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Posts Tagged ‘gay rights’

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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In our first post in the new academic year, a number of contributors have gathered a string of scintillating stories from across the country and around the world.

Abortion

On time limits…

Polly Broad

Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for women’s issues and equality as well as secretary of state for culture, media and sport, has recently voiced her support for a reduction of the legal limit for abortions, from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. She cites advances in medical technology to support her opinion, arguing “what we are trying to do here is not to put obstacles in people’s way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on”. Many have objected to Miller’s argument that many more babies are surviving at 24 weeks or below, pointing, for example, to statistics from the Office of National Statistics in 2010 which showed that only 12% of babies born before 24 weeks lived for at least a year.

Miller’s statement has worried many pro-choice activists. Darinka Aleksic, the campaign co-ordinator for Abortion Rights, said: “The fact that the minister responsible for women and equalities wants to restrict access to abortion, one of the most important women’s health services, is really alarming.” Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt the recently appointed Health minister, called for the legal abortion limit to be halved. Many are wondering whether the government will soon make changes, despite David Cameron’s repeated statements that he has no plans to review the abortion laws.

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Louise McGolpin

In a few words….

“I don’t think it’s a matter of time. People have been saying it’s a matter of time for a very long time”

– Lady Hale is scrupulous in her call for diversity on the bench.

 

In a few more words…

Domestic Violence

The government is considering a “right to know” law in relation to perpetrators of domestic abuse. The proposals are a flawed response to the issue, however. Victims in domestic abuse cases may be open to blame if it can be shown that they either found out and ignored a partner’s past violent record, or indeed if they shun the option at the outset of the relationship. The onset of domestic violence is known to be incremental in the majority of cases, with incidents increasing in frequency and severity over the course of a relationship. Such history may lack meaningful corroboration in a victim’s experience at the start of a relationship and the mechanisms that hamper that victim’s inability to escape their abuser are not solved by the mere knowledge that their situation is history repeating itself. Furthermore, an abuser who had reformed may be inhibited in his or her ability to enter into relationships in the future by the restrictions that such a tool would carry. Enabling local authorities to effectively police and support domestic violence incidents, along with an appropriate response from the courts, would have far more significance than this proposal.

A council has been found vicariously liable for the harm suffered by four child victims of domestic abuse and ordered to pay £320,000 damages. Judgment was handed down in the case of ABB & Ors v Milton Keynes Council [2011] EWHC 2745 on 24 October 2011; the case is notable because (more…)

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Bhavna Bhagwan

A few choice words…

In response to a ban lift on gay blood donation for those who have not had sex for ten years, Peter Tatchell wrote an article in the New Statesman saying: ‘protecting the blood supply is the number-one priority but ensuring blood safety does not require such lengthy time spans during which gay and bisexual men should not donate blood.’

Ten years sounds indeed both disproportionate and impractical.

Gay rights

A gay couple claims that they have been ejected from a pub because they had been kissing. Mr Bull and Mr Williams were approached by a man and a woman who said they were the landlord and landlady. The man asked the couple to stop kissing because he said it was bothering him while the woman said that the couple had to leave because they were being ‘obscene’. The man even went to grab the collar of Mr Williams. Mr Bull has complained to the police. (more…)

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