23 Jul 2008

United Nations - LGBT Victory for Inclusion

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have granted consultative status to two groups that work on sexual orientation and gender identity which is a victory in the ongoing struggle for inclusion at the UN.
The two groups approved on July 21 and 22, 2008 are COC Netherlands and the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transexuals and Bisexuals of Spain (FELGTB), national organizations representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Netherlands and Spain.
"COC Netherlands is delighted about obtaining consultative status with the UN," said Björn van Roozendaal, COC international advocacy officer. "It means we can join the efforts at the UN to address human rights violations against people with an alternative sexual orientation or gender identity."

"Spanish-speaking LGBT voices will be heard in UN meetings where human rights questions are debated," said David Montero, FELGTB Spain's officer for international issues and human rights. "We thank all who have contributed to this exciting outcome, and especially Spain's UN mission for their support."

Consultative status is a key means for civil society to access the UN system. It allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to deliver oral and written reports at UN meetings, and to organize events on UN premises. With it, these groups can share their information and analysis of the abuses and discrimination LGBT people confront around the world.

Only a handful of LGBT groups have received the status. In recent years, some states have treated LGBT groups' applications with intense hostility, and ECOSOC has only granted such groups consultative status after first overturning negative recommendations from its NGO Committee. ECOSOC approved the Danish National Association for Gay and Lesbians, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe), and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany in December 2006. The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Québec and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights gained consultative status in July 2007. The US-based International Wages Due Lesbians and Australian-based Coalition of Activist Lesbians have had consultative status at the UN for more than a decade.

At its January session, the committee tied 7-7 on consultative status for FELGTB Spain, meaning the motion to recommend it failed, but at the following session in June it voted 7-6 to grant the status for COC Netherlands.

At the July session in New York, ECOSOC adopted by consensus the recommendation on COC Netherlands and voted to overturn the recommendation not to grant status to FELGTB Spain. "ECOSOC has recognized the place of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in the work of the United Nations," said John Fisher from ARC International, which supported the groups' advocacy efforts.

"States from all five regions voted to overturn the negative recommendation from the NGO Committee in regards to FELGTB Spain," said Philipp Braun, co-secretary general of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). "We would like the committee to acknowledge the repeated message sent by ECOSOC that it should recommend LGBT groups. We also congratulate our members COC and FELGTB on their victory."

"Many states claim that ECOSOC's votes need to follow the recommendations of its NGO Committee; the view of those who voted in favor of the LGBT groups, however, is that this cannot be done at the price of discriminating against anyone, including LGBT voices," noted Adrian Coman from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), who participated in monitoring the ECOSOC and NGO Committee meetings.

The NGO Committee is due to review a number of additional applications from LGBT groups at its next two sessions in January and May 2009.
A full list of states' voting patterns during the current ECOSOC session can be found here.

Pople of Lesbos have been Lesbians for thousands of years!

An Athens court has dismissed the lawsuit accusing an LGBT rights group of demeaning the people of the Aegean island of Lesbos by purloining the word Lesbian, a term islanders have used to name themselves for centuries.

The lawsuit was brought by three islanders from Lesbos, home of the ancient poet Sappho, who praised love between women. The island is a popular holiday destination for lesbians.

The suit said that the name of the LGBT group - Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece - “insults the identity” of the people of Lesbos.

In dismissing the case, the court said that islanders did not have sole claim to the name. Attorneys for the three islanders said they may appeal to the European Court.

Dimitris Lambrou one of the litigants in the case said Sappho was not gay. “But even if we assume she was, how can 250,000 people of Lesbian descent - including women - be considered homosexual?” Lambrou also denied the suit was homophobic. “The word lesbian has been associated with gay women for the past few decades but we have been Lesbians for thousands of years,” he said.

Evagelia Vlami from the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece said: "that the name is not only used by her association but is used across Europe and the United States - from Great Britain to Russia."

18 Jul 2008

Happy 90th Birthday Nelson Mandela

Celebrate Mandela the man and the movement he represents. Sign the birthday card pledge for democracy, justice and rights for southern Africa. Visit ACTSA's website.

And remember the 11th Fenbruary 1990 and what you were doing when this great man at the age of 71 walked to freedom after so many years wrongfully imprisoned by an aparthied regime.

17 Jul 2008

Union Futures - Next Steps

Union Futures has posted on the next steps saying that with the loss in pay local government employers now have to make an offer of 3.25%. But inflation is 3.8%. Our claim is 6% or 50p whichever is the greater.

Day 2 of the Strike - Blackpool

I attended the rally in Blackpool today which was a really good turn out despite the pouring rain. It also seemed that less people turned up for work. Yesterday though there was an incident with a picket when she was clipped by a car and the police had to be called. Today a contractor going into the council told us to get a proper job and then when we shouted back at him that we have, he rang the union to complain! You can imagine what was said to him. We got his number as he effed and jeffed at us. The local NUT, UNISON Health Branch came out to support us and as the buses went by, they tooted their support. All in all, the general public were in support but some of the comments in the local paper just show that some people do not have any understanding of the structures of local government.

Views from Blackpool Picket Line

16 Jul 2008

Blackpool Strike Rally

Blackpool Strike Rally
11am Thursday 17th July 2008
Outside Blackpool Town Hall Talbot Square

Strike On!

As we enter the second day of strike action, the first day seems to have gone well with massive disruption if media coverage and local reports from our members is anything to go by. My local council was completely closed to the public. I work in Blackpool as a homelessness prevention officer and we had a fair share of members and non-members not coming into work. We are holding a rally outside the town hall tomorrow at 11am and hopefully this will attract members from other local councils.
One of the real salient reasons for me as well as my own financial situation is that of my members and the fact that I am aware of members having to access my service as a service user because of the risk of homelessness as they cannot afford to keep up with their rising mortgage payments, heating costs, food bills and inflation. How can we be positively public when we are worried about how we are surviving on a day to day basis.
And the other thing, most local government employees also pay council tax so already contribute at least £1000 towards their own salaries a year. I know obviously some of it goes on services they receive in the district they live, but they are contibuting to the service they and their colleagues deliver!
With the reserves that the employers have got and the average councillors allowances increasing by 15%, 2.45% is not enough. We need to sustain this action for as long as possible.

Watch here

Local Government All Out for Fair Pay

As co-chairs of UNISON's LGBT committee, myself and Craig Nelson, expressed the committee's support and solidarity to all members in local government taking part in the industrial action. We said 'Our members cannot be expected to continue to accept pay cuts with rising inflation and living costs. We urge our LGBT members within local government to be "all out" on the 16th and 17th July and to demonstrate our collective determination to act to improve our pay and conditions - Stronger Together!'.For information on why UNISON members are on strike and rolling news of the action, go to http://www.unison.org.uk/paymatters/whystrike.asp

Registrars in glass houses......

Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar refused to register same sex civil registered partnerships because she believes that Gods Law says that a union should be between a man and a woman for a life. I wonder how many heterosexual divorcees she registered. In the evidence given to the tribunal, one of her duties included renewal of vows. I know many heterosexual couples who renew their vows because one of them has strayed. I doubt Ladele took the trouble to ask them why and if the answer had been adultery, it is unlikely that she would have refused to renew their vows.

And now it is reported that Ladele herself has had a child out of wedlock. I am sure that I read somewhere that orthodox Christian views are against sex outside marriage.

UNISON advises that no legal precedent has been established by the tribunal ruling. Other cases have had different outcomes. A Christian magistrate sought the right to opt out of family cases that could result in children being placed with same sex couples. He lost his claim. A local government worker who claimed religious discrimination when he was sacked for distributing homophobic leaflets of bible quotes in the workplace also lost his case

Thank God that Islington are appealing! Diane Abbott MP has tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to clarify or amend the law, if the appeal fails. You can call on your MP to add their name to the Early Day Motion, number 2039.

13 Jul 2008

More on the Registrar

Just had a thought. The HFEB being debated at the moment with it's third reading on the 14th July in the Commons seeks to amend the Births and Deaths Registrations legislation to permit female same sex partners to be registered as the parents on birth certificates where the child has been born via IVF procedures. Will the Islington ruling therefore allow registrars from opting out of registering the births of such children on the grounds that this is against their religious beliefs? Will they permitted to only being allowed to register the births of children born of woman and man? The implications of this ruling are ridiculous?

God is above Employment Law

I am still reeling over the findings of the Employment Tribunal in Ladele v London Borough of Islington. Ladele was a registrar who found that her religious beliefs as an othodox Christian were not comptible with performing civil registrations. She complained to the Tribunal which unanimously founf that she had been directly discriminated against on the grounds of religion and belief, that she had been indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of religion and belief and that she had suffereed harassment on the grounds of religion and belief. The fact that there were two gay employees who had to listen to her justification for refusal to perform civil registrations as being "marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that marriage is the God ordained place for sexual relations." just shows that religion and belief can interfere above the state even in a secular society. The whole pint of civil marriages and that civil registrations is that they are not ordained before God. One of the main arguments from some of LGBT people is that they want to have marriage and want the chance to have their unions recognised by God. The very fact they can only have civil registered partnerships denies them that. Ladele told the tribunal that she could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same sex unions to be formed and that she believed this to be contrary to God's instructions that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage. Therefore even if the law introduced same sex marriage, her God's law woould be above the state law and this tribunal ruling would allow her to act outside the law.

This opens the gateway for refusal of services and conscience decisions being made for example, on the provision of abortion and I hope that Islington will appeal. I am stillreading the transcript of the tribunal decision and will be blogging more about this case, the more I read and when I hve looked at the other caselaw that the tribuunal relied on. It makees for depressing reading and no doubt UNISON's National LGBT Committee will be discussing this further at their meeting on the 19th July 2008.

Also see Craig's Blog - Beyond belief

Back to Blogging

I have been quiet over the last week. Work and UNISON has been busy what with the strike coming up. There are so many things I want to blog about so you might see trickles over the coming days (or not) on such topics like these:
  • Ladele v Islington Employment Tribunal ruling
  • LGBT Asylum
  • Boris and Pride
  • Ray Lewis
  • Tatchell and Harman
  • TUC LGBT Conference, UNISON Labour Link, Prides
  • Reggae music