●南方日報(微博)記者 趙琦玉 陳楓
美國俄亥俄州尤尼奧多高中(Unioto High School)上月底發生一起校園霸凌事件，一名已經公開出櫃的15歲高一男同志新生查克(Zack)，在教室內莫名奇妙的被同學痛扁，教室中的其他同學沒人幫忙，只有人偷偷用手機拍下整個過程。
查克和媽媽聽到這樣的答覆覺得不可思議，於是找上了人權組織「美國公民自由聯盟」(American Civil Liberties Union，ACLU)，終於，日前在俄亥俄州政府替查克開了第一次聽證會，查克的媽媽表示：「我們不能再沉默了，這不是我們的選項」。目前學校已經對動手的學生做出「恰當」的懲罰，但是當地媒體想要多了解懲罰的內容，學校則搬出「保護當事人」的理由拒絕透露。
Was Gingrich’s ‘humane’ immigration policy LGBT inclusive?
November 23, 2011 |
LGBT immigration advocates are pushing Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich to put his money where his mouth is on the “humane” immigration policy he espoused that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
Gingrich, the current GOP presidential front-runner, made the remarks Tuesday night near the end of the CNN Republican presidential debate on national security held in D.C.
The former U.S. House speaker said the GOP should embrace a policy allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they’ve resided in the United States a long time.
“If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” Gingrich said.
The candidate later continued, ”I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, ‘Let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.’”
Gingrich — most likely unknowingly — hit on an issue that’s important to LGBT advocates because of the inequities in the immigration system affecting gay Americans seeking to stay together in the United States with same-sex partners who are foreign nationals.
Under current immigration code, gay Americans can’t sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States because same-sex marriage isn’t legal in many places and because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits federal recognition of those unions. Consequently, foreign nationals who are in committed relationships with gay Americans may have to leave the United States or face deportation.
Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, called for Gingrich to follow up on his remarks by endorsing comprehensive immigration reform and family reunification legislation that has language for gay bi-national couples:
“The former Speaker’s comments on Tuesday highlight a growing truth: There are few Americans whose lives are not touched, in some way, by the millions of immigrants — both documented and undocumented — who call our country home. As Gingrich pointed out, the immigrant community includes our family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Of the 400,000 individuals forcibly removed from the United States last year, most had no criminal record and many have loved ones who are American citizens. Of course, some of those were also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and were separated from spouses, partners and children. One of those is Jair Izquierdo, who was deported just weeks before Christmas last year and whose partner, Richard Dennis, continues to work for his safe return home. Given his past record on issues important to LGBT families, I worry that Gingrich’s comments were not intended to include families like Richard and Jair, but I also hope I am wrong.”
“Gingrich’s remarks last night, and the recent guidelines for discretion issued by the Obama Administration, underscore the need to be explicit that, in the United States, we include every family member – gay or straight – when we talk about keeping families together. It is past time for both parties to come together and pass comprehensive, inclusive immigration reform. Gingrich’s vision of a compassionate immigration policy mirrors the principles put forth by Senator Robert Menendez in his reform bill, and by Congressman Mike Honda in the Reuniting Families Act. We would welcome the former Speaker’s support in pressing for passage of both bills, which include all families and which would help bring couples like Richard and Jair back together again.”
Lavi Soloway, founder of Stop the Deportations, said Gingrich should denounce DOMA, which enables the separation of bi-national gay couples, in addition to calling on President Obama to issue a moratorium on DOMA deportations:
“Gingrich clearly wanted the audience to believe that, if elected President, he would pursue immigration reform that keeps families together, rather than allow families to be torn apart. In a general sense, what Gingrich said reflects the bedrock principle of U.S. immigration law: family unification. However, those words are cold comfort coming from Mr. Gingrich, who has stood solidly against LGBT families throughout his political career. If Newt Gingrich really believes that we should fashion an inclusive immigration policy that protects all families, he should immediately denounce the Defense of Marriage Act which currently excludes more than 40,000 lesbian and gay binational couples from our existing immigration system. He should urge the President to put a moratorium on “DOMA deportations.”
“But Mr. Gingrich will not do that because he not only helped lead passage of DOMA as Speaker of the House in 1996, he continues to actively oppose equality for LGBT families today. All candidates for public office, regardless of party, must address the humanitarian crisis faced by lesbian and gay binational couples because of DOMA and support concrete solutions for the protection of all families.”
Despite calls among LGBT advocates encouraging Gingrich to step up his pledge on a “humane” immigration policy, political observers are saying the candidate’s remarks on likely hurt him among GOP primary voters.
In the debate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pounced on Gingrich and called the candidate’s idea a form of “amnesty” that would bring more undocumented immigrants into the United States.
Romney lated added past programs in the country “have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that’s going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.”
The Gingrich campaign couldn’t be reached to comment on the calls from LGBT advocates for an inclusive immigration policy.
ST. LOUIS , The Clayton City Council introduced and unanimously passed, Nov. 22, legislation that would include nondiscrimination protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Through the leadership of Mayor Linda Goldstein and the Clayton City Council, Clayton will become the third city in St. Louis County to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We live in a very diverse world where all citizens contribute to the success of our communities," said Mayor Linda Goldstein. “The City of Clayton recognizes this critical factor of our society, and we are resolved to protect all of our residents equally."
In most parts of Missouri, hardworking lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens face the constant reality that they could be fired from their job for being LGBT and be denied access to housing and public accommodations. Clayton will join Saint Louis City, Kansas City, University City, and Olivette who offer fully inclusive protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director for PROMO – Missouri’s statewide advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality – said of the vote, “We are excited to see the City of Clayton step up as a community that protects all of its citizens. Passing inclusive nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity is a clear indication of our momentum in St. Louis County." PROMO worked with the City of Olivette and University City in passing similar measures earlier this year to protect the LGBT community.
Harvard May Ask Applicants About LGBT Identity
- by Steve Williams
- November 22, 2011
- 9:02 am
Harvard University has said that in order to better understand its students and match them with applicable resources it may start asking applicants if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
This admissions form question would be optional and the university, which has been flooded with early admissions requests this year, is keen to stress that information about sexual orientation or gender identity will play no part in the admissions decision-making process. Rather, Harvard hopes the question would communicate that the university embraces a diverse student body and that it is keen to meet its students’ needs.
Harvard University announced Wednesday that it may add language to its admission application that would allow prospective students to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according toThe Harvard Crimson.
The admissions office is currently working on the wording of the potential question, and the staff intends to meet with student groups in the coming months to solicit feedback. “I think this campus is really welcoming to all students and that’s the signal we want to send,” dean of admissions and financial aid William R. Fitzsimmons told the Crimson.
A student identifying as LGBT would not function as a positive “tip” in the the application process. Fitzsimmons said the move is intended to be more of a welcoming signal to “students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity.” Students may also be asked to write an optional essay to express their personal stories and experiences.
The final decision on adding this question will not be made until February of next year, but writers over at the Harvard Crimson appear in favor of the move citing that it would do well to answer for Harvard’s history and allay any fears LGBT students might have about applying. However, they would also like to see careful thought given to how the question is phrased so as to best show the diversity of identity and avoid narrow labels:
It should be no secret that queer students are enthusiastically embraced at Harvard and have held top leadership positions in cultural groups, the Harvard College Democrats, and the Harvard Republican Club. The University covers a variety of medical options for transgender students and employees, has appointed openly gay housemasters, and recently opened a BGLTQ student resource center. Those of us on the inside know that Harvard is queer friendly, but prospective applicants often lack the same insights. The proposed question on the Harvard supplement would highlight that the University embraces queer students from day one.
However, we must be mindful that the way the question is phrased is just as important as whether the question exists at all. Less than 100 years ago, Harvard initiated a veritable witch-hunt to purge its halls of queer students. Fears of that prejudice persist to this day, and any solicitation of information regarding the sexual orientation or gender identity of prospective students must be clear about the information not being used against the students in any way. Additionally, it is important to remember that prospective applicants may have wide-ranging sexual and gender identities and to be willing to accommodate them.
The merits of this and similar admissions questions have been debated quite widely and not all to positive effect.
Some concern has been raised, for instance, that students who were not yet sure of their own identity may feel pressured to choose for the sake of the form an identity marker that they will later find does not match who they truly are, perhaps even later causing them some emotional distress.
Other voices have been more positive over the issue in saying that so long as the question is not used as part of admissions criteria it should in fact be a standard question on admissions forms, in the same way that other elective information is gathered, because it would help university officials better understand students’ life experiences.
Yale application will not include LGBTQ question
A week after Harvard College administrators discussed the addition of an LGBTQ question to the application for admission, Dean of Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said Yale will be adding no such question to its application in the coming year.
A question asking applicants to label their sexual preference or gender identity may create unfair dilemmas for students afraid of answering honestly, or for those who worry about whether it might affect their admissions chances, Brenzel said in a Monday email to the News.
“Given that we neither preference nor disadvantage LGBTQ students in our admissions process, we think it may be best not to present applicants with a question that might possibly create more concerns or questions than it resolves,” Brenzel said.
The Crimson reported last Wednesday that Harvard College is considering adding a sexual orientation question to its application. At Harvard, identifying as LGBT would not act as an advantage in the application process.
“We want to send a positive signal to students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity,” William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said.
Young, Gay And Homeless: Fighting For Resources
by MARGOT ADLER
November 20, 2011
A number of studies of homeless youth in big cities put forth a startling statistic: Depending on the study, somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of homeless youths identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
It’s largely because gay youths are more often kicked out of their homes than straight youths. And even if they are not kicked out, they may feel so uncomfortable that they leave.
In New York City, nearly 4,000 young people are homeless every night — many of them gay.
Reaching Out To Homeless Youths
On the Christopher Street pier in Greenwich Village, where dozens of gay and transgender youths hang out, Carter Seabron and Elena Wood of Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project hand out snacks, condoms and information. The organization sends out several nightly teams to find homeless youths.
“Would you like a snack?" Seabron and Wood ask. Oreos, Rice Krispies treats and chewy bars are the favorites. They also give out information about Streetwork’s drop-in centers, where young people can get showers, clothing and housing referrals.
Seabron, the outreach coordinator for the Streetwork Project, says that “for the most part, the majority of youth we see who identify as being homeless also identify as being LGBT."
Wood says not all of them are thrown out of their homes, although many are.
“The parent might not say, ‘You have to get out now,’ like, ‘I am kicking you out,’ especially since that is illegal if they are under 18," she says. “It’s a fine line between what is their choice and what is not."
Each homeless young person has a different story.
Jeremiah Beaverly grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois.
“The day after my 18th birthday this year, my adopted parent kicked me out," he says. “At the time, I was really infatuated with this guy, and she was listening to my phone calls. She started telling my family, ‘He is this, he is that, he is gay,’ and talking about me as if I wasn’t part of the family."
Beaverly was lucky — he had friends whose parents were more accepting. He stayed with them until he finished high school. Now, in New York City, he is in emergency housing — only available for 90 days.
“I went from shelters and couch-surfing to my own bed," he says. “I haven’t slept in my own bed for almost a year, so it is really nice."
‘Living In A Societal Moment’
There are three organizations that cater to homeless gay kids in New York City.
Carl Siciliano is the founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, which he describes as the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. When he started the center almost 10 years ago, he says, “kids were dying in the streets; there was no shelter for gay youth; every couple of months, I would know someone who was murdered in the streets."
It has become clear to me that we are living in a societal moment, where kids are coming out at younger and younger ages, and there are so many parents who can’t be parents to their gay kids.
– Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center
In the beginning, Siciliano’s goal was just keeping kids safe. But as the years have gone on, he says, “it has become clear to me that we are living in a societal moment, where kids are coming out at younger and younger ages, and there are so many parents who can’t be parents to their gay kids. They can’t cope, they can’t deal with it, their religion is in conflict with the reality of their kids’ lives, and these kids are getting thrown away."
It makes sense if you think about it. Kids growing up today see gay people on television. They read about gay marriage in several states. If they think they are gay, they think they can come out of the closet at a younger age.
Tiffany Cocco grew up in East Harlem. She dropped out of school, did some drugs, was kicked out by her parents. She is now 23 and on a waiting list for housing. She’s been homeless since she was in her teens. She says she has slept at friends’ houses, couch-surfing, among other places.
“I lived on the streets," she says. “Literally, the A Train was my best ride: Waking up to the sunrise, gorgeous. I slept on stoops, park benches — then, finally, shelters."
Siciliano says the gay rights movement has not been good about dealing with the issue of homeless gay youth.
“The movement was articulated and thought out at a time when it was almost all adults coming out," he says. “We have framed our fight for equality in adult terms, and almost all the victories we have won only really benefit the adults in our community."
He also says the gay community hasn’t really dealt with poverty and destitution.
A Fight For Resources
Siciliano attended a recent rally in Union Square for gay homeless youths. A crowd of several hundred people chanted, “They’re our kids; they’re our kids."
At the microphone, Siciliano says it’s a different kind of struggle to protect gay kids than the battles the movement has fought in the past.
“With adults, it’s a fight for laws like marriage equality," he says. “It is not so much laws with the kids; it is economics. It’s a fight for resources. That’s what our community hasn’t quite gotten yet; we have to fight for resources to protect our kids. How dare we say ‘it gets better’ to the kids if we are not willing to fight to make sure they have what they need."
There are only 250 beds for 3,800 homeless kids in New York City; waiting lists are huge. Facing a $10 billion deficit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made compromises with the New York state Legislature. Budget cuts would have taken 100 of those beds away. The city council restored monies cut from both the city and state budgets, so no beds have been cut. A spokesperson said Cuomo asked all local governments to take more responsibility for their budgets by eliminating waste and prioritizing vital programs.
But Siciliano is still angry that homeless kids are not a priority. Of the governor, whom Siciliano describes as heroic in regard to gay marriage, he says, “It’s tearing my heart in two. Here you have a political leader who is doing so much to help the adults of our community and is taking actions that harm and imperil the most vulnerable youth of our community. What do we do? What is our response to that?"
Siciliano hopes the rally in late October is the beginning of a real campaign for youth shelter. They’re calling for 100 more beds for homeless youth each year until the need is met. But homeless kids don’t have power, money or votes. It’s hard to believe they will be at the top of many politicians’ list in future city and state budgets.
Organizing on gay marriage referendum takes off
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
RALEIGH – Behind-the-scenes efforts are slowly gearing up for a referendum next May in which North Carolina voters will decide whether to engrave a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution. Pro- and anti-amendment forces are assembling campaigns that will raise money and build support for their causes.
In an era of increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships in the U.S., well-funded national groups that view North Carolina as a flashpoint on the gay marriage issue are preparing to get out their checkbooks. At least one is already spending in a bid to sway the outcome May 8 in the only Southeastern state that doesn’t limit marriage to a man and a woman in its constitution. The winning side may need millions of dollars.
“Money is what gives us the resources to win,” said Jeremy Kennedy, of the newly formed Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, the referendum campaign committee opposed to the constitutional change. The salaries of two coalition employees already are being paid by the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.
TV or radio ads and campaign mailers are expected to reach voters in the weeks leading up the referendum, although exactly how many will be seen and heard may depend on the polling or perceptions that the outcome is uncertain. Voter registration drives, debates on college campuses and pulpit sermons also are in the works.
“There’s a massive organization going on, and we are extremely excited about having the opportunity to let our voice be heard,” said the Rev. Patrick Wooden, pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, a predominantly black congregation that supports the amendment.
Thirty other states already have approved constitutional amendments designed to prevent same-sex marriage. North Carolina state law already limits marriage to a man and a woman, but amendment supporters persuaded enough General Assembly members in mid-September that voters should be allowed to decide. The new Republican-led majority at the Legislature agreed to consider the question after it was blocked for years when Democrats were in charge.
Amendment backers say they want to protect traditional marriage by making it harder for a legal challenge by same-sex couples from other states who want their marriages to be recognized. Opponents said expanding gay rights – not constricting them – is on the right side of history, pointing to six states and the District of Columbia were gay marriage is legalized.
It’s too soon to determine whether the amounts spent on referendums in other states will be spent in North Carolina, said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University. Often money pours in during the last month before such a referendum, he said.
“People are just trying to get a sense of will this be competitive,” Dinan said.
The pro-amendment campaign is in the planning stages and expected to be unveiled in a week or so, said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition. Wooden said a positive message is being planned about the pre-eminence of traditional marriage in society.
The Washington-based Family Research Council also plans a statewide bus tour next spring in support of traditional marriage and other causes, said Tom McClusky, a council vice president. He adds the group’s legislative arm will pay for radio ads next year supporting the referendum, as they did in September before the Legislature’s vote.
Kennedy said the amendment debate will go beyond that just discrimination against people over their sexual orientation because the change would harm all unmarried couples.
The amendment would make marriage between a man and a woman the “only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” It would bar local governments – there are currently eight in the state – from offering benefits to domestic partners of employees. Other legal experts argue it could invalidate domestic violence protections for married couples and affect child custody cases.
Kennedy said plans are still being worked out but the coalition will include gay rights groups, social and racial justice organizations, religious leaders and progressive businesses. The coalition will have field offices and seek support on campuses and in churches.
“We are really going to be a united coalition,” he said. “This isn’t just about gays and lesbians.”
Other groups, including Hickory-area based Faith in America and the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality also are participating in opposition efforts to the amendment. Southern Equality held a two-week demonstration last month in which same-sex couples sought marriage licenses at the Buncombe County registered of deeds offices.
The pro-amendment effort got a boost this month when the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted for a resolution endorsing the amendment. The convention’s new president, the Rev. Mark Harris, also pledged to work with the convention’s 4,300 churches to get the amendment passed.
Both sides are seeking advocates with enthusiasm like that of Lydia Lavelle, a Carrboro town council member.
An N.C. Central University law professor, Lavelle has participated in two legal forums on what she calls the amendment’s broad consequences for domestic partners. She wants to distribute information to female attorneys and leaders in other municipalities about the amendment.
“Everyone has kind of unique abilities,” said Lavelle, who registered with her longtime female partner in Carrboro this year. “Sometimes I have to rein myself in with all of the things that I can do.”
Marriage Equality: Taking the lead
Washington United for Marriage says now is the time to make history
By Zach Powers on November 22, 2011
LGBT leaders and allies all over Washington are launching a new campaign for marriage equality called Washington United for Marriage. The campaign’s goal is to pass a marriage equality bill in the Washington State Legislature and for it to be signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire. To reach this goal the campaign will work to gain the support of local community members, elected officials and local media.
“This coalition of families, unions, business owners is about getting a bill passed out of the legislature and signed by the governor," says local activist Justin Leighton, who explains that the biggest challenge for the bill will be getting it passed in the senate. “We need folks to talk to their state legislators to tell them they support marriage and so should they."
The Pierce County arm of Washington United for Marriage is already off and running – holding town hall meetings all over the county to rally support for the cause. While many in Tacoma have long been actively committed to marriage equality, Washington United for Marriage Pierce County is determined to engage the entire county.
“It is easy to hold a meeting about marriage equality in cities like Tacoma and Seattle – those very urban, LGBT friendly areas," explains Leighton. “But when you hold a meeting about this topic in Puyallup, Lakewood or Gig Harbor then you’re a true trailblazer."
Washington United for Marriage is led at the statewide level by a large coalition of progressive civil rights organizations, including Equal Rights Washington and the Human Rights Campaign. The state coalition provides the county leadership teams with general direction and the counties implement plans as they believe best fit their communities.
The first course of action for the campaign in Pierce County has been to organize a series of town hall meetings all over the county. Recent meetings in Tacoma and Puyallup drew more than 50 attendees, and a meeting in Lakewood drew a crowd of more than 30.
A meeting in Tacoma on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at First United Methodist Church was led by State Representative Laurie Jinkins and Tacoma City Council member Ryan Mello. The two leaders, along with guest speakers Pastor Melvin Woodworth and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, encouraged attendees to participate in the campaign by engaging their community members and legislators in Pierce County, and urging friends and family in other parts of Washington to do the same.
“We are on the cusp of making history. For the first time in Washington state the majority of voters say they actually support civil marriage," Jinkins told the crowd, citing a recent poll by the University of Washington Center for Survey Research. “We can only (make history) if we are able to show legislatures that there is grass roots support here in the state."
Fears new Spanish prime minister could reverse gay marriage laws
Written by Martha Kirkpatrick
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 13:59
There are concerns that Spain’s new prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, could reverse Spain’s gay marriage laws.
Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party, does not support gay marriages though he does support civil partnerships for gay couples. In 2005 Spain became one of a handful of countries that legalised marriage between same-sex couples. Since the legalisation around 20,000 couples are believed to have gotten married in the country. Earlier this month Lainto pop-star Ricky Martin was granted citizenship in Spain reportedly because he wanted to wed his long-term partner.
However, the future of gay marriage in Spain is now under threat. Rajoy’s party has lodged an appeal in Spain’s Constitutional Court over the countries legalisation of gay marriage. If the appeal is successful it could result in Spain effectively rolling back time.
Only a few countries around the world have legalised gay marriage with the majority of them being European; Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. Non European countries to have legalised gay marriage include Canada and Argentina while New Mexico City and some U.S.A states such as New York have also legalised same-sex marriages. A number of other countries are debating legalising gay marriages such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Finland, Colombia and Luxembourg. Denmark meanwhile has signalled it intends to legalise gay marriage next year.
Danish gays to be allowed to marry in church
(AFP) – 11 hours ago
COPENHAGEN — Danish homosexuals will soon be allowed to marry in the state Evangelical Lutheran Church, Denmark’s gender equality and ecclesiastical affairs ministry said Wednesday.
“The Danish government has decided that same-sex couples are to be able to marry in church on equal terms with heterosexual couples, and that they will be able to call themselves spouses," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry will submit a bill to parliament on the issue soon.
“We expect to celebrate the first marriage next summer," Ellen Aagaard Petersen, a journalist with the protestant church’s official newspaper, told AFP, adding that the vote in parliament and implementation of the law would take about six months.
“All members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark must have the opportunity to be married in church regardless of their sexual orientation," the ministry statement said.
Denmark was the first country in the world to allow gay couples to enter into civil unions, or so-called “registered partnerships", on October 1, 1989. Those unions have given homosexuals virtually the same rights as heterosexual couples, but not the right to a religious wedding ceremony.
Since 1997 the Church has offered gay couples a religious blessing of their union, stopping short of the wedding ceremony and they are not registered as a couple on the parish lists.
Pastors will however not be obliged to marry a gay couple if he or she does not want to, Aagaard Petersen said.
“A pastor can say no, but another one will say yes," she explained.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church had 4.5 million members as of January 1, according to its website.
B.C. Supreme Court upholds ban on polygamy
Updated: Wed Nov. 23 2011 17:54:20
A judge in British Columbia has decided that Canada’s ban of polygamy does not violate the country’s Charter of Rights.
B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman issued his decision Wednesday, saying that while the ban does indeed violate the freedom-of-religion rights of those practising polygamy, polygamy brings such harm to women and children that they outweigh those rights.
In his 335-page decision, Bauman said that polygamy fundamentally hurts women, their children, and society in general.
“Women in polygamous relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm. They face higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse. Competition for material and emotional access to a shared husband can lead to fractious co-wife relationships," he wrote.
“Polygamy has negative impacts on society flowing from the high fertility rates, large family size and poverty associated with the practice. It generates a class of largely poor, unmarried men who are statistically predisposed to violence and other anti-social behaviour," he added.
Bauman added that the polygamy ban law is only valid if it isn’t used to prosecute child brides.
During 42 days of hearings in the case, the court heard testimony from academic experts, former polygamist women and current plural wives.
Lawyers with the federal and provincial governments argued that polygamy is inherently harmful and must be outlawed, while critics of the law said the law violates their right to religious freedom.
Most of the evidence focused on the community of Bountiful, B.C., whose residents adhere to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which believes plural marriage will allow members to reach the highest level of heaven.
It was the failed prosecution of two leaders from that community that prompted the provincial government to send a reference to Bauman.
Anti-polygamy advocate Nancy Mereska said Bauman’s decision is in keeping with international conventions that say polygamy harms women and children.
“The women that I have talked to and have been associated with in polygamy are women who have from childhood, babyhood, have been abused and harmed in this culture," Mereska, president of Stop Polygamy Canada, told CTV News Channel.
“They were forced into early marriages, they were told that their salvation was wrapped around their being obedient to the leaders of their communities. And the abuse that they have suffered throughout their lives is endemic and it’s lifetime sentences for all of them."
Mereska said in polygamous families, children are denied close relationships with their fathers and can be denied a formal education.
Mark Henkel, a leading polygamy advocate in the United States, said coercion or abuse can be dealt with “on a criminal basis," but polygamy between consenting adults should be legal.
“But when you talk about normal, consenting adult polygamy that has nothing to do with the paradigms of religious coercion as (Mereska) described," Henkel said. “That was not about polygamy, that was about the religion coercing situations of crimes against women and children."
According to Henkel, Bauman’s decision “has insulted every Canadian woman" because it implies that they “are not smart enough to choose for themselves."
Despite today’s decision, CTV’s legal analyst Steven Skurka says this case is far from over.
“I can tell you one thing for certain: this case will be appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeal and ultimately, to the Supreme Court of Canada," Skurka said minutes after the decision came down. “It’s just too important, too pivotal, to just stand with this decision, as thorough and comprehensive as it was."
Skurka added: “We’re years away from final decision in this case."