March 23, 2006
Modern Gays in Modern Eastern Europe
by Richard Ammon, owner, GlobalGayz.com
Beginning quote (from: Gays And Globalism: Homosexuality and Progress by Jeremy Seabrook
“ As greater economic integration is accepted as inevitable, it seems social and cultural differences come to bear all the more weight in defining the social values and independence of countries. Gains (in progress) are fragile and impermanent, and maintaining them requires vigilance. The global response to homosexuality, far from showing signs of convergence, demonstrates clear divisions, ranging from the very liberal to the violently intolerant.”
The progression of gay rights in Eastern Europe since the collapse of the communist Soviet Union has been fitful, erratic, uneven and punctuated with hope and grief. For every step forward there is a setback somewhere else.
A small step in the right direction was recently take by the Czech Republic’s lower house of parliament voted to override a presidential veto of gay civil unions (March 15)
In the opposite direction, we read, from Moldova, of a high ranking police officer declaring (March 2006): "For me, the main law is the Law of God, according to which homosexuality is a sin and those who commit it shall die."
In Poland, arguably eastern Europe’s most progressive and prosperous state, gay groups have played cat-and-mouse games with the government for several years as the authorities have tried to suppress gay parades and festivals. Yet, in recent years, gay marchers have taken to the street in spite of the rulings. The recent election of Lech Kaczynski, 56, as Poland’s president and his twin brother, Jaroslaw, as Prime Minister, is not a step forward for LGBT rights in Poland. The two men portray themselves as pillars of Poland’s conservative social values against what they see as too much liberalism of western Europe.
Both Kaczynskis have been verbal critics of gay rights, positive abortion laws and want the proposed EU constitution to refer to God and Christian origins. President Kaczynski claims his views are conservative but mainstream: “Contrary to what some people say, I am not for the discrimination against gays. They have the right to participate in public life. However, I am against the public display of their sexual preferences," he said in an interview. When Kaczynski visited Berlin in March 2006 he was picketed and heckled by gay rights activists. Ignoring their purpose, he ambiguously and foolishly declared, “I do not plan to persecute homosexuals or to hinder their careers. But there is no reason to encourage it because it would mean that mankind would slowly die out.”
Against such Polish resistance two government recognized organizations KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) and Lambda Warsaw strive to change homophobia slowly but steadily through political lobbying and . They are supported by NGO’s and people in academia. In small increments their efforts show, for example, as commercial banks regularly provide loans to gay and lesbian couples without problems.
Meanwhile, next door in Bucharest, Romania, a major news story appeared March 9, 2006 in the Bucharest Daily News
The story was surprisingly progressive in its upbeat coverage of the apparent ‘glam’ gay scene in Bucharest. “ A city once puritanical and narrow-minded, has managed to offer its gay community all the necessary means for a hedonistic existence…the big cities of Romania, once stodgy and ashamed of sexual diversity, have recently witnessed a flowering of gay culture. Gay bars and dance clubs have sprung up since 2001, when homosexuality stopped being a criminal offence.” The story went on to quote happy clubbers and describe their thrilling night lives of dancing, drinking and hob-nobbing with friends.
Alluded to but not clarified was the other side–the day life–of LGBT Romanians who live in the closet out of fear of scandal, family rejection, personal shame, public exposure or being fired from their jobs and losing their homes–fears echoed throughout all of eastern Europe. The scene described in the news report is a shadow world that happens after dark when cautious, straight-appearing workers shed their coats and ties and don flashy dance outfits.
As a balance between night and day the article included a voice that not did not agree with this analysis of the flashy gay scene. In Bucharest, Florin Buhuceanu, the leader of ACCEPT, the largest and most visible LGBT advocacy organization in Romania, offered his view: "I know many stable gay couples, who have a beautiful quiet (gay) family life. The above opinions (of hedonism) cannot be used in reaching a viable conclusion about all gay and lesbian persons, as these opinions legitimize the prejudices against the gay community.”
Across the border in Russia, Moscow’s autocratic mayor, Yuri Lushkov–deciding that homosexuality is “an unnatural act”–denied a permit for Moscow’s first-ever Gay Pride march, festival and conference that had been in planning for 2006. Lushkov told reporters the LGBT activities will be “severely repressed.” Perhaps worse, some religious leaders, lead by the chief Muslim mufti, called for the use of violence to prevent the march: “The parade should be allowed in no circumstances. If they go into the streets, they should be thrashed.” As well, a leading Russian Rabbi, Berl Lazar, said that a gay parade “would be a blow for morality”. A cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church called such a Pride Parade "the propaganda of sin".
Against such daunting prejudice, there is no Russian gay group with enough presence or influence to stand up, resist repression and advocate for change. There is one modest LGBT organization in all of Russia–‘Together’, which runs a website (http://www.gay.ru/english/) and offers support and information about homosexuality and HIV. (Wisely, they claim to be apolitical.) In the absence or weakness of native LGBT organizations in eastern Europe the international LGBT and human rights ‘community’ has often stepped in to denounce such overt bigotry and persecution.
In response to the Moscow ban, Human Rights Watch (HRW) vigorously denounced the ban: “Mayor Luzhkov is giving prejudice a veto over the rights to peaceful expression and assembly,” said Scott Long, director of HRW’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program. “Human rights are not a popularity contest,” said Long. “Letting this march proceed is an international obligation. If prejudice is allowed to trump the rights that all citizens should enjoy, then everyone’s freedoms are endangered.”
The protest was echoed by the Belgium-based ILGA—International Gay and Lesbian Association—as well as by New York-based IGLHRC—International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Amnesty International’s Gay and Lesbian division also concurred in the protest. (It should be noted that a generous amount of funding for eastern European gay projects and events comes from western European countries such as Holland and Scandinavia.)
Clearly demonstrated in Russia is the sad truth that virtually no eastern country has substantial LGBT organizations with sufficient financing and clout to counteract ‘old world’ thinking.
Such groups as Croatia’s Iskorak (Step Forward), Slovenia’s DIH (Assoc. for Integration of Homosexuals), Bulgaria’s Gemini, Latvia’s LGLYSG (Latvian Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Group) and Hatter Support Society in Hungary—all are run by small groups of dedicated, courageous and vigorous volunteers who run risk of exposure and attack. These groups offer phone hotlines, print newsletters, organize sporting events, sponsor film festivals (that get threats) or send representative to international LGBT meetings to learn strategies for effective lobbying. Clearly none of these organizations can remotely afford to mount a national anti-homophobia or pro-gay media campaign in the press or on TV to counter embedded sentiments against them.
That said, it must acknowledged that the brave folks from Warsaw’s LPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) mounted a public billboard program in 2003 called “Let Them See Us” in which life-sized photos of gay and lesbian couples were shown holding hands. The project, not surprisingly, was significantly shortened as a result of protests from the Roman Catholic Church. (See their website to view the photos: http://www.niechnaszobacza.art.pl/index_en.htm)
Such negative reactions to gay presence in eastern Europe are inevitable. In addition to religious bigotry, Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semitic, skinhead nationalist groups appear to be the most visible and violent groups who grab headline news by their physical assaults on gay events, as happened most vehemently in Belgrade, Serbia in 2002 when squads of skinhead goons attacked not only the gay marchers but also the few police present to guard them.
Lost in the hysteria and shouting and club wielding of the moment were the thousands of citizens who were appalled by the attacks. Although they might not have approved of homosexuals in their society, most did not condone such brutality—perhaps recoiling from the memory of the killing fields across the Balkans in the mid-90s. Few have forgotten the massacres and assassinations that happened between ethnic groups and the extreme pain of those years. Most people want no more of violence, but young militants, ten years later, are roused by their own resentment—of poverty, lack of job opportunities, murdered relatives, homophobia and a fantasies of a new white-supremacist social order—continue to rage against ‘outsiders’, including gypsies, immigrants and gays.
One activist from Slovenia claimed that much of the homophobia in the east comes not from religious sources, since the atheistic communists ruled for most of the 20th century. Rather, the prejudice comes from, first, the strong influence of the Soviet criminal laws against homosexual acts; second, from a more personal resistance to change. “People still think in the monolithic way—one system for all people. They are not used to diversity. They like the idea of freedom but not too much, especially if it includes ideas that move away from the old social ways.”
The desire to join the European Union, with it distinctly pro-gay regulations and standards, has had an ambiguous influence on eastern societies as they entered or prepared to enter the Union. Turkey, on one hand has softened it’s hard stand against gay groups and demonstrations and parades (sponsored by the gay KOAS-GL organization) despite a call by right-wing politicians for the banning of KOAS-GL
But other new Union members or members-to be like Macedonia or Lithuania have yet to offer any window of expression for organized LGBT organizations. In Macedonia, fear rules the public behavior of gay and lesbian citizens; at the same time some Lithuanian members of parliament are trying to collect signatures as part of a drive to ban gay marriage in the constitution.
Another threatening force against gays emerging in eastern states are the modestly successful attempts to re-assert religious values onto the once-secular authoritarian atheistic political stage. From Slovakia’s Roman Catholic Church to Serbia’s Orthodox Catholic clergy and Bosnia’s Muslim communities to Ukraine’s Russian Orthodoxy, the slow re-emergence of anti-gay religions presents a growing threat to gay liberation. In reality, religious fervor never really died during the Soviet years. Rather it went dormant and was allow to exist within the state as long as it appeared to sleep.
As one lesbian activist in Serbia put it, during the communist regime “political communist myths and rigid socialistic programs imposed on the various ethnic populations demanded fearful compliance and a semblance of order in daily affairs, from selling cooperative potatoes to systematic regulated housing. People were poor but not impoverished, religion was suppressed but beliefs ran deep, ancient ethnic feuds were quieted but seethed in silence.” Communism stigmatized homosexuality and everyone learned that as well.
The major exception to this daunting eastern European homophobia is the former East Germany. It has been spared a similar gray fate because it rejoined with western Germany, which has ‘redeemed’ itself from the horrors of the Nazi years. Gays and lesbians in modern reunified Germany are protected by numerous federal laws that fully legalize homosexuality and forbid anti-discrimination specifically against gay citizens (as well as other categories such as gender, age, race and religion).
Further, there is legislative recognition of LGBT couples that gives them the same rights and responsibilities as non-gay married couples. And in early 2006 the government approved a public monument to be built in Berlin in memory of the thousands of homosexuals murdered and tortured by the Nazis.
So the story of modern gay life in eastern Europe is, so far, a halting and stumbling progression toward more freedom and expression. The way forward is littered with religious and political and social prejudice. However, when measured longitudinally, the gay rights movement is less than two generations old, if one takes New York’s 1969 Stonewall ‘riots’ as a starting point.
Recent polls and surveys taken in many countries—east and west–consistently reveal that today’s younger generation, born in the 1980’s with full access to western ideas of democracy, free enterprise and diverse sexuality, are much more favorable toward gay rights than their parents’ generation. There may be fear in the hearts of gays, leftover from history, but there is a lot of hope and anticipation for the future.
Richard Ammon can be contacted at: email@example.com
15th October 2007
Gay man expelled from reality TV show for coming out
by Tony Grew
A 20-year-old man has become the first person to come out of the closet on Georgian TV. Pako Tabatadze revealed he is gay during the first episode of popular reality show GeoBar and was promptly shown the door by disapproving producers. Mr Tabatadze was competing with eleven other young people for a prize of 40,000 Lari (£11,900), according to the Civil Georgia website. GeoBar is similar in format to the UK show Bar Wars. Contestants work in a bar, live in a communal house and try to avoid eviction by phone vote.
Koba Davarashvili, the general director of Rustavi 2 TV, said: "GeoBar is a project which first and foremost should show young people’s relationships and their drive for victory from a positive angle."
In July the ingrained homophobia of Georgian society was exposed when a Council of Europe equality event was cancelled. Organisers of a rally celebrating diversity and tolerance in the eastern European country were forced to call off the event after it was falsely reported as a gay Pride parade. The rally, part of the Council of Europe ‘All Different, All Equal’ diversity and human rights campaign, was cancelled when organisers, Georgian human rights group Century 21, received abusive telephone calls, emails and threats of violence. "This was a demonstration targeted at youth for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, where children would have shown their mutual respect and love with their songs, pictures, and creativity," said Paata Gachechiladze, head of Century 21.
The abuse started after Georgian paper Alia reported that "pederasts" were getting ready for a parade in the capital, Tbilisi, based on what Gachechiladze says is an entirely fabricated interview with a member of staff at Century 21. Century 21 shares a building with Georgian gay rights group Inclusive, and Gachechiladze says that the reporter from Alia conflated the two and unleashed a torrent of homophobia.
"Let’s just see how ready our country will be to host a gay parade," said the report in Alia. "But if the government gave them permission to do so, nothing can prevent them. Moreover, our police will defend the security of the pederast men decorated with jingling jewellery."
Radio station Rustavi 2 aired a report claiming that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili was "experiencing a strong allergy to all things Russian, old-fashioned, and imperial, will allow homegrown sodomites and a many-coloured assault of world pederasty on the streets and prospects of Tbilisi."
The influential head of the Georgian Orthodox church, Patriarch Ilya, called the rally "an exhibition of Sodom and Gomorrah" and warned it would lead to violence. Georgia is a highly religious country which prides itself on its traditional Christian values. Although homosexuality had been decriminalised, gay people are still violently targeted.
During a visit to Georgia in February, Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights said: "Homophobia is not a part of a modern society which is oriented towards democracy and human rights’ protection. From this point of view, we think the government must be a leader in resolving problems. It must assist people in becoming more informed and educated in this area."
Europe’s Crumbling Closet, Gay life explodes in the former Soviet bloc countries despite troubling setbacks
by Bruce Shenitz
Pride seasons in recent years in Eastern Europe could hardly qualify as Summers of Love. In 2006 paint bombs and insults were hurled at the second annual pride celebration in Riga, Latvia, while in Moscow, things turned more violent when neo-Nazis began beating up pride participants, including a German member of parliament. This year police used tear gas against protesters who hurled stones at the annual gay rights parade in the Romanian capital of Bucharest ] as well. Ten countries once firmly behind the Iron Curtain are now in the political arms of the European Union, 18 years after the resounding fall of the Berlin Wall.
While the nations of Eastern Europe have embraced their Western neighbors’ economic approach as a way to a prosperous future, they lag seriously behind in their attitudes towards LGBT rights. Major growing pains plague the nascent and fascinating Eastern European gay scene, and traveling through this frontier of gay rights can be an eye-opening experience. It’s difficult to generalize about a group of countries that ranges from Scandinavia-influenced Estonia in the north to traditionally Balkan Bulgaria in the south, and from relatively prosperous Hungary to a still-struggling Romania . But broadly speaking, the most gay-positive countries are those closest to Western Europe, that is, Hungary and the Czech Republic (Prague actually lies west of Vienna), and the ones that have been part of the European Union for the longest time. For the queer traveler, Budapest and Prague account for the bulk of Eastern Europe’s gay scene, and have nearly become been-there, done-that destinations, with well-developed tourism infrastructures, open attitudes towards sex, thriving gay nightlife, and world-class cultural scenes.
Hungary and the Czech Republic have even approved civil unions, as have Croatia and Slovenia. (Latvia is the only country in the region to actually outlaw same-sex marriage.) Next to emerge as players on the gay scene are likely to be Poland and Romania. But Poland, even in cosmopolitan and thriving Warsaw, is not nearly as homo-friendly as its neighbors to the West. The identical twins who rule Poland, President Lech Kaczysnski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczysnski, have frequently used homophobia to consolidate their power and enhance their popularity. While Warsaw features gay dance clubs and a countercultural art scene, Robert Biedron, the Polish leader of the Campaign Against Homophobia, is not overly optimistic: "At first I thought that I can make progress. Now I think less and less that I can."
Further out on the fringe of gay rights is Romania, which had its fourth gay festival in Bucharest in June. While homosexuality was decriminalized in 2000 and an antidiscrimination law including sexual orientation was put in place four years ago, there is strong popular feeling against homosexuality, despite some progress. According to pride festival coordinator Octav Popescu, "Although we cannot say that Romania is a friendly country for LGBT people, we’ve seen more tolerance among young people and more respect for private life." Still, he adds, "The general attitude in society is quite homophobic, especially in the rural areas."
Almost all the capitals of the countries of the former Eastern bloc — including mother Moscow — have had their first gay pride marches during the past few years. Many countries have tried to ban the marches, and in addition to virulently homophobic reactions to pride events in Riga, Moscow, Bucharest, and Krakow, the Netherlands had to recall its openly gay ambassador to Estonia last year after he and his Cuban boyfriend suffered verbal harassment and threats. But there are signs of hope: The European Court of Human Rights ruled earlier this year that Poland’s ban of gay rallies in Warsaw in 2005 violated the organizers’ rights to freedom of assembly, and the European Parliament will send a fact-finding mission to Poland to see if EU antidiscrimination laws are being violated. This proves that the integration of the former Eastern bloc into the European Union bodes well for the local LGBT population. After all, Europe is arguably the gay-friendliest continent on earth. For that progressive mind-set to flow eastward is just a matter of time.
22nd January 2008
Euro Court rules gay couples eligible to adopt
by Gemma Pritchard
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled refusing gay couples the right to adopt a child because of their sexual orientation is discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. Today the Grand Chamber delivered its judgement on gay adoption in the case of E.B. v France. The Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court by eleven votes to six awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (£7,450) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 14,528 euros for costs and expenses.
Ms. E.B. is a lesbian nursery school teacher who has been living with another woman since 1990. She applied for approval as a possible adoptive parent in February 1998, but her application was rejected. In June 2002, the highest administrative court in France upheld the rejection of her application. ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), FIDH (Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme), APGL (Association des Parents et futurs Parents Gays et Lesbiens) and the BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) were granted permission to take part in the proceedings as third parties.
Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, told PinkNews.co.uk: "We welcome today’s judgement of the European Court of Human Rights. This is a significant change in the Court’s approach towards and interpretation of the rights of LGBT people under the European Convention on Human Rights. Today the Court firmly established a principle that administrative officials cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of her/his sexual orientation in the process of applying to adopt a child. This builds on the Court’s judgments in Smith & Grady v United Kingdom (1999), that LGBT people must be allowed to serve in the armed forces, and Mouta v Portugal (1999), that the sexual orientation of a parent is irrelevant when determining who should have custody of a child."
Until today France permitted administrative officials to exclude openly lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from applying to adopt children. The European Court of Human Rights has decided that such a practice is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
An ILGA-Europe spokesperson added: "No one has an automatic right to adopt a child. But what the European Court of Human Rights said today is that European countries can no longer justify exclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from applying for a child adoption. The Court has established the principle that ILGA-Europe has long fought for– each individual should be treated equally on the basis of their individual merits as a potential parent when applying to adopt a child. The sexual orientation of the applicant is irrelevant and cannot be used to exclude them from the possibility of adopting a child. It is in the best interest of children in Europe and outside Europe that no potential adoptive parent be excluded from consideration for an irrelevant and discriminatory reason."
The press statement released by the registrar of the European Court of Human Rights states: "The Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court by eleven votes to six awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (£7,553) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 14,528 (£10,973) for costs and expenses."
In the UK gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals and couples are legally entitled to be considered as adoptive parents under the Sexual Orientation Regulations which came into force last year. Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies have until the end of this year to comply with the new rules or shut down.
Press release issued by the Registrar
Grand Chamber Judgement
E.B. v. FRANCE
The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered at a public hearing its Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of E.B. v. France (application no. 43546/02).
The Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court by eleven votes to six awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 14,528 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available in English and French.)
1. Principal facts
E.B. is a French national aged 45. She is a nursery school teacher and has been living with another woman, R., who is a psychologist, since 1990.
The application concerns the refusal by the French authorities to grant the applicant’s request to adopt a child, allegedly on account of her sexual orientation.
In February 1998 the applicant applied to the Jura Social Services Department for authorisation to adopt a child. During the adoption procedure she mentioned her homosexuality and her stable relationship with R.
On the basis of the reports drawn up by a social worker and a psychologist, the adoption board made a recommendation in November 1998 that the application be rejected.
Shortly afterwards the president of the council for the département of the Jura gave a decision refusing authorisation. Following an appeal by the applicant, the president of the council for the département confirmed his refusal in March 1999. The reasons given for both decisions were the lack of “identificational points of reference” due to the absence of a paternal image or reference and the ambiguous nature of the applicant’s partner’s commitment to the adoption plan.
The applicant lodged an application with Besançon Administrative Court, which set both decisions of the president of the council for the département aside on 24 February 2000.
The département of the Jura appealed against the judgment. Nancy Administrative Court of Appeal set aside the Administrative Court’s judgment on 21 December 2000. It held that the refusal to grant the applicant authorisation had not been based on her choice of lifestyle and had not therefore given rise to a breach of Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The applicant appealed on points of law, arguing in particular that her application to adopt had been rejected on account of her sexual orientation. In a judgment of 5 June 2002, the Conseil d’Etat dismissed E.B.’s appeal on the ground, among other things, that the Administrative Court of Appeal had not based its decision on a position of principle regarding the applicant’s sexual orientation, but had had regard to the needs and interests of an adopted child.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 2 December 2002.
The FIDH (Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme), the ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), the APGL (Association des Parents et futurs Parents Gays et Lesbiens) and the BAAF (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering) were given leave to take part in the proceedings before the Chamber as third party interveners under Article 36 § 2 of the Convention (third party intervention) and Rule 44 § 2 of the Rules of Court.
On 19 September 2006, under Article 30 of the Convention2, the Chamber relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.
A public hearing took place in the Human Rights building, Strasbourg, on 14 March 2007.
Judgment was given by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges, composed as follows:
Christos Rozakis (Greek), President,
Jean-Paul Costa (French),
Nicolas Bratza (British),
Boštjan M. Zupancic (Slovenian),
Peer Lorenzen (Danish),
Françoise Tulkens (Belgian),
Loukis Loucaides (Cypriot)
Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portuguese),
Riza Türmen (Turkish),
Mindia Ugrekhelidze (Georgian),
Antonella Mularoni (San Marinese),
Elisabeth Steiner (Austrian),
Elisabet Fura-Sandström (Swedish),
Egbert Myjer (Dutch),
Danute Jociene (Lithuanian),
Dragoljub Popovic (Serbian),
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norwegian) judges,
and also Michael O’Boyle, Deputy Registrar.
3. Summary of the judgment3
Relying on Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8, the applicant alleged that at every stage of her application for authorisation to adopt she had suffered discriminatory treatment that had been based on her sexual orientation and had interfered with her right to respect for her private life.
Decision of the Court
The Court reiterated at the outset that whilst French law and Article 8 did not guarantee either the right to found a family or the right to adopt (which neither party contested), the concept of "private life" within the meaning of Article 8 was a broad one which encompassed a certain number of rights.
With regard to an allegation of discrimination on grounds of the applicant’s homosexuality, the Court also reiterated that Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) had no independent existence.
The application of Article 14 did not necessarily presuppose the violation of Article 8. It was sufficient for the facts of the case to fall "within the ambit" of that Article.
This was the case here since French legislation expressly granted single persons the right to apply for authorisation to adopt and established a procedure to that end.
Consequently, the Court considered that the State, which had gone beyond its obligations under Article 8 in creating such a right, could not then take discriminatory measures when it came to applying it.
The applicant alleged that, in the exercise of her right under the domestic law, she had been discriminated against on the ground of her sexual orientation, which was a concept covered by Article 14.
Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8, was therefore applicable in the present case.
Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8
After drawing a parallel with a previous case, the Court pointed out that the domestic administrative authorities, and then the courts that heard the applicant’s appeal, had based their decision to reject her application for authorisation to adopt on two main grounds: the lack of a paternal referent in the applicant’s household, and the attitude of the applicant’s declared partner.
The Court found that the attitude of the applicant’s partner was not without interest or relevance in assessing the application.
In the Court’s view, it was legitimate for the authorities to ensure that all safeguards were in place before a child was taken into a family, particularly where not one but two adults were found to be living in the household.
In the Court’s opinion, that ground had nothing to do with any consideration relating to the applicant’s sexual orientation.
With regard to the ground relied on by the domestic authorities relating to the lack of a paternal referent in the household, the Court considered that this did not necessarily raise a problem in itself. However, in the present case it was permissible to question the merits of such a ground as the application had been made by a single person and not a couple.
In the Court’s view, that ground might therefore have led to an arbitrary refusal and have served as a pretext for rejecting the applicant’s application on grounds of her homosexuality, and the Government had been unable to prove that use of that ground at domestic level had not been leading to discrimination.
Regarding the systematic reference to the lack of a "paternal referent," the Court disputed not the desirability of addressing the issue, but the importance attached to it by the domestic authorities in the context of adoption by a single person.
The fact that the applicant’s homosexuality had featured to such an extent in the reasoning of the domestic authorities was significant despite the fact that the courts had considered that the refusal to grant her authorisation had not been based on that.
Besides their considerations regarding the applicant’s "lifestyle," they had above all confirmed the decision of the president of the council for the département recommending that the application for authorisation be refused and giving as reasons the two impugned grounds: the wording of certain opinions revealed that the applicant’s homosexuality or, at other times, her status as a single person had been a determining factor in refusing her authorisation whereas the law made express provision for the right of single persons to apply for authorisation to adopt.
The Court considered that the reference to the applicant’s homosexuality had been, if not explicit, at least implicit; the influence of her homosexuality on the assessment of her application had not only been established but had also been a decisive factor leading to the decision to refuse her authorisation to adopt.
Accordingly, it considered that the applicant had suffered a difference in treatment.
If the reasons advanced for such a difference in treatment were based solely on considerations regarding the applicant’s sexual orientation this amounted to discrimination under the Convention.
In any event, particularly convincing and weighty reasons had to be made out in order to justify such a difference in treatment regarding rights falling within the ambit of Article 8.
There were no such reasons in the present case because French law allowed single persons to adopt a child, thereby opening up the possibility of adoption by a single homosexual.
Furthermore, the Civil Code remained silent as to the necessity of a referent of the other sex and, moreover, the applicant presented – in the terms of the judgment of the Conseil d’Etat – "undoubted personal qualities and an aptitude for bringing up children."
The Court noted that the applicant’s situation had been assessed overall by the domestic authorities, who had not based their decision on one ground alone but on "all" the factors, and considered that the two main grounds had to be examined concurrently.
Consequently, the illegitimacy of one of the grounds (lack of a paternal referent) had the effect of contaminating the entire decision.
The Court concluded that the decision refusing the applicant authorisation was incompatible with the Convention and that there had been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8.
Judges Lorenzen and Jebens expressed a concurring opinion, and Judges Costa, Türmen, Ugrekhelidze, Jociene, as well as Judges Zupancic, Loucaides and Mularoni, expressed dissenting opinions. These are annexed to the judgment
January 29, 2008
First They Came for the Gays
by Bruce Bawer
PJM Oslo: Once an oasis of tolerance, Europe is slowly but surely succumbing to Islamization. “Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners,” writes Bruce Bawer. “But it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face — and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people.” One day last month, I gave a talk in Rome about how the supposedly liberal ideology of multiculturalism has made possible the spread in Europe of the highly illiberal ideology of fundamentalist Islam, with all its brutality and – among other things – violent homophobia. When I returned to my hotel, I phoned my partner back home in Oslo only to learn that moments earlier he had been confronted at a bus stop by two Muslim youths, one of whom had asked if he was gay, started to pull out a knife, then kicked him as he got on the bus, which had pulled up at just the right moment. If the bus hadn’t come when it did, the encounter could have been much worse.
Not very long ago, Oslo was an icy Shangri-la of Scandinavian self-discipline, governability, and respect for the law. But in recent years, there have been grim changes, including a rise in gay-bashings. The summer of 2006 saw an unprecedented wave of them. The culprits, very disproportionately, are young Muslim men. It’s not just Oslo, of course. The problem afflicts most of Western Europe. And anecdotal evidence suggests that such crimes are dramatically underreported. My own partner chose not to report his assault. I urged him to, but he protested that it wouldn’t make any difference. He was probably right. The reason for the rise in gay bashings in Europe is clear – and it’s the same reason for the rise in rape. As the number of Muslims in Europe grows, and as the proportion of those Muslims who were born and bred in Europe also grows, many Muslim men are more inclined to see Europe as a part of the umma (or Muslim world), to believe that they have the right and duty to enforce sharia law in the cities where they live, and to recognize that any aggression on their part will likely go unpunished. Such men need not be actively religious in order to feel that they have carte blanche to assault openly gay men and non-submissive women, whose freedom to live their lives as they wish is among the most conspicuous symbols of the West’s defiance of holy law.
Multiculturalists can’t face all this. So it is that even when there are brutal gay-bashings, few journalists write about them; of those who do, few mention that the perpetrators are Muslims; and those who do mention it take the line that these perpetrators are lashing out in desperate response to their own oppression. Never mind that Europe, far from oppressing Muslims, offers personal freedoms and welfare-state benefits far beyond those available in any Muslim country. Never mind that few if any Europeans – certainly not gay people – are doing any Muslim-bashing. Never mind that Hindu and Buddhist immigrants, or immigrants from South America or China, feel no compulsion to react violently against their “oppression.” No, assaults by Muslims always have to be construed as defensive – as expressions not of power but of weakness, not of aggression but of helplessness. To suggest that the culprits, far from being fragile, sensitive flowers who’ve been pushed over the line by something we did, are in fact bullies driven by an overweening sense of superiority and a deep-seated malice – both of which they’ve been carefully taught at home, at school, and, yes, in the mosque – is verboten.
One familiar response is: “Well, non-Muslims beat up gays, too!” Yep – indeed they do. Yet for a while there, in much of Western Europe, homosexuality was on its way to being a non-issue. In Amsterdam in the late 1990s, I was delightfully surprised to discover that when groups of straight teenage boys passed gay couples in the streets, they just walked past without any reaction whatsoever. The sight of gay people didn’t upset, threaten, amuse, or confuse them; the familiar, insecure urge to respond to open homosexuality with some kind of distancing, disdainful word or gesture – and thereby affirm to one another, and to themselves, their own heterosexual credentials – was simply not part of those kids’ makeup. For me, it was a remarkable experience. Amsterdam then seemed to me the leading edge of a new wave in the progress of human civilization. Alas, it is now very clearly the opposite. The number of reported gay-bashings in Amsterdam now climbs steadily year by year. Nearly half Muslim, the city is a front in the struggle between democracy and sharia, under which, lest it be forgotten, homosexuality can be a capital offense. Things have gotten so bad there that even on the part of the exceedingly politically correct, there has been a degree of acknowledgment that something has changed, and is still changing. After a group of Amsterdam Muslims beat up Chris Crain, the six-foot-five editor of the gay newspaper The Washington Blade, in May 2005, the head of the Netherlands’ leading gay-rights organization admitted that tolerance of gay people in that city was “slipping away like sand through the fingers” and that “gays and lesbians are less willing to walk hand-in-hand because they might be beaten up.”
I can testify that this is true. Yet politicians, journalists, activists, and others who cling to the multicultural mindset can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the Islamic foundations of all this bullying. Instead, they offer the same kind of nonsense that was served up by a Human Rights Watch spokesman after the Chris Crain incident. “There’s still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society,” that spokesman said. “Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities they have to suffer.” So powerful is the determination to turn away from the plain and simple truth that Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen recently commissioned a study by the University of Amsterdam. Its purpose? To try to figure out what motives underlie the increase in attacks on gay men and lesbians by Dutch-Moroccan men in Amsterdam. “Some researchers,” wrote a reporter for UPI, “believe they [Muslim gay-bashers] lashed out at local gays after feeling stigmatized by Dutch society.” In other words, as the straight-talking Norwegian immigration expert Inger-Lise Lien put it sardonically when I showed her the article, “it’s the assailant who’s the real victim.”
As for Cohen, he would appear to be operating out of pure cynicism. This is the same mayor, after all, who has called for the Netherlands to reach some “accommodation” with its male Muslim residents that would allow them to oppress their wives, sisters, and daughters – though he hasn’t been entirely clear as to just where he would draw the line. (Beatings? Rape? Forced marriage? Genital mutilation? Honor killing?) Given such an extraordinary record of pragmatism, it seems safe to assume that Cohen would also be more than willing, in the name of peace in our time, to turn away with respectful discretion when Muslim gangs beat the living daylights out of the occasional flikker. In any event, another mayor, London’s Ken Livingstone, has already blazed that trail. In 2004, playing host to Sunni scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has supported the execution of gay people, Livingstone hailed him as a “progressive.” When gay activists called him on this ridiculous assertion, Livingstone retaliated by putting out a dissertation-length report whitewashing Qaradawi and smearing his critics as racists.
Even as Europeans in positions of authority persist in denying the plain facts about Muslim attitudes toward gay people, leading European Muslims keep reminding us what those attitudes are. Take Norway’s Asghar Ali, deputy chairman of Norway’s Islamic Council. Ali, who also holds high-ranking positions in Norway’s ruling Labor Party and in the powerful Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, and has worked in an advisory capacity on the government’s Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, would seem to be a model of successful assimilation. Yet at a November 2007 debate arranged by the gay student organization at the University of Oslo, he refused to reject the death penalty for gays. When asked about this issue, the head of the Islamic Council, Senaid Kobilica, said that Norwegian Muslims needed to discuss it and consult religious authorities. “While this process is underway,” Kobilica said, “I ask for understanding and respect for the fact that I am unable to comment, either about my personal position or about the position of the Islamic Council of Norway.” Understanding and respect, that is, for his unwillingness to say flat out that he did not believe gay people should be murdered.
Perhaps younger, well educated Muslims are more enlightened? Another participant in the University of Oslo debate, Muslim Student Association head Usman Rana, said that he personally didn’t support making homosexuality a capital crime, but that he would not criticize other countries’ practices. “There is unfortunately a tendency in Norway to degrade religious people,” Rana told Universitas, the college newspaper. “It is due to an extreme secularism among the Norwegian public. I fervently hope that our participation [in the debate on the death penalty for gays] helps to create a more nuanced view of Islam. The Norwegian public needs to become more liberal.” Once again, it’s the assailants – or, in this case, the would-be executioners – who are the real victims. The Norwegian public may not yet be “liberal” enough to suit Rana, but the European establishment has been exceedingly so. Though Kobilica’s refusal to condemn the execution of gays caused a brief stir in the media, the Norwegian government has made no move to withdraw the Islamic Council’s annual subsidy of half a million kroner (about $100,000). Government officials and journalists continue to treat the council with deference, to view it as the Voice of Muslims, and to pretend that it is a voice of moderation. Once the flap over executing gays died down, moreover, politicians and others returned soon enough to the mantra about Islam being a religion of peace.
It’s very clear what’s going on here – and where it’s all headed. Europe is on its way down the road of Islamization, and it’s reached a point along that road at which gay people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is being directly challenged, both by knife-wielding bullies on the street and by taxpayer-funded thugs whose organizations already enjoy quasi-governmental authority. Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners, but it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face – and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people. Pim Fortuyn saw all this coming years ago; most of today’s European leaders still refuse to see it even though it’s right before their eyes.
25th February 2008
Catholics unhappy at rights for gay Kosovans
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Catholics unhappy at rights for gay Kosovans The draft constitution of Europe’s newest nation is under attack from Roman Catholic political organisations because it seeks to protect gay people from discrimination. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia earlier this month, backed by the US, the UK and other leading nations. Its draft constitution contains specific provisions to protect Kosovans from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and enshrines the right to marry but does not limit that right to a man and a woman. It also states that interpretation of the rights contained in the documents will rely on "the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies that oversee the implementation of internationally guaranteed human rights."
Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute has raised objections to the draft document, which must be adopted within four months. The group says its mission is "educating the public at large about the pressing issues debated at the UN and at other international institutions." It claims the new constitution "would transform the traditional Muslim and Orthodox Christian society by removing all legal protection from unborn children and granting special rights on the basis of sexual orientation. "Article 25 of the draft document on the "Right to Life" removes protection from the unborn stating that, "every individual enjoys the right to life from birth," and Article 26 grants "the right to make decisions in relation to reproduction in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth by law," further giving each Kosovar "the right to have control over his/her body in accordance with law.""
In December 2007 LGBT rights organisation ILGA-Europe reported: "Minorities and other vulnerable groups face restrictions in exercising their right to freedom of assembly and association across Kosovo. There is a need to promote more actively the rights of groups such as homosexuals to fight prejudice and verbal and physical violence."
The UK government has given strong backing to Kosovan independence, despite objections from Russia and Serbia. The country has been under the interim control of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since the 1999 Kosovo war. 16,000 troops from 34 countries, 1,500 of them from the UK, are stationed in the country, forming a NATO-led peacekeeping force.