall-istess drittijiet u obbligi. F'kelma
waħda, iridu l-ugwaljanza.
Ma ninsewx li sa 50 sena ilu kien hemm argumenti qawwija fl-Amerka
rigward id-drittijiet ta' koppji ffurmati minn żewġ persuni ta' razez
differenti li xtaqu jingħaqdu fiż-żwieġ.
Kien hemm argumenti li jekk jitħalla żwieġ bejn mara sewda u raġel
abjad, jew mara bajda u raġel iswed, allura jkunu qed jinfetħu
l-bibien għal kull forma ta' ħsibijiet strambi u l-legalizazzjoni ta'
atti bħall-inċest, il-bestjalità u l-istupru, u argumenti oħra li
familja interrazzjali ma setgħetx possibbilment tipprovdi ambjent ta'
familja b'saħħitha daqs koppji oħra.
Wara snin twal ta' battalji legali, fl-1967 il-Qorti Suprema Amerikana
ddeċidiet li dawn m'huma xejn ħlief ħrejjef frott il-biża' u
l-injoranza ta' ċerti nies u llum koppji interrazzjali jistgħu
jissieħbu fiż-żwieġ bħal kull koppja oħra. Imma wara kemm battalji u
wara kemm taqtigħ il-qalb!
L-istess argumenti qed jerġgħu jinbtu llum għar-rikonoxximent ta'
l-unjonijiet bejn persuni ta' l-istess sess. Però jekk inħarsu lejn
il-pajjiżi li llegalizzaw iż-żwiġijiet bejn persuni ta' l-istess sess
– il-Belġju, l-Olanda, Spanja, is-Sud Afrika, il-Kanada u l-istat ta'
Massachussetts, u reċentament in-Norveġja u l-istat ta' California – u
l-ħafna pajjiżi oħrajn fejn koppji gay ingħataw għallinqas
rikonoxximent legali ieħor, insibu li xejn straordinarju ma ġara
f'dawn il-pajjiżi.
It-tama tagħna hi li sa ftit snin oħra din l-għagħa esaġerata dwar
koppji taż-żwieġ ta' koppji ta' l-istess sess tkun battiet, u iktar u
iktar nies jaslu għar-realizzazzjoni li din mhix xi ħaġa straordinarja
iżda sempliċement dritt ta' kull persuna li tissieħeb mal-persuna li
tħobb: u dritt li għal ħafna u ħafna snin kien miċħud għall-koppji gay
minħabba argumenti li llum huma fil-passat.
Aħna konvinti li meta n-nies iħarsu lura fi żmien ftit snin jibdew
jirrealizzaw li ma kien hemm xejn biex wieħed jistgħaġeb u li l-għagħa
kollha li nħolqot dwar xi ħaġa daqshekk sempliċi u sabiħa
bħall-imħabba li żewġ persuni jħossu għal xulxin kienet biss frott
in-nuqqas ta' għarfien ta' ċerti nies dwar is-suġġett.

Guardian: Behind masks or out and loud: gay marchers break new ground; Delhi holds first parade as campaigners seek to overturn 19th-century law
Maseeh Rahman in Delhi
Monday June 30, 2008

Yesterday was the biggest day in the life of one 26-year-old insurance agent in Delhi, yet he came to the city's long-awaited first gay parade hiding behind a mask.

"I have to remain invisible," he said. "If my parents see me on TV, I won't be able to go home. And if my colleagues recognise me, there'll be hell to pay in the office."

The gay insurance agent is typical of millions of Indians condemned to lead a double life since, much like in Victorian Britain, they risk becoming social outcasts and even criminals if their sexual preferences are revealed.

Though the setting up of advocacy groups and helplines in recent years has given India's homosexuals a voice and some solace, they are still largely a hidden and persecuted community. But in a sign of changing times, India's gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the traditional hijra transsexual community came together for the first-ever Delhi Queer Pride Parade yesterday.

"We're not protesting, we're celebrating," said Leslie Esteves, a member of the newly formed Delhi Queer Pride committee. "This year for the first time we felt confident about organising a parade in the capital."

Many came in masks, but several who have partially "come out", such as a 35-year-old lesbian chef, joined the parade without any disguise. The chef's sexuality is known and accepted by her family and at work. Her "straight" family even marched in solidarity alongside her. Yet she remains cautious. "I'm not 100% out," she said, not wanting to be named. "Let's face it, India is still a very, very conservative society. Moreover, the law sees us as criminals."

India does not explicitly outlaw homosexuality but under an 1861 penal code enacted by the British colonial government, "carnal intercourse against the order of nature between any man, woman or animal" is punishable by imprisonment up to life. The law is mainly used against pædophiles, but the high-profile arrest of four gay men in 2006 in Lucknow highlighted the fact that across India corrupt police sometimes utilise the law to blackmail and even rape homosexuals.

On Wednesday, a Delhi court will begin hearings on a petition by a gay advocacy group demanding that consensual adults be exempted from the 1861 law. Prominent Indians, including novelist Vikram Seth and economist Amartya Sen, have also demanded a change in the law.

"Anybody who leads a double life doesn't feel good about it," the insurance agent said. "I feel like screaming at the top of my voice that I'm gay, but I don't have the courage. If I tell my parents,
they'll force me to go for therapy or get married. And if I tell my office colleagues, I'll become a target of taunts and sexual harassment, and could even lose my job. A lesbian I know told her
boss, and she was sacked. All my friends remain in the closet."

Gays and lesbians feel trapped between the law and social prejudice. For some, suicide becomes the only way out. Two married women discovered in a lesbian relationship by their families burned themselves to death last month in southern Tamil Nadu state. "Many Indians still believe that homosexuality is deviant behaviour which can be cured," said clinical psychologist Radhika Chandiramani. "Several of my colleagues use aversion therapy to treat patients, sent by families, with electric shocks and drugs."

But yesterday's march gave many cause for hope. "I feel history is being created here," said the chef, as she marched arm in arm with her parents through the streets of Delhi.

This week gay pride marches took place in cities across the world, from San Francisco to Bilbao, including a number of firsts.

A gay parade in the country's second largest city, Brno, was delayed on Saturday when the marchers were attacked by a group of rightwing extremists, who were shouting abusive slogans and throwing eggs. The march was delayed by about an hour and took an alternative, shorter route than had been planned, under police protection.

Extremists throwing rocks, bottles and petrol bombs attacked Sofia's first gay pride parade on Saturday. Police say that they blocked the extremists from harming the 150 or so people in the procession through the city. About 60 people were detained for harassing the participants. Bulgaria's Orthodox church says the march should be banned as it undermines the country's Christian traditions.

Cuba's first gay pride parade was abruptly cancelled last Wednesday. The unofficial march, organised with Florida's Unity Coalition, was not sanctioned by Cuba's National Centre for Sex Education, which is headed by Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro.

Times: Take a bus Joe [Muscat]
Monday 16th June 2008, Blog: Andrew Borg Cardona

Excerpt from the article:
Muscat will have to be a bit careful, too, about the way he puts over his personal opinion. It's a refreshing change for a politician actually to have a personal opinion, even if it does get him slightly knotted up as happened when he was responding to the Christian fundamentalist and the Gay Rights fundamentalist who were pressing him on divorce and gay marriage.

Just as an aside, if we're going to start getting all het up about same-sex marriage (as in, having all manner of spasms because most interpretations of the Christian message prohibit it) someone had better amend the law, because from what I'm told, said law doesn't actually lay down that marriage has to be between men and women. As far as I'm concerned, the Church should stay out of this and let the State regulate partnership rights (i.e. marriage and the dissolution thereof) between people who want to regulate them civily, which is more than Muscat said, though I can't blame him for not wanting to risk the wrath of the God Botherers.

My Comment:

Regarding the term Gay Rights Fundamentalist, Andrew Borg Cardona is referring to Ms. Gabi's Calleja's (from the Malta Gay Rights Movement) intervention on Xarabank (13th June 2008, watch it on She pressed Joseph Muscat, the newly elected leader of the MLP for his stand on civil partnership and gay marriage. I found his reply quite confusing to be honest. I also consider the term Gay Rights Fundamentalist when referring to Ms. Calleja's intervention as inappropriate.

Many comments have been posted on the Times website (see link above)

Times: Church schools and the health survey

I refer to the news item (June 23) and the letter to the editor (June 26) regarding Church schools and the 2006 Health Promotion Unit survey.

As has already been explained before, facts are as follows:

The questionnaire concerned was distributed to Church secondary schools without prior consultation and approval.

It emerged that there were parents who voiced their concerns and objections about their children having been faced with certain questions in the survey.

Also taking into consideration the parents' views regarding certain questions in a previous 2002 survey, it was felt that it was not in the best interest of secondary school students to ask them certain questions as presented in the 2006 survey.

For instance, the way certain questions were worded appeared to imply that students had already gone through certain sexual experiences.

It was considered that this kind of approach was not the right way to better educate children about certain delicate issues. The Church Secretariat for Education called the Health Promotion Unit to discuss the questionnaire that had already been distributed to Church schools. The HPU suggested the removal of the pages with the objectionable questions in the Maltese and English versions.

However, the questions and the pages in the questionnaire were numbered. Moreover, the objectionable questions overflowed on two pages, thus requiring the removal of more than one page forming part of the health questions. It was felt that such a move would also have given rise to speculation and gossiping among students about the missing questions.

Had the Church Secretariat for Education been consulted before going to print, the secretariat would have agreed to have the questionnaire printed without the objectionable questions in the first place.

The way questions are structured, in such surveys, is very important.

Gay NZ: Mr & Mrs Obama stand strong on gay issues

In a week when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appear together in a united front for the US Democratic Party, Michelle Obama has put her husband on record as a fighter for the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

"Barack believes that we must fight for the world as it should be, a world where we work together to reverse discriminatory laws," she told the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council last week, reports the San Francisco Sentinel.

Invoking "those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall," Michelle implored Democrats to continue those early crusaders' march "in the pursuit of a more perfect union."

On the issue of gay marriages, she told the crowd that individual states should be able to "decide for themselves how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage."

Meanwhile, Barack Obama's supporters have released a YouTube video compilation of LGBT-friendly messages the Presidential candidate has given in speeches over the years, calling it Obama Pride.

"When I am President of the United States, gays and lesbians will have someone who will fight for equal rights for them," Obama states in one clip. "Somebody who opposes 'Don't Ask Don't Tell', somebody who fought to make sure that gays and lesbians aren't discriminated
against on the job or with hospital visitations.

"Because they are our brothers, and they are our sisters, and I don't mind everybody knowing where I stand - because that is why I'm in it."

The Obama Pride video is shown in the link at the top of the article.

Ekklesia: Evangelical leader criticises failure to condemn violence against gays
By staff writers
26 Jun 2008

The head of the Church Army, a leading Anglican mission agency with a significant evangelical constituency, has expressed his distress at the failure of two Anglican archbishops to clearly condemn violence against gay people.

The remarks come in the personal blog of Mark Russell, the youngest ever Chief Executive of Church Army, which deploys over 350 evangelists working across Britain and Ireland.

Mr Russell's comments came after Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda declined to condemn violence against lesbians and gays when challenged twice on the issue at the Global Anglican Future Conference meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week.

Encouraging bishops of all opinions to go to the Lambeth Conference "to further the Gospel and show Christ to the world", Mark Russell wrote: "I know many bishops in England who do not agree with everything other bishops say, or do not agree with some of the things they have done, but are committed to being together, to pray together, and to seek to demonstrate Christian love to their flocks. I commend them for their leadership and Godly example."

He continued: "[This] is in marked contrast to some bishops at GAFCON who refused to condemn violence against gay people in their home countries. Quite honestly that is disgraceful, it sullies their cause, and is totally un-Christian. You cannot justify violence in God's name. Period. To the eternal credit of Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, he condemned the violence ... Those who perpetrate violence against gay people in Africa now can use this silence to justify their behaviour. Christians must speak up and say this is wrong."

Many evangelicals have questioned the content and tenor of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from GAFCON supporters, belying the media image that this is a simple 'liberal versus conservative' issue.

Bishop David Atkinson of Thetford is among evangelical Anglican scholars whose views have changed on the issue. Outside the Anglican world, Dr Jack Rogers, Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary, has called for a change of heart and mind among traditional believers, as has the UK group Accepting Evangelicals - which affirms committed gay relationships.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has continued to express concerns that the Western church is allowing Christianity to be eroded by modern culture, and Canon Vinay Samuel has suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury's role is a colonial


Mark Russell on 'The Countdown to Lambeth':
The blog has no official link to Church Army and the views on it are those of the author.

Sofia News Agency: Bulgaria Skin Heads Attack Gay Parade with Molotov Cocktails, 60 Arrested
28 June 2008, Saturday
Sofia News Agency

More than 60 persons have been arrested by the police for trying to attack and harass the participants in the gay pride parade, which took place in Sofia Saturday afternoon.

The arrested are mostly representatives of the skin heads and other extremist groups, who were throwing stones, bottles, squibs, and even Molotov cocktails at the procession.

The massive presence of the police, who were about as many as the participants in the parade - 150, however, prevented the hooligans from doing harm to any of the homosexuals and their supporters, and no one has been reported injured.

The leader of the nationalist extremists Bulgarian National Union Boyan Rasate has also been arrested, allegedly for taking part in the attempted violence.

According to some accounts, Rasate's five-year old daughter, whom he brought with him to the anti-rally, was left alone and helpless after he was arrested and thrown in the back of one of the police cars.

Over the last week Rasate's BNU had been among the strongest opponents of the gay parade, and even launched a campaign under the motto: "Be Intolerant, Be Normal" with posters spread all over Sofia.

Meanwhile, many of those who accompanied the arrested persons, complained of police violence against their friends.


150 Take Part in Bulgaria's First Gay Pride Parade in Sofia

28 June 2008, Saturday

About 150 people participated Saturday afternoon in Bulgaria's first ever gay pride parade, which took place in the capital Sofia.

The official motto of the event organized the union of Bulgarian gay men and women "Gemini" was: "My Family - We Are Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Brothers and Sisters".

The procession started at the Love Bridge behind the National Palace of Culture and proceeded down the Evlogi Georgiev, which is one of the most congested streets in downtown Sofia anyway, eventually its destination the Center for Culture and Debate known as the "Red House"
located at 15 Lyuben Karavelov street.

The representatives of the Gemini Organization wore shirts saying "The Communists Kiss at Official Meetings". People with different sexual orientation also took part in the event with slogans stating: "Beware of whom you hate, it might be someone you love".

None of the participants really displayed their homosexual orientation in any aggressive way.

The some 150 participants were guarded by just as many - 150 - policemen with a number of armored police cars, who prevented successfully efforts to harass the people from the parade.


Thursday, 26 June 2008

Times: Church in denial on sexual behaviour
Thursday, 26th June 2008
Richard Stagno Navarra, Lija
The report regarding an HBSC survey on youth culture in Malta (June 23 see excerpt below) says among other things that the Curia ordered the students in Church schools not to answer the questions on sexual behaviour. These referred to intercourse, the contraceptive pill and condom use. This is an outdated attitude which certainly does not help educate young men and women.
I am sure that students who attend Church schools are very much like children in other schools and the Curia must know that they face the same problems in every field including sexual behaviour. The Church has every right to teach that sex before marriage is wrong and that
any form of contraception is prohibited. However, it cannot run away from the fact that these are used and instead of turning a blind eye to such a situation it should try and explain to youngsters how they should behave.
I understand that the Church cannot condone certain aspects of sexual behaviour but it cannot act as if these problems do not exist even among some students who attend her schools. Young people today need help and advice as there are so many of them facing problems in their
families. This is where the Church should step in instead of banning children from answering questions which could very well be pertinent to these youngsters.
Children are heavy drinkers, but no drunks (See link for comments)
Ariadne Massa
Monday, 23rd June 2008

These figures emerge from the latest Health Behaviour of School-Aged Children Study (HBSC), which is carried out in Europe and North America every four years and looks into the social background, body image, health, and risk behaviours of schoolchildren aged 11, 13 and 15. A sample of 1,500 students was taken from each age group for the study that was conducted in 2006.
Malta's data on sexual behaviour is missing after Church schools were instructed by the Curia not to fill in the questions related to intercourse, the contraceptive pill and condom use.

Metro: Fifth of gays are victim of hate
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

One in five gays and lesbians has been the victim of a hate crime or incident in the past three years, according to a damning new report.

However, three-quarters of victims do not bother to report crimes – a third because they do not think police can, or will, do anything about it.

Of those that did go to the authorities, just one in 25 saw it result in a conviction, the survey by gay charity Stonewall found.

Chief executive Ben Summerskill told Metro: 'It's entirely unacceptable in 2008 that anyone should live in fear of attack and abuse simply because of who they are.

This evidence is a scar on the face of a modern nation.'

The charity is billing its research as the first statistically significant national survey of its kind into homophobic crime.

It was carried out, with Home Office support, following the conviction of two men for the homophobic murder of Jody Dobrowski on Clapham Common in June 2006.

The report recommends encouraging police to improve the recording of homophobic incidents and tackling bullying in schools and offices.

Last night, home secretary Jacqui Smith said she would ask a ministerial action group to tackle the issue.

She added: 'In the 21st century, no one should ever feel under threat of verbal or physical violence just because of their sexual orientation.'

Mike Cunningham, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: 'It cannot be acceptable that a third of victims do not report incidents because they do not think the police would, or could, do anything about it.'

Mr Dobrowski's mother, Sheri, said: 'Homophobia is endemic in society. We cannot accept this. No intelligent, healthy or reasonable society could.'

Yahoo News: Cuban church protests support for gay rights
Tue Jun 24, 2008

HAVANA - Cuba's Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday protested the communist government's growing support of gay rights, including a daylong event raising awareness against homophobia and a law allowing sex-change operations.

"Respect for the homosexual person, yes," said an editorial in Palabra Nueva, the monthly magazine of the Archdiocese of Havana. "Promotion of homosexuality, no."

The editorial signed by magazine director Orlando Marquez referred to activities held May 17 by Cuba's Sex Education Center, which is directed by Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro.

The center also announced this month that the health ministry has approved a law authorizing government-paid sex changes for 28 people who have undergone extensive study after requesting the surgery.

Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, as in much of Latin America. But the government has steadily moved away from the intolerance of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being fired from work or even imprisoned.

Cuba's parliament also is studying proposals to give gay couples the same benefits as married couples.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Oped News: The Gays Are Winning: Why That Spells Doom for the Religious Right

By Gregory Paul, 24 June 2008

The gays are winning the culture war. That might not seem true with the laws and amendments banning same sex marriage, as well gays still being banned from openly serving in the armed forces. And there is the odd hate crime against homosexuals, most lately 15 year old Lawrence King gunned in the head, it seems, by a 14 year old member of the Young Marines after the former said he liked the latter. So let us conduct a thought experiment to get a better perspective and where matters stand here in the new century.

Get a time machine. Go back to, say, 1958. Destination, any well-populated place in America will serve. Stand on a heavily traveled sidewalk with a clipboard and pencil and pretend you are doing a survey. Ask folks as they pass by if they think gays, err, homosexuals, will ever be able to get married. Here's what will happen. Chances are fair you will get beat up, especially if you are in the south. After all, they are still into occasionally lynching blacks. Even if you don't get assaulted, people will look at you like you are insane. What's that? Homos getting married? Who could be crazy enough to imagine such a thing? What are you, some sort of pervert? Perhaps a faggot red (back when red meant pinko)? Who did you say you're taking this survey for? Get back on the time machine, quickly. Move forward in time to, say, 1988. Do the same thing. Chances that you'll get beat up will be far less. And remember to say gay, not homosexual. But the ultimate response will be similar. Gays, getting married? Say what?

The right has, of course, skillfully exploited the current situation they find themselves in to the maximum that is possible. There are concerns, probably unwarranted, that California will go Republican this year because of the anti-gay marriage amendment initiative that potentially counters the state supreme court ruling favoring same sex wedlock. In 2004 the GOP may have handed themselves the election by making the issue into a classic wedge issue – had gay marriage not been on the Ohio ballot it is possible Bush would have lost the state and the presidency to boot. And the reaction against the sudden appearance of the issue of married gays is not surprising considering that America was deeply homophobic just a generation or two ago. But that is just the point. The right is making the best of a very bad state of affairs. That the traditionalists find themselves in the mind boggling position of actually having to go to the trouble to get laws and amendments passed to keep homosexuals from, heaven forbid, literally marrying one another, is a circumstance they could not have imagined would ever befall them and the nation. That two state supreme courts have endorsed gay marriage is a reflection of the 21st culture, such decisions would not have been possible back in the 1900s. That all this has occurred in such a short time only adds to the shock, it makes starkly clear just how much cultural ground they have lost over the last half-century, and the last decade. Could there be a clearer sign that the sodomite end times are nigh and Satan is having his way?

The movement of the gays into the mainstream is a campaign within the culture war that the social and religious right absolutely must win, losing is simply not an option. Conservative Christianity always needs an "enemy" with which to rally the troops. For many years hard core Protestants targeted Catholics, Jews and especially blacks, but that is no longer an option. Many blacks have proven to be loyal theocons, and are a bastion of faith-based homophobia. So are conservative Catholics, who have had to become the allies of the evangelical right. But gays are different. Not only is there no way the same sex crowd are going to be arch-conservative Christians, there is just no way society at large can accept gay persons, culture and sensibilities while embracing traditional, Bible-based piety at the same time. They are just too mutually antagonistic, its like bringing two opposed magnets together, it just won't work. Conservative Christian ideology is based on hard line patriarchy in which men dominant women, the antithesis of the gender equivalent gay culture. So it's one or the other that can be mainstream. And not having blacks and Jews to go after anymore, theocons need homosexuals to pick on and demonize as they proclaim their love for all sinners. These reasons explain why the right is so zealous and virulent in their opposition to gaydom. It's an absolute must.

Why do the theocons oppose gays in the military? They say that it's because a gay friendly military is not practical in operational terms, but that's not the real reason. Imagine if gays openly serving in the armed forces start being awarded medals for valor and other examples of All-American patriotism. That will make homosexuals even more mainstream, and even harder to keep in second class status.

And there's the problem for the right. The strides gays have made are truly breathtaking in their scope and swiftness, paralleling those made by blacks a couple of decades earlier. May I offer an illustration?

American Express is not exactly a warren of airy fairy lefty infidels. Back in the 70s and 80s its spokesman was Karl (Don't Leave Home Without It) Malden, who had co-starred as WW II General Omar Bradley in Nixon's favorite movie, Patton. But by the 90s straight arrow Americana was out and culturally tolerant youthful hip was in. So the suits at AE got themselves a new spokesperson. Jerry Seinfeld, co-creator and star of the megasitcom. In the classic episode "The Outing" Jerry and his best buddy George are mistaken for being gay by a cute female reporter from NYU. The news goes national, much to the distress of Jerry and George's folks, one of whom ends up in the hospital with the shock of it all. The two spend the rest of the episode denying that they are so deeply interested in one another while emphasizing "not that there's anything wrong with it."

Pro-gay Seinfeld reigned back in the Clinton years. American Express replaced him as we entered the Bush II era, the age of a Great Awakening by the evangelical movement that is supposedly sweeping the nation. So the suits at AE picked someone to better reflect this traditionalist, post 9/11 age, right? Perhaps a patriarchal Christian authority figure. Certainly a known heterosexual. Not even close. The current spokesperson for the world's premiere credit card company is....

Ellen Degeneris is not merely pro-gay, or even just gay, but she has gone to great lengths to proclaim that she is a flaming proud lesbian, to the point of engaging in the first woman-to-woman kiss on network TV. She has recently announced her upcoming marriage, now legal in California, to her partner. Nor is Ellen Christian, she is a paganish New Ager. The people at AE are in no way naïve waifs who picked Ellen just because she is the cutest thing. They were not only fully aware of the sexual orientation of Ms Degeneres, but the marketing people – many selected by higher ups for specifically for their youth because they have a valuable generational knowledge base -- concluded that Ellen is a talented and appealing comedic personality who would engage to the cohort of young consumers that AE wants to start using The Card right now. AE calculated not only that Degeneres' gaydom would not be a serious problem, but that it was a major advantage. Because the popular culture has gone pro-gay.

Consider who appears on Ellen's talk show. John McCain for one. This after he won the primary contest to become the GOP contender for President of the USA. Why would the leader of the party of the right go on Ellen's show, where she dressed him down for opposing gay marriage? Because he and his advisors know that need a big portion of the youth vote come November, and Ellen is an opinion maker among younger Americans. Visiting Ellen about the same time where Laura and Jeana Bush. Their purpose was to promote the younger Bush's new book in the all important youth market. Did their father care either way? Probably not.

Contrast the fate of Ellen with that of Anita Bryant. Some three decades ago the former beauty queen was making a nice living as the squeaky clean All-American spokesperson for the Florida orange growers. Then she blew it. A devout theocon, Anita decided to take on the rising gay movement. Why is not entirely clear. Having since taken a less confrontational live-and-let-live attitude towards homosexuality, Anita claims her overbearing husband of the time put her up to it. In any case the results were not ambiguous. Her career was wrecked. Those on the right can claim a bias in favor of the left when comparing the Ellen and Anita stories, but that would be misleading. The folks at the Florida orange growers probably had some sympathy for their spokeperson's anti-homo opinions. But that she had actually gone public with them in a big way left them appalled. She had transformed their refreshing and popular product into a subject of social controversy. If there is one thing that corporations do not want to have happen is to their precious merchandise is for it to become a subject of societal contention. Especially when their spokesperson is being compared to Hitler and boycotts are rearing their ugly heads. Naïve Anita did not understand that in commerce the bottom-line rules. She had to go, and Anita was quietly shown the door.

It's not just American Express and fruit growers who think its great when gays use their products and services. According to the Human Rights Campaign the American workplace continues the long-term trend of becoming friendlier to gays and transsexuals as corporations fight in-house discrimination and enhance benefits for nonheteros. When usually socially savvy Microsoft was sufficiently inept to announce that it was backing away from supporting state level improvements in gay rights because of concerns raised by Christian employees they got so much flack that they quickly reinstated their long standing advocacy for homosexuals. And look at the company Henry Ford – an old fashioned cultural traditionalist to the core -- created. Today's Ford Motor was running ads for its Jaguar and Land Rover subdivisions in gay publications, and was receiving praise from nonhetero groups for its pro-gay policies. The arch-evangelical American Family Association decided to put a stop to that sort of thing. AFA owns some 200 radio stations and boosts that it has 3 million members. Who was going to get in their way? In May 2005 they initiated a boycott against Ford for providing marriage benefits for same-sex couples and giving "thousands of dollars to support homosexual groups and their agenda." Late in 05 Ford dropped the ads in the gay publications. A victorious AFA agreed to cease the boycott. Much fury ensued from the gay lobby. They were not about to put up with this sort of nonsense. After Ford executives met with gay activists who announced that the discussions were "incredibly productive" the company reinstated the advertisements, and affirmed that they will continue there other gay friendly policies.

So there you have it. Yet another set of corporate suits looked at the culture and after doing the sociological calculations handing another social defeat to the religious right. The gay lobby proved more powerful than the Christian traditionalist lobby.

Bigotry theocon style is eroding, to the degree that the religious right is no longer a serious commercial concern to the free marketeers at American Express, Ford and Microsoft. And there's Disney. Long gay friendly because so much of its creative talent is oriented thusly, it has taken to brushing off periodic critiques from the right who cannot stand that the all American family values corporation is so anti-traditionalist. Remember how the nation just laughed when Pat Robertson warned that the Disney dominated Orlando area was just asking for the loving God's wrath via one of His righteous hurricanes? God pick on Disneyworld? The front page of The Washington Post, in April 2007, ran an article headlined "Disney's Theme Weddings Come True for Gay Couples" that began with the following news. Same-sex weddings are coming out at Disneyland. Walt Disney Co. said yesterday [Good Friday] that gay couples can buy the company's high-end Fairy Tale Wedding package that allows them to exchange vows at Disney's theme parks and aboard its cruise ships, starting at about $4000 per wedding.

People, I do not make this stuff up. The company Walt built is offering their lavish wedding package – please, no comments about the inclusion of a certain word in its title -- at its venues to happy couples of any orientation. Why hip gays would wish to go down this tacky path to matrimony might be open to question, but what is important to this tale is that the power of their community grows to the frightened fury of the right. The entertainment industry at large is packed to the gills with gay talent and sensibilities. Always has been, always will be. Getting the gays out of the media is ethically as vile as Goebbel's elimination of Jews from the German culture, but practically it is probably less doable. Instead, openly homosexual characters have suddenly become normal on television and in the movies. Sometimes it is blatant as per Will & Grace. Other times it is more subtle. A couple of years ago there was a nice kids film, MGM's Good Boy!, about how canines are really aliens sent from a distant star system to take over the planet from us mere apes. I could not help noticing that one of the lesser dog characters was owned by two handsome, young, clean cut guys living in the same house. They really seemed to like each other.

Same sex partners live openly in many communities with little fuss and bother in a manner simply not imaginable in the 50s. Actually criticizing gays and their lifestyles in mainstream media these days is a cultural taboo, it's easier to go after those wacky fundamentalists. Half of Americans think that homosexual behavior is okay. No way that was true when Ike was president, or when Ronnie was in the White House for that matter. Gays are so much a part of the culture that a word once used to describe a happy state of mind now describes a sexual orientation. In 1978 a quarter of Americans would have voted for a known homosexual for president. Now 60% say they are willing -- still way below blacks and Jews but a tremendous improvement. Some generals are coming out for allowing gays to serve openly as attitudes in the military shift. When General Peter Pace was politically incorrect enough to say being gay was immoral he was slapped down pronto. When Bush II was asked by a Fox reporter if he agreed with the general that homosexuality is immoral George declined to give his viewpoint.

A poll of vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that three quarters had been comfortable interacting with gay comrades. 18 to 29 year olds who favor gays openly serving their county rose by half to over nine in ten in ten years. It is all the more fascinating that youth has become remarkably gay friendly even as many schools still teach that same sex is a no-no. Even more remarkable is that PEW finds that levels of tolerance are increasing among older folk. Even in the red states acceptance of gays is rising among the youth.

Why is the propaganda of the right not working nearly as well as they want? Blame the general rise in tolerance for minorities. If blacks are OK, and Jews, etc. too, then why waste the energy going after the homosexuals? Bigotry is hard work. Do dedicated followers of Jesus always have to be mad at someone? So just be nice. Making it even worse is that gays in the main are turning out to be pretty decent folks. Why pick on them? How often do gay men rape women and beat their wives? It's the hetero men who do that. What happened in Massachusetts when they allowed gays to wed. Did folks start having sex in the streets? Did heterosexual couples start divorcing so they could hitch up with their new same-sex lovers? The Rodney King effect is so strong it is not just youth in general that is going pro-gay, young theocons are too. On a recent PBS News Hour young evangelicals discussed how they found their conservative values challenged as some of their Christian friends came out, and they did not seem to be the depraved, Satan guided sinners church doctrine claims they are. While only one in ten older evangelicals support gay marriage, about a third of those under 20 do.

Here's the theocon elite's problem. They cannot outright condemn homosexuals because that sort of thing won't fly in these tolerant times. It's not like when you could burn deviants alive, or stone them to death. So they have to tell the flocks to "hate the sin, not the sinner." That's as wimpy as it is muddled. If gays are not evil per se, then why give them such a hard time in the first place? Live and let live.

Nothing better reveals how Christian traditionalism is shooting itself in the foot as it loses the culture is the gay experience since the events at Stonewall in 1969, when patrons of the Greenwich Village gay bar battled with the raiding police because they figured they just were not going to take it anymore -- of course the Big Apple now adores its gays. When AIDs showed up many theocons presumed it was the Lord's just punishment for the wicked, and predicted an end to the rise of the sodomizers.

That did not happen. Yet again the right over reached with vindictive slurs against the victims of a vicious disease whose courage in facing the epidemic improved their image in the eyes of the mainstream. The astonishingly swift rise in the fortunes of Amerohomosexuals is another example of how things can turn in an instant against the essential interests of the right, and why they have excellent reason to be trembling in their boots considering that even Christian America can make such a profound secular style switch in a historical blink of an eye.
Look what happened in Spain. Not so long ago the devout Catholic buddy of Hitler and Mussolini, Franco, ruled the nation; it was during the first year of Saturday Night Live that faux news anchor Chevy Chase repeatedly poked fun at the dictator's lingering death. Now Spain is a progressive democracy where gays can get hitched. And divorced.

About divorce, that brings up Anita Bryant again. She was not able to switch from promoting juice to right wing causes because her divorce ruined her credibility with conservative Christians. This was ironically unfair -- Ronald Reagan for instance was a divorcee, and born-again Christians split up at very high rates. Evangelicals have done so much damage to holy matrimony that their attempt to slander gay marriage as a threat to the heterosexual version of the institution comes across as hypocritical, further damaging the credibility of the anti-gay movement.
That raises a reason the theocons are opposed to same-sex marriage. According to the Christian right hetero marriage is God's plan. But what if gay marriages prove to be more stable? There is evidence that same-sex partnerships exhibit less violence. The disparity in the physical strength in the couple is not skewed towards one partner, and gay males seem to be less hormonally disposed towards domineering violence. Gay relationships are inherently more egalitarian, so the little woman is not stuck with the bulk of the house work. If there is one thing religious traditionalists cannot abide is having their faith-based ideology contradicted by reality.

The broader trends are against the American right as well. The conservative Christian minority has peaked and is in decline as major right wing sects such as the Southern Baptists report that "evangelistically, the denomination is on a path of slow but discernable deterioration." Of course, Christian homophobia is based upon scripture. The thing about that is that according to Gallup Bible literalists made up about four in ten Americans back in the 1970s, but have been steadily slipping and are now approaching a quarter. Meanwhile the folks who think the Bible is more legend than reality and think gays are a fine lot are gaining fast and will soon match and surpass the literalists. That can't be good for the bigots. Neither is how youth is markedly less religious than prior generations as church membership and attendance continue a decades long slide to new lows. Meanwhile those who do not believe in a supreme being have ballooned from a couple of million in the 1950s to some 60 million today, rivaling evangelicals in numbers. Atheists and agnostics are not known for picking on gays.

There is no choice for fervent Christianity. Gays absolutely and without fail must be stopped, and stopped really soon or the traditionalist movement and ardent faith will shrivel into pathetic impotence. The hard right knows this. And looking at the big picture many theocons sense, correctly, that they are losing. The recent success in passing bans on same-sex marriage is better than the failure to do the same, but it is no great victory for the right. It is a frantic rear guard action intended to stem a tsunami of culturo-sexual tolerance that patriarchal faith cannot survive. The rise of the gays appears to be a contributing factor in the decline of hard-core religion, and it looks like things are only going to get worse for the Bible believers.

Here's the trouble, for the right wing bigots that is. The theocon elites have no viable mechanism for actually reversing the ascent of the gays and put them back in their apartheid closet. How is that going to work? Gays are no more willing to be driven back out of the mainstream society than blacks are going to resubmit to Jim Crow. Evangelical groups that convert gays to the straight side are convincing only a diminutive fraction of homosexuals to switch teams -- as Elaine and Kramer tried in Seinfeld. As one of the gay characters proudly proclaimed at the end of HBO's Angels in America it's too late, the gay cat is out of the bag and is not going back.

Documentation – PEW Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, ID=312. Edgell, Penny, Gertels, J. and Hartmann, D. Atheists s "Other": Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society. American Sociological Review 71: 211-234, 2006 show the discriminatory attitudes most Americans have towards the atheist minority. Tom Smith & Seokho Kim discuss the NORC data showing that Amerofaith is declining as the nonreligious rise in "The Vanishing Protestant Majority," GSS Social Change Report 14 (2004), In "The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States," Institute for Jewish & Community Research (2004),, Sid Groeneman & Gary Tobin explore the demographic factors behind the decline, while Michael Hout & Claude Fischer look at the socio-political aspect in "Why more Americans have no religious preference: politics and generations," American Sociological Review (2002) 67:165. Religious Views and Beliefs Vary Greatly by Country, According to the Latest Financial Times/Harris Poll. and H. Taylor, While most Americans believe in God, only 36% attend a religious service once a month or more. found that nonbelievers now number 60 million in the US. P. Marler & C. Hadaway. "Testing the Attendance Gap in a Conservative Church," Sociology of Religion (1999) 60:175 and S. Presser "Data collection mode and social desirability bias in self-reported religious attendance," American Sociological Review. (1998) 63: 137 show that actual church attendance is much lower than indicated in surveys. Adelle Banks "Southern Baptists address drop in baptism numbers," 6/18 (2005); Jacqueline Salmon "Southern Baptists Struggle to Maintain Flock" & Shrinking Flock Examines Its Identity: Churches Renamed ti Escape Stigma Some Say "Baptist" Carries," 6/8 (2008); The Washington Post Shoenn Freeman "Ford Faces Renewed Conservative Boycott," The Washington Post 3/14 (2006). Amy Joyce "Majority of Large Firms Offer Employees Domestic Partner Benefits." The Washington Post 6/30 (2006). "Young People Express Views on Religion, Politics." PBS Newshour 1/2/07.

Gregory Paul is an independent researcher interested in informing the public about little known yet important aspects of the complex interactions between religion, secularism, culture, economics, politicas and societal conditions. His work has appeared in the Journal of Religion and Society and in Edge.

Pink News: Irish gay rights group welcomes civil partnership bill
By Tony Grew • June 24, 2008

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has welcomed the "comprehensive" civil partnership legislation published by the Irish government today.

However, the Dublin-based gay advocacy group said the bill fails to provide protection for gay and lesbian parents and their children.

If passed the legislation would be the first time lesbian and gay relationships are recognised, supported and protected in Irish law.

"This is a reform whose time has come," said GLEN's Kieran Rose.

"All political parties have played a role in getting us to this point and there is huge public support for change."

Today's "Heads of Bill" is an outline of what the government proposes to bring forward and will undergo a short consultation period.

It is hoped that a bill will go through the Dail, the Irish parliament, by the autumn.

Civil partnerships are already legal in Northern Ireland under United Kingdom legislation.

"Comprehensive civil partnership, as proposed in the Heads of Bill, is a major milestone towards equality," said Mr Rose.

"The goal of GLEN is access to full equality through civil marriage and this Bill is a fundamental step forward towards this goal.

"The provisions outlined today will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian and gay couples and will also provide a platform for further progress."

GLEN expressed concern however that today's Heads of Bill does not provide for legal recognition of the many same-sex couples, in particular women, who are parenting children together.

"This is of critical importance to parents and their children and GLEN urges the Government to bring forward proposals to address this legal gap," said Mr Rose.

"GLEN also strongly welcomes the proposals in the Heads of Bill for a Redress Scheme to offer certain protections to co-habiting couples who do not marry or avail of civil partnership and which will be provided to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples on an equal basis.

"We look forward to the early passage of the Bill."

In April MarriagEquality, a group formed to campaign for full civil marriage, released the details of a poll it commissioned which showed the number of Irish people who support partnerships only had fallen from 33% to 26%.

Overall 84% of those polled support either gay marriage or civil partnerships.

The Irish government has ruled out gay marriage, claiming that it would require a change to the country's constitution and a potentially divisive referendum.

Article 41 of the Irish constitution says:

"The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded, and to protect it against attack."

It does not give any definition of marriage itself, and critics and constitutional scholars argue it does not outlaw gay marriage.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland in 1993.

Both discrimination and incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation are illegal.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Blasphemy :-)

Click on image to enlarge

Yahoo News: Mormon church enters California gay marriage fight
By JENNIFER DOBNER, Associated Press Writer Tue Jun 24

SALT LAKE CITY - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking California members to join the effort to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

A letter sent to Mormon bishops and signed by church president Thomas S. Monson and his two top counselors calls on Mormons to donate "means and time" to the ballot measure. A note on the letter dated June 20 says it should be read during church services on June 29, but the letter was published Saturday on several Web sites.

Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday that the letter was authentic. He declined further comment, saying the letter explains the church's reasons for getting involved.

The LDS church will work with a coalition of churches and other conservative groups that put the California Marriage Protection Act on the Nov. 4 ballot to assure its passage, the letter states.

In May, California's Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying gays could not be denied marriage licenses.

"The church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan for His children," the four-paragraph letter states.

"We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to ensure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," church leaders say in the letter. "Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage."

California Mormons — there are more than 750,000, according to a church almanac — have heard and heeded similar calls from their leaders before.

In 2000, a letter from the pulpit asked members to give time and money in support of Proposition 22, a ballot measure prohibiting California from legally recognizing gay marriages performed outside the state. It passed but was later struck down by the courts.

The LDS church also fought same-sex marriage legislation in other states during the 1990s. As recently as 2006, it signed a letter to Congress seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The latest letter is a disappointment to members of Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons. Last month, Affirmation called on the church not to meddle in California politics.

"This initiative will hurt so many people," executive director W. Olin Thomas said in a statement Monday. "The California law affects civil marriage; it has no effect on any religious institution or official."

Affirmation leaders are scheduled to meet with the head of LDS Family Services, a church social services agency, in August to begin a conversation meant to bridge the divide between Mormonism and gay members hurt by church teachings that homosexuality is a sin.

It will be the first meeting between any arm of the church and Affirmation, which was formed in secret in the 1970s by students at the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo.

"We're not going to let this stand in the way," Affirmation spokesman David Melson said. "The church has said they are open to finding new avenues and new solutions to minister to gay members, and we are taking them at their word."

Malta Today: Interview with Joseph Muscat, You may say I’m a dreamer...
22 June 2008

Excerpts from the interview.

Apart from divorce, what makes Joseph Muscat more progressive than GonziPN?
Muscat seems taken aback by this question. “Is it not enough for me to pronounce myself in favour of divorce at such an early stage? I have already taken the flak for speaking up on this subject. It seems that in this country some people would not even tolerate a discussion on divorce. For me this is a question of putting European values into practice rather than paying lip service to them.” But why is Muscat waiting to be elected Prime Minister to introduce a divorce bill instead of presenting one now? “I do not want to kill the discussion. At this point in time there is no willingness on the PN’s part to talk about divorce. I do not want to use divorce as political football.” He points out that if the Prime Minister does not give a free vote on this issue, divorce will not be introduced even if all Labour MPs vote in favour. “I do not want to play games with people’s life. I prefer to wait, leaving ample time for the discussion to evolve along non partisan lines.” Neither does Muscat want to see a conflict with the Catholic Church.
“I was immensely satisfied by a reply sent by the Archbishop to a MaltaToday editorial on divorce. I do not expect him to agree with divorce as this is a point of principle for the Church. But it is very positive that he accepts the need for a discussion.”

Last week during the TV programme Xarabank, a leading exponent of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, Gaby Calleja, expressed disappointment when Muscat declared that he does not consider gay marriages as a “natural” institution. Alternatively Muscat proposed the concept of a civil partnership which according to the new leader could apply to cohabiting heterosexual couples, siblings living under the same roof and to same-sex couples. “I cannot understand her reaction… For a Maltese politician proposing civil partnerships is very innovative. But I think the message did not come across clearly.”

Illum: Jien Rachel nieħu lilek Grace...
Aħbarijiet | 22 ta' Ġunju 2008 Nr 86
Fl-isfond ta' l-ewwel żwiġijiet bejn persuni ta' l-istess sess
f'California, KURT SANSONE jagħti ħarsa lejn is-sitwazzjoni fl-Ewropa

F'California din il-ġimgħa saru l-ewwel żwiġijiet bejn persuni gay
wara li l-Qorti Suprema f'dan l-istat Amerikan iddeċidiet li l-liġi
taż-żwieġ m'għandhiex tiddiskrimina skond l-orjentazzjoni sesswali
tal-persuni li jridu jidħlu f'rabta bejniethom.
Għalkemm l-aħħar kelma dwar iż-żwieġ għal koppji gay f'California għad
trid tingħad meta jsir referendum fuq il-kwistjoni iktar tard din
is-sena, l-attivisti lesbjani anzjani, Del Martin, ta' 87 sena, u
Phyllis Lyon, ta' 83, kienu minn ta' l-ewwel li wegħdu ħajjithom lil
xulxin bil-kunsens ta' l-Istat.
Ma kinux l-uniċi li żżewġu u nies fin-negozju bdew iħokku jdejhom
għall-fatt li ż-żwiġijiet bejn persuni gay jistgħu joħolqu suq ġdid
għal kulmin jaqla' ħobżu mit-tiġijiet.
Imma lil hinn mill-argument ekonomiku l-kelma 'żwieġ' applikata għal
persuni gay tqajjem reazzjonijiet imħallta f'diversi nies.
L-Istat ta' California hu t-tieni Stat Amerikan wara Massachusetts li
llegalizza ż-żwieġ bejn koppji gay anki jekk il-battalja legali u
politika għadha miftuħa beraħ. F'diversi Stati oħra ma jeżistix
iż-żwieġ imma xi forma jew oħra ta' sħubija ċivili li tagħti numru ta'
Għall-maġġoranza kbira tan-nies iż-żwieġ hu msejjes fuq il-kunċett
reliġjuż ta' għaqda bejn mara u raġel.
Huma ftit il-pajjiżi madwar id-dinja li bidlu l-liġijiet tagħhom biex
fil-każ taż-żwieġ ma ssir l-ebda distinzjoni bejn koppji ta' sess
differenti u oħrajn ta' l-istess sess.

L-Ewropa hi l-iktar kontinent sensittiv għat-talbiet u l-ħtiġijiet ta'
persuni gay tant li f'erba' pajjiżi koppji ta' l-istess sess jistgħu
jiżżewġu bla xkiel u bl-istess kundizzjonijiet ta' persuni
Hemm ħafna pajjiżi oħra li jirrikonoxxu l-kunċett ta' sħubija ċivili
għal persuni gay, li mhuwiex żwieġ, imma li ħafna drabi jwassal biex
il-koppja tgawdi ħafna mid-drittijiet u l-obbligi li joħorġu
Fl-Ingilterra, għalkemm koppji gay ma jistgħux jiżżewġu, il-liġi
tagħtihom id-dritt li jirreġistraw uffiċjalment ir-rabta ta'
bejniethom u l-koppja tkun tgawdi mill-istess drittijiet u tieħu fuqha
l-istess obbligi ta' persuni miżżewġa. L-istess sitwazzjoni tinsab
fid-Danimarka u pajjiżi oħra Nordiċi li kienu minn ta' l-ewwel
fid-dinja li rrikonoxxew il-bżonn li l-istat jirregolarizza r-rabta
bejn persuni ta' l-istess sess.
Madankollu l-Olanda kien l-ewwel pajjiż
fid-dinja li fl-2000 biddel il-liġi taż-żwieġ biex persuni ta'
l-istess sess ikunu jistgħu jiżżewġu. Dakinhar l-uniku eċċezzjoni li
ddaħlet fil-liġi kienet li koppja gay miżżewġa ma setgħetx taddotta
tfal minn barra l-pajjiż.
Din kienet l-ewwel darba li żewġ persuni ta' l-istess sess setgħu
jintrabtu bejniethom bl-istess mod bħal koppji oħrajn eterosesswali.
Tliet snin wara, il-ġirien ta' l-Olanda,
il-Belġju, ħadu l-istess pass imma fil-liġi ddaħħlu eċċezzjonijiet
fejn jidħlu d-dritt ta' l-addozzjoni tat-tfal. Madankollu fl-2005
il-Parlament Belġjan neħħa dawn l-eċċezzjonijiet u koppji gay
miżżewġin setgħu wkoll jaddottaw it-tfal ta' xulxin jew tfal oħra.
L-ikbar agħa fl-Ewropa tqajjem fi Spanja
fl-2005. Il-Gvern Soċjalista ta' Zapatero irreżista l-oppożizzjoni li
tqajmet mill-Knisja Kattolika u l-Partit Konservattiv biex ta d-dritt
sħiħ lill-koppji gay li jiżżewġu u jaddottaw it-tfal.
Dan l-aħħar in-Norveġja sar ir-raba' pajjiż Ewropew li biddel il-liġi
taz-żwieġ biex ma tkunx tista' ssir diskriminazzjoni fuq bażi ta' sess
u għalhekk koppji gay ikunu jistgħu jiżżewġu wkoll. Jidher li
l-Isvezja wkoll miexja fl-istess direzzjoni tan-Norveġja biex
il-kunċett ta' sħubija ċivili televah għal żwieġ.

F'Malta mhemm l-ebda liġi li b'xi mod tirregola r-relazzjoni ta' koppja gay.
Il-liġi Maltija tagħmilha ċara li ż-żwieġ jista' jsir biss bejn raġel
u mara u sa llum l-ebda partit politiku mhu qed jitkellem dwar żwieġ
għal koppji ta' l-istess sess.
Minkejja li l-erba' partiti politiċi qed jitkellmu fuq xi forma jew
oħra ta' sħubija ċivili li tkun rikonoxxuta b'liġi, jidher li hemm
skumdità kbira dwar is-suġġett.
L-Alternattiva Demokratika kienet l-uniku partit li tkellem dwar
unjoni ċivili għal koppji gay li toffri drittijiet simili għal dawk
ta' koppji miżżewġa.
Għall-Partit Nazzjonalista u għall-Partit Laburista l-kwistjoni hi
iktar marbuta mar-regolarizzazzjoni ta' koppji li jikkoabitaw. Ftit
hemm differenza
fid-diskors tagħhom għax it-tnejn jitkellmu dwar
il-bżonn ta' liġi li tirregola lill-koppji li jgħixu flimkien barra
ż-żwieġ u bħala konsegwenza naturali din il-liġi tkun tapplika wkoll
għal koppji gay u persuni oħra bħall-aħwa li jgħixu flimkien.
Ġeneralment f'dawn it-tip ta' arranġamenti legali l-koppja tgawdi minn
ċerti drittijiet u obbligi imma r-rabta ma titqiegħedx fuq l-istess
livell ta' żwieġ.
Il-kelma żwieġ, anki jekk f'pajjiżna l-kunċett ta' żwieġ ċivili ilu li
daħal mis-Sebgħinijiet, għadha marbuta mar-reliġjon u għalhekk jeżisti
tabù fuq is-suġġett.
Skond stħarriġ ta' l-Eurobarometer ippubblikat f'Diċembru ta' l-2006
kienu biss 18 fil-mija tal-Maltin li qablu maż-żwieġ għal koppji gay.
L-Olandiżi, bi 82 fil-mija, kienu l-iktar li qablu ma' din il-proposta
filwaqt li l-inqas appoġġ kien
fir-Rumanija bi 11 fil-mija.
Il-medja Ewropea kienet ta' 44 fil-mija.
Madankollu l-medja Ewropea niżlet għal 32 fil-mija meta n-nies kienu
mistoqsija jekk jaqblux li koppji gay għandhomx ikollhom id-dritt li
jaddottaw it-tfal.
F'Malta, flimkien mal-Polonja, kien hemm l-inqas appoġġ għal din
il-proposta b'sebgħa fil-mija biss li jaqblu.
Stħarriġ simili li kien sar f'Marzu ta' l-2007 mill-gazzetta
MaltaToday wera li l-appoġġ għal żwiġijiet bejn persuni ta' l-istess
sess kien ta' 29 fil-mija. L-istħarriġ wera wkoll li l-ikbar appoġġ
għal żwiġijiet gay kien fost dawk taħt l-34 sena. F'din
il-kategorija ta' nies 54 fil-mija kienu favur żwiġijiet gay filwaqt
li 82 fil-mija ta' dawk li għandhom 55 sena jew iktar kienu kontra.
L-istħarriġ ikkonferma wkoll it-tradizzjoni iktar sekulari tal-Partit
Laburista tant li l-ikbar appoġġ għal żwiġijiet ta' l-istess sess kien
fost votanti Laburisti bi 33 fil-mija jesprimu appoġġ għal proposta
bħal din. Fost votanti Nazzjonalisti l-appoġġ għal żwiġijiet gay kien
jammonta għal 14 fil-mija.
Minkejja li f'Malta l-għarfien dwar il-ħtiġijiet u d-drittijiet ta'
persuni gay żdied f'dawn l-aħħar snin, ma jidhirx li f'xi żmien mhux
'il bogħod se nassistu għal xi ċerimonja uffiċjali fejn Rachel tkun
tista' twiegħed lil maħbuba Grace li se tkun
is-sieħba tagħha fit-tajjeb u l-ħażin, fil-mard u
fis-saħħa tul ħajjitha kollha.

Times: The Church's negative image
Tuesday, 24th June 2008
Joseph Vella, California, US

The alleged negative treatment of Christianity to which Jacqueline Calleja eludes (Demonising The Catholic Church, June 19) is a reaction to numerous recent events, which remind the world at large that the Church is simply a reflection of fallible human desires and emotions that plague the clergy and seculars alike, with temptations of greed and the flesh which are part and parcel of our mortal existence.

There is nothing rhetorical, blasphemous, derogatory or offensive in the least about surfacing ill-gotten conduct for public scrutiny, more so in knowing that in many confirmed instances, persons within the highest echelons of the Church's hierarchy conspired to cover up sexual or other forms of criminal conduct, either directly or in subterfuge fashion.

The most common ploy was to shield offending clerics by transferring them from parish to parish, at the risk of endangering more victims.

In her ritual defence of the Church Ms Calleja conveniently resorts to a generic condemnation of those who were transgressed against and now seek justice, rather than deal with specific instances of wrongdoing. The negative image of the Catholic Church is self-made. For every instance of invalidated destructive criticism there are multiple instances that call out for justice and penalties to be carried out with impartiality.

The hard line approach of the Vatican on key moral issues may not be negotiable, yet to the vast majority of humanity, including many who are Christians in name only, their rigidity does not represent the changing mores of a progressive secular world.

Nowhere around the globe is the "spirit of the age" more evident than in Europe and to a growing degree within the more fundamentally Christian United States. This is a losing battle for the Vatican, as evidenced by the latest legalisation of marriage for partners of the same gender in California and the legalisation of euthanasia in other states. Look no further for evidence than the sharp decline in church attendance in Malta, more so among younger generations.

Morality and religious observance are in no way interrelated. The implication by Ms Calleja is ludicrous to the extreme. That the Church defends those most in need is beyond question. Equally true, other charitable organisations of worldwide renown that have no religious affiliations, such as Unicef or the Red Cross, are equally virtuous in attending for those in dire need of assistance.

Further, no evidence of intimidation against folks of faith who quote Scriptural writings in defence of what constitutes solid Christian conduct, has ever been proven.

It is true, however, that biblical admonitions no longer incite the fear of God within an ever growing secular society, thereby decreasing if not eradicating Church influence. The matter of who speaks for God is equally relevant. The separation of state and Church bodes well for a nation's progress.

So now Ms Calleja is speaking on behalf of God, divining his thoughts how he would respond to a given situation. Her sheer arrogance is overwhelming.

How else would she have interpreted Christ's crucifixion and the sacrifices of early Christians put to death in such a distinct fashion. Her stance diminishes her credibility as a person of independent thought and judgment, to one who echoes a dogmatic inflexible Church, no matter its many imperfections, which brings intelligent debate to a dead end.

Pink News:Gay ally considered as Obama's running mate
By Tony Grew • June 23, 2008

The highest-ranking female officer in the history of the United States Army is a contender for the Democratic party's Vice Presidential nomination.

Lieutenant General Claudia J Kennedy, a retired three star general, has publicly supported campaigns to end the ban on openly gay, bisexual or lesbian people serving in the US Armed Forces.

While more than a dozen people are being considered as Barack Obama's running mate, there is a core of his advisers that argue he should appoint a woman to assist him in retaining Democrats and Independents who supported Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

Ms Kennedy, who served for more than 30 years, has a background in Army Intelligence.

She served as an adviser to John Kerry during his unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 2004 and endorsed Senator Clinton for President.

Choosing her as the Vice Presidential nominee would help to counter the expected Republican focus on Senator Obama's perceived lack of military and international experience.

John McCain, a war hero who was held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese for five years, is the Republican nominee.

American voters traditionally warm to military leaders taking political roles.

Most recently former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell served as President Bush's first Secretary of State and was often talked of as a contender for the White House in his own right.

Presidents such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S Grant and Dwight D Eisenhower managed to translate their reputation for leadership from the battlefield to the Oval Office.

Other prominent female candidates include a two well-respected state Governors, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Janet Napolitano of Arizona, John McCain's home state.

However, several strong male candidates are in contention for the VP slot, among them John Edwards, Al Gore, and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

Under US federal law passed in 1993 referred to as "Don't Ask Don't Tell" more than 12,000 men and women have been dismissed because of the sexual orientation.

An estimated 65,000 lesbian and gay service members serve on active duty and in the reserves of the United States military, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, a non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organisation dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel.

Barack Obama previously told leading gay publication The Advocate he supports a repeal of the gay ban and is hopeful it can be achieved.

"I think there's increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy," Senator Obama told The Advocate.

"We're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need.

"That doesn't make us more safe."

Polls show that 79% of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly.

Retired high-ranking military leaders, such as former Joint Chiefs Chairman John Shalikashvili, have called for an end to the law, which is estimated to have cost American taxpayers more than $364m (£182m) since its inception.