Tag Archives: LGBT equality

EU Christians at Equality March, Gdansk (Poland)

On Saturday May 27th,  I was privileged to join the Gdansk “Equality March”, which I attended as part of the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian Groups, meeting here for their annual conference, “Forwards in Solidarity”.
This experience was quite different to London’s Pride Parade, in so many ways. First, it was definitely not a heavenly commercialised “Pride Parade”, so familiar in large Western cities.  Far from being besieged by vendors selling rainbow merchandise, organisers were giving away small rainbow flags. Nor were there any signs of corporate sponsorship: Poland is a long way from being sufficiently inclusive to make such sponsorship an attractive corporate investment.  With involvement in LGBT issues more of a risk than an opportunity, business (large and small) stayed away, leaving the heart of the event what (I’m told) London Pride was in the beginning, and many activists would like to see it again – very much a political event, drawing attention to ourselves, and demanding equality.
It was also much tamer: I saw only two drag queens, and no leathermen of bare-chested musclemen, that some opponents of Pride seem to think characterise all Pride Parades. Instead, there were just very ordinary people, mostly in very ordinary clothes, some carrying banners and rainbow flags.
It was also, not surprisingly, very much smaller the big city Western pride – but had a huge riot police presence – at least a hundred of them, armed (variously with truncheons pistols and rifles), wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying plexiglass riot shields and big round protective riot helmets. All very formidable. There were also additional conventional police on what appeared to be traffic control, some very well-muscled obviously plain-clothes police, a large convoy of assorted police vehicles on the ground, and a police helicopter above, keeping an eagle eye open for any sign of trouble.
We’d been promised police protection for fear of aggression from the crowds, which was very funny, because there were no crowds to speak of. There was on organised bunch of protesters with placards, but they were very much hemmed in by police, who outnumbered them something like 10/1. Still, I’m quite certain that if there had been no police presence, there could well have been more opposition, some of whom could well have turned violent. As it is, the worst we had to endure was some obvious anger and rude gestures from a handful of onlookers.  As a South African who lived through forty years of apartheid, and more in the aftermath, I’m never comfortable with too many armed police around. Today was an exception – for the first time, I actually felt grateful to have so many clearly armed police in plain sight.
The protesters were there, claiming to represent “Christian” values in this very Christian country. This however fails to see that the Christian Gospels are implacably opposed to exclusion in any form, and insist instead that “all are welcome in God’s house”. That is why we were there – as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians from right across Europe, from Wales to Russia, and from Sicily to Norway, to show solidarity with the LGBT people of Gdansk in their pursuit of full equality and inclusion, in society and in the Church.
This will have been clear to onlookers, from the rainbow flags we waved – on which we had drawn black crosses, from religious slogans on some of our t-shirts, from the clerical collars worn by participating clergy – and especially from the sight of a bishop of the United Ecumenical Catholic Church, resplendent in episcopal purple, dashingly set off by a rainbow stole.

Polish bishops oppose Catholic group’s support of gay rights campaign | National Catholic Reporter

WARSAW, POLAND

When a group of Polish Catholics declared support for a gay rights campaign, their involvement was quickly condemned by the country’s bishops conference. Having raised the issue in the church, however, the group is determined to press on and ensure the atmosphere of understanding engendered by Pope Francis finds a louder echo in Poland.

“The bishops’ reaction is only a first step — what matters is that they’ve now felt it necessary to take up a position on LGBT issues,” explained Dominika Kozlowska, editor of the Catholic monthly Znak (The Sign). “The Catholics who’ve engaged in this campaign will also continue to talk about these issues in publications and discussions. Though the bishops have accused us of infringing Gospel injunctions, they’ve also said things in the process which haven’t been said in the church here before.”

The campaign, “Let’s exchange a sign of peace,” was launched in early September with nationwide billboards depicting clasped hands — one with a rainbow bracelet and the other with a Catholic rosary.

Source: National Catholic Reporter

Neo – Colonialism and Gay Rights in Africa

During the 2014 Family Synod, some attention was paid to African bishops’ complaints that some Western countries were attempting to make development aid conditional on African acceptance of gay marriage. The complaint is unjustified – there are no countries attempting to do so. There are however, some attempts to make aid conditional on progress with lesbian and gay equality in other areas – and that could be counter – productive.  Africans can be very suspicious, and with good cause, of anything that looks to them like neo – colonialism, or “colonialism of the mind”.

In a recent interview with Okayafrica,   David Kuria,  former  chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) and Kenya’s First Openly Gay Political Candidate,  explained the difficulty. He also came up with a constructive counter proposal, which would not make aid dependent on legal change, but which could nevertheless contribute to progress on LGBT equality. Continue reading Neo – Colonialism and Gay Rights in Africa

Caribbean Priest Urges Constitutional Protection for Lesbians, Gays

The Caribbean is not noted for its tolerance of LGBT rights, but as Trinidad debates a proposed new constitution, a Catholic priest has caught national attention for speaking up in favour of building LGBT protections into its Chapter on Human Rights:

Trinidad

 

PRIEST BATS FOR GAYS

‘They should have rights as other people have’

A Catholic priest has come out in support of the gay community, saying their rights, including the right to love whomever they want, should be included in the Constitution.

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Dr Fr Stephen Geofroy captured the attention of the audience with his comments during consultation on the draft Constitution at the University of the West Indies Sport and Physical Education Centre, St Augustine, on Monday evening.

Geofroy said the matter should not be debated further and instead Government should be embracing of all its people.

“Now on the issue of sexual orientation being subject to further national discussion…discussion about what? Aren’t LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), aren’t they not humans still, yes or no?” said Geofroy.

“Yes? Then they should have rights as other people have,” he continued as he received loud applause from the packed hall.

Geofroy said there was no debate on whether gays are people or not as they have expressed themselves clearly that they are part and parcel of this country’s culture.

“We’ve come over a long history of slavery and indentureship and now it is time to break the many things that denigrate the person,” said Geofroy.

“This is certainly one of the things we have to do and we have to be very decisive of it.”

Geofroy said there has been discrimination on the basis of race, colour and class in this country.

“…I don’t see the difference with sexual orientation. We are citizens of a country and people have the right to love who they want irrespective,” said Geofroy .

He said to continue discussing the issue at a national level without taking a decision was to go the way of other countries such as Nigeria and Uganda as part of a political agenda.

“I think we should avoid that like the plague,” he said.

Geofroy said the rights of a minority should not be suffered because of the majority as the bill of rights speaks to upholding the dignity of all.

“We do not belong to a theocracy, neither are we in a religious oligarchy where people impose their beliefs on others,” said Geofroy.

He said if it was this way then moves would be made to criminalise adultery, masturbation and the use of condoms.

“Then all of these things should be looked at and in my tradition I would say first, they are all sins so I think we have to be very careful on human rights and our rights to our own belief but not the right to impose it on the rest of the population,” he said.

via  Trinidad Express Newspaper 

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Catholic ‘Dignity’

According to “Vatican digs in after gay marriage advances” (Tribune, Nov. 11), the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriages because “Catholic teaching holds that homosexuals should be respected and treated with dignity but that homosexual acts are ‘intrinsically disordered.’” If you truly believe the former, how can you believe the latter?

If you believe in treating blacks with dignity, but that they should also be slaves, what kind of dignity is that?

Being polite and kind is not treating someone with dignity, which means “the quality of being worthy or esteemed.” How is denying a life of committed love to someone wired to be attracted to the same sex treating them with esteem?

Of what worth do you esteem them to be worthy of? Of being an emotional eunuch? It’s that self-fulfilling approach that makes them “disordered.”

Catholics aren’t treating gay men with dignity; they aren’t treating them as worthy men created with liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness in their own way. No, with marriage, it’s the pursuit of happiness the Catholic way — even if you’re not Catholic — or not at all.

That how it was in the Middle Ages, not in 21st century America.

Dean Spencer

Salt Lake City

-letter to The Salt Lake Tribune.

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Indian Protestant, Orthodox Churches Support Gay Rights.

Still another grouping of churches has now come out clearly on the side of gay rights, declaring that homosexuality is “a natural or genetical reality”.

Last month, the US Episcopalians gave the go ahead to the appointment of gay & lesbian Bishops, and to the church blessing of same-sex unions. (Since then, two dioceses have named four lesbian or gay candidates to the episcopate in Los Angeles and Wisconsin_. Last week, the British Quakers agreed to begin performing religious marriage services, as opposed to mere blessings, for same sex couples, and to formally request the UK government to change the relevant legislation – the first major religious grouping to take a lead on the issue.

Now, in India, there is another church taking a stand in favour of equality. A gathering of protestant and orthodox church leaders has declared that as a homosexual orientation is natural, it is “unscientific” and contrary to human rights to condemn people for something over which they have no control. They have also urged other churches to rethink their position, called for a reinterpretation of Scripture, and said there is a need for a rethink in christian theology on homosexuality .

This follows a court decision to legalise homosexual relationships, which had been criminalised under colonial legislation. My impression is that the court decision has not been widely welcomed, and has been strongly criticised in some conservative circles, so it is encouraging to see that here too, churches are willing to take a lead. Indeed, the declaration makes clear that they believe they have an obligation to teach their countrymen on the issue, proposing a series of workshops in every Indian state to inform and educate ordinary people on the rights of people with a same sex orientation:

“A forum of Protestant and Orthodox churches in India has said homosexuality is “a natural or genetical reality”, adopting a radically different stand from other influential Christian denominations across the world.”

“The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which represents around 1.3 crore Christians in the country, also said the rest of the Christian world needed to “rethink’’ its stated position that homosexuality is a sin against God.”

“The NCCI said it wanted the Church to take a more “open’’ view. “Homosexuality traits in a person could be genetical, hence natural. It is unscientific to throw stones at some people because of their natural instincts over which they have no control,’’ said Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, the secretary of the Justice, Peace and Creation Commission of the NCCI.”

The NCCI has also issued a document urging its member churches to “accompany the People with Different Sexual Orientation (PDSO) in their journey” and to protect the human rights and dignity of such people. The forum proposed “re-reading and re-interpreting scriptures from the PDSO perspective”.

According to Rev. Rajkumar, it is the duty of the church to inform the common people that homosexuality is a natural process. “Blind opposition to homosexuality amounts to human rights violation,” he said, adding that a rethink is needed in Christian theology to embrace the homosexuals into its fold.

From the Telegraph, Calcutta( emphasis added)

I have noted before that every step forward by one major church grouping puts pressure on the others, as we have already seen in the letter of complaint from some English Bishops to their Swedish Lutheran counterparts. Meanwhile, we are still waiting on the US Evangelical Lutherans (meeting in Minneapolis 17th -23rd August) , who are due to take important decisions on gay ordinations and gay marriage.

The Methodists, it is true, have disappointed by failing to change existing regulations against admitting “homosexuals ” to their congregations – but at least they discussed the issue.

Others will be forced to do the same in the next few years, again and again, until change has come across a wide front.

(See also: Gay clergy making small strides)

 

The Vatican: Changing Feet

After the Vatican’s initial statement that it would not support the proposed UN declaration on homosexuality was met by world wide protest, they attempted to calm the opposition by explaining that “of course” they opposed the execution of homosexuals and all other “injustice”, but could not support the declaration because it “could” lead to the enforcement of gay marriage. The declaration, of course, says nothing about marriage.

When this initial response led to still louder protest, a further clarification was forthcoming. The problem now appears to be that the declaration could lead to putting homosexuals on the same statutory “level” as other people, which they point out, not even France, the proposer of the motion, does. This is just opening a collective mouth to change feet.

As with marriage, the declaration is NOT about legal equality – else why would France be proposing a motion they do not comply with themselves? The Vatican’s two responses so far are no more than evasive smokescreens. They have repeatedly made sanctimonious statements supporting “compassion” and opposing “injustice” against homosexuals, but are singularly incapable of translating this into concrete terms. The motion proposed was simply an exploratory declaration. The minimum just response we might have expected from the Vatican would have been a statement of support in principle, coupled with explanations of their reservations. (I leave aside at present the obvious question: why should we not have full legal equality?).

The Vatican has an appalling record on LGBT and other sexual minorities. Their hostility is not justified in Scripture, nor in the practice of the early church. A number of saints are now known to have had same sex lovers, or other intimate companions – as do a significant proportion of clergy, at all levels, today. But during the course of history, an initial acceptance became toleration, to hostility, to outright persecution, leading to prejudice, violence, and murder – directly by burning under the Inquisition, indirectly by feeding a frenzy of public hostility and secular legal oppression.

They have backtracked from these past excesses, claiming to oppose “injustice”. But they still declare the “condition” to be “morally disordered”: a statement which, by completely ignoring plain facts of history, biology and social sciences, is itself morally disordered. Further, for this declaration they continue to align themselves with those countries which even today, still have a death penalty for homosexuals. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Until they can fully and frankly acknowledge and apologise their past iniquities against gay and other minorities, and realign themselves unequivocally on the side of simple justice, we must reject their flimsy excuses, and continue to hold them to account.