Showing posts with label Geography of Gay Marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Geography of Gay Marriage. Show all posts

May 11, 2017

Court in Hong Kong Backs Gay Marriage for Civil Service

A landmark ruling by a High Court judge allowing Civil Servants with same sex partners entitlement to the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual married colleagues (Image courtesy: wpcpey).
A High Court judge has ruled that civil servants from Hong Kong who travel overseas to marry their same sex partners are entitled to claim the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual married colleagues.
The landmark ruling was made by the territory’s Court of First Instance on 2 May in a case brought by senior immigration officer Leung Chun-kwong, who married his partner Scott Adams in New Zealand in April 2014.
Leung launched the legal challenge against the Secretary for the Civil Service and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue in December 2015, after they refused to recognise the marriage.
The Secretary turned down Leung’s request to update his status to married, which would entitle Adams to civil service benefits for spouses, on the grounds that same-sex marriage is not recognised under the civil service regulations because it is not legal in Hong Kong.
His decision denied Adams a wide range of benefits to which the spouses of Hong Kong’s civil servants are entitled, typically including medical and dental insurance, a housing allowance, and assistance with any children’s school fees.
But Mr Justice Anderson Chow handed Leung victory in his judicial review of the decision, after finding that it indirectly discriminated against the civil servant based on his sexual orientation.
In his 26-page judgment, Chow dismissed the government’s argument that the civil service policy is legitimate and necessary in order to achieve the aims of not undermining the integrity of marriage and safeguarding public order.
“The line as drawn by the Secretary between those who are legally married under Hong Kong law and those who are not begs the question of whether it is legitimate or justifiable to accord differential treatment based on sexual orientation, because homosexual couples are, by definition, unable to be legally married, or recognised as legally married, under Hong Kong law,” he stated.
“I am unable to see how the denial of ‘spousal’ benefits to homosexual couples who are legally married under foreign laws could or would serve the purpose of not undermining the integrity of the institution of marriage in Hong Kong, or protecting the institution of the traditional family.”
However, Leung’s parallel application for judicial review of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue’s refusal to grant him joint assessment for income tax with Adams was turned down. This was because the Inland Revenue Ordinance explicitly defined marriage as between a man and woman, Chow stated.
The ruling sparked a heated exchange between gay rights campaigners and a conservative Christian group on Hong Kong public radio station RTHK, and prompted union leaders to predict that more gay civil servants would marry overseas to claim benefits for their partners.
Leung said the court had “recognised and rectified a fundamental unfairness” and urged the government to actively review its policies instead of waiting to be legally challenged, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Leung Chau-ting, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, said the government should not deprive gay civil servants of rights because of their sexual orientation, according to the SCMP. “Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city and should revise its relevant laws to protect their rights,” he said.
But Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of the Society for Truth and Light, said that most Hongkongers are against same-sex marriage and it’s unfair to make taxpayers cover the costs, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.
“We should not let a few judges define marriage,” he said. “The civil service welfare benefits are paid for by public money. If people don’t agree with the ruling, why should they be forced to pay for the benefits of gay couples?”
Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government was seeking legal advice over the ruling, RTHK reported.
The ruling will take effect on 1 September. The court ordered that the government pay 60% of Leung’s costs.
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November 3, 2015

Did Ireland’s Same Sex Referendum Change Activism? {Beware of referendums}


Five months after gay marriage was approved by the Irish public in a landmark referendum, the office of Irish president Michael Higgins formally signed the country’s new marriage equality law into effect on Thursday (29 October).
On that same day, on the other side of Europe, gay rights activists gathering in Athens from across the continent fretted that the high-profile victory could lead some to draw the wrong conclusions.

Activists generally oppose referendums, because when the majority is allowed to decide on the rights of a minority it rarely works out well for the minority. (Photo: Mortimer62)
The activists were meeting at the annual conference of the International Gay and Lesbian Association of Europe (ILGA).

The Irish victory loomed large over the occasion. It marked the first time a country approved gay marriage through a popular vote, was a major turning point in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. With the US Supreme Court legalising gay marriage in America just one month later, many gay people thought, "we've finally made it".

All countries in Cold-War-defined Western Europe, barring Italy and Greece, now have some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples.

The North Atlantic now has same-sex marriage on all of its shores, barring the rocky cliffs of Northern Ireland. Malta, often thought of as being an island outpost of the Vatican, shocked observers earlier this year when it not only enacted gay marriage, but also instituted the world's first legal recognition of transgender rights.

But don't put down the placards just yet, the ILGA leadership told the activists in Athens.

"I get very often the comment, 'now that you're starting to get marriage all over, surely you're nearly done,'" said Evelyn Paradis, secretary-general of the ILGA.

"No. The LGBTI equality agenda has never been all about marriage. Marriage is not the be all and end all."

She noted that for a lot of people, employment discrimination is actually a much more important issue than marriage, and there is still much work to be done on that front, particularly for transgender people.

Even on the marriage front, it should not be assumed that what happened in Ireland will inevitably be replicated in the rest of Europe. There is still no gay marriage in the countries of Central Europe, including Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Swiss citizens may even vote to enact a constitutional ban on gay marriage in a referendum in February, becoming the first Western European country to do so. Such bans already exist in a handful of Eastern EU member states including Poland and Bulgaria. Russia's abuse of its LGBTI population, whether by the government or by its citizens, has become notorious.

The ferocious resistance and street protests by a large segment of the French public to last year's passage of gay marriage law in France showed that even in the West, the public still needs convincing regardless of the legislation on the books.

Be wary of referendums                            

So what lessons can be drawn from the Irish experience?

The referendum loomed large over this year's ILGA summit. Gráinne Healy, the chairwoman of Marriage Equality Ireland, who led the yes campaign, was greeted like a rock star as she gave her keynote speech.

Some in the audience were moved to tears as she described the jubilation felt after 62 percent of Irish voters said yes to marriage equality. But it was an awkward jubilation, she noted, because she disagreed with the very premise of the vote.

"Let's be clear, it was always the preferred option that marriage equality would be legislated for if at all possible," said Healy. "None of us campaigned to hold a referendum in the early days, referendums on the rights of a minority should never happen."

It is a conundrum for the gay rights movement as it moves on to a post-Ireland chapter.

Now the movement's most high-profile victory, perhaps the moment activists felt the most proud, was the result of a referendum in Ireland. But activists oppose such referendums on principle, because when the majority is allowed to decide on the rights of a minority it rarely works out well for the minority.

In the United States, almost all of the referendums held on the issue in the past 15 years have voted against gay marriage, including 'proposition 8' in California in 2008, which annulled the state's legislatively-enacted gay marriage.

Up next: Slovenia
Gay rights activists will again have to confront the referendum issue in December, when Slovenian voters will decide on whether to undo a gay marriage law passed by the government last year.

Before enacting the law, the Slovenian government had changed the constitution to expressly forbid referendums being called on issues of human rights, after a previous gay marriage law was undone by a referendum in 2012.

But the country's constitutional court ruled last week that gay rights cannot necessarily be considered human rights, at least not until the court has considered the question. A referendum will go ahead in December.

Slovenian gay rights activist and academic Roman Kuhar told the ILGA conference that although they will fight hard to convince voters, he is not optimistic.

"I guess we will have the same story again that happened in 2012 – a long painful period of lies, a situation where there's no dialogue possible," said Kuhar.

"They will recruit very disciplined and well-established networks of people who oppose this kind of legislation. They're very active on social media, and they have an even better network than Facebook – the church. The local priests are well organised and every Sunday they are telling people to go out for the referendum. And referendums in Slovenia are on Sunday mornings."

At the same time, the activists in the room had to acknowledge that the Irish gay marriage outcome felt a lot nicer than the French gay marriage law enacted in 2014, which was imposed by French President Francois Hollande from the top down with no public involvement. It left a question of legitimacy hanging over the decision, even though it had been passed by democratically-elected representatives of the people.

In Ireland, there is no doubt over whether gay marriage enjoys public support.

Lessons learned
Later in the day, gay rights activists from around Europe met in a workshop to discuss what lessons can be learned from the Irish example.

Healy told the attendants how her campaign convinced the public, and Gabi Calleja, an activist from Malta, described how her campaign convinced politicians. And while the activists appreciated the Irish example, they mostly felt that a referendum would not yield the same positive result in other countries such as Malta.

Sam Mueller, a campaigner with the Green Liberal party in Switzerland, noted that the Swiss referendum question in February will be couched in a question about tax reform, and many people probably won't even realise that their vote would have the effect of banning gay marriage.

"The fear is that people will think about the tax issue and not the marriage issue," he said. "So we will need to create videos like they did in Ireland to inform people about what their decision will mean to LGBTI people. We need to show them that it's about their neighbour or their friend."

Miha Lobnik, another activist from Slovenia, said there is not enough time between the court's decision last week and the referendum in December to conduct a campaign such as they had in Ireland.

"A referendum is not won like a football game, where two teams compete and the better one wins. It's about who brings more supporters to the stadium. That's why it’s very hard for us in countries with small LGBTI groups. It’s an excellent example that we have from Ireland, but we need more time for that", said Lobnik
European Commission comes out
The European Commission has been hesitant to get involved in the gay marriage debate because the EU has no power over civil marriage laws.

But next February the Commission is going to launch the first EU 'awareness campaign' to try to convince the European public that gay people should have equal rights.

The Commission is expected to soon release a new eurobarometer poll surveying Europeans' feeling about LGBTI people. The results, seen by this website, showed that a majority of Europeans support equal rights and gay marriage, but there is a big difference between member states. Gay activists still have a lot of work to do to change minds in Eastern Europe.

"For us it was a shock, we knew the situation was bad in some countries, but when suddenly you quantify the monster behind you, it becomes very scary," said Juan Gonzalez Mellizo, who works in the non-discrimination unit at the European Commission.

There is a stark East-West divide. For instance, while 91 percent of people in the Netherlands support gay marriage, only 17 percent in Bulgaria do.

The highest proportions of people who said they would be comfortable working with gay and lesbian colleagues were found at EU's Western extremes, with Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden all responding around 90 percent positive.

It was the lowest in the EU's Eastern extremes, with only 21 percent in Slovakia saying they would be comfortable and 27 percent in Romania. Only 7 percent of people in Bulgaria said they would accept their child being gay.

Gonzalez Mellizo said the intention of the Commission’s awareness campaign is to turn the situation around by the time another survey is taken in two years. The campaign will target the countries where acceptance is the lowest, and it will focus in on the populations that are most likely to have their minds changed – youth and the 'movable middle'.

Just like the Ireland referendum marks a turning point in the LGBTI rights movement in Europe, the awareness campaign marks a turning point in EU involvement on this issue.

The previous Commission under Jose Manuel Barroso was more cautious on the issue of gay rights, saying it was a matter for member states. But the new Commission vice-president, Dutchman Frans Timmermans, says he feels passionately about gay rights, and while speaking at the ILGA annual gala in Brussels earlier this year, he hinted that the Commission could even pursue the issue of gay marriage and adoption rights based on EU guarantees of free movement.

The European courts could find that a gay couple married in one EU country who are unable to move to another member state because it wouldn't recognise their marriage is being presented with an unreasonable hurdle.

Such a Commission challenge is unlikely any time soon, however. In the mean time, the EU executive hopes that just focusing attention on the issue will be enough to change minds enough to spark action at national level, as was seen in Ireland. In effect, they want to emulate the Irish 'yes' campaign on a European scale.

"This is the coming out of the Commission," said Gonzalez Mellizo. "In the past years we were doing a lot, but quietly. We are changing from being supporters to being activists."

But the Commission is stressing that it needs the help of other activists to make what happened in Ireland happen across Europe. The LGBTI rights movement across Europe is now strategizing on how to pivot their strategy in a post-Ireland world.

NB: ILGA sponsors EUobserver's Focus section on Equality and LGBTI rights, but has no editorial influence over this or other articles

September 25, 2014

Black Democrats Lagging behind on Gay rights and Marriage


As same sex marriage has gained increased support over the last decade, particularly among Democrats, African Americans have lagged behind other key liberal groups -- particularly whites -- in supporting it. This has led to the idea that blacks are less progressive on gay rights than other groups -- even as President Obama became the first president to back same sex marriage.
As it turns out, Obama's shift on gay marriage did change minds or at the very least temporarily influence thinking on the issue in the black community.  A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed a shift from 41 percent support for same sex marriage before Obama's announcement, to a record 59 percent of blacks -- albeit it in a small sample size.
But, a Pew poll from earlier this month spoke to the fact that significant opposition remains. A significant chunk of African Americans say Democrats are "too willing to accept same sex marriage", a far higher number than whites or Hispanics who say the same.
To get a sense of why this disparity still exists, I reached out to Anthea Butler, who teaches religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
FIX: What do you make of the disparity that essentially suggests that black culture and black people are simply more likely to be against same sex marriage.  Is this a racial thing?
This is religion and you can’t really separate out religion from black culture. There are ways it comes out and not everybody is a Christian, but that’s the key piece. You have these prosperity churches and the like that are promoting marriage as between man and a woman. And a lot of people were not happy with using the narrative of civil rights to talk about same sex marriage. For a lot of people they see those as two distinct issues and not related to each other, whether it’s true or not, it’s more about perception. It’s also about black women not getting married. For African American Christian women that’s a particular concern. I’m not sure it's the same for men. Marriage is an important thing and their dream of being married isn’t about seeing same sex couples getting married especially when they are being cut out. 
FIX: What impact has Obama had on this issue among African Americans?
I think it may have improved a bit, but it hasn’t improved completely. It’s just not one of those things that has changed because of Obama said it, that’s not the case at all. The people who believed this before Obama came into office, likely still believe it after he made the decision. It’s largely outside of him. It’s a religious decision and a moral decision, it’s not about the president. This is the one space where southern whites and blacks agree. And if you think back to Proposition 8, people made it seem like it was African-American community, when the reality is that it was the Mormons that were much more engaged with this but at the end, they tried to put it on the black folks. When the law changes, it will be interesting to see how churches deal with it.  But just as much as we talk about the opposition to it, there is some non-opposition to it as well. The black community is not a monolith, there are people on both sides of it, and in fact more on the side of same sex marriage.

September 14, 2014

Geography of Same Sex Marriage Around The World


This graphic published at The Economist very clearly shows how advanced same sex marriage and Civil Unions are. On the other hand it also shows where the work needs to be done.  The work is being done world wide because you have LGBT people in every country and jurisdiction. What you don’t have in countries that still live by standards from the last centuries is freedom to have a fair in information exchange so people that are straight or gay closeted by homophobia can learn what a gay person is.  In this country, the U.S. most of the times with exceptions of murder or beatings, is a matter of someone writing ‘gay’ on your front door while you sleep or have an egg thrown at you while you walk to the grocery store but the opposition in these places is much more dark and dangerous than that. 

Wether we talk about countries not far from un like in the Bahamas, Jamaica, the French and British Islands or as far as Brunei in Africa or Belarus in East Europe you can be jailed without trial in many cases and executed with a short trial in others.  Even on nations that have shown in the past to be the first ones to be highly educated like Egypt, Greece and Persia (now Iran), Gays can be hung, shot , have their head cut off or stoned to death without much remorse. It’s fair to say that where education and information flows, it shows what type of people gays are.  It’s worked well to show gays as neighbors, friends, daughters and sons. 

The freedom to pick the person you love of lawful age is something so rewarding to see; like a beautiful plant in a well soil garden it keeps growing so that as this type of individual comes of age and realizes who they have feelings for they can more easily be able to survive school and if they decide to make it legal union just like anyone else’s they can.

Between nations in which you have gay marriage such as Britain and New Zealand, weddings have become as natural as anything else they do but you still have nations like the United States that preaches fairness, democracy and individuality in we still do not have the Federal Government    sanctioning these marriages and instead we are doing them piece meal hopping for the moment in which the Supreme Court decides to jump in and put a stamp on such a law and have the matter settled for all. 

This moment is not too far away since you have plenty of states’ Attorney generals and lower and federal appeals courts asking the Supreme Court to get involved. Watchers of the court believe that gay marriage will be one of the first cases they will take up at the beginning of their new term at the end of September and will have a decision announced in the middle of their term which would be early 2015. Again these are just presuppositions but based on history and good current information of tea leaf reading, it sounds about right.

The biggest problem in the United States it seems to unsurprisingly come from the South, just like slavery, interracial marriage and civil laws of the 60’s received the most resistance there. Outside of these States it seems to be Russia even more so than China which is causing a lot of human hurt. Russia is the only large nations that outright is made a law against gays. There is been no hangings or firing squads as far as we know but it makes it very hard for anyone gay to come out because they will be putting their livelihood on the line and probably a good bet that a beating plus jail will await them.
 Right now you have cases in Russia in which a hater beats up a person he believes is gay and as the police arrive, or the person makes a complaint it will be the person beaten that will got to jail. If that is not street justice in a nation that claims to be civilized I don’t know what street justice is. Hopefully as information leaks there by the internet and may be visitors the people themselves would realize that having the government put their son in jail because of they way they have seen him grow up might not be the best parenting possible. We are waiting for those fathers to start softening their hearts for their sons and daughters difference of sexual orientation.

Information is like a light that shows the faults and imperfections for those that care to work to fix them. Information alone wont do it, you need the people to care and have a heart to make changes. This will show to the world and generations to come for once and for all what type of people the Russians people really are. Are they heartless ignorant bears that refuse to learn and believe in science and currents events happening in their country now, not 60 years ago.

For a country that fought fascism in Hitler (even though they were in bed with him at the beginning), they sometimes seem to follow the same path, just with different uniforms.

The Map above covers up to April of 2013. From a year and a half ago there have been more drastic changes in favor of same sex marriage.  Just friday an appeals court overruled the Governor of Arizona and allowed a dead gay vet to be be given same sex marriage discharge so his spouse can get the government benefits that spouses of vets get including being buried with them. 
Adam Gonzalez, publisher

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