Moral progress in Arkansas

The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled the will of the people of Arkansas invasive and unwarranted:

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a voter-approved initiative that barred gay couples and other unmarried people living together from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

Associate Justice Robert L. Brown wrote for the court that the law would encroach on adults’ right to privacy in the bedroom.

“Act 1 directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of `opposite-sex and same-sex individuals’ who engage in private, consensual sexual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children,” Brown wrote.

Just like with most civil rights issues, it’s going to take the courts to bring the country up to speed – especially the south.

Where religion is killing gays

Crazy, huh? The primary source of the hatred gays face in Africa, and especially Uganda, is fueled by religion.

The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.

“It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent,” said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. “Homophobia is on the rise.”

But surely this is just an extreme example, right? After all, we have far too much religion in the U.S. but we aren’t putting in place laws that kill gays. Except we’re setting the stage. We are telling gays – and the world – that being gay is morally wrong, that it is evil, and that gays do not deserve the same rights as everyone else. Still in so many states it is legal to fire a person for being gay. There are bigots (even on the Supreme Court) who support anti-sodomy laws. In fact, that purely political, non-legally minded ‘judge’ Scalia said this when he voted against striking down laws that specifically targeted gays:

Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned.

He was worried that by acknowledging that no government has any say over the sexual lives of two consenting, autonomous adults that gay marriage might become a reality. (He also noted that it can be said that any law targets a group, intentionally forgetting that gays constitute a group not defined by choice.)

It’s this sort of dictionary bigotry that is assisting in the primarily Christian and Muslim effort to destroy the lives of gays. In fact, it is American Christian groups that are largely behind the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments – including aid donors – have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.

That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them.

And does this sound familiar?

In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to expel gays from the country and urged citizens not to rent homes to them.

In addition to it being legal to fire gays in many U.S. states, it is also legal to refuse to rent to them. It was until just a few years ago that Maine finally passed a law which made it illegal to discriminate against gays in education, employment, housing, and other basic areas of life.

The plight of gays in Africa is the same plight of gays in America, especially in places like the south. By clinging to religion and irrationally proclaiming that gays do not deserve the exact same rights as everyone else, we are setting the stage for the discrimination, criminalization, and violence that they must face in Africa every single day.

Oh, but maybe this has nothing to do with True Religion, with the mainstream beliefs of Christians.

Oh wait:

In recent years, conservative American evangelical churches have had a profound influence on society in Uganda and other African nations. They send missions and help fund local churches that share their brand of Christianity. Sermons and seminars by American evangelist preachers are staples on local television and radio networks across the continent.

Some activists say the attacks in Uganda intensified last year after three American evangelical preachers visited the country. In seminars attended by thousands and broadcasted over radio, the preachers discussed how to “cure” homosexuality and accused gays of sodomizing boys and destroying African culture. A month later, a Ugandan lawmaker introduced the anti-homosexuality bill.

“The religious fundamentalists want to rule everyone. They want everyone to follow their religious agenda,” said Pepe Julien Onziema, a gay rights activist here.

Thought of the day

The Teabagger portion of the Republican Party claims to hate when government tells them what to do, but when it comes to civil rights for gays they love to use government to say what others can’t do.

The case of Genesio Oliveira

Genesio Oliveira and Tim Coco are married in the United States. But that doesn’t mean they’re being treated equally.

The couple were temporarily separated when Mr Oliveira’s bid for asylum over claims he was raped in Brazil as a teenager was rejected on the grounds he was not physically affected.

But in June Senator John Kerry intervened and urged officials to temporarily allow Mr Oliveira back into the country and to return to the home he shares with Mr Coco in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

His return was granted on humanitarian grounds, but now Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to change his mind on the original decision.

It means the Brazilian could be forced out with six months, a decision which has drawn criticism from gay rights groups.

What’s the justification here? How is this good? A legitimately married couple want to live in the U.S.; one spouse is a U.S. citizen. This seems pretty straight forward.

But, then, a majority of Americans are disinterested in civil rights for everyone.

Thought of the day

In Internet Feminism (which is a distinct school of feminism), it has become standard to effectively say, ‘If you disagree with any aspect of something a woman is saying about equal rights* and you have a penis, then you’re a misogynistic asshole.’

*It’s important to distinguish equal rights from other labels of rights. I primarily think of this in terms of ‘civil rights for gays’. Most people won’t use this phrasing, instead opting for ‘gay rights’. There is no such thing. That would be gay privilege – and no one is asking for that. Just the same, there is no such thing as ‘women’s rights’. That phrasing equally indicates privilege. To be fair, the intention of the speaker is rarely to reference anything about privilege; it’s just sloppy language. Regardless, let’s be more careful.