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Legal challenge launched to reverse Bermuda’s gay marriage ban

THE Bermuda government’s decision to ban same-sex marriages in this British Overseas Territory nine months after the Supreme Court gave them the green light is to be tested next month (May) according to a Jamaica Observer report.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley will hear the civil case brought by gay Bermudian Rod Ferguson, a 38-year-old singer and stand-up comedian who lives in the US, against Attorney-General Kathy Simmons on May 21 and 22.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed on February 15, claims that the new Domestic Partnership Act – piloted through the House of Assembly last year by Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown – is unconstitutional and will subject gay people to “inhumane or degrading treatment” by denying them the right to wed.

He is seeking to have the legislation declared void by the court, on the basis that it is inconsistent with his fundamental rights as set out in the Bermuda constitution.

The Domestic Partnership Act was passed in parliament in December – first by the House and then the Senate – and given royal assent by Governor John Rankin on February 7, but has yet to come into effect.

Evangelist fails in bid to become President and roll back LGBT rights

THE Miami Herald reported on March 30, 2018, that an upsurge in evangelical activity in Costa Rica could well see Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, above, winning its upcoming Presidential election.

His popularity, the paper reported, “is part of the growing tide of evangelical political power in Latin America – a force that is helping make Central America one of the most socially conservative swaths of the hemisphere.

Muñoz promised he’d challenge the rights of same-sex couples, consider withdrawing from the Inter-American Human Rights Court and uphold the country’s rigid anti-abortion laws.

Mercifully, Muñoz’s Christian overtures to the electorate fell on deaf ears, and he lost big time in April to the centre-left’s Carlos Alvarado Quesada, below, who described his evangelical opponent “homophobic”.

A former government minister and fiction writer, Quesada, 38, won 61 percent of the vote with results in from 95 percent of polling stations, a far bigger lead than predicted by opinion polls that foresaw a tight race. He said: “My commitment is to a government for everybody, in  equality and liberty for a more prosperous future. There is much more that unites us than divides us."

Muñoz, a 43-year-old former TV journalist known for cheesy religious dance songs, quickly conceded, sinking to his knees, arms raised, in front of supporters, some of them crying.
Quesada will be the youngest president in the modern history of Costa Rica when he takes office in May.

Also known for his student prog-rock band, he used the campaign to appeal to his country’s centrist streak. His vice-presidential candidate, Epsy Campbell, will be the country’s first Afro-Costa Rican to serve in that role.

The Miami Herald report said that, driven by “conservative values”, Central America has adopted some of the most restrictive reproductive laws on the books.

In Costa Rica, women can have abortions only if they can prove their life or health is at risk. In Guatemala, Mexico and Panama abortions are allowed only to save a mother’s life. And in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, abortion isn’t legal under any circumstance.

The first round vote came just weeks after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in San José, ruled that its 25 member nations must allow same-sex marriage.

It also ruled that Costa Rica has an obligation to extend property rights to same-sex couples, and allow transgender citizens to change their names on identity documents.

While the Costa Rican government agreed to comply, Muñoz and his National Reformation Party (NRP) campaigned on resisting that ruling and threatening to break with the regional body altogether.
Costa Rica “accidentally” approved same-sex unions in 2013. And in 2015 a Costa Rican judge granted the first openly gay common-law marriage in Central America.

While Muñoz’s rhetoric delighted evangelical homophobes, it sparked alarm in civil rights circles. Carlos Ponce, the Director of Latin America programmes at Freedom House, a US based non-profit, said in a statement:

“The homophobic campaign promises on behalf of the NRP represent a potentially dramatic change for Costa Rica, from a place of safety for LGBT persons to a potentially hostile environment.”
Costa Rica is often viewed as one of the more progressive and liberal countries in the region, said Constantino Urcuyo, a television commentator and political science professor at the University of Costa Rica.

“But on issues that start from the waist down, the country is very conservative.”

He added that evangelical movements had done a better job than the Catholic Church of harnessing those views on abortion, divorce and same-sex marriage.

“The Catholic Church has failed as a business in terms of retaining its clients. Its marketing tools are primitive and old, but [the evangelicals] are very good at religious marketing.”

New charity launched to remove C of E’s right to discriminate

MARCUS ROBINSON predicts that the Ozanne Foundation, named after JAYNE OZANNE, above, an LGBT member of the C of E’s ruling General Synod,
will widen the rift between progressive and conservative members of an already fragmented church.

THE Ozanne Foundation, launched in April 2018 says the Church of England should lose its protections under the Equalities Act that allow it to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality. This can only serve to increase hostility between the pro-equality factions inside the church, and “repulsive” that oppose LGBT rights, such as Christian Concern.

The charity is being supported by Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, and David Ison, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, both of whom backed Jeremy Pemberton, a gay priest who was blocked from being a hospital chaplain after marrying his partner, Laurence Cunnington.

The C of E is exempt from equality laws meaning it can discriminate on the basis of religion, requiring candidates for certain roles to be Christian. However it can also discriminate over sex, sexuality, marital history and gender identity. Said Bayes: “We want to ask the churches to answer the question – if we mean what we say about opposing homophobia, if we believe what we say about wanting to include everyone, if we believe that God made every one as they are, then what does that imply for our public polices?

“We will advocate for a greater openness and the implication of that is we may have to re-examine the prohibitions that are there in law at the moment.

He added it was “unfortunate” Pemberton had been forced to step down. “I hope for a future whereby people like Jeremy can feel that their ministry can be exercised and that they can love the person they love freely. I don’t think we should just ignore what the government has done and I certainly don’t think the government should tell the Church what to do.

“But I do think we should continue to advocate for greater freedom and in the end who knows what that will mean? It may mean that one day it will be possible for people in a same-sex relationship to have that relationship affirmed in a way that is now illegal and in that case we would have to change the law.”

Ison, when asked whether he thought the Church should hold onto its protections in the Equalities Act, said: “No. We’ve have to come to terms with the reality of the world we’re in and we’re not doing that. That is why we’re becoming disconnected from society. My view is that if there is a price to be paid for what you believe in conscience then you should pay that; you should not make other people pay the price for your conscience. That applies to abortion, to issues of sexuality and gender and right across the piste. If it is legal, decent and honest but you don’t believe it is right, then you have to deal with it.”

The new foundation said it would “look to create opportunities for meaningful encounters with LGBTI people of faith with those of a more conservative mindset.”
Ozanne said the Church’s equalities exemptions were “wrong” and needed changing.

“A growing number of people recognise that. It is part of that whole welcome and support that the archbishop talks about. We need to look at how we discriminate. That is a very form which has caused a lot of upset and heartache to a lot of LGBT people like myself.

“I believe the Church should take the initiative, to see the error of our ways. We should be going to the government and saying we wish it to be changed.”

Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, agreed that the Church must lose its exemptions to stamp out “deep structures of abuse, homophobia and sexism.”

But the charity is bound to infuriate groups like Anglican Mainstream which, having miserably failed to stop moves within the Church towards a greater tolerance of LGBT Christians, has now switched to demonising transsexuals. AM realised it was backing the wrong horse as far back as 2012, when a conference with a distinctly homophobic agenda attracted just 30 people.

At the time, writing for the Guardian, Andrew Brown said: “The danger with pretending to be persecuted, misunderstood and all alone is that you might wake up and find that it is true. Something like this seems to have happened over the weekend to Anglican Mainstream, an organisation devoted to keeping gay people out of the Church of England. Only 30 people turned up for an Anglican Mainstream conference on gay people in Westminster this weekend, and to make the fiasco worse, four of these happy few were gay Christians come to see what was being said about them.

“One of them put up a long blogpost afterwards describing the occasion. This, in turn, was picked up by Peter Ould, a sexually conservative vicar.

“Ould, who, remember, is on the organisers’ side, thinks that Anglican Mainstream has become repulsive even to its natural allies: ‘There are tens of thousands of Christians in the UK longing to be able to witness effectively in this field . . . but if all they are presented with is out-of-date and blinkered dogmatism, they simply won’t be interested.’

“Two more small straws in this wind came in the form of letters: Lord ‘Hallelujah’ Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, signed along with Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, and Wallace Benn, the suffragan Bishop of Lewes, a letter defending a psychotherapist who tries to ‘cure’ gay men. That’s two has-beens and a never-was lining up on the anti side. Meanwhile 100 serving clergy in the diocese of London signed a letter asking to bless civil partnerships in their churches. Which represents the future?

“Anglican Mainstream is a thoroughly mean-spirited grouping that deserves this humiliation.”

The C of E then gave Anglican Mainstream and other bigots something fresh over which to work themselves into a lather: a report called Valuing All God’s Children, published in October 2017. It was an updated version of its guidance on tackling bullying in church schools.

According to Martin Davie, writing for the Reflections of An Anglican Theologian blog, “this report generated a media firestorm, which concentrated on the issue of what little boys should be allowed to wear in school. Thus the headline in the Daily Telegraph said ‘Let boys wear tutus and high heels if they want to, Church of England says’, the Mail online went with ‘Let little boys wear tiaras’ and the Metro’s headline was ‘Boys should be able to wear tutus, tiaras and heels if they want, says Church of England.’

“These headlines, and others like them, all distort one very small part of what the report has to say. What the report actually says in one paragraph on page 20 is the following: ‘In the early years’ context and throughout primary school, play should be a hallmark of creative exploration. Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box). Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.

For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining.’

“Contrary to the impression given by the headlines this paragraph does not say anything at all about what boys in particular should wear and it says nothing at all about what any child should be allowed to normally wear to school. All it says is that children should be allow to choose what they like from the dressing up box.

“Presumably the headlines were motivated by the fact that no one would be interested in a story headed ‘Children should have free choice from the dressing up box’ but what they succeeded in doing was missing the point of the report as whole, which can be more accurately summed up as ‘Church of England gives guidance to schools on combatting ‘homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying’.”

A N Wilson, pandering to conservative Daily Mail readers, complained about “the rolling tide of transgender propaganda” and said that “those of us who have a love–hate relationship with the Church of England, admiring its fundamental principles of Christian worship, but increasingly despairing at its innate absurdity and collective intellectual cowardice, knew it would not be long before it yielded to the current fad.

“Sure enough, it has now ruled that in its 4,700 C of E schools new guidelines must be followed on cross-dressing and ‘transgender’ questions.

“School uniform is seen to create potential difficulties for ‘trans pupils’ and should, if necessary, be abolished. Boys as young as five should be encouraged, if they wish, to come to school wearing tiaras, tutus and high heels.”

Meanwhile anti-LGBT campaign group Christian Concern complained that the Church was “perpetuating fundamental theological errors such as blasphemy, rebellion against God as Creator, dishonouring parents, and renaming God”.

It said: “The transgender pathway is shown to be a counterfeit of the Christian gospel. This will affect people’s trust in the clergy as well as the integrity of theological training. Repentance for colluding with transgender ideology is the Church of England’s only hope before God.”

It added: “For the Church of England clergy at any level of the church hierarchy to allow the crafting of liturgy that affirms and celebrates gender reassignment means that the Church endorses gender reassignment as if God approves it.

“This is collusion with the blasphemous notion that someone can be ‘born in the wrong body’. It is blasphemous because it claims that God gave a person ‘the wrong body’, when the bodies of people suffering with gender dysphoria are usually perfectly healthy. Rather it is their minds and souls that are the site of suffering and confusion.

“It is also collusion with hatred and resentment of the male or female body, something that goes directly against what God said when he created everything, namely that it was ‘very good’.

“It is therefore an attack on the triune God as Creator of all things. The Christian faith makes no sense at all without the history of creation and fall.”

A good time to remember Kiyoshi Kuromiya, the AIDS activist who marched with Dr Martin Luther King Jr

April 4, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of assassination of civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Martin Luther King Jr – and the event helped highlight the amazing contribution made to LGBT rights in the US by Kiyoshi Kiromiya, a gay man who once marched with King, and helped support his family in the days after he was killed.

Earlier this year Hugh Ryan, a New York writer, curator and speaker, profiled Kuromiya, who helped establish the Gay Liberation Front. He wrote that Kuromiya, who died in 2000, was born on May 9, 1943 in one of those places most Americans try to forget existed: the WWII Japanese-American concentration camp at Hart Mountain.

Hugh Ryan

“He would come out around the age of ten, when he was arrested for having sex with an older boy in a public park. But it was after he landed in college at University of Pennsylvania in 1961 that his life as an activist took off. From Black Power to Gay Liberation, there seemed to be no movement that Kuromiya was not intimately – often, critically – involved in.”

His friend, the artist, writer, and curator David Acosta, said that Kuromiya would joke that he “was like Forrest Gump,” except that he always claimed to be in just the right place by accident. Two years ago, Acosta put together an exhibition devoted to Kuromiya’s life.

In March of 1965, one of the earliest gay rights protests in America happened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The year before, Kuromiya had been beaten while walking across the bridge in Selma with Martin Luther King, Jr. He became such close friends with King’s family that when King was murdered, Kuromiya helped take care of the King children the week of the funeral. In 1967, Kuromiya joined the Yippies, Alan Ginsberg, and Abbie Hoffman as they used an ancient Aramaic chant in an attempt to exorcise and levitate the Pentagon, a piece of performance-art-cum-protest meant to call attention to the Vietnam War.

The next year, Life magazine profiled Kuromiya in a piece on young activists, discussing his civil rights and anti-war work. But it didn’t talk about his gay-rights activism or his close relationship with Huey P Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. In 1970, after helping to found the Gay Liberation Front, Kuromiya presented a workshop on gay rights at the Panther’s Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

This, wrote Ryan, was just a month after Newton gave his famous speech on women’s and gay liberation, where he told his audience that “whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion.”

According to Acosta, Newton’s friendship with Kuromiya (as well as his association with gay French writer Jean Genet) helped Newton to understand the intersectional nature of the movements for black, gay, and women’s liberation.

Throughout the seventies and into the eighties, Kuromiya helped utopian scientist Buckminster Fuller translate his complex ideas into books that could be read by a popular audience, an experience that would come in handy when Kuromiya became an early AIDS activist.

In fact, he would use the title of one of those books – The Critical Path – as the name for his newsletter (and eventually, website) that disseminated AIDS information. At nearly every major AIDS conference, Kiyoshi would take notes on the science panels and distribute the latest breakthroughs and heartbreaks to his eager international audience. He also built a network of computers in his apartment to provide free internet access to people with HIV/AIDS, and ran a 24-hour hotline dispensing information on HIV/AIDS as well.

Ryan wrote: “What struck me most about Kuromiya is how easily and fully he made the connections between all of these liberation movements. Freedom for all, or freedom for none, seemed to be his motto. And he brought every activist strategy he had to the final fight for his life, the battle against AIDS, which is still ongoing and present today.”

In 1999, Kuromiya would be the lead plaintiff in Kuromiya vs United States of America, a Supreme Court case that tried to establish the right to compassionate medical use of marijuana to treat people with AIDS-related nausea and wasting.

Although they lost, Kuromiya was once again just ahead of his time, as many patients around the world now use medical marijuana to treat these symptoms (and many others).

“Kuromiya died in 2000 at the age of 57 from AIDS-related complications. But his incredible, intersectional life lives on as an inspiration to activists in Philadelphia and around the country,” Ryan – founder of The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History – wrote.

 

In an article published in the Independent at the beginning of April another human rights activist, UK-based Peter Tatchell, pictured above, wrote that his personal memories of King stretch back to 1963.

“When I was 11 years old and at school in suburban Melbourne, Australia, I read a news report about the Ku Klux Klan bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, when four young girls about my own age were murdered. How could anyone kill another innocent human being, I thought, let alone four little girls in church on Sunday morning?”

Tatchell added: “It prompted my interest in, and support for, the freedom struggle of African Americans and, in particular, the work of Dr King. Given my then devout Christian upbringing, I readily related to him as a Baptist pastor. To me, he was fulfilling the love and compassion of the gospels.

“When I began my first campaign, aged 15 in 1967, I looked to Martin Luther King and the black civil rights movement as a model for how to do effective activism. They became my template. I adapted their ideals and methods to my early campaigns for Aboriginal rights, repeal of the death penalty and conscription, Australian withdrawal from the Vietnam War, LGBT liberation – and all my subsequent human rights work.

“I was 17 when I realised I was gay in 1969. There were no LGBT organisations, not even any helplines, in Melbourne. So I took my inspiration from the black civil rights movement. I reasoned that just as black people were an oppressed minority, so were LGBT people and that we had a similar claim to human rights. If people in power ignored our just claim, it was, I argued, morally justified and politically necessary to resort to non-violent direct action and civil disobedience, in the footsteps of Dr King.

“I have applied this rationale in my 50-plus years of LGBT and human rights campaigning, involving more than 3,000 protests and over 100 arrests. This I owe Martin Luther King. I learned from him how to make social change, as he learned from Mohandas Gandhi via his fellow civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin, who introduced King to Gandhi’s ideas and non-violent tactics of passive resistance. Indeed, Rustin was a key thinker, strategist and organiser of the black civil rights movement but selflessly chose to stay in the shadows because he feared that this homosexuality and left-wing views would be used by the media, politicians and the FBI to discredit the movement.

“As we reflect on this 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, there is no doubt in my mind that his enduring legacy is the continued relevance of his ideals and methods to every movement for social change, worldwide. He fought a specific struggle with a universal applicability.”