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Canadians to apologise for decades of homophobia

Report by MARCUS ROBINSON

Few people outside Canada will recognise the name Everett George Klippert. Indeed, so many years have passed since he was jailed simply for being gay, most Canadians would, until recently, have asked “who the heck was he?” if you ran his name past them.

But thanks to an initiative by the Canadian government to consider an apology and possible compensation and pardons for gay and transgender people who were discriminated against and sometimes jailed because of federal laws and practices, Klippert, who died in 2006, has been the subject of a number of media reports which left many shocked by the way gay people, and Klippert in particular, were treated in Canada before homosexuality was legalised in 1969.

Klippert was the last gay man in Canada known to be imprisoned on gross indecency charges and the only gay man in Canada to be deemed a “dangerous sex offender.” In 1960, he was convicted on 18 counts of gross indecency and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Upon his release, he moved to northern Canada.

He was working as a mechanic in Pine Point, Northwest Territories in 1965 when he was picked up by police for questioning in connection with a case of suspected arson. Although he was found not to have had any involvement in the fire, Klippert voluntarily admitted to having had recent consensual homosexual relations with four different adult men. He was subsequently arrested and charged with four counts of gross indecency.

Back in February 2016, Michael Platt, writing for the Calgary Sun, reminded his readers of the “personal hell” the Calgarian suffered after “the popular bachelor bus driver was first forced into handcuffs and sent to prison, his only crime being a sexual preference for men”.

Justice Hugh Farthing, the judge who sentenced Klippert, then 33, to a four-year jail term, said “It is for the protection of the public.”

Platt wrote: “He was gay, and in 1960, that was no different in the public eye than being a paedophile or rapist: Klippert was not a sexual predator, but the courts treated him as one.”

By 1967, more “offences” as a consenting gay man saw the Calgarian declared a dangerous offender and jailed indefinitely. A court-appointed psychiatrist assessed Klippert as “incurably homosexual”, and Klippert was sentenced to “preventive detention” (that is, indefinitely) as a dangerous sexual offender. Klippert appealed to the Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories; his appeal was dismissed. He then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada; his appeal was dismissed in a controversial 3–2 decision.

Canadians expressed such outrage over that potential life sentence that the Canadian government was eventually forced to decriminalise homosexual acts in 1969.

“In a rather perverse way, the court declaring him a dangerous offender actually brought this whole thing to a head,” said Donald Klippert, Everett’s nephew. “If he hadn’t been slapped with dangerous offender status, he might have gone on forever serving short sentences of a few years, and then getting arrested again.”

Said Platt: “Klippert’s suffering as a pawn of the legal system meant no Canadian would ever fear prison over sexual preference again, but the change was too late for the former bus driver, who’d already spent close to ten years of his young life behind bars, finally being released in 1971.”

And he wrote: “Now is the time for Calgary to right that wrong – and if ever a citizen deserved to be commemorated by this city, it’s the man whose suffering in prison helped legalise homosexuality in Canada.”

Klippert shunned attempts by the gay community to turn him into a hero, because as always he just wanted to be left alone.

“But,” said Platt, “Klippert was and is a hero, albeit a reluctant one, and with the federal government finally righting this historic wrong, it’s time Calgary stepped up too.

“Whether it’s a statue, a bridge or a commemorative rainbow crossing, the name Everett George Klippert belongs in the public realm – and hopefully, that means his story and the lesson this country learned about intolerance won’t be forgotten.”

“I think that’s a nice idea to recognise the role he played,” said Kevin Allen, lead researcher with the Calgary Gay History Project. Allen has played an instrumental part in keeping Klippert’s legacy alive, and the upcoming pardon is a direct result of that work being picked up by mainstream media, including an article on Klippert by Platt last September. Allen says Calgary’s gay community has long wanted to honour Klippert in some way, and a local theatre company, Third Street Theatre, is working on a play based on Klippert’s life.

In November 2016, the Atheist Republic website reported that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had appointed Randy Boissonnault, a member of his Liberal government, to determine the nature of an apology and possible compensation and pardons for gay and transgender people who were discriminated against. Boissonnault became the first openly gay member of Parliament to be elected in Alberta.

Randy Boissonnault

In addition to the extreme Klippert case there were many instances of men and women who were fired or forced to resign from positions in the military and public service because of their sexual orientation. Boissonnault will also be in charge investigating those anti-gay actions.

Earlier, gay people were treated as a threat to national security. That’s why a group within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, known as section A3, began an extensive surveillance program in the 1950s. A psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa developed a “fruit machine” to determine public servants’ sexual orientation. “Fruit machine” is a term for a device that was supposed to be able to identify gay men (derogatorily referred to as “fruits”).

The subjects were made to view pornography; the device then measured the diameter of the pupils of the eyes (pupillary response test), perspiration, and pulse for a supposed erotic response. The “fruit machine” was employed in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s during a campaign to eliminate all gay men from the civil service and a substantial number of workers did lose their jobs – actually over 9,000 “suspected” gay people. A number of former public servants and members of the military are currently suing the government for compensation.

Boissonnault indicated that while an apology would come, he was unable to predict its timing, adding that he would first meet with people who faced discrimination. “When our government is ready to provide an apology, we want to make sure it is worthy of the community,” he said.

Egale Canada is an advocacy organization founded in 1986 to advance equality for Canadian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their families, across Canada. Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale, said that her group is willing to wait for an apology. “I’m interested in getting an authentic apology rather than a fast apology,” she said.

Malta bans ‘gay cure’ conversion therapy

Malta has become the first European country to ban gay conversion therapy. The bill against the practice, which aims to “cure” a non-heterosexual person of their sexuality, was voted through unanimously in December 2016.

According to a BBC report, under the new law, anyone who tries to “change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression” will be fined or even jailed. Professionals will face heftier fines of up to €10,000 (£8,496.00/$10,395.00).

They could also be jailed for up to a year.The bill also enshrines in law that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort”.

Malta was named the best European country for LGBT rights by advocacy group ILGA-Europe in 2015.

Gay conversion therapy has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years, but remains more popular in the US than in Europe.

Its supporters claim it uses standard psycho-therapeutic and counselling techniques so people can change or reduce their “homosexual tendencies” of their own free will.

But the World Psychiatric Association has denounced the practice as unethical, unscientific and harmful to those who undergo it.

Two years ago, NHS England and the Royal College of Psychiatrists – along with 12 other organisations in the UK – signed an agreement which called it “potentially harmful and unethical”.
It has also been banned on minors in several places in the US, including California and Illinois.

The move has infuriated Dr Mike Davidson, right, who leads Core Issues Trust, a UK charity offering support for those with “unwanted sexual feelings and behaviours”, including homosexuality.

Mike Davidson

In 2014 he was removed from professional psychotherapeutic training for expressing the view on the BBC that individuals should have the right to determine their sexual identity and have access to support from professionals to change unwanted practices. He was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, but was denied reinstatement unless he changed his ideas about human sexuality. He continues to support clients who seek change in their sexual practices and feelings.

Writing for Christian Concern, Davidson, claimed “that the Christian Church in the West manifestly fails to see the nature and extent of the threat that Malta’s decision to ban ‘conversion therapy’ presents in Europe.

“That the Church, under Archbishop Charles Scicluna appears to contradict Pope Francis’ rejection of homosexual culture, doesn’t augur well for the Maltase Christians. It is of course well known that the ‘Gay Christian’ agenda is the final frontier in the process to normalise homosexuality.

“The Church, in that model, provides the last bastion against recognition of a categorical notion of ‘gayness’ and the history of the Church must be re-written and Christians should be re-educated.”

He added: “The work of demonising any therapist supporting clients wanting to move away from any unwanted sexual attractions is almost complete. Without research evidence, and simply at the behest of mental health organisations around the world, including in the UK, which prescribe discipline for any professional breaching the ethical boundary of only affirming homosexuals or transsexuals, there is now no professional body willing to support client autonomy and professional intervention for those who refuse to accept homosexual feelings as normal.

“Only the American Psychological Association has been brave enough to admit that research has not been done which proves that such therapy is ipso facto harmful and ineffective.

“The Church, on both sides of the reformation divide, has failed to recognise that appeasement, the light at the end of this tunnel, is in fact an oncoming train. I would argue that this is the latest strain of gnostic heresy.

“Motivated by compassion to support a society claiming to value all persons, it has failed to uphold its own narrative in this mission of appeasement. The fact is, homosexual practice and the Gospel of Christ are irreconcilable. This is a position agreed by both affirming and conservative Biblical scholars. The Bible condemns active homosexual practices – both male and female.

“Whatever arguments are made to support people to fulfil these desires cannot be made on Biblical grounds without seriously impugning Biblical scholarship over millennia and the theological heritage of the Christian Church in general. In England, Archbishop Justin Welby knows this, whether he admits it or not. It would be surprising if Archbishop Charles Scicluna does not know it too. Both are pragmatists, and both are in danger of failing to stand in historical continuity with the Gospel of Christ.

“Where the archbishops have erred, it seems, is in failing to secure the right of individuals who don’t wish to act on their acknowledged feelings and homosexual inclinations, to obtain professional help for these unwanted feelings. Almost nobody in the Church, whether state or non-conformist, stands with those of us who have benefitted from psychotherapeutic interventions that have successfully helped us to achieve our goal: to move away from unwanted homosexual desires. The Church, cowering under state pressure, has refused to support professionals who offer such help.

“They have believed, and now practise the lie that such help is unsafe, doesn’t work, is unnecessary and is morally repugnant. If they don’t believe that is the case, one would expect them to say so. If they do believe it, they remain silent at the expense of those who walk out of homosexuality – either way they fail to stand where the Gospel stands.

“The fact is, banning “conversion therapy” (a self-condemning pejorative) will simply strengthen the determination of groups and individuals all over Europe, America and the East to stand together and develop alternative means by which client rights will be recognised and professional interventions sanctioned – in the area of support for leaving homosexual practices and feelings. If the existing mental health orgnisations will not support this option in respect of client autonomy, the future will be to develop alternative, self-regulating sanctioning bodies. And no doubt, a legal wrangle will ensue.

“The Church then, has a choice to make and Archbishop Scicluna appears to have made it for the Christians of Malta, despite earlier attempts to resist this move. The future of the Church in the world as the ambassador of Christ, is dependent on such a choice. It must either stand with therapists and counsellors who work in this niche, or it must continue, by disowning and shaming them, in its noncommittal path – to its own extinction.

“If it chooses the former, the path will be towards a slow recovery of the ministry of chastity. If the latter, it will sign its own death warrant for the loss of the freedom of its pulpits. It can then expect its ministers to be prevented from preaching the whole counsel of God in the matter of Christian sexual ethics bequeathed by the ancients of Israel.

“The choice is clear.”

Chad set to become the 73rd country to criminalise homosexuality

Human rights campaigner LEO IGWE writes that religious forces have led the country down the path of discrimination and hatred

Twisted thinking that seeks to use religion to legitimise hatred and discrimination against gays was recently displayed in Chad as the country’s politicians voted to criminalise homosexuality. It is not clear what the lawmakers in this central African nation wanted to achieve with this legislative move.

At this stage, unless the country’s President Idriss Déby, right, changes his minds Chad is set to become the 73rd country to outlaw homosexuality.

Idriss Déby

As expected, this legislative process has been trailed by the mistaken claim that the homosexual practice was Western and unAfrican. As if to be “authentic”, African laws and policies must be categorically anti-West even when such laws end up harming Africans.

As in other African countries, religion is pervasive in Chad. About half the population are Muslims. The rest of the population professes Christianity and traditional religion. Although these religions have evidently different doctrines, these differences apparently disappear when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.

Religion plays a huge role in policy-making and legislative processes as shown in the reactions to the anti-gay legislation which the parliament had just passed. 

In fact. a former minister described the new law, which sanctioned a fine or a suspended prison sentence for homosexuals, as “a fair compromise”.

Fair compromise? He explained the basis of “fairness” in this legislation:

“Homosexuality is condemned by all religions. We do not have to forgive something that God himself rejects because Westerners have said this or that . . . The current provision of the Penal Code is a fair balance between conservative public opinion and an uncompromising international community on the protection of minorities.”

Now perhaps one may ask: In which way is this law fair? And to whom is it fair? To gays and lesbians in Chad? It is certainly not fair to homosexuals in Chad because they would henceforth be treated as criminals and not accorded the dignity which they are entitled to as human beings. So where lies the fairness?

As the minister noted, it may be the case that the teachings of Christianity and Islam disapprove of homosexual acts. But many Christian denominations are revising their doctrines and their positions on LGBT rights. Some Christian have ordained gay priests and bishops. Many religious organisations are beginning to realise that treating people as criminals because of whom they love is incompatible with the religious teachings of love and neighbourliness.

Condemning homosexuality is gradually becoming a thing of the past and Chadians should begin to adopt and embrace the new religious realities that respect the rights of homosexuals.
So what actually does this politician mean by saying that they could not forgive or condone what God himself rejected? Ah, okay, God is a male? And he rejected homosexuality and approved heterosexuality, right? So how did the former minister know which sexual orientation God ordained or rejected? Did God disclose his or her sexual preferences to this politician?

Where did God say so? In the Bible or in the Quran? Is it not human beings who codified these norms in the name of God? Why create the impression that upholding the rights of homosexuals is doing the bidding of the West? What makes treating gays with dignity an expression of western ideology?

Does that make treating gays and lesbians with indignity and disrespect African? Are Christian and Islamic religions, which most Africans profess today, not foreign faiths, introduced by missionaries and preachers from the east and west?

Is it not strange that Africans have embraced Christianity that was brought by Western missionaries and on the basis of this religion, they denounce homosexuality as a western lifestyle?
This latest move by lawmakers to criminalise homosexuality is a step backward and lacks any justification in terms of culture, religion and human rights. Chad cannot lay claim to protecting minorities on account of this homophobic legislation.

The Chadian president should ensure that this law does not come into force and that the country does not become the 73rd country to criminalise homosexuality. Chad stands to gain nothing but global condemnation and opprobrium from occupying this position of hate, discrimination and oppression. So in furtherance of a free, democratic and progressive Chad, I urge the country’s president, Idriss Déby, to veto this legislation.

• The ban on homosexuality was initially proposed in Chad in 2014, but as a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The new regulation, however, categorises homosexuality as a misdemeanor; violators, male or female, would face a fine or suspended prison sentence.

The law should not compel businesses to aid political messages

Human rights campaigner PETER TATCHELL argues that  the Ashers ‘gay cake’ verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee.

I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict, which last year found the bakery guilty of discrimination. My reasons for supporting Gareth’s claim were:

1. Ashers had falsely advertised their services, saying they were willing decorate their cakes with any message that a customer wanted. They did not say there were any limits on the designs or wording.

2. I feared that Ashers actions could open the flood gates to allow sectarian loyalist-republican discrimination and discrimination against women, LGBTs and other minorities – and their points of view. But I later changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the LGBT community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.

While Christian bed and breakfast owners and civil partnership registrars were clearly wrong to deny service to gay people, this case is different. It is about the refusal to facilitate an idea – namely, support for same-sex marriage.

I will continue to oppose the proposed “conscience clause” in Northern Ireland. It is intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people. I do not accept that people of faith should be permitted by law to deny service to LGBTs – or anyone else. Discrimination against people is never acceptable.

Ashers Bakery general manager Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy

The whole saga began in 2014 when Ashers said they were not willing to ice a cake with the words “support gay marriage” and the logo of the equality group, Queer Space; claiming it was contrary to their Christian beliefs to promote homosexuality and gay marriage.

This struck many of us as discrimination based on religious-inspired homophobic prejudice. Ashers believe that the relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are wrong and should not be eligible for the status of marriage. They translated these beliefs into action and declined to make the cake. Ashers would have decorated a cake with a message celebrating traditional heterosexual marriage and promoting a Christian organisation. Surely this was an example of clear-cut anti-gay discrimination?

Gareth Lee’s legal case against Ashers was backed by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland. It argued that the bakery’s ctions breached the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998, which prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the respective grounds of sexual orientation and political opinion.

A Belfast court last May agreed and found Ashers guilty of discrimination on both grounds; ordering them to pay Gareth £500 compensation.

I profoundly disagree with Asher’s opposition to same-sex love and marriage, and support protests against them. They claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus. Yet he never once condemned homosexuality. Moreover, discrimination is not a Christian value. Ashers’ religious justifications are, to my mind, theologically unsound.

Nevertheless, on reflection, the court was wrong to penalise Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision.
For sure, the law suit against the bakery was well intended. It sought to challenge homophobia. But it was a step too far. It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage remains banned.

The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith, sexuality and so on. However, the court erred by ruling that Gareth was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and political opinions.

His cake request was not refused because he was gay but because of the message he wanted on the cake. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.

Despite this, Judge Isobel Brownlie said refusing the pro-gay marriage slogan was unlawful indirect sexual orientation discrimination because same-sex marriage is a union between persons of the same-sex and therefore refusing to provide a service in support of same-sex marriage was de facto sexual orientation discrimination.

I disagree. Refusing to facilitate a message in support of same-sex marriage is not sexuality discrimination. It is discrimination against an idea, not against a person.

On the question of political discrimination, the judge said Ashers had denied Gareth service based on his request for a message supporting same-sex marriage. She noted: “If the plaintiff had ordered a cake with the words ‘support marriage’ or ‘support heterosexual marriage’ I have no doubt that such a cake would have been provided.” Brownlie therefore concluded that by refusing to provide a cake with a pro-gay marriage wording Ashers had treated him less favourably, contrary to the law.

This may be a case of differential treatment. However, it was not discrimination against views held or expressed by Gareth but against words he wanted on a cake. Moreover, the law against political discrimination was meant to protect people with differing political views, not to force others to further political views to which they conscientiously object.

The finding of political discrimination against Gareth sets a worrying precedent. Northern Ireland’s laws against discrimination on the grounds of political opinion were framed in the context of decades of conflict. They were designed to heal the sectarian divide by preventing the denial of jobs, housing and services to people because of their politics. There was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas, such as same-sex marriage, with which they disagreed – let alone on a cake.

The judge concluded that service providers are required by law to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection to it.

This begs the question: Will gay bakers have to accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? I don’t think LGBT people should be forced to promote anti-gay messages.

The court judgement also leads me to ask: Should a Muslim printer be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed or a Jewish one a book that propagates Holocaust denial?

If the current Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes, print posters and emblazon mugs with bigoted messages.

In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require private businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.

• Editor's note: THE Christian Institute announced late last December that Ashers had confirmed that they will launch an appeal to the UK Supreme Court, following the Belfast Court of Appeal’s ruling against them.

Lawyers representing the McArthur family and the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, had separately asked judges whether they had leave to appeal.

Mr Larkin was refused the right to refer the case based on devolution issues, but Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan left the way open for Ashers to take the matter further saying:
“The matter should be properly left to the Supreme Court”.

The Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, Simon Calvert, added: 

“Ashers Baking Company will take the necessary legal steps to instigate a Supreme Court appeal on this crucially important matter as soon as possible and papers must be lodged early in the New Year.”