Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during November, 2009

School Board Protects Gay Students, Meets Opposition

November 30th, 2009

Life before the policy update was rough

Good news coming out of Chilliwack, British Columbia. The Chilliwack Board of Education has voted to update their bullying and harassment policies to directly address the homophobic bullying that has been making life very difficult for gay students there.

Great news, marred only by two trustees that actually opposed the anti-bullying measure: Heather Maahs and Martha Weins.  Maahs explained her opposition to the press:

If you open the policy up for one group, you’d have to open it up for all groups of students. Nobody deserves to be harassed or bullied, but it’s difficult when you take one group of students and write a policy specifically for that group.

I won’t even justify that with an invective. If gay students are being tormented in ways that other students aren’t, it is the school board’s duty to address it with as many specific policies as required.

The school board already had a general bullying and harassment policy, but there was no official denunciation of homophobia, nor any specific training for educators and staff in the old policy. Without these in place, few bullied GLBT students feel comfortable to approach anyone for help. I say this from personal, painful experience—and with that in mind, the new anti-bullying policies get my enthusiastic, prolonged approval.

PMO Plagiarises States’ Ugandan Condemnation Over Gay Bill

November 27th, 2009

Simon says...

Uganda is on the verge of passing one of the most homophobic pieces of legislation in history. The law would not only proscribe the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” (say, that’s a new term), but would also imprison anyone who doesn’t out a gay person to the police within 24 hours of discovering their sexual orientation. The prison sentence would last three years, but there’s also a seven year prison term for anyone who defends the rights of gay and lesbian people.

Several governments have gone on record to condemn this atrocious bill, including Canada’s own Prime Minister’s Office. I don’t think the PMO put much effort into the condemnation, mind you, as it was stolen word-for-word from one issued by the United States several weeks ago.

Here’s the U.S. version:

If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda. We urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention.

And the Canadian one: (Identical phrases are in bold)

If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda. Canada has clearly spoken out against human-rights violations committed against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and we urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention.

Of course, regardless of the PMO’s lack of imagination, condemnation was the exactly right thing to do. Here’s hoping that world governments do more than just verbally condemn Uganda’s Orwellian bill, and see to it that this horrific violation of human rights is put to an end immediately.

Customs Seizes Gay Festival Films

November 25th, 2009

Adorable family dramas are so terribly inappropriate.

ROOOOSSEEEBUUUUUD!!!!

Ottawa’s Inside Out Film festival had to make some urgent, last minute arrangements after the Canadian Border Services Agency seized three films scheduled to be presented. The seized films include Patrik 1.5 (Rated PG), Clapham Junction (Rated R), and I Can’t Think Straight (Rated PG-13).

All three films had already been shown in Canada. Patrik 1.5 debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008 and I Can’t Think Straight was a mainstream theatrical release over the summer.

Canadian customs regularly seizes materials it suspects to be obscene, and often classifies gay films, books, and artwork as such. In 2000, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the CBSA was unfairly targeting GLBT content and ordered it to stop its discriminatory policies.

The CBSA is still permitted to seize materials randomly, something that the film festival’s director, Jason St-Laurent, doubts is the case here: “It seems biased at some times, and at other rimes random, but to me, this time, it is not a random event.” Brice Dellsperger, a filmmaker featured at the festival agrees: “It happens all the time; it’s something that we constantly face.”

Well, that settles it. Slap Upside The Head: The Movie will be distributed digitally!

Lesbian Refugee Fleeing U.S. Army Gets Second Chance

November 23rd, 2009

Uncle Sam's a jerk

Bethany Smith, a lesbian seeking refugee status in Canada from the U.S., will get a second chance to have her case heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board after the Federal Court ruled that her previous plea was wrongfully dismissed.

Bethany, a 21 year old U.S. soldier, fled the U.S. in September 2007 over the institutionalized homophobia in the country’s army. Bethany says that other soldiers discovered she was a lesbian after seeing her hold hands with another woman at a shopping mall. Gays and lesbians are forbidden to serve openly in the U.S. army, so this information was used to harass, blackmail, and threaten her with violence—with no available recourse in the army’s administration.

The Immigration and Refugee Board originally rejected Bethany’s case in February, but will now give her a second chance with a different adjudicator. The Federal Court says the IRB should have taken into account “the particular environment” at Bethany’s Kentucky army base, including information that a gay man was murdered there in 1999 by fellow soldiers as he slept.

Considering Canada’s abysmal record on these sorts of cases, I don’t know how much of a chance Bethany has of getting full refugee status. Still, I wish her the best, as well as the speedy turfing of the U.S’s terrible Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and other forms of institutionalized homophobia!

Canada’s New Immigrants Guide Leaves Out Gays

November 20th, 2009

Ghosts are an important part of Canadian society

The Government of Canada has released a new guide directed toward new immigrants to help them adjust to Canadian culture. Not a bad idea, actually!

Still, while the guide has entire sections devoted to gender equality and diversity, the GLBT community was somehow left out of both. In fact, the only mention of gays anywhere occurs in a section about sports, arts, and culture; tucked away in the sidebar is a photo of Mark Tewksbury, accompanied by the caption: “Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medalist and prominent activist for gay and lesbian Canadians.”

Surprising, given Canada’s advancements in equal rights and the exhaustive coverage of gender and diversity issues, you think there’d at least be a mention of same-sex marriage or other details of interest to gay immigrants.

Then again, Canada has an abysmal record of accommodating GLBT refugees, many of whom simply want asylum from unjust laws in their home countries. If the government doesn’t feel the responsibility to welcome those who need to immigrate the most, then why have the courtesy to acknowledge those who are coming under standard immigration circumstances?

Short Break Shorts

November 18th, 2009

Hey kids; I need to take an unscheduled break for a bit. Regular updates will resume soon, though! In the meantime, here’s a few news tidbits of interest:

In Washington D.C., the Catholic Church has threatened to stop all of its social aid programs, including shelter for the homeless, if a same-sex marriage bill before the D.C. council passes. Hmm… Using the needy as pawns for political ends; Jesus totally would have been into that, right? (Hat tip to John for the story.)

Ang Ladlad, an LGBT movement seeking party status in the Philippines has been rejected a second time by the Commission on Elections for “advocating immoral doctrines.” Interesting choice of words. I guess that’s some sort of new code for ending workplace and housing discrimination for gays. (Hat tip to Pinoy Pride for the story.)

On the weirder side of things, teen singer Miley Cyrus is coming under heat for changing her song lyrics from “you’re vain, your games, you’re insecure” to “you’re vain, you’re gay, you’re insecure” during a live performance. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to a slip of the tongue. (Hat tip to Jessica for the story.)

Gay Tourists Not Welcome At Vatican: Bishop

November 16th, 2009

It's basically just ancient gay porn.

Gays are not welcome at the Vatican—not even to visit. At least, that’s the word according to Bishop Janusz Kaleta, who spoke to the media at last month’s Assembly of United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Speaking to a reporter who clarified that gay tourists are travelling for personal visits and admiration, not political demonstrations, Bishop Kaleta had this to say:

I consider if someone is homosexual, it is a provocation and an abuse of this place. Try to go to a mosque if you are not Muslim. It is abuse of our buildings and our religion because the church interprets our religion that is not ethical. […] If you have different ideas, go to a different location.

I already visited the Vatican in 2003, and I might go back. (So there.) My strongest impression, next to the sheer extravagance of its palaces, was that the Vatican was the gayest place I have ever been in my life. And that’s no surprise; the Vatican’s most famous architect, Michelangelo, is well documented to have been gay. I guess this means his type just isn’t welcome any more. Oh, well. That place is probably reaching its threshold in homoerotic artwork anyway. I mean, overdoing it is just tacky, right?

(Hat tip goes to Bruce at Canuck Attitude for alerting me to the story.)

French Court Kinda OKs Gay Adoption, Almost

November 13th, 2009

Aw, it hissed at me! It knows its daddy!

Promising news from France this week.

A French lesbian has won a court case in her fight to adopt a child. In 1998 and 2008, Emmanuelle B’s adoption papers were rejected, citing a “lack of paternal figure.” An upper court finally reversed that decision on Tuesday morning, noting that “the household conditions offered by the demander with regards to family, education, and psychology correspond to the needs and the interests of an adopted child.”

This would be a big victory for same-sex couples and all the children looking for homes across France, except for one detail: The courts only authorized Emmanuelle as the adoptive parent, leaving out her longtime partner, Laurence R.

France has routinely allowed single persons to adopt children; nevertheless, until Tuesday, Emmanuelle had been rejected from adopting even as the sole legal applicant simply because she is gay. While the court decision recognized this unequal treatment and opened the door to for gays and lesbians to adopt, they stopped short of letting same-sex couples adopt children. That is, if a gay or lesbian couple wants to adopt, one half of that couple must be left out of the legalities, or their application will be rejected.

The fact that France allows singles to adopt children (and has done so for quite some time) flies in the face of their “lack of paternal figure” reasoning against same-sex couples. Here’s hoping the courts follow the next logical step and lets children in need of a loving home find just that!

Lest We Forget

November 11th, 2009

Remembrance Day poppy

Gay Spouses Not That Different From Straight Ones

November 9th, 2009

All kinds of families are great!

Same-sex couples are virtually identical to opposite-sex couples when it comes to age, income, and child rearing according to census data released in the United States this month.

A study conducted at UCLA analyzed the data for nearly 150,000 gay couples to compare how they fare in comparison to their straight counterparts—taking into account gay couples who were legally married as well as those that still referred to each other as being married even if equal marriage rights were not legal in their state. The results show that gay married couples are 52 years old on average, earn a combined household income of $91,558, and have children 31 percent of the time. This compares to straight couples who are 50 years old on average, earn a household income of $95,075, and have children 43 percent of the time.

Gary Gates, a UCLA researcher who compiled the results, said that these numbers show that gay and straight families aren’t as different as lobbyists claim:

Most proponents of traditional marriage will say that when you allow these couples to marry, you are going to change the fundamental nature of marriage by decoupling it from procreation. Clearly [same-sex couples] are not decoupling child rearing from marriage.

Just goes to show you, gay people really aren’t all that different from straight people. Except for our extrasensory abilities and ability to wither your crops by blinking, that is.

Meet The Anti-Gay Lobby: Margaret Somerville

November 6th, 2009

It's time again for...

Who’d have thought one could make a career out of being scared of change and gay people? In this exciting series of slaptacular mini-bios, we take a look at the very special, terrified folk who are lobbying against your rights.

Name: Margaret Somerville

Butchified Name: Marg

Favourite Food: Anything painstakingly prepared by an obedient wife over a vintage 50s electric stove

Actual quote: “It’s a big mistake to think marriage is really about two adults’ public commitment to each other and a declaration of their love.”

Margaret Somerville reacts to a gay wedding card at the Hallmark store.

Margaret Somerville reacts to a gay wedding card at the Hallmark store.

What she does: Margaret currently teaches a seminar on torts (not to be confused with tortes, which are much, much tastier) at the law department of McGill university, but is much better known for preparing rich, flaky, anti-gay testimony to go. Margaret has not only testified against same-sex marriage here in Canada, but regularly travels abroad acting as an expert witness to try and stop gay marriage in strange and foreign lands. Margaret calls herself an ethicist, heading the Centre for Medicine, Ethnics, and Law—which she created.

Harshest Reality Check: It’s a three-way tie! In 2006, Margaret’s nomination for the Order of Canada was rejected because she was deemed “too controversial.” Later, Ryerson University went on record to say they regret giving her an honorary degree. The real kicker, though, has to be the complete dismissal of her testimony before the Iowa District Court. After travelling all the way to Iowa to testify against same-sex marriage, the courts had this to say about Somerville and two of her colleagues at McGill:

The Court concludes that these individuals are not qualified to testify as experts regarding the issues in this matter. […] Though these experts desire to make statements regarding gender, results of same-sex marriage on children and the universal definition of marriage, they do not appear to possess expertise in relevant fields such as sociology, child development, psychology or psychiatry. Ms. Somerville specifically eschews empirical research and methods of logical reasoning in favor of “moral intuition.” She has no training in empirical research and admits having no knowledge of existing social science research relevant to this case. She concedes that her views do not reflect the mainstream views of other ethicists.

Oh, burn!

Party invitation index: Hmm… I’d give her an 8, just to see how an ethicist does at a game of Scruples after a few drinks.

(A special hat tip goes to Dr.Dawg over at Dawg’s blog for alerting me to Somerville’s involvement and subsequent amusing thrashing at Iowa’s courts.)

Scholastic Censors Book Over Lesbian Moms

November 4th, 2009

Pink isn't always very gay

Luv Ya Bunches, a short novel for ages nine to twelve, has been pulled from U.S. book fairs by the Scholastic publishing company because one of the book’s characters, Milla, has two mommies.

The novel, published by Scholastic and written by Lauren Myracle, is about four school girls who form lasting friendships despite not having much in common other than all being named after flowers.

Shortly before the book’s release on October 1st, Scholastic sent a letter to the author asking her to remove several offensive words (specifically “geez,” “crap,” “sucks,” and “oh my God”) and to change Milla’s parents to be straight—or be banned from the publishing company’s book fairs. (Oh my God, that sort of crap sucks. I mean, geez!)

The author, speaking to a literary news site, had this to say:

The other issues, words like “crap,” just made me shake my head and laugh. But the idea that two moms could be problematic… well, astonished would be the best way to describe my reaction.

Myracle agreed to clean up the filthy, filthy language by changing “crap” to “junk” and so forth, but absolutely refused to ungayify Milla’s parents. As a result, Scholastic’s book fairs division banned the book outright, budging only a tad after gaining some negative press. So, while they continue to refuse to include the novel in book fairs targeted toward the book’s intended readers, they will permit it to appear at middle-school book fairs where the readers are too old to hold any interest in the novel. (Scholastic’s Canadian division, notably, never had a problem with the book and features it both in their book club and book fairs division.)

Still, it’s a good thing that Scholastic isn’t in charge of publishing this blog, or they’d probably blacklist me for even thinking to utter the following scathing and profane invective:

Jeepers golly gosh, Scholastic! What gives?

United States To Allow HIV Travellers

November 2nd, 2009

And you must contain less than 100ml of fluid, so you might want to use the washroom.

The United States will soon lift a 22-year old travel ban forbidding HIV-positive people from entering the country, even for vacation. The U.S. was one of only twelve countries to ban HIV travelers, sharing the unique distinction with Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Sudan.

This much-needed reversal in policy was actually signed into law by President George W. Bush, but wasn’t fully implemented before the end of his administration.

The policy change, which takes place on January 1st, means that the United States will now finally be eligible to hold the International AIDS Conference, which is great, since Canada isn’t all that interested.