No Hate, Presidential Affirmations and More….

At the beginning of this month, I had the privilege of attending a NOH8 function with a dear friend of mine.  It was a photo shoot in beautiful downtown Vancouver.  I was so impressed with the work of the NOH8 campaign and with President Obama’s recent affirmation of the rights of gay people to marry, that I just had to blog about it.

I loved the idea of people sporting a duct-taped face with the NOH8 logo on one cheek, photographed by none other than Adam Bouska in a variety of poses.  I loved that many non LGBT family and friends were there to support their loved ones.  I loved that the day after the event, I received a text from the same friend letting me know that President Obama had  affirmed his belief that gay people ought to have the right to marry.  How fortuitous that an African-American president, running for reelection, had the temerity to historically state, “…it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”  This is of course, after stating this:  “…I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community….”   Would civil unions, enacted into law, been enough?  What if the proverbial tables were turned and male-female marriages were not recognised? At least a modern, sitting president was willing to accept that change is taking place whether “federalized” or not.

Whatever is happening, we have to remember two very important things here:  First, historic though it may be, a presidential affirmation does not legislation make.  Second, that the presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is in favour of a “federal constitutional amendment” banning same-sex marriage. And let’s not forget that 30 American states have passed laws banning same-sex marriage, so where does that leave President Obama’s affirmation?  Well, legally, it doesn’t have much on which to stand.  Morally, and perhaps most importantly, it has made the personal political and the political personal.
Even the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is rather vague on this issue; it has no specific dialogue on the rights of members of the LGBT community marrying, however, given when it was drafted, its language is somewhat inclusive:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 16:

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the   intending spouses.

  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

This leaves the presidential affirmation in a state of social acceptability but not of legal acceptability.  It may yet take another twenty years for the United States to pass a law that legalizes same-sex marriage in every state and allow for same-sex divorces in much the same manner of heterosexual marriage and divorce.  Here’s what would make the most succinct difference: a constitutional amendment that does not allow for a same-sex marriage law to be repealed under any circumstance. I always question what happened in the legal process that allowed for same-sex marriages to take place and then have the courts declare that the same law was repealed, thus voiding the marriages of many a couple who thought that finally, the law had been updated to reflect ‘modern’ society.
How did we become a society that allows for people to get married and then the next day, tell them their marriage isn’t valid because some people disagree with their rights to be married?

I realise that I am a little behind in my blog this time, but I wanted to collect my thoughts because many people I love are affected by this issue.  Moreover, I wanted to encourage those of you who broke out the champagne and celebrated President Obama’s affirmation to continue keeping the hope alive, but bring out the bubbly when same-sex marriage becomes federal law in the United States.

In the meantime, wishing you all good things!  And cheers to the NOH8 Campaign!

It ain’t just the economy stupid…

Social and print media have been bombarded with images of war and state sponsored terrorism lately.  No more so than images being leaked from Syria and not surprisingly, from Israel and Palestine.  France struggles with electing a new President in the midst of continued economic down turn and America is on the road to deciding once again if change is necessary.  In Canada, we recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Yet, I ask you, how many of you Canadians even knew that our Charter is only 30 years old?  Better yet, how many of you even knew we had one?  Our “culture” is so consumed by Americanisation that it surprises me that many do not know that there is an entire “Charter” that protects fundamental freedoms, like our right to freedom of expression.  While we have miles and miles to go before the Charter is reflective of every walk of life, we have come a very long way since 1982.

Rights activists will no doubt be screaming out that the Charter is lacking in a great many areas, however, compared to living in Syria or Palestine, I think we have things pretty good.  While we could undoubtedly give more recognition to our Aboriginal Peoples and to those who identify through sexual orientation, we are incredulously, among the luckiest people in the world.  Our government has not sponsored its forces to commit terrorism against us. Nor has our government walled us off from friends and family telling us that due to religious beliefs, we have no right to life or no access to water.  Although I am sure that many in Attawapiskat would tell you otherwise, the people of Palestine are facing a struggle so dire that, left unchecked, will result in the most covert, deceitful form of apartheid there is:  civil apartheid.  Human Rights activist and coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Frank Barat writes on Al-Jazeera that “we’ve gone way beyond Apartheid.”  That annexation of certain areas of Palestine to Israel is happening on such a civil level that the offer of citizenship to Palestinians in areas being annexed is nothing more than apartheid because it forces the walled in separation of Arabs from Jews.

Check out his article:

We’ve gone way beyond Apartheid

What is more concerning to me is what happens when most Palestinians are walled off from water sources.  Many no longer have access to water wells and sources that once belonged to them through ancestral inheritance of land. Is this the new level on which wars will be fought?  And has this been done deliberately so that each party can turn to the world and say “see? we told you they would….!”

We have become so complacent in our lack of understanding others that there is no longer outcry when Syrian forces kill young students without hesitation.  When people are starved of their rights to provide for themselves and educate themselves, what is left are a people so marred by violence and hatred that even the mundane activity of buying bread can become an event in rage.  Why is it necessary to murder in the name of a man who is so far removed from his own truth that he is creating a nightmare for all those who have the misfortune to be living under his rule?

For a world economy that is so fragile, so based in deceit to repair itself, will take leaders of all nations to come together to recognise the validity and the value of human life.  Even if it takes fifty or one hundred years, the end result will be well worth the effort.  Without the energy and the spirit of human kind, no amount of money will replace the lives, the dignity of all those who have fallen victim to apartheid, genocide, economic disaster, civil strife and war.  Today our lives aren’t just about the economy — they are about the meaning we derive from every moment.  Perhaps one day, Palestine and Syria will have charters akin to Canada’s. Perhaps one day, resources that are part of our environmental commons will be shared between all peoples, regardless of historical ancestry.

Here’s hoping….