Canadian Tories threaten same-sex marriage
Canada’s ruling Conservative Party will follow through on a campaign pledge to revisit the nation’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Justice Minister Vic Toews said on April 5.
The government will engineer a “free vote” on the matter in the House of Commons – meaning Conservative members of Parliament will be permitted to vote their consciences rather than the party’s position. Other parties could choose to grant their MPs the same freedom.
Parliament granted same-sex couples access to full marriage last July, under the then-Liberal government. By that time, courts already had forced legalization of same-sex marriage in nine of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.
“[This] is about the Charter of Rights,” said then-Prime Minister Paul Martin. “In a nation of minorities, it is important that you don’t cherry-pick rights. A right is a right.”
Same-sex marriage also is legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.S. state of Massachusetts. A court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in South Africa will take effect Dec. 1 unless Parliament makes the change sooner.
Prime Minister Ahern says Ireland will have civil unions
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said April 3 that his government is committed to full equality for gay people and will try to create civil unions for same-sex couples.
“Our sexual orientation is not an incidental attribute,” Bertie said in a speech at the opening of the new offices of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “It is an essential part of who and what we are. … Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship.
“I want to state clearly today that the government is unequivocally in favor of treating gay and lesbian people as fully equal citizens in our society,” he said. “Giving effect to this principle in legislation is necessarily complex and challenging. Legislating for civil partnerships requires thinking through a host of related matters. The British Civil Partnership Act … has 264 sections and 30 schedules. Moreover, our written constitution gives rise to complexities that did not arise in the British case. This challenge, however, is one that the government is determined to meet. We are committed to legislating on this issue.”
Greece’s armed forces affirm ban on gay soldiers
Greece’s armed forces affirmed on March 28 that it doesn’t allow gays in the military.
They are excluded under regulations that ban people with “psychosexual or sexual identity disorders.”
Gay activists are protesting the ban because in order to obtain a driver’s license in Greece, one must present a document proving he completed his compulsory military service and, as a result, some gay men reportedly have had trouble getting a driver’s license.
Officials close down prominent Warsaw gay club, Le Madame
Gays staged five days of sleep-ins at the Warsaw gay club and cultural center Le Madame in late March after the City Council ordered police to close it.
At times, more than 200 demonstrators took part in the defense of the establishment.
At 6 a.m. on March 31, however, when only 50 people were inside the building, police conducted another raid and shut it down.
Activists told blogger and Gay City News contributor Doug Ireland that police beat some of the club’s defenders who had chained themselves to pipes and railings or went limp as they were hauled away.
The city, which owns the building, said the club had to close because the city needs the space for another use.
But the Polish Green Party, whose headquarters were at Le Madame, charged, “In fact, the club has been closed because the right-wing government in Poland wanted to shut down this meeting point for civil society where artists, political activists, homosexuals, feminists and globalization critics met.”
Gays win inheritance rights in South African high court
South Africa’s Pretoria High Court ruled March 31 that Mark Gory is the sole heir to his male partner’s estate, the South African Press Agency reported.
Judge Willie Hartzenburg declared the Intestate Succession Act unconstitutional because South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Gory’s live-in partner of two years, Henry Brooks, died last year without a will. Brooks’ family reportedly then began raiding the couple’s possessions and eventually forced Gory out of his home and sold it. Gory will now receive the proceeds from the sale of the dwelling.
Member of Parliament marries under Scotland’s new civil partnership law
Member of the Scottish Parliament Margaret Smith tied the knot with her girlfriend, Suzanne Main, under Scotland’s new civil-partnership law March 31.
About 150 friends and family members attended the ceremony at Edinburgh’s Apex City Hotel.
The couple has been together for three years, before which both were married to men.
Scotland has seen 233 civil partnerships since the law came into force last Dec. 20, according to The Scotsman newspaper.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 14, 2006.