In a 6-3 ruling, the US Supreme Court today declared that federal law bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Exclusive: Men who fled own country after threats to out them have been detained in Australia
A year ago, the University of Sheffield made headlines when we became the first UK university to launch LGBT-only flats in our accommodation. Much of the coverage was based on untruths and exaggeration, conjuring images of huge rainbow-clad buildings where all gay students were forced to stay.
The reality was far less dramatic: 32 students in seven flats scattered among the three student villages, with no way of being identified aside from by their tenants. It was hardly the “ghettoising” we were accused of.
The debate hit the news during my first week as the students’ union welfare officer. The project was a result of a partnership between the university and the students’ union LGBT committee. As an LGBT activist myself, I initially had concerns. But my worries were quickly assuaged when I did what lots of news outlets didn’t: actually talk to the students concerned.
They never saw themselves as part of a big political controversy. In fact, they were baffled by all the attention. For the LGBT students, it was about not having to feel like they look feminine or masculine enough to fit in. Or being able to talk about Tinder dates and seminar crushes without fearing judgment or intrusive questions. It’s about one of the most fundamental human needs: to feel safe and comfortable in your own home.
One resident I spoke to, Fran, acts as a mentor in several flats. She said she has heard lots of LGBT students voice fears that their new flatmates might share the views of their school bullies or unsupportive parents. For those students, being around even one other queer person can make life easier. “As a queer person, in an environment that still isn’t great, especially for trans students, your very existence and the fact that you’re living out is resistance in its own way,” she said.
Veronica, a first-year biology student, told me that she had worried about living with someone homophobic. LGBT halls gave her the assurance that her sexuality would be accepted. She had friends express concerns, saying that LGBT students should mix with others to teach them acceptance. But living in the halls made her mingle more by giving her the confidence to go out, meet new people and try new things.
In a YouTube clip published last year, the softly spoken Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett takes to the stage, apologises for delaying lunch, stutters slightly – saying she has an entrenched fear of public speaking – before launching into an impassioned speech about the government’s “totalitarian endeavour to indoctrinate our children in sexual ideologies”.
Godfrey-Faussett, who describes herself as a chartered psychologist and Muslim academic, is the latest voice entering the tinderbox row over LGBT lessons in Birmingham schools.
The debate has so far led to the removal of hundreds of children from school by parents staging weekly protests against lessons they claim promote LGBT lifestyles.
If anti-LGBT bills slated for 2017 session in Texas are any measure, an avalanche of hate looms in state houses
‘………………by Steve Williams
Following the marriage equality ruling earlier today, there has been plenty of celebration. Here’s just a few of the reactions we’ve seen.
1. The Crowd Outside the Supreme Court Cheers
It has been a long wait, but the crowd outside the Supreme Court cheered when they heard the news that marriage equality will now be legal across the country:
2. President Obama Hails the Marriage Equality Ruling as “A Victory for America”
Said the President in an emotional speech:
This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law; that all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.
This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have. It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether they’re marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move or even visit another.
And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.
What an extraordinary achievement, but what a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things; what a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Those countless, often anonymous heroes, they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.
You can watch the President’s full remarks below:
3. Plaintiff Talks About the Importance of This Ruling
Shortly after the marriage equality ruling was released, the White House sent out the following letter attributed to Jim Obergefell, the namesake of the consolidated cases:
My husband John died 20 months ago, so we’re unable to celebrate together the Supreme Court’s decision on the case that bears my name, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Today, for the first time, any couple — straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — may obtain a marriage license and make their commitments public and legal in all 50 states. America has taken one more step toward the promise of equality enshrined in our Constitution, and I’m humbled to be part of that.
John and I started our fight for a simple reason: We wanted the State of Ohio to recognize our lawful Maryland marriage on John’s impending death certificate. We wanted respect and dignity for our 20-year relationship, and as he lay dying of ALS, John had the right to know his last official record as a person would be accurate. We wanted to live up to the promises we made to love, honor, and protect each other as a committed and lawfully married couple.
Couples across America may now wed and have their marriage recognized and respected no matter what state they call home. No other person will learn at the most painful moment of married life, the death of a spouse, that their lawful marriage will be disregarded by the state. No married couple who moves will suddenly become two single persons because their new state ignores their lawful marriage.
Ethan and Andrew can marry in Cincinnati instead of being forced to travel to another state.
A girl named Ruby can have an accurate birth certificate listing her parents Kelly and Kelly.
Pam and Nicole never again have to fear for Grayden and Orion’s lives in a medical emergency because, in their panic, they forgot legal documents that prove both mothers have the right to approve care.
Cooper can grow into a man knowing Joe and Rob are his parents in all ways emotional and legal.
I can finally relax knowing that Ohio can never erase our marriage from John’s death certificate, and my husband can now truly rest in peace.
Marriage is about promises and commitments made legal and binding under the law, and those laws must apply equally to each and every American.
Today is a momentous day in our history. It’s a day when the Supreme Court of the United States lived up to the words inscribed above the front entrance of the courthouse:
Equal Justice Under Law.
4. The White House Changed its Profile Picture
Across its social media platforms and in its emails the White House currently looks like this:
I think we’re definitely somewhere over the rainbow now, right?
5. States Already Move to Start Performing Same-Sex Marriages
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, states like Georgia have already begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Just two hours after the ruling the state’s attorney general, Samuel Olens, issued a memo saying that the ruling “requires Georgia to recognize same-sex marriage in the same way it recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.”
Shortly after that, Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth became the first same-sex couple in Georgia to legally wed now that Georgia’s ban has been ruled unconstitutional. You can read more on that here.
Couples have already started applying for marriage licenses in states like Michigan, which was directly represented in this ruling, while Missouri has similarly begun implementing the ruling. Marriage licenses have also been issued in Dallas County. At the moment, only Texas’ administration has indicated it will try to hold-out and “prioritize religious freedom” as Texas Governor Greg Abbott is quoted as saying.
We will keep you updated on that as more information becomes available, but until then the celebrations go on! …………’
‘…………by Steve Williams
Ireland did it! In a landslide victory the Republic of Ireland has become the first country in the world to legalize marriage equality by a public vote. Here’s what you need to know and why this may even be important for the marriage equality fight in other countries.
The vote, which occurred on Friday, May 22, saw a large voter turn-out and, most notably, many Irish people returning home from England and other areas to ensure they could have a say in the vote as Ireland has no postal or absentee voting system.
The result, which was announced by late Saturday, saw more than 62 percent of the voting public say “yes” to same-sex marriage, with just under 38 percent against it. While that was largely in step with the polls, the fact that the Yes campaign managed to retain the strength of its support surprised many as the margin was expected to narrow considerably once people actually got to the ballot.
Indeed, many commentators were worried that the vote could be much closer due to rural communities failing to really take in the Yes campaign messages, however in the end voting data suggests that support was strong even among rural communities, and certainly much stronger than had been expected.
Senior Religious Figures Say the Vote Was a Wake-Up Call
In the final few days before the vote, several conservative Catholic bishops took to their pulpits to urge a “no” vote on the marriage equality question, relying on tactics such as suggesting that children would be harmed and that mothers in particular be devalued as a result of same-sex couples being able to wed.
In the wake of such a massive defeat for the No campaign, religious progressives and secularists alike have warned that gone are the days when the Irish people would take morality lessons solely from the Church, and especially not when those same religious figures used scaremongering tactics about harming children and damaging society as a whole rather than simply relying on their religious teachings.
Fr Brendan Hoban, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), is quoted as saying: “It was clear from the beginning that the bishops’ decision in policy terms to campaign for a blunt No vote was alienating even the most conservative of Irish Catholics.”
In particular, reflections on the No campaign have said its chief mistake was to try to use the age of the Yes movement against them: after campaigning began in earnest at the start of the year it quickly became apparent that the younger generations were overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality. The Church therefore set itself against that movement, but in so doing it may have made a blunder that will have long-lasting consequences. As we know, religious influence is in decline in many places, and particularly in Ireland where prosperity has led to a rise in secularism. The Church needs young people on its side if it is to survive as even a shadow of the former power it once was, but by being so uncompromising during its backing of the No campaign–which also received heavy support from American religious groups–there is the fear that it has alienated Ireland’s younger generations, something that can not be easily undone.
A Call for Action in Northern Ireland
Critically, the vote in the Republic has been seen as a chance to push the Northern Ireland government to act on this issue. Northern Ireland is now the only place in mainland UK that does not recognize same-sex marriage despite the fact that public polls show that there is significant support for marriage equality.
Unfortunately, Northern Ireland lawmakers appear to be unmoved by the strength of support that was seen across the border. DUP MLA Peter Weir is quoted by the BBC as saying that, essentially, it doesn’t matter what public appetite wants, it’s lawmakers that have the final say:
“We are defending the role of traditional marriage,” he said.
“This is an issue that has been debated on four occasions in the assembly and, on each occasion, it has been rejected by the majority of assembly members.
“We believe that the traditional marriage definition is correct one. We would be concerned about the impact on Churches.
“We don’t really run social policy in this country by way of referendum.”
What’s interesting is the disconnect there between the public and Northern Ireland’s lawmakers, and that never makes for a good time for presiding governments. What seems certain now, more than ever, is that Northern Ireland’s ban on marriage equality cannot last for much longer and now it’s a question of whether Northern Ireland’s lawmakers will finally act, or whether the courts will need to be involved.
What is very encouraging though is that this vote has also emboldened same-sex marriage advocates in Australia, Germany (which has equivalent partnership rights but technically not marriage) and in Italy, where activists have vowed to demonstrate that the religious hold on this issue has slipped and that the public is ready for marriage equality.
So congratulations to the Republic of Ireland whose vote in favor of marriage equality was incredibly meaningful not just within its borders, but for same-sex marriage battles across Europe, too!