Monday, 31 August 2009

MaltaStar: Hats off to David

31 August 2009 13:26

Nationalist MEP David Casa has finally jumped on the bandwagon.

Over the past weeks he’s been criticised, including by myself (check out ‘What’s the matter, David?’ at for being the only Maltese European Parliament member who had not endorsed an ILGA-Europe pledge to promote equality and combat discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
I genuinely give him a pat on the back for having finally made the much awaited move by formally taking on this commitment. In so doing he’s made Malta the only EU Member State the MEPs of which have all signed the declaration.
It’s indeed a commendable record for the EU’s smallest country… at least on paper. Let’s now keep an eye on the delivery of our MEPs in Brussels and Strasbourg to discover whether they mean business. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, after all.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar's website.]

Times: The gentle art of rent reform

Friday, 28th August 2009 by Peter Caruana Galizia

Following the publicity accompanying the launch of the White Paper on Rent Reform, the actual legislation mainly amending the provisions of the Civil Code on the institute of lease has been introduced very quietly in June this year by Act X of 2009.

The now published legislation has departed significantly from what the White Paper promised, or threatened - to those on the other side, but, on the whole, the thrust has been to bring about what the government has called a fair balance between the financial expectations of the landlord and what in effect is the social service provided by these landlords in being forced to accept the renewal ad infinitum of leases way beyond the original contractual period at more or less pre-war levels of rent. An attempt, in other words, to give a bit to each side in the vain hope of being everything to everyone.

This it has sadly done with at times incomprehensible drafting. I first read the English version, assuming this was the original, and then in desperation switched to the Maltese version, which is slightly less ambiguous, indicating in my mind that the Maltese was therefore the original version and the English a translation. I have, however, likewise stumbled and, in preparing notes for a seminar due in October, found myself resorting to guessing what the legislator had in mind, though rules of interpretation should logically apply to contracts and not to the laws themselves.
The amendments start by dividing leases into three main groups: pre-June 1, 1995 leases, post-June 1, 1995 leases and post-October 1, 2010 leases. It is only the pre-June 1, 1995 leases that will really affect most of us as some of the rights previously enjoyed by the tenants have been, or will, in the semi-distant future be eroded, "removed" being in general far too strong a verb to describe the process.

In fact, the only surgical bit in the amendments is the removal of the right of automatic renewal of pre-1995 leases of private garages and summer residences beyond June 1, 2010. Hardly revolutionary but always a start.

The rest of the amendments are mainly concerned with not upsetting apple carts.
The law has retained unchanged the security of tenure for the tenant and his or her spouse till their death in respect of pre-June 1, 1995 residential leases. Following their death, there is a complicated list of persons who will qualify to renew the lease as subject to a means test, the criteria for which are as yet unpublished. There is also a three-year protection at double the present rent for those who fail the means test and a five-year protection, also at double the present rent, for those who fail to qualify as they are not related to the tenant, opening doors presumably for partners, same-sex or otherwise, who previously enjoyed no protection at all. The minimum rent is to go up to €185 per annum with effect from January 1, 2010 where it is at present below this amount and the rent is index linked on a three yearly review basis, unless the lease agreement provides for a different method of increase.

Tenants of pre-January 1, 1995 commercial leases have also retained the security of tenure they enjoyed prior to the amendments for themselves and their spouses and, following their death, for their heirs up to a maximum period of 20 years, which started running on June 1, 2008. There is no means testing here and the law does not go into the tenant's turnover or do away with protection for public companies as promised in the White Paper. The rent is to increase by 15 per cent every year on the previous year for the next four years and is then revised annually at five per cent or in accordance with regulations that are yet to be published.

The amendments also deal with leases of clubs by not dealing with them at all, shift responsibility for all non-structural repairs in residences onto the tenant and attempt to do away with subletting by protected tenants within 10 years' time but all this is beyond the reach of this overview.

The point remains that the amendments are on the whole a positive but very limited attempt at redressing the rights of long-suffering landlords. Pity about the drafting.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Pro-Vicar [Mgr Gouder] criticises Mgr Vella on divorce

Monsignors at odds over divorce

Sunday, 30th August 2009

Pro-Vicar General Anton Gouder has openly criticised Mgr Charles Vella, saying he made a number of "contradictory" statements about divorce in an interview with The Sunday Times earlier this month.

Writing in The Sunday Times today Mgr Gouder [Read article below] hits back at comments by the Cana Movement founder which many believe were directed at the senior Curia official.

Mgr Gouder says: "Does it not occur to him that once divorce legislation is introduced (which means therefore that marriage does not remain a lifelong commitment), couples would take their marriage preparation more lightly? This is worrying because of the negative effect it would have on the family and on society."

In the interview, Milan-based Mgr Vella had said he was not scared of divorce, provided marriages were built on rock. While warning against "crusades", he insisted the Church should focus on preparing couples better for marriages.

And writing in The Sunday Times today, Mgr Vella says that some have misinterpreted his comments because he does not support the "havoc and problems" created by divorce. "I would not like to see divorce introduced, but as a priest and as a human being I cannot be blind to the existence of the problem. I wish that, like me, others would stop seeing things in black or white, but also see the different shades of grey."

But Mgr Gouder says that contrary to Mgr Vella's claims, his comparisons with Milan clearly showed a disintegration of marriage. Statistics show the rate of divorce in Italy is far from levelling out - from 1995 to 2005 legal separations in Italy increased by 57.3 per cent and divorces increased by 74 per cent, he says.

Mgr Gouder says it is incorrect to say that children of cohabiting couples have no identity, since the law has always catered for the status of children born outside marriage.

He also refutes Mgr Vella's statement that very often the first marriage of cohabiting couples is a mistake and that many yearn for a happy second marriage.

He says social sciences prove that second marriages are less stable than the first.

Despite the criticism he has received from his colleagues within the Church, Mgr Vella makes it clear he has no regrets over the interview.

On the contrary, he says he was moved by the letters and comments posted on the forum as well as the contacts it created on a pastoral level. He says he was impressed by the constructive dialogue provoked by the interview, which in the vast majority of cases were in his favour.

Mgr Vella says this is part of his pastoral and social mission of nearly 60 years 'with' families in many countries, especially as the voice of those whose marriage is in crisis.

Mgr Vella reiterates that the State should base any divorce legislation on European Christian traditional values, and says he hopes Malta will never have a so-called 'easy divorce' like many countries. "I do not enter into the technical aspect of the legislation, but I have confidence in the social and ethical conscience of our legislators.

"I repeat that divorce legislation does not scare me, if it comes in a democratic, scientific (even with statistics) and genuine manner. I do not believe these ethical values are the monopoly of a few, who seem to believe they are the lords of truth."

Mgr Gouder is not the only member of the clergy to criticise the Milan-based priest.

Writing in Catholic Action's newspaper Lehen is-Sewwa last week, Fr Paul Camilleri compared a number of Mgr Vella's former writings with his recent comments, before concluding:

"I thank Fr Charles for all he has written and done for the family in the past. When I was still a youngster (1956) I remember him defending Bishop Pietro Fiordelli of Prato, who suffered so much because of his opposition to divorce in his country, while becoming very popular in Malta for his defence of marriage.

Ironically, he died on December 23, 2004 - two weeks before Fr Charles marked his 50 years as a priest. Let's pray for both of them."

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Divorce affects family, society
Sunday, 30th August 2009 by Mgr Anton Gouder

Iwish to refer to the comments made by Mgr Charles Vella in his interview with The Sunday Times on August 16. I write with all due respect since he is my senior in many respects. I shall restrict my comments to the sections concerning family, marriage and divorce.

I am puzzled by a number of statements made by Mgr Vella. This is not because his views differ from mine, or because, in my opinion, some of these statements are not in conformity with the Gospel, but mostly because I perceive a number of contradictions.

At one point he stated, "I keep reading that marriages in Malta will disintegrate if there is divorce, but it didn't happen in Italy". A few paragraphs later, he admits: "In Milan nowadays, there are more civil marriages than religious marriages and more cohabiting couples than families." Isn't his description of the situation in Milan indicative of a disintegration of marriage? Further on, he says "that he opposed cohabitation", which is the prevailing situation in Milan following the introduction of divorce. In the interview, Mgr Vella also explains that "in the first couple of years, the divorce rate (in Italy) rose because there were people waiting for years to get it. But now the figures have levelled out. It's not increasing." Yet he himself contradicts this in his description of the situation in Milan nowadays, decades after the introduction of divorce.

Permit me to quote just one statistic, because statistics show that the rate of divorce in Italy is far from levelling out. Mgr Vella says "It's not increasing", while, on the contrary, statistics prove otherwise. From 1995 to 2005 in Italy, legal separation increased by 57.3 per cent and divorces increased by 74 per cent.

Another confusing statement is: "As a founder of the Cana Movement, he would not like to see divorce introduced, but as a priest and as a human being, he cannot close his eyes..." I cannot understand this self-inflicted separation of roles.

How is it possible to be a founder and not to be human? How can it be possible to disapprove of divorce in his role as founder while at the same time have a different opinion as a human? And is the introduction of divorce just a matter of liking it or not?

At this point, I am not even taking into consideration his role as "the priest" even though Cana Movement is a Catholic organisation.

The matter becomes more complicated when a bit further on he declares: "Divorce legislation doesn't solve the needs of the people." Why, then, did he feel the need to distinguish between the founder, the human and the priest?

Mgr Vella addresses the State saying: "The State has to come to grips with the problem of divorce." In concrete terms, what is he proposing to the State while keeping in mind his statement that "divorce legislation doesn't solve the needs of the people"?

He is against holding a referendum. He is against crusading. His suggestion is to "sit at table and discuss". To whom is he referring when he says "we"? And should the "we" impose the outcome of their discussion on the whole nation"? I am by no means inferring that the results of a referendum would automatically present us with the right solution.

Three paragraphs later, Mgr Vella tells the State "to face it in the tradition of democracy". Again, the obvious question crops up: How? Is not a referendum in the tradition of democracy?

In Mgr Vella's opinion, what qualifies as a "crusade"? Does imparting formation and information constitute a crusade? Mgr Vella himself, in an article in Il-Gens (February 21, 1997, and as published in his book Minn Milan Ghal Malta, 2004) informs us that "in Italy, well prior to the referendum, public opinion was through the media very much influenced in favour of divorce. A media conscience was formed, instead of a Christian ethical conscience that considers marriage as indissoluble".

I would appreciate an evaluation of whether a similar danger exists in our country.
Mgr Vella "asks whether it is justified that children (of cohabiting couples) have no identity". Is he worried about these children, or is he accepting the situation in Milan where cohabitation is prevalent nothwithstanding that divorce legislation has been in force for decades? He says, "it's better for their parents to marry than cohabit". But in actual fact, even with divorce on the statute books, more and more prefer to cohabit, as they do in Milan.

Besides, it is not correct to say that these children have no identity. Basically, the law has always catered for the status of children born outside marriage. As time went by, the legislator granted more and more rights to these children, and indeed there now exists a situation where such children can be legitimised or acknowledged and given extensive rights akin to those of children born within marriage.

It is a pity that the pain and negative long-term effects suffered by children of divorced parents is not even mentioned in the interview.

Mgr Vella expresses another opinion in this way: "Very often their first marriage is a mistake; they want a more stable and happy second marriage." Let us once again put 'the priest' aside and look at this statement from the human point of view. To begin with, such a blanket statement that most first marriages are invalid, is akin to creating social chaos. But, worse than that, social sciences prove that second marriages are less stable than the first. This contradicts Mgr Vella's opinion.

Another question that arises is the following: Is Mgr Vella proposing divorce only for a second chance, and no further chances?

"Divorce does not scare me" is the quote used as the heading to Mgr Vella's interview. Later he continues: "If we prepare couples well for marriage, then we shouldn't be afraid." Does it not occur to him that once divorce legislation is introduced (which means therefore that marriage does not remain a lifelong commitment), couples would take their marriage preparation more lightly? This is worrying because of the negative effect it would have on the family and society.

I would like to conclude with another excerpt from the writings of Mgr Vella in the above-mentioned book. In an article dated February 9, 2002, he refers to an address of Pope Paul John II, saying: "The strongest part of the Pope's address was when he said, 'Today we have a diffused mentality, a social custom and civil legislation in favour of divorce.' At this point the Pope lists the moral and social damage that divorce brings upon society. It is 'a fester that influences negatively future generations'. This is a fact and many scholars through their research, found out that divorce brings about negative effects and trauma to the couple, their children and to society itself."

To my bewilderment, I can only say that something, somewhere, somehow is amiss.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Mgr Vella's inconsistencies (1)
Sunday, 30th August 2009 by David Torpiano, Floriana

In the light of Mgr Charles Vella's controversial interview (The Sunday Times, August 16), I would like to comment on a more recent article of his entitled 'Skomunika ghal min juza l-pillola RU 486' (Excommunication for those who use the RU 486 pill), carried in Lehen is-Sewwa on August 22. Using some principles Mgr Vella himself set in the interview he gave to Herman Grech as a hermeneutical key to his recent article on Lehen, one is able to encounter various inconsistencies in Mgr Vella's thought.

In his Lehen is-Sewwa article Mgr Vella gives an array of facts and figures regarding abortions in Italy in the last three years. In the interview Herman Grech states that "Mgr Vella insists that the Church should avoid quoting certain statistics in a bid to water down alarming marriage breakdowns." This is the first inconsistency of Mgr Vella - he quotes statistics while telling the Church not to do the same.

Mgr Vella in his article says that Archbishop Rino Fisichella's reaction in Corriere della Sera (July 31) to the green light given in Italy to the abortion pill RU 486, was somewhat mild. While Mgr Fisichella acknowledged that the use of the RU 486 is prohibited by the Code of Canon Law as in the case of a surgical abortion, he stopped short of saying that this Church prohibition is on pain of excommunication latae sententiae.

Mgr Fisichella said that he did not wish to make further declarations. Mgr Vella disagreed with this, saying that "we know what the Church teaches". Mgr Vella is right but he should have known that on divorce the Church's teaching is similarly clear and unequivocal.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paras 2382-2386) affirms that the Church is against divorce and that Jesus Christ himself abrogated the accommodations that had slipped into the Old Law (cf. Mt 19, 7-9) regarding divorce. Moreover divorce is "a grave act against the natural law, a law which possesses a universal appeal". Are not these declarations of the Church clear enough for Mgr Vella?

Mgr Vella is again inconsistent when he states that he does not fear contraceptive vending machines at the University campus if students have a well formed and informed Christian conscience. Firstly, he should know that not all University students are Christians. What about non-Christians? Moreover, if contraception is intrinsically evil, as the Church teaches in Humanae Vitae, is Mgr Vella able to judge whether the conscience of non-Christian students is formed enough to prevail upon a constant peril to body and soul? Is he in a position to conclude whether Christian students are formed enough to withstand the same peril?

If he discovers that there is lack of formation of conscience among students, will he come on campus to stop students from using the vending machines till they have formed and informed their consciences in a Christian way? If, as Mgr Vella rightly seems to fear, there is a lack of formation among youngsters, why should they be tested before they are prepared?

Mgr Vella ends his article by rightly expressing his hope that RU 486 will never be sold legally in Malta. Had he developed the same line of thought coherently, he would have said, as in the case of the vending machines on campus, that the abortive pill would not trouble him if the Maltese would have a conscience formed according to Christian truths and principles.

I only ask Mgr Vella to return to his old good self. Everybody makes mistakes. We only ought to be sorry and apologise if we acknowledge we did so.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Mgr Vella's inconsistencies (2)
Sunday, 30th August 2009 by Rev. Dr Joseph Mizzi, Director, Cana Movement, Floriana

"There is a great charisma within the Cana Movement to proclaim, protect and spread the teachings of the Church regarding marriage. For this reason, whenever the values of marriage, the family and life are threatened, the Cana Movement cannot keep silent, it is in duty bound to lead in a constructive way, in order to preserve these values" (Mgr Charles Vella, Minn Milan ghal Malta, Media Centre Print 2004, 45).

With reference to what is being published and said in the media, the Cana Movement would like to reiterate that its ideals, beliefs and responsibilities are still as quoted above.

The Cana Movement publicly confirms the principles which have motivated it since its inception; that of promoting and working in favour of healthy marriages; meaning the formal union of love between a man and a woman, open to life, till death do them part. Such union is the foundation of every family and the fundamental ingredient necessary for the good and prosperity of every society.

This work is carried out by the Cana Movement as in- spired by the Word of God and explained to us by the Magis-terium of the Church. For this reason, anyone who opposes these fundamental teachings is not only going against Christ's teachings but also against the common good.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Mgr Vella's inconsistencies (3)
Sunday, 30th August 2009 by Fr Paul Camilleri, Floriana

According to Divorcerate ( ),in America, 50 per cent of first marriages end in divorce, while the figure goes up to 67 per cent in the case of second marriages, and 74 per cent in the case of third marriages. These figures were given by Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. And this increase takes place after the trauma and hassle of the first and second marriage breakdown. Yet one would have expected the divorce rate to go down in subsequent marriages.

On June 12, I asked Totaldivorce whether this is a universal tendency, i.e. whether second and third marriages are everywhere more fragile than the first. Their response was: "After a first marriage has ended, people think they have figured it out. They now know what they want in their next partner, and have learned from all the mistakes. However, research shows just the opposite. Psychology Today reported that the rate of divorce in subsequent marriage is over 60 per cent. According to sociologists Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, about one quarter of second marriages end within the first five years."

Who said divorce is the solution to family breakdown?

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Mgr Vella's inconsistencies (4)
Sunday, 30th August 2009 by Laurence Mizzi, Bugibba

Having worked very closely with Fr Charles, as Mgr Charles Vella is popularly known, particularly in the field of radio and TV (remember Djalogu?), I was not at all surprised by the way he expressed himself on so many topics in the interview. I have always admired him not only for his creative mind and energy but also his great sincerity.

However, I must say that I could not agree with him on the question of divorce. As Fr Charles knows far better than I do, the question of divorce is a social as well as a moral issue and therefore citizens - common citizens - have a right to be consulted on such a vital issue as the "dissolution" of marriage by the State.

If the majority feel that divorce will threaten (not to say destroy) marriage as God wanted it to be "from the beginning", people should be given the opportunity to express their disapproval or otherwise of its introduction. Referendums are held on matters of far less importance to the well-being of society, so why shouldn't a referendum be held on an issue which is bound to have a long-lasting effect on Maltese society?

I share with Mgr Vella his sympathy and support for cohabiting couples who cannot enter into a second marriage after realising that they had made a mistake when they entered the first one. But will divorce solve their problem? Has divorce eradicated cohabitation? Mgr Vella himself said that in Milan "there are more civil marriages and more cohabiting couples than families..." The same can be said for the rest of the world where divorce has been legalised for many decades, if not centuries.

Therefore, how can the introduction of divorce in Malta eliminate cohabitation? It may solve the problem of those (not all) who are at present cohabiting and who sincerely want to be given a second chance, but it will definitely not eliminate cohabitation. The opposite will happen.

Les us all - Church and State - by all means do all we can to improve the preparation courses for marriage (we can start at primary school level). But let us learn from the rest of the world what divorce has done to the family and to society in general. We would indeed be foolish if we did not.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Guardian: Gay US bishop attacks treatment of gay and lesbian clergy by Church of England

Gene Robinson chides Archbishop of Canterbury for talk of two-tier Anglican communion

Gene Robinson, the openly gay Espiscopalian bishop of New Hampshire, on 27 August 2009

Gene Robinson, the Espiscopalian bishop of New Hampshire, says gay and lesbian clerby are treated by the Church of England as a problem to be solved. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

The first openly gay bishop in the Anglican communion has launched an outspoken attack on the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Gene Robinson, the Episcopalian bishop of New Hampshire, criticised the policy of the Church of England towards gay and lesbian clergy. Alluding to the significant number of clergy who are gay, he said: "I think gay clergy in the Church of England are thought of as a problem to be solved or at least lived with, rather than a gift from God."

Robinson, who is in Britain to speak at the Greenbelt festival at Cheltenham Racecourse this weekend, added that he could not accept the archbishop's recent comments that if the Episcopal church refused to uphold the current moratorium on consecrating actively gay bishops or blessing civil unions, the communion might have to be reorganised into a two-tier, or "two-track" model. "I can't imagine anything that would be more abhorrent to Jesus than a two-tier church," he said. "Either we are children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, or we aren't. There are not preferred children and second-class children. There are just children of God."

Asked whether Williams's softly, softly approach might in the end be more successful in persuading the communion than unilateral action by one church, he pointed out that the very nature of the communion — a loose agglomeration of equals — meant that national churches were always acting autonomously. Furthermore, someone had to make the first move.

"We [Episcopalians] virtually led the way in terms of the ordination of women. And I believe had we not done that the ordination of women in the Church of England perhaps would not have occurred when it did. And the discussion around the ordination of women bishops would not be occurring."

He compared the archbishop's strategy, unfavourably, with the church's dithering over the civil rights movement in America.

"I think there's always a tension between doing the just and right thing, and being as pastorally sensitive to everyone as possible.

"The church did not get involved in the civil rights movement in the United States for quite a long time, because of fear of offending those who disagreed with them. But at some point we decided that it was more important to do the just and right thing than it was to not offend those who disagreed.

"And so we joined in the civil rights movement for people of colour, and then tried to deal as pastorally as we could with those who disagreed. And I think that's the tension we face in the communion, of which Archbishop Williams would represent the long view, the gradual view, and the American church would represent, as best we can discern it, trying to do the right and just thing."

There may be a further test for the Anglican communion later this year, when the Episcopalian dioceses of Los Angeles and Minnesota are due to elect new bishops. Among those standing for office are one gay man and two lesbians.

Read the full interview in tomorrow's Guardian

Independent: No to hate crimes

Moviment Graffitti expressed sharp disapproval and concern that vandalistic homophobic crimes are happening in Malta. It said that some time ago the words ‘NO GAYS’ were sprayed on the walls of the residence of a gay couple. Graffitti said the case clearly showed “the sad and narrow minded mentality that some segments of Maltese society still uphold towards people of different sexual orientation”.

Catholic Star Herald: Protestants struggling with a divisive issue

As you know, last month I reported on the breaking news that Episcopalians declared gays and lesbians eligible for “any ordained ministry” in their church at their general convention risking their place in the world Anglican fellowship. Just last week the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), at their Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, Minn., reversed a long-standing ban on the appointment of non-celibate gays to the clergy, becoming the second major Christian denomination in a month to allow gay clergy.

The ELCA has become the third mainline Protestant denomination and the largest one to eliminate bans on gays and lesbians serving as clergy. Voting 559-451 last week, delegates from the Lutheran Church approved a resolution that will allow gay clergy to serve in the denomination. The margin was so close that Bishop Mark Hanson, the ELCA presiding bishop, who presided over the vote, hesitated before announcing the outcome. Rules required the social statement to pass by a two-thirds vote; the final result was 66.67 percent.

“I thought it was going to be close, but I doubted very much that it would come out at exactly two-thirds,” said Rev. Peter Strommen, chairman of the task force that drew up the social statement.

Under the new policy, individual ELCA congregations will be allowed to hire homosexuals as pastors as long as they are in a committed relationship. Prior to the acceptance of this resolution gays and lesbians were required to remain celibate in order to serve as clergy. Some Protestant theologians and church analysts said the votes in both the Episcopal and Lutheran churches could influence other Protestant denominations, including Presbyterian and United Methodists, as they are already debating homosexuality and the understanding of it in light of biblical interpretation.

Some within the ELCA who disagree with the national body’s decision are now predicting a deep divide in the church, with people defecting to other denominations or perhaps even creating a new church body. The Rev. Mark Chavez, of Landisville, Pa., director of Lutheran CORE, a conservative group within the ELCA, believes the leaders of his church made a decision in direct contradiction of the Bible.

“I’m not leaving,” Chavez said, promising an effort to keep the church from moving even further toward what he sees as an embrace of behavior condemned by the Bible. CORE will hold a convention in Indianapolis in September to review its next steps, but Chavez said he thinks some ELCA clergy, congregations and individual members will walk away from the denomination. Some religious scholars from Protestant denominations worry that rifts over homosexuality, not only among ELCA members but other Protestant denominations, will polarize an American public already deeply divided over the issues of human sexuality.

While conservative congregations will not be forced to hire gay clergy, these opponents nevertheless warned there could be spiritual consequences for a church that strays from the Bible. “This will cause an ever greater loss in members and finances. I can’t believe the church I loved and served for 40 years can condone what God condemns,” said the Rev. Richard Mahan, pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Charleston, W.Va. Mahan said he believed a majority of his congregation would want to now break away from the ELCA.

ELCA supporters of its denomination decision to allow gays in the clergy said failure to accept this change ran just as great a risk of alienating large portions of the membership, particularly younger ones. “There are people in homosexual relationships in our churches. They live in communion,” said Pastor Serena Sellers of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. “I believe it’s important to the morality of our church that we give all people the opportunity to be held accountable for the choices they make,” she added.

The presiding bishop is seeking to keep unity among ELCA members. Bishop Hanson said that “it’s going to take time to sort out how we live together in light of these decisions. It would be tragic if we talked away from one another. This is a time for thoughtful, engaged, prayerful, imaginative responses.”

I’ll keep you informed of any further developments as time goes on. In the meantime, let us pray for all Christian denominations struggling with these vexing issues.

Sovo: Gay community mourns Sen. Kennedy

‘He’ll be remembered as our strongest advocate’

Aug 28, 2009 | By: CHRIS JOHNSON and | COMMENTS

Gay people the country this week mourned Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who during his long tenure in the U.S. Senate was known for being a steadfast supporter of LGBT rights.

Kennedy, who was 77 and had represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1962, died Tuesday night at his home on Cape Cod. Last year, he announced that he had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in an interview Wednesday that Kennedy's legacy of working on behalf of the LGBT community is unmatched by any other senator.

“I think he'll be remembered as our strongest advocate in the United States Senate,” Solmonese said. “No one even comes close.”

Solmonese noted that Kennedy championed LGBT issues even before doing so was politically expedient.

Kennedy offered a strong voice of support, Solmonese said, in the 1980s when the HIV/AIDS epidemic quickly spread and took the lives of many gay and bisexual men.

“When no one would come to our side, and no one would defend or protect us, it was Sen. Kennedy who, before anyone else, would take to the floor of the United States Senate and push back against the hateful rhetoric of people like [former Sen.] Jesse Helms,” Solmonese said.

Kennedy's work in advocating for LGBT rights spanned the course of his Senate career. Solmonese said the senator has been “immeasurably courageous in advancing any issue of importance to the gay community.”

In 1996, Kennedy was among 14 senators to vote on the Senate floor against the Defense of Marriage Act.

When the Federal Marriage Amendment came to the Senate floor in 2004, Kennedy spoke passionately against making a ban on same-sex marriage part of the U.S. Constitution in a thunderous voice that echoed throughout the Senate chamber.

“Make no mistake, a vote for the federal marriage constitutional amendment is a vote against civil unions, domestic partnerships and other efforts by states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law,” Kennedy said.

He continued: “It is a vote for imposing discrimination, plain and simple, on all 50 states.”

Additionally, Kennedy had championed the passage of federal hate crimes legislation for more than a decade.

Earlier this year, he introduced the Senate version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. As he battled his illness, Kennedy was unable in July to cast a vote in favor of an amendment to a major defense bill that made a hate crimes provision based on his bill part of the legislation.

As Kennedy continued to battle cancer, he handed off one major piece of pro-LGBT legislation to another lawmaker. Kennedy gave sponsorship of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who introduced the legislation earlier this month. Kennedy remained an original co-sponsor of the bill.

Solmonese said Kennedy's support for the LGBT community came from his “patriotism” to his country.

“It's not like he has a child or a sibling who is gay,” Solmonese said. “It is really about an understanding that he sees the direction of this country tied to the direction of the LGBT community, and if we succeed, then the country succeeds.”

Who will champion ‘Don't Ask’ repeal?

One question that remains after Kennedy's death is who will take up the reins of a Senate bill to repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” which prevents openly gay people from serving in the military.

Kennedy had earlier this year expressed interest in sponsoring a bill in the Senate and said he was waiting for a Republican co-sponsor to sign on before he introduced the legislation.

Earlier this week, before Kennedy's death, David Smith, HRC's vice president of programs, said behind-the-scenes talks were taking place on whether Kennedy or someone else would sponsor the legislation.

“It's … our understanding that there are discussions behind the scenes on where [the proposed] 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal is going to go in the Senate,” Smith said. “And I would imagine that there would be resolution to that very soon.”

Smith declined to further detail the talks or offer a clearer timeline on when the matter might be resolved.

Allison Herwitt, HRC's legislative director, said a Senate bill would be important for when “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” hearings begin in the Senate Armed Services Committee this fall.

“It's an organizing tool and it's a way for us to talk to our members and supporters across the country and ask them to go to the senators and ask them to co-sponsor,” she said.

Friday, 28 August 2009

EdgeBoston: U.K. Conservative Party Goes Gay for a Day (and A Night)
Thursday Aug 27, 2009, by Kilian Melloy, EDGE Staff Reporter

Tory Leader David Cameron
Tory Leader David Cameron

The U.K.’s conservative party, the Tories, are warming up to the nation’s GLBTs. Example: David Cameron, the leader of the Tory party, recently spoke of inclusivity in the Tory party, even envisioning the first gay Prime Minister as being a Tory.

But there’s more to come: on October 6, a gala conference is scheduled to include not only a prominent equality activist, but a senior Tory official (as yet unannounced).

The event is expected to be attended by a crowd of 700, reported British newspaper The Independent in an Aug. 27.

The event, patterned on a "gay disco" theme, is scheduled as part of this year’s Conservative conference, the newspaper reported.

What’s more, the Tory logo will be re-colored for the event to reflect a rainbow motif--the color palette of the GLBT equality movement.

The article quoted an unnamed Tory party spokesperson, who said, "The logo is being re-branded in rainbow colors for this event, to reflect the nature of the night.

"We have all sorts of re-branding for all sorts of different events," the spokesperson added.

The aim is to reach out to conservative youth, letting them see the Tory party as a modern and inclusive entity, rather than a relic from more biased times past.

One young Tory activist, 29-year-old Andrew Brierly, was quoted in the article as saying, "By hosting events like this it is hoped that voters will recognize that the Conservative party is at the forefront of agenda-setting politics."

Added Brierly, "The party is modernizing at it is not afraid to broach traditionally taboo subjects such as the rights of the homosexual community.

"I think it is refreshing that this event will be held in Manchester and hopefully will show homosexual party members that the time of locking themselves away in the so-called ’closet’ has long since passed."

Conservative government official Theresa May said, "I am delighted the Conservative Party is hosting this event which demonstrates we are a broad church welcoming new people every day," the article reported.

"It’s vital that we represent and champion a wide range of views and I really hope events like this become a regular fixture at conferences in years to come," added May.

The Tory party has been making nice with GLTBs in recent months to court younger voters, who are less likely than older citizens to espouse anti-gay views.

Earlier this summer, David Cameron issued an apology for a Thatcher-era anti-gay law that banned any use of government funds to offer supportive discussions of gays or their families in classrooms.

The law referred to gay and lesbian families as "pretend" families, and exerted a chilling effect in British schools when it came to discussions of GLBT issues.

Cameron, who leads the Tory party, issued the apology as part of a speech made at a Pride fundraiser that also benefited the Tory party.

Saying the Tories had "got it wrong" in passing the anti-gay law, Cameron looked forward to gays and lesbians becoming a greater part of the conservative party.

Said Cameron, "If five years ago we had a Conservative and Gay Pride party, I don’t think many gay people would have come or many Conservatives would have come."

Cameron went on to say, "In wanting to make the party representative of the country, I think we have made some real progress.

"If we do win the next election," said Cameron, "instead of being a white middle-class, middle-aged party, rather like me really, we will be far more diverse."

Indeed, Cameron noted that, "The Conservatives had the first woman prime minister," and predicted that, "we are bound to have the first black prime minister and the first gay prime minister."

Some far-right Tories disapproved of the attempt to reach out to a broader base. 78-year-old Lord Tebbit spoke out, saying, "I certainly don’t think Section 28 is something the Tory party should be apologizing for."

Added Lord Tebbit, "I would say this apology is about focus group findings."

Even Tory politicians who describe themselves as accepting of GLBT people have made controversial statement seen as demonstrating insensitivity or ignorance.

An Aug. 11 article posted at the Northamption Chronicle and Echo reported that a Tory MEP (Member of the European Parliament) had generated controversy when he wrote in ab online blog that there is no such thing as homophobia.

The MEP, Roger Helmer, wrote, "’homophobia’ is not so much a word as a political agenda," and said that the term, which is used to indicate hostility toward gays rooted in bias, "describes something which simply does not exist."

Helmer, in addressing the resultant controversy, explained that he was discussing the word’s meaning as it would be understood from its literal Greek language underpinnings. In that sense, a "phobia" is an intense, irrational fear.

Said Helmer, "I was not claiming that there is no discrimination, and that homosexuals do not suffer violence and prejudice from people because sadly, we all know that is not the case," the article reported.

"What I was saying was that the word homophobia has no meaning," Helmer continued.

"I have never met anyone with an irrational fear of homosexuals, it is just a propagandist word created by the militant gay rights lobby."

Helmer was writing in an online column called Straight Talking when he made the claim that homophobia does not exist.

In that same column, the article said, Helmer wrote, "I regard myself as liberal and tolerant on the question of homosexuality. I have no interest in telling consenting adults what they may or may not do behind closed doors."

However, the coining of the term "homophobia" represented, for Helmer, an intrusion on individual freedoms.

"It is frightening evidence of the way in which political correctness is threatening our freedom," Helmer asserted in the column.

"It is creating ’thought crimes,’ where merely to hold a conventional opinion is seen, in itself, to be unacceptable and reprehensible.

"I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it," Helmer added.

But that line of reasoning was rebuffed by University of Northampton equality adviser Paul Crofts, who also serves as the chairman of Northamptonshire West’s Hate Incident Forum.

"To many gay and lesbian people in this county, homophobia is real and it has very real consequences," said Crofts.

"We have dealt with incidents of violence against people which have been motivated purely by the fact they are homosexual," which is the current meaning of the word "homophobia."

"For Mr Helmer this may be a matter of semantics, but for gay and lesbian people this is a real issue," Crofts went on.

"I would have thought someone like him, who is a member of the European Parliament and is in an influential position, would realize he has a responsibility to condemn homophobia."

Others have called into question what they see as the mixed signals being given out by the so-called "Progressive Conservatism" movement.

UK-based Web site The F Word noted in an Aug. 10 blog that "progressive" conservatives had spoken out against reproductive rights and adoption by same-sex families.

"If this is supposed to be Progressive Conservativism [sic]--what does the unprogessive type look like?" the article asked.

The blog went on to fret that, "the new young Tories coming through are even more socially conservative than their predecessors."

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

PinkNews: Italian gays condemn football manager and call for hate crimes legislation

27/8/9; By Staff Writer,

A leading gay rights group in Italy has condemned comments by the country's football coach about homosexual players.

Arcigay said that LGBT people "don't want to be afraid anymore" after a series of attacks in Rome, including an arson attack on a gay club.

The coach of the Italian national football team, Marcello Lippi, said in an interview released yesterday that in "the current climate" it would be impossible for two of his players to be in a gay relationship.

"Imagine how a homosexual couple in football would be perceived," he said.

"Even if, socially, most people would support and understand such a situation, it would nonetheless become magnified and eventually would be viewed negatively."

In a statement on their website, Arcigay said:

"In these days when gay people watch helpless and overwhelmed in episodes of brutal violence against them … we hear yet another hypocritical justification of that system of media, politics and culture, which lawful discrimination of our loves and remains unmoved to the culture of our retrograde and provincial media.

"Why, dear Lippi, the players could not live gay love openly, when performing in front of each camera their flirtation?

"Words like these fortify the prejudice that homosexual relationships are more dirty and unspeakable, uttered by a person who plays an educational role model for millions of Italian boys playing soccer and believe sport as a model of social and cultural life.

"We are tired of hearing politicians, singers, coaches feeding, even through the unsaid, a climate poisoned by distrust and fear.

"We do not want to have more fear and we hope for public figures who have the courage to affirm the dignity of each person to live in the sunlight, their relationships, their loves."

On Tuesday night nighclub Qube, home of the LGBT Muccassassina festival, was targeted by arsonists - it was empty at the time.

A few days before a gay couple were assualted near Rome's gay village. One was stabbed and he is in a serious condition.

The city's rightwing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, has backed Arcigay's calls for anti-discrimination laws to help tackle homophobic violence.

3 Comments on Italian gays condemn football manager and call for hate crimes legislation

Yahoo News: Uruguay lawmakers OK gay adoption

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Lawmakers in Uruguay have approved a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt.

Despite opposition from Uruguay's Roman Catholic Church and some of the political opposition, the 99-seat Chamber or Representatives on Thursday passed the bill 40-13, with the remaining members absent.

It goes next to the Senate, which approved an earlier version of the bill in July but must now vote again on modifications.

If it becomes law, Uruguay would be the first country in Latin American to allow adoption by gay and lesbian couples.

The law supported by socialist President Tabare Vazquez's Broad Front coalition, which has already legalized gay civil unions and ended a ban on homosexuals in the armed forces.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

MaltaStar:No to hate crimes – Moviment Graffitti.

No to hate crimes – Moviment Graffitti.
27 August 2009 13:18
Moviment Graffitti have expressed their deep disapproval of the vandalistic homophobic attack which took place some time ago on the residence of a gay couple, where the words ‘NO GAYS’ were sprayed on the walls of the property.

The organisation expressed concern that such types of crimes are happening in Malta. The movement stated that; “It is truly shameful that at this day and age, some people still resort to such disgraceful acts. Such a case clearly shows the sad and narrow minded mentality that some segments of Maltese society still uphold towards people of different sexual orientations”.

Moviment Graffitti would also expressed full solidarity with the victims, whilst urging the local authorities to take such hate crimes seriously and to do their best to bring the culprits to justice.


Press Release 27.08.09

Following the vandalistic homophobic attack which took place some time ago on the residence of a gay couple, where the words ‘NO GAYS’ were sprayed on the walls of the property, Moviment Graffitti would like to express its deep disapproval and concern that such types of crimes are happening in Malta. The movement stated that; “It is truly shameful that at this day and age, some people still resort to such disgraceful acts. Such a case clearly shows the sad and narrow minded mentality that some segments of Maltese society still uphold towards people of different sexual orientations”.

Moviment Graffitti would also like to express its full solidarity with the victims, whilst urging the local authorities to take such hate crimes seriously and to do their best to bring the culprits to justice.

Carmen Caruana
On behalf of Moviment Graffitti

Stqarrija Stampa 27.08.09

Wara l-attakk vandalu u omofobiku li sehh ftit ta’ zmien ilu fuq residenzja ta’ koppja omosesswali fejn il-kliem ‘NO GAYS’ gew imhazza fuq il-hitan ta’ wahda mill-kmamar tar-residenza, il-Moviment Graffitti jixtieq juri d-dizapprovazzjoni shiha tieghu ghall-fatt li dawn it-tip ta’ reati qeghdin isehhu hawn Malta. Il-Moviment sostna illi; “Huwa verament tal-misthija illi illum il-gurnata, certi persuni ghadhom jirrikorru ghal dan it-tip ta’ agir kodard. Dan il-kaz juri bic-car il-mentalita’ dejqa u antikwata li certi persuni fis-socjeta Maltija ghadhom ihaddnu fil-konfront ta’ persuni b’orjentazzjoni sesswali differenti minn taghhom.”

Il-Moviment Graffitti jixtieq juri s-solidarjeta’ shiha tieghu mal-vittmi ta’ dan ir-reat, waqt li jheggeg lill-awtoritajiet kkoncernati sabiex jiehdu dawn ir-reati ta’ mibgheda bl-ikbar serjeta’ u sabiex jaghmlu l-almu taghhom sabiex jiksbu l-gustizzja misthoqqa.

Carmen Caruana
Ghall-Moviment Graffitti

PinkNews: Thousands sign Downing St petition demanding apology for Alan Turing
More than 4,800 people have signed a petition calling on the government to apologise for the way in which gay computing genius Alan Turing was treated during his lifetime.

Professor Richard Dawkins has joined the calls for the government to apologise to Mr Turing, who committed suicide after being jailed for homosexuality.

In his 2008 work The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, Professor Dawkins paid tribute to the mathematician.

"Turing arguably made a greater contribution to defeating the Nazis than Eisenhower or Churchill," he wrote.

"Thanks to Turing and his 'Ultra' colleagues at Bletchley Park, Allied generals in the field were consistently, over long periods of the war, privy to detailed German plans before the German generals had time to implement them.

"After the war, when Turing's role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation.

"Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a 'crime', committed in private, which harmed nobody."

Programmer John Graham-Cumming has set up an online petition to call for a government apology to Turing for his prosecution.

It reads:

"Alan Turing was the greatest computer scientist ever born in Britain.

"He laid the foundations of computing, helped break the Nazi Enigma code and told us how to tell whether a machine could think.

"He was also gay.

"He was prosecuted for being gay, chemically castrated as a 'cure', and took his own life, aged 41.

"The British Government should apologise to Alan Turing for his treatment and recognise that his work created much of the world we live in and saved us from Nazi Germany.

"An apology would recognise the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man's life and career."

The petition will be open for signatures until January.

Turing was awarded an OBE in 1945 for his wartime services to the Foreign Office. He has received many posthumous awards.

The computing world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, given each year by the Association for Computing Machinery, has been called the Turing Award since 1966.

To sign the petition, click here.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

MaltaStar: The courage of their convictions

26 August 2009 by Sandro Mangion

A gay network and an Independence celebration: it’s not so easy for a mind that’s been shaped in Malta’s predominantly conservative and politically bi-polarised environment to believe that they’re both initiatives coming from within the Labour Party.

One might ask: Why should a major political party on its way to power waste its time with minorities when vote-wise it makes more sense to woo the mainstream voter? Why should Labourites celebrate a feast that ‘belongs’ to the Nationalist Party when the PN doesn’t mark Freedom Day, which is a ‘Labour’ event?

Fortunately, these initiatives are coming from the Labour camp. It’s indeed a breath of fresh air, in a country which desperately longs for a new way of doing politics.

The Forum Zghazagh Laburisti (Labour Youth Forum) should win plaudits for making every effort to act as a catalyst for a much needed change. In so doing, it is – fortunately – positioning itself on the “progressive” side of the “coalition of progressives and moderates”.

Well done FZL for being the only political organisation in Malta with an active LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) network within its structure. As I write, you’ve been the only political organisation to publicly condemn the recent act of vandalism, where homophobic threats were sprayed on the inside walls of a gay man’s private residence.

Thumbs up to you also for having mustered enough courage to break the mould and opt to celebrate Independence Day for the very first time next month. This should be the start of a process at the end of which different national days will cease ‘belonging’ to one political party or another. Whoever was in government when Independence Day, Freedom Day and the rest of the milestones in Malta’s political history took place, the beneficiary was one: the Maltese nation. So thank you for triggering what will hopefully be a break with a mediocre way of celebrating occasions of national significance. Don’t allow those who are still living in the past dishearten you. Just stick to your progressive vision and march on.

(Check out the press release of FZL LGBT Network’s condemnation of the homophobic incident:

[Click on the hyperlink at the top to view the comments on MaltaStar's website.]

MaltaStar: LGBT FZL Network Condemn Homophobic Act


The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network within the Labour Youth Forum has condemned the homophobic act of vandalism on a private property that happened last week.

The Act came to light last week when Sandro Mangion spoke about the event on his blog and reported the story.

The LGBT network has stated that besides the fact that the act of vandalism is on a person’s private property, the vandalism sent a discriminatory message that goes against the spirit of equality and respect towards all individuals, be it any sexual orientation

“As an LGBT network, we strongly believe that homophobic acts can never be excused and this is why we hope that not many incidents like these happen. We also hope that the responsible persons for this act of vandalism are caught and made to pay the price they deserve.”

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar's website.]

Independent: Labour Youth Forum condemns homophobic vandalism

Acts of vandalism to personal property had to be condemned, as they sowed seeds of discrimination, said Albert Gauci Cunningham, speaking for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) network of the Labour Youth Forum.

With homophobic undercurrents, such acts went against the spirit of equality and respect for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, and were inexcusable, he said.

The FZL was expressing a message of support to a recent break in and graffiti attack inside a gay man’ s home.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Times: PL condemns homophobic vandal attack «English/Malti»
Tuesday, 25th August 2009 - 12:47CET
The LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) network within the Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti has condemned the anti-gay messages sprayed on a man's house some days ago.
'No gays' was sprayed in huge black letters on the newly-restored walls of the man's house.

Besides being detrimental to the property of the person concerned, the message was also against the spirit of equality and respect for all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

The LGBT network hoped that such incidents would be rare and that those who were responsible would be made to pay for their actions.

The incident was reported in last Sunday's The Sunday Times.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]


MLP: Media Release
25 ta’ Awwissu 2009

Stqarrija maħruġa mill-Forum Żgħazagħ Laburisti – LGBT Network
Kundanna għall-attakk vandalu b’messaġġi omofobici

L-LGBT Network fi ħdan il-Forum Zagħzagħ Laburista tixtieq tikundanna l-att vandalu li seħħ il-ġimgħa li għaddiet fuq propjetà ta’ persuna, b’messaġġi omofobici.

Apparti li dan l-att vandalu huwa ta’ detriment għall-propjetà tal-persuni koncernati, inbagħat wkoll messaġġ diviziv ta’ diskriminazzjoni li tmur kompletament kontra l-ispirtu ta’ ugwaljanza u rispett lejn kull bniedem hu min hu u ta liema orjentazzjoni sesswali ikun.

Bħala LGBT Network nemmnu bil-qawwa kollha li l-omofobija ma tista qatt tkun skuzabbli u għalhekk nittamaw li incidenti bħal dawn ikunu ftit u rari u nisperaw li dawk responsabbli iħallsu il-prezz li jistħoqqilhom.

Albert Gauci Cunningham
LGBT Network
Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti

Uffiċċju tal-Komunikazzjoni
Partit Laburista
Tel: 21 249 900 / 622

ĠENSillum: Direttiva “li tipproteġi lil-individwu fit-tħaddim u fit-tagħlim tar-reliġjon”

Artiklu mhux iffirmat meħud mill-ħarġa ta’ Il-ĠENSillum tas-Sibt, 22 ta’ Awwissu, 2009.

• Silvan Bugeja, il-kelliem għall-Ministeru tal-Politika Soċjali, sostna li l-abbozz tad-Direttiva għal Trattament Ugwali bejn persuni, irrispettivament mir-reliġjon, jew it-twemmin, id-diżabilità, l-età jew l-orjentazzjoni sesswali, għandha l-għan li tipproteġi lill-individwu fit-tħaddim u fit-tagħlim tar-reliġjon tiegħu.
Dejjem skont dan il-kelliem, din id-Direttiva ma tippreġudikax l-aġir tal-istati membri dwar l-istatus u l-attivitajiet tal-knejjes u organizzazzjonijiet oħra bbażati fuq reliġjon jew twemmin fit-territorju tiegħu. Fl-istess ħin, iżda, ma indikax jekk il-Gvern Malti huwiex favur jew kontra din id-direttiva.

Rapporti fil-mezzi tax-xandir lokali sostnew li Malta, flimkien ma’ għadd ta’ pajjiżi oħrajn, fosthom il-Ġermanja, il-Polonja, l-Italja u l-Irlanda qegħdin jopponi din id-Direttiva u għalhekk mhux mistenni li din tidħol fis-seħħ tard din is-sena, kif inhi x-xewqa tal-Presidenza Svediża.

Esponenti Kattoliċi madwar l-Ewropa kkritikaw l-abbozz ta’ din id-Direttiva għax tista’ tfisser li t-tennija ta’ tagħlim infurmat minn reliġjon jista’ jiġi mifhum li qed jagħti fasidju lil xi wħud, u għalhekk ma għandux jiġi mtenni fil-pubbliku. L-istess jista’ jingħad għal ideat iffurmati skont tagħlim reliġjuż waqt li regolamenti ta’ stabbilimenti reliġjużi jistgħu jiġu definiti bħala diskriminatorji, per eżempju jekk koppja omosesswali jew koppja eterosesswali mhux miżżewġa ma titħalliex toqgħod fl-istess kamra f’dar tal-irtiri jew sala parrokkjali ma tingħatax lil gruppi li jistqarru tagħlim li jmur kontra l-Knisja Kattolika.

Mistoqsi dwar il-pożizzjoni tal-Gvern dwar din id-Direttiva, il-kelliem għall-Ministeru tenna x’forom ta’ ħarsien kontra d-diskriminazzjoni tipprovdi l-liġi Maltija, u li minħabba li d-Direttiva ma tobbligax lill-pajjiżi membri dwar politika fuq żwieġ u familja, din ma tbiddilx kwistjonijiet ta’ policy pubblika mħaddna mill-Gvern. Madankollu ma qalx jekk il-Gvern Malti hux qed jaddotta pożizzjoni favur jew kontra din id-Direttiva.

Hu spjega li Artikolu 45 tal-Kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta diġa jipprovdi għal protezzjoni kontra d-diskriminazzjoni fuq kwalunkwe bażi ta’ status. Barra minn hekk, il-Liġijiet ta’ Malta jipprovdu għal protezzjoni kontra d-diskriminazzjoni fit-tgawdija ta’ kull dritt rikonoxxut fl-istess Att dwar il-Konvenzjoni Ewropea.

“F’dan il-qafas ta’ protezzjoni kostituzzjonali u konvenzjonali, il-Gvern ukoll kompla jsaħħaħ il-qafas legali fil-konfront ta’ diskriminazzjoni abbażi ta’ sess, reliġjon, twemmin, diżabilità, età, razza u orjentazzjoni sesswali speċjalment fil-qasam tax-xogħol kif ukoll fil-qasam ta’ servizzi u oġġetti.

“Dan it-tisħiħ jinsab kemm fl-Att dwar l-Ugwaljanza bejn l-Irġiel u n-Nisa kif ukoll fl-Att dwar Mpjiegi u Relazzjonijiet Industrijali li jipprovdu qafas ta’ protezzjoni u saħansitra investigazzjoni ta’ lmenti abbażi ta’ diskriminazzjoni”, huwa qal.
“Il-Gvern kompla saħħaħ ukoll is-sanzjonijiet fil-konfront ta’ diskriminazzjoni fir-rigward ta’ razza u reliġjon meta fil-Kodiċi Kriminali provda għal punizzjoni akbar meta reat fuq persuna jitwettaq bi skop ta’ diskriminazzjoni. Dan jidher mill-Artikolu 222A tal-Kodiċi Kriminali. Minn naħa l-oħra Artiklu 82A jagħmel reat kull tixwiex għal mibgħeda razzjali jew reliġjuża. Id-diskrimianzzjoni fuq bażi ta’ diżabilità wkoll diġa’ tinsab f’qafas legali taħt l-Att għall-Opportunitajiet Indaqs għal Persuni b’Diżabilità”.

Dwar id-Direttiva hu fisser li jinsab “infurmat li d-Direttiva li qed tiġi proposta ma timponix obbligi fuq l-Istati Membri fil-qasam ta’ familja, żwieġ jew kwistjonijiet oħra ta’ policy pubblika”.

Bugeja sostna li d-Direttiva għandha l-għan li tipproteġi lill-individwu fit-tħaddim tar-reliġjon tiegħu u fit-tagħlim ta’ din ir-reliġjon, Fl-istess waqt tassigura li reliġjonijiet u twemmin differenti jgħixu fil-paċi u b’rispett lejn xulxin.

Mistoqsi dwar il-fatt li ‘t-twassil’ tat-tagħlim reliġjuż jew morali jista’ jiġi mifhum bħala li jikser id-Direttur, għax per eżempju t-tagħlim dwar sesswalità jagħti fastidju lil persuni omosesswali, Bugeja wieġed li “d-Direttiva ma tindirizzax it-tagħlim reliġjuż u l-anqas tiġġudika dak it-tagħlim”, u li kull persuna hi libera li tħaddan it-tagħlim u l-morali li jidhrilha.

“Id-Direttiva tipprovdi qafas legali biex tiġi mneħħija d-diskriminazzjoni u tassigura li persuna ma ssofriex inġustizzja, preġudizzju, dannu jew marġinalizzazzjoni minħabba xi wieħed mill-istatus tal-persuna li ssemmi d-Direttiva. B’hekk kull membru ta’ reliġjon, ikun liema jkun, huwa liberu li jħaddan dak it-tagħlim jew morali li jidhirlu xieraq fir-reliġjon tiegħu u saħansitra din id-Direttiva tipproteġi kull individwu milli jsofri xi dannu jew preġudizju minħabba t-tagħlim reliġjuż tiegħu”, qal il-kelliem għall-Ministeru tal-Politika Soċjali. “Dan ma jfissirx però li persuna tista’ tippersegwita persuna oħra għax oħrajn mhux membri tal-istess reliġjon u ma jħaddnux l-istess fidi. Kwalunkwe persuna, hija ta’ liema fidi hija, tibqa’ dejjem soġġetta għal liġi”

Fl-istess ħin iżda ma indirizzax dwar x’impatt għandha d-Direttiva, fil-forma preżenti, fuq ‘it-twassil’ tat-tagħlim reliġjuż u morali.

Irid jingħad li l-Konferenza Episkopali tal-Ingilterra u Wales stqarret fost l-oħrajn li frott id-Direttiva, diskussjonijiet f’fora pubbliċi dwar fidi u etika sesswali, fost l-oħrajn, faċilment tagħti opportunità lil individwi li jħossuhom offiżi. Is-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Konferenza tal-Isqfijiet tal-Ingilterra u Wales, Mons Andrew Summersgill qal li “diversi gruppi x’aktar jużaw il-proviżjonijiet tad-Direttiva biex inaqqsu l-espressjoni ta’ opinjonijiet li ma jaqblux magħhom, u dan sempliċiment billi jiddikjaraw lilhom infushom offiżi. Hekk gruppi omosesswali li qed jagħmlu kampanja favur żwieġ bejn persuni tal-istess sess jistgħu jiddikjaraw lilhom infushom offiżi mill-preżentazzjoni tat-tagħlim tal-Knisja Kattolika dwar atti omosesswali.
Hu kien qed jitkellem fit-tweġiba tal-Konferenza Episkopali għall-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni dwar din id-Direttiva mniedi mill-Gvern Ingliż.

Il-Professur dwar bioetika William Wagner sostna fuq il-blogg Nisrani tiegħu li “ċittadin li jfittex li jinforma l-etika ċivika ma għandux ikun punit, jew persegwitat għax l-ideat tiegħu huma nfurmati minn twemmin Nisrani”, waqt li tenna li dan ikun projbit mid-Direttiva.

Bugeja sostna wkoll li huwa “infurmat” li l-Artikolu 3 u 13 “jirrikonoxxu li l-Istati Membri għandhom ikunu liberi li jirregolaw l-istatus u l-attivitajiet tal-knejjes u ta’ organizzazzjonijiet oħrajn bbażati fuq reliġjon jew twemmin fit-territorju tiegħu”.

Mons Summersgill qal li mhux ċar jekk id-Direttiva tobbligax lil kappillan jikri s-sala parrokkjali lil grupp ta’ sħaħar. Dwar Artiklu 13 huwa qal li “dan jista’ jobbliga lil gruppi Kattoliċi biex jaġixxu kontra l-ethos tagħhom”.

Huwa semma l-eżempju ta’ post fejn grupp Kattoliku jorganizza attivitajiet tipo irtir: “It-tagħlim tal-Knisja jesiġi li sodda doppja tingħata biss lill-koppji miżżewġin. Taħt Artiklu 13, dan jista’ jkun illegali għax ma tagħtix trattament ekwu lil koppja eterosesswali mhux miżżewġa jew koppja omosesswali”.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Times: Recognising gay couples

Sunday, 23rd August 2009 by Patrick Attard, Naxxar

It was disappointing to read that Fr Joe Borg views the recognition of gay couples by the State as going against the common good (The Sunday Times, August 16).

It is interesting to quote Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero when speaking on the occasion of the introduction of gay marriage in Spain:
"We are not legislating for remote, foreign and strange people. We are improving the opportunities for happiness for our neighbours, work colleagues and friends in order to build a more decent country, because a decent society doesn't humiliate its members."
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Anti-gay graffiti sprayed on walls in man's home
Sunday, 23rd August 2009 byAriadne Massa

The homophobic threat scars the 16th-century walls of a man's home. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

A 42-year-old man is feeling under threat and vulnerable after vandals broke into his home and sprayed the words 'No gays' in huge black letters on newly-restored walls.

"I was carrying boxes up the stairs and didn't realise immediately, until I heard the contractor behind me gasping in shock," Andre*, a gay man, told The Sunday Times.

When he looked up he noticed that several of the 16th-century walls, and the mosaic in the shower, were marked with black squiggly scribbles. The homophobic message was prominently sprayed on two walls of a room that, "ironically", was once used as a chapel.

The incident happened nine days ago, but Andre is still coming to terms with it. His real name and exact locality of his property are not being disclosed because he fears reprisals.

"I am afraid for my safety," Andre said, as he stopped to take a break from the painstaking process of removing the paint that seeped into the porous limestone without ruining the historic engravings of galleys.

"Cleaning the walls myself has been cathartic," he said, adding it took several hours to shift the paint.

Andre, who shuttles between Malta and the UK, bought the property with his partner more than a year ago and has since been dedicating a lot of his energy towards restoring it.

He has not encountered any anti-gay sentiments from his neighbours so he was quite taken aback by what happened: "I would like to think it was either a 13-year-old or someone with that mental capacity who did this. I hope it was not somebody seething with hatred (towards gays) because that is not part of my language."

Whoever entered the house scaled down from a neighbouring roof, which narrows down the number of people who could have done it, and soon after the incident he started suspecting everyone.

"Once a thief broke into my house when I was living in Italy and you feel your privacy has been invaded, but this was more personal... It kind of makes me feel like I made the right choice leaving Malta," he said.

Andre immediately called the closest police station, but was shocked by their indifference. The officer on duty did not go to the house, so he went to the police station himself.

"I was trembling and the officer's attitude was reprehensible. He never asked me if I suspected anyone or any other details. For the police it was a simple prank not a personal threat," he said.
The act was first highlighted on journalist Sandro Mangion's blog, who called on the police and politicians to take these cases seriously and send a clear signal that hate crime would not be tolerated.

Initially, Andre was reluctant to share his story, but now that a few days have passed he believed speaking out was important.

Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people increased in recent years as this community became more visible, according to a recent survey carried out by the Malta Gay Rights Movement.

More than 74 per cent of the 150 respondents said they would emigrate given the chance, and 67 per cent listed discrimination as a key factor in this decision. Eight per cent said they had been beaten or attacked in the past two years because of their sexual orientation and half of these said it happened more than once.

* Name has been changed.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]