Friday, December 30, 2005

The debt gays owe to the European Court of Human Rights

While it takes time to persuade the Court of Human Rights to adopt a position, once that position is adopted, it seems to pursue that position forcefully. Some time in the late 1990s the Court concluded that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was as serious as discrimination on the basis of gender, race or religion (up to that time, it allowed governments discretion in contentious areas like the age of consent and recognition of same-sex partnerships). Since that time it has come out with a very strong and unequivocal series of judgements in relation to the age of consent, the Armed Forces, custody rights, and equal treatment of unmarried same-sex and opposite sex partners. It has also adopted strong positions on transgender rights.

The reality is that the European Court of Human Rights has been an extraordinary force for change in Europe over the last 25 years. Since the Court ruled in the Dudgeon case (1981) against the criminalisation of same-sex relationships, decriminalisation has taken place in more than 20 jurisdictions. And the effects of its more recent judgements continue to be felt across Europe.
And looking at the EU, which only relatively recently (1997) adopted powers to combat discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation: one single directive, the employment directive, has provided legislation protecting lesbians, gays and bisexuals from employment discrimination in 25 countries. While, admittedly, a few of these countries already had such laws, the Directive was, in terms of the numbers of people affected favourably (and allowing for a couple of areas of weakness), arguably the most important piece of legislation in the history of the LGBT movement worldwide.

With civil partnership legislation coming into force this month, and with a government promise of legislation banning discrimination in the field of goods and services, my own country, the UK, is rapidly becoming one of the best countries in the world in terms of LGBT friendly legislation. But, until only a couple of years ago, virtually every positive step in favour of LGBT rights in the UK was the result of "Europe". The lifting of complete bans on sex between men in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the equalisation of the age of consent, the removal of discrimination in privacy laws, the right to work in the Armed Forces, removal of discriminatory criminal offences, recognition of transgender people's rights to change their birth certificates and to marry….indeed, it is possible to argue (without too much exaggeration) that It is only in the last few years, with adoption rights, civil partnership, and now proposed legislation banning goods and services discrimination, that any UK government has done anything significant for LGBT people without European pressure, since the original (and severely flawed) Act of 1967 (which decriminalised relationships between men over 21).

So let us recognise the extraordinary benefits of the European human rights system, and let' s keep using the wide opportunities it provides for opposing homophobia in the many European countries where it is still so intense.

Nigel Warner of ILGA (originallyposted to the euro-queer list)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

British Humanist Association
1 Gower Street
Telephone: 020 7079 3580
Fax: 020 7079 3588

Media Release
20 December 2005


The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the Civil Partnership legislation for same-sex couples and congratulates all those planning to take advantage of their new rights.

Hanne Stinson, executive director of the BHA, said, ‘Humanists have been campaigning for gay and lesbian equality for over half a century. Unlike many of the major religions, Humanism is a modern worldview that has no room for the ancient prejudices which discriminate against people simply because of their sexual orientation.’

In addition to its campaigning work to achieve equality for lesbians and gay men over many years, the BHA has been providing commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, on the same grounds as its non-religious weddings for heterosexual couples, through its national network of accredited humanist celebrants.

Ms Stinson commented, ‘We are delighted that all those couples who have shared such ceremonies over the years will now finally have the opportunity to make their relationships legal.’



Enquiries about humanist ceremonies can be directed to further information contact Hanne Stinson at or 020 7079 3583

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New GALHA magazine launches

Sexuality, Politics, Humanism, Atheism, Liberalism and Freethought.

The Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) is proud to announce the launch of its new magazine - Gay Humanist Quarterly.

Editor, Brett Lock, says: “We hope to bring you quality writing, incisive analysis, oodles of fun and an all-round good read. Our aim is to produce a magazine taking a view of the world from a queer, free-thinking, humanist perspective, championing secularism, reason, and human rights.”

In the launch issue:
  • Lee Stacy, the new chair of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association introduces himself, the new magazine and outlines the year ahead.
  • We ask the question “Are religious groups getting superpowers?” and note that across the UK, Europe and North America, religious groups are pushing for more power and influence in the running of the country - and getting it.
  • Brett Lock speaks to Wilf Mbanga, an exiled Zimbabwean newspaper editor who has vowed to keep publishing - from the UK.
  • Warren Allen Smith gives the low-down on what's up across the pond in the USA.
  • We take a critical look at Christian Voice, run by Stephen Green and his loopy mob.
  • Derek Lennard interviews Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia.
  • Guest columnist David T investigates the disturbing trend of racist groups using religion as a proxy for race.
  • We rummage around the web for what might be in the atheist’s Winterval stocking and also discover the hilarious ‘Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’.
  • Houzan Mahmoud writes about how free speech is increasingly under threat from religious pressure.
  • Andrew Copson lets the government know what LGBT secularists expect from the Equality review.
  • Is Jesus really the reason for the season? We investigate that too.

The magazine is also packed with news, views and reviews of the latest books and films.

Lee Stacy, the new Chair of GALHA says: “Congratulations to the editors of this brand new magazine! And as chair of the well-established organization it’s representing, I’m honoured to be associated with it. This debut issue is stunning, and I look forward to future issues matching the wide-ranging, stimulating, and entertaining articles found here. I also applaud my fellow Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) committee members for laying the foundation for Gay Humanist Quarterly. “

Gay Humanist Quarterly is published quarterly. It is free to members of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association, and available to non-members by subscription or from selected outlets. Copies cost £1.50 + P&P each or £7.50 (inc. P&P) for an annual UK subscription. International subscriptions are £12.50 (inc. P&P). Subscriptions and orders can be place online.

The magazine’s website is

An electronic version of the debut issue is available for download from the website.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pope abolishes the Limbo

In an article for the New Statesman, Lindsay Hilsim reports that the Pope has abolished limbo. There is more information in The Times.

Describing those who indulge in the practice as “virtuous pagans” and “babes”, the Pope put the kibosh on the practice. The move will no doubt infuriate the many Caribbean practitioners of the dance.

In the staunchly Christian region, many will also be offended that the Pope believes that they only took up limbo because “they had not yet heard the word of Christ”.

A website which promotes the dance describes it as:

If the dancer is successful he must repeat this again and again with the bar being lowered another "Notch" each time. Each dancer does this until there is only one left standing who has not touched the bar, fallen down, laid on the floor or used his/her hands to keep balance. On-lookers as well as other dancers would clap and cheer (or egg on) and sing while the dancer trys to go under the stick. This dance was very popular at beach parties.

However, the Pope believes that those who indulge in the practice are half-way to hell.

Observers of the machinations of the Vatican are bewildered as to why the Pope has decided to abolish the Limbo – rather than focussing on more subversive dance crazes like the Charleston, or more recently, the Robot or the Macarena.

Cliff castigates church

The church’s attitude to homosexuality is stuck 2000 years in the past and the church needs to move it says bachelor boy Christian pop star, Cliff Richard, who has been in the news lately after making his villa available for the PM’s summer holiday.

Okay, enough with the punning…

According to the Irish Independent, Cliff Richard has lectured the church that it must "learn to deal" with homosexuality. He reminded them that the world was now very different from the time of Jesus. The Independent says Richard is “saddened by conservative religious figures' attitude to gay priests and has urged for tolerance of homosexuality”.

Speaking out in favour of gay clergy, the singer said: "There are gay people in this world. Some of them are very talented. Some of them could be great priests."

This outspoken stance may make up for his support for the Festival of Light in the early 1970s, but it’s not quite enough to compensate for inflicting the dire “Millennium Prayer” on the world.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The ‘God Warrior’

The antics of one participant in the US TV series Trading Spouses have to be seen to be believed (unlike Jesus).

You know the plot device from similar shows: couples trade spouses and families for a week and then audiences sit back and find entertainment in the resulting culture-shock.

However, the things the average family do was too much for this bible-belter… and boy, is she loud when she belts out the bible!

When her host family checked their horoscopes at the breakfast table, she walked off the show screeching about “darksidedness” and dementedly revealed to her stunned (and, it seems, long-suffering) children that the hosts were “NOT CHRIIISTIAAANNNNZZ!!!”.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the video clip.

A much longer version of the clip is available here.

One can’t help but wonder what the long-term psychological effect on the children is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Radio Times promotes homopobic group’s CDs

We have discovered that the Radio Times is giving away CDs of the Narnia books, which have been produced in association with Focus on the Family.

Focus in the Family are a notorious antigay group in the United States (similar to the Christian Institute here) who fund antigay initiatives and produce homophobic propaganda like A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

Radio Times are running a promotion where they give away a free Narnia CDs on the cover. The programmes – produced by the FOTF – will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on Boxing Day.

From the BBC Radio 7 newsletter:

The Chronicles of Narnia will be broadcast on BBC7 from 8am to 8pm and will include dramatisations of the following books: The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy and Prince Caspian. David Suchet is the voice of Aslan and Paul Schofield is the narrator. It's a marvellous listen for Boxing Day.

Radio Times and the BBC are probably not aware of the extreme antigay campaigning of Focus on the Family. We suggest that you write to and let them know.

Lesbian and Gay people and their humanist allies are also being urded to stay away from the new Hollywood blockbuster – Narnia. The Media Transparency agency reports that it was funded by right-wing evangelicals. In particular conservative media billionaire Philip Anschutz stands to make millions of dollars from the movie (which they hope will become a franchise to rival Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter). Much of this money could end up funding anti-gay initiatives.

Most atheists and humanists already know that the Narnia series is thinly disguised Christian propaganda. Some might be willing to overlook this because it is still regarded as good story-telling. But we cannot overlook that the profits from this series may end up funding Focus on the Family and other right-wing groups who campaign against gay rights.

Don’t let a portion of your ticket end up funding initiatives like this or this.

When you write to the BBC to complain, be sure to provide them with the links to FOTF’s bigoted and malicious antigay propaganda.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Italian politician: “The Pope’s an imbecile”

An Italian politician, Monika Spring, of the Partito di ispirazione cristiana (PPD), (roughly translated as the “party of Christian inspiration”) has described the Pope as “an imbecile” – reports the Gay Italy website.

She also described the Catholic Church as “the greatest homosexual organization of the world”. She was also critical of his stance on contraception and blamed him for many AIDS-related deaths as a consequence of his church’s policy.

Her party however has distanced themselves from her remarks.

Recent estimates have put the number of gay priests at between a third and a half. Staggering.

We, of course, share her opinion of Ratzinger.

A very rough translation (it translates “spokesperson” as “megaphone”) from the original Italian can be had via Google’s language tools.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Now store pulls our chain and wool over their eyes

Hypocrisy watch: Retail outlet Woolworths are continuing to sell the Jerry Springer: The Opera DVD via their online store, based in Jersey.

This is bizarre. They’ve been telling the Christian loonies that they’ve pulled the product after “listening to their customer’s concerns”, but it seems all they’ve done is move it our of sight. Perhaps we can get them to agree to a compromise position. They could sell it from under the counter in a brown paper bag. That way their Christian customers won’t be offended.

Their website couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the product. It gushes:

“The Opera is the smash-hit multi-award winning musical, which opened to unprecedented rave reviews and standing ovations at the National Theatre. The Opera is the smash-hit multi-award winning musical, which opened to unprecedented rave reviews and standing ovations at the National Theatre.”

Principle is one thing, but turning down a sale is quite another. Instead of the bland PR-speak letters they were sending out yesterday (see previous post), today the company has a more canny approach. They’re telling customers who complain not to worry, Woolworths is still selling it – but on the quiet.

Dear Sir / Madam

Woolworths is guided by legislation and regulatory bodies on what it can and cannot sell in its stores. Our decisions to sell products are based on customer demand. The product is not currently available in stores, however should a customer wish to purchase it, it is available from our website -



I wonder if this will be good enough for Stephen Green.


But Stephen, it gets worse. Sainsbury’s are selling the book and the soundtrack too. If they won't sell you the DVD, they will rent it to you. So all in all, this gesture could be called “window undressing”.

You didn’t really think you were going to get a principled response from a retail chain, did you?

Meanwhile, actors union Equity has added a welcome voice to the fray. In a statement, they said:


You may have read in the press that both Sainsbury's and Woolworths have withdrawn from sale DVDs of Jerry Springer - The Opera after receiving complaints from the public. This is the same production of Jerry Springer - The Opera which was subject to protests when the BBC screened it.

When Equity approached the two companies, Sainsbury's press office said that they had received around 20 complaints but Woolworths would not reveal the number of complaints it had received other than to say it was "substantial".

Equity is very concerned about the action of the two companies and General Secretary Christine Payne has issued the following statement"Equity is opposed to the action which Woolworths and Sainsbury's have taken on two grounds. Firstly, Equity strongly supports artistic freedom and equally strong opposes censorship in all its forms, however offended any individual may feel themselves to be by a particular piece of dramatic art.

'Secondly, Equity members derive income from the sales of recorded material, including DVDs, and so stand to lose income from actions such as these."Equity is inviting all of its members to make their views known to Sainsbury's and Woolworths about these acts of censorship."

If you wish to contact Sainsbury's with your views you can visit
and complete an e-mailable form or call their general enquiry line on 0800 636 262.If you wish to contact Woolworths you can send an e-mail to or call the company's headquarters on 020
7262 1222.

Thank you.

Best wishes

Martin Brown Equity Campaigns, Press and PR Officer

Monday, December 05, 2005

Chain pulls the wool over our eyes

Retail chain Woolworths is acting as a censor. Following ‘a number of complaints’ (remember these things are usually orchestrated) the store has pulled Jerry Springer: The Opera from its shelves.

Customers who have complained about the decision of Woolworths to act as a censor (this in not pornography, it was broadcast on the BBC following a successful West End run) are receiving a form letter in response:

Dear …

Thank you for your e-mail.

Woolworths is not a censor and does not wish to act as one. Like any other retailer, it is guided by government legislation with regard to film certification.

However, we also listen to our customers and their feedback. On this occasion we have received numerous complaints and it is clear to us that our customers would prefer us not to stock this product.

As a result it has been removed from sale.

Danny Myers Customer Support Advisor

Funny how it seems they only listen to one set of customers and their “complaints”.

DVDs are sold in shrinkwrap. It is not possible to be offended by a DVD simply because it exists. Well, I suppose it is ‘possible’ if you’re a loony Christian fundamentalist, but customer support advisors should enlighten you to the fact that if you don’t feel you’ll enjoy the movie, keep your 20 quid in your pocket.

Somehow I suspect that Woolworths will be more outraged at the suggestion that they sell DVDs for the full ₤19.99 RRP instead of at their low, low price than they will being described as “censors”.

We’ve reported at the dirty tactics of Stephen Green and his nutty so-called “Christian Voice” before. They published the names and home addresses of producers and broadcasters connected with the show and threatened theatre managers with disruptions if they allowed the show to go on. Now they appear to have some magic power over retailers.

In America, it is not uncommon for big chains like Walmart to insist that CDs and DVDs have alternative artwork or edits for the versions sold in their stores. Since these big retail outlets have such huge buying power and distribution, the artists have to cave in. Do we want the same style of bullying taking hold in the UK?

According to a report in the Independent, Sainsbury’s is caving to similar pressure. Who next? Tescos, WHSmith, HMV?

This is a point of principle. Let Woolworths and Sainsbury’s know that we’re watching. Let’s see if they respond to our complaints!

And, in a mind-numbing move, another retail chain - ASDA - has invited god-botherers of many varieties into their stores to pester customers. The Yorkshire Post reports that "The Leeds-based chain Asda has recruited 160 multi-denominational clerics who now pay regular visits to their stores across the country to chat to both staff and customers."

It really is a supermarket of religion now - get the heathen DVDs out, get the evangelists in. Oh what next? Holy water in the Coke isle? 'Blood of Christ' merlot on sale (but only until 11pm)? Communion waffers in the bakery - buy one, get salvation free?

Write to ASDA and tell them what you think of their mini-mall misionaries and their deli disciples.