Il-Ħamis, 30 ta’ Settembru 2010
Thursday, 30th September 2010 - 09:32CET; PA
Students spoke of their shock after a teenager committed suicide a day after two classmates secretly recorded him having sex with a man and broadcast it over the internet.
Tyler Clementi, 18, a student at New Jersey's Rutgers University, jumped from the George Washington Bridge last week, said his family's lawyer, Paul Mainardi.
Police recovered a body in the Hudson River last night and authorities were trying to determine if it was Mr Clementi.
ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Mr Clementi left a note on his Facebook page on September 22 that read: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." Yesterday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.
Two Rutgers students have been charged with illegally taping Mr Clementi having sex and broadcasting the images via an internet chat programme.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of gay rights group Garden State Equality, said his group considered Mr Clementi's death a hate crime.
"We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind," Mr Goldstein said. "And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."
On the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, there was dismay over Mr Clementi's death and the circumstances that led to it.
"As a dorm we're really angry," said student Jordan Gochman, 19. "The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous.
"It's intolerant, it's upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable."
One of the defendants, Dharun Ravi, was Mr Clementi's roommate, Mr Mainardi told The Star-Ledger. The other defendant is Molly Wei. Ravi and Wei could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
A lawyer for Ravi did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The Middlesex County prosecutor's office charged the pair, both 18, with two counts each of invasion of privacy, claiming they used the webcam to view and transmit a live image of Mr Clementi on September 19.
Ravi was also charged with two more counts of invasion of privacy alleging he tried to transmit another encounter of Mr Clementi on September 21.
A Twitter account belonging to a Ravi was recently deleted, but in a cached version retained through Google he sent a message on September 19: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
Two days later, he wrote on Twitter: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9.30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."
Mr Mainardi issued a statement yesterday confirming Mr Clementi's suicide.
"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician," he said. "The family is heartbroken beyond words."
A Facebook group, In Honour of Tyler Clementi, was quickly set up and by yesterday had drawn more than 1,800 people, many of whom posted remembrances of Mr Clementi or expressions of shock over his death.
"You will never be forgotten Tyler," Samantha Hoffer commented. "I am so glad to have known such an amazing and talented person in my life. Rest in peace."
In a letter to the Rutgers campus, university president Richard McCormick said: "We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus.
"If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university's standards of decency and humanity."
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]
Rutgers University President Richard McCormick released a statement regarding the suicide of freshman Tyler Clementi, and the charges against his classmates, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei.
Members of the Rutgers Community:
I deeply regret that today we learned from the family of one of our students that they believe their son has committed suicide. We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus.
While there is a lot of information being communicated, we don’t have all the facts in this case.
This young man was reportedly the victim of an incident that took place in one of our residence halls last week.
Two fellow Rutgers students have been arrested and charged with invasion of privacy for their actions in that incident. If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.
The case is being investigated by the Rutgers University Police Department. The students—like all who are accused of a crime—must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The case is also being investigated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs under the code of student conduct. Please know that while Rutgers does not comment publicly on the specifics of cases involving active criminal investigations and allegations of student conduct, the university is taking this case very seriously.
We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family during this most difficult time. While I did not have the privilege of knowing this young man, I have learned that in addition to his academic abilities, he was a gifted musician. Our university community feels the pain of his loss, and I know there is anger and outrage about these events.
Rutgers is a community that is extraordinarily proud of its diversity and the respect its members have for one another. In fact, we have just launched a two-year dialogue focusing attention on civility in the context of one of the most culturally and racially diverse research universities in the nation. I ask that all members of the Rutgers community honor the wishes of the family by providing them with privacy during this painful time and by committing to the values of civility, dignity, compassion, and respect for each other.
Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
L-Erbgħa, 29 ta’ Settembru 2010
27.9.10 minn Kevin Mercieca, MOVE Studenti Progressivi
Bejn l-2007 sal-2009, in-numru ta' tfal adottati minn barra niżel bi 30%. Waqt li fl-2007 ġew adottati 64 tifel u tifla, fl-2008 dan l-ammont niżel għal 43, u sal-2009 kompla jinżel għal 34. Ir-raguni għal dan ma ġietx speċifikata. F'dawn it-tliet snin jidher ukoll li l-aktar pajjiż popolari mal-Maltin għall-adozzjoni kien ir-Russja, b'63% tat-tfal barranin jinġiebu minn dan il-pajjiż. Warajh kien hemm l-Etjopja b'21% u l-Pakistan b'6%. Għalkemm l-adozzjoni titqies bħala mod iżjed sħiħ kif it-tfal jiġu integrati f'familja, il-'fostering' joffri sostitut biex it-tfal ikunu jistgħu jesperjenzaw ambjent ta' familja – xi ħaġa li ma tantx tista' ssir faċilment f'orfanatrofju.
Waqt il-programm "Sfera" tal-ġimgħa l-oħra qam argument jaħraq bejn Gabi Calleja l-kordinattriċi tal-Malta Gay Rights Movement u Dr Josie Muscat, tabib u politiku li sa ftit xhur ilu kellu wkoll il-partit tiegħu, l-Azzjoni Nazzjonali. Gabi Calleja hija favur li persuni LGBT( lesbjani, omoseswali, bis-sesswali u transesswali) jadottaw it-tfal filwaqt li Dr Muscat huwa kontra li persuni LGBT jkollhom dan id-dritt. Fi stat demokratiku kulħadd għandu dritt għal opinjoni u ħadd ma jista' jimponi liġijiet fuq ħaddieħor, iżda f'din il-kwistjoni delikata tal-adozzjoni minn persuni LGBT irridu nkunu realistiċi dwarha. Personalment nifhem li persuni LGBT se jħossuhom urtati li ma jkunux jistgħu jrabbu t-tfal għax wara kollox huma nies bħalna iżda min-naħa l-oħra tifhem li jekk it-tfal se jgħixu ma' persuni LGBT jista' ma jkollhomx trobbija normali bħalma jkollhom minn familja etorosesswali kif ħalaqna l-Bambin. Sinċerament bejn naqbel u bejn ma naqbilx li persuni LGBT jkollhom dan id-dritt, skont Gabi Calleja persuni LGBT attwalment għandhom dritt irabbu t-tfal għax il-liġi hekk qiegħda f'pajjiżna, il-possibbiltà li wieħed ikun ġenitur adottiv f'dan il-mument f'pajjiżna hu ristrett għall-koppji miżżewġin u għal individwi ta' 'l fuq minn 30 sena mhux miżżewġin irrispettivament jekk ikunux omosesswali jew le. Studji li saru, fil-maġġoranza tagħhom fl-Istati Uniti, jindikaw li l-perċentwal ta' tfal 'gay' imrobbijin minn koppji tal-istess sess huwa l-istess għal dak ta' tfal imrobbijin minn koppji omosesswali. Dan juri li l-orjentament sesswali ta' dak li jkun ma jiddependix mill-orjentament sesswali tal-ġenituri. Xhieda ta' dan ukoll hu l-fatt li l-maġġoranza ta' persuni 'gay' trabbew minn ġenituri eterosesswali u minkejja dan l-orjentazzjoni sesswali tagħhom baqgħet dik omosesswali. Min-naħa l-oħra rridu nifhmu wkoll il-frustrazzjoni tan-nies, fosthom Dr Josie Muscat li ma jaqblux assolutament li persuni LGBT qed jingħatalhom dan id-dritt. Hemm diversi raġunijiet li jistgħu jħallu impatt negattiv fuq it-tfal. Immaġinaw tifel jew tifla jgħixu ma' żewġt irġiel. L-omm dejjem hi vitali fil-familja iżda f'dan il-każ l-omm se tkun nieqsa. Jekk naraw sitwazzjoni fejn koppja lesbjana rabbew it-tfal, dawn nistgħu ngħidu li se jkollhom l-istess problema bid-differenza li din id-darba se jkun hemm nieqes il-missier. Illum il-ġurnata kważi kważi anke missier u omm qegħdin jispiċċaw u flokom qegħdin nużaw 'partners'. L-effett psikoloġiku fuq it-tfal jista' jkun wieħed drastiku meta dawn jgħixu ma' familja omosesswali, aktar u aktar meta l-maġġoranza tas-soċjetà hi eterosesswali.
It can never be acceptable," she told a recent High Level Panel in Geneva on Ending Violence and Criminal Sanctions on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity "to deprive certain individuals of their rights, indeed to impose criminal sanctions on those individuals, not because they have inflicted harm on others or pose a threat to the well-being of others, but simply for being who they are, for being born with a particular sexual orientation or gender identity."
"The priority should be decriminalization world-wide", Pillay said. Even then that would only be a first step, "it is not easy for decades of prejudice and intolerance to disappear by the stroke of the legislators' pen. But change must be started."
In a message read to the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated his appeal of earlier this year "for all countries that criminalize people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to take the steps necessary to remove such offences from the statute books".
Ban Ki-moon was joined by the Human Rights High Commissioner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and civil society representatives from Cameroon, Guyana and India in calling for an end to human rights violations directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
"Sexual orientation, like skin colour, is a feature of our diversity. How sad it is that when God's children are facing such massive problems - poverty, disease, corruption, conflict - we are so often obsessed with human sexuality. Is there not already too much hate in this world, without also seeking to persecute those who love?" This excerpt formed part of a video message from Archbishop Tutu who said the United Nations has a particular role to play in standing up for the principles of universal humanity and fellowship.
David Clarke speaking for SASOD, a group based in Guyana which is committed to eradicating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity acknowledged that laws banning sex between males are not often enforced but: "We believe that the mere existence of these laws gives state officers, and private citizens, the belief that their discriminatory actions are legitimized," he said.
Sunita Kujur representing CREA, an international women's human rights and sexual rights organization based in New Delhi described the special problems created for men and women in India who want to freely choose their own partners in a heterosexual context. This is not a rural phenomenon or one restricted to the poor and illiterate, Kujur said. "Imagine", she said "the kind of violence and discrimination that people face when they choose a same sex partner."
Pillay stressed that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender "knows no boundaries …there is still no region in the world today where people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) can live entirely free from discrimination or from the threat of harassment and physical attack."
In her closing remarks, the High Commissioner noted that "Today, almost 62 years after the Universal Declaration was adopted, it is, thankfully, unthinkable to impose criminal sanctions on individuals simply on the basis of their gender or the colour of their skin.
"With all our efforts and those of many others, over time let us look forward to a time when it is equally unthinkable that such sanctions could be imposed on people simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity."
EU Parliament LGBT: MEPs ask urgent question to the Commission on Polish Secretary of State for Equal Treatment
September 27th, 2010
While taking part in a televised public debate on 21st September 2010, Polish Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment Elżbieta Radziszewska affirmed that Directive 2000/78/EC contained provisions for faith-based schools to discriminate against teachers on grounds of their sexual orientation. She further expressed the opinion that schools would be right to do so.
Mrs Radziszewska further accused her opponent in the debate, lawyer Krzysztof Śmiszek, of bias because he "is known to be a member of the homosexual community; is an activist of the Campaign Against Homophobia, it's an open secret who his partner is". Mrs Radziszewska thereby criticised Mr Śmiszek ad hominem and revealed his sexual orientation on air, failing to demonstrate the professional restraint her position requires.
Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights, asked the Commission two questions:
What is the Commission's interpretation of provisions contained in Directive 2000/78/EC and relevant case law with regards to faith-based schools employing teachers considering their sex and sexual orientation?
Is the Commission of the opinion that the Polish Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, charged with protecting citizens' fundamental rights in Poland, has inter alia a responsibility to promote the non-discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people?
Raül Romeva i Rueda MEP, Vice-president of the Intergroup, asked another question about Mrs Radziszewska's role in a EU journalism award:
In the light of this most recent incident, does the Commission still consider Mrs. Radziszewska's presence on the jury of the EU Journalist Award 'Together against Discrimination' compatible with the values of equality and non-discrimination the EU must promote?
A formal response is expected within three weeks.
26.9.10? by Josie Muscat
A couple with infertility problems called at my clinic to passionately implore me to inform them should I come to know of a baby up for adoption.
Up to fairly recent times, it was common practice to seek help from the family doctor when women wanted to hide the fact that they were pregnant out of wedlock. Doctors provided antenatal care, delivered them and then passed the baby into the care of a person enjoying the doctor’s confidence. The chosen adoptive parents were informed but were not shown the baby.
By law, the biological mother had four weeks or so to make up her mind on whether to claim the baby or consent in court to put her baby up for adoption. After she signed on the dotted line, the baby was given to the adoptive parents who also signed the legal documents pertaining to their new role as adoptive parents. All this work was carried out by a lawyer who explained all the implications to the mother and to the adoptive parents. It was all rather clear-cut, neat and tidy.
Naturally, the burden of responsibility rested very much on the doctor’s shoulders. He not only had to deliver the baby and see to the health of both mother and child, but he also was responsible for the child while it was in the care of the person enjoying his trust. Additionally, his too was the responsibility of deciding which, of the couples wanting children, was best suited to adopt the child. But in the times I speak of, the GP knew practically every family in his area together with their background and medical history and was therefore very well positioned to make a correct choice.
I have written in other articles about my great disappointment on how the GP, the friend, confessor and confidante of the family, was displaced by faceless “free” hospital services so that today there is very little of the old trust that used to be vested in the area GPs. People just shop around in the medical field as they do in every other aspect of life. This in turn has changed the medical profession’s perception of its duty; and not always for the better.
I say all this because during a television programme on sexual orientation, I was taken aback by a statement made by a member of the LGBT Council present that, according to present law, a single person of whatever sexual orientation can proceed immediately to adopt a child, while a lawfully married couple has to wait for five years. Her angle was that since a single person can adopt, why shouldn’t two people designated as single but living together adopt, even if they happen to be of the same sex? In my busy life I do not always have a chance to devour the daily newspapers and so I was unaware that the courts have already ruled this procedure to be discriminatory and asked for the law to be changed. So far, this hasn’t taken place.
The Adoption Unit arranges for adoptive parents to attend preparatory group sessions in order:
• To learn enough about themselves, their motives and needs
• To benefit from information and exploration of ideas about adoption
• To explore their ideas and feelings about adoption
• To examine their motivation and readiness to parent other people’s children
A Home Study Report is made by a social worker and presented for the consideration of the Adoption and Fostering Panel. The latter assess the suitability of the prospective adoptive family and forwards its recommendation to the Director of the Department of Family Welfare.
This is all in tune with the age we are living in, when despite the fact that so many governments in the world are financially with their backs to the wall, they still allow the proliferation of as many levels of bureaucracy as is possible. The so-called scandals of the adoption agencies and the short-comings of the child protection services in the UK were in great part due to the enormous number of levels of responsibility that end up with the right hand not even knowing that the left hand had its fingers in the mix as well. The result has been untold suffering to children and their biological and adoptive parents. Yet we have still to see, in Malta, the first step towards the dismantling of bureaucratic anthills that cost the taxpayer so many millions a year.
The second unbelievable anthill I came across this week was the Mepa permit for ‘Change of Use’. A friend of mine bought a place in which he intends to set up a business. He had already arranged for a loan from the bank and, after consulting his architect and finalising his plans, eventually submitted an application to Mepa for “Change of Use” ,since the place already had a permit, albeit for a different type of business.
And here of course he got stuck. To his amazement, Mepa informed him that the permit for Change of Use could take up to one year to be approved! As is the routine in such matters, he was asked to pay a deposit for his application to be processed. He had to submit his predecessor’s building permit, and his own licence and plans. A notice was to be issued and affixed to his premises asking for objections. All the while the poor man is paying interest on his loan. If this is not bureaucracy in its worst form, then I would like someone to explain what else can be dug up from the bottom of the anthill.
For if, when the premises were originally built, no proper permits were issued or the building was not according to permit, why was the original business allowed to flourish for years and years? And if we really would like to help small and medium-sized businesses, why should we subject anybody wishing to open shop to unnecessary expense, especially at a time when people who still believe they could thrive as self-employed are worth their weight in gold?
One has to keep in mind that the opening of doors of a business need not be equated to the discovery of a gold mine. When opening day arrives, the entrepreneur would already be carrying a heavy financial burden, which could deny him any real profits for years (if he is lucky). And when these do start coming in, the shadow of the taxman immediately falls through the door. Those who walk into business premises to be served, little know of the sleepless nights that have to be endured before the dawn finally acquires a rosy tinge.
If, in order to improve our finances, we need – as Joseph Muscat succinctly put it – to encourage more cows to come into the byre to increase the milk yield, rather than over-milking the present herd, then Mepa and all associated government agencies have to be cut down to size. The bigger the numbers they employ, the greater the amount of pointless bureaucratic work that will have to be created simply to keep them busy. The government has to decide between keeping armies of people in jobs that make little contribution to the country and encouraging entrepreneurs and business people to proliferate and increase the national wealth.
Il-Ġimgħa, 24 ta’ Settembru 2010
Russian police detained around 10 gay activists as they gathered in central Moscow to demonstrate against Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov known for his openly homophobic views, an AFP correspondent reported.
Police rounded up protesters at a banned demonstration in front of the mayor's office in the city centre and detained around 10 activists, including Nikolai Alexeyev, the chief organiser of Moscow's gay pride marches.
Some of the activists, who gathered to mark Mr Luzhkov's 74th birthday, shouted slogans including "Homophobic mayor resign" and "Flat cap, homo, happy birthday!"
Police massively outnumbered the protesters and an AFP journalist covering the protest was briefly detained. Mr Alexeyev was released later in the day, he said, speaking on Russia's popular Echo of Moscow radio.
Earning the nickname "kepka", or "flat cap" for his customary headwear, Mr Luzhkov has run the city of 12 million for the past 18 years but has recently fallen out of favour with the Kremlin. He is under pressure to resign. He's now on vacation in Austria and is expected back in the Russian capital next week.
Mr Luzhkov has repeatedly banned gay rights parades in Moscow, calling them "satanic", and riot police have in the past repeatedly broken up unsanctioned protests by Mr Alexeyev and international gay rights activists.
In his letter Homophobia? (TMIS, 19 September) Paul Vincenti argues that the word homophobia is an inappropriate one in that "[disagreement] with homosexuality" may not necessarily translate into feelings of fear when in the company of gay people. He is correct to identify the word 'phobia' and its connections to irrational and often instinctive fear or apprehension. However, the word homophobia has increasingly been adopted as one that not only denotes fear from homosexual individuals, but also includes the range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality, and people identified as or perceived to be gay. I do however agree that some people's and some institutions' deep and divisive anti-gay rhetoric deserves worse terminology than one that allows them the convenience of hiding behind the fear, anxiety or uneasiness implied by the word 'phobia'. What is ambiguous in Mr Vincenti's letter is that he mentions that people could "disagree" with homosexuality, as if this were an arbitrary concept which people could casually choose to agree or disagree with. As the UK politician Francis Maude so aptly put it, disagreeing with homosexuality is just about as pointless as disagreeing with rain. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been around since time immemorial and will continue to be there for as long as people continue to reproduce. With Mr Vincenti's same arguments, one may as well choose to "disagree" with the existence of black people, left-handed people, women, ethnic and religious minorities, among others. Moreover, while disagreeing with Mr Vincenti's friend's assertion that all men are homosexual without knowing so, one can however extrapolate an important concept from this unfortunate sweeping statement. A small number of misguided people still consider and assume everyone to be essentially heterosexual – what is called heteronormativity – and conclude that gay people are just flawed heterosexuals. The Malta Gay Rights Movement actively challenges heteronormativity with its reminder that homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality are all equally valid sexual orientations, and that neither one is an incomplete version of the other. Heteronormativity can be witnessed in practice by the drafting of policies or legislation that consciously ignore the presence of LGBT people in society. The erroneous assumption is that by catering for the heterosexual population (admittedly the majority), every citizen is duly protected – whereas this is clearly not the case.
Some years ago, a good friend of mine told me "all men are homosexual or at least bi-sexual; they don't know it or they won't admit it". He was homosexual and being heterosexual myself I challenged his declaration. I told him that I did not agree with him or his lifestyle but that this did not affect our friendship in the least. We exchanged views and neither of us felt attacked by the other for having expressed different opinions. I like to think that we are still friends today, even though I have not seen him for a while.
The increasing use of the word 'homophobia' is a perversion of the word 'phobia'. I may not like open spaces and prefer watching TV to going on a picnic. This may diagnose me as being agoraphobic. Agoraphobics experience increased anxiety and even elevated levels of fear when being in open spaces. They prefer being in the perceived safety of staying indoors and one expects them to have strong opinions about it.
The difference is that one may indeed disagree with homosexuality yet not experience any form of anxiety or fear when speaking to homosexuals. The deconstruction of words and their meaning in this case is in my view reckless. Misusing words in this manner creates unnecessary anguish for all, homosexual and heterosexual alike.
I wonder whether this is indeed the right approach, one that encourages reciprocal and long-term respect between people of different sexual orientations. Will it create an even deeper rift and perpetrate the very bias it sets out to prevent? If this were the case, all society would lose out because we are not defined solely by our sexual orientation.
Il-Ħamis, 23 ta’ Settembru 2010
WORLD WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2010
The US Senate has blocked a bid to lift a ban on gays serving openly in the military, thwarting the move with political maneuvering that now puts the issue on a back burner indefinitely.
Democratic supporters of repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy – a 1993 compromise aimed at resolving the thorny issue of gays in the military – ran up against a wall of Republican resistance yesterday.
A total of 56 senators to 43 voted to advance debate on the annual Pentagon military spending bill to which the repeal of the gays ban had been attached, falling four short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.
Less than two months before November mid-term elections, polls show overwhelming US public support for ending the policy that requires members of the military to hide their homosexuality or be dismissed.
Critics charge the ban infringes on civil rights of gay military personnel and has harmed US national security by forcing out some 14,000 qualified troops.
A top general told lawmakers that a Pentagon survey showed US Marines were predominantly opposed to lifting the ban.
Amos, who has been tapped to take over as the head of the Marines, also said he opposed changing the law, which he described as a "reasonable" compromise.
Top Republican lawmaker John McCain also voted against the repeal, arguing servicemembers needed to make their opinion known before action is taken.
Pop diva Lady Gaga on Monday threw her full star power behind the efforts to repeal the policy.
She targeted the northeast US state of Maine, home to moderate senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, hoping to persuade them to break with the Republican party and vote with the Democrats.
But Collins Tuesday took issue with moves by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not to allow Republican amendments to be attached to the draft legislation.
While Tuesday's vote leaves the door open for the draft legislation to be brought to the Senate again, the window of opportunity is closing with mid-term congressional elections looming on 2 November.
The Pentagon is carrying out a year-long review into repealing the policy set to be completed before the end of December, which will help draw up new rules for military service.
Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have backed lifting the ban.
L-Erbgħa, 22 ta’ Settembru 2010
September 22nd, 2010
In June 2010, the European Parliament called on the Commission to take explicit measures against discrimination on grounds of gender identity. A parliamentary event was also held in September, highlighting the need for EU action for transgender people's rights; and Members of the European Parliament later met with Commission officials, seeking reassurance that transgender issues would be being looked into.
In its new Strategy for equality between women and men, the European Commission pledges to promote less rigid gender roles; look into sex discrimination based on gender identity; and assess whether Member States adequately protect citizens on grounds of gender identity when accessing goods and services.
Ulrike Lunacek MEP (AT/Greens), Co-president of the LGBT Intergroup, commented: "This is a positive sign that the European Commission has started listening to both Parliament and civil society. I am optimistic that this strategy will ultimately have a positive effect on the lives of many transgender people."
Member of the LGBT Intergroup Marije Cornelissen MEP (NL/Greens) also welcomed the document: "The Commission responded to demands by Parliament to work on gender identity as a ground of discrimination. I hope the Commission will not only monitor the situation carefully, but also that it will be firm with Member States violating European equal treatment legislation."
Eva-Britt Svensson MEP (SE/GUE), Chair of the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee and Member of the LGBT Intergroup, further added: "I cordially welcome the Commission's strategy, and I look forward to closely cooperating throughout 2010-2015 to achieve our common goals. I'm convinced that gender equality should not only be considered as a goal but as the golden key which opens all closed doors and invites us to an inclusive society for all—regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or economic background. All these factors are still grounds of discrimination, and surely we need stronger and more comprehensive EU legislation in this field."
It-Tlieta, 21 ta’ Settembru 2010
Thousands have marched in London to protest against the Pope's visit.
Organisers of the Protest the Pope event said they wanted to highlight his stance on controversial subjects, including the ordination of women.
Sex abuse and Catholic opposition to contraception have also been criticised.
Organisers of the protest say 20,000 people took part in the rally; however, police say they are unable to confirm this figure.
The march proceeded from Hyde Park Corner through central London to Whitehall where a rally was held with speakers including gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.
The event took place as Catholics gathered in Hyde Park for an evening prayer vigil led by the Pope.
Among the protesters was comedian Al Murray.
He said: "Like a lot of people I am a perplexed that it is a state visit.
"The Pope's opposition to condoms kills people. It is all very well him lecturing us on morals but he should look at his own organisation's view."
Speakers at the rally included the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and atheist scientist and author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins.
At the rally, Mr Robertson said: "We are here today to celebrate our faith in liberty of conscience; our faith in equality; our faith in human rights.
Of the Pope he said: "He's been met with the most utter, exquisite, grovelling politeness and with that somehow we are in an uncivilised third world country.
"What is civilised about demeaning the women, demonising homosexuals, wishing that IVF children had never been born?... our only crime has been silence."
On its website, Protest The Pope says it opposes Pope Benedict's state visit because "he is going to use (it) to tell us how we all should live and to interfere in our laws. No other head of state would be allowed to do this".
In particular, the movement criticises the Vatican for:
- "opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids"
- "promoting segregated education"
- "denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women"
- "opposing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, including universal decriminalisation of homosexuality"
- "failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation"
While accepting Pope Benedict's right to visit the UK and to address his supporters, the Protest The Pope campaign opposes the fact that it is, in part, financed by UK taxpayers.'Critical of policies'
Mr Tatchell told the BBC News Channel: "We profoundly disagree with the Pope's opposition to women's rights, gay equality and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.
"This is not an attack on Catholic people or the Catholic faith. We are critical of certain policies of the Pope.
"When he says no woman is fit to be a priest, that's an insult to the whole of female humanity.
"When he says a husband must not use a condom to protect his wife from infection - even if he has HIV - that's irresponsible.
"And when he says that all gay people possess a tendency towards evil, that flies in the face of the Christian gospel of love and compassion.
"We know that many Catholics share our concerns. Only 5% of Catholics in this country agree with the Pope's ban on contraception. Only 11% of Catholics think that homosexuality is morally wrong.
"So there is a great depth of Catholic opinion which is in disagreement with this Pope and we support those Catholic people."
'Accept traditional values'
In response to the Pope's public apology over child abuse within the Catholic Church made during a Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Mr Tatchell said: "The Pope keeps on apologising for the failings of everyone but himself."
Ahead of the march, protesters heard from a victim of clerical sex abuse.
Sue Cox, 63, from Gaydon, Warwickshire, told the gathered crowds that the Pope's visit was "egotistical, arrogant and selfish".
She said: "How dare he suggest that secularism does not accept or tolerate traditional values?"
Father Christopher Jamieson,Director of the Catholic Church's National Office for Vocation
We feel he has been received very fairly and very warmly. ”
She added that her own experience from the Catholic Church was "pain, anger, fear, terror, disgust, lies, shame, violence, sneering, disdain, and disempowerment."
John Hide, one of the people attending the protest, told BBC News: "I am very much against the taxpayer having to pay for the Pope's visit.
"I have also just found out that the Queen has to wear black when she meets the Pope as a sign of deference. That is incredible."
Father Christopher Jamieson, a Benedictine monk and the director of the Catholic Church's National Office for Vocation, said the protest was part of living in a democratic country.
He said people had every right to protest but "we feel he has been received very fairly and very warmly.
"It's been a great affirmation not only for the Holy Father and church, but also for the country, that its political system is so capable of welcoming into the political platform a religious voice whose voice is not always welcomed to all parts of society.
"That too is a great expression of democracy."