Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What do you want for christmas?

Gay Victory in U.N. Resolution Vote, from the blog of Michael in Norfolk

Some time ago I wrote about a successful effort by African and Muslim nations to strip "sexual orientation" from a United Nations resolution condemning violence against and/or the execution of members of minority groups. Today, led by a U.S. effort, the United Nations did an about face and added sexual orientation to the scope of the resolution - no doubt to the angst of anti-gay Muslim and African Christian haters. Thank goodness that hate did not prevail. The Advocate has coverage and here are some highlights:
Following weeks of intense lobbying by gay activists, member states of the United Nations voted Tuesday evening to restore "sexual orientation" to a resolution that condemns extrajudicial killings.
The assembly voted 93 in favor of the United States' proposal to restore the previous language, with 55 countries against and 27 abstaining. The assembly then approved the amended resolution with 122 in favor, zero votes against, and 59 abstentions.
In a speech on Human Rights Day less than two weeks ago, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said she was “incensed” about the vote in the Third Committee and vowed that the U.S. would work to restore the reference to sexual orientation in the resolution. Her remarks followed a speech by U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in which he spoke forcefully against the criminalization of homosexuality.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gay soldiers, gay marriages are inevitable

Wouldn't it be great if, for once, the U.S. Congress took the lead in social change instead of being dragged kicking and screaming to a decision long after most of the country has moved on?
Apparently, that's not the nature of politics. Still, my holiday wish is for the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to be voted away by Christmas. Polls prove the country is ready. Surveys show the military is ready. Experience in the British and Israeli armed forces demonstrates no crisis is created by homosexuals serving openly. It is unlikely anyone fighting for this country in Afghanistan has failed to figure out if the guy next to him is gay, while also appreciating how that soldier is a tough son-of-a-gun.

The only ones who seem to fret about gay and lesbian soldiers are Republican senators and House members catering to a loud contingent of social conservatives who think national policy should be dictated by 3,000-year-old religious taboos.

Oh, and then there's John McCain. Just as he has with tax cuts for the wealthy and immigration policy, McCain has flip-flopped on gays in the military. Ever the maverick, he now has gone "all mavericky," in Sarah Palin's phrase, against his own better self. He is one old soldier who should have just faded away.

Looking back through our history, it has seldom been Congress that has led the way to social progress. The disenfranchised and disdained have had to push and protest and struggle and die in order to get the politicians to finally move. Black Americans and other minorities put their lives on the line time after time to win their liberties, one by one. The legislation that gave women the vote, workers the right to organize, children the right not to be exploited and all citizens the right to clean air and water and food did not come because a majority of lawmakers simply got together to do the right thing.

I recognize that past realities are hugely complicated, but today it seems insane that Americans had to fight against each other in their bloodiest war in order to end slavery.

Slavery? How could anyone have ever thought slavery was right? Well, there are these passages in the Bible that said it was OK, so…

If only we could recognize where history is taking us and nimbly leap the ramparts of the dying order. Future Americans will look back on this moment with disdain, wondering why anyone would have thought it made sense to deny gays and lesbians the opportunity to serve their country in battle. And, not only that, but generations to come will also find it curious that those who hold the institution of marriage sacred fought so hard to keep homosexuals from becoming old married folks.

Admittedly, compared to gays in the military, gay marriage is a bigger leap for many people, including me.

I've never felt any repulsion to homosexuality. In my younger years, I simply didn't know much about it. As life went on, I came to know co-workers and friends who were gay and lesbian and learned the plain truth: they were no different from anyone else I knew, except in the way nature had wired their sexuality.

Still, until recently, I really did not see why civil unions were not an adequate vehicle for gays and lesbians who sought to commit to each other and enjoy the same legal rights and obligations as straight couples. Plenty of liberals, including President Obama, continue to see it that way. But an essay by Andrew Sullivan began to turn my thinking around.

Sullivan, a gay man, right-leaning columnist and former editor of the New Republic, has been a passionate advocate for gay marriage. He makes many intelligent points, but the one that hit home with me was his most personal. He described the experience of taking his partner along on visits to his family. No matter how committed and how caring the relationship, the partner was always the boyfriend, someone welcomed but still outside the family circle. Only when gay marriage began to be legalized in a few states and Sullivan was able to come home and announce he was getting married to the person he loved did the dynamic change. Marriage suddenly made that person part of the story, part of the heritage, fully integrated into the family's identity.

Ironically, it was a matter of family values. I could see how this mattered and it flipped my thinking from "why do they need to marry?" to "why not?"

Why not, indeed? Purely on legal terms, it is no longer a winning argument to say the government has a right to bar certain people from a state-sanctioned domestic arrangement available to all other citizens. As the challenge to California's gay marriage ban moves through the courts, it becomes ever more clear that the legal rationale for this discriminatory practice is disintegrating. Even the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court may fracture on this issue when it is finally brought before them.

If and when that happens, plenty of senators and representatives of a certain political persuasion will rush in to "stand athwart history shouting stop!" That, after all, is how William F. Buckley described the stance of true conservatives. But I'm not sure even Buckley, if he were still alive, would be willing to make the case for blocking this particular evolution in our society. It is both reasonable and inevitable.

Today, a couple of inebriated knuckleheads who happen to be boy and girl can impulsively get hitched any day of the week at a chapel in Las Vegas. A straight man or woman who has repeatedly failed at marriage can try, try again. The moral fiber of America will only be enhanced when two men or two women who have faithfully shared their lives for decades are finally allowed to do the same.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tell the UN: Reverse Your Vote, Don't Allow Gays to be Executed Without Cause

Targeting: Ban Ki-Moon (United Nations Secretary-General)
Started by: Jase Watson
On November 16, 2010 the United Nations voted to allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals to be executed without cause.

Yes, you read that right.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism, thanks to a United Nations vote that removed “sexual orientation” from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

According to the International Gay and Lesbians Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian issues removed “sexual orientation” from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions this past week in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Carribean nations. For a UN committee that addresses human rights questions that affect people all over the world, by removing protections for LGBT persons from a category of arbitrary executions, belies the objective and purpose of a committee whose focus this year is “on the examination of human rights questions,” according to its website.

It is critical to send a clear message to the United Nations that the world will not sit idly by and allow the UN to abandon and refuse to protect helpless LGBT individuals around the world. The UN must hear us loud and clear, and they must hear us now.


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Petition Text
Reverse Your Vote, Don't Allow Gays to be Executed Without Cause

Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
It is with great dismay with which I contact you today after learning that the United Nations has recently voted to remove “sexual orientation” from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. This recent vote is contrary to everything that the United Nations stands for and is a gross violation to basic human rights. No person or persons should be subjected to arbitrary executions regardless of their status. Each and every human being deserves to be protected from acts of murder. In the past, the United Nations has stood up and come to the aid of helpless people, defending them from genocide and murder. With this vote, and with the influence it has worldwide, the UN has opened the door and invited arbitrary executions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals worldwide. It appalls me that the UN, whom supposedly stands to protect human rights, would vote to create a group of unprotected humans which will be subjected to death. I am writing today to demand that the United Nations immediately reverse their vote to remove “sexual orientation” from the resolution protecting humans from arbitrary executions and work to protect ALL human beings regardless of their race, color, creed, national origin, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, sexual identity or other status classifications. This kind of behavior is unacceptable from an organization that claims to protect humanity. I urge you to be a leader for human rights and do the right thing: Protect all people from arbitrary executions.

[Your name]