26 May 2009

California rejects minority's rights

A re-cap: Same-sex marriage in California has been a long back and forth game. Twice, in 2005 and 2007, the bill was approved by the legislation and then vetoed by the Governor Schwarzenegger.

In summer 2008, California became the second US-State to allow citizens to marry whatever gender they loved. In November, a voter referendum, called Proposition 8 (Prop 8), passed by a 2% margin, annuled the rights of gays and lesbians to marry yet again.

For weeks and months after the ruling, a weapon-less civil war broke out with protests not only in California but the whole of the US.

The second American civil war began with thousands of protesters demanding equal rights under the law as gay and lesbian couples. Nowhere else has the fight for marriage been fought with more media attention, YouTube videos, Facebook groups and TV appearances with people throwing arguments about civil liberties or religious doctrines at each other.

For months, the legal outcome was unclear until the Supreme Court of California announced it would make a decision weather the Proposition 8 was valid and thus same-sex marriages invalid or if it would protect the rights of a minority that a majority-vote couldn't turn over.

Since November 2008, two countries and three US-states introduced same-sex marriages: Sweden (36m inhabitants), Norway (4,8m), Iowa (3m), Maine (1,3m), Vermont (0,6m). None of those had, however, such a big cultural impact as the battle for marriage in the 37-million-strong California with countless of world-famous actors, TV stars and thousands of bloggers jumping into the debate with strong feelings on both sides.

The ruling today did not re-instate California's reputation for a state where everyone is supposedly equal. It was one of the first states to repeal a ban on interracial marriages in the 70s but decades after blacks got their civil rights, gays and lesbians remain second class citizens. If there would have been a popular vote about the civil rights in the 70s, there'd probably be still no black US president today.

The court needs to understand it has to protect equality for everyone. History thought us what happens if a majority denies the rights to a minority group: Women, Jews and Blacks are the ones that learnt already how important universal rights are. Unfortunately, many of the once discriminated discriminate others again.


White Knot

17 May 2009

5th International Day against Homophobia & Transphobia

Today is the 5th International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (Idaho). To me, this day is more meaningful than any Gay Pride days in the many cities of the world, since especially the Western ones are losing their political spirit to fight for equality that is not yet achieved. Homophobia, as an irrational of fear of different sexualities is the root of all unequal treatment, ignorance and hatred. Just like simple racism has stricken lives of so many, it is an unjustifiable human fear of the unknown and 'unusual' that leads people to do horrendous things.

Different events and online activism worldwide tried to create awareness today and call for dialog to discuss what can be done to challenge homophobia and transphobia.

Singapore, an otherwise thriving and modern city has laws punishing same-sex encounters and never saw any open gay events until yesterday. Activists called, trying to avoid to brand their project as "gay" (which would attract official intervention), called for people who believe in equal love for everyone to dress in pink and gather for visibility. The result is an heart- and groundbreaking progress for a beautifully diverse melting pot:


Moscow consecutively banned Gay Pride marches in the last years, taking away the right of free assembly or speech. The Russian capital hosted this year's Eurovision Song Contest, the world's biggest music competition whose often flamboyant, extravagant and glittery performances attract many gay fans. Despite this, only a handful of gathers dared to ignore the officials warning, that any unlawful assembly would be hardly dealt with. 40 people, many international politicans, were rapidly arrested after just 5 minutes. Only the concurrent anti-gay protests of right wings and orthodox Christians had the blessings of the Mayor.



Many online websites, such as gays.com who created a huge video project for the day and gayrussia.net, the main source of information of activists gathering in Moscow were attacked by viruses.

Web 2.0 (the interactive cyberspace) plays an increasing role in activism:
A London-based project, "A Day In Hand" calls on same-sex couples to hold hands in public to increase visibility. Pictures from couples worldwide are collected on their website adayinhand.com

Gays.com called upon the internet community to create the following video, showcasing this year's motto: Homosexuality knows no borders. Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transexuals exists everywhere. Homosexuality is no desease spread from the West or the 'immoral':




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5 May 2009

From sexism & racism to homophobia in church

I grew up with a religious family, religious by faith, not out of tradition. Like my parents, I would describe myself as a charismatic or pentecostal Christian like you mostly find it in America and in young, rock-music playing mega-churches. Most of those churches, despite their modern look, unfortunately have a problem with homosexuality and are even in the extreme founders of the so-called "ex-gay" movement that, against all scientific evidence, seek to "repair" individuals with "unwanted same-sex attractions" (which largely results in living life in denial, self-harm and even suicide).

I go to the Australian Hillsong church's offshoot in London. I like the young, ethnically-diverse people, energetic and joyous atmosphere, the uplifting music and the general feeling that you come because you like it, not because you feel obliged to. I've heard that the Australian mother church is somewhat-linked through it's pastors to ex-gay activities, but just because of one disagreement with my church's doctrine, I won't leave.

This Sunday, however, I had quite a stirring experience that made me reflect and pray a lot. Christine Caine, from Sydney was giving the four o'clock afternoon sermon.
One aspect that might be remarkable to you if you come from another denomination or religion is that yes, women are fairly equalised and allowed to preach within protestant churches. I am proud that my church overcame the century-long tradition of oppressing women that still affects today's religious practises. The Catholic, Mormon and Orthodox church don't ordain women, or in Islam, women sometimes aren't even allowed into the mosque, or are kept from the men-only main rooms.

This Sunday, Chris Caine was talking about devotion of one's personal life to God's cause (in her case, fighting prostitution and evangelism). Being an orphan, she said she had a difficult childhood, that she grew up in "a culture that demeaned females" but that she eventually broke out the oppressing culture with the help of Jesus to realise her aspirations. Christine went on:
"[I was] abused by four men for twelve years almost weekly. (...) People with my kind of background don't normally end up doing what I am doing, they end up with the drug-dependant or alcohol-dependent or two or three different kids to two or three different fathers, or gay or at the VERY least confused about their gender identity. That's what normally happens" (get the mp3 here)
Drug and alcohol addiction are negative, OK. Divorce and several husbands is what least women desire but she adds two more things to the list: "gays" and (as I understand it what she thinks is even worse) people that are "confused about their gender identity", by which she might also refer to gays and/or transsexuals.

The message to the thousands of church-attendants is that homosexuality and transsexuality are:
  • undesirable
  • comparable to drug-addiction and
  • the result of an unfortunate past.
With just one sentence, Chris Caine reinforces negative stereotypes in listeners, teaches that non-heterosexuals have something like a sickness and leaves the attendants with the thought that gay people are damaged inside. She continues the religious tradition of teaching other people are inferior and is another proof that humans forget history and repeat the same pattern of oppression again. This is severe because by this, the killing of Matthew Shephard or more recently the suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover are caused. What she and many others don't understand is that sexual orientation is nothing chosen, just like nobody chooses to be born black, green-eyed or as a woman.

It makes me sad to see the oppressed oppressing others themselves. What happened to blacks in the US didn't stop them from protesting passionately against gay-marriage a week ago in Washington (the video of it here that will sadden you).
The century-old oppression of women that even held on to affect Christine Caine's life in the late 20th century didn't teach her to respect differences and finally understand that God's creation is so big and diverse. Just like we delight in the many differently-coloured flowers of God's nature, we should cherish God's richly diverse array of humankind in which none is inferior to another.

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