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Posts Tagged ‘family’

America’s First Woman In Space Was A Lesbian

By Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, 24 July 2012

That wasn’t too hard, was it?

But it takes a long time into the NYT obit of Sally Ride for readers to realize that the first American woman in space was a lesbian, and, even then, you have to be alert. Maybe this could have tipped them off:

Dr. Ride was known for guarding her privacy. She rejected most offers for product endorsements, memoirs and movies, and her reticence lasted to the end. At her request, NASA kept her illness secret. In 1983, writing in The Washington Post, Susan Okie, a journalist and longtime friend, described Dr. Ride as elusive and enigmatic, protective of her emotions. “During college and graduate school,” Dr. Okie wrote, “I had to interrogate her to find out what was happening in her personal life.”

Now talk about a buried lede! The only thing preventing the NYT from writing an honest obit is homophobia. They may not realize it; they may not mean it; but it is absolutely clear from the obit that Ride’s sexual orientation was obviously central to her life. And her “partner” (ghastly word) and their relationship is recorded only perfunctorily. The NYT does not routinely only mention someone’s spouse in the survivors section. When you have lived with someone for 27 years, some account of that relationship is surely central to that person’s life. To excise it completely is an act of obliteration. I’m afraid the Beast’s tribute is worse. Lynn Sherr manages to write an appreciation which essentially treats Ride as a heterosexual. When Sherr writes this …


In technological terms, NASA was pushing ahead toward the 21st century. But in human terms, it had finally entered the 20th. And it could not have picked a better pioneer.

… she is referring to Ride’s gender, not her sexual orientation. And one often over-looked aspect of this is the long-standing discomfort of some in the feminist movement with lesbians in their midst. Feminists often “inned” lesbian pioneers, or the lesbians closeted themselves. This was not because they were in a reactionary movement; it was because they were in a progressive movement that did not want to be “tarred” with the lesbian image. (Think of Bayard Rustin for a gay male equivalent). Now, of course, Ride chose the closet throughout her life. Given who she was, how independent and brilliant, brave and cool, this is surely testament to how deep homophobia ran in American life. But it may also, as one reader suggests, be part of a welcome shift:

We only know O’Shaugnessy is a female from that vague abstraction – “partner” – and from a parenthetical statement that Ms. O’Shaugnessy was the CEO of the late Ride’s company. I have no idea if Ride was out to her friends or out to the public. But this could be another replication of the Anderson Cooper phenomenon – a movement towards a gay equality where people can come out on their own terms, without making what they perceive to be a big deal out of it. Hopefully we’re getting to the point where being gay is an utterly unremarkable fact in a great American life.

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Huge Turnout at Michigan Capitol Reading of ‘Vagina Monologues’

By Dawson Bell and Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, 19 June 12

Thousands of people turned out for protest performance of The Vagina Monologues at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., in response to Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield being silenced by House Speaker James Bolger for comments she made in opposition to new abortion legislation passed by the House last week. (photo: Susan Tusa/DFP)

Several thousand people thronged the state Capitol lawn this evening, to protest the treatment of two female lawmakers who were barred from speaking on the House floor last Thursday following an emotional debate over abortion.

They heard a recitation by the two lawmakers and others of The Vagina Monologues.

The performance, kicked off by the work’s author Eve Ensler who flew in from California for the occasion, was the culmination of five days of reaction to the decision by House Republican leaders to issue one-day revocations of the right of state Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga , to speak on the House floor.

They said the discipline was in response to incivility displayed by the two representatives a day earlier during a debate over legislation to impose new restrictions on abortion clinics. Brown said she was punished for using the word vagina.

Welcoming the crowd today, Brown said the legislation would “effectively overturn Roe v. Wade,” the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision which ended most state-level restrictions on abortion, and “turn back the clock to the 60s, when women were denied health care.”

Concluding her remarks during the House debate, Brown had said, “I’m flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

Today, she said, “We shouldn’t be legislating vaginas, if you can’t say vagina.”

Byrum got her one-day gag order after she reacted vigorously during the abortion debate when she was not allowed to speak on an amendment she sponsored that would have required a man seeking a vasectomy to have proof of a medical emergency or life-threatening condition.

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A Church Fit Only for Bigots and Hypocrites

By Nick Cohen, The Observer UK, 17 June 12

The Church of England’s stand on homosexuality and women priests is isolating it from the rest of the country.

Archbishop Rowan Williams in Harare in 2011. (photo: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

I realised that beards and soft words do not a liberal make when the Archbishop of Canterbury toured the Sudan in 2006. His visit coincided with the first genocide of the 21st century: the massacres in Darfur. The forces of the Arab-supremacist government in Khartoum were fighting a war to the knife with black Africans that left hundreds of thousands dead. The slaughter might not have been happening as far as Rowan Williams was concerned. He was the regime’s guest and refused to bear witness to the suffering or criticise its perpetrators.

I thought at the time that among the reasons why I could not believe in God was the shabbiness of his representatives on Earth. The archbishop’s officials explained that he did not wish to be undiplomatic, but I did not wholly believe them either. Williams seemed just the type to believe that crimes against humanity were colour-coded. One should denounce atrocities committed by the west, of course, but stay silent when the criminals had black or brown skins for fear of being thought a cultural imperialist or neocolonialist.

Now that Williams and his fellow bishops are so angry at the possibility of civil gay marriage they are talking of disestablishing the church, we should acknowledge that Williams has always been prepared to accommodate reactionary forces abroad to further reactionary ends at home.

Those who knew him when he was young are shocked. He was once liberal on the question of whether Anglicans should tolerate gay and lesbian love and openly homosexual priests. As the church has had closet cases for two millenniums, who have lied to themselves, their congregations and, on occasion, to the poor women they manoeuvred into loveless marriages, I would have thought that honesty would have been the best argument for equality. But as we have seen, honesty is not a virtue the archbishop treasures.

Instead, Williams developed an eccentric but, I happily admit, touching line of thought. He took a scene in Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet in which Sarah Layton, a respectable daughter of the regiment, is seduced by a worthless man. Williams told members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in 1989: “There may be little love, even little generosity, in Clark’s bedding of Sarah, but Sarah has discovered that her body can be the cause of happiness to her and to another. It is this discovery which most clearly shows why we might want to talk about grace here. Grace, for the Christian believer, is a transformation that depends in large part on knowing yourself to be seen in a certain way: as significant, as wanted.”

Like Sarah Layton, gays and lesbians also deserved the body’s grace. Even in the Bible, “there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm”. His words read as well today as they did then, but Williams has forgotten what he once knew.

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Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

Church says introducing same-sex marriage legislation could lead to it being forced out of traditional wedding role

“It seems odd that the Church of England should be obsessing about a few thousand gay couples once again when there are currently 3 million children in Britain living in single-parent households.” Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, which campaigns for gay rights.

Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 12 June 2012

The Church of England has delivered an ­uncompromising warning to the ­government against pressing ahead with gay marriage proposals. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The threat of an unprecedented clash between church and state over the issue of gay marriage has opened up after the Church of England delivered an uncompromising warning to the government against pressing ahead with controversial proposals.

Introducing same-sex marriage could lead to the church being forced out of its role of conducting weddings on behalf of the state, the church claimed in a potentially explosive submission in response to the government’s consultation on gay marriage, which closes on Thursday.

The submission’s warning of a potential clash between canon law – that marriage is between a man and a woman – and parliament is likely to put pressure on the prime minister, David Cameron, who has spoken out in support of gay marriage and already come under fire from supporters of the proposals for allowing a free vote amongst Tory MPs.

In a 13-page submission, the church says it cannot support the proposal to enable all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony.

“Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history,” it says.

“Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.”

The controversy comes at a particularly delicate time for the church itself, which is in the middle of a process that will choose a new Archbishop of Canterbury later this year to replace Dr Rowan Williams.

Internal debates on gay rights have been particularly heated during his tenure as he struggled to balance the CofE’s own factions at the same time as holding together the disparate worldwide Anglican communion of 80 million members.

The church’s submission warns that despite ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, it would be “very doubtful” whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European court of human rights.

This could make it impossible for the CofE to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it warned.

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The Supreme Court is right to hear life-support case

Hassan Rasouli, shown with his wife, Parichehr Salasel, has been in a persistent vegetative state since October, 2010. Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

GLOBE EDITORIAL, May. 23, 2012 , Globe and Mail

The Supreme Court of Canada was right when it agreed to hear the case of a patient on life support, despite shifting medical facts. In doing so, it is expected to provide much-needed guidance on end-of-life treatment.

The issue – who decides – has been a divisive, emotional one. Giving doctors unilateral decision-making power seems extreme, yet it is equally perverse for families of incapable patients to insist upon costly interventions of no medical benefit and some potential harm.

The absence of direction has left a policy vacuum, and potentially treatment vacuums in Canadian hospitals. Will physicians hesitate to start trials of therapy in critically ill patients if they think they cannot withdraw them when later deemed futile?

To answer the question of who decides, two critical-care physicians, Brian Cuthbertson and Gordon Rubenfeld of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, have taken their case to Canada’s highest court. They say there is no medical purpose in keeping Hassan Rasouli on life support and have proposed shifting him to palliative care.

The 60-year-old retired engineer has been at that Toronto hospital since October, 2010, when a brain infection incurred after surgery for a brain tumour left him in a persistent vegetative state. After that, he received round-the-clock care, with machines doing all the things he can’t: breathe, hydrate and nourish.

Then, unexpectedly, his diagnosis changed.

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Bishops Search for Condoms in Cookie Boxes

By MARY E. HUNT, 21 May 2012, Religion Dispatches

At last, the bishops and dieters have a common enemy.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is having a Saturday Night Live moment. Emboldened by the Vatican’s hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the gentlemen have shown their prowess by choosing to investigate the Girl Scouts of the USA. Which would be comical—first the nuns, now the Girl Scouts—if the goal were not so pernicious and the outcome so damaging, especially to the bishops.

The tactics against the girls and the women are taken from one playbook, the goal of intimidation is the same, and the pushback in both cases is distracting from more pressing problems at hand. Still, you wonder who does their public relations, as the bishops are now about as popular as a recession.

The apparent goal of this exercise of “investigating” gender female persons is to set up and enforce a male-defined model of girlhood/womanhood. A Vatican-, or in this case, USCCB-launched investigation is what Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM, calls the equivalent of a grand jury investigation. There is the presumption that something is wrong, not something right, that there is guilt to be uncovered, not virtue to be unleashed. What is wrong seems to be women and girls thinking for themselves and acting for the common good.

What boggles the mind is why the Roman Catholic Church would be so presumptuous as to investigate what does not belong to it. Granted, some Scout troops meet at Catholic churches, but that does not make them Catholic entities any more than the Alcoholics Anonymous group that meets in the same basement. In the case of the Scouts, the supposed connections with groups that support reproductive justice are, for the most part, links to websites where girls can find further information on issues, hardly a ringing endorsement of the groups’ missions. Sex education is not an integral part of scouting; that is something left to families. What is really at issue here is that women and girls involved in the Girl Scouts do not ask permission of ecclesial men to live as responsible citizens of a global world.

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Catholic Bishops Threaten to Sue for Their Right to Hate Lady Parts

By Kaili Joy Gray, Daily Kos, 21 May 12

The Catholic Church's U.S. hierarchy warned Tuesday that without quick action by Congress, it will sue the Obama administration for mandating that insurance plans provide birth control to women without a co-pay. (photo: Daily Kos)

The Catholic Church’s U.S. hierarchy warned Tuesday that without quick action by Congress, it will sue the Obama administration for mandating that insurance plans provide birth control to women without a co-pay.

“[F]orcing individual and institutional stakeholders to sponsor and subsidize an otherwise widely available product over their religious and moral objections serves no legitimate, let alone compelling, government interest,” lawyers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in a letter to federal regulators.

Talk about sore losers. The bishops had their chance to weigh in on the Obama administration’s new policy to require health insurers to cover birth control without co-pays. The Obama administration generously carved out a boatload of exemptions for them to address their “concerns.” The bishops even got their puppets in Congress to introduce bills on their behalf – which the American people overwhelmingly opposed. They even got themselves invited to the boys-only congressional hearing on birth control – because who understands birth control better than a bunch of supposedly celibate men?

At the end of the day, though, they lost. They made their case that basic health care for women violates their “religious liberty” and makes Jesus sad – and they lost. They launched a charm offensive to “set the record straight,” arguing that the Catholic Church totally loves women’s health care and has been “the most effective private provider of such care anywhere around,” and people better stop saying mean stuff about them or they won’t be able “to live out the imperatives of our faith to serve, teach, heal, feed, and care for others.” And no one bought it.

You’d think, after such a resounding “f*ck off” from the American public, the bishops might leave women’s health care alone and go back to focusing on those important things they claim to care about. But when the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), led by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and the president of the bishops’ conference, met to decide whether to accept defeat or keep whining, they of course decided to keep whining, even as they concluded:

Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength – for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.

Well, apparently their prayers didn’t work, so they’ve decided to scrap the God plan in favor of litigation:

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Changes to immigration policy will affect nearly all aspects of Canadian life

By RATNA OMIDVAR | The Globe and Mail | May. 09, 2012

This is part of The Immigrant Answer –The Globe’s series on the future of immigration in Canada. Read the original story here.

The Canadian immigration landscape is shifting beneath our feet. When the dust settles, where will Canada be?

Some of the proposed changes, such as dealing with the backlog, are long overdue. Other changes may also be necessary. They will nevertheless have a series of unintended consequences for the makeup of Canada’s immigrant population and its ethnic diversity. It is these consequences that we should be concerned about.

Recently, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has spoken highly of the Australian immigration model with its strict language requirements. High levels of language proficiency are a requirement in our labour market. But raising the bar on language competency may trigger an increase in immigration from English-speaking countries – Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand – at the cost of immigrants from emerging economic superpowers such as China, India, Russia and Brazil.

Add to this administrative changes such as the closing of visa offices in Bangladesh, Iran and elsewhere and we will begin to see a shift in source countries. Recent media reports show that the numbers of immigrants applying for permanent residence from China, India, the Philippines and Pakistan fell drastically in 2011 – perhaps in response to changes made to our immigrant selection system in the last year.

What implications will these changes have for Canada’s future? One unintended consequence relates to the success of second-generation immigrants. Research shows that the children of immigrants have higher rates of postsecondary education than those of non-immigrant Canadians. What’s more, those born to parents from Africa, China and other Asian countries attend university and college at far higher rates than both non-immigrant Canadians and those born to immigrants from anglosphere countries.

The changes are coming at a furious pace on an almost daily basis. By seeking to eliminate the backlog by expunging those waiting in the queue, we choose efficiency over fairness. By moving to “super visas” and away from permanent residence for our immigrants’ parents and grandparents, we choose transience over inclusion. When employers select workers who will become future citizens with little guidance, we choose head-hunting over nation-building. When we raise the bar on language, we choose homogeneity over diversity. By streamlining the refugee adjudication process, we may well be choosing efficiency over human rights. Finally, when we say to employers, “Pay temporary foreign workers less than you might pay Canadians,” we choose exploitation over fairness.

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Methodists Vote to Keep Homosexuality “Incompatible”

by CANDACE CHELLEW-HODGE, May 3, 2012, Religion Dispatches

lansingunited.org

The United Methodist Church voted today to keep intact its section in the Book of Discipline that call homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” and sanctions only heterosexual marriage. New wording would have removed those passages.

The vote came after a debate that became contentious when one African delegate compared homosexuality to bestiality and declared that God would not create humans as gay or lesbian.

During the vote, supporters of the petition to change the Book of Discipline stood at the edges of the convention floor, or the “bar” as the church calls it. As the debate continued, many delegates moved from their seats to join the members on the margins to show their solidarity. In the end the petition failed to pass.

When the conference reconvened after a break, those who supported the petition remained in the hall, singing as business began again. The presiding bishop, Michael Coyner of the Indiana Conference, shut down the meeting, calling the LGBT advocates a “security concern.”

The morning’s vote and actions by the bishop were a disappointment to David Braden, the director of development for the Reconciling Ministries Network, which works for the full inclusion of LGBT people into the UMC:

“We grieve that the United Methodist Church really had the opportunity to live into inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ and live into its tagline of Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds and extend its welcome to LGBT people and unfortunately, chose not to do that. We grieve that UMC continues to harm and discrimination against LGBT people. We’re already here in the United Methodist Church and we will continue to be that shining light on top of the hill to show the world what it means to be UMC, and that is to welcome all people.”

Even if this petition failed, said Daniel Viana, a Brazilian-born music minister at a small conservative Hispanic UMC in Chicago, the presence of LGBT people and their allies at the convention is a strong witness to just how active the LGBT community already is in the church.

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North Carolina Pastor Sean Harris Urges Parents To ‘Man Up’ And ‘Punch’ Effeminate Children

Erik Kain, 5/02/2012, Forbes

NC Pastor Sean Harris, who urged parents to hit potentially gay children in his sermon

It’s hardly surprising that the ugly rant of Pastor Sean Harris, the senior pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, is going viral online.

The wonderful thing about the combination of the internet and free speech is that when someone says something really ugly and horrifying, their words are called out. We don’t need to clamp down on speech like this through any legal means. The best disinfectant is sunlight, as the saying goes, and social media is the best sunlight we have when it comes to hateful speech.

These days, people can’t simply preach to the choir, as it were. The whole world is right there listening on YouTube and passing it around Facebook and Twitter. Pretty soon your violent sermon is being mocked and scorned across the digital empire. Good thing, too, because Harris’s words deserve condemnation.

Harris says: “So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, ‘Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,’ you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed….Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.”

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Ontario trans rights decision makes Canadian history

ONTARIO NEWS / Surgery no longer prerequisite for birth certificate change

Andrea Houston / Extra / Monday, April 16, 2012

Lawyer N Nicole Nussbaum.(Facebook)

In what a London lawyer is calling a “game-changing decision,” the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has struck down a rule that required trans people to undergo “transsexual surgery” in order to change the sex category on their birth certificates.

Released April 11, the 95-page decision follows a challenge by one trans woman who complained she was discriminated against because she could not change her legal documents unless she had surgery. However, she did have surgery in 2008.

“She had an orchiectomy (the removal of the testicles), at least in part to satisfy the requirement to change the sex designation,” explains lawyer N Nicole Nussbaum.

The tribunal found that the Vital Statistics Act requirement of “transsexual surgery” prior to changing the sex designation on a birth certificate discriminates against trans people, she says. The provincial government has been ordered to remove this stipulation.

“They completely knocked that out,” Nussbaum says. “The tribunal doesn’t have the authority to strike down a law, but they can say the law is not enforceable.”

An emotional Susan Gapka, the chair of the Trans Lobby Group, says she is still poring over the decision. She tells Xtra it is a key building block toward allowing trans people to be included in society. She hopes it will support Toby’s Law, which is currently moving through the provincial legislature. Toby’s Law would amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” she says, noting Ontario will be the first Canadian province to legally recognize this distinction. “This is a very good decision. It supports what we have been saying all along, and now the court has acknowledged that.”

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Top five regrets of the dying

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

Susie Steiner | guardian.co.uk | 1 February 2012

A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying. Photograph: Montgomery Martin/Alamy

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

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British Conservatives lead charge for gay marriage

By Anthony Faiola, Published: March 29, 2012, The Washington Post

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP - Recently, David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government has launched an effort to grant gays and lesbians the option of entering civil marriages.

LONDON — Americans watching the latest push for social change in Britain might feel as if they had stepped into an alternate political universe: Here, the Conservatives are leading the charge for same-sex marriage.

Gay couples in Britain won the right to civil partnerships in 2004, which granted them nearly the same legal status as married heterosexual couples while avoiding the controversial use of the word “marriage.” But Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition have launched a historic drive to grant gay men and lesbians the option of also entering into civil marriages, touching off a surprisingly fierce uproar in largely progressive Britain and fueling a rebellion on the right as the party comes under heavy fire from traditional allies in the British clergy.

Yet challenging tradition appears to be exactly Cameron’s point. The proposal, put forward this month despite the lack of a strong clamor for marriage within Britain’s gay community, is nevertheless emerging as the cornerstone of a bid by the 45-year-old prime minister and other young leaders on the right here to redefine what it means to be a modern Conservative.

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative,” Cameron said in a recent landmark speech on the issue. “I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

Spurred to action by a book about a child with two dads, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher rushed a ban through Parliament in 1988 forbidding local governments and schools from promoting homosexuality, with same-sex couples then described by law “as a pretended family relationship.” Twenty-four years later, strategists see Cameron’s decision to champion the gay marriage cause as an attempt to seize the mantle of progressive change from the left and broaden the Conservative Party’s appeal among an increasingly key voting group: young urbanites.

To be sure, since returning to power in 2010 after 13 years in the political wilderness, the Conservatives have pursued causes at the core of their founding beliefs: slashing the deficit, cutting public payrolls and moving to lower taxes. Yet the party of Thatcher has also sought to reinvent itself by becoming what one Conservative strategist called “very pro-gay.”

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Catholic University in Ottawa opposes free condoms

CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2012

Offering free condoms to students does not fall within the statutes of Saint Paul University, the administration says. (iStock)

A Catholic university in Ottawa is under fire from its students after it prevented the student association from offering free condoms.

The student group at Saint Paul University, which is connected to the University of Ottawa, recently received a letter from the school administration demanding it remove a bowl of condoms from the main office.

The letter reads, “It is evident that the distribution of condoms must cease and the use of the name ‘university’ needs to be completely abandoned from your sign, especially when it contravenes with the Statutes.”

Condoms were first offered last year.

The student association believes the administration is putting ideology before practicality.

“I was shocked that it’s 2012 and we’re still having this conversation of science versus ideology,” said Zach Zimmel, who wrote an open letter to the university about the issue this week.

More than 100 students have supported Zimmel so far.

“Moving forward, conversations need to be had about how we can meet the needs of all of these students,” he added.

Catholic mandate at odds with condom use
Saint Paul University has a Catholic mandate, but students of all religions and ethnicities now study at the school.

The administration told CBC News the students are expected to abide by and uphold the Catholic values.

“We never said that it was not a good idea to use condoms, it’s only because we’re talking about Saint Paul,” said Danielle Tessier, the school’s vice-rector, who also wrote the letter to the student association.

“We have to stand behind what is Saint Paul.”

The students also say the school has complained about a “Pride centre” it opened on campus for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual students.

The student association and the school administration began what are expected to be several days of talks Wednesday to determine a solution to the issue.

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Pro-Choice ‘Doonesbury’ Too Much for Many US Papers

March 12, 2012 by Common Dreams

Fans of Garry Trudeau’s ‘Doonesbury’ may have to adjust their reading habits this week as many US newspapers have decided to move the popular comic strip from its place on the comics page to the editorial section. Some papers, in fact, have decide to drop the strip entirely after they saw that this week’s arch would be grappling with a rash of new state laws across the country that will require women seeking abortions to submit to state-run ultrasounds and other invasive procedures.

Here’s the first strip in the series, due out Monday in the more than 1,400 papers that run the syndicated comic:

The Los Angeles Times is one of the papers that has decided to run the series, but will move it from the comic pages, where it normally appears, to their Op-Ed page. Explaining the decision, Sue Horton, the Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, said, “We carry both op-eds and cartoons about controversial subjects, and this is a controversial subject.”

And The Guardian in the UK, which also runs the strip, reported today:

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau has defended his cartoon strip about abortion, which several US newspapers are refusing to run, saying he felt compelled to respond to the way Republicans across America are undermining women’s healthcare rights.

The strip, published on Monday and scheduled to run all week, has been rejected by several papers, while others said they were switching it from the comic section to the editorial page.

In an email exchange with the Guardian, Trudeau expressed dismay over the papers’ decision but was unrepentant, describing as “appalling” and “insane” Republican state moves on women’s healthcare.

About 1,400 newspapers, including the Guardian, take the Doonesbury cartoon. The Guardian newspaper is running the cartoon as normal on Monday.

The strip deals specifically with a law introduced in Texas and other states requiring a woman who wants to have an abortion to have an ultrasound scan, or sonogram, which will show an image of the foetus and other details, in an attempt to make her reconsider.

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Alberta bows to home-schoolers’ pressure on teaching religion

By Karen Kleiss, Postmedia News March 15, 2012

Home-schooling families protest Education Act changes. blogs.edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON — The governing Conservatives have bowed to pressure from Christian home-schooling groups and amended Alberta’s new Education Act, making parental control over education explicit.

Advocates, however, say the changes don’t go far enough and they still fear they will one day be brought before a human rights tribunal for teaching that homosexuality and abortion are sins.

“The amendment doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help,” said Paul van den c spokesman for the Alberta Home Education Association, which organized a protest at the legislature last week.

“Home educators can’t swallow this, and neither should any parent in Alberta.”

Their concerns centre on section 16 of the proposed new law, which says all programs of study offered by Alberta schools must respect the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Christian groups worry that because their faith-based curricula teach that God created the Earth and that homosexuality and abortion are sins, they will be sanctioned by authorities and forced to stop home-schooling. Alternatively, they fear that a complaint lodged against them will land them before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The solution, van den Bosch says, is to change the law so that home education is not defined as a “school.”

The new Education Act currently says “parents have the right to make informed decisions,” and van den Bosch wants the language changed back to the wording used in the Schools Act, which says “parents have the right to make decisions.”

The amendment passed in the legislature just before midnight Wednesday does not make any of those changes. Instead, the government has added a preamble that details the intent of the law.

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1 in 10 Alberta men say violence against women is OK: Poll

Richard J. Brennan, Mar 14 2012, thespec.com

break‑the‑cycle.jpg

Almost one in 10 Alberta men contacted for a recent survey believes hitting a woman is okay if she makes them angry.

That was one of several troubling findings in a Leger Marketing survey of 1,000 men in the western province made public this week. The survey also found that 40 per cent of men surveyed say women who dress provocatively risk being raped.

“This is first study of its kind that has been done in Alberta and I believe in the rest of the country,” Ian Large, vice-president for the Alberta branch of Leger Marketing, said Wednesday.

“Alberta has a particularly bad reputation in this area,” Large told Torstar News, adding that the men surveyed were remarkably honest.

According to a report released by Statistics Canada in 2011, Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest rates of spousal abuse in the country at eight per cent.

Those taken aback by the “ground-breaking” results include Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who says she was sickened by some of the findings.

Redford said the statistic showing that 21 per cent of men surveyed said slapping a child’s face is acceptable behaviour “made me sick to my stomach.”

“I think that is very troubling, and as a mother of a nine-year-old, I want us to do better as a community,” she said. “We have to start saying to people that this behaviour is inappropriate … It’s not acceptable in Alberta in 2012.”

Redford said the “silent majority” has a role in ensuring this kind of behaviour is not tolerated and that families feel safe in their own homes.

The Leger survey results were released in Calgary Monday at the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) annual “Breakfast With the Guys” fundraiser, designed to encourage men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence.

The survey was completed from February 6 – 27, with 1,000 men, 18 years of age or older, living in Alberta. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Among the alarming results:

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Homophobic group to help award Diamond Jubilee Medals


REAL Women of Canada website states that bullying may be justified

Dale Smith / Xtra / March 07, 2012

lifesitenews.com

A Canadian group whose homepage currently states that one of the biggest threats to families is the “homosexual lobby” and “the media” has been appointed to help government decide how to award Diamond Jubilee Medals to honour Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years of service to Canada.

REAL Women of Canada, a socially conservative, anti-feminist group that often acts as an intervenor in court cases that oppose queer rights, will recommend medals under the social and volunteer category.

An article on the group’s homepage also dismisses bullying as a justified reaction on the part of youth frustrated by the “special treatment” granted to queer or non-Christian youth in schools.

The Canadian Queen’s Diamond Jubilee program is awarding medals to 60,000 “outstanding” Canadians, according to the Governor General’s website.

Coordinators have invited non-governmental partners to advise government about worthy Canadians who deserve a medal.

A spokesperson for the Governor General’s program says a committee decided on partner organizations based on a number of different categories such as health, multiculturalism, and arts and culture.

“I don’t think they reflect the general views of women in Canada,” says Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, which was not asked to participate. “I’m not saying they don’t have a right to be there; however, you need to balance the playing field a little bit, and if you’re going to appoint them, then you should appoint women from any number of women’s groups who are very progressive, aren’t homophobic and transphobic, and deserve to be at the table.”

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A Quiet Struggle Within the Gay Marriage Fight

By MATT SMITH | February 18, 2012 | The New York Times

Worshippers at a service at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Clergy members and the church are in a battle of their own over gay rights. Noah Berger for The Bay Citizen

Straight couples dressed in tuxedoes and pastel-colored gowns were forced to wait in a hallway outside the San Francisco recorder’s office on Tuesday as 10 Bay Area Christian leaders sat in a circle inside singing “We Shall Overcome,” “Chapel of Love,” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.” It has become an annual Valentine’s Day protest of the city’s inability to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples, an authority that is on hold until appeals of a court’s decision to strike down California’s gay marriage ban are exhausted.

“We’re just going to keep knocking at the door until justice is available to all people,” the Rev. Karen Oliveto, a Methodist pastor of San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church, said after sheriff’s deputies handcuffed her and her fellow protesters and led them to jail.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit earlier this month upheld a decision declaring Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. The ruling represented a milestone in the secular struggle over gay rights. In the shadow of that struggle, however, a quieter battle is being waged within churches over whether gay people can be married and ordained.

Long before the issue of same-sex marriage grabbed the spotlight, liberal Protestant pastors in Northern California were fighting against church rules prohibiting ordination and marriage of homosexuals. That internal church struggle is broadening nationwide.

In recent years, mainline Protestant denominations — which are different from evangelical Christian churches that read the Bible as literal truth and emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus — have one by one changed rules that had prohibited marriage and ordination of gays and lesbians. The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ at one time all barred same-sex wedding ceremonies and ordination of gay clergy members, but they have changed those rules over time.

The last holdout among major mainline Protestant groups has been the United Methodist Church,

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Bishops Reject White House’s New Plan on Contraception

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN | Published: February 11, 2012 | The New York Times

The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. reuters.com

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have rejected a compromise on birth control coverage that President Obama offered on Friday and said they would continue to fight the president’s plan to find a way for employees of Catholic hospitals, universities and service agencies to receive free contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans, without direct involvement or financing from the institutions.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — which has led the opposition to the plan — said in a statement late Friday that the solution offered by the White House to quell a political furor was “unacceptable and must be corrected” because it still infringed on the religious liberty and conscience of Catholics.

The bishops’ decision to rebuff the compromise means that “religious freedom” will continue to be a rallying cry for some Catholics who have heard it preached from the pulpit for the last three weeks, for evangelical Christians on the religious right, for Republican candidates on the campaign trail and for members of Congress who are supporting a legislative fix on Capitol Hill.

Administration officials said the White House had never expected to get the bishops’ support, given their absolute opposition to contraception, and was surprised when the initial statement of the bishops conference on Friday was noncommittal and went so far as to call the president’s modification a step in the right direction.

Mr. Obama said that the compromise would take the Catholic institutions out of the equation by relieving them from either paying for coverage for contraceptives or providing any referral to their employees for the coverage. Instead, insurance companies would be required to pay for the contraceptives, and to arrange it. The insurers will agree, the White House said, because it is more expensive for them to pay for pregnancies than to pay for contraceptives.

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About My ‘Spilled Semen’ Amendment to Oklahoma’s Personhood Bill

By Constance Johnson, Guardian UK, 10 February 12 – via readersupportednews.org

Oklahoma state Sen. Constance Johnson, 08/17/11. (photo: AP)

As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female’s role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma’s new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive healthcare decisions.

My action to amend the so-called “Personhood” bill – SB 1433, introduced by Senator Brian Crain (Republican, Tulsa) – represents the culmination of my and many other Oklahomans’ frustration regarding the ridiculousness of our reproductive policy initiatives in Oklahoma. I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from men and women in Oklahoma – and worldwide. The Personhood bill would potentially allow governmental intrusion into families’ personal lives by policing what happens to a woman’s eggs without any similar thought to what happens to a man’s sperm.

My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women. Oklahoma already incarcerates more women than any other place in the world. Under the latest provisions, a woman in Oklahoma may now face additional criminal charges and potential incarceration for biological functions that produce or, in some cases, destroy eggs or embryos, such as a miscarriage. In vitro fertilization, involving the fertilization outside the womb for implantation into the womb, would also potentially represent a violation of the proposed Personhood statute.

Finally, this amendment seeks to draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people’s private affairs. Despite the great challenges our state faces, it is far more important that we address issues such as affordable healthcare to help improve our state’s ranking of 48th in health status; to create good, secure jobs that grow our economy; and ensure that all citizens have access to quality, affordable education.

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Washington State Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill

By WILLIAM YARDLEY | February 2, 2012 | The New York Times

the Washington state Senate passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage! feministing.com

SEATTLE — Washington appeared almost certain to become the seventh state to allow same-sex marriage after the State Senate voted late Wednesday for a measure that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry beginning this summer.

Supporters had considered the Senate to be the more challenging chamber in which to pass the bill, but it was approved easily, by a vote of 28 to 21, after less than 90 minutes of debate. The measure now moves to the House, where it has wide support and could be voted on as soon as next week. Gov. Christine Gregoire has urged the bill’s approval. The governor is a Democrat, and both legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats.

“Regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation will be in the mail,” Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, the prime sponsor in the Senate, said in his final remarks before the vote. Mr. Murray, who is gay, has noted many times publicly that he and his longtime partner hope to marry in their home state.

The measure, echoing one passed in New York last June, includes language assuring religious groups that they would not be required to marry same-sex couples or allow them to marry in their facilities. Washington would join New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Iowa as states where same-sex couples can marry. Washington, D.C., also allows same-sex marriage.

Washington has steadily expanded rights for gay and lesbian couples since 2006, when it approved domestic partnerships. In 2009, it passed a so-called everything-but-marriage bill, which was challenged in a public referendum and upheld by voters, 53 to 47. Opponents of the marriage bill say they will challenge it in a referendum this fall. The Roman Catholic Church is among the opponents.

The floor debate late Wednesday was civil and relatively succinct.

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Disabled people lead London blockade in Welfare Reform Bill protest

Staff Writers, Ekklesia, 29 Jan 2012

A group protesters chain themselves together across Regent Street. mirror.co.uk

Disabled people chained wheelchairs together and led hundreds of others in forming barricades across Oxford Street on Saturday 28 January 2012.

The direct action at the junction with Oxford Street, one of central London’s biggest thoroughfares, was a protest against the coalition’s Welfare Reform Bill, which in its present form will preside over massive cuts hitting the most vulnerable in society.

The WRB will see over half a million people lose their entitlements. It goes back to the House of Lords one final time on 31 January. Then on 1 February it goes to the House of Commons, where the government has pledged to ignore six defeats in the Lords and the overwhelming opposition of charities, medical professionals, experts and claimants themselves in order to force the legislation through.

Disabled people say that they will continue fighting, and will do everything possible to expose and shame the politicians trampling on their dignity and rights – including minister Iain Duncan Smith, who they say has been “hiding behind a cloak of Christianity and social justice rhetoric, but has exposed his true colours in this debate.”

Lisa Egan, aged 32, told the Sunday Mirror: “The government is cutting the disability living allowance bill by 20 per cent despite the fact that only 0.5 per cent of claims are fraudulent. That means one in five genuinely disabled people is going to be losing benefits they need to pay for wheelchairs and care.”

Rosemary Willis of Disabled People Against Cuts, who played a major role in the direct action, said: “Maria Miller, so-called minister for disabled people, has repeatedly stated that we are ‘financially unsustainable’ and we want to ask this government exactly what they mean by that. We will not let this government push through these changes which have already led to disabled people taking their own lives.”

Adam Lotun, also of DPAC, added “All the assessments are unfit for purpose”, referring both to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which has proved disaster, and the vague and unpiloted assessment process for Personal Independence Payments.

Josie McDermot of UK Uncut, who helped with the protests on Saturday, described the Welfare Reform Bill as “cruel and unnecessary. This demonstration and action is an essential way to persuade the government to scrap their plans”.

Shadow Secretary Liam Byrne has joined campaigners in ­pointing out that cancer suffers in ­chemotherapy and others in severe circumstances will be forced to look for work under the government’s plans to arbitrarily limit benefit ­payments to £26,000 a year per household.

The campaign to seek a legislative pause and major change in the Wefare Reform Bill, so that proper evidence, alternatives and involvement from people at the sharp end can be taken on board, has been lead by disabled and sick people through the Spartacus Report campaign, which has forced the mainstream media and politicians to pay attention to a vital issue they were largely overlooking.

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UK Disability campaigners rejoice at huge defeat for government on welfare cuts

By staff writers, Ekklesia, 11 Jan 2012

The House of Lords inflicted three defeats on the government over its welfare reform bill. Photograph: Tim Graham/Getty Images

The government suffered an extraordinary threefold defeat on its Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords tonight (11 January 2012), as campaigners and peers combined to oppose cuts that would hit sick, vulnerable and disabled people particularly badly.

Crossbenchers Lord Patel and Baroness Meacher, and Labour peer Baroness Lister, were among those who fought an expert rearguard action against the coalition, with a few Liberal Democrats also rebelling.

The three amendments passed by the second chamber would retain automatic eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for young disabled people who are unable to work; reject the government’s proposal that ESA claimants be reassessed after 12 months (proposing 24 months instead); and exempt cancer patients from the ESA limit.

The votes are a triumph for Sue Marsh, Dr Sarah Cambell and other disabled activists and researchers who on Monday published the ‘Responsible Reform’ report, who caused an Internet sensation with their #spartacusreport campaign, and who have galvanised charities, NGOs, politicians from all parties, churches, medical professionals and public figures into lobbying for a substantial rethink on welfare reform.

Peers and MPs were inundated with pleas to stop welfare and disability cuts this morning, with thousands of copies of the report exposing the sham of the government’s consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) being sent on to decision-makers and policy experts. The Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, also expressed serious concern.

The House of Commons has the power to reverse the Lords amendments, but it will be under huge political pressure from these defeats not simply to pass an un-reformed Welfare Reform Bill without blinking. Royal Assent is currently timed for March 2012.

In addition to tonight’s humiliating defeat, the Conservative Mayor of London has been revealed to have opposed disability cuts; major charities, the TUC, the thinktank Ekklesia and others are calling for a legislative pause; and both the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly are declining to pass the traditional consent legislation for the UK parliament on the WRB.

More Lords votes will take place on similarly controversial issues in the next fortnight, including next week on Disability Living Allowance – the epicentre of the #spartacusreport campaign.

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Pope Benedict XVI: Gay Marriage A Threat To ‘Future Of Humanity’

By Philip Pullella, HuffPost, January 10, 2012

VATICAN CITY, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Pope Benedict said on Monday that gay marriage was one of several threats to the traditional family that undermined “the future of humanity itself”.

The pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican in which he touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today.

He told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper “settings” and that “pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”

“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” he said.

The Vatican and Catholic officials around the world have protested against moves to legalise gay marriage in Europe and other developed parts of the world.

One leading opponent of gay marriage in the United States is New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whom the pope will elevate to cardinal next month.

Dolan fought against gay marriage before it became legal in New York state last June, and in September he sent a letter to President Barack Obama criticising his administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage.

In that letter Dolan, who holds the powerful post of president of the U.S. Bishops Conference, said such a policy could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.”

The Roman Catholic Church, which has some 1.3 billion members worldwide, teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are, and that children should grow up in a traditional family with a mother and a father.

“The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and states; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue,” Benedict told the diplomats.

Gay marriage is legal in a number of European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands.

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The Art Of Bathing

By Janna Payne, Geez Magazine, The privilege issue, Issue 24, Winter 2011

“Run in, grab gloves, shield your eyes, give a quick scrub and write down anything odd you observe” were the instructions the first time I bathed someone with an intellectual disability. It wasn’t good enough because I recognized myself in the tub. I realized I wouldn’t want to be bathed by a too-good-to-make-eye-contact caregiver emphasizing my role as cared-for.

As an assistant at L’Arche Daybreak, bathing holds spiritual significance, and the instructions are different. I am advised to create a welcoming atmosphere, light candles, put on classical music and adapt gentle caresses for Heather, the woman in the tub. But again, I am not satisfied when I see myself in her place. As a 6’3” 160-lb feminist who loves super-efficient showers, I know I wouldn’t want anyone making a sacrament of me, mistaking my frame for Christ’s or emphasizing the delicate/passive parts of my body without seeing my glory first.

I have wrestled with the tension between assigning too much or not enough meaning to the art of bathing while contemplating how I can provide feminist person-centered care as a part of a collective organization.

With these tensions in mind, I enter into relationship with Heather and gradually start to see her in the tub. Seeing Heather comes with an invitation to forfeit my role of meaning-maker and honour her capacity to name her own body, formulate her own experience and decide how powerful, assertive or sexy she will be.

Seeing Heather also comes with an invitation to be present—not to my lofty concepts of a generalized Other– but to Heather and the sound of her hand swishing to the time to the music, to the soothing aroma of the herbal shampoo, to the light streaming in the tinted window and, finally, to the subtle movement of her arm to the side of the tub, signalling when she is ready to get out. Signalling me to see.

Thanks be to Heather.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Geez magazine (geezmagazine.org).

Janna Payne is a Master of Divinity student and live-in assistant at L’Arche Daybreak (Richmond Hill, ON), where assistants and core members (individuals with intellectual disabilities) create home. She can be reached at jpayne1@luc.edu

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Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill. Matt Roth for The New York Times

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN | Published: December 28, 2011 | The New York Times

Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.

The bishops have followed colleagues in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts who had jettisoned their adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Tim Kee, a teacher in Marion, Ill., who was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his longtime partner, Rick Wade, tried to adopt a child, said: “We’re both Catholic, we love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. To add insult to injury, my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me.”

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Capitalism and Loneliness: Why Pornography Is a Multibillion-Dollar Industry

US women adjusted to new roles in the marketplace. Unfortunately, men did not make comparable changes. They held on to the privileges that came with men’s provider roles and women’s full-time service in the household.

29 December 2011 | by: Harriet Fraad and Tess Fraad Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed

(Photo: Dave 77459 / Flickr)

Massive social changes in the US labor force and in commerce have transformed the economy and powerfully affected personal relationships. Since 1970, we have changed from being a society of people connected in groups of every kind to a society of people who are too often disconnected, detached and alienated from one another.

One is the loneliest number, and in their personal lives, Americans are increasingly alone.

What Has Happened to Us?

In the 1970s, the American dream of 150 years duration ground to a halt. From 1820 to 1970, every US generation did better than the one that preceded it. In the 1970s, computers began to replace millions of US jobs. International communication systems became so sophisticated that factories could be moved overseas, allowing the livelihoods of more millions of Americans to be outsourced. Civil rights and feminist gains had given women and minorities access to a depleted job market. Militant left trade union movements or political parties were not there to protest. Wages flattened. Profits rose with productivity and the share distributed to the top rose, rather than being distributed in wages. Wealthy banks issued credit cards with high interest rates that allowed them to make even more money on funds formerly paid out as salaries.

Men were no longer paid a family wage. Families suffered. Women poured into the labor force to make up for lost male wages. Until this point, most women’s work was primarily labor in the home: creating domestic order and cleanliness, performing childcare, and providing social and emotional services for the family. After the 1970s, the majority of women worked outside of the home as well as within it. Now, practically all women work outside the home, currently constituting almost half of the labor force.

Before the movements for racial and gender equality, the best jobs were reserved for white males who were an overwhelming majority. Within our racist and sexist labor force, white men had what ultimately amounted to two wage bonuses: one for being white and another for being male. Beginning in the 1970s, it was no longer necessary to give financial bonuses to white men. Indeed, it was not necessary to pay higher wages to any workers in the US labor force. Workers’ salaries flattened even as they increased their efficiency. This meant that ever more profit was made and accumulated at the top.

American white men lost a good deal of the male hegemony that accompanied steady jobs and wages that could support a family. When millions of manufacturing jobs were outsourced, our economy became a service economy. Neither the greater physical strength nor the higher levels of aggression associated with males are particularly welcome in a service economy. Heterosexual personal relationships that had developed on the basis of a male provider income could not hold. Those gendered roles were sexist and limiting. However, they could have been transformed politically without economically and psychologically traumatizing the American people.

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All-American Muslim Meets an Un-American Advertising Pullout

By James Poniewozik, Time Entertainment, 12 Dec 2011

The TLC reality show All-American Muslim, which follows five families in Dearborn, Michigan, has a lot of points to make about the lives of average Muslim citizens in America, among them the lingering discrimination they face after 9/11. (Here’s my review of the show’s premiere.) Last week, hardware big-box store Lowe’s pulled its advertising from All-American Muslim under pressure–and thereby proved the show’s point.

Lowe’s pulled its ads following a protest campaign from the Florida Family Association, which objects to the show, in essence, because it portrays Muslims too positively. That is, it argues the show is “propaganda” because it portrays peaceful, ordinary Muslims without mentioning horrible things that other Muslims have done. Right: because a decade of news reports, eight seasons of 24 and constant political grandstanding have done a bang-up job of utterly ignoring Islamic extremists.

(More: Mideast Meets Midwest in All-American Muslim)

Lowe’s caved to the pressure and pulled its ads. This is repulsive. It also shouldn’t be surprising, in a country where bigots have carefully worked to establish different rules for “peaceful Muslims” than for everyone else. (And I’ll be fair to Lowe’s: it’s entirely possible that other advertisers have also silently pulled their ads–we don’t know who might have done so already and what’s just normal advertising churn–but that only Lowe’s was upfront enough to state it publicly. The FFA, at least, is claiming credit for more advertisers dropping out and Lowe’s contends that “dozens” have.)

The FFA’s specific complaints about All-American Muslim should be ludicrous on their face to anyone who has actually watched the show. I’ll take just a few from its letter to advertisers:

“The show portrayed a Roman Catholic who converted to Muslim to marry. However, there was no mention of a Muslim who attempted to convert to Christianity which has resulted in a multitude of conflicts in America and abroad.”

This is flatly false. The arc in which one of the Muslim characters married her Catholic husband noted his mother’s discomfort with the conversion, but then directly, specifically discussed the fact that her conservative Muslim parents would have had an issue with her conversion.

“Many Imams who are at the head of [the show's] prayer rituals believe strongly in Islam and Sharia law.”

Leaving aside the question of “Sharia law,” a shibboleth that anti-Muslim advocates have used to whip up suspicion against Campbell’s soup, why exactly would an imam not believe strongly in his own religion?

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Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2011/12/12/all-american-muslim-meets-an-un-american-advertising-pullout/#ixzz1gXgjHvdH

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Saudi Arabia: Women Driving Will Have Sex, Report Says

Huff Post | December 5, 2011

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A report given to a high-level advisory group in Saudi Arabia claims that allowing women in the kingdom to drive could encourage premarital sex, a rights activist said Saturday.

A Saudi woman and her son walk in a street in the mostly Shiite Qatif region of Eastern Province on November 25, 2011

The ultraconservative stance suggests increasing pressure on King Abdullah to retain the kingdom’s male-only driving rules despite international criticism.

Rights activist Waleed Abu Alkhair said the document by a well-known academic was sent to the all-male Shura Council, which advises the monarchy. The report by Kamal Subhi claims that allowing women to drive will threaten the country’s traditions of virgin brides, he said. The suggestion is that driving will allow greater mixing of genders and could promote sex.

Saudi women have staged several protests defying the driving ban. The king has already promised some reforms, including allowing women to vote in municipal elections in 2015.

There was no official criticism or commentary on the scholar’s views, and it was unclear whether they were solicited by the Shura Council or submitted independently. But social media sites were flooded with speculation that Saudi’s traditional-minded clerics and others will fight hard against social changes suggested by the 87-year-old Abdullah.

Saudi’s ruling family, which oversees Islam’s holiest sites, draws its legitimacy from the backing of the kingdom’s religious establishment, which follows a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. While Abdullah has pushed for some changes on women’s rights, he is cautious not to push too hard against the clerics.

In October, Saudi Arabia named a new heir to the throne, Prince Nayef, who is a former interior minister and considered to hold traditionalist views, although he had led crackdowns against suspected Islamic extremists. His selection appeared to embolden the ultraconservative clerics to challenge any sweeping social reforms.

Prince Nayef was picked following the death of Crown Prince Sultan.

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Kentucky church votes to ban interracial couples

Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church votes on resolution that says the church ‘does not condone interracial marriage’

Associated Press | guardian.co.uk, | 1 December 2011

A tiny church in rural Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from joining its congregation, pitting members against each other in an argument over race.

Members at the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Kentucky voted on Sunday on the resolution, which says the church “does not condone interracial marriage”.

The church member who crafted the resolution, Melvin Thompson, said he is not racist and called the matter an “internal affair”.

“I am not racist. I will tell you that. I am not prejudiced against any race of people, have never in my lifetime spoke evil about a race,” said Thompson, the church’s former pastor who stepped down earlier this year.

“That’s what this is being portrayed as, but it is not.”

Dean Harville, the church’s secretary, disagreed – he said the resolution came after his daughter visited the church this summer with her boyfriend from Africa.

Stella Harville and Ticha Chikuni, now her fiancé, visited the church in June and Chikuni sang a song for the congregation. The two had visited the church before.

Harville said he was counting the church offering after a service in August when he was approached by Thompson, who told him Harville’s daughter and her boyfriend were no longer allowed to sing at the church.

“If he’s not racist, what is this?” Harville said.

The vote by members last Sunday was nine to six, Harville said. It was taken after the service, which about 35 to 40 people attended. Harville said many people left or declined to vote.

The resolution says anyone is welcome to attend services, but interracial couples could not become members or be “used in worship services or other church functions”.

Stella Harville, a 24-year-old graduate student at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, called the vote “hurtful”.

“I think part of me is still in shock and trying to process what’s been going on the past few days,” she said. “I really hope they overturn this.”

The church’s pastor, Stacy Stepp, said on Wednesday he was against the resolution. Stepp said the denomination’s regional conference will begin working on resolving the issue this weekend.

The National Association of Free Will Baptists in Tennessee has no official position on interracial marriage for its 2,400 churches worldwide, executive secretary Keith Burden said. The denomination believes the Bible is inerrant and local churches have autonomy over decision making.

“It’s been a non-issue with us,” Burden said, adding that many interracial couples attend Free Will Baptist churches. He said the Pike County church acted on its own. Burden said the association can move to strip the local church of its affiliation with the national denomination if it’s not resolved.

“Hopefully it is corrected quickly,” Burden said.

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Supreme Court asked to hear end-of-life case

geisinger.org

lisa priest | Nov. 29, 2011 | Globe and Mail

For 13 months, Hassan Rasouli has been in a critical care unit at a Toronto hospital, where machines do all the things his body cannot: breathe, feed and hydrate him.

The 60-year-old is in a permanent vegetative state, utterly unaware he is in the middle of a divisive debate that could reshape the way decisions are made in Canadian hospitals on when to remove patients from life support.

Two doctors at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre are now asking the Supreme Court of Canada to hear their case; they see no medical purpose in keeping Mr. Rasouli on life support and propose shifting him to palliative care – but his family disagrees.

Although the country’s highest court has yet to decide whether it will hear the case, it is being watched by physicians, lawyers and health-care leaders as this ethical dilemma is expected to arise frequently as the population ages. If the court declines to hear the appeal, there will be no national guidance when families fight with physicians in hospitals and courtrooms over end-of-life issues.

“This debate could make the abortion debate look like a walk in the park,” said Mark Handelman, a lawyer for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, an intervenor in the appeal. “As a country, we need to have these debates. But how are we going to do that when nobody wants to talk about it?”

At issue is whether extraordinary medical interventions save lives or merely prolong the dying process. Mr. Rasouli’s wife, Parichehr Salasel, believes it’s the former, saying her husband’s health has improved. She says he can hold up fingers and stick out his tongue on demand, and she has even posted photographs of him doing so on a Facebook page.

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Mintz: Fighting for fairness under the rainbow

A vanilla-chocolate cake with a lollipop and a chocolate cross.

By Corey Mintz, The Star, Nov 10 2011

Poor Leanne Iskander. As if it weren’t enough that she had to battle her school board to recognize her legal rights, now she has to sit at a dinner table with a bunch of grownups.

In March, the St. Joseph Secondary School student went to start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). “We just wanted a place to meet,” she says, her voice almost muffled from a very large sweater. “And it would be nice to have friends who’ve gone through the same kinds of things.”

Though Ontario’s Ministry of Education advocates GSAs as an effective tool against bullying, her Mississauga catholic school told her it wasn’t allowed. Undaunted, the 16-year-old fought back, raising enough ruckus that her school eventually compromised, allowing her to form an LGTBQ support group, so long as there was nothing lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer or questioning in the name. And no rainbows either.

I’m from North York. Back home we’ve got a saying: Don’t serve me spaghetti with meatballs and tell me it’s linguini with clams.

When Iskander leaves for university next year, the group’s name, Open Arms, will not be much of a beacon to Grade 9 students, who could easily confuse it with a karate club or Narcotics Anonymous group.

I’d read a lot about Iskander, that she was a hero, a leader. And she is that, for standing up to a system of bigotry, the type that breeds intolerance and bullying. “There’s definitely less bullying,” she says, “now that we have a group.”

But the Iskander at the dinner table is a laconic teenager. She’s a quiet, shy young lady, hair crossed over downcast eyes, never offering a full sentence when a one-word answer will suffice.

She’s flanked by those who would lionize her: Casey Oraa (an activist who helped her organize), Noa Mendelsohn Aviv (a lawyer who assisted with legal advice) and Andrea Houston (a reporter for Xtra, who has been covering this story from the start).

Now, I don’t want to generalize, but I will. The more leftwing the guests, the more likely it is that we’re eating vegetarian. So the first course is Brussels sprouts, fried with potatoes and fennel, sauced with Dijon and cilantro aioli. I feel good that my healthy (ish) workday meals are making their way onto the Fed menu.

Once everyone has some food in their bellies, they try to explain to me how this type of discrimination is allowed in Canada, in the 21st century.

“These schools are answering to the bishops,” rasps Aviv, her voice lost to a cold. “The Ministry’s in there somewhere.” That would be the Ministry of Education, which sets policy that is supposed to be followed by all Ontario schools. “It seems fairly clear that there was an unwritten ban across the province. Unfortunately for them and fortunate enough for us, that they went so far as to ban it on paper.”

Halton Catholic District School Board chair Alice Anne LeMay went further, explaining that they would also not allow Nazi groups. She later apologized.

The provincial government took no action.

“They’re abdicating their responsibility,” says an emphatic Oraa. Everything he says is emphatic. “Because they’ve created this policy, specifically the one for GSAs.”

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Politicians of all stripes refuse to act on calls to legalize assisted suicide

Canada's Justice Minister Rob Nicholson speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 7, 2011.

erin anderssen AND anna mehler paperny, Globe and Mail, Nov. 15, 2011

A call for Canada to legalize assisted suicide has thrust back onto the agenda a divisive and emotionally complex issue that no politician wants to touch.

For once, the federal Conservatives, NDP and Liberals are on the same page: When it comes to Canadians’ right to die, they won’t go there.

That leaves families and a small group of advocates with no recourse but to ask the provinces for discretion when it comes to prosecuting these cases.

The Royal Society of Canada’s report, released Tuesday, argues that it’s unconscionable to make it a crime to help tormented people end their lives. Canadians need compassion and clarity when it comes to legislation that governs what is permissible when a person wants to die, the expert panel recommended.

The report calls for a system modelled after countries such as the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, in which patients may request assisted suicide or euthanasia when a doctor has determined they are competent to make the decision, and have done so voluntarily.

But despite the ambitious proposals, there are no signs Ottawa wants to have a debate.

“We have no plans to propose any reforms to this area of the law,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said. And the opposition echoed that reluctance: “We don’t want to go down that road,” NDP MP Jack Harris said.

The panel contends that the need to change Canada’s euthanasia law is so urgent that provinces should take matters into their own hands, by instructing prosecutors when not to pursue charges in cases of compassionate killing.

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Domenick Scudera: My Gay Lifestyle


November 1, 2011

I live the gay lifestyle, the gay lifestyle that is often mentioned by some Republican candidates for president. For those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle, this is a typical day:

7:00 a.m. I wake up, and just as I have done every morning since puberty, I choose to be gay today. This will come as a great relief to my gay, homosexual, male lover who lies beside me. Because being gay is a choice, our relationship is a gamble day to day. Even though we have both chosen to remain gay and to be together every day for the past 16 years, we never take anything for granted. One of us just might throw in the towel one day and give up the lifestyle.

7:30 a.m. I take a gay shower and let the gay water rinse off my gay body.

8:00 a.m. I have a gay breakfast of cereal with milk, and a good, strong, gay cup of coffee. I am fortified for another day of ruining the fabric of American society.

9:00 a.m. I start my morning shift as a gay hospital volunteer. The hospital is not gay, just me. The patients are mostly normal people. But it is OK. The hospital has a rule that all volunteers must sanitize their hands before meeting with patients. This is to avoid spreading germs, but I think that hand sanitizer is also effective in stopping the transfer of my gayness to other people.

12:00 p.m. I return home, eat a gay lunch and take my gay dogs for a walk. Well, I am not sure if the dogs are actually gay. I have heard it said that homosexuality does not exist in the animal kingdom because it is not natural, so chances are that the dogs are not gay. But because they live with me and my gay, homosexual, male lover, they are perceived by others to be gay. I would feel bad about this, but the fact is that I need these dogs. They are the closest that I will ever come to having actual children, because, as everyone knows, gays should not (and cannot) have children. I push this out of my mind as I walk the dogs gaily through the neighborhood.

1:00 p.m. I teach classes at a small, prestigious, liberal arts college. I am a gay college professor. The college is not gay, just me. But some may view the college as way too liberal, because “sexual orientation” is listed within the college’s anti-discrimination policy. This basically means that the college turns a blind eye as I infect the impressionable students with my gayness on a daily basis. I do not teach anything particularly gay in my classes. I am a theater professor, which, for all intents and purposes, is gay to most people, anyway.

6:00 p.m. My gay, homosexual, male lover returns home from his job. Luckily, he has chosen to be gay today, too, so we can sit down and have a nice, relaxing gay dinner together. We are aware that our relationship is ripping at the seams of our heterosexual neighbors’ marriages, but we choose to ignore this. If we were normal people, the guilt might weigh on us heavily, but we are gay, after all, so we do not have consciences. We eat in peace.

8:00 p.m. We go gay bowling at our Suburban Gay Bowling League. There are quite a lot of us homosexuals who gather each week to bowl at our local bowling alley. This makes the normal suburban bowlers uncomfortable, but we do not care. Some of them are openly hostile to us. The more polite ones just stare at us. It makes us feel like we are caged, exotic animals in a zoo. But we count ourselves lucky because the alley owners have sold out. They allow us to bowl here because they are desirous of our ample, disposable gay income. Ah, the almighty dollar! The owners show mercy on the normal suburbanites, though, by putting a buffer zone of two vacant lanes between our gay league and them. We are respectful of this line, which we call the “edge of gayness,” and do not cross it. We try to tone down our gaiety and frivolity by focusing intently on our bowling. The normal suburbanites never venture past their side of the line, either, because it would be unimaginable to them to interact with us.

11:00 p.m. My gay, homosexual, male lover and I collapse from the weariness of the gay lifestyle we have been living today. All of this subversive loving, volunteering, working, eating, playing and socializing is exhausting. Some say the gay lifestyle is self-enslavement, but we just cannot think about that now. Before we fall asleep, we each take out our personal, leather-bound copies of The Gay Agenda. The Gay Agenda is our Bible. We do not look at the real Bible because we are gay and therefore have no religion or morality. We read and strategize how we can best destroy American society tomorrow. Sharing a good, hardy, gay laugh, we each fall into a sound, gay sleep.

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Dying woman challenges Canada’s assisted-suicide law

Gloria Taylor Canadian Press file photo

Keven Drews | Nov 13 2011 | The Spec.Com

VANCOUVER It’s been nearly 20 years since Canada’s laws on assisted suicide have been challenged by a terminally ill person, and now a similar right-to-die case has thrust the issue back into the spotlight.

On Monday, lawyers for Gloria Taylor, 63, will be in B.C. Supreme Court to argue against laws that make it a criminal offence to help seriously ill people end their lives.

In August, the Farewell Foundation lost its court battle to have the laws changed because its plaintiffs were anonymous, but in a separate case, Judge Lynn Smith agreed to fast track a trial for Taylor, who wants a doctor-assisted suicide.

She suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, an incurable illness that gradually weakens and degenerates muscles to the point of paralysis.

Taylor is one of five plaintiffs in the case, which also includes family physician Dr. William Shoichet, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Lee Carter and her husband, Hollis Johnson. The couple took Carter’s mother to Switzerland two years ago so she could die with the help of a doctor.

“Lee and Hollis feel they could be criminally prosecuted for assisting her mother and that’s why they are challenging the laws,” said B.C. Civil Liberties lawyer Grace Pastine, adding Kay Carter suffered from spinal stenosis, which involves a narrowing of the spine.

“She was essentially going to end up lying in a hospital bed, flat like an ironing board.”

While advocates for doctor-assisted suicide say it’s time for Canada to amend the laws, opponents argue the issue raises serious concerns about abuse by people who stand to gain from the death of someone who may not be in a position to provide consent to assisted suicide.

The right-to-die, or euthanasia, debate last arose in 1993 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-4 against Victoria resident Sue Rodriguez’s battle to change the law. She also had ALS and died illegally the following year with the help of an anonymous doctor.

Sheila Tucker, one of the lawyers involved in Taylor’s case, said the Kelowna, B.C., woman is relatively mobile and uses a scooter to get around, but recently fell and hurt her ribs, and that could worsen her condition.

Tucker said that since the Rodriguez case, other jurisdictions, including Oregon, Washington and Belgium, have adopted laws to protect people from being influenced or pushed into planning their own deaths.

“An absolute prohibition is no longer constitutionally feasible now that there’s evidence of workable systems,” Tucker said.

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18 Arrested in Wisconsin Assembly for Using Cameras; Guns Still Allowed

By Brendan Fischer, PR Watch, 04 November 11

The first arrest of 18 protesters holding cameras in the Wisconsin Assembly gallery. (photo: Kristian Knutsen

Eighteen people were arrested Tuesday for using cameras in the Wisconsin Assembly gallery, including the editor of The Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild.

Rothschild and others had gone to the capitol to protest a series of arrests in recent weeks of individuals who carried signs or took photos or video in defiance of an Assembly ban.

“We ought to have a right to take a picture,” Rothschild said.

Guns, Yes. Cameras, No.

The protest was organized through a Facebook event called “Concealed Camera Day at the Capitol!” The event coincided with the implementation of Wisconsin’s new concealed carry law, which allows residents to carry a concealed firearm – including inside the Assembly gallery.

Stephen Colbert said Governor Walker was bringing “a new freedom to America’s dairyland” with the concealed carry law, but said people would not see “images of gunfire in the statehouse” because of the camera ban. “Thank God. Cameras are dangerous,” he said.

On the agenda in Tuesday’s session was a bill to institute the Castle Doctrine, a “shoot first, ask questions later” bill that gives a person immunity from civil and criminal liability if they shoot another in self defense in their home, work, or vehicle.

Event organizers were clear that the protests were not about the gun laws, but instead about protecting First Amendment rights.

But Is It Legal?

The Open Meetings law includes this provision (§19.90):>

“Use of equipment in open session. Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.”

The statute also contains this provision (§ 19.87(2)):

“No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.”

The legal issue here appears similar to the one that arose in the challenge to Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law. In that case, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleged that the union-busting law should be struck down because it was passed in violation of another provision of the Open Meetings law requiring notice. In part, Ozanne’s challenge failed because the legislature had passed a rule that trumped the Open Meetings law.

Likewise, here the Assembly had a rule banning cameras and video, but under the court’s ruling in the Ozanne suit, that rule trumped the Open Meetings law permitting their use.

Despite this, both the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions have provisions protecting the right to free speech, free assembly, and a free press. “The gallery is a free speech area,” says attorney Jim Mueller, who was ticketed in October for violating the Assembly rule. “Even if there are rules against signs, they’re unconstitutional. It is our right to peaceably assemble and petition the government.”

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Religion And Discipline: Report Explores Punishing Children In The Name Of Religion

Posted: 10/26/11 | Huff Post

Debates have long stemmed from the question: how far is too far when it comes to punishing children? Discipline is necessary, but according to recent reports, some parents “beat” their children while claiming it’s God’s will.

A story on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ explored several incidents of abuse and in some cases, death, that have ties to parents who believed religious writings told them it was OK to discipline their children in that fashion. (Watch video above.)

Last month, Larry and Carri Williams were arrested and charged with homicide by abuse in Washington after their adopted daughter Hana was found naked and unconscious in the family’s yard and pronounced dead at the hospital, the Skagit Vallery Herald reports.

Hana, 13, showed signs of physical abuse and malnutrition, which were thought to have contributed to her death. Court documents indicated that the parents used to lock Hana in a closet and “played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside,” KOMO explains.

The couple, who are parents to seven other children, reportedly followed advice from controversial book, “To Train Up A Child,” which indicates it’s acceptable to spank children with objects, leave them outdoors in the cold, and withhold food as forms of punishment, KOMO reports. The book, written by evangelist Micheal Pearl and his wife Debi, reportedly encourages the use of objects to spank children. Prosecutors said the couple used a flexible plumbing tube, the Toronto Sun points out.

First published in 1994, “To Train Up A Child” was thought have played an indirect role in Hana’s death and at least two others’. Author Michael Pearl insists the writings “[adhere] to Biblical teachings,” the Toronto Sun reports.

However, the book’s introduction states its contents are not about discipline, but rather about the “training of a child before the need to discipline arises.” Upon news of Hana’s death, Pearl gave his condolences, and in an effort to clarify his teachings, he pointed to a passage in his book that states “Train up – not beat up,” the Toronto Sun reports. He wrote: “There are always some who act in the extreme,” according to the Toronto Sun.

In 2006, a Florida father was charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect of a child after police found a 12-year-old girl begging for money outside a Walgreen’s. The girl told police she ran away from home because she was beaten as a form of punishment for several incidences, including for “not accepting Jesus into her heart,” a report by the Sun Sentinel recounts. The father reportedly told police “it is stated in the Bible that it is OK to spank your children.”

Not all Christians agree. In a phone interview with The Huffington Post, Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Senior Pastor of Middle Collegiate Church insisted that scripture points towards God’s love for children: “Jesus said: ‘Bring the children to me.’ Children are our most precious assets and we should use our words, not our hands to shape their behavior.” Likewise, Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, a pastor and a mother said in an email to The Huffington Post: “Someone who uses violence against the vulnerable in the name of a loving God is in grave error.”

The CNN report indicates that polls show that a majority of Americans support spanking as a form of punishment, but it’s crucial to note that most don’t “bloody” or “seriously hurt” their children. According to the story, district attorneys from across the country say that cases involving abuse in the name of religion are fairly common.

Watch video…

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Redford open to revisit rights issue in schools

Alison Redford will review a provision that requires parents to be notified when sex or religion is discussed in school classrooms,


Bill 44 lets kids ‘opt-out’ of classrooms

By Kelly Cryderman, Calgary Herald October 6, 2011

Alberta’s next premier delved into the thorny issue of human rights law on Wednesday, with Alison Redford saying she will review a provision that requires parents to be notified when sex or religion is discussed in school classrooms, and a section that has been criticized for censoring free speech.

The issue came up during a Herald live online chat with Redford, when a reader asked about Bill 44, saying a parental notification requirement has put a chill on addressing issues of “sexual orientation” in the classroom.

Bill 44 changed Alberta’s Human Rights Act to require schools to notify parents when topics such as sexual orientation, religion or human sexuality are taught in class. Parents can then make the decision for their child to opt-out.

“Given the high rates of gay teen suicide and our recognition for the need to tell them ‘It Gets Better’ through a social media campaign, would you support scrapping that section of the Human Rights Act?” reader Nancy asked the premier designate.

Redford said she would be taking another look at that provision, along with Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

“I know that there was real concern on this issue at the time – we will be taking a look at where we are,” Redford said. “It concerns me that we could have kids in school who are not getting the info and support that they need to have to live healthy lives.”

The provision that calls for parental notification has support among parents who believe they should have the clear and final say on what their children hear on sensitive issues. However, Philippe Rabot, director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, said his office has received “zero” complaints from parents on the notification provision.

“If this was ever to come up, most school boards would have a process to deal with this,” Rabot said.

Alberta Liberal deputy leader Kent Hehr, who represents Calgary-Buffalo, is pleased Redford is taking a second look at the legislation.

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Court to rule on legality of Israeli ultra-Orthodox ‘Taliban sect’

Decision follows what appears to be the conclusion of an international family drama involving two sisters from Beit Shemesh who belong to the Taliban sect.

Oz Rosenberg | October 5, 2011 | Haaretz

The 'Taliban sisters' arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport earlier this week. Photo by: Nir Keidar

In a precedent-setting move, an Israeli court is expected to decide next week whether it is legal to belong to the extreme ultra-Orthodox group Lev Tahor, known as “the Taliban sect.” A decision reached this week by a family court in Rishon Letzion indicates that a ruling on Lev Tahor’s legality is imminent.

The decision follows what appears to be the conclusion of an international family drama involving two sisters from Beit Shemesh who belong to the Taliban sect. The two were forcibly returned to Israel on Sunday under an order issued by the court. The sisters, 13 and 15, were en route to a Lev Tahor village located on the outskirts of Montreal, Canada.

The brother of the sister’s grandmother petitioned for the writ; the great-uncle was concerned that the girls might be harmed living in the Canadian community.

The Lev Tahor community is a cult, he contended; should the girls enter it, they would be stripped of all their property, he wrote, and they would be compelled to wed male members of the cult, which is an accepted practice among all young women in the group.

The Israeli court upheld the petition, finding that “there is some defect in the parents’ perception of ways of life.”

Judge Rivka Makayes ruled that the writ will remain in effect until next week, at which time a family court in Jerusalem will hold a hearing to decide whether the pious lifestyle upheld by the parents is marred by such a defect.

The Jerusalem court’s ruling will have implications for all members of the Taliban sect in Israel. Should the court find that it is illegal to belong to the community, social welfare agencies will be able to take immediate steps to remove children from the control of parents who are affiliated with Lev Tahor.

Bringing the Beit Shemesh sisters back to Israel was an international operation, involving the foreign ministry and Interpol. The goal of the operation was to stop the pair from entering the ultra-Orthodox community in Canada.

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Why poverty isn’t on the agenda

Emma Reilly | Tue Sep 27 2011 | Thespec.com

poverty More than 40% of the children in this Hamilton neighbourhood live below the poverty level. It also has a voter turnout of 16%.

More than 1.7 million Ontarians live below the poverty line; 89,000 of them live in Hamilton.

But that population hasn’t been getting the attention of the three major party leaders leading up to next week’s provincial election.

It’s the middle class — not people in poverty — who are the focus of the dialogue along the campaign trail, say social planners and anti-poverty advocates.

“I think that the parties have chosen to focus on middle class issues of affordability and taxes, which really neglects the fact that there is a growing number of people who are falling out of the middle class into the poverty line,” said Peter Clutterbuck, a community planning consultant with the Social Planning Network of Ontario.

According to 2009 results from Statistics Canada — the most recent figures available — Ontario’s poverty rate has gotten worse since the 2007 election. At that time, 11.2 per cent of households in the province lived in poverty. The latest numbers show the province’s poverty rate sits at 13.3 per cent.

Despite these increases, politicians are setting their sights squarely on “working families,” rather than Ontario’s poor. The reason, Clutterbuck says, is because those living in poverty are often seen as non-voters — and therefore don’t often hold the political clout of higher-income voters.

“We think that this population is perceived as not being a politically strong constituency,” Clutterbuck said. “I think the parties think the Ontario electorate is only concerned about its own family costs.”

The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction is hoping to generate more local dialogue about poverty by asking Hamilton’s candidates to declare their support for social assistance reform on Twitter.

The Roundtable is asking candidates to tweet “If elected, I will work to reform social assistance in Ontario” by Thursday, exactly a week before the election. On Monday, the day the challenge was issued, three NDP candidates — including leader and Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath — one Green, and one Family Coalition candidate accepted.

Social assistance reform is one of the most pressing issues for the Roundtable, said director Tom Cooper. Due to social assistance cuts in the ’90s and increases at or below cost of living, social assistance rates are 41 per cent less than they were 15 years ago (if inflation is taken into account).

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Rupture With Vatican Reveals a Changed Ireland

By SARAH LYALL | September 18, 2011 | The New York Times

Julien Behal/Press Association
In July, the Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, after an Irish report criticized the Vatican over sexual abuse.

DUBLIN — Even as it remains preoccupied with its struggling economy, Ireland is in the midst of a profound transformation, as rapid as it is revolutionary: it is recalibrating its relationship to the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has permeated almost every aspect of life here for generations.

This is still a country where abortion is against the law, where divorce became legal only in 1995, where the church runs more than 90 percent of the primary schools and where 87 percent of the population identifies itself as Catholic. But the awe, respect and fear the Vatican once commanded have given way to something new — rage, disgust and defiance — after a long series of horrific revelations about decades of abuse of children entrusted to the church’s care by a reverential populace.

While similar disclosures have tarnished the Vatican’s image in other countries, perhaps nowhere have they shaken a whole society so thoroughly or so intensely as in Ireland. And so when the normally mild-mannered prime minister, Enda Kenny, unexpectedly took the floor in Parliament this summer to criticize the church, he was giving voice not just to his own pent-up feelings, but to those of a nation.

His remarks were a ringing declaration of the supremacy of state over church, in words of outrage and indignation that had never before been used publicly by an Irish leader.

“For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry into a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” Mr. Kenny said, referring to the Cloyne Report, which detailed abuse and cover-ups by church officials in southern Ireland through 2009.

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It’s a Long Way from Bunker Hill

By Michael Moore, 16 Sept 2011

Last night, on the 3rd anniversary of the start of the Wall Street Heist of 2008, I spoke at Bunker Hill Community College in the Charlestown section of Boston. It is not, to say the least, a wealthy neighborhood. It is roughscrabble and working class, a place where there are few magic doors that open to the Promised Land. (If you saw Ben Affleck’s movie, “The Town,” or the exceptional Broadway play this year, “Good People,” then you have an idea of what the area is like.)

The college is, of course, named after one of the first battles of the American Revolution. And Charlestown looks like it could use a new Revolution these days. They, like so many millions in so many towns, have been sealed into a lockout of the American Dream. It is sad and scary to wander through it.

As I waited backstage for the college administrator to introduce me, he launched into something I, in all my years of speaking at hundreds of American colleges, have never witnessed. He began begging the crowd for money. Money for their student body’s “Emergency Fund.” The student body consists of many who are single parents and live below the poverty line. He didn’t ask for tuition money or money for books. He begged the crowd for gas money. Babysitting money. Money to fix a car that’s broken down, or for electricity that’s been turned off. He listed all the things that cause a student to miss a class — or drop out. Students (79% of them) who work near-minimum wage jobs AND try to be full time students at the same time. Community college is the only escape hatch they have, and even that is a crap shoot in this 21st century kleptocracy we live in.

He then told the crowd that he would hand out some envelopes and he asked them to put whatever they could in them.

Welcome to America! Where schools are turned into beggars as the rich on the other side of town post record profits and bonuses and the top corporations get away with paying no tax at all. I took the stage and began a 20 minute howl rejecting the America I just witnessed. A country that puts the education of its young dead last. DEAD LAST. A country that has purposefully abandoned the human right to an education in favor of sending millions of ignorant, uneducated, lost young people out into this world. This is no accident. Those in power cannot stay in power UNLESS the population they rule over are stupid and ignorant. To be smart is dangerous — and they know that. If the ignorant were to know anything about civics (no longer taught in most schools), that could be nothing short of explosive. Because, if you are taught how to have a say, how to fight city hall, how to run for office and WIN — well, look out, ’cause you will then have democratic change. The people who would make up a smart, educated majority would then start calling the shots. And we certainly don’t want that because you know what those people from south Boston, from Toledo, from Pittsburgh, from Raleigh, from Flint are going to do? They’re going to stop the wars. They’re going to spend the money on their kids’ schools, on their parents’ health care, on laying down some railroad tracks so they can get from Chicago to Milwaukee in a half hour. That and dozens of other things that benefit the many, not the few.

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Which Ontario Candidate Will Dare Address Separate School Funding?

Alexandre Brassard, Ph.D, Director of Research, Glendon Campus, York University and co-ordinator, Centre for Global Challenges

The Huffington Post – Canada, Sept 15, 2011

Going back to school couldn’t be more complicated

If you have kids, I don’t have to tell you that back-to-school season is upon us. You’ve already spent a month’s salary on must-have supplies and fashions for your little angels. You’ve met with teachers, visited classrooms, and made your way through the maze of registration.

But if you live in Ontario, that maze is especially confusing. Which school board will you pick for your child? French public, French Catholic, English public or English Catholic?

You read correctly — Ontario ratepayers fund four separate school systems. And as you can imagine, this fragmentation creates some serious management issues. All that duplication costs close to $500 million a year.

It’s not just about the cost — this set-up leads to absurd scenarios. For instance, when the number of children goes down in smaller communities, public and Catholic schools both suffer drops in numbers. But instead of putting students together under one roof, school boards are instead forced to close the local schools. In the end, it’s the kids who suffer the consequences. They get separated from their neighbourhood friends, and are forced to endure long daily bus rides to schools far from their home community.

A violation of equality and freedom of conscience

I’m not saying we should have just one system. French-language education is essential for the survival of the Francophone minority. It is a central element of Canada’s founding pact, and came about after a long and historic struggle by Franco-Ontarians. But religious segregation is simply not necessary — you don’t have to go to school to learn the Ten Commandments. The majority of parents in Western countries transmit their faith in private.

In fact, there are many good reasons to phase out denominational schools in Ontario. Why are we funding Catholics but ignoring Muslims, Jews and Protestants? The system is inherently discriminatory. It also attacks the freedom of conscience of seven million non-Catholics, forcing them to subsidize the Vatican’s teachings while denying them the opportunity to work in Catholic schools.

The United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights has twice denounced this injustice, declaring that the Ontario school system violates the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We now find ourselves in the same club as North Korea, Sudan and China.

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Get Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries

By Suzanne Moore, Guardian UK, 03 September 11

It’s the same old game. Get your rosaries off my ovaries, as we used to say. For all the liberal language, independent counseling is just an underhanded anti-abortion tactic.

Back to the 50s. Imelda Staunton plays an abortionist in the film 'Vera Drake.' (photo: Momentum Pictures/PA)

I do remember leaving the party very fast. I must have been about 11 and in a haze, looking through magazines while the women ooohed and aaahed over plastic boxes. God knows why my mum had made me go to a Tupperware party with her. In no shape or form did it resemble a party – it was just full of boring neighbours feigning huge enthusiasm for salad spinners. Nonetheless I felt the atmosphere change suddenly as the plastic lids were snapped back on the boxes. The women were no longer talking about the storage of leftovers but about getting “rid” of things. And “the right thing to do.” It was tense. My mum, menthol cigarette in a holder – an affectation she had picked up in the States – got to her feet and said: “Christ, you really don’t know what you are talking about. If it wasn’t for abortion I’d have a football team by now.”

In a blur, we knocked over mountains of sandwich containers as we were given our coats. Safe to say we never went to any more Tupperware parties. I thought at the time that it was because we were too good. I now see it’s because we were too bad.

On the way home she told me what it was like getting pregnant in the glorious 50s, years before she had me. Sitting in the bath, drinking quinine from the chemist she worked in then, eventually scraping together the money to go to London. There, in a small room, another woman clipped the neck of her cervix and told her to “just go.”

She collapsed bleeding in the toilets of Liverpool Street station. That’s where she miscarried or aborted the foetus, or the baby, or whatever you wish to call it. I am not squeamish about these words. I have no desire to reduce every abortion to a meaningless bunch of cells or cytoblasts as some feel compelled to do.

I know what having an abortion is like myself so I could make a terrible joke about it running in the family. Actually, my point is that abortion is a very common experience. Nor am I trying to suggest that the proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill concerning counseling mean a return to these dark old days. The reason I am telling you all this is because I admired my mother’s refusal to be ashamed of her own experience. Now this new breed of anti-abortionists snip round the edges of the process with their strategies of delay … er, sorry, “independent counseling.” But beware their language of care. This is not about care but about control. This control absolutely depends on shame: sexual shame. This shame keeps us quiet. Shame keeps us locked into individual guilt. Shame even makes us stupidly grateful that we are allowed to have any choice at all.

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Rich Guy “Deeply Resents” Helping Pay for Democracy

Wednesday 24 August 2011
by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future | Report

Hey here’s a real dog bites man story for you: a really, really rich guy says to readers of billionaire Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal that he “deeply resents” paying taxes and whines about how the government does things he doesn’t like. This in response to Warren Buffet’s call to ask billionaires to at least pay as much in taxes as their secretaries. Seriously, it wasn’t in The Onion.

Let’s set the stage. Thanks to the “trickle down” policies of Reagan and Bush all the income gains in recent decades have gone to the top few. One in seven Americans and 25% of our children now live in poverty. (43% of our children are “at risk.”) The average family income for “the bottom” 90% of us is $31,244, while the average income of the top .01% is over $27 MILLION. Per year, each year. The average income of the richest 400 Americans was $227.4 million — and those 400 hold more wealth than the “bottom” 50% of Americans combined. Etc., etc. (I don’t have to write about how many are unemployed, do it?)

So with those statistics as background, former American Express CEO Harvey Golub wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, responding to Warren Buffet’s call for the rich to start paying taxes again.

Mr. Golub writes,

I deeply resent that President Obama has decided that I don’t need all the money I’ve not paid in taxes over the years, or that I should leave less for my children and grandchildren and give more to him to spend as he thinks fit.

… After all, I did earn it.

Now there’s attitude! Never mind that someone who reached the high position of CEO of America Express doesn’t even seem to understand the system well enough to know that the President doesn’t spend tax dollars “as he thinks fit.” In America We, the People (used to) decide how best to spend our tax dollars, for the benefit of We, the People.

Golub gets to the heart of his complaint, government services like post offices where “no one lives”:

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Same-sex marriage legalised in New York state as hundreds wed

Fifth and largest US state so far to pass law, but same-sex marriages still not recognised by national government

Dominic Rushe in New York, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 24 July 2011

In New York's first legal same-sex marriage, Kitty Lambert, right, weds Cheryle Rudd at Niagara Falls. Photograph: David Duprey/AP

Just past midnight on Sunday at Niagara Falls in New York, Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the state.

The couple were among hundreds of gays and lesbians married on Sunday as a new law allowing same-sex marriages in New York came into effect. Lambert, 54, and Rudd, 53, were married before more than 100 friends and family members in front of the famous water falls.

Lambert and Rudd have been together 12 years and met in Arizona after divorcing their respective husbands. The women have five children and 12 grandchildren between them. “We’re finally getting the same rights as everyone else,” Rudd told Associated Press. “Nobody can take that away from us anymore.”

In New York city 823 same sex couples were granted licences to wed on Sunday. Phyllis Siegal, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, were the first same-sex couple to become legally married in the city. The couple live in Chelsea and have been together for 23 years.

Couples began lining up at the entry to the Manhattan City Clerk’s Office in New York at 4:30 am and a crowd gathered to cheer the newlyweds as they left the building.

City Council speaker Christine Quinn, who is gay, told reporters: “They’re here in the most amazing of moments, where their hometown and their state are saying that their family matters, that their family is just as good as everybody else’s. And part of the law that in words said they were less than other people, which wasn’t true, is now gone.”

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg officiated at the marriage between his consumer affairs commissioner Jonathan Mintz, and his chief policy adviser John Feinblatt Sunday afternoon at Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence. The mayor has been an outspoken champion of same-sex marriage rights.

New York is the largest state so far to legalize same-sex marriage. Six other states including Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont already recognise gay marriages. Gay rights activists are pushing for New York neighbour New Jersey to recognise gay weddings. But most US states have brought in laws or constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriages are not recognised at the national level by the US government.

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New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and MICHAEL BARBARO | June 25, 2011 | The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a same-sex marriage bill into law late Friday in his office at the State Capitol. - Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

ALBANY — Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.

Passage of same-sex marriage here followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. Just five states currently permit same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.

At around 10:30 p.m., moments after the vote was announced, Mr. Cuomo strode onto the Senate floor to wave at cheering supporters who had crowded into the galleries to watch. Trailed by two of his daughters, the governor greeted lawmakers, and paused to single out those Republicans who had defied the majority of their party to support the marriage bill.

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Mayor Ford won’t march in Toronto Pride parade

June 22, 2011 | CBC News

image - montrealsimon.blogspot.com

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he will not be marching in this July’s Pride parade because it conflicts with long-standing plans to spend that time at his family cottage.

“I’m going up north … I’m going to be up at the cottage,” said Ford on Wednesday when asked by a reporter if he would be attending the parade.

Ford told reporters on Wednesday that as much as it’s been a tradition for the mayor to march in the parade, it’s been a Ford family tradition to head up to the cottage in Huntsville on Canada Day.

“Since I [was] a little boy we always used to go up north to our cottage and I’m carrying on the tradition that my father had,” he said, adding he went to the cottage last year during the municipal election campaign.

The Toronto Pride Parade will be held on July 3 and is the culmination of the city’s well-known Pride Week, a 10-day festival celebrating sexual diversity in downtown Toronto.

Former Mayor David Miller and his predecessor Mel Lastman both attended the parade.

Coun. Krystyn Wong-Tam personally invited Ford to the parade, offering to have him participate as a member of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians). She told CBC News she was disappointed he will not attend.

“There is a message being sent that you are mayor of certain types of people and not everyone is welcome to Rob Ford’s City Hall,” she said.

Coun. Janet Davis called Ford’s decision an “appalling embarrassment.”

“By refusing to attend Pride, I think the mayor has sent a very clear message that the LGBT is not welcome here in Ford’s city.”

Wong-Tam pointed out that the parade is only one part of Pride Week and said she hopes the mayor can find time in his schedule for other events.

“Pride week is literally a 10-day-long celebration,” said Wong-Tam. “If the mayor can’t fit the parade in his calendar, perhaps there’s another event he can participate in. He can’t be busy for the 10 solid days.”

A study commissioned by the city determined the festival, the largest of its kind in Canada, generated 600 jobs and $94.3 million for the city economy in 2009.

The study also found the festival generated $4.1 million in municipal taxes that year.

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US Catholic Church Amps Up Its Fight Against Aid in Dying

by Ann Neumann, The Nation, June 15, 2011

catholic.wordpress.com

On Thursday the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will release a new document that calls for the end of legal aid in dying. To Live Each Day with Dignity marks a nationwide effort by the Roman Catholic Church to influence how patients will be cared for at the end of their lives. Citing a Death with Dignity bill that passed in Washington in 2008, a ruling protecting the right to aid in dying by the Montana supreme court in 2009 and a spate of state initiatives, a June 1 press release states, “The Church needs to respond in a timely and visible way to this renewed challenge, which will surely be pursued in a number of states in the years to come.”

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the nation’s largest aid in dying advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, wrote in an e-mail to supporters last week, “What alarms us is their determination to use their standing to undermine end-of-life choice and chastise everyone—Catholic or otherwise—who believes in or practices it.” Though the Catholic Church’s position is not new—opposition to “euthanasia” has been a cornerstone of the “prolife” platform for decades—the elevation of end-of-life issues to the top of the bishops’ agenda this week is affirmation of their commitment to this aspect of healthcare. And it’s not hard to imagine that the USCCB is specifically rebuking Compassion & Choices for their successes: the press release highlights true compassion and choice; To Live Each Day will be released at the USCCB’s Spring General Assembly in Seattle, Washington.

But much more than the legality of aid in dying—commonly known as assisted suicide, which misrepresents the practice, limited as it is to patients with a terminal illness—is at stake. Even if, as Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, contends, Thursday’s document is a moral statement and not a kick-off to a political campaign to end legal aid in dying, it will serve as marching orders in the coming years for already-mobilized and funded “prolife” activists—whether Catholic, evangelical, Mormon or unaffiliated—who will use it to determine how they vote and organize. That means, as veterans on the abortion rights front will tell you, a heightened assault on end-of-life rights. They’ll also tell you that failing to see the larger implications of the church’s domination of life and death discussions leads to an erosion of patients’ rights, rights that, when lost, are seldom regained.

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