The Up Hill Struggle for Gay Rights Continues

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is Thursday, November 28, 2013. I was thinking how grateful I am to live in the state of Oregon where my marriage is legally recognized. It could be better, in that Oregon doesn’t allow same-sex weddings, so we had to get married in Washington State, but Oregon does recognize us as legally married.  I believe Oregon’s status will change with the November 2014 vote and we’ll join the growing list of states with marriage equality.

I keep abreast of gay rights issues around the world, and especially now in Russia since last June’s law that bans ‘homosexual propaganda’. This law ostensibly protects children from information that would ‘harm’ them. I have been in contact with one of Russia’s leading gay activists, Nikolai Alekseev, who is, in my opinion, incredibly brave to fight against the Russian authorities and this draconian law. His organization is called Project GayRussia, and he has a website and Facebook presence. you can peruse his posted activities at  http://www.gayrussia.eu , and I would encourage everyone to look at the site. (You can click on ‘translate’ at the top, and it will give you a pretty bad English translation, but you can still get the main ideas and information.) He updates daily and it has a wealth of information on legal challenges, and government activities, and he includes lists of names of Russian authorities and organizations that actively persecute gay people.

The situation in Russia seems to be getting worse, not better. Every attempt to assemble gay people in Moscow and St. Petersburg is quashed by the authorities. There is no freedom of assembly or freedom of speech for homosexuals. A recent international gay film festival had two bomb threats and a government official shut down one film for ‘pornography’ and ‘harm to children.’  All requests for permits to assemble are denied. Alekseev files a legal challenge each time they are denied a permit and he plans to take each one to the European Court of Human Rights, if they lose in Russian courts.  Alekseev’s agenda is to promote: 1. freedom of assembly  2. freedom of association  3. freedom of expression  4. overturning the ban on blood donation  5. laws against hate speech and crimes   6. marriage equality  7. repealing the law against ‘homosexual propaganda.’  He needs all the international support he can get!

It looks like Latvia will try to pass a similar ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’, also with the objective of ‘protecting children’.  Specifically, the initiative bans any representation of same-sex relationships or marriage in children’s educational institutions or care facilities. It also bans children from participating in or observing any event whose purpose is to advertise or promote equality for homosexuals or marriage equality. There is a process in place for gathering signatures for the initiative enough to put on a ballot for public election. And there are rules for such initiatives to pass in an election, but it does appear that there is some public support for a law similar to Russia’s.

The situation in Germany is pretty much the status quo. In 2001 Germany passed a ‘civil union’ law that gives gay couples similar rights to hetero-couples. Since then there has been a push for marriage equality and the Social Democrats, as a political party, have backed that initiative. However, they have not been able to get a majority in the Bundestag, and Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to support it. She was re-elected in September, so it doesn’t look like marriage equality will happen in Germany any time soon, even though according to polls, the majority of Germans support it. Apparently, not every German ‘Land’ allows gay adoption either, and so far there’s been no progress in the Bundestag in passing a country-wide law allowing it. 

Greece has recently taken down barriers for a ‘civil union’ law, but there is no move towards full marriage equality there. You have to be thankful for every little step forward, though.

Here at home, there has been a lawsuit filed against the state of Texas over their ban on same-sex marriage. The complaint claims that the Texas law violates the Federal law and the Constitution. If the courts in Texas agree, then the state constitution will be stripped of its ‘marriage equals one man and one woman’ clause. The claimants say they are being harmed by Texas because the federal government recognizes same-sex marriage based on last June’s Supreme Court decisions; it isn’t a matter of ‘States’ Rights’/10th Amendment because the main body of the Constitution makes it clear in its ‘full faith and credit’ clause, that all states must recognize marriages from other states. Texas neither allows nor recognizes same-sex marriages, which the claimants say is a violation of their rights. If the court upholds the Texas law, it will of course be appealed, and I assume all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be.  Speaking of courts, the 9th Circuit is about to consider whether a native Siberian from Russia can be given asylum in the U.S. for being gay. If the court says yes, that would open the door for gay people in homophobic countries that persecute and prosecute homosexuals to get political asylum here. Let’s hope the 9th Circuit approves!

So, although progress is being made, and gay rights, in general, have gained some traction in the world, there is still an uphill battle to reach absolute equality. African countries, other than South Africa, are down right medieval in their homophobia. The Religious Right still actively campaigns against equality both there and in the West. Equality will happen, but probably not until this younger generation becomes the leaders after 2040. I have every confidence in this generation of young people to treat this issue as a human rights issue and not a religious one. On this Thanksgiving Day 2013, I’m thankful for all of my young friends out there who understand the real nature of this very important issue and support gay people and their civil and human right to be as they are. I’m thankful that I have the right to be married and have my marriage honored and recognized. I’m thankful for people like Nikolai Alekseev who put their lives on the line to fight for their rights.

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