American Bar Association to States: Eliminate all legal barriers to civil marriage

Today, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates passed a Recommendation urging all state, territorial and tribal governments to “eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.”

The Recommendation was sponsored by the National LGBT Bar Association, several entities within the ABA, including the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and the Commission on Women in the Profession, as well as various state and local bar associations.

The National LGBT Bar Association would like to thank John T. Hendricks (the LGBT Bar’s delegate to the ABA’s House of Delegate), Jaime Todd-Gher (our delegate to the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession), Skip Harsch (our representative to the ABA’s Council of the Young Lawyers Division), Jason S. Gibson and Lousene Hoppe (our delegates to the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division), Mario Sullivan (a past delegate to the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division), and all those in the ABA who helped make this possible.  On behalf of all our members, thank you for your hard work on this issue.

courtesy ABA

International Women’s Day – Celebrating 100 Years!

EQUAL GROUND’s hard hitting Advertisement campaign to celebrate International Women’s day appeared in the three leading news dailies of Sri Lanka- Daily Mirror, Lankadeepa and Metro News on Monday 8th March 2010.

The advertisement Campaign “Giving Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender women of Sri Lanka a voice” was launcehd on 7th March 2010 at an evening function at the EQUAL GROUND Safe Space.  Attended by over 50 women the evening was filled with entertainment and solidarity as women from all walks of life gathered together to celebrate their womanhood.

Using the catch phrase  “Aren’t we all Sri Lankan Women” the advertisements were designed to bring attention to the issues of Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women in Sri Lanka and to reiterate that regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, all LBT persons are also women and deserve to have their rights upheld.

To view the advertisements and read more about the campaign please go to http://www.equal-ground.org.

Colombo PRIDE 2010

Getting ready for Colombo PRIDE 2010. If anyone wants to get involved with:

RAINBOW RUNWAY -we need designers and models

ART & PHOTO EXHIBITION – we would love to showcase your art or photography, or if you would like to volunteer to help out with all or one of our events please do get in touch with us!

Current Program includes;

  • RAINBOW RUNWAY- the fashion show
  • CELLULOID RAINBOWS  – the film festival
  • RAINBOW VISIONS – the art & photo exhibition
  • RAINBOW PRIDE PARTY
  • LEAVE A LIGHT ON FOR ME – drama production
  • RAINBOW KITE FESTIVAL

Get involved!  Tel: +94-11-5679766. South Asian Designers are most welcome as well!

Pakistan’s Supreme Court OKs Third Sex for Identity Cards

Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the government on Wednesday to allow transvestites and eunuchs to identify themselves as a distinct gender as part of a move to ensure their rights.

While hearing the case, the Chief Justice also advised the authorities to hire the services of the eunuchs to recover monies (Rs193 billion) loans from the bank loan defaulters – a practice, he said, already being followed in India!

Known by the term “Hijra” in Pakistan as well as in India and Bangladesh, transvestites, eunuchs and hermaphrodites are generally shunned by society nor do they enjoy any rights – legal, political human or even religious.

They often live together in slum communities and survive by begging and dancing at carnivals and weddings. Some are also involved in prostitution.

CJ Iftikhar ordered the authorities to issue national identity cards to members of the community showing their distinct gender and to take steps to ensure that they were not harassed.

“The government’s registration authority has been directed to include a separate column in national identity cards showing them as hijras,” Mohammad Aslam Khaki, a lawyer for hijras told Reuters.

“By doing so, they think they will get a distinct identity and it will help them get their rights.”

A Hijra association welcomed Chaudhry’s order, saying it would ease their suffering. “It’s the first time in the 62-year history of Pakistan that such steps are being taken for our welfare” the association’s president, who goes by the name, Almas Bobby, told Reuters. “It’s a major step toward giving us respect and identity in society. We are slowly getting respect in society. Now people recognize that we are also human beings”.

Khaki said the court also ordered the government to envolve mechanism to ensure that Hijras are not harassed and also take steps to ensure their inheritance rights.

Hijras are often denied places in schools or admittance to hospitals and landlord often refuse to rent or sell property to them. Their families often deny their fair share of inherited property. Hijras are both feared and pitied in Pakistan. They are feared for their supposed ability to put curses on people while they are pitied as they are widely viewed as the outcast children of Allah.

The number of Hijras in Pakistan is not known but community leaders estimate there are about 300,000 of them. In June, the Supreme Court ordered the government to set up a commission to conduct a census of Hijras.

Obama lifts ban on US entry for those with HIV

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer – Fri Oct 30, 7:16 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. will overturn a 22-year-old travel and immigration ban against people with HIV early next year.
The order will be finalized on Monday, Obama said, completing a process begun during the Bush administration.
The U.S. has been among a dozen countries that bar entry to travelers with visas or anyone seeking a green card based on their HIV status.
“If we want to be the global leader in combatting HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it,” Obama said at the White House before signing a bill to extend the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program. Begun in 1990, the program provides medical care, medication and support services to about half a million people, most of them low-income.
The bill is named for an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion at age 13. White went on to fight AIDS-related discrimination against him and others like him and help educate the country about the disease. He died in April 1990 at the age of 18.
His mother, Jeanne White-Ginder, attended the signing ceremony, as did several members of Congress and HIV/AIDS activists.
In 1987, at a time of widespread fear and ignorance about HIV, the Department of Health and Human Services added the disease to the list of communicable diseases that disqualified a person from entering the U.S.
The department tried in 1991 to reverse its decision but was opposed by Congress, which went the other way two years later and made HIV infection the only medical condition explicitly listed under immigration law as grounds for inadmissibility to the U.S.
The law effectively has kept out thousands of students, tourists and refugees and has complicated the adoption of children with HIV. No major international AIDS conference has been held in the U.S. since 1993, because HIV-positive activists and researchers cannot enter the country.
Obama said that by lifting the ban, the U.S. will take a step toward ending the stigma against people with HIV/AIDS, something he said has stopped people from getting tested and has helped spread the disease. More than 1 million people live with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and more than 56,000 new infections are reported every year.
Obama noted his own effort several years ago to help combat the stigma. During a 2006 visit to Kenya, his father’s native country, then-Sen. Obama and his wife, Michelle, publicly took an HIV/AIDS test.
The 11 other countries that ban HIV-positive travelers and immigrants are: Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sudan, according to the advocacy group Immigration Equality.
Several such groups welcomed Obama’s announcement.
Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said the ban pointlessly has barred people from the U.S. and separated families with no benefit to public health.
“Now, those families can be reunited, and the United States can put its mouth where its money is: ending the stigma that perpetuates HIV transmission, supporting science and welcoming those who seek to build a life in this country,” said Tiven, whose organization works for fairness in immigration for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people.

What does the Bible actually say about being gay?

Confused how two groups of church-goers can have such conflicting views about whether it’s OK to be gay?

Both sides of the debate about homosexuality in the church, which threatens to split the worldwide Anglican Church, hold their views sincerely and after much study. So how can their views be so contradictory?

The Bible makes very few mentions of homosexuality – lesbianism isn’t mentioned at all in the Old Testament – and as the examples below show, interpretations of the verses that do exist differ hugely.

Following each of the verses below is a brief illustration of what a hardline pro- and anti-gay position might be. (Most Christians hold views somewhere in between these two stances.)  An illustration of the division can be seen by what either side might say about the friendship in the Old Testament between David and Jonathan. One verse reads: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; dear and delightful you were to me; your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.”

PRO-GAY
A pro-gay position might be that this is a clear indication that King David had a gay relationship, and to pretend otherwise is naive.

ANTI-GAY
An anti-gay opinion might be that the friendship between the two men was exactly that – a very close and loyal allegiance.

Similarly, the tale of Sodom is often debated. In it, Lot has two angels staying in his house. The men of Sodom surrounded the house.”They called to Lot and asked him where the men were who had entered his house that night. ‘Bring them out,’ they shouted, ‘so that we might have intercourse with them.'”

To protect his visitors from an act which Lot describes as “wicked”, he offers the crowd his two virgin daughters instead. The crowds are not satisfied and break the door down – the angels then make the intruders blind and Sodom is eventually destroyed by “fire and brimstone”.

ANTI-GAY

An anti-gay argument might say this story demonstrates the immorality of homosexuality, as has been accepted for generations, hence the term sodomy. Elsewhere in Genesis, God says of the men: “Their sin is very grave.” It’s an example of behaviour degenerating.

PRO-GAY
Of course the men’s behaviour was wicked, but it was wicked because it’s a tale of sexual assault and rape. When Jesus mentions Sodom, hundreds of years later, it appears to be in a context of a discussion of hospitality, rather than one of sexual morality.

There are several verses in the Bible which are similarly contested – there are however a much smaller number of seemingly clear statements. The most famous of them is probably from Leviticus:”You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; that is an abomination.”

ANTI-GAY
An anti-gay position would be that this line is unambiguous. It is also repeated elsewhere in the book. The speaker of the words is God, so this is an explicit indication that homosexuality is wrong in God’s eyes. It was one of the sins that justified God in giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites

PRO-GAY
A pro-gay argument might say that other verses in the same book forbid a wide range of sexual activities, including having sex with a woman who is having her period. This is an indication that the passage embodies specific cultural values rather than God’s law.

There is some debate about how relevant rules in the Old Testament are to Christians. Some would say they are binding, since Jesus said he did not come to abolish the old laws. Others would say that Jesus set Christians free from the old laws, highlighting instead that people should love God and their neighbour.  Jesus himself says nothing explicitly about homosexuality. There are though two statements by him which have been interpreted as having a bearing on the subject.  “[A] man shall leave his father and mother, and be made one with his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.”

ANTI-GAY
This indicates Jesus saw heterosexual relations as the proper way of behaving.

PRO-GAY
Jesus is actually talking about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage

Later in the same conversation, after Jesus has spoken about divorce, the disciples say to him it is better not to marry at all. Jesus says: “That is something which not everyone can accept, but only those for whom God has appointed it. For while some are incapable of marriage because they were born so, or made so by men, there are others who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let those accept it who can.”

PRO-GAY
This shows that Jesus is more concerned with people looking after their own relationship with God, than with enforcement of rules. The reference to being “born so” indicates that heterosexual marriage is fine for those who are heterosexual, but it’s OK to be different. Again and again Jesus reaches out to those on the margins of society, like prostitutes and tax collectors, to include them.

ANTI-GAY
Jesus here is actually talking about people who were born incapable of having children, or people who were castrated – not about gays. He is actually saying that marriage and chastity are both within God’s purpose. Jesus does appeal to the sinners, but once he has called them, he tells them to go and sin no more.  The letters of St Paul provide the other traditional support for the position that homosexuality is sinful. He writes: “God has given [people who worship false gods] up to shameful passions. Their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and their men in turn, giving up natural relations with women burn with lust for one another; males behave indecently with males and paid in their own persons the fitting wage of such perversion.”

Paul later writes: “Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolator, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers of drunkards of slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.”

PRO-GAY
A pro-gay position might be that the word Paul uses for homosexual here could alternatively be translated as “male prostitute”. In any case, Paul’s writings are clearly of his time, and there are plenty of other verses which people have no difficulty in ignoring – for instance: “a woman brings shame on her head if she prays or prophesies bare-headed; it is as bad as if her head were shaved.” This should be viewed like that.

ANTI-GAY
Anti-gay argument might say this line is crystal clear in establishing that Christianity and homosexuality are incompatible. Paul is actually quite clearly referring to homosexual behaviour, and includes lesbianism. You can’t just pretend that St Paul, who did so much to influence our understanding of Jesus, didn’t know what he was talking about. He’s clear that homosexuality is an offence against God and against people’s own bodies.

Part of the reason the views diverge so much is because Christians think of the Bible differently. Some see it as literally the word of God, divine inspiration which humans should not question. Others see it rather as a book which is a witness to God’s message, but one which was written by humans and thus has flaws.  Trying to find common ground between the two positions is no simple matter – one of the reasons that Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is having such a tricky job keeping everyone on board.

Quotations are taken from the New English Bible.

In the order they are cited in the article, these are the references used. All quotations taken from the New English Bible.

II Samuel 1:26

Genesis 19:4-5

Leviticus 18:22

Mark 10:7-9

Matthew 19:11-12

Romans 1:26

I Corinthians 6:9

Courtesy BBC News Thursday, 23 October 2003

Australia sees largest public demonstrations for same-sex marriage in nation’s history

MELBOURNE — August 1 saw the largest public demonstrations for same-sex marriage in Australia’s history take place throughout the continent.

In Melbourne alone, an estimated 5,000 people took to the streets to demand that the federal government introduce same-sex marriage, making this the largest single show of support for marriage equality ever in Australia.
In addition to the thousands that participated in marches and rallies, over 200 couples across the nation participated in illegal same-sex wedding ceremonies, setting what organizers believe to be a world record for the largest number of participants in a mass illegal wedding ceremony.
Despite the nationwide show of support for marriage equality, delegates at the Australian Labor Party’s national conference in Sydney today effectively voted for no change to the party’s policy regarding marriage, maintaining the definition as a union between a man and a woman.
“Although the decision of the ALP delegates was disappointing, I think politicians from all sides now understand that this is not an issue that’s going to go away.  Today’s rallies put it clearly on the national agenda,” said Tim Wright, co-convener of Equal Love, the organizer of the Melbourne rally.  “Marriage equality is rapidly spreading throughout the world and we’re going to be back here year after year until we get it in Australia.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Tim Wright, Equal Love, 0400 967 233
http://www.equallove.info

Some photos from the National Day of Action in Melbourne available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/equallove/

Homosexuality immoral, but not criminal: Religious leaders

4 Jul 2009, 0216 hrs IST, TNN – TIMES OF INDIA

DELHI/MUMBAI:

In the first flurry of reactions, religious leaders appeared to be slamming the de-criminalization of gay sex. But while mostconservative scholars and clerics remain opposed to homosexuality as an article of faith, many say that they aren’t advocating making it a criminal act as Section 377 of IPC did.

Writer and philosopher Deepak Chopra told TOI from his home in New York, ‘‘A new morality must evolve that is based on a true understanding of human nature, that is also consistent with its biology. Homosexuality has been part of the human condition for as long as human beings have existed. The Delhi High Court should be congratulated for making a decision that finally catches up with our times.’’

Then, while Delhi Catholic Archdiocese has described homosexuality as ‘‘unnatural’’, it says it has nothing against its de-criminalization. Spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, Father Dominic Emmanuel, told TOI,‘‘Homosexuality is a sin — as opposed to a crime. But we believe that those who indulge in it should be treated with respect and compassion.’’

In a newspaper article, Father Dominic was even more forthright. ‘‘It needs to be made clear that the Christian community does not (repeat it does not) treat people with homosexual tendencies as criminals. Nor does it believe that they can be regarded on par with criminals. Therefore, the church has no serious objection to the repealing of Section 377.

‘‘The Vatican’s stand on this is quite clear: Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’,’’ wrote Father Dominic.

Similarly, some Muslim clerics and scholars, too, favour de-criminalization of homosexuality, saying that while Islam does not permit homosexuality, this doesn’t mean it should be equated with criminality.

‘‘The Quran condemns homosexuality, but doesn’t prescribe any punishment for it. It’s a sin, not a crime. Sin is between Allah and the sinner, but crime concerns the entire society. So, sexual minorities should be left to their conscience. They are answerable to Allah for their act and should not be treated as criminals,’’ said Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer.

Maulana Abu Zafar Hassan Nadvi, a cleric, too accepts that since the Quran is silent on the punishment for homosexuality, it should be treated as an irreligious, immoral act. ‘‘Every non-religious act is not liable to be punished. Just as we don’t pronounce death for atheists, homosexuals should be left alone until they get reformed,” said Maulana Nadvi.

Some clerics maintain that since Indian state is secular, it should not press for laws guided by religions. ‘‘Why should we expect that what applies in Saudi Arabia or Iran must also apply in India in regard to punishment for homosexuality? As a religious person, I condemn homosexuality. But I don’t have the right to declare homosexuals criminals,’’ said Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi, a Shia scholar and member of the All India Ulema Council.

Said Deepak Chopra, ‘‘What is religion? And what is morality? Religion is nothing more than cultural mythology…A religion that gets frozen and is not consistent with our current understanding of evolution, biology or cosmogenesis ceases to serve people and becomes a self-righteous, immoral force in society. Hence all religions have become quarrelsome, divisive and idiotic.’’

Gay sex ‘not criminal’ in India

02 July 2009 – courtesy BBC news

A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has ruled that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not a criminal act.

The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”.

Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence.

Many people in India regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate. Rights groups have long argued that the law contravened human rights.

Delhi’s High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a “violation of fundamental rights”.

The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and made them illegal, was an “antithesis of the right to equality”.

‘India’s Stonewall’

The ruling is historic in a country where homosexuals face discrimination and persecution on a daily basis but it is likely to be challenged, says the BBC’s Soutik Biswas in Delhi.

It also promises to change the discourse on sexuality in a largely conservative country, where even talking about sex is largely taboo, our correspondent says.

Gay rights activists all over the country welcomed the ruling and said it was “India’s Stonewall”.

New York’s Stonewall riot in 1969 is credited with launching the gay rights movement.

“It [the ruling] is India’s Stonewall. We are elated. I think what now happens is that a lot of our fundamental rights and civic rights which were denied to us can now be reclaimed by us,” activist and lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay told the BBC.

“It is a fabulously written judgement, and it restores our faith in the judiciary,” he said.

Leading gay rights activist and the editor of India’s first gay magazine Ashok Row Kavi welcomed the judgement but said the stigma against homosexuals will persist.

“The social stigma will remain. It is [still] a long struggle. But the ruling will help in HIV prevention. Gay men can now visit doctors and talk about their problems. It will help in preventing harassment at police stations,” Mr Kavi told the BBC.

But the decision was greeted with unease by other groups.

Father Dominic Emanuel of India’s Catholic Bishop Council said the church did not “approve” of homosexual behaviour.

“Our stand has always been very clear. The church has no serious objection to decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults, the church has never considered homosexuals as criminals,” said Father Emanuel.

“But the church does not approve of this behaviour. It doesn’t consider it natural, ethical, or moral,” he said.

In 2004, the Indian government opposed a legal petition that sought to legalise homosexuality – a petition the high court in Delhi dismissed.

But rights groups and the Indian government’s HIV/Aids control body have demanded that homosexuality be legalised.

The National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) has said that infected people were being driven underground and efforts to curb the virus were being hampered.

According to one estimate, more than 8% of homosexual men in India were infected with HIV, compared to fewer than 1% in the general population.

Join us and celebrate Diversity with PRIDE!

The 5th Annual COLOMBO PRIDE  festival offers a diverse range of activities which will no doubt be loads of fun as well as extremely educational and relevent to today’s evolving social and cultural pehneomena.  Join us and celebrate Diversity with PRIDE!

PROGRAMME

28th June: “Rainbow Kite Festival” – come fly with us on the beach at Mt. Lavinia! Venue: Mt. Lavinia Beach (Sunshine Cabanas next to Lavinia Breeze): Kite flying (4pm till 6pm) Sundown dance (till 8pm) – Food and cash bar will be available throughout the Kite Festival! Entrance: FREE

30th June – 02nd July: “Rainbow Visions” – LGBT Art and Photo Exhibition. Venue: Barefoot (Daily:10a-10p) Entrance: FREE

30th June – 02nd July: “Celluloid Rainbows” – LGBT film festival. Venue: Barefoot (7pm-10pm) Entrance: FREE EQUAL GROUND is grateful to the BRITISH COUNCIL and OUT IN AFRICA for its contribution and support of “Celluloid Rainbows” – LGBT film festival.

04th July: WORKSHOP ON SEXUALITY – National Youth Coalition/EQUAL GROUND Venue: EQUAL GROUND Entrance: FREE

05th July: “Rainbow PRIDE” – the Annual PRIDE Party. Venue: Rhythm ‘n Blues (8pm onwards) Tickets: Rs.1,000 GET IN BEFORE MIDNIGHT! (GATES CLOSE AT 12 MIDNIGHT )

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