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Posts Tagged ‘gay marriage’

IB imageRussia bans Trans* people from driving

Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University

Last month Russia enacted a new law effectively banning people with certain illnesses from driving. Within the listed illnesses are those viewed as “personality and behaviour disorders”, for example transsexualism and other “disorders of sexual preference”.

The move was justified by the Russian government on the basis of a need to reduce the high rates of traffic accidents occurring each year. The country currently has some of the worst figures for road accident fatalities in the world and it is believed that stricter controls on those given the opportunity to drive will make the roads safer.

Nevertheless, the Act has received international criticism due to its potentially detrimental effects on the transgender community. Jean Freedberg, of Human Rights Campaign Global, argued that the ban is “simply another example of the Russian government’s increased campaign of persecution and discrimination against its LGBT population”. Like other critics, Freedberg fails to see the logic behind connection that the Russian government has drawn between gender identity and driver ability. As Shawn Gaylord, of US-based Human Rights First, argues, “banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous”. He also expresses concerns that it could deter transgender people from seeking mental health services due to a fear of losing the right to drive.

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Snapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

‘Equal Recognition’ campaign launched in Edinburgh; hope for a ‘third gender’ within the UK?

Oriana Frame, Durham University.

On the 1st of November 2014, the Equal Recognition campaign was launched in Edinburgh. The campaign, pioneered by The Scottish Transgender Alliance alongside the Equality Network, has vocalised the notion that Scotland, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is falling behind countries such as India, Denmark, Bangladesh and Germany who have already legally recognised a ‘third’ non-binary gender.

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

US Supreme Court (Sort of) Decides on Same Sex Marriage

Jesse Bachir, Durham University

Following last year’s decision in Windsor, same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy groups across the United States have been filing suits against State governments challenging the Constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.

So far, almost every Court (with one exception) in the United States has found marriage bans to be unconstitutional either under Federal Constitutional law or State Constitutional law. Most recently, earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied a petition to review 7 cases from lower Federal Courts on the constitutionality of marriage bans. In denying review of the cases, the decisions of the lower courts stood (all of which found the bans unconstitutional), and the stays of execution issued by the lower courts were removed. That brings the total to 32 States with equal marriage.

The Supreme Court effectively, though indirectly, decided the issue for the rest of the country – in allowing the lower court decisions to stand, clear judicial precedent has been made.  The lower courts in all 7 of the denied review cases found the marriage bans to be unconstitutional for the same reasons. In denying review, the Supreme Court implicitly agreed with the rulings of the lower courts and avoided wading into the politically charged topic.

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Kat Gupta is a researcher at the University of Nottingham and recently completed a PhD in corpus linguistics, focusing on the representation of the women’s suffrage movement in The Times newspaper between 1908 and 1914. Kat also campaigns on trans* and queer issues.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received its Royal Assent this month to the joy of many cis-gender lesbian, gay and bisexual people in same sex relationships and the dismay of many transgender people. While same sex marriage is an important step for many people, allowing them to celebrate their relationship, in its current form it fails transgender people. Trans* activists have already written about what the Act means for trans* people: Zoe O’Connell has summarised where the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 leaves trans* people, while Sarah Brown has further discussed its implications for trans* people.

In this post, I will discuss three of its main failings: stolen marriages, the spousal veto, and the Act’s language of binary gender. As the Act is written in terms of binary gender – something that I find deeply problematic and will discuss further in the third section of this post  – I will use its language of “opposite sex” and “same sex” relationships. An opposite sex relationship is defined as one between a man and a woman; a same sex relationship as between two men or two women. These definitions can be found in Schedule 3, Part 2 of the Act.

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

International Women’s Day

Laura Graham

Today, 8th March, marks International Women’s Day 2013, a day to celebrate the achievements and lives of women across the globe, as well as speaking out against oppression of women and the issues still facing women today.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over 100 years. The first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the US in 1909, following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The very first International Women’s Day was launched in 1911 on 19th March (not 8th March) – the 19th March was chosen to mark the promise made by the Prussian king on this date during the 1848 revolution to introduce votes for women. Since 1913, it has been celebrated on the 8th March.

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

House of Commons votes in favour of Same-Sex Marriage Bill 

Jesse Bachir

On the 5th February, the House of Commons voted in favour of passing the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, with David Cameron’s support.  The Bill passed in the Commons with 400 votes for to 175 against. However, there are still some inequalities that will need to be dealt with; inequalities that are being carried over from same-sex civil partnerships.

When civil partnerships came into effect, there was no definition of sex between members of the same sex. Now, when the same-sex marriage bill is about to be passed, this problem has still not been addressed by the government. Currently, legally, sexual intercourse is defined as penile-vaginal penetration – which obviously only defines sexual intercourse in relation to opposite-sex sexual intercourse. Because same sex couples were unable to meet this definition, when civil partnerships came into effect, non-consummation was not grounds for dissolving the partnership. This same problem is being carried over into the same-sex marriage bill, as the government has not taken the time to redefine or rethink the definitions of sexual intercourse or consummation.

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

Church of England and Church in Wales Ban on Gay Marriage

Jayne Howell

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. (more…)

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

Women bishops – Church of England votes no

Catherine Donegan

On 21st November, the Church of England Synod faced its biggest crisis yet after voting against allowing women to become bishops. The legislation, which would have swept away centuries of entrenched sexism, was rejected by just six votes. Controversy had centred on the provisions for parishes opposed to women bishops to request supervision by a stand-in male bishop.

After a 12 year push the long awaited measure was dealt a fatal blow. The legislation had needed a two-thirds majority in each of the three houses of the General Synod to pass. The measure was passed by the synod’s Houses of Bishops and Clergy but was rejected by the House of Laity. The votes were 44 for 3 against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops, 148 for 45 against the House of Clergy and 132 for 74 against in the House of Laity. If just six members of the laity had voted for instead of against the measure it would have been passed.

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Durham Law Student, Jesse Bachir, explores the legal position of same-sex marriage in the US.

Same-sex marriage has seen some very good progress lately, especially with the recent election. In fact, the election brought same-sex marriage to Maine, Maryland and Washington by referendum – the first time in US history that same-sex marriage has been legalised via popular vote. Minnesota voters also defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage at the ballots during the election. All of this, along with openly gay, lesbian and transgender representatives being elected to national and state legislators, as well as President Obama being elected for a second term, made this past election a very exciting time for the LGBTQ community. However, there are still some major hurdles to overcome for same-sex marriage in the United States

Marriage in the US 101

Very briefly, it is important to note the distinction between state and federal powers in the United States before continuing with any discussions of same-sex marriage within the US. Marriage is a right reserved by the states – meaning that they have the power to legislate as to the definitions and requirements of marriage. If you want to get married, you must go to the state and follow their particular rules governing marriage.

Once you are married, you are conferred apposite rights and privileges by the state as well as the Federal Government. However, it is up to each individual state to determine who is married within their jurisdiction – meaning that in order to gain access to federal marriage rights, you must first have access to state marriage rights.

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Snapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

Diversity

In companies…

Kate Galilee

The European Commission is expected on Wednesday to back proposals urging private companies to aim for 40% female company directors by 2020, and by 2018 for state-owned companies. These proposals ultimately leave it to national governments to determine how this will be enforced, after the Commission failed to clear a more stringent proposal three weeks ago.

The previous proposal, headed by Viviane Reding of Luxembourg, sought binding quotas to be imposed on member states, with penalties for non-compliance. This was the first time under their current president that the Commission has been unable to agree on a piece of draft legislation. Opponents included a number of the most prominent women commissioners, as well as leading businesswomen such as Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, who branded quotas ‘dangerous’.

Maria Miller, UK Culture Secretary and Women and Equalities Minister, criticised the new proposals as patronising to women. She argued that the UK’s voluntary measures have been successful, with 44% of board appointments in the past 6 months being women. Miller also argued that the removal of barriers to achieving women’s goals in all levels of business should be a priority, and indeed, a recent study by Talking Talent shows that a rigid career structure and lack of flexibility seem to be women’s primary obstacles to progression in the workplace.

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