Category Archives: social justice

A quick question…

Do you suppose that anyone who’s down on FDR’s New Deal went through the Great Depression? Roosevelt wasn’t perfect, being human and reality-based, but he put a lot of people to work. It cost a lot of money, but it made it possible for people to survive.

So, is there anyone who went through the Great Depression who thinks that the New Deal was a bad idea?

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Posted by on August 27, 2011 in politics, social justice



Oh, UK, You Make Me Sad

The ironically named Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK has decided that some humans are more human than other humans. GLBT folk can consider themselves less human than the more-human humans.

There is the case of Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar who refused to perform civil partnerships and so was disciplined. And that of Gary McFarlane, the Christian relationship counsellor who was sacked for refusing to counsel gay couples. The EHRC has decided to back these people in the name of “reasonable” compromise.

But what these cases illustrate is that in certain areas compromise is not possible because the rights of different minorities are mutually exclusive. When one group refuses to fulfil its job description because it disapproves of another group, there is no middle ground, no give and take. Those responsible for judging the behaviour have to back one or the other. This is the roulette of human rights. You can’t put your chips on the black and the red.

I have to question the wisdom of seeking sex therapy from someone who has issues with other people’s sex lives, but that’s beside the point. The government (any government, not just the US or the UK) should not endorse discrimination without good reason, and “my two thousand year old Holy Book tells me to hate gays” is not good reason.

But the EHRC has decided that the rights of gays and lesbians can be suspended if they conflict with the “strongly held” beliefs of people providing services, even if those services are being provided on behalf of the government. Indeed, EHRC Chair Trevor Phillips misstated his Commission’s purpose:

“Our business is defending the believer,” the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chair Trevor Phillips said last month. “The law we’re here to implement recognises that a religious or belief identity is, for the majority of people in Britain, an essential element of being a fulfilled human being and plays an important part in our society.”

While the EHRC has “clarified” its position, asserting that it would not “condone or permit the refusal of public services to lesbian or gay people,” it has also stood by its decision to cater to religious people’s bigotry. This decision has far-reaching implications that range from the ridiculous to the dangerous.

The EHRC’s new policy may seem like simple anti-gay bigotry, but I suspect the Christians behind it have more ambitious aims. It would not surprise me in the least if the precedent set by the EHRC in these cases were to lead to the “right” of the religious in the UK to deny birth control, abortion, and other family planning services, as has been done in the US, with only lip service paid to the rights of those requiring the services.


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International Day Against Stoning

I am a little late in posting this, but today, 11 July 2011, is International Day Against Stoning.

As you know Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still languishing in prison. The authorities recently mentioned her case saying that no final decision had yet been reached on her stoning sentence and that Sakineh must remain in prison. Falsely accused of murdering her husband, her only crime is that she is a woman in Iran. Her lawyer, Sajjad Houtan Kian, also remains in prison for having had the courage to defend her and other women with stoning sentences in Tabriz prison; he has been sentenced to four years imprisonment, been put under a lot of pressure and lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) as a result.

The campaign to Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been an important one. It has spoken out in defence of humanity, and against the barbaric punishment of stoning everywhere. It has mobilised immense pressure against and condemnation of the Islamic regime of Iran from millions across the globe. These are accomplishments we must all be proud of.

The site linked above lists actions we can all take to pressure Iran not to stone Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and to ask our representatives at the United Nations to intervene on her behalf.

Stoning never serves justice.


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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in justice, social justice



You can’t just change the definition of marriage

This is a quick and dirty post in response to a news story about New York becoming the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage. The report showed reactions from a few people who were opposed to the Marriage Equality Act: a woman who complained that you can’t just change the definition of “marriage,” and a man fretting over the possibility of a man wanting two women, or (presumably worse) a man wanting two men.

To the woman: the definition of marriage in the United States is not universal. A quick look at the entry on marriage in wikipedia shows not only that there are many definitions of marriage depending on the culture in question, and that the definition varies among scholars who study marriage, but also that the federal legislature has changed the definition several times over the years. The age of consent has changed, the ability to divorce has been made easier, and it is no longer illegal to marry outside your race. The definition of marriage can change, has changed, and will change, as society deems it necessary and/or right to do so.

To the man: And? I find it interesting that the concerns you have over polyamorous marriages does not include a woman who wants two husbands, or a woman who wants two wives. Or maybe those concerns were edited out by the show’s producers who wanted to limit the item’s shock value. Puritans can be so easy to shock when it comes to the sex lives of people they don’t know. Anyway, I have news for you: people already live in polyamorous relationships, and some of those relationships last longer than some monogamous heterosexual marriages. The only concern I have about polyamorous or group marriages is that everyone is genuinely committed to one another. The polygamous marriages in (usually Mormon, in the US, anyway) offshoot cults in which men in their 80’s compel girls in their early teens to join their however many other wives against their will is a problem, but it’s one of child abuse, not marriage. At any rate, polyamorous and group marriages are not likely to be recognized by law anytime soon.

More to the point, however, it’s a leap of logic to go from recognizing monogamous same-sex marriage to recognizing polyamorous or group marriage. Considerations in inheritance laws alone make the comparison invalid.

So, what it comes to is this: what do we, as a people, want legally recognized marriage to be? Do we want a system of laws that officially relegates gays and lesbians to second-class (or lower) status? Do we really want to preserve a system that treats some people (heterosexuals, in this case) preferentially for no logical or even discernible reason? (I’ll be generous and not assume bigotry.) We have an unfortunate history of using religion to justify unjustifiable laws and social customs, especially where logic fails to support those laws and customs. I believe that it would be a good and wise thing to ensure that logic and reason provide the basis for legislation, especially in cases where emotions run high, and if the concerns of the two people mentioned above are truly representative of opposition to same-sex marriage, then logic and reason are against them.

Congratulations, New York!

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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in social justice