Comment: Why we’re building a coalition for equal marriage

In just a few weeks, an incredible 25,000 people have signed a petition calling for same sex marriage to become legal in the UK. The petition was organised by a gay couple incensed at the formation of the anti-gay Coalition for Marriage, here is why they are fighting to open up civil marriage for everyone in Britain...


Increased violence against gay youth in Iraq

An Emo having been attacked in IraqThe Associated Press is reporting that young people in Iraq who identify themselves as ‘Emos’ are being brutally killed at an increased rate following distributed hit lists of victims by militias. Secrutity firms say that they are unable to stop crimes that are percieved to be against the Irag subculture such as being gay.

Officials and human rights groups have estimated at least 58 Iraqis who are gay or believed to be gay have been targeted in the last six weeks alone with many fearing a return to the rampant hate crimes against homosexual people in 2009. Eyewitnesses report that they have seen victims bludgeoned to death by militiamen smashing in their skulls with heavy cement blocks.

A recent list distributed by militants in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighbourhood gives the names or nicknames of 33 people and their home addresses. At the top of the paper are a drawing of two handguns flanking a Quranic greeting that extolls God as merciful and compassionate.

Then follows a chilling warning.

“We warn in the strongest terms to every male and female debauchee,” the Shiite militia hit list says. “If you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen.”

All but one of the targets are men.

Like many places in the Muslim world, homosexuality is extremely taboo in Iraq. Anyone perceived to be gay is considered a fair target, and the perpetrators of the violence often go free. The militants likely behind the violence intimidate the local police and residents so there is even less incentive to investigate the crimes.

Emo is short for “emotional” and in the West generally identifies teens or young adults who listen to alternative music, dress in black, and have radical hairstyles. Emos are not necessarily gay, but they are sometimes stereotyped as such.

To Iraqis, “Emo” is widely synonymous with “gay.” John Drake, an Iraq specialist for the British-based AKE security consulting firm, said Iraqi Emos are getting their hair cut so they aren’t immediately identified, and therefore targeted, in the wake of the new threats.

The Qur’an specifically forbids homosexuality, and Islamic militias in Iraq long have targeted gays in what they term “honour killings” to preserve the religious idea that families should be led by a husband and a wife. Those who do not abide by this belief are issued death sentences by the militias, according to the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, a human rights watchdog group. The same militias target women who have extramarital affairs.

“There is a strong wave of campaigns by clerics against homosexuals now,” said Ali al-Hilli, chairman of Iraqi LGBT, a human rights group based in London that provides two safe houses in Iraq for gays. “The police do not provide protection for them.”

He said an estimated 750 gay Iraqis have been killed because of their sexual orientation since 2006.

Saint Petersburg anti-gay law signed in

st-petersburgThe governor of Saint Petersburg in Russia, has now signed the controversial new law against homosexual propaganda, in defiance of protests that it discriminates against gays.

Georgy Poltavchenko signed the law – which promises fines for anyone found to have spread gay propaganda among minors – after it was adopted by the local legislature.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 but officials often make homophobic statements, most notoriously ex-Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, who consistently refused to sanction gay pride events, which he called ‘satanic’.

The city hall announced in a statement that he signed the law on March 7. It is a regional law that applies only to Saint Petersburg and it comes into force 10 days after official publication.

Human rights groups had called on Poltavchenko to veto the law on the grounds that it appears to equate homosexuality with paedophilia and risks being used arbitrarily by the authorities to crack down on gays.

Any person found ‘making public actions among minors for the propaganda of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality or transgenderism’ will be subject to a fine of 5,000 rubles (£109), rising to 500,000 rubles (£10,848) for organisations.

Another article states that people ‘making public actions for the propaganda of paedophilia’ will be fined 5,000 rubles, a sum that rises to 1 million rubles (£21,695) for organisations.

“The bill’s language is so vague and broad that it could lead to a ban on displaying a rainbow flag or wearing a T-shirt with a gay-friendly logo or even on holding LGBT-themed rallies in the city,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement earlier this month.

“The bill is setting a dangerous precedent by maliciously linking paedophilia with homosexuality,” it added.

The controversy has also caused diplomatic tensions: the US State Department in February said it was deeply concerned the bill would restrict freedom of assembly for gays. The Russian foreign ministry then accused Washington of interfering in the Russian legal process.

UK Catholic Church to call its members to oppose gay marriage this weekend

Vincent Nichols - Archbishop of WestminsterThe UK Catholic Church will call on its members today to oppose the governments plans to legalise same sex marriage.  It is said that a letter to be distributed in churches calls on Catholics to reject the government’s “profoundly radical” plans.

“We understand marriage to be a call to holiness for a husband and wife, with children recognized and loved as the gift of God,” the letter reads.

“We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.”

A video of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of the Diocese of Westminster reading the letter was released Friday on the Internet.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Poll says UK Voters in favour of gay marriage

Gay MarriageA new poll that was commissioned by the Sunday Telegraph has revealed that more people support the government’s plan to introduce same sex marriage than are opposed to it.

The ICM Research Survey discovered that 45% of those asked were in favour of same sex marriage whilst only 36% were against.  The rest of the people asked didn’t know.

Another poll was carried out by YouGov for the Sunday Times and that found that 43% of people surveyed were in favour of gay marriage, 32% of people only supporting Civil Partnership and only 15% opposed to both.

A change in marriage legislation to allow same sex couples to marry is about to be consulted on and Prime Minister David Cameron publicly backs the move. He has said that Churches and other groups will not be forced to hold same sex  marriage ceremonies with more than half of voters agreeing with him on this and suprisingly 26% of people saying that Churches and Synagogues should not be allowed to opt out.

The Roman Catholic faith has been extremely vocal on its stance on gay marriage with Britain’s only Catholic cardinal, Kieth Patrick O’Brien calling it a “grotesque subersion of a universally accepted human right”.  This was followed by a now discredited poll conducted by Comres by Catholic Voices which appeared to suggest that 70% of the public are against gay marriage.

The consultation is not about if gay marriage os introduced but how gay marriage gets introduced and in reality it is simply a name change from Civil Partnership to Civil Marriage although it is still unclear whether previously Civil Partnered Couples will legally be married or continue within a Civil Partnership.

The move to same sex marriage is supported by the main political parties including Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, Lib Dem Deputy Prme Minister Nick Clegg, Labour Leader Ed Milliband and Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas. UKIP, desperate for public support, has accused the Prime Minister of “…picking a fight with the millions of people whose religious faiths do not recognise same-sex marriages…”

Reading Pride says Balls to Homophobia

Reading-Pride-FundraisingFollowing the Football Associations recent announcement that 3 footballers have been charged by the Football Association over alleged homophobic comments on twitter, Reading Pride has announced that it will be holding a major football tournament for LGBT players and supporters at this year’s Reading Pride Festival which will take place on 8th September 2012.

The tournament has the backing of the Gay Football Supporters Network and will be one of the first such examples at a UK Pride Event.

The issue of homophobia in sport, and football in particular, is one the Reading Pride Charity has worked on with a number of organisations locally and nationally in recent years to highlight and tackle.  The subject has been discussed recently nationally following a recent BBC 3 documentary entitled ‘Britain’s Gay Footballers” where Amal Fashanu, niece of Justin Fashanu, attempted to discover why there are no openly gay professional footballers.

The Tournament has been organised by Robert Otterwell who told us that ” The recent documentary is a very timely reminder that despite the progress seen in recent years in many areas of LGBT rights, there remain parts of our society which are effective no-go zones for openly gay people, with sport being a prime example; we hope that by incorporating a football tournament as a key part of Reading Pride 2012 we can show that sport is played and enjoyed by the gay community as much as by everyone else, and begin to break down barriers and stereotypes in this area.

The Football Association has been asked by the Government to come up with an action plan to tackle a variety of race and homophobia-related issues within two months of the recent summit to discuss the issue that took place at Downing Street.  Reading Pride supports this announcement and the FA’s decision to charge footballers Federico Macheda, Nile Ranger and Manny Smith.

Reading Pride Trustee and LGBT Campaigner, Jamie Wake, said that ‘The government’s recent summit and the Football Association’s charges against 3 footballers demonstrate that whilst progress to stop LGBT discrimination is slow, it is still progress that is being made.  If we can tackle the issue of homophobia in football, together we can achieve much more than trying to tackle discrimination through political channels.’

The Reading Pride Football tournament and details of this year’s Circus themed Reading Pride Parade and Festival will be launched at Reading Pride’s launch weekend which will take place over the weekend of 16/17/18th March at all 3 LGBT Venues in Reading including the Wynford Arms, The G (Formally Granby) and The Rising Sun.  Further details can be found at www.readingpride.co.uk.