Church of England and Church in Wales Ban on Gay Marriage
The government is currently initiating legislation which would allow gay marriage in England and Wales. There has been concern that this could cause a backlash from some religious organisations given that homosexuality is frowned upon in many religions. In a bid to appease conservative and religious critics, the proposed legislation would allow same sex marriages in religious institutions that wish to perform them but would not oblige them to do so.
When the Church of England presented its position on same-sex marriage in its submission to the Government’s consultation in June, it stressed that “the canons of the Church of England define marriage, in accordance with Christ’s teaching and the doctrine of the Church, as being between a man and a woman”. This suggests that the Church was opposed to the idea of same-sex marriage and would not support the proposals. However, the Church has expressed their “complete shock” at the ‘quadruple lock’ which will on ban the Church of England and the Church in Wales from offering same-sex marriages. This shock seems to arise from the fact that the government has not consulted the churches in making this decision. It is felt that this takes away the choice from individual churches, given that some may be sympathetic to the idea of same-sex marriages in church.
And more from afar…
Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
The on-going issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan was brought to light again this week after a young woman was shot dead. She worked as a volunteer for polio vaccinations and was also a student. Whilst police deny that it has anything to do with the Taliban, it has raised concern amongst human rights groups who fear that it is another example of the repression of women in the country and the fact that there is still a stigma attached to those who work or study. The lack of interest the police have shown towards this case also suggests that it is not seen as a priority or a problem. It has also been reported that police often cover up such murders by simply saying they are gang related rather than focusing on the real issue which is that they are examples of violence against women. The main issue this highlights is the lack of human rights protection which women in Afghanistan face, something which desperately needs to be resolved.
Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda
Uganda is still considering its anti-gay bill which would further criminalize homosexual activity, as it is already criminalized in Uganda. In late November, speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said that the bill would be passed as a ‘christmas gift’ to its advocates.
The bill divides offenses into “aggravated homosexuality” and the “offense of homosexuality”. The group which includes aggravated homosexuality are those who are HIV-positive, one of the participants is a minor, is disabled or is a ‘serial offender’. Originally, those guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” would face the death penalty. Fortunately, (if that’s an appropriate word to use in this case) in late November Mr Segona, one of the members of the Legal and Parliamentary committee of Uganda’s parliament, told the BBC: “I can confirm it has been dropped.”
The Bill is still, quite obviously, hugely discriminatory against homosexuals in Uganda and is likely in violation of Article 21 of the 1995 Constitution, the “Equality and freedom from discrimination” article. Inter alia, it states that all individuals are equal before the law and, as such, ought to enjoy equal protection under the law, as well as freedom from discrimination based on sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.
On December 12th, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for Uganda to drop its ‘draconian’ proposed legislation in a letter published in a national newspaper. Tutu said that “God does not say black is better than white, or tall is better than short, or football players are better than basketball players, or Christians are better than Muslims, or gay is better than straight” and harkened the legislation as almost identical to laws under the apartheid government.
Protesters have been gathering in London since late November and protesting in front of the Ugandan embassy in London claiming that the proposed legislation is ‘world’s most harsh and comprehensively homophobic law’. The Home Office has declared that if Uganda passes the bill, all Ugandan politicians will be banned from entering the UK. This action comes after conservative MP Mike Freer tabled a question in Parliament calling on Home Office Minister Mark Harper to ban Ugandan parliamentarians who are complicit in passing the law on grounds concerning human rights.
This action by the Home Office, as well as international pressure from the US, UK, Norway, Sweden, among others, NGOs, and protesters around the world will hopefully make Uganda think twice about passing the bill.
In a surprising move, the United States Supreme Court has taken on both a DOMA case (Windsor v United States) and the Prop 8 case.
Ted Olson, co-counsel on the Prop 8 case, believes that the Supreme Court taking the case is a good sign for same-sex marriage in California. The Supreme Court has taken this case with very careful consideration – if they rule that the ‘Yes on 8’, supporters do not have legal standing (the state of California has dropped the case) to defend the proposition, the decision of the lower courts will stand, and same-sex marriage will be re-legalised in California. If, however, the Court decides that they do have standing, then we will have to wait and see what happens.
The Supreme Court has also decided to take on Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of a the Defense of Marriage Act – namely, whether or not the Federal Government can define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Thus far, in five different cases, Federal Courts have found DOMA to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court likely chose Windsor so that Justice Kagan would not have to recuse herself due to conflicts of interest, as she previously worked as the US Solicitor General.