Thursday, September 22, 2011

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ireland’s first civil partnerships have taken place early and in secret

The first civil partnerships in Ireland have already taken place, more than a month earlier than the planned introduction of the ceremonies. It is understood that at least one member of both couples involved are suffering from serious illnesses with a risk of that one may die before the three month notice period for a civil partnership would elapse.

The first couple’s civil partnership was registered on 7th February 2011 and a second, on the 11th of February. Both couples were male.

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010 came into force on January 1st 2011 and requires a minimum of three months notice between the application for a civil partnership and the date of the ceremony. However, a judge can waive the notice perioid on compassionate grounds, primarily the serious illness of one of the partners.

Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Network told the Sunday Times that celebration of the first two partnerships were historic milestones. “It’s really fantastic,” he said. “It’s the culmination of a long process. It’s great to have state recognition for these partnerships. It’s a gigantic leap forward for Ireland. Civil partnership addresses real needs for real couples.”

A gay couple who had a civil partnership in Northern Ireland and later became naturalised as Irish citizens, became the first officially recognised civil partners in the state last month.

Civil partnerships offer some of the same rights to property and pensions as marriage but do not have the same tax status. This element was to have been confirmed in a finance bill that has now been curtailed as a result of Ireland’s general election on February 25th. All parties have pledged to introduce the changes to taxation law after the election. However, it is not known if the changes will be retrospective and cover the couples who have already registered their partnership, should one of the pair die.

Like Britain, many campaigners say civil partnerships are not enough and the Labour party has pledged in its manifesto to hold a referendum to decide on the introduction of same-sex marriages. The Labour party has also pledged to allow gay couples to jointly adopt children.

In Britain, the first civil partnership to be registered involved a terminally ill man, who was given special dispensation to ignore the fifteen day notice period of a civil partnership.

Leonardo DiCaprio to play gay J Edgar Hoover in film penned by writer of ‘Milk’

Former teenage heart throb Leonardo DiCaprio will play J Edgar Hoover, in a biopic of the FBI’s first director as a cross dressing repressed homosexual.

J Edgar, which is directed by Clint Eastwood will see DiCaprio play Hoover as an “emotionally tortured figure trapped in a highly charged relationship with his mother,” who is played by Dame Judi Dench according to the Sunday Times.

The newspaper says it has seen copies of the script of the film that while containing no over sex, show Hoover struggling with sexual feelings for his protégé, Clyde Tolson. The pair would often dress identically, holiday together and were buried a few yards apart from each other.

The film has been written by Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for Milk, the biopic of America’s first openly gay politician Harvey Milk. Last week Mr Lance Black said he would deal with Hoover’s sexuality in “in a human, realistic way: homosexuality without gay stereotypes”.

Although the script makes reference to Hoover’s alleged cross-dressing, DiCaprio said that he was unlikely to be seen on-screen in a frock. “We have not done the fittings for those,” he said when asked if he would be cross-dressing. “So I don’t think so.”

In 1995, DiCaprio depicted the gay relationship between poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine in the film Total Eclipse.

In 2009, papers revealed the investigations that the FBI under Hoover conducted into the sexuality of well known individuals including presidential aide Jack Valenti.

Preview: BBC investigates religious gay Muslim marriages being held in the UK and USA

Less than a week after the government announced the process for implementing religious civil partnerships, BBC Radio 5 Live are to broadcast an investigation into the growing numbers of gay Muslims seeking Islamic marriages.

Last week, the Movement for Reform Judaism joined Liberal Judaism, the Quakers and Unitarians in offering to host civil partnerships and calling for same sex marriages. One religious denomination that made no formal move was Islam. But, according to a BBC investigation to be broadcast tonight, there are Muslim clerics who are willing to officiate at gay weddings.

5 Live Investigates speaks to one couple who have had a ‘nikah’ – an Islamic marriage contract.
Asra, one half of the lesbian couple featured told the BBC how she got together with her partner Sarah: “We met about three years ago, at an iftar – a breaking of fast during Ramadan.

“I think a lot of Muslims find that time of year very spiritual and very enlightening, and so I think that’s why our relationship developed, because we spoke about our faith. Eventually we went on a date.”

“After the first date, which was about an hour, Sarah casually asked me to marry her.”

Sarah said: “I think it was more like four hours, after dinner, coffee and walking. I didn’t really plan it, but it just really seemed like the way it was between us, I should try and keep it as pure as possible.

“That may sound strange being lesbians, but it felt like we should do it the most honourable way we could.”

The couple decided that they wanted to have a nikah, to cement their relationship, that they were able to enter into without the help of an official Imam, or Islamic cleric. Unlike Jewish rabbis or Christian priests and vicars, Imams are not ordained ministers in a formal sense. “A few friends said you don’t really have to have an official Imam, but you need someone who is knowledgeable enough about the Qur’an to do it,” Sarah said. “Fortunately, one of our friends was, and she offered to do it. She’s a lesbian herself, and she said we could do it in her home.”

Three months after they met, the paid signed their nikah and held a ceremony.

“We got rings from Camden market, and we drew up contracts – we got a blueprint off the internet of a heterosexual contract and we both looked at it separately,” Sarah expained. “To see if there were things we wanted to change. I remember I put about the dog – that if we broke up, Asra wouldn’t steal the dog.” The couple had a dowry of £5.

Asra’s parents are not accepting of her homosexuality. Sarah’s on the other hand are, she says its because she wasn’t born a Muslim: “I converted five years ago – I think my family is quite accepting of my sexuality.

But sometimes it seems like they are waiting for me to grow out of being a Muslim.”

In America, a gay Imam, Daayiee Abdullah has performed a number of more fomal nikah ceremonies. He claims that denying gay Muslims a religious union, is against Islamic law. He told the BBC: “Since Islamic legal precedence does not allow same sexes to wed, Muslim societies make it a legal impossibility within Islam [but] by not allowing same-sex couples to wed, there is a direct attack on the Koran’s message that each person has a mate who is their ‘comfort and their cloak’.”

Sarah and Asra say that as a couple they face two types of discrimination. They face homophobia from the Islamic community, and Islamaphobia from the gay community, something that Sarah says: “really worries me”.

5 Live investigates is broadcast at 9pm this evening on BBC Radio 5 Live. A podcast of the programme will be available here shortly after broadcast.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

WikiLeaks cables reveal Ugandan homophobia

Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show the extent of Ugandan homophobia.

American embassy cables describe a 2009 UN-sponsored meeting which gay rights campaigner David Kato spoke at, the Guardian reports.

Mr Kato, who was murdered this month, was openly mocked as he nervously read a speech against a bill to strengthen Uganda’s laws against homosexuality.

The US diplomat wrote that the homophobia of bill sponsor David Bahati MP was “is blinding and incurable”.

The cables also refer to anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa and Ugandan ethics minister James Nsaba Buturo.

One said: “Bahati, Buturo, and particularly Ssempa’s ability to channel popular anger over Uganda’s socio-political failings into violent hatred of a previously unpopular but tolerated minority is chilling.”

The memos also showed diplomatic attempts to combat the controversial bill.

The status of the bill is currently unclear but anti-gay feeling runs high in the country.

Gay rights campaigners in Uganda are calling for a full investigation into Mr Kato’s death.

One man has been arrested and police say Mr Kato’s activist was not relevant.

The activist had received death threats after successfully suing a newspaper for publishing his name, address and photo in an anti-gay campaign.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tory MP claims most gay people don’t want the right to marry

A Conservative MP has claimed that only a “tiny number” of gay people actually want the right to marry.

Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, questioned why the language of marriage should be “mangled” and suggested that changing the law would lead to recognising polygamy.

He wrote on his website: “The British are a tolerant people and it is right that homosexual people should be allowed to get on with their lives.

“But this does not extend to mangling the language of marriage so that, for the sake of the tiny number of gay people who prefer marriage to civil partnership, everyone else in society must have the definition of their own marriage altered forever.

“Once we have departed from the universally understood framework of marriage, there is no logical reason why the new alternative institution should be limited to two people. Why not three? Or thirty-three?”

Mr Leigh also claimed that most gay people do not want the right to marry.

He said: “Why must they also have the language of marriage? No doubt because it is an important symbol to them. But it is also an important symbol to many other people. Must the religious and cultural heritage of the whole nation be overturned to suit the demands of a minority even of the gay community itself?”

It is not clear what Mr Leigh, who has always voted against gay rights, based this claim on.

A recent poll of 800 readers found that 98 per cent wanted the right to marry.

Seventy-seven per cent agreed that marriage and civil partnerships should be open to everyone, while 23 per cent said that marriage should be the only form of recognition for all couples.

A Populus opinion poll for the Times in June 2009 found that 61 per cent of the public believe that ‘gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships’. Only 33 per cent disagreed.

The government announced yesterday that it would allow religious civil partnerships and begin consulting on allowing gay people to marry.

Equality minister Lynne Featherstone insisted that the plans have the support of the entire government and that there had been no resistance from Tory ministers.

“I am fully supported by all of government over these plans going forward,” she said.