Sunday, 31 October 2010

EU Observer: Finnish woman reveals sad state of EU rights for same-sex families

28.10.2010 by Andrew Rettman

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission says that existing EU law on freedom of movement gives adequate protection to same-sex couples. But the story of one family living in Paris shows how a mixture of confusion and prejudice is stripping some EU citizens of basic rights.

Kaisa, a 37-year-old Finnish journalist, has lived with her partner Claire, a French webmaster, since 1998. The two mothers (not their real names) have a four-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter born to Kaisa via artificial insemination. In legal terms, they registered their civil union under French law in 2004. Claire also has joint custody, giving her the right, for example, to visit her children in hospital in the event of an accident.

Kaisa: 'For them what matters is that they have two parents, two mums - they have been born into this. It's simple. It's obvious' (Photo: Drab Makyo)

That is where the family's rights end.

If Kaisa died suddenly, the French state would take away Claire's children. If Kaisa left Claire, the French woman would have no right to ever see them again. On the other side of the relationship, if Claire died, her children would have to pay a whopping 60 percent inheritance tax because in legal terms, they are strangers. If Claire left Kaisa, she would have no obligation to pay alimony.

"For our children, our family exists independent of what the law says. For them what matters is that they have two parents, two mums. They have been born into this. It's simple. It's obvious. They don't care about recognition in law. That may come later on," Kaisa told this website. "For us, as long as we don't have any problems, things can move along smoothly. But if there was conflict, tension, between us - these issues would be brought in very quickly."

The immediate problem for Claire and Kaisa is not one of anti-gay prejudice but one of legal confusion.

In order to win normal rights, Claire must adopt the children. As her son and daughter are Finnish citizens, this is possible only through second-parent adoption in Finland. But Finnish authorities do not recognise French same-sex unions and refuse to grant second-parent adoption to French-registered same-sex parents. If Claire and Kaisa had lodged their union in Belgium, the Netherlands or Spain, the Finnish courts could rubber-stamp the adoption because Finland does recognise same-sex unions from a handful of other EU states.

"From Finland there is no prejudice as such. They just don't know what to do - they are sticking to some kind of abstract guidelines. It's crazy there are so many different versions of national legislation and no mutual recognition everywhere in the European Union," Kaisa said.

In order for Claire to adopt, the family would have to negotiate a legal maze: Kaisa would have to dissolve her French union; move to Finland for at least six months; register there for tax purposes; register a new civil union under Finnish law; register the adoption; move back to France and obtain French recognition of the Finnish union and adoption package.

If the family moved to another EU country, the whole set-up could unravel. In terms of anti-gay prejudice, their rights would never be recognised in conservative countries such as Italy or Poland. If they were on holiday in a country such as Malta and one family member suffered an accident, there is no certainty that the others would have any hospital visiting rights at all.

Meanwhile, heterosexual families take all rights for granted from the day of their marriage from Dublin to Nicosia.

Asked by EUobserver if the status quo violates Kaisa's rights under the EU Treaty clause of freedom of movement and the Charter of Fundamental Rights on non-discrimination, the commission gave a boilerplate answer.

Citing a 2004 directive on freedom of movement, it said in a statement that: "The directive provides for the right of entry and residence for EU citizens and their family members regardless of the issue of recognition of marriages or partnerships. It is for member states to decide whether they provide in their internal legal order for same-sex unions."

It added that: "It is clear that union citizens, who live in a legally recognised marriage or registered partnership, should be able to maintain their status and their rights under union law when they move from one member state to another." It also noted that a new Action Plan in 2013 will look to: "facilitating free movement of documents and recognition of the effects of certain civil status documents (e.g. relating to birth, affiliation, adoption or name)."

The Brussels-based gay-rights group, ILGA-Europe, does not accept the argument.

"We cannot agree with the commission that the Freedom of Movement Directive is already tackling the gaps. Many same-sex partners are in fact opting not to travel and reside in a number of EU countries due to the implications that non-recognition of their marriages or registered partnerships has on their lives," it said in a statement in September.

What ILGA-Europe and Kaisa see behind the commission's stance is an unwillingness to tackle the politically explosive issue of enforcing liberal same-sex norms in conservative eastern or southern EU states.

As a journalist herself, Kaisa can imagine the headlines: 'EU imposes gay adoption on Poland.'

"It is a controversial subject, which forces people to say whether they are for or against same-sex unions. But in a way it's not about these theoretical discussions at all. These families already exist in Europe - if they are recognised by one country, they should be recognised by another, because non-recognition has very concrete consequences for people's lives," she said.

"It's about freedom of movement, about a founding principle of the EU. So what's more important for the commission - protecting its principles or making sure it doesn't make certain member states angry?"

Times: ‘In your face’ actions do nothing to bring about tolerance of gay rights movement
Sunday, 31st October 2010 by Bill Andrews, St Paul’s Bay

With reference to the letter by Bernard Muscat (The Sunday Times, October 10), as a member of the ‘live and let live’ school, I am more than happy to see gay couples showing signs of affection, such as holding hands, so long as they allow me to do the same with my wife of 37 years.

Although tolerant of all genders, I do not like anything ‘shoved in my face’, such as at the Gay Pride parade, held not long ago in Valletta. While I was sitting enjoying a coffee, one of these fanatics, who does not represent the gay community in general, thrust his face very close to mine, and between blowing on his whistle, demanded to know if I was homophobic. After the fourth such experience, I told the guy to go away. At this point he pushed a compressed air horn to my ear and pulled the trigger.

The pain, which lasted for two days, was indescribable, and I admit to shrieking like a schoolgirl. These actions do nothing to bring tolerance of the gay rights movement.

I was going to suggest that their time would be better spent in visits to youth groups and others to reassure them of their feelings, in that it is how nature made them.

Merely because they were born with a slightly different chemical make-up, by an act of nature, giving them an extra hormone, gene, chromosome, oestrogen or whatever, it is nothing to be ashamed of.

My second suggestion would have been the Malta Gay Rights Movement lobby the government.

However, having heard Home Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici, who would have us live as an isolated island trapped in the past, I fear that issues such as divorce, abortion or gay rights will not be discussed, and civil liberties will remain very much in the shadows.

Finally, to those who quote the Bible, I will wager that for every quote made, I can find a passage in the good book which will totally contradict it.

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

Thursday, 28 October 2010

YouTube: A coffee with Ulrike Lunacek & Michael Cashman [EU Observer]

The EUobserver has a new section on equality and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe. In honour of this, the EUobserver caught up two experts on the topic . Watch the two co-Presidents of the European Parliament's very own Intergroup on LGTB rights, British MEP, Michael Cashman (S&D) and Austrian MEP, Ulrike Lunacek chat about their personal experiences and drives as heads of the LTGB group.

For news on LGTB rights in Europe

For the EP's intergroup on LGTB rights

Malta Today: IVF – who is entitled to treatment?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 by Rachel Zammit Cutajar

Gay couples will be refused the right to have children if donation of gametes is not allowed

‘Stable relationships’ are no guarantee that IVF babies will live in families with a lasting marriage (ask Jon and Kate Gosselin…). But this new category dreamt up by our MPs will close the door to good parents, straight and gay, who want to avail themselves of artificial insemination.

The issue of whether single women or gay women, or gay men and surrogate mothers should have access to artificial insemination remains highly debatable.

Our MPs want to legislate a future where certain groups of people cannot have children. Concerned about the prospects of opening the ‘floodgates to parenthood’, the door appears closed to single and gay parents whose only chance of parenthood is in vitro fertilisation.

In calling for a definition of a ‘stable relationship’ – one that doctors will understand from a couple’s medical records – the parliamentary committee on assisted reproduction has made access to IVF something only heterosexual couples have.

Dr Josie Muscat, CEO of the St James Group, restricts treatment to women “who are in a stable relationship” and claims he will refuse treatment if the rights of the child to be brought up in a family atmosphere are jeopardized.

“It is not specifically marital status that determines whether or not I would treat a couple. A couple in a stable relationship are just as likely to ensure an ideal family upbringing as a married couple.

“Medical records will give away whether or not the woman is in a stable relationship, as IVF is not a treatment embarked upon on a whim. There are a number of tests and other treatments that precede IVF and if she has had the constant support of a partner then treatment can go ahead.”

That would mean that gay men who choose a surrogate mother, or gay women who choose a sperm donor would have to set up a rather convincing (and misleading) front to present themselves as some bona fide couple.

If the most famous IVF family is anything to go by, the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin – parents to twins and sextuplets and stars of Jon and Kate Plus Eight – shows that ‘stable relationships’ don’t necessarily last.

Muscat notes that Malta enjoys success rates of some 58% to 60% in assisted reproduction, as opposed to the 45% success rate in the USA. At the moment it costs in the region of €4,000 for one IVF including medication.

“We get couples coming for treatment from all over the world, including the UK the USA, Africa and Nigeria… I am concerned however, that local gynaecologists do not seem to be aware of the services we offer and are sending people seeking treatment overseas. Just this week I saw a couple who were sent by their gynaecologist to Brussels where they paid for three unsuccessful cycles.”

But couples who fear they will be refused IVF in Malta will keep on seeking treatment abroad.

Gabi Calleja, coordinator for the Malta Gay Rights Movement, says that limiting IVF to heterosexual couples goes against human rights for same sex couples to have a family.

She says that banning donation of gametes will prohibit single mothers and same sex couples from using ART and goes against the principles of equal rights established by the European Court of Human Rights.

“While the decision to provide access to assisted reproduction treatments to cohabiting couples in stable relationships is most welcome, the fact that this has been limited to heterosexual couples is discriminatory and goes against the principles of equal treatment as established by the European Court of Human Rights.

“The decision to restrict assisted reproduction services to couples is inconsistent with the government’s current legislation and policy with respect to fostering and adoption both of which allow individuals to apply as single parent.”

The MGRM has urged government to ensure that any legislation enacted is inclusive and respectful of international human rights principles as enshrined in various treaties and conventions and to provide equal treatment to all its citizens, particularly in access to health services.

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

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

YouTube: President Obama: It Gets Better [Gay Suicides]

As part of the It Gets Better Project, President Obama shares his message of hope and support for LGBT youth who are struggling with being bullied.

L-Orizzont: Propost tibdil fil-liġi dwar it-transesswali

Ħajjitna imbarazzament kontinwu – persuna transesswali
22.10.10 minn Victor Vella

Ibda mill-iskola, u ibqa' sej­jer sa fuq il-post tax-xogħol. Tispiċċa bbuljata. Minn età pjuttost żgħira tibda tħoss li hemm xi ħaġa ħażina. Il-ġisem tibda tistkerrhu fil-veru sens tal-kelma. Tibda tevita li tħares lejn il-mera. Ikunu mumenti diffiċli u għalhekk finalment tasal biex tinbidel bijoloġikament billi ssir operazzjoni biex tibdel is-sess. Imma mbagħad f'pajjiżna Ewropew, insibu xorta problemi kbar. Trid tispiċċa tagħmel battalji legali biex jinħarġulek dokumenti li juru li inti issa mara u mhux raġel. Jiddispjaċini ngħid li jibdlulek id-dokumenti tat-twelid mhux għax veru jemmnu li inti issa mara u mhux aktar raġel, imma biex kif jgħidulna, jipproteġu d-dritt tal-privatezza u jevitawlna l-imbarazzament. Minn hawn 'il quddiem trid tiffaċċja l-problema li ma tistax tiżżewweġ lill-maħbub tiegħek. L-argumenti li jġibu kontra dan id-dritt – li għalija hu fundamentali, ma jispiċċaw qatt."

Dawn kienu l-kummenti li ngħataw lil l-orizzont minn persuna transesswali – persuni li mhumiex morda kif jaħsbu xi wħud imma huma persuni li jidentifikaw lilhom infushom mas-sess oppost minn dak li huma jitwieldu bih. Għalkemm f'Malta ma jidhirx li hawn statistika eżatta ta' kemm hawn persuni transesswali, hu kkalkulat li f'pajjiżna hawn madwar 800 persuna transesswali.

Mistoqsija dwar laqgħa li se ssir għada s-Sibt mill-Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) dwar proposti għal tibdil fil-liġi biex ikunu indirizzati n-nuqqasijiet tal-liġi preżenti għat-transesswali, din il-persuna qaltilna li "naqbel mal-proposta li qed issir u se tkun diskussa biex id-dokumenti tal-persuna jkunu jistgħu jinbidlu mingħajr bżonn li wieħed jagħmel operazzjoni u li dawn ikunu jgħoddu anke għall-finijiet ta' żwieġ".

Ta' min jgħid li persuni transesswali u oħrajn interessati fis-suġġett, huma mħeġġin biex għada s-Sibt jattendu laqgħa li se ssir fil-bini tal-General Wor­kers' Union, il-Belt Valletta. Fil-laqgħa se jkun hemm preżenti l-Avukat Neil Falzon. Dan se jippreżenta l-liġi proposta u se jispjega l-implikazzjonijiet tagħ­ha. Il-laqgħa se tkun bejn nofsinhar u s-1.30 p.m.

Fost in-nuqqasijiet li din il-liġi proposta se tindirizza, hemm dik li "d-dokumenti jkunu jistgħu jinbidlu mingħajr bżonn li wieħed jagħmel ope­razzjoni, u li jkun hemm proċess ta' bdil ta' dokumenti li jsir permezz ta' proċedura amministrattiva li ma tkunx tirrikjedi każ il-Qorti." Il-liġi proposta se tkun qed tipproponi li jitneħħa l-bżonn ta' eżami mediku invażiv wara li tkun saret l-ope­razzjoni u li jkun hemm it-tibdil fid-dokumenti jfisser li l-persuna tkun effettivament bidlet is-sess tagħha anke għall-finijiet taż-żwieġ." Il-liġi proposta se tkun qed tipproponi li anke persuni miżżewwġin jkunu jistgħu jibdlu d-dokumenti tagħhom u dan mingħajr bżonn ta' annullament, separazzjoni jew divorzju.

Żwieġ biss bejn raġel u mara …iżda m'hemm ebda tifsira ta' x'jagħmel raġel u mara

Mil-lat legali f'pajjiżna naraw li l-persuni transesswali jsofru minn diskriminazzjoni kbira fejn tidħol ix-xewqa tagħhom li jiżżewġu. Mil-lat legali naraw li fejn jidħol iż-żwieġ il-liġi Maltija ma tagħtix tifsira ta' "żwieġ" imma tagħti tifsira ta' "żwieġ Kattoliku". Biss mhux kull żwieġ li l-liġi tirrikonoxxi hu żwieġ Kattoliku. Dan minħabba li l-liġi Maltija tagħraf żwieġ anke fil-forma ċivili. Imma l-liġi Maltija tagħti għarfien għal żwieġ biss jekk kemm-il darba dan isir minn raġel u mara bejniethom. L-intopp kbir li jeżisti fil-liġi Maltija hu dak li ma tingħata l-ebda tifsira ta' x'inhu li jagħmel persuna raġel jew mara għall-finijiet taż-żwieġ.

Diffiċli ħafna li transesswali tasal sal-livell post sekondarju u terzjarju

Il-persuna transesswali li tkellmet ma' l-orizzont spjegat id-diffikultajiet kbar li huma jiffaċċjaw fl-iskejjel. "Nista' ngħidlek li l-parti l-kbira tat-trans li naf, kollha ħarġu mill-iskola mal-Form 5. Fl-iskejjel tant niġu bbuljati, insultati u mweġġgħin minn sħabna stess u ġieli anke mill-għalliema, li l-iskola nibdew nobogħduha. Mhux se ssib persuni trans li komplew sal-livell sekondarju jew terzjarju. Il-Form 5 għalihom mhix tarġa għal livell ieħor edukattiv imma ssir is-sena li fiha se jeħilsu mill-martirju li jkunu għaddejjin minnu. Insemmilek biss li ftit snin ilu kien hemm każ ta' tifel ta' 14-il sena li jħoss l-elementi femminili. Ma ridux li din tintbagħat fi skola tal-bniet. Spiċċat kellha tgħaddi minn proċessi twal ta' konsulenzi ma' psikjatri, u psikoloġi biex joħroġ ċertifikat importanti li jikkonferma l-identità tagħha bħala transesswali."

Ma tistax ma tistaqsihiex fuq it-trattament fuq il-post tax-xo­għol u hi tgħid, "ifhimni ma tesperjenzax dak li tkun esperjenzajt l-iskej­jel. Fuq il-post tax-xogħol aktar sottili. Imma tinduna li jżommuk 'il bogħod minn kuntatt man-nies. Li jdejjaqni hu li kien hemm ċerti sidien li riedu li persuni trans jibqgħu jilbsu l-istess bħal qabel, allavolja kienu fil-proċess li jagħ­m­lu l-operazzjoni. Li ngħid jien hu li t-trans trid tagħmillu ambjent li fih iħossu komdu, ħalli jagħtik l-aħjar xogħol. Jekk persuna tkun tħossha komda bil-ġisem ta' mara u tkun trid tilbes ta' mara, ħalliha."

Daħlet l-isptar u poġġewha fis-sala tal-irġiel

L-istess persuna qaltilna li "naf persuna trans, li tgħid li anke fiżikament hi mara minħabba l-ormoni li tieħu. X'ġara meta kellha bżonn tagħmel ftit jiem fl-Isptar Mater Dei? Poġ­ġewha f'sala tal-irġiel. Din umiljazzjoni sħi­ħa, l-aktar waqt il-ħin tal-viżti tat-tobba u l-konsulenti. Fl-isptar m'hemm ebda politika dwar fejn jitpoġġew dawn il-persuni. Naħseb li din għandha tinbidel".

"Inweġġgħa b'kummenti li jagħmlu ċerti professuri…jgħidu li xorta bqajt raġel"

L-istess persuna qaltilna li "nifhem li min mhux bħalna, se jsibha diffiċli jifhimna. Ċertu lingwaġġ naħseb li wieħed irid joqgħod attent kif jagħmlu, b'mod partikolari ċerti professjonisti. Dan l-aħħar ġiet f'idi xhieda li taw fil-Qorti ċerti tobba u speċjalisti f'każ ta' persuna transesswali. Dak li qalu jweġ­ġa' ħafna lill-persuni trans. Per eżempju t-Tabib Michael Axiaq, fix-xiehda qal, li "wara operazzjoni ta' gender reassigment, persuna tkun baqgħet tal-istess sess bħal qabel. Ikun inbidel biss il-kontenut parzjali anatomiku ta' l-organi sesswali bil-kirurġija u l-kontenut kimiku tal-ormoni bil-mediċini li jridu jingħataw kontinwament".

Tgħidilna li "l-Professur Cuschieri jgħid li 'permezz tal-ope­razzjoni ta' tibdil ta' sess minn raġel għal mara, l-organi sesswali interni ma jitbiddlux u ma ssirx kostruzzjoni ta' organi interni femminili. Il-fiżiku ġene­rali jibqa' dak ta' raġel. Lanqas ma jinbidel is-sess ġenetiku – transesswaliżmu jirriżulta f'diż­gwid bejn il-perċezzjoni ta' persuna fil-forma fiżika tagħha mas-sess attwali. L-operazzjoni ta' bdil ta' sess hi biss proċedura kożmetika li tibdel biss l-organi ġenitali esterni iżda ma tibdilx u ma talterax is-sess bijoloġiku attwali tal-individwu".

Malta Today: The liberal anomaly: a 'Ġrajja Maltija'
26.10.10 by James Debono

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

Independent: Embryo freezing offensive
22.10.10? by Elaine Attard

The Malta Gay Rights Movement and the pro-life organisation Gift of Life, reacted to the report on assisted procreation made public by a parliamentary select committee last Monday.

While the GoL finds the proposal of embryo freezing offensive against human life and urged MPs to reject the recommendations presented in the report, the MGRM stated that prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting frozen embryos might be in breach of their human rights.

According to GoL, the proposal to allow the freezing of fertilised human embryos, as part of a possible future law regulating IVF treatment in Malta is both unethical and inconsistent with a pro-life culture.

It constitutes a grave offence against human life in its most fragile stage of development and is morally offensive, it said. The pro-life NGO went into detail in a position paper on why it is unethical to store human embryos indefinitely.

Human life should be respected at all stages and the value and the dignity of human life should not diminish according to the person's stage of life, it said.

GoL proposed to all MPs to enact a future law that adequately respects human life from conception.

On the other hand MGRM welcomed the idea of providing access to IVF to cohabiting couples in stable relationships. However it criticised the report for going against the principles of equal treatment as established by the European Court of Human Rights.

The decision to restrict assisted reproduction services to couples is inconsistent with the government's current legislation and policy with respect to fostering and adoption, both of which allow individuals to apply as single parents, MGRM said, while it raised a number of considerations in a statement. The MGRM urged the government to ensure that any legislation enacted is inclusive and respectful of international human rights principles as enshrined in various treaties and conventions and to provide equal treatment to all its citizens, particularly in access to health services.

Malta Today: US Military to accept openly gay recruits
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Openly gay American recruits can now sign up to play soldier - following a federal court ruling striking down the "don't ask, don't tell" law, under the caution that they can still be discharged should the ruling be overturned.

A Pentagon memo signed by Clifford Stanley, undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, gave gay recruits the green light to begin the enrollment processes but should be told what could lie in store as "a certain amount of uncertainty now exists about the future of the 'don't ask, don't tell' law."

He stated that, "during the process, they (recruiters) will say, 'You have to be mindful that this could be overturned.'" In reaction, the Marine Corps issued a directive to recruiters Tuesday to the effect that "homosexual conduct, by itself, is not currently considered a bar to accession."

Advocates for repealing the policy warned gays interested in serving to be cautious, warning them against “coming out now” in case it can be used against them by the Pentagon in the future - said the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, has said most Marines oppose reversing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which permits gays to serve as long as they are not open about their homosexuality. Critics have slammed reversing the policy because it could hurt the effectiveness of troops during war. Conway added that opposition to homosexuals serving openly is particularly strong within combat units.

On the memo, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith, said the suspension of "don't ask, don't tell" is in response to the September 9 decision of a central California federal judge that ruled the law implemented under President Clinton in 1993 was unconstitutional.

The judge, Virginia Phillips, on Tuesday denied a government request to delay her order, media reported. The Justice Department said the Obama administration will appeal to the appellate court in San Francisco.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was also reported to have ordered a task force to investigate the consequences of repealing the policy. Results are due on December 1. President Obama supports legislation to end the policy.

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

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Times: Gay couples too are human
Sunday, 17th October 2010 by Ken Cowan, Paris, France

Mr J. Bonett Balzan wrote a letter defending marriage and the family (The Sunday Times, October 3).

Strangely, he began with a snide, bigoted comment about how, luckily, the Maltese were not forced to host the German Foreign Minister’s male partner during an official visit.

He doesn’t seem to understand that, despite traditional attitudes, we are talking about people, not theological hypotheses.

Whether Mr Bonett Balzan likes it or not, the German Minister’s partner is his family.

More to the point, many men or women have married and had children before realising their homosexuality and divorcing.

So, again, despite Church grumblings, the fact is that many homosexuals are parents via ‘natural’ methods.

And of course, many people end up with homosexual children, not to mention gay aunts and uncles.

Homosexuals are not from some distant planet – just because someone is gay it doesn’t suddenly mean he is no longer part of a family.

Mr Bonett Balzan goes on to quote the Pope, who said: “It is a principle... that the human being should be protected precisely in situations of weakness; the human person always takes priority over other aims”.

How strange, then, to condemn gay couples as if they aren’t human, as if they don’t also form long-lasting loving relationships, as if they do not also have the right to a priority called respect.

And why shouldn’t they be protected from a legally weaker position? Perhaps it is time to remember Jesus’ words about not casting the first stone.

I find nothing particularly ‘Christian’ in these comments by people who forget that he told us not to judge others but to love.

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

Malta Today: Human rights court slams Moscow’s ban on gay parades
Thursday, October 21, 2010

The European Court of Human Rights has condemned the city of Moscow for violating the rights of gays and lesbians when it enacted bans in 2006, 2007 and 2008, on gay pride events simply because it disapproved of homosexuality.

The court it ordered Moscow to pay event organizers €29,510 ($41,300) for damages and court costs.

The ruling orders Russia to respect human rights. Should it not, it faces ejection from the Council of Europe, the organization to which the rights court belongs.

The court's action coinciding on the same day that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's chief of staff was named the new mayor of Moscow – replacing Yuri Luzhkov, who was removed by President Dmitry Medvedev last month after 18 years in office.

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

Malta Today: Banning sperm, egg donation will stop gay couples from becoming parents – MGRM

NATIONAL Thursday, October 21, 2010; By Matthew Vella

MGRM: "The decision to provide access to assisted reproduction treatments to cohabiting couples in stable relationships is most welcome, the fact that this has been limited to heterosexual couples is discriminatory."

Malta Gay Rights Movement says limiting IVF to heterosexual couples goes against principle of equal treatment.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement has raised objections to a report by the parliamentary select committee on assisted reproduction, that limits IVF to heterosexual couples only.

Referring to the banning of sperm and egg donation by third parties, Calleja said this directly affects the possibility of single women as well as same-sex couples of becoming parents and is therefore deplored.

Calleja added that the suggestion that individuals who undertake fertility treatment abroad could be obliged by law to register the donation of sperm in Malta, raised serious human rights concerns particularly with respect to the right to private and family life.

"While the decision to provide access to assisted reproduction treatments to cohabiting couples in stable relationships is most welcome, the fact that this has been limited to heterosexual couples is discriminatory and goes against the principles of equal treatment as established by the European Court of Human Rights," spokesperson Gabi Calleja said.

Calleja was referring to the case of Schalk and Kopf against the Austrian government, which held that same sex couples living in a stable relationship constitute family life. In other cases, states like Austria and Poland had acted in violation of article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) when they treated cohabiting same-sex couples differently from cohabiting opposite-sex couples.

"The decision to restrict assisted reproduction services to couples is inconsistent with the government's current legislation and policy with respect to fostering and adoption both of which allow individuals to apply as single parent," Calleja said.

The MGRM said it supports the recommendation to allow the freezing of embryos, but disagrees with any pressure on the parents to make use of all the embryos frozen. "Any such obligation would be an infringement of the CEDAW convention which establishes the right for women to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children… (Article 16.e)."

"The MGRM therefore urges government to ensure that any legislation enacted is inclusive and respectful of international human rights principles as enshrined in various treaties and conventions and to provide equal treatment to all its citizens, particularly in access to health services."

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

Di-ve: Assisted reproduction legislation should be inclusive, MGRM insists

21 October 2010;

Although a step forward, the Parliamentary Select Committee's report on assisted reproduction is discriminatory against same-sex couples, contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights, the Malta Gay Rights Movement said on Thursday.

The report suggests the provision access to assisted reproduction treatments to married couples and cohabiting heterosexual couples in "stable relationships".

The MGRM said that while providing access to cohabiting couples was welcome, preventing it to same-sex couples was discriminatory. It noted that in the Schalk and Kopf v. Austria, the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that same-sex couples living in a stable relationship constituted family life, and other cases found that states acted in violation of anti-discrimination principles when they treated cohabiting same-sex couples differently from heterosexual ones.

It also noted that restricting assisted reproduction services to couples was also inconsistent with the government's current legislation, which allows individuals to apply as single parents. Moreover, banning the donation of gametes by third parties directly affected the possibility of single women and same-sex couples to become parents.

The movement backed the recommendation to allow the freezing of embryos, but disagreed with any pressure on the parents to make use of all the embryos frozen. It said that such pressure went against the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which established "the right for women to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children".

The MGRM also expressed concern on the suggestion that those who undertake fertility treatment abroad could be obliged to register the donation of sperm in Malta, noting that this raised serious human rights concerns, particularly with respect to the right to private and family life.

It therefore urged government to ensure that any legislated enacted is "inclusive and respectful of international human rights principles".

Parliamentary Question on legislation for the recognition of same-sex couples by MP Evarist Bartolo

16.10.2010 by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM)

A Parliamentary Question asked by Opposition MP Evarist Bartolo received a blunt and dismissive reply by Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici in Parliament yesterday. MP Bartolo asked when the Maltese Parliament would put forward a clear signal that equal rights to same-sex couples cannot be held back by people hiding behind religious beliefs and prejudice. MP Bartolo mentioned the case of Ireland, where the Irish media recently carried this headline:"Irish politicians have passed a bill granting gay and lesbians couples the right to civil partnerships. The bill passed in the Dail yesterday without a vote and justice minister Dermot Ahern said the move reflected change in Irish society"

The Minister's reply was that what happens in foreign countries should have no effect on Malta, and that Maltese legislation and policies are not drafted based on what takes place abroad.

The full version of the Parliamentary Question is reproduced, in Maltese, below:

Legislatura XI Kategorija ORAL Mistoqsija Numru: 19152 Data: 05/07/2010
Seduta: 258 - 05/10/2010 06:00 PM
Titlu: Repubblika tal-Irlanda

L-Onorevoli EVARIST BARTOLO staqsa lill-Onorevoli CARMELO MIFSUD BONNICI (Ministru tal-Gustizzja u l-Intern):

Peress li fil-bidu ta’ Lulju 2010 l-istampa tar-Repubblika tal-Irlanda rrappurtat li: "Irish politicians have passed a bill granting gay and lesbians couples the right to civil partnerships. The bill passed in the Dail yesterday without a vote and justice minister Dermot Ahern said the move reflected change in Irish society", jista' l-Ministru jghid meta hemm il-hsieb li jitressaq abbozz ta’ ligi simili fil-Parlament Malti u jghaddi wkoll bla vot kif ghadda fir-Repubblika Irlandiza biex ma jkunx hemm min juza r-religjon u l-pregudizzji omofobici biex dawn il-persuni jibqghu mcahhda mid-drittijiet umani shah?

Ma jidhirlix li l-kejl tal-ligijiet li jghaddu mill-Parlament Malti ghandu jkun jiddependi minn dak li jigri f'Parlamenti barranin.

MGRM: Assisted Reproduction

21.10.10; Gaby Calleja

It is the position of MGRM, borne out by human rights experts, that: "(e)veryone has the right to found a family, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Families exist in diverse forms. No family may be subjected to discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity of any of its members (Yogyakarta Principles, 24) ." This implies that States should: "Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure the right to found a family, including through access to adoption or assisted procreation (including donor insemination), without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."

Following the publication of the Select Committee's report on Assisted Reproduction the Malta Gay Rights Movement is raising the following considerations:

- while the decision to provide access to assisted reproduction treatments to cohabiting couples in stable relationships is most welcome, the fact that this has been limited to heterosexual couples is discriminatory and goes against the principles of equal treatment as established by the European Court of Human Rights, which in the case of Schalk and Kopf v. Austria held that same sex couples living in a stable relationship constitute family life and in a number of other cases held that states acted in violation of article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) when they treated cohabiting same-sex couples differently from cohabiting opposite-sex couples (P.B. and J.S. v. Austria; Karner v. Austria; & Kozak v. Poland);

- the decision to restrict assisted reproduction services to couples is inconsistent with the government's current legislation and policy with respect to fostering and adoption both of which allow individuals to apply as single parents;

- banning of donation of gametes by third parties directly effects the possibility of single women as well as same-sex couples of becoming parents and is therefore deplored;

- the MGRM supports the select committee's recommendation to allow the freezing of embryos but disagrees with any pressure on the parents to make use of all the embryos frozen. Any such obligation would be an infringement of the CEDAW convention which establishes "the right for women to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children…" (Article 16.e).

- while the title of the document refers to assisted reproduction the proposals focus almost entirely on IVF. It is unclear how and to what extent the proposals refer to and will have an effect on such treatment as artificial insemination;

- the suggestion that individuals who undertake fertility treatment abroad could be obliged by law to register the donation of sperm in Malta raises serious human rights concerns particularly with respect to the right to private and family life (Article 8 ECHR).

The MGRM therefore urges government to ensure that any legislation enacted is inclusive and respectful of international human rights principles as enshrined in various treaties and conventions and to provide equal treatment to all its citizens, particularly in access to health services.

Pink News: Major Legal Victory for Russian Gay Rights Campaigners
By Jessica Geen • October 21, 2010 - 11:00

Bans on Moscow Pride were found to be against international human rights laws (Photo: Chad Meacham)
Bans on Moscow Pride were found to be against international human rights laws (Photo: Chad Meacham)

Gay rights activists in Russia are celebrating after the European Court of Human Rights today upheld three complaints over Moscow’s ban on gay Pride marches.

Russian gay rights leader Nikolai Alekseev complained to the court that the parade bans in 2006, 2007 and 2008 breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court agreed and ordered Russia was to pay to Mr Alekseev 12,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 17,510 euros for costs and expenses.

The city’s last mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, repeatedly banned the marches on pretexts of health and safety and has called gays and lesbians “satanic”.

Since 2006, campaigners have attempted to hold the events but these were broken up by police.

In May 2006, more than 120 people were arrested and in 2007, British gay activist Peter Tatchell was severely beaten by neo-Nazis. In 2008, marchers accused police of brutality.

Today’s victory comes after years of legal attempts to hold Pride marches.

The ruling said: “The main reason for the bans on the gay marches had been the authorities’ disapproval of demonstrations which, they considered, promoted homosexuality.

“In particular, the court could not disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the Moscow mayor and the undeniable link between those statements and the bans.

“Consequently, the court found that, as the government had not justified their bans in a way compatible with the Convention requirements, Mr Alekseev had suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation.”

Speaking to UK Gay News, Mr Alekseev said: “This decision is a major victory for us because no judge, no lawyer and no politician will any longer be able to tell us that the bans of our events were lawful.”

He added: “The decision is the first judicial blow for former mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov who declared on several occasions that gay Pride organisers and participants were satanic, weapons of mass destruction and faggots.”

He added that October 21st would be celebrated in the future as Russian LGBT Liberation Day.

London-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell added: “This ruling is a major rebuke to the disgraced former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, and to his authoritarian allies in the Russian government.

“It is a huge embarrassment to the top Russian leaders, Putin and Medvedev, as well as to Luzhkov. Their suppression of peaceful gay pride parades has been declared illegal.”

He added: “This is an astonishing victory. Nikolai and his small band of daring LGBT activists have taken on the might of the Russian state – and won.”

Russia may still contest the ruling if it wishes.

Mr Luzhkov was sacked as mayor of Moscow last month.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comment on the Pink News' website.]

Friday, 22 October 2010

Times: IVF proposals may breach human rights – gay movement

Offering artificial fertilisation to unmarried heterosexual couples but prohibiting it for same-sex couples may breach human rights, according to the Malta Gay Rights Movement.

But Nationalist MP Jean Pierre Farrugia, who heads the parliamentary committee making this proposal, said opening IVF to gay couples would have been "impossible".

The MGRM is arguing it will be "very difficult" to legally discriminate between gay and heterosexual cohabiting couples, even on such an issue.

MGRM chairman Gabi Calleja said European case law had declared gay couples as "constituting family life" on the same level as cohabiting heterosexual couples, so there was "no valid human rights basis to deny this access".

Her logic was backed up by former European Court of Human Rights judge, Giovanni Bonello. However, he pointed out things could be viewed differently in the case of complex issues such as artificial fertilisation.

"Although the principle is that you cannot discriminate between homosexual and heterosexual cohabiting couples with things like inheritance and rent, I'm not sure whether the same rule will be applicable where family-oriented issues arise."

He said he did not think this had been challenged at ECHR level yet, so it would be difficult to give a definitive answer until there was a relevant ruling available.

The MGRM's criticism of the recommendation does not stop at the view it may breach human rights. Ms Calleja also pointed out it was "contradictory" for the state to allow single people the chance to adopt children but not allow single people to seek IVF.

"The state is already acknowledging that single parenting is possible and acceptable. So I think there's a contradiction there."

She said if the report was adopted it would send a very negative message that families with same-sex parents should not exist. "But, in effect, they do and should be treated in an equal manner," she stressed, adding there was no research showing that same-sex parenting had a negative impact on children.

The parliamentary committee's recommendation report, which had to decide on issues of eligibility, embryo freezing and donation of gametes, was published on Tuesday.

It suggested IVF treatment should be financed by the state to make it accessible to all infertile couples and that freezing of embryos should be permitted.

However, it did not accept the donation of sperm and ova by third parties. This is the main reason why IVF cannot be offered to single people or gay couples.

Dr Farrugia said due to "economies of scale" and a strict EU directive, it would be very difficult for Malta to provide the facilities to donate gametes. "Basically, at the moment we don't have the option of donation of gametes and for gay couples that's already a problem. If you can't get a gamete donated, a gay couple can never have a child."

He added that the committee's brief was to choose between giving this option to a married couple and opening it up to stable unmarried couples. "It wasn't in our remit to provide it to a single person," he said, adding, that the committee had, however, argued against surrogacy because the point of the legislation was to provide IVF to infertile couples rather than fertile couples who required artificial fertilisation to conceive.

However, Dr Farrugia, who drew up the report with MP Frans Agius and Labour MP Michael Farrugia, pointed out that their recommendations also had to be "achievable" and acceptable to the rest of the MPs.

"At the end of the day, politics is the art of the possible. It was impossible to try to go further. It's already difficult this way. If we tried to go further in one go it would have been impossible."

He said he was sorry the needs of gay people could not be met but pointed out that the MGRM never provided written submissions to this effect.

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

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Times: US appeals ruling authorising gay marriage
Thursday, 14th October 2010; AFP

The Obama Administration appealed a federal judge’s ruling giving the state of Massachusetts the right to authorise gay marriage.

In July, Boston-based US District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the 1996 federal law known as the Defence of Marriage Act (Doma), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, “imposes an unconstitutional condition on the receipt of federal funding”.

In its court filing, Justice Department lawyers said it was appealing the ruling and that its arguments would be presented in November.

Congress “has exceeded the scope of its authority” in passing the law, which limits marriage to men and women,”Judge Tauro wrote in his ruling.

The authority “to regulate marital status is a sovereign attribute of statehood” and not the federal government, he added.

The judge found that gay couples in Massachusetts, the first state to authorise gay marriage, must be granted the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to issues like health insurance.

Only six of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia – the US capital – currently allow gay marriage in the US.

Referenda on allowing gay marriage have been held in 31 US states, but all have failed to be approved.

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

Times: The horses have evidently bolted
Tuesday, 12th October 2010 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

One of the more horrendous modes of execution devised by man was to be sewn in a sack with a rabid dog and a snake and thrown into the sea. In a country like ours, where dogs are found hanged and burnt alive, such unspeakable tortures are but one step away. We are not the faithful law-abiding and, above all, God-fearing island nation we like to think we are. In us lies this sadistic streak that forms vicious gangs in Paceville that harass the unwary, sick minds that wantonly destroy public and private property and which are supported by an omertà that fosters and protects institutionalised corruption eating away at the core of Maltese society as we speak. We are not the people that welcomed St Paul in 60AD, described in the Acts of the Apostles as warm and kind.

We suffer from a deep rooted xenophobia that allows us to look the other way while immigrants drown.

We joined the EU and, yet, when, last week in Parliament, Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici was questioned about civil partnerships for same sex couples by Evarist Bartolo, the issue was curtly dismissed by Dr Mifsud Bonnici who said that what went on in Europe and, hence, the rest of the world, was of no relevance to Malta, which underlines the fact we live in an isolated hiatus where even the mere discussion of civil liberties is destined to be stillborn.

I am sure many will agree that being trapped in a marriage that has failed, irretrievably and irrevocably, is tantamount to being sewn up in a sack with a rabid dog and a snake.

This is why people simply separate and have been doing so for decades. We are so used to it that nobody bats an eyelid anymore. We have been cohabiting openly for decades and having babies out of wedlock too without much fuss.

People of the same sex have been living together for years. In fact, a close examination of our society reveals that, contrary to what one thinks, we are pretty tolerant and open. What then, one may ask, is causing all the hoohah about divorce? What is bringing all the reactionaries out of the closet?

The divorce issue is but the thin end of the wedge. Once it becomes part of our legal system it will pave the way for other issues, the lack of which relegates a great many of us to the rank of second-class citizens, to become law. Divorce, once enacted, will break the deadlock that keeps us in thrall to the moral diktats of one particular religion that, despite its protestations to the contrary, is constitutionally allowed to call the shots by those in whose interest it is to do so.

Malta is run by a very powerful elite, the membership requirements of which are to be white, openly Catholic, in a stable marriage with a woman with two to four children and, possibly, owning a dog too and maybe a lover hidden in the wings. Legally but not socially, all other variations and combinations on this blueprint are regarded with a jaundiced eye.

As time passes, this elite becomes smaller, more exclusive and fiercely defensive as are the big shots within the Curia like the Pro Vicar and the Judicial Vicar, both of whom have issued fatwas to all and sundry not to support divorce in any way under pain of mortal sin.

Mgr Arthur Said Pullicino's homily during Mass marking the start of the forensic year reads more like a diatribe warning that anyone who in any way advocates or supports the introduction of divorce in Malta is committing a grave sin.

The Judicial Vicar went one step further by exhorting the Maltese judiciary to be conscientious objectors and desist from taking part in divorce proceedings should divorce legislation be enacted, which is a direct challenge to what will then be civil law, which our judiciary is constitutionally bound to uphold.

What the Judicial Vicar wants is for the law courts and, hence, Parliament to be an extension of the Curia rendering the President to the role of chief fund-raiser for a Church that has now openly declared itself to be in financial difficulties. What's next? A Church tax?

The fundamental freedoms of a secular society are simply not there to defend. They have not been conceived, let alone born. In a country that does not allow condoms to be sold on campus, presumably because students are strictly chaste, enactment of these laws is deemed to be unnecessary and the occasion of sin. Therefore, like the proverbial ostrich, the government argues that it is against divorce because it wants to strengthen the institution of marriage, which is rather like closing the stable door after the horses have bolted. The same government feels it can keep people happy by implementing cohabitation laws, which, in all truth, engender legal loopholes the size of Etna's crater.

Cohabitation, in my opinion, is a far greater social evil than divorce and yet, unsurprisingly, the elite have kept mum about it, which convinces me all the more that the objection to divorce has nothing to do with morality, Christian or otherwise, but is all about the retention of power at all costs and nothing else.

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

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

MaltaToday: Gay applicant turned down by Air Malta over 'nonchalant attitude', improper dress

Tuesday, October 12, 2010; By Rachel Zammit Cutajar

Ombudsman turns down complaint by gay employee who claimed discrimination in Air Malta pilots' training selection.

This was one of the selected cases from the Annual Report of 2009 issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.

An Air Malta employee lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman that he was subjected to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when he was not selected for ab initio pilot training.

The complainant was aggrieved by this decision because besides the qualifications he possessed in engineering, he had also been employed with the airline in the engineering department for several years and he was also in possession of a private pilot's licence.

His application to the training course was declined in January 2007 in favour of other candidates even though he claimed he was the best qualified for the job. When he sought an explanation he found that he was turned down by the selection board for two reasons. The first was that he was "improperly dressed" and that he was "over-confident and nonchalant" during his interview.

During his investigations, the Ombudsman found that the panel of management pilots unanimously rejected the complainant's application because of his "nonchalant" and "over-relaxed attitude" in comparison to the business-like attitude of the other candidates. "They expressed surprise at the allegation of discrimination, especially since they were unaware of the candidate's sexual orientation at the time of the interview," the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman turned down the complaint, claiming there was no clear evidence to sustain the complainant was subjected to discrimination due to his sexual orientation. "There was no reason to doubt the declaration of the selection board that they were unaware of the complainant's sexual orientation at the time of the interview."

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

Monday, 11 October 2010

Times: Life - Cyberbullying pushes people over the edge
Published 10.10.10; 15:53; AFP

[Click here to watch the video.]

The shocking death of a college freshman in the United States has cast a spotlight on new and vicious forms of harassment which harness the invasive and omnipresent reach of the Internet.

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Clementi leapt to his death from a New York bridge last week after his sex encounter with another man was broadcast over the Internet, allegedly by fellow students.

Sophisticated technology, social networking sites and a culture of tell-all disclosure have combined to fuel a new level of cyberbullying -- often targeting homosexual youngsters.

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

Times: Recognition of same-sex relationships
Sunday, 10th October 2010; Bernard Muscat, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Mosta

Mr J. Bonett Balzan (The Sunday Times, October 3) heaved a sigh of relief when acknowledging that the official visit of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle did not involve also accommodating his male partner.

Heaven forbid Malta would ever have to bow so low as to consider same-sex partners of foreign dignitaries, or of anyone at all for that matter, as equal to any opposite-sex partners they may have!

As with most people building a flimsy case against same-sex relationships, Mr Bonnett Balzan takes the Church as his standard-bearer and blindly repeats its admonishments on the matter. We are told Pope Benedict said that “the Church cannot approve alternative models of the family”.

That is unfortunate, albeit hardly surprising – but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are not looking at the Church to bless their relationships, and neither are most other people, really.

Recognition of human relationships is a yarn for thestate to untangle – not for religions to choose to approve or disapprove of.

Moreover, the arguments about alternative family forms “weakening the principles of marriage” are as old as they are stale and baseless.

I suspect that Mr Bonett Balzan’s assumptions on same-sex relationships do not stem from real-life experiences, but from repeated traditions that human beings find so hard to challenge.

So if a few decades ago, gay people were looked upon as weird and were thought of as being repulsive to think of – let alone to consider befriending and accepting as equal – then those same outdated beliefs may persist today because they have not been actively challenged.

It is clearly much easier to fall in line with traditional beliefs than to try to build one’s own.

Another important point was overlooked in Mr Bonett Balzan’s letter. By opposing equal rights for same-sex couples, one is not protecting marriage.

Recognition of same-sex couples is not yet a reality in Malta, but a number of so-called ‘traditional marriages’ are still sadly disintegrating. Surely nobody can be so naïve, or so delusory to themselves and others, as to assume that traditional relationships are suffering because of the recognition of same-sex ones!

As to his reference to homosexual people in the Nazi regime, Mr Bonett Balzan should know that gay people were also one of the favourite targets of the Nazis. It is estimated that around 15,000 men died in concentration camps, with their only charge being that of being gay.

Gay inmates were forced to wear a pink triangle on their jackets to distinguish them from other detainees. The link of the colour pink with the gay community persists to this day, although very few are aware of its gruesome origins.

Mr Bonett Balzan’s haste to throw mud at LGBT people also has him accuse them of ‘flaunting’ their sexuality. That is just about as ridiculous as if I were to accuse a colleague of mine of flaunting his left-handedness when he signs a document.

There is nothing to flaunt. LGBT people live their lives regularly, just like their peers and siblings who are straight, with the only difference being that they have to struggle daily to be accepted as equal. The problem, in reality, is not same-sex attraction. It is the lies we have been taught about it.

Finally, if I feel like holding my partner’s hand – perhaps while walking shoulder to shoulder with my own brother as he holds his girlfriend’s – I will very well do so.

I apologise if I don’t rush to ask Mr Bonett Balzan for his righteous approval. He may choose to stare in astonishment, cover his eyes or scurry away in horror – but that’s his call.

If the thought of two adults in a committed and loving relationship makes him shudder, then that is very, very sad indeed.

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

Saturday, 9 October 2010

NCR: Catholics face 'mutiny' over teachings on gay marriage
National Catholic Reporter (NCR)
Oct. 04, 201;By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Members of the Knights of Columbus arrive at a rally in support of California's Proposition 8 at a football stadium in San Diego Nov. 1, 2009. (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

WASHINGTON -- For 13 years, Fr. Joseph Palacios lived, prayed, and studied with the Jesuits. But he left the Roman Catholic order in 2005 because he would not profess a vow of obedience to the pope.

“I felt that I could still be a Catholic priest,” Palacios said, “but I could not deal with that kind of scrutiny and command from the top.”

Now, the 59-year-old priest and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic university, is again at odds with the church’s hierarchy, this time on one of its signature issues: the definition of marriage.

In recent years, Catholic bishops have used their moral influence and deep pockets to push for bans on same-sex unions in states from California to Maine.

But a new corps of increasingly vocal Catholics is urging a “mutiny” against the hierarchy, in the words of one activist, particularly on gay marriage and related matters.

For example, on Sept. 14, Palacios and other advocates launched Catholics for Equality, a group that aims to persuade believers in the “movable middle” to defy the bishops and support civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

Similarly, on Wednesday, Sept. 29 four Catholic groups with a combined 112 years of activism on gay issues announced the formation of Equally Blessed, a coalition dedicated to providing a voice for “faithful, pro-equality” Catholics.

Also this week, a mailing of 400,000 DVDs sent to every registered Catholic family in Minnesota, explaining the church’s position on marriage sparked a “Return the DVD” campaign; a Catholic artist pledged to make a sculpture with discarded discs.

The “defense of marriage” is a top priority for the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, which formed a special committee last year to promote church teachings through mailings, videos, and political activism. The committee’s $418,000 annual budget will be bankrolled by the Knights of Columbus through 2011.

“Much of the public discussion has been focused on rights,” said Andrew Lichtenwalner, a program specialist for the bishops’ marriage committee. “What the bishops are doing is teaching about the unique meaning and purpose of marriage, which has been missing from the conversation.”

Palacios, who teaches sociology at Georgetown, says surveys show Catholics “are more accepting of LGBT people than any other Christian group.” He cited a May 2010 Gallup Poll in which 62 percent of Catholics said gay and lesbian relationship are “morally acceptable” -- a 16 percent increase from just four years ago.

Other polls show Catholics are more ambivalent about gay marriage and adoption by gay couples, both of which the bishops oppose.

Catholic gay-rights supporters have been emboldened by the example of nuns who bucked the bishops by supporting the health-care overhaul Congress passed last March, said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, one of the groups involved in Equally Blessed.

“People are using that as a touchstone,” he said. “They see that the nuns were courageous and they feel like they can be courageous. Courage is contagious.”

But one man’s courage is another’s heresy, and the bishops are keen to quell dissent within the church.

The artist who suggested the DVD sculpture has been suspended from her artist-in-residence job at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Groups such as New Ways have been deemed inauthentic Catholics. Last week, the bishops’ doctrine committee issued a sharp, point-by-point rebuke of a book by two theologians that challenged church teaching on sexuality. Priests who support gay marriage have been silenced or removed from ministry.

Palacios, who is openly gay, says he knows the risks and has been careful not to give the impression that he speaks for the church. He said he rarely wears a cleric’s collar in public, and his biographies on the websites of Georgetown and Catholics for Equality omit references to his ordination. Palacios also said he is not advocating against church dogma -- just its political positions on gay issues.

But Catholic leaders say there is no wiggle room between the two, and Palacios is shirking his priestly duties.

“The role of a priest is to help people understand more deeply the teachings of the church,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, where Palacios works, “not to simply move with the winds of secular culture.”

As is common practice in the church, Palacios was given priestly faculties -—sanction to perform the sacraments -- when he moved to Washington from Los Angeles, where he was ordained, Gibbs said. Gibbs said she raised questions with Los Angeles officials last year after Palacios testified in favor of gay marriage before Washington’s city council.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said of Palacios’ advocacy: “We are now aware of it and are assessing his participation” in Catholics for Equality.

Georgetown University, which has been criticized for employing a priest who advocates against church teachings, said Palacios was hired to teach part-time on the merits of his credentials, “not based on any affiliation he may have with external organizations that is conducted in a personal capacity.”

Thursday, 7 October 2010

L-Orizzont: Adozzjoni minn LGBT
5.10.10 minn GABI CALLEJA, MGRM

Sur Editur,

F’artiklu ppublikat fis-27 ta’ Settembru, 2010, Kevin Mercieca ttratta s-suġġett tal-adozzjoni tat-tfal minn persuni LGBT. Għamel diversi asserzjonijiet fosthom li fa­mil­ja fejn il-koppja hi tal-istess sess ma tikkostitwix amb­jent normali, kif ukoll li dawn il-familji jkollhom effett negattiv fuq it-tfal. Ir-riċerka qiegħda dejjem turi li dak li qal is-Sur Mercieca, fil-verità, mhux minnu. Il-fatt hu li tfal li jitt­rab­bew f’familji fejn il-koppja hi tal-istess sess jiżviluppaw bl-istess mod ta’ tfal imrobbijin minn koppja eterosesswali. Għalkemm fa­mil­ji fejn il-ġeni­tu­ri tal-istess sess mhumiex daq­shekk komuni, ma jfissirx li l-ambjent ta’ darhom mhux­ nor­mali u lanqas li wliedhom se jkunu b’xi mod żvan­taġġ­ja­ti.

Punti importanti li qajjimt waqt il-programm “Sfera” li għalih irrefera s-Sur Mercieca hu li dawn il-familji diġà jeżistu. Persuni LGBT m’għan­d­­hom bżonn tal-ebda leġiż­lazz­joni biex isiru ġenituri. Hi dejjem deċiż­joni tal-individwu jew tal-koppja, hekk kif inhi għal persuni jew koppji eterosesswali. L-ebda stat ma jista’ jinnega din il-possibilità liċ-ċittadini LGBT mingħajr ma jikser id-drittijiet fundamentali tal-bniedem. Il-kwistjoni tal-adozz­joni, l-aktar dik li nsejħu ‘second parent adoption’ hi għalhekk bżonn li toħ­roġ minn din ir-realtà. La l-Istat ma jistax jisterilizza lil kull persuna LGBT li tixtieq li jkollha t-tfal jew li joħroġ ‘care order’ fuq tfal imwelldin lil ġenituri LGBT sempliċement għax huma LGBT, l-unika soluzzjoni li verament tħa­res l-interessi tat-tfal f’din iċ-ċirkostanza hi li l-Istat jirrikonoxxi l-persuni li qed irabbu lil dawn it-tfal. Din tin­volvi li l-ġenitur mhux bijo­lo­ġi­ku, ikun jista’ jadotta t-tfal tal-‘partner’.

Liġi bħal din hi importanti biex tħares il-jeddijiet ta’ dawn it-tfal, kemm fil-ħajja ta’ kuljum kif ukoll f’okkaż­jonijiet straordinarji. Pere­żem­p­ju jekk it-tfal jiġu bżonn kura medika waqt li l-ġenitur bijoloġiku jinsab imsiefer; jew anke sempliċement biex iku­nu jistgħu jiġbru t-tfal mill-is­ko­la u jattendu attivitajiet mar­butin mal-edukazzjoni tat-tfal. Fil-każ li jkunu ma jifil­ħux, il-ġenitur mhux bijoloġiku ma jkunx intitolat għal Urgent Family Leave, għad-detriment tat-tifel jew it-tifla.

Għalhekk, waqt li kul­ħadd għandu dritt għal opinjoni, jekk verament nemmnu li l-interess tat-tfal jiġi l-ewwel, allura l-adozzjoni tat-tfal minn persuni LGBT hi sempliċement konsegwenza naturali tal-eżistenza ta’ dawn il-fa­milji, bl-ebda mod kon­­­tro­vers­ja­li, u li din il-leġiż­lazz­jo­ni għandha tiddaħħal illum qabel għada.

Change: After suicides, Mormon leader rants against gays


Stand up to Mormon leaders who spread LGBT intolerance

Sign the Petition

Dear Member,

The recent suicides of several gay teenagers have made national headlines. Yet this is the moment – of all moments – that a top Mormon leader decides to broadcast a verbal rampage against gays to millions of viewers.

Boyd K. Packer, the second-highest leader in the Mormon Church, said in a sermon broadcast to millions this week that same-sex attraction is "impure and unnatural" and can be overcome, and that same-sex unions are morally wrong.

Do we need more proof than the suicides of teens as young as 13 that words like these can do unimaginable damage?

We cannot stay silent. By speaking out together, we can show the Mormon Church hierarchy that it has literally risked the lives of children by inciting their tormentors. And we can ensure that the young people who heard this sermon know that it is scientifically wrong and profoundly misguided.

We can’t let Mr. Packer’s statements stand uncontested. Add your name to the open letter to Boyd Packer and let him know his lies carry real consequences.

Speaking before 20,000 people and broadcasting to millions more, Packer said same-sex unions are "against God's law and nature" – and that the church hierarchy would continue to support marriage bans like Proposition 8 (which was funded largely by Mormons).

Comments like these are exactly what makes young LGBT kids think there's no way out but suicide – that their parents will reject them, that their communities will shun them, and that living openly will bring pain or violence – that even God looks on their very identity as a sin to be "overcome."

And these lies fuel the bullying, harassment, and violence that plague our schools.

Packer's lies have been disproven over and over again by science and by the spiritual experience of Americans who know their LGBT neighbors and care about them. We know sexual orientation cannot and should not be changed and that two people falling in love is beautiful, not evil.

Help us speak out so young people understand the truth – and so that Mormon leaders know that spreading this poison puts lives at risk.

Thank you for helping take a stand for the truth.

- The Team

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Chandelier: New Gay Bar in Malta

A new Gay Bar will open on the 9th October 2010:

Dance Bar Paceville

Dress to impress or stay out
Stars of the opening night: Lee(uk) & Chunky
Doors open at 10pm - 4am
Visit their Facebook page for more information

[Click on image to enlarge.]

Times: Defending marriage and the family (1)
Sunday, 3rd October 2010 by J. Bonett Balzan, St Julian’s

Recently, Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, who has a male partner, was in Malta on a short official visit. Thankfully we were not asked to host his partner too.

At around the same time, the weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano carried an address by Pope Benedict XVI to the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, titled ‘The Church cannot approve alternative models of the family’.

The Pope did not mince his words, and among others mentioned several German heroes who in Nazi Germany stood up to the regime’s ideology (an ideology in a state which wanted to impose itself as the religion of the people and in which homosexuality among its top leaders was not rare).

Benedict XVI said: “The Church sees with concern the growing endeavour to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and family from society’s conscience. Marriage is manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which also always aspires to the transmission of life.

“One of its conditions is the willingness of the spouses to refer to each other forever. This requires a certain maturity of the person and a fundamental existential and social attitude: a ‘culture of the person’, as ...John Paul II once said... In the preparation and guidance of the married couples it is necessary to create the basic conditions to sustain and develop this culture.

“At the same time, we must be aware that the success of marriages depends on all of us and on the personal culture of each individual citizen. In this regard, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that entail a re-evaluation of alternative models to married and family life.”

Benedict XVI clarified that these ‘alternative’ models of the family “contribute to weakening the principles of natural law and hence to the relativisation of all legislation, as well as to the confusion about values in society.”

A strong argument expounded by the Pope is that “it is a principle... that the human being should be protected precisely in situations of weakness; the human person always takes priority over other aims”.

I find it surprising that while on one hand the Church is being vilified because a very small number of priests abused their position of trust, not openly but secretly, at the same time some of the accusers do not hold back from scandalising whole societies by flaunting their homosexuality as if such actions do not harm those below the age of consent.

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