26 May 2008

No Gays in Jamaican Cabinet

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said he would not allow gays in his Cabinet. He told BBC television he has the right to make that decision and to form a Cabinet that represents the Jamaican people. Jamaica will not allow outside groups to impose their values, he said on Monday while on an official visit to London. The Jamaican Observer both reports on the interview and responds to the "great-white shark of British broadcasting Stephen Sackur" interview with the Prime Minister here.

Such statements incite more violence against gays, said Jason McFarlane, a spokesman for Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG).

Last year in the run up to the elections Bruce Golding dismissed any notion of lifting a draconian ban on homosexuality. Golding said the the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), was not prepared to challenge the anti-gay status quo. "Let us be very clear," Golding told the Jamaica Sunday Observer. "There are some countries that are prepared to overturn tradition and culture in the interest of what they regard as individual freedoms and to do so at the instance of the homosexual fraternity, which comprises a minority in the population. You will find this pretty prevalent in Europe. We (the JLP) are not prepared to go in that direction, we intend to uphold the laws of the country." Golding concedes that people should be allowed to do what they like in the privacy of their homes. "We don't believe that the state should be pushing down people's bedroom doors to find what they do there, because, if you push it down today to enforce laws that relate to sexual activity, you will push it down tomorrow for some other purpose. So we are not going there," he said.

Elections in Jamaica were held on September 3rd 2007 with JLP who were the opposition party gaining a slim victory against the Peoples National Party (PNP) headed by Portia Simpson-Miller. The PNP had been in Government for 18 years. The Jamican Labour party is aligned to conservatism despite it's name whilst the PNP is a socialist democratic party.

Promoting LGBT Rights All Over the World

Pink News has reported on the UKs commitment to promoting LGBT rights overseas. The report is about the fact that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued an 'LGBT Toolkit' to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts. The kit contains information on the official FCO policy on gay rights and instructions in how to "provide added value to equality and non-discrimination work." It covers a wide range of issues, from decriminalisation, sexual health, reproductive rights and health education.

UNISON, the TUC and LGBT Labour have all had an inpput into the FCO programme and toolkit and it is a start (despite the critical comments received) with the FCO committing itself to future meetings with stakeholders.

25 May 2008

In Gods Name

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) response to the HFEB votes is contained in a letter on their website entitled Vulnerable lose protection as public opinion is ignored. Carmel Christian Centre is an affiliate to the EA and was featured in the Dispatches programme - 'In Gods Name' which Craig has blogged about in detail. The Carmel Christian Centre was very disturbing frightening children that they might be turned into pillars of salts or that snakes would come for them. Also teaching them that the world is 6000 to 10000 years old. Well thats okay in biblical terms but the children should be given both the biblical interpretation of evolution as well as the scientific interpretation. It probably suggests why both the headmaster and Andrea Minichiello Williams who is a barrister connected to the Lawyers Christian Fellowship (LCF) were unable to enter into a reasoned debate. Andrea Williams is active in Christian Concern for our Nation (ccfon) -obviously though the nation does not include LGBT people and women who choose or need an abortion. The views expressed are not very Christian to me - Definition of Christian - 1. Pertaining to Christ or his religion; as, Christian people. 2. Characteristic of Christian people; civilized; kind; kindly; gentle; beneficent.

Read Christian Voice's response to 'In Gods Name' here. Stephen Green says "I gave Modell consent for the later interviews, but I am startled now both at his duplicity and his shallowness. He gradually worms his way in, and appears to be all understanding and obsequiously courteous, until he has all the material he wants. Then he turns unpleasant and stabs people in the back. His treatment of Sam Solomon, whom he filmed on the strict understanding that consent to transmission had not been given, then broke his word, not caring whether he was putting the man's life in danger, was a case in point. Modell in my view is not a man to be trusted."

To me Stephen could be here describing his own brand of christianity which preys on the vulnerable and the lonely. In the film, he did turn unpleasant and stabs any person who does not share his beliefs in the back. A classic example was the incident with the bird poo - it's just one of those things that happens. What is the point of getting angry and accusing someone of ridiculing you. Sam Solomons identity was not revealed and the views expressed were tantamount to islamaphobia.

Remember Christian Voice is also the organisation that set up the unofficial true vision website .
This website lures lgbt people into thinking they are reporting a homophobic or transphobic incident to the police when in fact you will find that it is propoganda stating that the homo / transphobic hate crime policies are putting freedom of religious expression at risk and are an attck on evangelical christianity. The official website to if you have suffered a homo / trans phobic hate crime is TRUE VISION.

Christian Voice also has links to a number of organisations to do with sexual healing. These seek to help people come out of homosexuality. Stephen Green has escaped prosecution once for his homophobic views in his book 'The Sexual Dead End'.

21 May 2008

How they voted

Pink News reports on how MPs voted in the need for a Father debate and what they said.

Stonewall celebrates.

20 May 2008

Lesbians from Lancashire

On the need for a Father Geraldine Smith, Labour MP for Morecombe and Lunesdale: It might surprise my hon. Friend to know that I do talk to many lesbians, and quite a few of them have a great deal of common sense and would not find any problem with this. So it depends who we talk to; maybe lesbians in Lancashire are a bit more down to earth than lesbians in London. I spoke on this subject on Second Reading, so I do not want to speak on it now for too long, but let me make the following appeal to all Members: this is about common sense and what is in the best interests of the child, and it is also about saying that fathers have a role to play. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) talked about instructing women on bringing children into the world, but may I finally say that women need a man if they are to bring a child into the world? That is a fact of life at the moment; science has not changed that yet, so there is nothing we can do about it. Therefore, fathers are pretty important.

Well I am a Lesbian from Lancashire and all I will say is that we are kept well down to earth by patronising crap like this.

Male Role Models and the Need for a Father

I note that David Blunkett voted for clinics to consider the need for a Father and /or male role model.

During his time as Home Secretary, Blunkett admitted to having a relationship with Kimberly Fortier, an American publisher. The three-year relationship ended acrimoniously in August 2004 with Fortier choosing to return to her husband, Stephen Quinn. Fortier has since reverted to her married name.

Blair regarded it proper for Blunkett to remain Home Secretary while pursuing his pregnant former lover in the courts to ascertain paternity of her unborn child as it appeared of no relevance to his ministerial position. However, at the end of November 2004, it was alleged that Blunkett abused his position to assist his ex-lover's Filipino nanny, Leoncia "Luz" Casalme, by speeding up her residence visa application. Though there was no evidence Blunkett was responsible for the email or its title, he resigned as Home Secretary saying that questions about his honesty were damaging the government.

In late October 2005, David Blunkett began to feel the pressure of the media for a second time. Two weeks before the 2005 Genral Election he took up a directorship in a company called DNA Bioscience and bought £15 000 of shares in the company. Blunkett was asked to explain why he had not consulted the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments regarding the directorship. Having placed the shares into an independent trust, "Mr Blunkett said he had asked his three grown-up sons from his first marriage to authorise trustees to "dispose of" the shares. They agreed to the request." Blunkett's political opponents claimed that a conflict of interest was created by him having been director of and holding shares in a company proposing to bid for government contracts to provide paternity tests to the Child Support Agency – part of the DWP, of which he was Secretary of State.
An investigation – asked for by Prime Minister Tony Blair – found that although Blunkett had not broken the Ministerial Code by becoming a director of the company or buying its shares, he should have consulted the Advisory Committee before doing so.

His personal life has been colourful, Blunkett divorced his wife, by whom he had three sons, in 1990. In 2004, with news of his affair, Blunkett asserted that he was the father of Quinn's two-year-old son, William and also perhaps of her then-unborn child. Quinn denied this, claiming that both children were her husband's. In late 2004, Blunkett began a legal challenge to gain access to William. In late December 2004, as was widely reported in the media, DNA tests confirmed that Quinn's two-year-old son, William, was Blunkett's child. In March 2005 it was confirmed that Blunkett was not the father of Quinn's newborn son, Lorcan. In 2005 there was more speculation about Blunkett's private life, this time regarding a young woman and for not disclosing free membership to an exclusive London nightclub. The matter with the young women has been cleared up following a full apology from the newspaper which printed the original story and his membership at the nightclub has been forfeited.

See David Blunkett Paternity Case

MPs reject 20 and 22 week limit on abortion

Read latest on BBC News.

"The upper gestational limit for termination of pregnancy was set by Parliament in 1990 at 24 weeks because the scientific evidence of the time was that the threshold of viability had increased and babies were increasingly surviving at 24 weeks and above. That was the case in 1990 and it's certainly the case now."
"I dread the idea that we might go backwards. I dread the idea that we might force women, against their moral views, into a possibility where they are forced to bear a child, to go through a pregnancy in a situation in which they might feel desperate."

Votes on Abortion

Amendment to reduce time limit to 12 weeks

Ayes 71 Noes 393 Majority 322

Amendment to reduce time limit to 16 weeks

Ayes 84 Noes 387 Majority 303

Amendment to reduce time limit to 20 weeks

Ayes 190 Noes 332 Majority 142

New clause 8 - information to be provided in cases of foetal abnormality

Ayes 173 Noes 309 Majority 136

New clause 9 - to reduce time limit to 22 weeks

Ayes 233 Noes 304 Majority 71

MPs debating abortion amendments

Labour's Chris McCafferty said limiting when a woman can have an abortion is "cynical, cruel, ill-informed and inhumane". Well said Chris.

Labour's Claire Curtis-Thomas said she was not opposed to abortion, believing that women have the right to choose. "I just hope they don't choose to have an abortion," she said, adding that she would be happier with a 12-week limit. Lets hope Labour party members don't choose her for selection to stand for Labour in the next General Election.

She went on to say "Our job is to protect the vulnerable. For me they have the right to life." The vulnerable are the women who need and choose to have an abortion. They too have a right to life.

Julie Morgan was just speaking now and gave a great speech. The vote will take place in a few minutes.

Mehdi Kazemi granted asylum in the UK

Mehdi Kazemi, came to the UK from Iran in 2005 to study English. he later discovered his boyfriend had been charged with sodomy and hanged and pleaded asylum which was refused. After reviewing his case and after much pressure and campaigning from LGBT and human rights groups the UK Borders Agency has granted him asylum.

Middle East Workers Solidarity

MPs join fight to save Mehdi Kazemi

Fathers Not Needed!

I am a bit late blogging about this but Craig has been keeping us up to date. As a lesbian mother, you see I have just got in from work as due to the gender pay gap, I have to work extra hours to make sure that I provide adequately for my child - now is that what they meant about the need for a Father. Actually my son is now grown up, well adjusted and has had a richness of role models black, white, male, female, disabled, non-disabled, of all cultures, nationalities, faiths and religions. And I am a Lesbian from Lancashire!

Anyway, the vote was close - the need for a father and a mother was defeated by 292 votes to 217. MPs also opposed a further bid to ensure there is a "father or a male role model" before fertility treatment, by 290 votes to 222. See BBC News for more details.

The abortion debate is currently ongoing.

They Work for Us

I wrote to my MP, Mark Hendrick, Preston about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill after he was cited in the local evening paper as stating that he would abstain on the third reading if the controversial elements went through. My letter to him urged him to oppose the retention of the clause to consider the need for a Father and for him to support the Governments proposal to consider 'supportive parenting'. I also asked him to oppose any any attempts to restrict a womans right to abortion.

I received a reply saying that he had voted in favour of the bill at it's second reading on 12 May "having considered the issues including the points that [you] raised in your e-mail". Last night he voted against the use of hybrid-embryos but then voted with Brown on saviour siblings but against on other amendments. I know it's a 'free vote' but Gordon did urge Labour party members to support the clauses and Mark rarely ever rebels. But then a number of Labour MPs seemed to be all over the place.

I will be watching the debate closely tomorrow.

19 May 2008

Lets hope their conscience pricks them tomorrow....

Labour MPs who voted to ban the use of hybrid-embryos for stem cell research............

John Battle - Leeds West
Sir Stuart Bell - Middlesborough
Joe Benton - Bootle
David Borrow - South Ribble
rh Des Browne - Kilmarnock and Loudon
rh Stephen Byers - North Tyneside
Ronnie Campbell - Blyth Valley
Colin Challen - Morley and Rothwell
Ben Chapman - Wirral South
rh Tom Clarke - Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Rosie Cooper - West Lancashire
David Crausby - Bolton North East
Mary Creagh - Wakefield
Jon Cruddas - Dagenham
John Cummings - Easington
Jim Cunningham - Coventry South
Tony Cunningham - Workington
David Drew - Stroud
rh Frank Field - Birkenhead
Michael Foster - Hastings and Rye
Paul Goggins - Wythenshawe and Sale East
John Grogan - Selby
Andrew Gwynne - Denton and Reddish
rh David Hanson - Delyn
Mark Hendrick - Preston
Meg Hillier - Hackney East and Shoreditch
Kate Hoey - Vauxhall
Lindsay Hoyle - Chorley
Helen Jones - Warrington North
rh Sir Gerald Kaufman - Manchester Gorton
rh Ruth Kelly - Bolton West
Sadiq Khan - Tooting
Peter Kilfoyle - Liverpool Walton
Andrew Mackinlay - Thurrock
Gordon Marsden - Blackpool South
Thomas McAvoy - Rutherglen and Hamilton West
John McFall - West Dunbartonshire
Anne McGuire - Stirling
Alan Meale - Mansfield
George Mudie - Leeds East
Denis Murphy - Wansbeck
Jim Murphy - Renfrewshire East
rh Paul Murphy - Torfaen
Mike O'Brien - North Warwickshire
Greg Pope - Hyndburn
Stephen Pound - Ealing North
Bridget Prentice - Lewisham East
Andy Reed - Loughborough
rh John Reid - Airdrie and Shotts
Terry Rooney - Bradford North
Frank Roy - Motherwell and Wishaw
Chris Ruane - Vale of Clwyd
Mohammad Sarwar - Glasgow Central
Alan Simpson - Nottingham South
Marsha Singh - Bradford West
Geraldine Smith - Morecombe and Lunesdale
Ian Stewart - Eccles
Gisela Stuart - Birmingham Edgbaston
Dari Taylor - Stockton South
David Taylor - North West Leicestershire
Don Touhig - Islwyn
Jon Trickett - Hemsworth
Derek Twigg - Halton
rh Keith Vaz - Leicster East

Saviour Siblings to be allowed

Tory David Borrowes bid to ban tissue typing was voted down by 342 votes to 163. A further amendment by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley to only allow tissue typing and sex selection in cases where the other sibling is suffering a life threatening illness was defeated by 318 votes to 149.

See BBC News for more details.

Hybrid Embryos to be allowed

Amendment to ban creation of hybrid embryos defeated 336 to 176. Read more from the BBC.

The Guardian reports on the debate and also states that Ministers expects MPs to back the Governments plans to permit saviour siblings but are less confident that there will be support for the removal of the requirement to consider the need for a father before offering assisted reproduction services.

The Times also warns that the Government is braced for defeat.

The Independent believes there will be a close vote in its article in which Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo states that the Bill has been hijacked.

Also read Pink News 'Human-animal embryos approved by the Commons' and 'Tory battle over lesbian parenting and need for a father'.

Compromise over Need for Fathers Reported

The Times has reported today that Gordon Brown is willing to save hybrid embryos at the cost of retaining the need for a father to be considered when offering assisted reproduction services.

Insiders say there is no substance in the claims but e-mail or telephone your MPs today asking them not to support the amendments to the bill which would result in the retention of the clause for need to consider a Father or the addition of a male role model. The introduction of 'supportive parenting' is adequate and reflective of the modern society that we live in and should apply to all families.

Write to your MP

On Tuesday 20th May, the amendments to retain the need for a father when offering assisted reproduction services to lesbians and single women will go to the vote in the House of Commons. As will the moves to restrict abortion rights. MPs have been given a free vote.

Write to your MP now to oppose all the amendments. http://www.writetothem.com/

You can base a model letter asking your MP not to support amendments calling for consideration to be given to the need for a father or male role model from information contained on Stonewalls website and earlier enties on this blog.

A model letter and parliamentary briefing on the amendments to abortion can be found at Abortion Rights.

Watch Evan Harris and the Bishop of Liverpool discussing the issue of free votes.

Presidential Candidates Views on Same Sex Marriage

Craig has already blogged about the Californian Supreme Court declaration that same sex marriage is required by the Californian State Constitution by a 4-3 ruling. This has now resulted in conservative lawmakers in Arizona and North Carolina pushing for amendments in their constitutions to prevent same sex marriage. Read more.

Here is an article on the views of the Presidential candidates and you can watch here.

18 May 2008

Brown urges MPs to support HFEB

Backbench rebellions are likely over the requirement for a father in IVF treatment. However, Brown argues that people should be 'able to approach IVF clinics without fear of discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation'. See article in today's Observer. Also see BBC News.

A further article outlines that the abortion limit is in the alance as the divide deepens. Brown supports the 24 week limit.

17 May 2008

Commissioner for Human Rights at Council for Europe calls for more protection

Commissioner Hammarberg has said that it is time for human rights principles to recognise sexual orientation and gender identity. (See Craigs Blog) In April, he also called for more protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity saying "Since I took up the office, I have been quite horrified by the extent of homophobia in a number of countries in Europe”, said the Commissioner in a video message shown at a Conference organised by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBT).

Watch here.

14 May 2008

13 May 2008

HFEB Need for a Father Clause Amendments Published

Mark Simmonds (Tory - Boston and Skegness) and Andrew Lansley (Tory - South Cambridgeshire) have introduced and amendment to the 'need to consider supportive parenting' which would add 'and a father or male role model'. Note it does not state positive male role model!

Iain Duncan Smith (Tory - Chingford and Woodford Green), David Taylor (Labour - North West Leicestershire), Claire Curtis-Thomas (Labour - Crosby), John Gummer (Tory - Suffolk Coastal), Michael Ancram (Tory - Devizes), Geraldine Smith (Labour - Morecombe and Lunesdale), Gerald Howarth (Tory - Aldershot) have submitted an amendment to retain the Father clause, add Mother and delete supportive parenting. Thereby, justifying discrimination against lesbians and single women and obviously the need for a Father and Mother is consider to be better for the welfare of a child than having supportive parents!

It should be noted that Claire Curtis-Thomas has absented herself from the majority of votes on gay equality in the past. Geraldine Smith votes against equal age of consent and against the Equality Act (sexual orientation) regualations. She was abent from most over votes on gay equality including the repeal of section 28 and adoption.

Write to your MP NOW asking them NOT to support these amendments at www.writetothem.com

HFEB Abortion Amendments Published

Cross-bench amendments to reduce the time limit to 12 weeks, 14 weeks, 16 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks have been tabled. At 12 weeks - 14 weeks, many women do not even realise they are pregnant and recent evidence has shown that foetuses have not significantly increased in viability at 18 or 20 weeks gestation then when the Abortion Act came into force.

An amendment has been tabled to delete the existing provision of terminations on the grounds that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Abortion Rights has a statement on abortion and disability and their campaign is one of choice not about aborting a foetus because it may develop into a disabled child. An amendment has been submitted that no termination of pregnancy should be carried out on the grounds of race, gender (or should it become identifiable before birth) sexual orientation! This is a real dirty tactic at trying to get support for the anti-abortion vote by scaremongering about potential eugenics. Linking this to the clause on abortion on the grounds of 'physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped' is manipulation and the Labour MP Claire Curtis-Thomas who is party to this amendment ought to be ashamed of herself.

As expected an amendment that a woman should be offered counselling, be provided with foetal and embryonic development information, the physical, psycholical and psyciatric risks associated with termination of pregnancy including a description of the different types of termination and the risks involved and the contact details of adoption services and other advice services (including details of any disability or abnormality that the pregnant woman’s embryo or foetus is at risk of suffering from if born). This amendment is so weighted to anti-choice.

Write to your MP NOW to oppose any restricts to a woman's right to choose at www.writetothem.com

12 May 2008

HFEB Update

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, stayed away from the vote on the Human fertilisation and Embryology Act. However, other Labour MPs were vocal in their opposition. Geraldine Smith said that removing the need for a father was "one of the most ill-conceived measures to be put before this House while I've been a member of it." Nine Labour MPs voted against the government: Joe Benton (Bootle), Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill), Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby), David Drew (Stroud), Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme), Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock), George Mudie (Leeds East), Geraldine Smith (Morecambe & Lunesdale), David Taylor (Leicestershire North West).

Read Pink News coverage.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill Passes First Hurdle

MPs have voted to allow the Human fertilisation and Embryology Bill to continue to it's next Parliamentary stage, despite deep splits among MPs. The bill was given its second reading by 340 votes to 78, a majority of 262. The bill will now undergo detailed scrutiny. The key votes on the individual components are expected on the 19th and 20th may 2008..

The government, faced with the prospect of a rebellion by Roman Catholic ministers, has promised Labour MPs a free vote on twhat were considered to be the three most contentious issues. These are the creation of hybrid embryos, "saviour siblings" and the proposal that IVF clinics should no longer have to consider the need for a "father" figure when deciding whether to offer treatment Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs have been offered a free vote on all elements of the bill.

The bill was introduced by Alan Johnson and as expected there was much debate around the removal of he 'father clause'. Ian Duncan-Smith seemd to find it very difficult to say the word lesbian referring to gay couples all the time and was very opposed to the message being given out that fathers are redundant. Norman Lamb was particularly helpful in the debate stating "The need for a father is for many people the most emotive issue of all. It challenges many of our assumptions about families and society. I was struck by the number of single women and lesbian women who are already having IVF treatment. In 2006, 1.4 per cent. of the 40,484 IVF treatments were for single women and 0.5 per cent. were for registered lesbians—560 single women and 200 lesbian women in one year. Conservative Members argue that if that treatment is happening already, what is the point of changing the situation? However, there appears to be evidence that the need-for-a-father test is an additional hurdle that excludes some women. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon refers to the criteria set by the NHS in its clinics. I understand that there is evidence of unequal access; if women are able to obtain treatment only in private clinics, some will inevitably be excluded."

Similarly he argued that they should not be persuaded to lower the time limit for abortions. However unhelpfully he raised th issue of birth certificates "Let me turn to the issue of whether the birth certificate of a donor-conceived child should have that fact recorded on it. There is considerable force behind the argument that the individual has the right to know. The issue was debated at length in the other place, and one of the possibilities that was considered was the use of a symbol to indicate that a child was donor-conceived. The Government are committed to carrying out a review of the law and practice, and I would be grateful if the Minister said, in her closing speech, where we are with that process and when the review is likely to reach a conclusion."

Geraldine Smith, Labour MP for Morecombe and Lunesdale was very unhelpful though and is vehemently opposed to the removal of the father clause. She said "On the need for a father, clause 14(2)(b) removes the provision in the 1990 Act under which IVF clinics must have regard for the need of any child resulting from IVF treatment for a father. I consider that removal to be one of the most ill-conceived measures to be put before the House while I have been a Member. The law as it stands provides an important safeguard for the unborn child, as well as recognising and promoting the generally accepted notion of the ideal family unit—the one designed by nature, that of a mother, father and child. There is abundant evidence showing that children raised in a stable unit of that nature develop much better socially and emotionally, and attain higher levels of educational achievement than their counterparts in other types of family unit. I make that point as a simple statement of fact. In making it, I in no way wish to disparage the love, care and commitment given to their children by most lone or same-sex parents.
The current law does not prevent or obstruct single women or lesbian couples from obtaining IVF treatment. Indeed, we have not heard one example today of a lesbian woman who has not been able to receive IVF treatment. The law simply emphasises the importance of a father to a child and encourages women without a male partner to make provision for a father figure to be involved with the child, such as a grandfather. To me, that seems pure common sense. The best interest of the child should be of paramount importance in this debate. Surely a discussion of the benefits that a child gets from having a father and an examination of how the void created by not having one could to some extent be filled should be a minimum requirement for the IVF treatment assessment process. The state, through either the NHS or a licensed clinic, in effect licenses the creation of life that would not otherwise exist. It therefore has a responsibility to ensure that all relevant factors are taken into consideration before a decision to proceed is taken. The Government’s decision to remove the requirement for the need for a father to be considered is a clear abrogation of that responsibility. My final point on this matter relates to the Government’s intention to airbrush out of existence the biological fathers of the children of lesbian couples. I believe the measure is unfair to the child and potentially harmful. It smacks of the state colluding to fulfil a fantasy of parenthood and should be removed from the Bill."

Gary Streeter "The third part of the Bill that I wish to discuss is the removal of the “need for a father” clause. The House may have guessed that I am not necessarily in favour of that. Although the practical implications of the clause are slight—we must accept that—its symbolic magnitude should not be underestimated. It is fundamentally a question of the hierarchy of rights. Should the sensibilities of those who may be bringing up children after they are born be put before the interests of the child? Lord Darzi recently said in another place that the removal of the “need for a father” clause should be seen in the context of the wider Government policy of promoting equality, but what about the wider Government policy of ensuring that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration, as seen in the Adoption and Children Act 2002? Surely that should come first. If society desires responsible fatherhood—which we do—the most detrimental act would be to send the male population the message that they do not matter. As we all know, family structures are an interdependent triad of relationships between father and child, between mother and child and between father and mother, each performing separate and complementary roles in the socialisation and normalisation of each party. We need to start affirming the position of fathers in parenting, families and society in general, and the Bill tugs us in the wrong direction. In this hierarchy of rights, it should be the child who triumphs."

Robert Key, Conservative MP for Salisbury said "One issue has not been mentioned so far: what should be put on a birth certificate?" (Although it had been mentioned previously by Alan Lamb) "I think that the state has a moral duty not to be party to a deliberate deception about a person’s genetic history. The evidence convinces me that everyone has the right to know the identity of their biological parents, and it also suggests that the best approach is for the social parents to inform their children at the earliest opportunity, at the most appropriate moment, of their origin. However, for the avoidance of doubt and to be fair to everyone, there is a case for printing on every birth certificate a notice of other state agencies that may hold additional information on a person’s genetic history. Therefore, no one would be discriminated against and everybody would know that it might be worth checking, if there is any doubt and one’s “parents” have not told one."

Chris McCafferty spoke in support of the removal of the fathe clause saying children born to single women and lesbian couples fare just as well as those born to heterosexual couples. Emily Thornbury spoke passionately in favour of removal of the clause saying that children could be denied a second loving parent at the heart of the amily if the need for a father was not removed.

Iris Robinson (DUP) made no apologies for being a born again Christian and in doing so made reference to biblical texts. she made scathing attacks on the propsals to remove the need for a father saying " The abolition of the need for a father flies in the face of a society that invests its efforts in creating legislation against absent fathers. Why now give fathers the message that they are not needed? Children flourish when nurtured in a family with two parents of the opposite sex who work together and complement each other. That is God’s design and intention. We see from research that the pattern that God has laid down for fatherhood is necessary, because the lack of a father figure has a high cost indeed.
Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8 per cent. of children in married couple families were living in poverty, compared with 38.4 per cent. of children in female-householder families. Even after adjusting for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.
Without a highly involved father, youths are more at risk of substance abuse. Each unit increase in father involvement is associated with a 1 per cent. reduction in substance use. Living in an intact family also decreases the risk of first substance use. Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy. An analysis of child abuse cases in a US representative sample of 42 counties found that children from single-parent families are more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse than children who live with both biological parents.
Compared with their peers living with both parents, children in single parent homes had a 77 per cent. greater risk of being physically abused, an 87 per cent. greater risk of being harmed by physical neglect, a 165 per cent. greater risk of experiencing notable physical neglect, a 74 per cent. greater risk of suffering from emotional neglect, an 80 per cent. greater risk of suffering serious injury as a result of abuse, and overall, a 120 per cent. greater risk of being endangered by some type of child abuse. It is also the case, unfortunately, that fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school."

Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour MP for Crosby said "I come to the deliberate removal of an explicit reference to the father on a child’s birth certificate. The Bill will not only allow for designer babies, but for designer artificially created families. Such registration of children on birth certificates will result in the creation of two-father and two-mother families. No account is to be taken of the child’s right to a mother and a father. That right should never be outweighed, particularly not by the supposed rights of adults to choose to engineer the structure of their family as they please. The rights of adults are paramount in the proposals before us, while the best interests of the child are totally ignored. The effect on the child’s identity, or their gender confusion, has not even been considered. A child is to be treated as a mere commodity, where someone can opt to become the other parent simply by giving notice. That child product, like a washing machine, can be registered by two mothers as parents on the birth certificate.
There are genuine religious concerns, and plenty of biblical passages support the family. They should not be constantly devalued or perceived as old fashioned. It is not old-fashioned homophobia to support the traditional family. I oppose unjustified discrimination against homosexuals, but I must protect the traditional notion of a family. Homophobia means a fear of homosexuals and the term is not appropriate in our current discussion. Opposition to the creation of same-sex parented families does not imply a fear of homosexuals or rejection of homosexual relationships; it is the simple assertion of the rights of a child."

Evan Harris criticised Geraldine Smith saying "I move to the need for a father. I was, again, disappointed by comments on this issue. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale said, at the beginning of her speech, that she had nothing against lesbian parents, but at the end of it she attacked them for what I believe she called the “fantasy” of their parenting. It is offensive and discriminatory to use such terms."

Andrew Stunell, made the interesting point "I shall not go into any of the significant issues that have been debated so far, except to comment on the role of the father and the rights of the child. I have heard it said tonight by two different speakers that the child has a right to know its father. I should like to remind the House that many children do not know who their father is. For children of single parents, the father may never be put on the birth certificate, or the details may be put on wrongly. The proportion of cases, even involving those in stable relationships, where, for perfectly understandable reasons, the wrong father is entered on the birth certificate is higher than Members of this House might like to think. An absolute right for the child to know its father would commit this House to a wide-ranging extension of settling of the paternity of every child born in this country. Let us not extend that right solely to those who are conceived as a result of the processes outlined in the Bill."

In summing up Dawn Primarolo: "To retain the reference to the need for a father would be inconsistent with other legislation that has been passed by Parliament to recognise civil partnerships and to remove discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. In addition, Parliament would be seen as sending out the message that clinics must consider the need for a father. The code of practice, on which they rely at the moment, could not be relied on to amend that practice in future, because of the clearly stated views of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) explained eloquently and in great detail why that change is necessary. There are further issues to do with the welfare of the child. If women are discouraged from approaching legitimate services, they might be encouraged to make their own arrangements. A loophole in the 1990 legislation was that it did not prevent the rise in the amount of sperm supplied by internet-based firms. We have already acted to bring those activities under regulation. Properly licensed services can give the necessary assurances of quality and safety, along with important access to future requirements with regard to identifying parents...... On the question of birth certificates, and of telling children that they are donor-conceived, we have made it clear in another place that we would carry out a review within four years of the Bill coming into force. It is therefore a bit difficult for me to explain what has already been done, as I shall have to wait until the Bill has been passed.

She wa then interrupted as follows:
Geraldine Smith: I want to ask the Minister about birth certificates. Will we reach a position in which two mothers appear on a birth certificate, but no father? How will a birth certificate be worded if two lesbians have a child, and one of them appears on the certificate as the second parent? What will the certificate actually say?
Dawn Primarolo: It will say that one is the mother and the other is the parent, which conveys the legal standard.
The Bill and the review that led to its drafting have evolved through a long period of reflection—[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Hon. Members must let the right hon. Lady speak—[Interruption.] Order.

I found this interesting letter written to constituents from Lynn Jones MP for Birmingham Selly Oak in support of the bill.

BBC coverage. HFEB - Key points

Disabled Victims and Survivors of Holocaust Remembered

The UK's first memorial to the one million disabled people who were persecuted, sterilised or killed by Nazi Germany has been unveiled. Survivors, celebrities and disability groups were at the event, where a rose and plaque were dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust's disabled victims. Plans for a permanent sculpture were also revealed at the Holocaust Centre in Laxton, Nottinghamshire.

Defend A Woman's Right to Choose

Emergency Protest - Tuesday 20 May, 5.30pm
Outside Parliament - Old Palace Yard, opposite St Stephen's Entrance (Tube: Westminster)
Defend 24 Weeks – no reduction in abortion time limit

On Tuesday 20 May Members of Parliament will debate and vote on the anti-abortion amendments to the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill. The key amendments aim to lower the time limit for abortion and must be defeated.
This vote is taking place much earlier than expected and with very little notice. In the limited time available, it is vital that everyone who supports a woman’s right to choose does everything they can to show their opposition to any reduction in the time limit. Please attend this crucial protest – and encourage your trade union, women’s group, student union or other organization to send a presence. Please also write to your MP in advance of 20th to urge them to vote against any amendment to reduce the time limit. A model letter is available at www.abortionrights.org.uk

Women must come first. There is no significant scientific or medical support for any reduction in the time limit. Yet a handful of anti-abortionists are using propaganda and misinformation, hoping to intimidate and mislead MPs into attacking women’s rights. An overwhelming majority of the public supports the right to choose: MPs should uphold choice and vote down amendments by Nadine Dorries and any anti-abortion MPs.
Less than two per cent of abortions take place after 20 weeks. If successful, a lowering of the abortion time limit would be devastating for a small number of women in difficult, unforeseeable and individual circumstances and would encourage further anti-abortion attacks. Contrary to anti-abortion hype, research shows there has been no increase in survival rates for births under 24 weeks. There is opposition to any lowering of the time limit from the British Medical Association, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, British Association of Perinatal Medicine, Royal College of Nursing, TUC and national trade unions, the Department of Health and MPs across all three major parliamentary political parties.

ZCTU Leaders arrested

Wellington Chibebe, General Secretary of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), and Lovemore Matombo, President, have both been detained at the Harare Central Police Station in connection with speeches made by them on May Day. They have been charged with inciting people to rise against the government and spreading falsehoods about the current political crisis in Zimbabwe.

For further details and of the action you can take see the report on ACTSA's website.

5 May 2008

California Supreme Court to hear Lesbian Fertility Case

On the 28th May 2008, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of the a woman who claims that she was refised fertility treatments on the grounds that she was a lesbian and a single woman.

She was refused access to artifical insemination by Doctors on the grounds that they said it would violate their religious beliefs. Although a lower court held that they could not use their religious beliefs as a reason for refusal, they ruled that discrimination on the grounds of marital status was permitted.

The Doctors argue that they would refuse the treatment to unmarried heterosexual women whereas the woman states that she was denied access to treatment on the basis of her sexual orientation. She has been in a relationship with a registered domestic partner for 15 years.

Given the current Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill debate in the UK over the removal of the requirement to consider a need for a father clause and it being put to a free vote on the premis that it is an issue of conscience, this is an interesting case. Also in jurisdictions that do not permit marriage but have registered partnerships which purport to enjoy the same rights and obligations, this is clearly a case of discrimination.

Read more at 365gay.com

Free to Adopt

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society recently wrote 'A Better Blair Legacy' in the Guardian's Comment is Free. His article focuses on gay couples being allowed to adopt and the bitter battle that ensued to minmise exemptions. In 2002, legislation was introduced which allowed gay couples to adopt. In 2006, the Sexual orientation Regulations, were introduced which protect gay people from discrimination in the provision of goods and services. Similar provisions were introduced on the grounds of religion and belief.

The Churches had demanded exemptions from the Sexual Orientation Regulations, saying that it should not be forced into providing its adoption services to same-sex couples. The Government decided that there could be no exemption but allowed a transitional period for the adoption agencies to adjust their services which would mean they would have to open up their services to gay people, or it would have them taken away. faith-based adoption agencies have just until the end of this year to comply with the law.

Well comment really is free - and some of the comments made in response to the article just show us that legislation alone does not mean that we have achieved equality. There are many comments that children are better off with parents of opposite genders and that ir is shown that they flourish better. References to having a mum and dad being normal and advocacy for gay adoption puts the rights of the parents over the rigts of the child. Gay people being allowed to adopt is even referred to as fashionable social exprimentation.

There are comments in favour of course but the negative comments just show that we still have a long way to go. Lesbians and Gay Men do usually have the capacity to bear children - they are not usually born infertile. They have access to means to biologically produce children if they so desire and are able to. Many who wish to adopt, do so because they want to give a vulnerable child a stable and loving home.

4 May 2008

12th May - Dday for HFEB

12th May will see the debate of the HFEB in the House of Commons and this is when the issue of the removal of the clause to consider the requirement of the need for a father will go to a free vote time permitting. It will also see the amendments to abortion rights debated. it is not too late to write to your MP to urge them to support the removal of the clause and to oppose any attempts to restrict a woman's right to choose.

Write now at http://www.writetothem.com/

3 May 2008

Save the EU Directive on Anti-Discrimination.

Craig has blogged about this and it reminded me how important this directive. UNISON's National LGBT Committee, TUC, ETUC, LGBT Labour, Rainbow Rose and ILGA-Europe have been involved in the campaign for a new EU directive for anti-discrimination in areas outside employment to include all grounds. At present, European legislation does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, disability, religion and belief, in areas of life other then employment such as access to goods and services (including housing), social protection and social advantages, education and health care. Legal protection against discrimination on the different grounds varies from one EU country to another. All member states have legal rules going beyond ehat is already required by European law but discrimination on some grounds (age, disability and sexual orientation) is less covered, domestic laws may prohibit discrimination for all the grounds but only in some areas of life and there is not a minimum applicable standard of non-discrimination across the EU. Discrimination on the grounds of Race and Gender have the strongest protection. At the moment, the directive is under threat with objections coming from the President of the EU Commission and from Governments of some Member States including Germany. In particular concerns have been expressed about the inclusion of sexual orientation in the directive. There is a petition that can be signed to help save the directive.

Preston Elections

Preston local elections fortunately did not reflect the disaster of the rest of the country. Although Labour lost a key seat and an exemplary, long serving councillor in Jonathon Saksena to the Tories by just 91 votes, they won another seat over the Liberal Democrats. The Tories however, gained a seat from the Liberal Democrats. The council therefore remains hung with the Labour Party having the most seats at 24. The pproblem is with the Tories at 21 and the Lib Dems at 9, they have formed an alliance which gives the Tories overall control and Labour a battle.

See here for full results and the local nespaper coverage. The reactions are captured here.

I'm glad I don't live in London

May 2 really was St Boris Day who in fact is the patron saint of Bulgaria but definately not the patron saint of London nor a friend of LGBT people although Boris Johnson, the newly elected London Mayor would have you believe he is. Some of us will remember the recent Stonewall hustings when he lost his temper when being questioned over his position on gay rights seeing that sometimes he votes in favour and then writes homophobic banter. He repeatedly said that he did not believe that the state should not intervene in matters such as marriage and what is taught in schools. This is probably an indication that LGBT equality will not be high on his agenda now he is Mayor and it would be interesting to know what else he does not think the state should interfere in.

Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary said to the BBC "The election of Boris Johnson as mayor is a bad day for London, for Londoners and for the capital's public services. In time, Londoners will regret electing this Conservative as their champion. We are particularly worried about the effect that the election of a BNP assembly member will have on race relations and community harmony."

The London Assembly results showed a swing to the Tories with Labour managing to keep hold of some seats but the election of the BNP candidate Richard Barnbrook is a travesty. He denies the BNP is racist. He also says "You can be gay behind closed doors, you can be heterosexual behind closed doors, but you don't bring it onto the streets, demanding more rights for it."

For more comments on the election read Craigs LGBT blog.