Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gas attack in Moscow

A group of 20 neo-Nazi thugs burst into the conference venue hosting an international gay conference in Moscow spraying an “unidentified” gas at the assembled delegates, according to this morning’s Times.

The violence follows a similar attack on a Moscow gay club a fortnight ago where elderly religious ‘protestors’ chanted antigay incantations while a small army of skinheads hurled bottles and attacked patrons.

Veteran US jouralist Doug Ireland is providing on-going coverage on his blog of the stand-off between the Mayor of Moscow, assorted religious leaders (who have issued death threats), right-wing skinheads and Russia’s embattled gay community.

Russian gays are hosting an international conference and staging the first Russian Pride today, defying banning orders and threats of violence. 1000 police officers have been dispatched by the Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, to stop the march.

British campaigners Derek Lennard of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (who is the UK co-ordinator for the International Day Against Homophobia) and OutRage! activist Peter Tatchell are in Moscow to attend the conference and join the march.

Also in Moscow is Oscar Wilde’s grandson, and Human Rights Watch director Scott Long. Scott is publishing a diary as events unfold.

GHQ Magazine, (just out) has a cover story on Russian Pride. An electronic (PDF) version is available here.

Nevertheless, Russia’s gay community is divided. Some fear that the backlash will not be worth it, while other believe that a stand must be taken. This is not a new debate, nor a debate specific to oppressed gay communities. It is always the first debate that any civil rights movement has. The same debate was had by religious minorities over the centuries, by the women’s suffrage movement, by the black civil rights movement in the US and by those who stood up to Apartheid.

What is too often painfully clear is that there is rarely progress without blood in the streets.

Scott Long says in his diary that the foreigners left the room to allow the Russians to debate the next step. They voted to march!

I don’t have prayers, but today my thoughts will be with my comrades in Moscow.

Over 50 activists have been detained by Russian police, including march organiser Nikolay Alexeyev.

I've just heard from Derek Lennard in Moscow and he's safe. He's waiting to hear from French activist Louis-Georges Tin and Peter Tatchell, who were part of a different delegation going to City Hall. Derek confirms that Nikolay Alexeyev has been arrested. He adds that at least the tomatoes he had thrown at him seemed fresh organic and thankfully "good enough to eat". It seems Russian neo-Nazis haven't forgotten their manners altogether.

A German MP, Volker Beck, and a French Green Party official have been injured in clashes with police and neo-nazi thugs. Apparently, a delegate from the Paris Mayor's office was one of the gay activists arrested today.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Christian Hospitality

The Times reports that the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend John Gladwin, and 20 curates have been abandoned somewhere “in Africa” after the Anglican church in Kenya discovered the bishop’s “liberal” views on homosexuality – and deserted them!

According to The Times, things were going well during the visit to rural parishes, but then:

“[T]he Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Reverend Benjamin Nzimbi, has withdrawn his hospitality because of Bishop Gladwin’s support for homosexuals. He said in a statement that the Kenyan church was “unable to continue with advancing the lined-up activities with the diocese of Chelmsford”.

Bishop Gladwin is the chair of Christian Aid and has recently become a patron of Changing Attitude, an Anglican LGBT group.

Gladwin had to call off a visit to the Caribbean last year after a ruckus over his support for gay Christians.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Church cross as Madonna’s cross crosses line

The Church of England is angry, according to the BBC,  at Madonna after her appearance on a cross to kick off her latest tour in Los Angeles.

David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance accused the singer not only of "blatant insensitivity", but added that the use of Christian imagery is “dangerous”.

Well, it is, you could fall off, scratch yourself on a rusty nail, or have your side split… by the silly protestations of EA vicar.

The Cross’ is a western meta-narrative. It belongs to our communal literary tradition. It is not the property of only the dwindling bunch who still believe.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Gay & Lesbian Humanists

Gay & Lesbian Humanists

New Statesman: Tatchell beats Queen and Dalai Lama

Peter comes in at no. 6, the Dalai Lama at no. 9, and Desmond Tutu at 32.
But there's no sign of a pope or an Archbishop of Canterbury.

Heroes of our time - the top 50
Cover story / Jason Cowley / Monday 22nd May 2006

1. Aung San Suu Kyi - Pro-democracy campaigner
2. Nelson Mandela - First president of the free South Africa
3. Bob Geldof - Pop star turned poverty campaigner
4. John Pilger - Writer and broadcaster
5 Margaret Thatcher - British Conservative prime minister, 1979-90
6. Peter Tatchell - Gay-rights campaigner
7. Noam Chomsky - Writer
8. Bill Gates - Microsoft founder
9. Dalai Lama - Buddhist spiritual leader
10. David Attenborough - Naturalist and broadcaster

11. Hugo Chávez - President of Venezuela
12. Tony Benn - Veteran anti-war campaigner
13. Mikhail Gorbachev - Last leader of the Soviet Union
14. Daniel Barenboim - Pianist and conductor
15. Hans Blix - Former UN weapons inspector
16. Fidel Castro - President of Cuba
17. Jamie Oliver - Celebrity chef
18. Tony Blair - British Prime Minister
19. George Galloway - Respect MP
20. Mary Robinson - Defender of human rights

21. Moazzam Begg - Guantanamo detainee
22. Muhammad Yunus - Banker to the poor
23. Richard Branson - Billionaire entrepreneur
24. Mordechai Vanunu - Israeli whistle-blower
25. Germaine Greer - Academic and broadcaster
26. Richard Dawkins - Evolutionary theorist
27. Simon Weston - Falklands war veteran
28. Tim Berners-Lee - Inventor of the worldwide web
29. Amartya Sen - Nobel laureate
30. Bono - Rock-star activist

31. Brian Haw - Peace campaigner
32. Desmond Tutu - Anti-apartheid cleric
33. Elizabeth II - Queen
34. Lesley Abdela - Champion of women's rights
35. Shami Chakrabarti - Civil liberties campaigner
36. Bill Clinton - US president, 1993-2001
37. Bob Dylan - Singer-songwriter
38. Clive Stafford Smith - Human-rights lawyer
39. Anna Politkovskaya - Russian journalist
40. Helena Kennedy QC - Leading British lawyer

41. Jimmy Carter - US president, 1977-81
42. John Carr - Internet safety expert
43. Ken Livingstone - Mayor of London
44. Lech Walesa - Unionist-turned-president
45. Neil Armstrong - Astronaut
46. Prince Charles - Eldest son of the Queen
47. Rami Elhanan - Israeli peace campaigner
48. Toni Morrison - Novelist
49. Stephen Hawking - Leading theoretical physicist
50. Andrew Flintoff - Cricketer

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Protest: Stop deporting gay refugees

17 May is International Day Against Homophobia

Protest: Defend Gay Asylum Seekers
Date: Wednesday, 17 May 2006
Time: 12 – 2 PM
Place: The Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1

Attending the protest in defence of gay asylum seekers will be lesbian and gay refugees who will tell their stories of victimisation in their home countries and abuse in the UK by the Home Office.

To mark the second International Day Against Homophobia, Lesbian and gay people will protest outside the Home Office to highlight the plight of gay asylum seekers who have fled homophobic persecution in countries like Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, Jamaica, Iran, Belarus, Algeria, Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt.

The Home Office is being called to account for its five failings:

  • No training on sexual orientation issues for asylum staff and adjudicators
  • No official policy supporting the right of refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation
  • No action to stamp out the abuse of gay refugees in UK asylum detention camps
  • No accurate, up-to-date information on the victimisation of gay people in violently homophobic countries
  • No adequate access to proper legal representation for gay asylum applicants
"On this International Day Against Homophobia, we want to express support for gay people in other countries who are suffering arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder. We are demanding that the UK government offers refuge from persecution," said Derek Lennard of GALHA, UK coordinator of IDAHO.

Research by OutRage!, based on its work with gay asylum claimants, shows that the Home Office is failing lesbian and gay asylum seekers.

"The Home Office does not explicitly accept persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation as a legitimate basis for gaining asylum," said Brett Lock of OutRage!, who is currently documenting a major expose of homophobic bias in the asylum system.

"Low legal aid funding means most gay asylum applicants fail because they have sub-standard representation at their asylum hearings. The Home Office information on homophobic persecution around the globe is poorly researched and often downplays the true scale of anti-gay victimisation.

"The shocking stories of homophobic abuse and inhumane conditions inside the UK's asylum detention centres are a national scandal," said Mr Lock.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Liar, liar, cassocks on fire!

So… after writing a self-serving load of old cobblers to The Times, saying:

“Homosexual people are first of all persons, and have the same entitlement to legal rights as anyone else.”… and …“The Church has consistently spoken out against any discrimination against homosexual persons, and will continue to do so.”

… Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Catholic head honcho could surely have waited a little longer for his lie to take root before committing an act that exposed him as the lying liar that he is.

What’s he done? Well, he’s fired a gay press officer for um, being gay.

What a great way to reinforce the church’s belief that gay people have “the same entitlement to legal rights” and what a way to have “spoken out against any discrimination against homosexual persons”.

Yeah, the very definition. Cormac, of discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and of depriving them of legal rights is to sack them because they’re gay! Jesus Christ, Cormac, are you too stupid to see the contradictions between your public statements and your actions, or are you such a practiced liar that you believe your own porkers?

But then again, when you’re the regional leader of a church that lies about everythingand then some, it’s no wonder that you can keep your office, but not your story, straight.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Letter published in The Independent 11.5.06

Sir: You quote Jack Valero of Opus Dei saying: "The Catholic Church would be opposed to civil partnerships in the way they have been enacted in Britain, but it is for each Catholic to work out for themselves." I don't think the Pope would agree with that.

The Vatican's reaction to civil partnerships and gay marriage has been nothing short of hysterical. In Spain when gay marriage was legalised, the Catholic bishops organised large-scale street protests. During the US elections, Catholic bishops repeatedly tried to pressure Catholic politicians into supporting Catholic dogma in legislation. The Pope has issued a continuous stream of defamatory and insulting statements about legalised gay partnership arrangements.

And yet Ruth Kelly claims that she will be able to be even-handed in her treatment of homosexual equality in her role in government. We doubt it very much. She has made it clear from her voting record, and what she has said in interviews, that her conscience is dictated by an ultra-conservative mindset represented by her attachment to Opus Dei. No wonder gay people are worried.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pope exposes Cormac's bollocks

The Pope is sooo inconsiderate!

On the very day that his chief minion in the UK, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has a letter in The Times claiming…

“Homosexual people are first of all persons, and have the same entitlement to legal rights as anyone else. The Church has consistently spoken out against any discrimination against homosexual persons, and will continue to do so.”

… his Holiness has spoiled the mood by issuing a statement saying:

“Only the foundation of complete and irrevocable love between man and woman is capable of forming the basis of a society that becomes the home of all men… confusing marriage with other types of weak love [should be avoided].”

According to a survey reported in Bloomberg, almost half of Italians believe that the Pope has “meddled excessively in politics” and that wasn’t because he’s “spoken out against any discrimination against homosexual persons”, you can be assured!

Are Stonewall Kelly’s heroes?

I am absolutely furious with Stonewall!

It goes without saying that they do some tremendous work for which I, as a gay man, am eternally grateful, but they’re running the risk of becoming another Labour QUANGO. Their defence of the appointment of Ruth Kelly as Equalities Minister is beyond the pale!

Ruth Kelly is a member of the conservative Catholic sect, Opus Dei, whose attitude to homosexuality is in line with the Vatican’s clear antigay stance.

When asked whether she personally thought homosexuality was sinful, she refused to answer.

Not only that, but she has absented herself (“as a matter of conscience”) from almost every single parliamentary vote on gay equality issues – ever.

Except two: One was a quite fairly uncontroversial vote to address homophobic bullying regardless of Section 28, but disgracefully she voted with the Anne Widdecombe and the other homophobic Tories on an amendment to specifically EXCLUDE gay couples from adopting children.

This is not the type of person we want championing equality, but still she has received the backing of Stonewall’s chief, Ben Summerskill. Summerskill told The Independent:

“We accept Ruth's assurances that she is absolutely committed to delivering the policy of the Labour Party and the Government.”

I checked on the Stonewall website. There’s nothing about Ruth Kelly at all. Not a word of criticism, not even a murmur of disquiet or concern.

I don’t suppose the fact that Summerskill’s previous job was as a Labour councillor has anything to do with this misplaced loyalty?

Summerskill should ask himself whether Trevor Phillips of the CRE would be an apologist for an Education minister who, when asked for their view of the controversial subject of differences in intelligence between the races hedged  their answer with an evasive “I’m not going to get into that,” instead of giving a clear and resounding answer in favour of equality. Would anti-racist campaigners accept that a minister’s private view would not affect their professional performance? I doubt it – especially if the minister concerned had absented themselves from every parliamentary vote on racial equality (“as a matter of conscience”) and indeed had voted in favour of racial discrimination on one of the rare occasions they’d actually bothered to vote.

Would the Government even try to get away with it? Of course not, which demonstrates their dismissive attitude to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people when our community is deemed an inconvenience.

Stonewall do a sterling job of standing up for the gay community on almost all fronts. It’s a pity their judgement is blurred when it comes to New Labour. Surely Summerskill can see in a single equalities unit, when Ruth Kelly has an Archbishop or Cardinal demanding one concession (or exemption) on one side, and the gay community is seeking full equality on the other side, she’s unlikely to be impartial. If, deep down, she thinks we are sinners, how on earth is she going to identify with or empathise with gay issues?

When the single equalities unit was mooted, the first thing most gay campaigners wondered was how our community’s interests would find parity with the demands of religious groups. The religious organisations are the only ones actively campaigning in favour of inequality and for exception from compliance with equality legislation. I guess they now have their champion, and we have our answer.

Surely, ‘equalities’ is an important portfolio which relies on community confidence. The government simply cannot afford to place a person with such a controversial and equivocating background in that role. Surely?


The head of the Catholic Church in Britain, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has written to The Times in defence of Kelly.

He says:

“Homosexual people are first of all persons, and have the same entitlement to legal rights as anyone else.”

Thanks CCMC. That’s a step forward. But you also say…

“The Church has consistently spoken out against any discrimination against homosexual persons, and will continue to do so.”

… which is quite simply untrue. Laughably so!

In 1992, the Vatican issued a declaration, which remains in force, calling on all Catholics to oppose lesbian and gay equality. In the UK, prominent Catholic leaders have consistently opposed the repeal of Section 28, same-sex adoption and civil partnerships. Ruth Kelly, of course, absented herself from two of these votes. The one she did turn up for, but only in order to vote in accordance with Church policy.


Ruth Kelly’s job is to champion equality. Yet she has absented herself from some of the most important equalities bills in recent history on “conscientious” grounds. She is quite simply not suitable for the job.