Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during June, 2010

Woman Sues Church For Holding Same-Sex Ceremony

June 30th, 2010

WWJS: Who would Jesus sue?

Here’s a bit of oddness. Yvonne Moore, a southern Baptist in Washington, D.C. sued her church for performing a same-sex union ceremony back in 2007.

Moore, who is clearly not down with gay rights, attended the ceremony for some reason, found it “totally disgusting,” and then sought $250,000 in compensation—the amount she estimated she had donated to the church over her 40 years as a parishioner. She later dropped the lawsuit after talking to her pastor (and presumably her lawyer).

While the whole thing is pretty amusing in its sheer craziness, it does a pretty good job at illustrating how fearful and misinformed some people are about gay relationships; to actually turn her back on her parish of 40 years and file the paperwork to sue it for $250,000 shows an irrational and deeply emotional reaction to what’s ultimately not a very big deal. After all, this ceremony had nothing to do with Ms. Moore in the first place, but years of casual—and societally supported—homophobia results in exactly these sorts of actions. Unless people stand up to casual homophobia, otherwise kind people are capable of astonishingly crass bigotry.

European Court Says No To Same-Sex Marriage

June 28th, 2010

Illustration is blocked by a sign 'Due to a lack of EU consensus, your right to see this is revoked.'

A European human rights court has ruled that the legality of same-sex unions should be left up to individual European countries since there is no Europe-wide consensus on whether or not equal marriage recognition for everyone is a fundamental right.

The case was brought forward by an Austrian gay couple who are being denied the right to marry in their home country.

Six EU states have full equal marriage rights for all citizens, and ten more have state recognition of gay partnerships, without full marriage equality. The other eleven states don’t allow any kind of same-sex unions.

Justice is slow, but at least the majority of European countries have at least some kind of recognition of gay rights; keep fighting for your human rights and the rest will follow.

Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You That Power

June 25th, 2010

A man riding a giraffe shoots octopi at pedestrians, shouting 'Stand aside, for I have religious freedom!'

Will Goertzen, a landlord in Yellowknife, signed a one-year apartment lease for a young gay couple last year. Three weeks before the couple was set to move in, Goertzen discovered they were gay. He re-listed the property without notifying the couple, rented it to a different family, stole the couple’s $1,150 damage deposit, and left them for homeless.

Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony had to stay with various friends and keep all of their belongings scattered about different locations until they secured a new apartment. They got their damage deposit back only after taking Goertzen to rental court. Now the case is before the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission.

Astonishingly, Goertzen is outright admitting that he denied housing, stole the damage deposit, and left the couple homeless because they were gay, saying that he recognizes the “supremacy of God over the Charter or Rights and Freedoms.”  “[Homosexuality] isn’t natural and it’s a crime against nature,” Goertzen told an adjudicator at a human rights commission last week, “I can definitely not have a part in it.”

Religious freedoms exist in Canada, but all that means is that the government cannot dictate which deity or deities you are allowed to worship; it does not—and has never—granted the power to circumvent Canada’s laws or our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Both of which, indeed, explicitly forbid housing discrimination based on sexual orientation).

I’m not surprised some people are under a different impression, mind you. Saskatchewan has proposed a law that lets civil marriage commissioners refuse their public services for gay couples, and Alberta has just enacted a law that forces teachers to halt any discussions of sexual orientation until they receive parental permission from each parent, lest it offend their personal religious beliefs. Religious freedom is fast becoming a convenient carte blanche; a way to eschew personal responsibility, ignore or erase the rights of gay people, and nullify Canada’s guarantees of equality. Goertzen’s despicable behaviour is just a natural extension of this.

It’s time for mainstream religious people who realize that what Goertzen has done is wrong both in the legal and moral sense to stand up and say this is not acceptable.

Or, if this whole thing turns out differently, I could just start a religion of my own…

(Huge hat tip goes to Jason over at The Gay White North for the story.)

Study: Gay Men Better At Facial Recognition

June 23rd, 2010

A study out of York University has found that gay men are faster and more accurate when recognizing faces than their heterosexual counterparts.

Say, let’s try this out now:

Kermit the Frog

(You can submit your time via email. I’ll wait.)

Researchers attribute the results to differences between the brains of gay and straight men. Gay men, they say, like women, use both sides of their brains for performing these sorts of tasks, whereas straight men only use the right half.

This study adds one more biological trait to the growing list of physiological differences between gay and straight men discovered in recent years. Gay men, for example, are statistically more likely to be left-handed, to have counter-clockwise hair whorls, and have longer index fingers than ring fingers (like me).

With more and more biological links are being discovered every year, I wonder when, exactly, the anti-gay lobby will finally abandon their kooky claims that being gay is just some sort of lifestyle choice. I suppose the Vegas odds on 2:30pm aren’t very good.

Third Time’s A Charm For Transgender Rights Bill?

June 21st, 2010

An unstoppable trans machine: a cybernetic transbotA private member’s bill that would explicitly add human rights protections for transgender and transsexual persons has made it past second reading in the House of Commons this month.

This is the third time that Bill Siksay has attempted to add these protections into Canada’s Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. The previous attempts had been thwarted when parliament was strategically suspended by the Conservative Party, once for an election, and again when parliament was prorogued in January.

The bill has support from every party, except the Conservatives, who are arguing that protections for trans people are already covered by existing clauses preventing discrimination based on sex and disability. Siksay, as well as I, believe that these protections need to be explicit. This will not only remove any doubt for interpretation, should these protections ever be brought before a judge, but also sends a message to trans people that they are recognized and valued in Canada. But something tells me that the Conservatives aren’t really against what they perceive as redundancies; they just don’t typically like to be seen supporting rights for GLBT Canadians.

Having passed second reading is a really encouraging milestone, and a good indication that this bill might actually make it all the way through this time. Best of luck with the bill, Bill!

A very special hat tip goes to Slap reader Melanie for the story.

Gay Men Make Up Most Victims of Hate-Motivated Violence

June 18th, 2010

Man is crushed by rising column in hate crimes statistic bar chart.

There has been a noticeable jump in the number of reported hate crimes in Canada in 2008, and gay men top the charts as victims of hate-motivated violence, according to a police services report.

The rise in hate crimes is most likely due to better reporting of hate-motivated incidents, which is a very good thing, but these numbers are still way too high. The number of hate crimes logged by police, for example, has risen 35 percent since the year before to a grand total of 1,036. That’s over a thousand victims selected simply because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation with no other motivating factors.

Most disturbingly, 75 percent of all hate crimes involving physical violence (as opposed to vandalism and other non-violent incidents) were motivated solely by the sexual orientation of the victim. Of these, 85 percent of the victims were gay men. This means the gay community, and particularly gay men, are at a hugely disproportionate risk of violence.

This has got to change, and it starts by challenging all casual homophobia before it has a chance to escalate to this level of hate.

German Court Decides Canadian Marriages Aren’t Real

June 16th, 2010

A leprechaun riding a unicorn declares that same-sex marriages aren't real.

A German court has declared that Canadian same-sex marriages are not actually real marriages and can therefore only be considered civil partnerships.

Andreas Boettcher and his partner of 17 years married in Canada just before participating in the Montréal OutGames in 2006, but both had their marital status changed to “single” on government documents by German authorities.

While getting the marriage recognized as a civil partnership is a step in the right direction, Andreas was hoping that it would get its full recognition. “I could fight for it,” Andreas told the press, “but it would take a lot of time and money. At least I have reached the minimum.”

Well, it is better than nothing, I suppose. And at least this opens up a cheap and effective means of divorce for anyone in an unhappy relationship. Simply move to Germany and your marriage is automatically annulled; no lawyers or custody battles required!

Iceland Gets Marriage Equality

June 14th, 2010

Global equality loading screen with progress bar inching forward.

Great news coming out of Iceland this month, as it became the ninth country in the world to offer full marriage equality to all its citizens! The parliamentary vote passed unanimously, 49 to 0, making Iceland join the ranks of Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden in legalizing same-sex marriage.

This is fantastic news, although I’m a little surprised it didn’t happen earlier. I mean, what with Björk and all.

Iceland also made international news in 2009 after electing Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world’s first gay leader.

B&B Shuts Down Rather Than Welcome Gay Customers

June 11th, 2010

Elderly couple ponders what the bible says and recalls something about turning guests away from an inn.

Lee and Susan Molnar, a retired couple in British Columbia, have decided to shut down their bed and breakfast rather than allow gays to stay there. The couple had converted their riverside home into a quaint lodging destination, but had a human rights complaint filed against them after refusing to open their business to gay customers.

The human rights tribunal case, which started on Wednesday, heard arguments from the couple that allowing gay people to stay in the their home would have violated their religious freedoms. While I’m pretty sure that the idea of turning away others is not Christian tenet, the bigger issue here is that this was not a private home—it ceased to be so the moment it was turned into a bed and breakfast. It was a business where customers pay to lodge for a few nights and that the owners happened to live in as well. The law is very clear about these things: You cannot refuse public services to anyone based on their sexual orientation.

The couple has done the right thing by closing their business. If their personal discriminatory tendencies prevent them from serving the public equally, then they’re simply not fit to run one. Too bad for them, too; meeting people from all walks of life would have been an enriching experience.

I’m sure some people will paint this as some sort of erosion of religious freedoms, but they’re probably forgetting this is a two-way street. Gay bed and breakfast owners can’t turn away Christian customers either.

Something’s Rotten In Malawi

June 9th, 2010

Government PR person directs all questions to the intimidating Agent Shutface

Things in Malawi should have been all wrapped up; instead, they’re getting stranger by the minute.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalang were arrested in Malawi for homosexuality and sentenced to 14 years in prison before being pardoned by the president amidst intense international pressure. Several countries have since offered the couple asylum, paving the way for the two to live their lives blissfully abroad without unjust laws criminalizing their personal relationship.

Well, things aren’t panning out that way.

Steven, having been released from prison for less than a week, is now claiming that he declared his love for Tiwonge under duress—that he was pressured to pretend the whole story by an unidentified group of people who got him drunk and forced him to play along. “Although, I claimed that I still love Tiwonge,” Steven told The Daily, “I did not mean it.”

If this is true, and I suspect it’s not due to a complete lack of motive and evidence of any responsible parties, this means that Steven perjured himself in court when professing his love and devotion to Tiwonge. As if that’s not odd enough, Steven is now reportedly about to marry someone else, a 24-year-old girl named Dorothy, in what has to be the world’s speediest and most unexpected courtship.

Meanwhile, things have taken a disturbing turn for Tiwonge, the other half of the original relationship. Since being pardoned, Tiwonge has gone missing and no one has been able to locate her.

Note that I use the pronoun “her.” While the mainstream media had been describing the two as a gay male couple throughout the criminal proceedings, and while the two had been arrested and tried for homosexuality, word has gotten out that Tiwonge identifies as a woman—likely transgendered or intersexed. Trans* people face extra hardships, particularly in countries where all letters in the GLBT acronym are criminalized. Hopefully Tiwonge has gone into hiding and is being protected and cared for, even if it’s not with Steven.

Still, whatever is happening, something’s clearly awry.

Well, either that or the crazy anti-gay lobbyists are right: That the GLBT community is really out to recruit unsuspecting Malawians into the dreaded gay lifestyle, but they can totally turn straight and marry in a snap, so long as crazy-harsh and invasive laws are put in place.

Malawi Gay Couple Gets Presidential Pardon

June 7th, 2010

Gay couple is pardoned and free to go, but an angry, homophobic crowd is outside the window.

After intense international pressure, the president of Malawi has pardoned a couple sentenced to jail for 14 years simply because they were gay.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalang were arrested in December while celebrating their recent engagement. The two were charged with “unnatural acts” and given the maximum prison sentence by a judge just last month.

While the pardoning is generally good news, it does not change Malawi law, which still makes homosexuality a crime—and Malawi’s Minister of Gender and Children has stated that the couple will be re-arrested if they stay together. Worse still, homophobia is rampant in Malawi and the Malawian press has made the case somewhat of a hot issue.

Britain has reportedly offered asylum for the couple—a welcome bit of irony, since virtually all of Africa’s laws outlawing homosexuality are legal relics from Britain’s colonization of the continent.