OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Unjust laws
Two Cameroon men who were sentenced to five years in prison for “looking gay” after ordering Bailey’s Irish Cream have been acquitted of the charges by an appeals court. The two had already passed a year of their sentence before the acquittal.
Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon, and is subject to harsh penalties. Ordering Bailey’s Irish Cream hardly seems like conclusive evidence of being gay, though. I mean, yes, it’s from the country that brought us Billy Elliot and tiny rainbow-obsessed men in green tailcoats, but that doesn’t make Guinness and bar fighting particularly gay, does it?
Less than a year ago, the Russian city of St. Petersburg passed a law banning “homosexual propaganda,” with expected hysterical results. From equal rights marches to rainbows on milk cartons, no one seems to be safe from the accusing eyes of the ruling United Russia party in their search for violators of their new law. Over 70 arrests and countless accusations have been made since the law’s introduction, and, naturally, that applies to… visiting pop divas.
Last month, Madonna was the subject of a Russian court case accusing the singer of “traumatizing minors” by advocating for gay rights during a concert in August. While Madonna didn’t attend or comment on the case, the plaintiffs sought 333 million rubles (about $10 million dollars) in damages, claiming that the singer’s advocacy would cause the nation’s birth rate to plummet and “erode the nation’s defense capability by depriving the country of future soldiers.”
The case was dismissed, mercifully. That hasn’t stopped an appeal from being launched, however, and a new pop star has now been put in the bizarre law’s cross hairs.
Lady Gaga has now been accused of promoting homosexual propaganda at the beginning of a concert last Wednesday. “We will contact the prosecutors and the law enforcement agencies to carry out a thorough investigation of the situation,” Vitaly Milonov, the MP responsible for the anti-gay law, told the media.
- Lawsuit against Madonna dismissed in Russia [Associated Press]
- Lady Gaga accused of illegally promoting gay rights in Russia [The Globe and Mail]
Other countries take note. If you enact crazy anti-gay laws forbidding any positive portrayals of homosexuality, here’s what you can expect to happen:
A popular brand of milk is being accused of illegally promoting homosexuality in St-Petersburg, Russia. The milk, a PepsiCo-owned brand, features a jolly dairy farmer, standing in a lovely green field beside a rather happy-looking cow, with a rainbow arching across the sky.
“A rainbow appeared on the [milk] cartons, a world-renowned symbol of the gay movement,” said Anatoly Artukh, a member of the anti-gay lobby group People’s Council. “That immediately put me on alert.”
Put him on alert for what, exactly? That someone, somewhere is going to sit down for breakfast, see a rainbow on their milk carton and think: “Hey, you know what I’ve never questioned before? My sexuality. Maybe I’ll call that number I saw written on the wall of that truck stop’s men’s room.”
Heaven forbid a real rainbow should ever appear across the sky in St-Petersburg. The meteorologists would have quite a bit of explaining to do.
Of course, here in Canada, milk that has undergone the homogenization process is marketed as “homo milk.” And it’s marketed to children. I know a lot of people who drank homo milk growing up that didn’t turn out gay, but then again—there wasn’t a rainbow on the carton.
- Russian activists slam ‘gay milk propaganda’ [ABC News Australia]
Slap reader Christian submits this bit of craziness: David Cecil, a British theatre producer, is facing a possible prison sentence after staging a play criticizing Uganda’s anti-gay attitudes. The performance, entitled The River and The Mountain, is about a gay businessman who is killed by his own employees. Since it clearly wasn’t very well received by Ugandan authorities, I have a proposal for his next production: The Producer and The Slapees, a gripping tale about a gay theatre producer who is jailed for putting on a freakin’ play.
Lawmakers in the Ukraine have introduced an anti-gay bill that would punish “propaganda of homosexuality” with fines and up to five years in prison.
Russia recently enacted a similar law this year, with expected disastrous results. Gay activists in the country have been arrested simply for marching for equal rights, and any positive portrayal of gay characters in TV and movies are now forbidden under penalty of severe fines and jail time.
According to one of the authors of the Ukrainian bill, the country’s definition of “propaganda” is just as broad: “The positive description and the publicity […] of this abnormal lifestyle.” While a voting date hasn’t yet been set, it could happen as early as September—about a month away.
Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych hasn’t indicated whether or not he supports this initiative. Hopefully Mr. Yanukovych will have some sense here, otherwise I’ll be forced to boycott… uh… borscht?
- Anti-gay bill sparks outcry in Ukraine [CTV News]
Slap reader Tim writes in with this bit of news from Down Under:
Currently in Queensland Australia there exists a legal defence which allows a reduced sentence on murder of another person of the same sex if they hit on you. [There is a] petition put forward by Rev. Fr. Paul Kelly to try and get this defence removed as a valid legal defence.
The gay panic defence has been a very real—and very unjust—legal tool in the past, including in Canada. Up here, it’s been invoked to explain assaults as recently as 2010, but has been considered a legal non-starter since its last successful use in 1994. (The murder of David Gaspard by Gary Gilroy was punished with a reduced sentence of only five years in prison after his killer cited gay panic as the reason for stabbing his victim 65 times.)
While this sort of bizarre logic is considered an antiquated relic nowadays, it’s strange to hear that Queensland still permits it. Stranger still, The Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, has actually defended it, calling its revocation “unnecessary.” Newman is no friend of the GLBT community, though. His government rolled back civil unions and cancelled funding for the state’s GLBT health service, the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities.
As for the gay panic defence, though, there’s something you can do: A petition has been started calling for the end of this legal antiquity, which has had no just purpose even when it was introduced in the 17th century. So, if you’re concerned about what’s happening in Queensland and you’ve got a few moments to spare, why not go and show your support?
- Priest fights for end to ‘gay panic’ defence [ABC News Australia]
- Petition to eliminate the ‘gay panic’ defence from Queensland law [Change.org]
North Carolina conducted a statewide study yesterday to resolve the question once and for all: Are most North Carolinians narrow-minded bigots? The answer, of course, was yes.
The Wildrose Party, a socially-conservative provincial party hoping to wrestle power away from Alberta’s current conservative government, is defending its election platform against some pretty serious criticism this month. The policy is pretty far to the right of the political spectrum, even by Alberta’s standards.
One contentious point in particular, though, involves the concept of “conscience rights:” The ability for citizens in the service industry to refuse public services to others based on whatever private religious beliefs they may hold. If made into policy, explicit situations include civil marriage commissioners legally refusing their services for gay couples, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, and other equally wacky concepts.
I’m not sure if Wildrose is aware that this kind of legislation swings both ways, allowing someone like me to refuse services to, oh… say, members of the Wildrose party. You know, for being total knobs.
More to the point, though, this policy would be illegal, as the federal Charter of Rights and freedoms forbids public service discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, or sexual orientation. Frighteningly, though, the party could weasel this kind of bill into law through obscure constitutional loopholes like the Notwithstanding Clause, and they haven’t ruled this step out. I would certainly hope Albertans wouldn’t tolerate such extremes.
Danielle Smith—the leader of the Wildrose Party—steadfastly defended the policy, however, releasing a statement accusing all concerns surrounding the policy as “fear-mongering” by “liberal politicians.” If you ask me, it sounds like someone’s got their hubcaps in a twist over some pretty serious constitutional flaws in their policy. Here’s hoping Albertans don’t stand for this kind of nonsense on April 23rd.
- Conscience rights battle heats up [Calgary Herald]
Bad news out of Russia: St. Petersburg passed a law banning “homosexual propaganda” today. What counts as propaganda is broad and ill-defined, so Russian Slap readers may officially reading be illegal material right now! So, I guess you might want to close your windows or something, right?
New airport screening rules introduced by the Harper Conservatives appears to have the side-effect of banning trans Canadians from flying entirely. Section 5.2(1)C of the Aeronautics Act now states that anyone who “does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents” is barred from flying. While I doubt this was a deliberate action against trans Canadians, it certainly demonstrates that they aren’t in the government’s consciousness. (Well, either that, or they really, really like trans Canadians and never want them leave.)
The federal Conservative Party—who re-affirmed an official party policy to ban same-sex marriage in Canada only 6 months ago—has issued a strong condemnation toward Nigeria for a draconian law that punishes same-sex wedding participants with up to 14 years in jail.
Well, that’s a tad severe of Nigeria, wouldn’t you say? I may have to cancel all my planned vacations to Maiduguri and Ogbomoso in protest.
A condemnation was undoubtedly the right thing to do on the part of the Tories (and specifically John Baird), but it doesn’t seem particularly meaningful when their own party policy only differs in the punishment, not attitude toward the law itself.
Nigeria’s proposed bill is also a very easy thing to condemn, since the punishment is about as proportionate to the crime as women MPs are to the rest of the Conservative party.
But, hey. Baby steps, right?
- John Baird slams Nigeria over anti-gay bill [CBC News]
The city of Saint Petersburg in Russia has introduced a bill that would impose a $100 fine for anyone found promoting “homosexual propaganda.” The fine is increased up to $1,600 for organisations.
The bill defines homosexual propaganda as a “public act promoting homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgenderism to minors.”
“Public act,” however, is not defined—making the bill dangerously broad. The intention is certainly to put an end to things like Pride marches for equal rights, but may also potentially criminalize things like public hand-holding. Even with a narrowed definition, the bill almost certainly violates legal standards in the country, but the bill is also popular and has widespread support. Courts in Russia routinely side on imposing serious limits on the human rights and freedoms of gay people.
Arkhangelsk and Ryazan—two other Russian cities—already have similar laws on the books.
- Russia proposes ban on gay ‘propaganda’ [Digital Journal]
A Nigerian bill, opened for debate this month, will jail anyone who has—or bears witness to—a same-sex marriage ceremony in the country.
According to the Nigerian senate website, the bill would forbid the “coming together of persons of same sex with the purpose of living together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship.”
The wording of the bill is such that it would likely apply to foreigners upon entry to Nigeria as well.
Well, there goes my plans to move to Nigeria and become a renowned baker of same-sex wedding cakes. Plus, I was looking forward to seeing that really amazing tourist attraction of some sort that Nigeria is so well known for.
- Nigerian bill would punish gay marriage with five years in jail [National Post]
Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya, has declared his intentions to arrest gay people in the country. “We want a country that is clean,” the Prime Minister said during a speech on Sunday, “a clean way of doing thing [sic] has clean mannerisms; we do not want things to do with sodomy.”
Odinga then justified his threat by citing data from August’s census, which showed the population was split exactly between men and women. With such an even proportion, he argued, there was “no need” for homosexuality in the country.
Uh, I… Ugh.
Regardless of his reasoning, Odinga may actually be quite capable of following through on his threats. Kenyan law forbids “sex outside the order of nature,” carrying a sentence of up to fourteen years in jail.
I’m not sure, mind you, how sex outside the order of nature is interpreted as gay sex, unless there aren’t any documented instances of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Speaking of which, has anyone witnessed an animal politician enforcing sexuality laws binding on all members of its species within some well-defined governing region? If not, then human politicians might be unnatural; we should have laws against them.
The United Nations has voted to remove sexual orientation from a resolution against immoral executions. Sexual orientation had been on the list for the past ten years, alongside religion, ethnicity, and language as unacceptable reasons to execute civilians.
The motion, which was introduced by Morocco and Mali, was supported by 79 countries, opposed by 70, and there were 17 to abstain.
Looking over the list, I found very few surprises, with the exception of South Africa, which voted in favour of removing gays from execution protections despite having legalized same-sex marriage in 2006 via parliamentary vote. I’m not under the impression that South Africa has solved all of its homophobia problems, but their vote is a pretty bizarre contradiction and certainly a large step backwards.
At any rate, if you need a good reason why human rights issues should never be put to a vote, this seems like a pretty compelling demonstration. The deletion sends a baffling message to the world, easily interpretable as a sort of OK to executing gays simply for having a different sexual orientation.
Good thing the UN doesn’t have any real power. Still, I guess this means I should cancel my vacation to Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Salam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. (And I was so looking forward to it, too.)
(Special thanks to Slap reader Alex for the story!)
- The United Nations of homophobia [National Post]
- UN deletes gay reference from anti-execution measures [Pink News]
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.
- Pardoned Malawian gay couple gets asylum offer in Britain [Digital Journal]
- Malawi gay couple released after presidential pardon [Vancouver Sun]
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a gay couple in their twenties have been found guilty of “unnatural acts” in a Malawian court yesterday. The two were arrested in late December while celebrating their recent engagement with a party. Now that the verdict has been delivered, they could face a prison term of up to 14 years.
The court ruling was was delivered in a building made of highly unnatural concrete, lit unnaturally by glass tubes coated with unnatural phosphoric powder, excited by billions and billions of electrons carried through an unnatural system of wires. The court verdict was recorded into a computer, which interestingly enough, was natural, having been picked that morning from a computer tree.
Homosexuality, incidentally, has been observed in hundreds upon hundreds of species in the most unnatural environment of all: Nature.
A discriminatory bill that would allow civil marriage commissioners to refuse their public services to gay couples went before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal yesterday. The bill was, strangely enough, brought to court by the government that’s ultimately trying to introduce it in an attempt to predetermine its constitutionality.
I’m certainly no lawyer, but the fact that the provincial government even has to consult the courts shows what a constitutionally shaky bit of nonsense this is. I mean, I can’t imagine how allowing people to refuse public services based on personally held beliefs can mesh with Canada’s Charter of Rights. Civil marriage commissioners provide non-religious ceremonies for couples that do not wish to be married by a priest in a church. If these commissioners interpret their personal religious texts in a way that forbids them from serving a segment of the public in a professional capacity—and that’s a pretty big stretch, if you ask me—then they’ve chosen a career forbidden by their faith and had better choose another.
Personally, I have a feeling that we have nothing to worry about, but if my intuition is wrong and the court rules in favour of the bill, then I have a ton of questions. In addition to gays, could civil marriage commissioners refuse to marry an inter-faith couple? How about a couple who has a child out of wedlock? Does this incredible trump card apply to other careers? Could a vegetarian working at a provincial registry refuse to file paperwork for hunting licenses? What about a pharmacist who’s a Scientologist refusing to fill prescriptions for anti-depressants? Can a doctor who’s a Jehovah’s witness refuse to perform blood transfusions?
And if those questions are too hypothetical at this point, how about a thick-headed premier who’s an Annelidaterian forcing all Saskatonians to open a massive can of writhing, slimy earthworms?
I guess we’ll find out soon!
California is advancing a bill that will repeal a bizarre “gay cure” law from 1950. The law states that “the State Department of Mental Health shall plan, conduct and cause to be conducted scientific research into the causes and cures of sexual deviation, including […] the causes and cures of homosexuality.”
A bill to strike the ancient law advanced on a 4-0 vote, with three abstentions from members who supported the removal of the homosexuality reference, but would still like the law on the books to research sexual predators.
No word on whether or not the state will next stop its investigations of crop failures due to witchcraft.
- Calif. considers repealing law to study, cure gays [Associated Press]
- Calif. Looks to Change Gay “Cure” Law [NBC Bay Area]
The U.S. State of Oklahoma has accidentally passed a bill that eliminates all hate crime protections from people based on their race or religion instead of their sexual orientation, the bill’s original intent.
Bill 1965 (named, most likely, for the attitudes of that era) was supposed to essentially reverse the Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd Act, a federal law that added sexual orientation to the list of minorities protected from violent hate crimes. While states are not allowed to override federal law, Oklahoma found a strange workaround, mandating that local law officials simply not enforce a specific section of the U.S. Code under Title 18. Due to a clerical error or typo, however, the bill identified that section as 245 (which deals with race and religion) instead of 249 (which deals with sexual orientation).
Now, it’s actually a worthwhile exercise to substitute religion or race for sexual orientation to see how crazy anti-gay arguments sound, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen lawmakers do it themselves… to their own legislation… and actually pass it.
Or who knows, maybe they just wanted to exercise the golden rule and seek to be treated the way they treat others?
Either way, the intent of Bill 1965 is exactly the same, no matter which group of people it applies to. With that in mind, I’m sure the legislators who supported the bill in the first place will see no problem keeping it on the books as it stands, right?
Ken Cuccinelli II, the Attorney General for the U.S. state of Virginia has formally warned all of the state’s colleges and universities that they must rescind their non-discrimination policies for gays, or face legal consequences.
Well, that’s all kinds of crazy. Surely “non-discrimination policies” is a really just some coded phrase to camouflage what might actually be a more reasonable request, right? Let’s look at Cuccinelli’s letter:
It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “gender expression,” or like classification as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy absent specific authorization from the General Assembly.
Yes, it appears that treating everyone equally, regardless of their sexual orientation, is illegal in Virginia. Discrimination with respect to employment and college admission is the letter of the law and, by golly, Cuccinelli is going to enforce it.
The state’s top universities—all of which have such non-discrimination policies—are reacting nervously, declining any official comments. Students, on the other hand, are having no trouble speaking their mind. Even though it’s in the middle of spring break, a Facebook group in support of equal treatment has already popped up with nearly 5,000 members.
Say, Cuccinelli does realize that being straight is a sexual orientation too, right? Hey, maybe this means I could start a gay-only faculty, offering degrees in fabulousness!
Special thanks to Slap reader Chase for alerting me to this craziness!
- Virginia attorney general to colleges: End gay protections [Washington Post]
There was a human rights forum in Kampala late last week, with speakers largely discussing the horrifyingly anti-gay bill currently before parliament in Uganda. Otto Odonga, an MP in said parliament, decided to take the opportunity to declare that he would kill his own son if he ever found out that he were gay.
“There is something deeply wrong with you,” replied Makau Mutua, the forum’s keynote speaker.
And I really have nothing to add to that!
- Xtra reports from Uganda: ‘I would kill a gay son,’ says MP [Xtra]
- Ugandan MP Would Kill His Gay Son [The Advocate]
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.
- Obama lifts HIV travel ban [CBC News]
Xtra is covering a vacation horror story experienced by a Canadian gay couple this summer. A one day stopover in Dubai turned nightmarish after the couple was targeted for a full security search, then jailed for possessing a bottle of prescription arthritis medication.
Stephen Macleod and Rocky Sharma spent 27 days in an Arab prison, much of it without any contact with each other. Terrifyingly, they were instructed by the Canadian embassy to never hint that they were a couple, as being gay in the United Arab Emirates is punishable by death.
Lucky for them they were eventually declared innocent and released, avoiding the much more dire charge of being gay where it’s not allowed. Speaking of the experience, Sharma told the media “we’ll never go back to that country.”
That’s good advice for everyone. You know, to maybe stay out of countries that want to kill you.