Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alberta Still Lists Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder

     Thanks to my friend Sheila from Calgary for pointing this out to me, but in yesterdays issue of the Vancouver Sun a story was run detailing how the Alberta government still has homosexuality listed as a mental disorder (alongside pedophilia and bestiality). As the article states,

Alberta continues to list homosexuality as a “mental disorder” along with bestiality and pedophilia, and doctors used the diagnostic code to bill the province for treating gays and lesbians more than 1,750 times between 1995 and 2004, government records show. 
The province has known about the classification for more than a decade and the Conservative government first promised to change it in 1998. On Tuesday, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky repeated that promise. 
“It has no place in Alberta,” Zwozdesky said, adding he has called for a review of the entire 300-page diagnostic code. “It is simply an incorrect and unacceptable classification and I’ve ordered it to be removed immediately.” 
The diagnostic code is used by doctors when they bill the province for services provided to Albertans. 
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, followed by the Canadian Psychiatric Association in 1982. Eight years later, in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the 10th version of the International Classification of Diseases, known as the ICD-10. 
In 1998, then-health minister Halvar Jonson said the province was in the process of changing the codes. 
“A new coding structure has been developed which Alberta Health is considering,” Halvard wrote in a letter to then-Liberal health critic Gary Dickson. “This new coding will address the concerns regarding the classification of the diagnostic code for homosexuality.” 
Alberta’s current diagnostic codes were last updated in 2005, the same year that British Columbia removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and four years after China did so.
      Overall, I'm not surprised that Alberta listed homosexuality as a disorder still, though they are promising a change, and no doubt one will happen. My friends, remember this is the same government that refused - until told by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Vriend decision -  to put sexual orientation in its Human Rights code. This is the same government that allows parents to remove their children from classrooms if the oh so taboo subject of sexual orientation is discussed. And this is the same government that threatened to use the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when marriage equality was legalized by the Federal Parliament in 2005.

Edit: In another article that I read on this subject from the Globe and Mail, they are saying that it HAS officially been "scrubbed" from the provinces mental disorder list.

Irish Civil Partnerships Bill is Signed into Law

     Here is some awesome news from Ireland. Though the law was passed this past April, the Justice Minister, Dermot Aherm, officially signed the new law. It goes into effect on January the 1st. Though civil partnerships are "separate but equal" in my opinion, they are a good stepping stone to full marriage equality.

From the Irish Examiner,

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern today signed the Commencement Orders for the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights of Cohabitants Act 2010.

Enacted in July, the Act establishes a civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples together with a range of rights, obligations and protections including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home, pension rights and succession.

The Commencement Orders mean that from January 1 same-sex couples will be able to apply to the Civil Registrar to enter into a civil partnership, although due to a three-month notice period the first civil partnership ceremonies are likely to occur in April.

On registration of a civil partnership, the civil partners will be treated in the same way as spouses under the tax and social welfare codes. The changes required to introduce civil partnership into the tax and social welfare codes also come into effect from January 1.

“I am particularly pleased to bring this Act into operation," Minister Ahern said today.

"The new legal regime reflects the many forms of relationships in modern Irish society," he added.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let Us Not Play the Victim

     This past year has been one of growth and thought for me. I have transformed from a guy who "took on proudly the role of victim" to one that has taken a more "stable", as I will put it, outlook. Let me explain...

     Every day I scour news sites for articles pertaining to gay rights and gay marriage issues, and I am astounded by the level of hatred and lack of compassion by commenter's on these sites. They assert that gay people are depraved, sick in the head, forcing our agenda on an unwilling audience, wanting "special rights", disgusting etc. They have no qualms in their hatred of our community. Yet, though I frequent these news sites, I also frequent LGBT blogs and such. From a community that I expect to be the ones who are not hating and belittling others, I see the exact opposite. I see a group of people who are JUST AS hate filled and angry. They call those who oppose equal rights for LGBT people as bigots and haters (yet those are more flowery interpretations for their words).

     Are we any better than those opposite us? Yes, I grant that we are discriminated against every day (I myself am a testament to that), I grant that these people are seeking to put us back in the closet, and I grant that these people are blatantly speaking falsehoods about our community. These things cannot be denied. But at the same time, are we losing our own credibility when we respond in the same way. You see, the LGBT community and our opponents are fighting a battle over control of the American peoples ideas and views. Are we attracting this community with honey or are we repelling them with the same vinegar that our opponents emit?

    My husband has been working on me over these ideas, and he has made a great impact on my thinking with one phrase. He says, "Instead of focusing too much on the hatred and the negativity,  just show the world that you are successful, that you are not what these people say that you are, but that you are open and proud of who you are at the same time." You see my friends, that is the key. No longer are we some fringe minority group that is yearning for acceptance, but we ARE going into the mainstream. Thus, we have to act in a way that is fitting of this new role. Instead of being the bitchy and angry victims that we have been for years, we must now show the world our families and our lives, that we are normal, and are not trying to "impose ourselves" on the American people. If we don't, I fear that we might be our own undoing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rights In Conflict: Religious Freedom and Gay Rights

 With the recent repeal in the Senate of DADT, the freedom of religion of chaplains and soldiers has become an extreme concern by the Religious Right. In fact, just today, OneNewsNow has an article citing the Alliance Defense Fund of the danger of this repeal and its implications on religious liberty. They state,

The conservative legal group, Alliance Defense Fund, issued a statement after the vote saying "The Senate's cave-in to pressure from activists to impose homosexual behavior on our military will place our troops' religious liberties in unprecedented jeopardy. Indeed, the first official casualty of this hurried vote may well be the religious freedom of chaplains and Service members."  ADF Litigation Counsel, Daniel Blomberg, went on to say " no Americans, and especially not our troops, should be forced to abandon their religious beliefs."

The ADF says it stands ready to defend Service members if they are ever unconstitutionally required to choose between "serving their country or obeying their God as a result of this damaging policy decision."
    Why are these groups flipping out? I propose that there is so much concern about this "religious liberty" issue because LGBT issues are becoming just as important in American society as Christianity. You see, for centuries, Christianity and the "religious freedom" that goes along with it, has been the primary concern in America. Now that they are losing this "special status" in favor of a more equitable treatment of everyone, they are complaining that their liberties are under threat.

    In a nutshell, yes their "special liberties" are under threat. When one persons right to be him or herself is just as important as an expression of religion, then there has to be a balance between these two interests, instead of a free pass for one of them. With the repeal of DADT, and the eventual ability for gay and lesbian soldiers to be open about who they are, Conservative Christians will be required to moderate there tone.

    This my friends, is why the Religious Right is so upset. Instead of being allowed to say anything that they want about gay and lesbian people, they now have to be private about their prejudice.  Now that the military is removing institutionalized discrimination about who an individual is, those who choose to hold certain beliefs cannot assert those beliefs without consequences. For the Religious Right this is unacceptable, for in this they see that their power is lessening. The same thing happened with women and African-Americans. Religious personal beliefs about these groups' inferiority (beliefs which do persist to this day) had to go into the "closet" of private life, instead of being able to be broadcast publicly through institutionalized laws.

       Overall, there is a difference between holding a belief and being able to manifest said belief; something that I think the American people have been coming around and realizing. We all have the right to have a belief (even if I may disagree with the ADF's beliefs on gay people, I will defend their rights to have it), but when those beliefs conflict with individuals rights then beliefs must be tempered. This is why I don't give these groups that much power, for their beliefs are slowly moving back into the private sphere - where they should be.

New Hampshire and Gay Marriage: The Evolving Story

The New Hampshire House and Senate, after overwhelmingly moving to control by the Republicans last election, is poised next session to repeal the marriage equality bill that it enacted last year. Certain Republicans, believing that they have the votes to override a governor veto, are intent on rolling back the protections that gay and lesbian citizens in the state are afforded. As seacoastonline reports,

Rep. Leo Pepino, R-Manchester, already has four other co-sponsors to his LSR and he's convinced that the law will be repealed this session.
At 298 House Republicans, “I think we have more than we need to override a veto,” he said.
Pepino is a Catholic who said he feels strongly about the issue.

“When I was a kid, we were all led to believe that the first couple was Adam and Eve, not two Adams and two Eves. To me, it's not normal” for gays and lesbians to marry.
He fought staunchly against the marriage equality bill filed in 2009 by then-Rep. Jim Splaine of Portsmouth, and Pepino said he's already spoken with House leadership about the repeal effort.
“I told them, ‘You are involved in the budget right now, and that's what you should be doing,'” he said.

He said he told leaders that those who are leading the repeal effort “will work on that this session and keep you posted. It'll give us something to do.”
Kevin Smith, of the pro-repeal Cornerstone Research Group, said his organization has surveyed the incoming Legislature and found most of the delegates favor repeal. Having said that, he indicated some want concessions such as language that allows civil unions. “And there are a handful, most who lean toward Libertarian, who are on the fence.”
He said he's “cautiously optimistic, but not wildly optimistic. You never know until the vote is taken in the House,” he said.
But do not doubt for a moment that those who want to uphold the law will be vocal, Splaine said. Splaine looked at the numbers and said, if those who support marriage equality can find 50 or 60 Republicans “who will join the Democrats in upholding any veto,” he believes they will succeed.
Without a two-thirds affirmative vote in both the House and the Senate, the veto will be upheld. And that's key, said Splaine, as those who support the law work to find enough legislators to sustain the veto in the House.
      In my opinion, the New Hampshire House and Senate will be in a very dangerous position if they repeal the law. First, I do not doubt that one of the 3,000 couples that have been married in New Hampshire since the law was passed will take the repeal to the Courts. As has been shown in the Proposition 8 case, there is a very very large difference between a group not having a right, and the group already having it and then taking it away. The Supreme Court has even addressed this in Romer v. Evans, saying that it was unconstitutional for the people and the government to take away rights when they were directed at a specific group and having no rational cause in doing so. I for one, cannot see how the Republicans in N.H. can claim that they have a rational basis in "protecting marriage" when it can be seen in the evidence that gay and lesbian couples have not hurt the institution over the past year.

     In fact, if the "compromise" on civil unions is reached, then there will definitely be a Court challenge, for there is clearly no rational in still giving gays and lesbians all the rights of marriage yet withholding the name of the institution. By doing that, there is clearly no rational basis, for its only a "word".

     I for one, hope that common sense prevails in New Hampshire, and the State does not join the ranks of states like Maine and California...States that will forever go down in history as States which allowed the people to change the equality rights of others.

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