Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Justice.
India Supreme Court Brings Back Colonial Anti-Sodomy Law
Four years after a ban on “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” was overturned by the Delhi High Court, the decision was reversed in India’s Supreme Court. The law in question is a relic of the British colonial penal code from 1860. The law’s odd ambiguity is explained by not wanting to “give rise to public discussion on this revolting subject.” Although the re-criminalization of homosexual acts was backed by an uncharacteristically cooperative selection of Hindu, Islamic, and Christian groups, there was a substantial backlash when the ruling was delivered. There have been street protests across the country, a prominent social media campaign, and outspoken celebrities including the writer Vikram Seth.
Australian High Court Overturns Same-Sex Marriage
The Australian High Court has overturned the same-sex marriage legislation in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), ruling it inconsistent with federal law. The ACT law only went into effect five days before the ruling, leaving a five day window in which 27 same-sex couples married only for their marriages to be annulled. Although the ruling invalidates ACT’s strategy of creating a separate marriage status, rather than extending the federal definition of marriage, some see a silver lining in the ruling; the ruling forces the issue to be dealt with at a federal level, preventing an unreliable state-by-state expansion of marriage laws. Nevertheless, for the citizens of ACT, and especially those who had just gotten married, this ruling is disappointing and pushes back the issue of marriage equality in Australia.
North Dakota’s “Clarification” Could Lead to Possible Bigamy Issues
The refusal of some American states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states has resulted in an odd twist, with North Dakota’s Attorney General ‘clarifying’ that individuals previously married to same-sex partners in other states could, without penalty, marry somebody of another sex in North Dakota. Regardless of whether anybody would do so, this brings up thorny legal issues. Because of the lack of federal bigamy laws, North Dakota’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage would lead to legal conundrums both in filing taxes and the legal consequences of re-entering states that do recognize same-sex marriages.
Marriage Equality Comes to New Mexico
On the 19th of December, New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution guaranteed the right to marriage to same-sex couples. They also rejected the premise that marriage should be limited to protect childrearing, stating “Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law.” New Mexico’s gender-neutral.
Marriage Equality Comes to Utah
Only a day after New Mexico’s court ruling, on December 20th a federal judge struck down Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This led to festive scenes at the Salt Lake City county clerk’s office, with the unexpected ruling taking many by surprise. Both trial judge Robert Shelby as well as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Utah’s request to stay the decision, after the state Attorney General’s office apparently forgot to file the request until after hundreds of marriages had already taken place. The Supreme Court of the United States eventually granted the stay, but not until after an estimated 1,360 same-sex couples had already tied the knot. Utah Governor Gary Herbert send out a memo to all state agencies after SCOTUS granted the stay, announcing that while the 1,360 marriages are still legal marriages, the state will not recognize them or grant benefits to the couples until the state’s appeal of the decision to the 10th Circuit (and, presumably, the Supreme Court after that) is complete. The move to in essence invalidate the legally-performed weddings is taking a lot of heat, with arguments that the designation of legal marriages to second-class status only proves the point of why the ruling should stand. In addition, a state lawmaker is proposing a new constitutional amendment guaranteeing that both religions as well as religious people be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Calls Discrimination + Anti-Discrimination a “Healthy Balance”
In a television interview, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opined that Wisconsin’s anti-discrimination law, alongside a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between “one man and one woman” constitute a “healthy balance.” A healthy balance, that is “between equality and state-sponsored discrimination.”
Colorado Air Force Academy Hires Ex-Gay Therapist
The US Air Force Academy in Colorado has hired Dr. Mike Rosebush to run the “character and leadership coaching program.” Rosebush is a former vice president of Focus on the Family, a previous director of a leading ex-gay consulting group, and was president of his own counselling service, “Coaching Confidant,” offering to ‘cure’ men of homosexuality. The tagline, “Advancing Christian Men Towards Real Life” demonstrates his views towards gay men. Though the Air Force maintains that Rosebush does not coach cadets directly, he has still designed their entire character and leadership program. This builds on a history of discrimination in the military, and one closeted gay Academy cadet’s statement that “Being LGBT here is like not being an “all in” Christian. You’re finished.”
Designated ‘Protest Zones’ for Sochi Olympics
Special protest zones will be created by the Russian government during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, “for people who want to demonstrate against something.” The same kind of protest zones were in place for the recent Olympics in Beijing and Vancouver, but not only are some predicting protest zones will be quite a distance from the sporting venues, but that the Chinese precedent showed these zones to be a “convenient means for China to identify and persecute dissidents,” and that protesters might be detained anyway, as was the case in China.
U.S. President Won’t Attend Sochi Olympics, Sends LGBTQ Athletes
The United States delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is going to include two gay athletes, former world champion tennis player Billie Jean King, and ice hockey star Caitlin Cahow. President Obama and all former-presidents will also not be in attendance, as they join a number of other world leaders including the French and German presidents not attending the games in protest of Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Passed by Parliament
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill” was passed by Uganda’s parliament on December 20th, four years after the bill was introduced by MP David Bahati. This version of the bill includes punishments up to lifetime imprisonment for consensual same-sex acts, criminalizes the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, and imprisonment of up to five years for not informing authorities of “renting an apartment to an LGBT person.” As PRA has documented, US evangelicals, including Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren, have been instrumental in exporting anti-gay hate to Uganda. In order for the bill to become law, the president still needs to sign it. There is still the possibility that the President would delay the Bill, or suggestions of a lack of quorum hindering the bill, but it seems to have passed its highest hurdle towards being signed into law. PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos responded to the passage of the bill, saying “This human rights crisis was made here in the United States … we ask all Americans of conscience to demand accountability from those U.S. conservatives who planned and encouraged these human rights violations and now hide behind the African pastors and politicians who are their willing partners in persecuting people because of who they love.”
Croatia Votes to Define Marriage Between a Man and a Woman
With the lowest turnout in Croatian electoral history, a Croatian referendum to amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman succeeded, with 66% of the vote, bringing Croatia in line with many of its Eastern European Neighbors including Montenegro and Serbia. However, the Prime Minister stated that the vote was “sad and pointless,” also promising to promptly pass civil partnership laws giving “all couples, regardless of sex orientation, the same rights.”