Gay UK News & Reports 2003

1 North-south divide over gay sex attacked (England vs Scotland) 1/03

2 Britain Gets First Openly Gay Judge 1/03

3 Sweeping Sex Law Changes For England 1/03

4 Peter Tatchell–Just a zealous guy 2/03

5 Glasgow pioneers service for young gays 2/03

6 Abuse comes with the gay territory 2/03

7 Twenty percent of gays in Scotland have children 2/03

8 Lesbian couple forced to flee by angry mob 3/03

9 Sir Ian McKellan has no doubt that Shakespeare was gay 4/03

10 Britain’s gay, lesbian and bisexual Muslims need dedicated support groups 4/03

11 Gay ‘wedding’ couple call for change 4/03

12 Gay councillors wish to hold civil ceremony 5/03

13 Ban On Gay Cop March 6/03

14 Legislation for same-sex couples aimed at forcing culture change 7/03

15 Wales’s first ‘official’ gay couple welcome new rights 7/03

16 Transsexual buys string of hotels – and wants to own more 7/03

17 England Gay bishop forced out by Lambeth Palace

18 Gay rights campaigners storm governing body in protest 7/03

19 ‘Pride’ to net a £20m windfall 8/03

20 Section 28 to be repealed 9/03

21 Scottish LGBT "face higher risk of suicide and discrimination in the NHS" 10/03

22 Civil partnerships for gay couples to be in Queen’s Speech 11/03

23 Section 28 gone … but not forgotten. 11/03

24 Gay couples to get joint rights 11/03

The Herald, Glasgow Scotland

January 30, 2003

North-south divide over gay sex attacked (England vs Scotland)

by Martin Williams
Gay sex laws will remain in force in Scotland despite being repealed in England, it was revealed yesterday. The new Sexual Offences Bill, the most radical overhaul of sex legislation for more than 50 years, announced by David Blunkett, the home secretary, relates mostly to England and Wales. T

hat means that while offences such as buggery, gross indecency and soliciting by men will be swept away south of the border, they will remain in place in Scotland unless the Scottish Executive decides to order a review. Gay rights campaigners who are appalled by the growing north-south divide on sex laws accept that any new criminal justice bill to remedy the disparity in Scotland will not be considered until after the May elections. The long-awaited English bill has been formulated so that crimes are not directed at homosexual men.

It ensures that consenting sex between two men cannot now be interpreted as illegal. It also ensures that outdoor sexual activity will not be an offence as long as it is out of the sight of unwilling witnesses. A new offence – sexual behaviour in a public place – will apply to both sexes and carry a maximum six-month penalty. The executive said last night it would not commit to a review of Scotland’s sex laws until it had fully considered the bill. However, Scottish gay rights groups will be campaigning to convince the Scottish Parliament that gender specific crimes should be outlawed. U.K.

January 6, 2003

Britain Gets First Openly Gay Judge

Adrian Fulford, a 49-yea-old QC has been promoted by Lord Irvine to become the country’s first openly gay judge – the appointment has been viewed as one of ‘monumental importance’ by gay rights campaigners. Fulford is to be Britain’s representative at the International Criminal Court, the controversial new war crimes forum.

Former public school boy and graduate of Southampton, Fulford is said to be a quiet and easy-going. He lives with his long term partner, a Spanish student, Luis Tejado, in a £500,000 house in Stoke Newington, North London. Fulford is only believed to have spoken once about his sexuality in an interview with Gay Times ten years ago. In the interview he said he was determined to be ‘out’ after "watching other barristers who were desperate not to be revealed as gay". "When they see me, will turn their backs, will do anything not to be associated with me, with anyone who is ‘out’ at work". As a junior barrister Fulford specialised in gay cases.

January 30, 2003

Sweeping Sex Law Changes For England

by Peter Moore, Newscenter London Bureau London
England is about to erase dozens of anti-gay laws in the biggest overhaul of sex crime legislation in more than a generation. Despite the decriminalization of homosexuality, laws against buggery, gross indecency and soliciting by men remained on the books, making it technically illegal to not only have sex but to cruise for sex. The omnibus legislation was announced Wednesday by the home secretary, David Blunkett. Blunkett said it is "the first time for 50 years a government has had the courage to take on the difficult and sensitive task of reforming sex offences legislation".

"The current law on sex offences is inadequate, antiquated and discriminatory," he said. The new law retains sections on public sex, however, making sexual acts that can be viewed by others a criminal offence punishable by a maximum six-month penalty. The public sex provision will include sex clubs. "If the cubicle door was open then clearly an offence was committed. If it’s closed, it’s different," Blunkett said. Voyeurism will become a specific offence for the first time with a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment. The laws will also offer greater protection for children against sex predators and for victims of rape. But, the provisions will only take effect in England and Wales. The Victorian era laws will remain is expected to maintain that silence until after elections in May.

The Observer, London England,6903,901061,00.html 23

February 2003

Peter Tatchell–Just a zealous guy

No one can fault his commitment and passion when it comes to championing gay rights. But it’s his determination to bring to justice Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe that really wins him fans

by Ben Summerskill, The Observer,

‘Peter Tatchell puts our rulers to shame’, gushed the Daily Mail when the veteran gay activist first denounced the human rights abuses of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Attentive Mail readers might have recalled that, in the last five years alone, Tatchell has also been described in their paper as ‘loony’, ‘scabrous’, ‘repellent’, ‘repulsive’, ‘sour’, ‘humourless’ and ‘obnoxious’. But Fleet Street specialises in fairweather beatification.

And Tatchell – a 51-year-old Australian who started adult life as a window dresser – is its unlikely hero now. Tatchell spent last week in Paris. Accompanied by a torture victim from Zimbabwe, he attempted unsuccessfully to have Mugabe arrested by the French government. Torture, he claimed on (gratis) advice from French human rights lawyers, is an offence in France regardless of where it has taken place. As he pursued Zimbabwe’s dictator along the Champs Elysées, the contrast with Mugabe, his shopaholic wife Grace and their legion of heavies, could not have been greater.

A gamin figure, shoulder bag full of placards, dressed in thrift-shop couture, Tatchell looks and sounds exactly as he has for three decades. The campaigner is evolving almost imperceptibly from Public Enemy Number One to a national treasure. But unlike so many of his counterpart icons of British radicalism, there is little evidence that he has compromised his principles one jot during the transition. Both Tatchell’s mother and step-father were evangelical Christians. During adolescence, young Peter taught at Sunday school. The family might not have expected their surfing-obsessed older son to be gay. However, Tatchell’s first job was as a store designer in Myer, a Melbourne department store. His flare for attracting attention secured prizes for his ‘animated’ shop windows.

In 1971, he left for London to avoid being drafted to fight in Vietnam. Within days he saw a sticker advertising the fledgling Gay Liberation Front. With the GLF, Tatchell invaded a lecture by psychiatrist Professor Hans Eysenck, who advocated electro-shock aversion therapy to ‘cure’ homosexuality. ‘Peter was different even then,’ recalls one veteran activist. ‘We were mainly picketing London pubs which wouldn’t serve lesbians.

He went off to East Germany and held a one-man gay lib demo in the Alexanderplatz before being bundled away by the Stasi. ‘He thinks that if it’s hard to do then he ought to do it, it’s noble and decent. It’s an almost self-flagellatory religious fervour. In some ways he’s even a bit autistic… he doesn’t see what sometimes annoys people.’ Tatchell read sociology at the Polytechnic of North London. Later, he became active within the Labour Party in Southwark. His diligence yielded its reward when the local MP Bob Mellish, a former Labour chief whip, announced his intention to stand down.

Tatchell was selected to replace him in the Labour stronghold of Bermondsey. Initially, there was more party anxiety about Tatchell’s politics than his sexuality; he had reportedly signed up hundreds of new members, then regarded as a dangerous indicator of left-wing ‘entryism’. Asked if he would back his party’s candidate, Michael Foot scornfully suggested that Tatchell would never stand for Labour. Foot later insisted that he was trying to reconcile the battling wings of his party.

But a friend of the former Labour leader says: ‘Michael was going a little deaf, even then. He thought he had been asked if Peter Taafe [an extreme left-winger] would be the candidate. Of course he denounced him.’ When Mellish revealed that he would not wait for a general election to stand down, Tatchell suddenly became the lonely focus of a by-election contest. The campaign turned into one of the most repulsive in British political history since Smethwick Conservatives enquired ‘Do you want a nigger for a neighbour?’ in 1964. It became bogged down in the issue of Tatchell’s sexuality. Opponents took to the streets broadcasting homophobic songs. And an anonymous leaflet with the legend ‘Which Queen will you vote for?’ advertised Tatchell’s name and address, inciting people to ‘have a go’.

The provenance of the leaflet was never discovered, but the undoubted beneficiary was the new SDP-Liberal Alliance. On polling day, 20 years ago tomorrow, their candidate Simon Hughes romped home. Labour’s 10,000-vote defeat was so bad Margaret Thatcher called an early general election. ‘Bermondsey left Peter a national name but undoubtedly scarred,’ recalls a friend. ‘If you live among left-wing types, you’ve all too easily forgotten what homophobia’s like when it rears its head.’ After the by-election, Tatchell became a full-time campaigner. In 1990 he found a niche that suited the brand of peaceful protest inspired by his hero Mahatma Gandhi. A group of gays were angered at the failure of the Metropolitan Police to resolve the murder of an actor, Michael Booth, found dead near a public lavatory.

At the same time dozens of so-called ‘pretty police’, usually young new recruits, were being deployed in public conveniences to entrap homosexuals. The discrepancy led to the creation of OutRage. The group held a much-publicised ‘kiss-in’ in Piccadilly Circus. Days later, scores of gays and lesbians turned up at Bow Street police station, and reported themselves for having had sex below the age of consent or kissing in public.

Both were acts for which the Metropolitan Police were still enthusiastically arresting homosexuals when not in the gaze of the press photographers who always, curiously, seemed to know in advance about protests organised by Tatchell. A former OutRage member explains: ‘At first the photographers were just an insurance policy against police truncheons. But when pictures started appearing, we realised we were catching public attention.’

Another says: ‘To start with Peter was just one of many; we had a huge core of people who did a lot of work. It was an exciting place to be. But Peter had more tenacity; he stuck with it when other people got bored.’ OutRage caused greatest disquiet by standing outside Church House in 1994 with posters naming 10 ‘hypocritical’ bishops claimed to be gay. David Hope, now Archbishop of York, later admitted his sexuality had a ‘certain ambiguity’ about it. Chris Smith, who went on to become Britain’s first openly gay Cabinet Minister, objected.

But Tatchell insisted the protest was justified, saying the bishops supported the Church of England’s continued discrimination against homosexuals. The Rev Richard Kirker, head of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, says: ‘It proved the value of what Peter does. OutRage transformed us from being considered on the "radical Left" to a group occupying the respectable middle ground.’ Tatchell followed his exposure of bishops by invading the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral during the 1998 Easter Service. Prosecuted under an obscure 1860 act, a magistrate indicated indulgence with an £18.60 fine. The diverse campaigning continued – Tatchell claims to have been on 1,500 direct action protests – but brought greatest attention attempting to arrest Mugabe in Brussels two years ago.

Tatchell was beaten up by Mugabe’s minders and knocked unconscious. But a string of unlikely supporters around the world rushed to applaud his courage. Mugabe’s regime was given its first taste of deeply embarrassing international publicity. Tatchell still lives in his tiny Bermondsey council flat on an extraordinary diet. He drinks lemon juice for breakfast. A visitor reports being fed carrot soup and carrot casserole and seeing a baseball bat behind the front door, a precaution against harassment. ‘Peter lives like a church mouse,’ says Marcelle d’Argy-Smith, former Cosmopolitan editor and a close friend. ‘What’s so wonderful about him is that he’s ferocious. Some straight men look at him with contempt, but he’s got more balls than all of them. He’s practically a Hemingway hero.’

‘Looking back, Peter has helped change a country that is hugely conservative about both sex and liberty,’ says Labour MEP Michael Cashman, once a sceptic. ‘He’s always pushing boundaries and extremities. It forced politicians to talk to lobbyists like the Stonewall Group.’ Tatchell has now become much more than a gay activist. And his dream remains to persuade the world of a seamless and inarguable entitlement to human rights everywhere, for opposition parties in Zimbabwe and for gays in Britain. But only when the angry Australian has convinced even the Daily Mail of that will his work be done. . Additional research: Tom Reilly

Glasgow Daily Herald, Glasgow Scotland

February 24, 2003

Glasgow pioneers service for young gays

by Lorna Martin
Glasgow City Council will today become the first local authority in Scotland to employ its own dedicated team to work with young lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The appointment of an LGBT youth worker, supported by other staff on a sessional basis, follows research showing that young gay and lesbian people are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than mainstream groups. The council is putting £40,000 into the 14-month project. The move has been welcomed by young gay people and equality groups, but criticised by some religious organisations who questioned whether it was a good use of public money.

John Paul Fitzpatrick, who takes up the post today, hopes it may eventually pave the way for LGBT youth workers to participate in the delivery of personal and social education classes in schools. Initially, the project will offer a drop-in centre, and information and advice about sexual health for 16 to 25-year-olds. Working in conjunction with the voluntary sector, the LGBT youth workers will also undertake outreach work, targeting pubs and clubs where young gay people are likely to go. "Youth work is about supporting vulnerable young people, and young LGBT people are the most marginalised and vulnerable I’ve ever met," said Mr Fitzpatrick.

Robert McHarg, youth issues manager with the council, said it was decided to fund the project after identifying the lack of resources committed to this group. He said: "Given our experience of working with this group in a very limited way, it’s obvious they are an excluded group who need support." Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute pressure group, said people were happy for local authorities to fund youth services that helped all young people, but said a group aimed at people of a certain sexual preference did not seem "very wholesome".

The Herald, ( )
195 Albion Street, Glasgow G1 1QP Scotland (E-Mail: )

February 18, 2003

Abuse comes with the gay territory–Survey shows that many suffer for sexual orientation

by Vicky Collins
Keith Cowan believes gay people are all too ready to accept abuse as a way of life. Like many gay people, he has tried to ignore the insults he receives because of his sexual orientation. One incident, when youths began adding stones to the insults they were hurling at him, he shrugged off as relatively minor. "It is something we all have to deal with on a regular basis," Mr Cowan said. "It is part of life if you are gay – you have to put up with abuse.

"Most of us never think it is serious enough to report it to the police, and the police probably thank the Lord for that, because there is no way they could cope if every incident was reported." Mr Cowan, 33, from Edinburgh, is not alone in this view, according to the first survey of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from across Scotland, which will be launched in Glasgow today. Of the 920 people who responded, 79% had suffered verbal or physical abuse because of their orientation. Only 17% of them had reported it to the police, considering it would be a "waste of time".

Mr Cowan said: "Homophobia and racism is now as much of a problem, if not more, than sectarianism. The Scottish Executive is always talking about sectarianism and racism, but I have yet to hear a politician in Scotland stand up and insist that something is done about this ridiculous level of homophobia." Ruth Henry, manager of Beyond Barriers, hoped the survey would encourage greater co-operation between politicians, the police force, and the LGBT community.

"This survey confirms what we have been told over the years – that people do suffer a high level of homophobic abuse," she said. "It is clear evidence that we can present to the police and other agencies who usually just tell us "well, we do not have people reporting that, we do not have any statistics on that" and who therefore do not know how big a problem it is. "It is all about having physical evidence."

Prejudice was seen as one of the biggest issues facing the LGBT community in Scotland, according to 22% of respondents to the survey commissioned by Beyond Barriers. However, almost a third were more concerned about equal partnership rights for homosexual couples, an issue to be tackled by the government in legislation planned for later this year. More than 60% of respondents who were in a relationship said they would register it as a civil partnership if such a law was passed. Kenny Duffus, 25, from Glasgow, hoped that a change in the law would herald a change in attitudes towards gay people.

" A lot of educated people do realise that we haven’t got two heads – we are not any different from anyone else except for the people we fancy," he said. "I think equal partnership rights are really important. If we were equal in law, then it would be easier for people in general to think of us as equal. "To me, it is more the principle that is important, rather than a need for the law to be changed for my own relationship."

The survey found that, despite the fear of prejudice, the vast majority of respondents were open about their sexuality among friends (95%), family (80%), and work colleagues (76%). More than half of respondents said their sexual orientation had not prevented them from feeling a part of the wider community, and were particularly concerned to register their opinions in the political sphere. More than 80% of respondents said they voted in the last general election, and more than 70% had voted in Scottish parliament election in 1999. This compares to a turnout of 59% of the population in the last Westminster election in 2001.

The Herald, Glasgow Scotland

February 18, 2003

Twenty percent of gays in Scotland have children, according to the largest survey of its kind

by Vicky Collins
One in five gay people in Scotland are parents and a further 17% would like to have children in the future, a survey published today found. The research into the views and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, the largest ever commissioned in Scotland, also found that only 10% of these parents had used artificial insemination to conceive. Most of the children had been born during a previous heterosexual relationship. One third of parents, most of them female, said their children were living with them.

The survey, the first to cover all of Scotland, questioned 920 LGBT people across the country. There are thought to be around 500,000 LGBT people living in Scotland, roughly 10% of the population. It was commissioned by Beyond Barriers, a Glasgow-based gay rights group, which admitted that the high number of parents within the LGBT community had come as a surprise. The report will be launched in Glasgow today. Ruth Henry, manager, said: "We will have to look at the issue of parenting and the issues facing the children of lesbian and gay parents.

We need now to work with education authorities to look at how – if at all – they include LGBT issues in the curriculum. It is an area that is not included enough at the moment."The biggest issue facing LGBT people was felt to be equal partnership rights, according to the survey. Discrimination and prejudice was seen as the next most important issue. U.K.

March 5, 2003

Lesbian couple forced to flee by angry mob

A lesbian couple from Bradford say they have had to fless the home and possessions after an angry mob of their neighbours said they would be killed if they stayed. Donna Logan, 26, and Emily Kendall, 25, told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus that they endured a barrage of verbal abuse, physical threats and acts of vandalism since they moved into their council home in Allerton last September.

They said they were finally forced to leave after being confronted by a baying mob who warned them they would be killed if they did not leave. They are now staying with friends until the council can re-house them. Local councillor John Buffham said he was appalled to hear about the couple’s plight. "This kind of thing is totally unacceptable. It is absolutely deplorable that this couple have had to put up with this sort of behaviour," he said.

"Everyone has the right to live their life as they wish and should not be persecuted like this." Donna has already suffered one nervous breakdown because of the persecution, and has been suffering constant panic attacks. "We cannot believe what has happened to us. We only have the clothes we stand up in. We have never had to deal with anything like this before," she told the paper. Emily said the campaign of terror started after other estate residents realised that the couple, who also lived with Emily’s sister Alice, were gay.

" We could have been friends or sisters but as soon as they realised we were gay they just went for us," she said. The couple have had to endure threats from a 30-strong mob armed with baseball bats, warnings that their home would be firebombed, smashed windows, graffiti scrawled on their property and continual verbal abuse. A West Yorkshire police spokesman confirmed the couple had reported a series of incidents since they moved in. "We have spoken to them on a number of occasions to offer our help, advice and assistance. Arrests were made in relation to the problems but because of a lack of evidence we were unable to take the case to court. We would urge anyone with information to contact the police. "West Yorkshire police will not tolerate homophobic incidents and we would encourage anyone who feels they have been a victim of such as crime to contact police so that it can be thoroughly investigated." Anyone with information should contact police on 0845 6060606. U.K.

7 April 2003

Sir Ian McKellan has no doubt that Shakespeare was gay

According to Sir Ian, in a recent interview in gay magazine Attitude, William Shakespeare enjoyed sex with men as well as women stating that his sexuality was evident within his works. Generations of scholars have thought that the ‘fair youth’ to whom Shakespeare’s early sonnets were addressed was probably male. Sir Ian went on to say: "We don’t know much about Shakespeare’s private life. He was certainly married and I think he had four children. But once they were born, he left his wife in Stratford and came to work in London. Did he sleep with another man?

On the balance of things I would say ‘Yes’." Sir Ian also went on to lambast Hollywood in the interview, claiming that it was still in the dark ages over the issue of homosexuality. "There is one extremely famous Hollywood actor who’s gay and doesn’t like being in the same room as me." We wonder who that could be? U.K.

10 April 2003

Britain’s gay, lesbian and bisexual Muslims need dedicated support groups

The Economic and Social Research Council has released a new report, which highlights the scarcity of support groups for Britain’s LGBT Muslims, which gives unique insight into the religious and social pressures on their lives. Dr Andrew Yip of the Nottingham Trent University said that help groups offer a safe environment to explore the thorny issue of Islam and non-heterosexuality, which the wider gay and lesbian community rarely provides.

This is the first ever study into the lives of British gay, lesbian and bisexual Muslims of Asian descent. Most were young, highly educated, in full-time employment and lived in Greater London. Their identities and lifestyles were greatly influenced by their religious and cultural background, family and friends with their community perceptions that being gay is a ‘western disease’ and the natural outcome of secularity, individualism and permissiveness.

Some Muslims ended the practice of their faith having given into the perceived incompatibility of their sexual orientation with their religion. The study reveals that some try to re-frame Islamic teaching by distinguishing between traditional cultural practice based on heterosexuality and the inclusive principles of their faith, or by trying to reinterpret religious texts in the light of present day realities. Fewer than 30% of those questioned said that they frequented gay bars or clubs as cultural differences such as levels of alcohol consumption and smoking often complicated their experiences of these places. Dr Yip concluded: "While there are signs of a support network for these Muslims there is much room for expansion."

BBC News

April 20, 2002

Gay ‘wedding’ couple call for change Two men have become the first gay couple outside London to get "married".

Carl Howard and Steve Brayshaw took part in the civic partnership registration in Manchester. London led the way when two men took part in a similar ceremony last September. The moves are seen as vital steps towards full equality for same-sex partners. Civic recognition Mr Howard and Mr Brayshaw are hoping that by having their relationship publicly acknowledged they will help force the government into changing laws to accept gay couples.

Mr Howard, 39, said: "First and foremost, it is a celebration of what we share together – but we also want to take this step to show what we don’t have. "I know it sounds strange, but today’s ceremony gets us nothing. "We are still not recognised as a couple by the government and do not have the same rights as married people." Manchester is the first authority outside London to launch a register for lesbian, gay and unmarried couples who want to have their relationships recognised. The register is open to everyone who lives, works or has connections with the city and ceremonies cost £97.50.

‘Historic changes’ Leader of Manchester City Council Richard Leese said: "There are many legal rights and benefits which are currently only open to married couples. "The civic partnership register recognises the existence of other long-term, committed relationships." Mr Leese said he hoped in the future such couples will have access to the rights of married couples, such as being recognised as a partner’s next of kin. "Manchester is committed to the promotion of full equality of access and opportunity and we are proud to initiate historic changes in this area," he added.

Ananova (U.K.), Aberdeen, Scotland

May 31, 2003

Gay councillors wish to hold civil ceremony

Two newly elected councillors have announced they are gay lovers and would like to hold a civil wedding ceremony in the council chambers. Neil Fletcher and John Stewart said they had been together for more than a decade and have cemented their partnership by winning seats in Aberdeen City Council. The pair, who share a house in the city’s Kittybrewster area, were voted in as Liberal Democrat councillors following local government elections on May 1.

Mr Fletcher, 38, an accountant originally from Stoke-on Trent, said the couple had always been quite open about their relationship but wanted to clearly state their sexuality to constituents. He said: "As we take up our careers on the council it seems like an appropriate time to make our relationship perfectly clear. "But we have never hidden the fact that we are a couple. We name each other as our respective partners on the Lib Dems’ website, so it’s not rocket science to find out."

Mr Stewart, 30, who works as a researcher for MP Sir Robert Smith, said the couple were voted to represent all constituents and would not specifically concentrate on gay issues. He said: "First and foremost, we are councillors, serving all the people in our wards. We are just two councillors who happen to be gay." The men, who both studied at the University of Aberdeen, said they would eventually like to hold a legal ceremony recognising their partnership at the city’s Town House. A council insider said: "It was well known for some time in council circles although it might be surprising for some constituents. They were quite open about it and have no problem talking about it."

Daily Record, Glasgow, Scotland id=89488_headline=-BAN-ON-GAY-COP-MARCH-name_page.html

20 June 2003

Ban On Gay Cop March

Every Scottish police force have banned their officers from marching in uniform at next month’s British gay pride festival. Their decision is contrary to the vast majority of their counterparts south of the Border. The Gay Police Association had written to each force in the UK asking permission for marchers to step out in uniform for the event in London.

But the response from Scotland was a clear "No". All but 11 of the 43 forces in England and Wales have granted permission for their marchers to wear uniform – the first time they have ever been allowed. The Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland deny their decision is homophobic and is to avoid confusion over officers’ powers. A spokesman said: "Any Scottish officer wearing a police uniform in England would be presenting himself as an officer with full powers. "Gay officers would have been permitted to parade had the event been held in Scotland."The Gay Police Association point out that one of their representatives from Scotland was allowed to attend the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in uniform. Chairman Stephen Warwick said: "Refusing gay uniformed staff from celeb- rating who they are and what they do in the police is institutionally homophobic."

The Guardian, London England,3604,988565,00.html

July 1, 2003

Legislation for same-sex couples aimed at forcing culture change Heterosexual unmarried couples excluded from proposals

by Angelique Chrisafis
After years of pressure from gay rights groups, the government yesterday published its plans to give homosexual couples the same rights as their married heterosexual counterparts. Ministers claimed that the "registered civil partnerships", to be introduced in 2010, would recognise the "inherent value" of same-sex relationships in British society and lessen the number of family breakdowns and homophobic attacks.

They would also force a "culture change" in society’s attitude to gays and lesbians. But gay rights campaign groups suggested a culture change has already taken place, and the government should push through the overdue legislation as soon as possible. There were also complaints that unmarried, cohabiting heterosexual couples were excluded from the plans. According to the proposals, gay couples in England and Wales will sign a document at a register office in front of the registrar and two witnesses, although there will not be an official ceremony and the word "marriage" will not be used.

They will receive a certificate and be able to call themselves "registered civil partners", obliged to "support each other financially and emotionally throughout their lives". Partners will gain rights over property, social security, benefits and pensions – both state and private. They will also gain parental responsibility for each others’ children – with contact rights and child support obligations if the partnership fails and is dissolved. New immigration rights will mean that a gay couple will not be expected to have lived together for two years before one partner can move with the other to Britain.

But once in Britain, there will be a two-year probationary period to match that of heterosexual couples. Same-sex partners will be able to act as each other’s "next of kin" in a hospital situation. They will be the exempted from testifying against each other in court, and will receive the same protection against domestic violence as married couples. If one partner dies, the other will be able for the first time to register the death, play a role in funeral arrangements, claim a survivor’s pension and receive bereavement benefits or compensation for fatal accidents or criminal injury. Gay partners will be exempt from inheritance tax, which has forced a many surviving partners to sell their homes.

Survivors will be recognised if their partner dies without leaving a will. The deputy minister for women and equality, Jacqui Smith, said the proposals provided "respect, recognition and justice for those who have been denied it too long." She said the partnerships would be available to couples over 16, although 16- and 17-year-olds would require written consent from a parent or guardian. Couples would be able to officially register 15 days after putting in an application. There would be limitations on partnerships between those with close blood ties, mirroring the incest laws for heterosexual marriage. The government would introduce new offences of perjury to reflect the illegality of bigamy in straight marriages.

There will be a court-based process for dissolution of a partnership in which the couple would have to show the relationship had broken down irretrievably. Financial legal aid would be on offer. Partnership registration schemes already exist in London, Bath, Birmingham, Brighton, Darlington and Leeds, and in Devon and Dorset, but they are not legally binding. Ministers warned that gay couples would not be able to transfer these, but must apply to local register office. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, said: "All the detail we had hoped for is there, including proposals on pensions which affect tens of thousands of people.

The government has told us they intend to make parliamentary time for this in the near future, but we are not celebrating until we have actually got legislation signed by the Queen." A spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said: "We would ask the question: what are the differences between the government’s same-sex civil ‘partnerships’ and civil ‘marriage’ for heterosexuals. Why should they be different for heterosexual and gay and lesbian couples?" Ministers predicted that up to a third of gays and lesbians would take part in civil registration by 2050.

In the highest projections, the proportion of registered same-sex partnerships would be the same as the proportion of heterosexual marriages. Stonewall expected at least 10,000 gay and lesbian couples to register their partnerships within five or 10 years of the scheme’s launch. The total annual cost to the government would be around £75m in 2010 – including state pension, public service pension and dissolution costs. The annual cost to private employers could be up to £20m a year. But the government was criticised for ignoring the 25% of heterosexual people under 60 cohabiting in Britain.

Peter Tatchell, the gay human rights campaigner, called the proposals "sexual apartheid" because they did not include unmarried heterosexual couples. He said: "The government has opted for a two-tier partnership system that perpetuates discrimination." Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat equality spokesman, said: "Currently the government treats [heterosexual unmarried couples] as married when cutting their benefits, but ministers are clearly refusing to reciprocate when it comes to pension sharing. These couples are under pressure to marry for financial reasons."

ICWales (U.K.), method=full_siteid=50082_headline=-Wales-s-first–official–gay-couple-welco me-new-rights-name_page.html

July 2, 2003

Wales’s first ‘official’ gay couple welcome new rights

by Robin Turner, The Western Mail
The first couple to sign a new gay-marriage partnership register in Wales yesterday welcomed proposals to give same-sex couples more rights. Lisa Slade, 33, and 21-year-old Julie Stamps of Barry became the first couple in Wales to sign the register following a commitment ceremony at Swansea’s seafront registry office.
The ground-breaking service was broadcast to a world-wide audience over the internet using the registry office’s webcam facilities. Swansea became the first place in Wales last year to allow the civil commitment ceremonies and the register, which gives couples partnership certificates, is taking the concept a step further. But the certificate, which can be revoked in the event of a split between couples, has no standing in law.

This could all change after the Government’s publication of proposals this week to give gay relationships full legal recognition. But the same-sex ceremonies have been condemned by the Rev Geoff Fewkes, of Pantygwydr Baptist Church in Uplands, Swansea. He said, "They are not good socially, morally or financially. "These commitment ceremonies, whether held for gays or heterosexuals, are not legally binding and should not replace marriage. "Sin is sin, and a gay relationship is a sin. "There can never be a marriage between two people of the same sex. It’s not productive."

However, at the ceremony in Swansea yesterday, bride Lisa, a taxi driver, said, "We are very excited about the prospect of getting the same rights as straight couples. That is the way it should be." The new proposals will allow gay couples who split up to claim legal aid to dissolve their partnership. And it could lead to partners paying alimony and maintenance for any children. Lisa added, "We are very happy with the ceremony and the register. "With the way the laws are now, this is the closest you will get to a gay wedding." Since the go-ahead for gay and lesbian couples to have partnership ceremonies was given last year, dozens of same-sex couples have tied the knot in the city.

Among them were Duncan Atkinson and Andrew Cole of Mayhill, Swansea. Mr Atkinson, 63, said, "Being gay is not a sin. "That (some religions’ attitude to gays) is why chapels are empty. "People are driven away and churches and chapels are going to have to change with the times." The fact that heterosexual couples will not be eligible for the proposed new rights being offered to gay partners has been criticised by gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. He said, "It is divisive and heterophobic and discriminatory to exclude unmarried heterosexual couples from these proposals. "Cohabiting heterosexuals also lack legal recognition and protection, which is a grave injustice."

Edith Morgan, superintendent of registrars in Swansea, said yesterday, "The chance to sign a register and receive registration certificates further demonstrates a couple’s commitment to one another." People over 16 can apply for the certificates but those under 18 must have written permission from their parents. Across the UK, applications for same-sex partnership ceremonies have rocketed, with more than 100,000 couples expected to complete them by the end of the decade, according to Government figures.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay-rights group Stonewall said the proposals were "long overdue". Government proposals

The Government proposals will effect areas such as: .Pension rights: A husband or wife and any children can benefit from pension payments following the death of the pension holder. But while some company schemes offer pension rights to gay and lesbian couples, in most cases if one dies their pension rights cannot be transferred to the surviving partner. . Hospital Visits: A husband or wife has the right to visit their spouse in hospital and be informed of treatment. Same-sex partners or unmarried partners do not have the same rights. . Property: On the death of a spouse, the husband or wife has the right to stay in the property they shared, but unmarried partners have no automatic rights to continue living at the property. . Death registration: A husband or wife can officially register the death of a partner but unmarried people must get a "legal" relative to do it for them in the event of a death.

ICNorthWales (U.K.), 488_method=full_siteid=50142_headline=-Transsexual-buys-string-of-hotels—a nd-wants-to-own-more-name_page.html

July 4, 2003

Transsexual buys string of hotels – and wants to own more

by Gareth Hughes
One of Britain’s best known transsexuals is buying up a string of prominent hotels and pubs in and around an historic North Wales town. Stephanie Booth, who was once jailed for selling porn and runs a sex-change and cross-dressing website, has bought five hotels and pubs in Ruthin in the last15 months – and is in the market to buy more. So far, Stephanie, who used to be called Keith Hull, and husband David Booth have bought the 600-year-old Bodidris Hall, Llandegla, the Plough Hotel, also in Llandegla, the Anchor Hotel, Ruthin, the Castle Hotel and adjoining Myddleton Arms in St Peter’s Square, Ruthin, and the Clwyd Gate Restaurant, between Mold and Ruthin.

The couple have already hosted gay and lesbian weddings, as well as a function for the Crown Prosecution Service. On her website, titled Transformation and which advises and sells items to help people wanting a sex-change or who are transvestites, Bodidris Hall is advertised as being available for transvestite (or TV) weekends. It states: "You can now enjoy luxury hotel facilities in total security and be pampered as a woman for the full duration of your stay."

Stephanie, 57, and husband David, who made his fortune as owner of a chain of convenience stores, live on a smallholding near Corwen, but over the past 12 months have become a major topic of bar-room chat in Denbighshire. Her life-story is also set to be made into a major film. She is revelling in her new role as "mine hostess", helping on reception, as waitress and even in the kitchen. Their first acquisition, in April 2002, was Bodidris Hall, where the couple had enjoyed many dinners. "Owning a hotel was just something I fancied doing," she said.

Stephanie stressed the facilities were equally evailable to gay and straight people and associations. "We cater for anybody and everybody, and I don’t have a problem with anything that adults do in private. "After all, we provide a service and they don’t ask about your sexuality before serving you in Boots stores," she said. "We have given similar exclusive use to others, including the Crown Prosecution Service. "We have only two rules – that you must behave appropriately, without being drunk, and must be able to pay the bill."

After refurbishing Bodidris Hall, David, 59, and Stephanie bought the Plough Hotel, which was in need of a facelift. In recent months they have acquired and revamped the other properties. "We seem to have hit the right note, and our aim in all the places is to provide excellent food at a reasonable price. It’s given me a new lease of life," she said. "Since we’ve bought these places people have been ringing us up suggesting other places to buy, but we’re only interested in places within half-an-hour of home." As always, she makes no secret of her colourful past, which includes a short spell in prison for selling porn at a shop in Manchester.

"My motto is: ‘The people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind’," she said. "But after my autobiography came out about 15 years ago I thought I would keep a lower profile and stopped doing interviews. "Now United Artists are about to make a film based on my life, and I shall be a consultant on it. "I’m amazed that anyone still considers it of any interest."

The Guardian
119 Farringdon Rd., London EC1 3ER

July 7, 2003

England Gay bishop forced out by Lambeth Palace

by Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent
The first openly gay bishop to be appointed in the Church of England yesterday succumbed to pressure from the Archbishop of Canterbury and withdrew from his appointment as Bishop of Reading. While the official line from Lambeth Palace was that Cannon Jeffrey John personally decided to step down, it emerged last night that he had bowed to pressure from key members of the archbishop’s staff at the end of an extraordinary six-hour meeting at the palace on Saturday. A spokesman for the archbishop said: "There has been a lengthy consultation period.

Only Canon John could take the decision as to what he was going to do. It is very sad." But that version of events was in stark contrast to the one emanating from his supporters. One of his closest friends last night described Dr John as "completely battered, devastated, bewildered". Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, appealed for calm within the divided Anglican communion as he attacked the "very unsavoury" campaign which brought about the situation. In a statement indicating the archbishop’s alarm and despair at the virulence of the campaign, waged by some bishops from developing countries and evangelicals within the church, Dr Williams spoke of "a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people" shown by opponents of the ordination of Canon John to the suffragan bishopric of Reading.

As the canon theologian of Southwark Cathedral withdrew his nomination, friends spoke of intense pressure upon him to withdraw by members of the archbishop’s staff. The diocese of Oxford threatened to keep the see of Reading vacant until Canon John became more acceptable. The canon took the church by complete surprise yesterday when he announced that he would ask the Queen, as supreme governor of the established church, to accept withdrawal of his nomination – the only way his ordination could have been prevented following its formal announcement by Queen and archbishop over a month ago.

The move is likely to bring only a temporary respite in the church’s continuing convulsion over the issue of same sex relationships, and represents a serious blow to Dr Williams’ authority as head of the worldwide communion. It was clear last night that fears of a split within the worldwide church, some of whose leaders in Africa had spoken of homosexuality as an abomination, had prompted high-level pressure for the canon to step aside. The archbishop found himself embroiled in the row over the appointment for the second time in a fortnight, and once more was drawn out into the Lambeth Palace garden to make a statement.

It was much less emollient in tone than his call for reflection sent to the divided diocesan bishops two weeks ago. Looking troubled, the archbishop said: "We have to grasp that Canon John’s appointment has brought to light a good deal of unhappiness among people who could by no means be described as extremists … Such unhappiness means there is an obvious problem in the consecration of a bishop whose ministry will not be readily received by a significant proportion of Christians in England and elsewhere. "Some of the opposition expressed to Canon John’s appointment has been very unsavoury indeed. A number of the letters I received displayed a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people. Our official policies and resolutions as Anglicans commit us to listening to the experience of homosexuals and recognising that they are full and welcome members of the Church, loved by God.

"Not everyone, it seems, takes equally seriously this element in the teaching of the Anglican church … Some letters that came from non-believers suggest that the level of foolish and hurtful prejudice in our society is still uncomfortably high. Christians who collude with this are simply not living out their calling." Reaction to the move varied from stunned anger among Canon John’s supporters in the liberal wing of the church, who believe it cannot afford to stigmatise one section of the community, especially those living in stable, long-term relationships, to near-jubilation from evangelical pressure groups.

The Rev Rod Thomas, spokesman for the Reform pressure group, said: "We are very relieved he has taken this step, because it was an issue that was proving extremely damaging to church unity and was preventing a proper discussion of human sexuality." One of Canon John’s supporters, Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, said: "The announcement is a sad day for the Church of England and a tragedy for a superbly gifted priest and scholar. He has become the victim of appalling prejudice and abuse which had its main proponents within the Church of England and about whom the church at large should be deeply penitent. This relatively small group has sought to undermine the authority of the archbishop and thereby the church as a whole."

He added: "Canon John told me he would withdraw if he was asked to withdraw. He would not voluntarily withdraw on his own initiative. However carefully phrased the official statements may be, I cannot believe that he has withdrawn in any other way." The Rev Richard Thomas, spokesman for the diocese of Oxford, claimed there had been growing support for Canon John’s appointment among clergy and laity in the area, following meetings. He added: "If anything, this is going to be the start of the debate, not its conclusion."

The Independent, London England

13 July 2003

Gay bishop row descends into chaos as synod is halted Gay rights campaigners storm governing body in protest at ‘sexual apartheid’

by Nicholas Pyke and Andrew Johnson
The farce over the appointment of the Bishop of Reading descended into chaos yesterday when gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and six activists burst into the Church of England’s General Synod and brought it to a halt. Mr Tatchell walked on to the stage, unfurled a banner reading "Church of hate stop crucifying queers" and challenged members to put him to death in accordance with Biblical teaching.

He was protesting at the Church’s decision not to proceed with the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, who is gay, as Bishop of Reading – an issue the assembly had hoped to ignore. But instead the synod at York University was brought to a halt for 40 minutes while Mr Tatchell harangued members. "You can see the voice of bigotry and unreason here today," he said. "Your ears are deaf and your eyes are blind. You do not witness the suffering of gay and lesbian people."

Mr Tatchell accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, of "betraying his own principles" and told the synod he had "bowed to pressure from theological homophobes" such as the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. While half the members walked out in protest, and some who remained argued with Mr Tatchell, he was applauded by some liberal members of the synod, the church’s governing council.

Senior liberals in the Church of England are blaming American evangelicals for the "fifth column" campaign of dissent which sabotaged the appointment of Jeffrey John, Britain’s first openly gay bishop, last week. Still furious that Canon John was pressured into turning down the chance to become Bishop of Reading, his supporters are now claiming that the US Bible belt inspired and helped to fund the high-profile opposition.

Last night Dr Williams was preparing to defend the Church’s handling of the debacle at General Synod, and this weekend he called for a pause in the debate until an official report on the issue is published in the autumn. But prominent figures at Southwark Cathedral, where Canon John still works as Canon Theologian, and from the Diocese of Oxford, which sought to make the controversial appointment, were warning that the evangelical network at the centre of the campaign wants to establish a church within the Church.

The Very Reverend Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark Cathedral, condemned the opponents of Canon John as the "Anglican Taliban", and called for an inquiry into how such groups are funded. "The campaign against Jeffrey was enormously well organised and well funded," he said. Another senior Anglican close to the affair said: "One of the things that’s become apparent is the role of American evangelicals. You begin to see the same people cropping up all around the globe." Dr Slee accused evangelicals from America and Australia of making substantial cash handouts to third world bishops who support their views, particularly at the time of the Lambeth conference in 1998, which produced a strong Anglican statement backing traditionalist teaching on sexuality.

Last weekend Canon John decided not to accept the post after a six-hour meeting with Dr Williams and senior staff from Lambeth Palace. It now seems he was under pressure to decline because of fears that the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican movement could split apart. The proposed appointment had provoked fury in the developing world, where views on sexuality are notably more conservative. Canon John was asked to take up the post by Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, despite acknowledging that he has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly three decades. He says the relationship has been celibate since the 1990s.

At the heart of the opposition was a group calling itself Anglican Mainstream, formed earlier this year when a group of 35 clergymen and prominent Anglicans from around the world met in Oxford. One of those present at the founding meeting included Andrew Carey, the son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey. The younger Carey is a columnnist for The Church of England Newspaper, an evangelical tabloid.

Others present at the meeting included Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, the Most Rev Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone (in south America), the Rt Rev James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, the Rt Rev Maurice Sinclair, former primate of the Southern Cone, and Canon David Anderson, chairman of the American Anglican Council. A group of nine Church of England bishops added to the pressure by criticising the appointment in an open letter to the Archbishop. Some have blamed the Lambeth Palace staff left behind by Dr Williams’s predecessor, the evangelical Dr Carey, for opposing Canon John. But even close supporters of the theologian believe this line of speculation is largely unfounded.

The Rev Piers Bickersteth, Vicar of Aborfield, Reading, and a spokesman for Anglican Mainstream, denied absolutely that there was any American funding for the group. Rod Thomas from the Anglican evangelical group Reform added: "What happened in the case of Jeffrey John was much more like a groundswell than a campaign." Anglican Mainstream, he said, included Anglo-Catholics as well as evangelicals.

Manchester Evening News, Manchester, England

August 15, 2003

‘Pride’ to net a £20m windfall

by David Ottewell
Europe’s biggest gay and lesbian festival arrives in Manchester today. Some 300,000 party people from around the world are expected to celebrate EuroPride over the next week and a half, netting the city a £20m "pink pound" windfall. But the opening weekend features "family-friendly" fun and games aimed firmly at the people of Manchester. Highlights include a mass picnic, dozens of street acts and outrageous pink-clad air stewards roaming the city centre. Tonight the Lord Mayor will hold a civic reception before the grand switch-on of lights thronging dozens of trees in the gay village. Clubs and pubs in the area are cashing in on the fun with a range of EuroPride-inspired entertainment, including launch parties at Cruz 101 in Princess St and Essential in Minshull Street.

For the more reflective revellers, there will be a gay film festival at UCI Filmworks and a "queer art" exhibition at Manchester Gallery. Fruity As the weekend continues 300 people are already expected for a family picnic in Sackville Park at 1pm on Saturday. On Sunday the city centre will be awash with stilt walkers, magicians and EuroPride balloons. Artists will be painting six gay-themed murals in St Ann’s Square, while street entertainers will roam Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens. An artificial tree – following the festival’s fruity theme – will be put up near the Urbis museum. The celebrations will build throughout the week with dozens of sporting, cultural and night-time events throughout the city. The "Big Weekend" on August 22-25 includes the annual Mardi Gras parade and a £10-a-head, ticket-only programme of events in the village. Christopher Hodgson, joint festival co-ordinator, said: "The first weekend is very much about being part of Manchester. "We hope to promote respect and diversity and it will be a very different weekend to the second."

BBC News

18 September 2003

Section 28 to be repealed

The law banning councils and schools in England and Wales from intentionally promoting homosexuality, is to be repealed. The Section 28 repeal clause will come into effect on 18 November, after the Local Government Bill received Royal Assent on Thursday. The measure has never been used in a prosecution, but has been a focal point for equal rights campaigners since it became law in the late 1980s, under Margaret Thatcher. The government says the repeal is an important milestone in a series of measures it is taking to tackle discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference. Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford said: "For over a decade, Section 28 has cast a cloud of confusion and ambiguity over local authorities’ ability to support and provide services to the whole of their community. "Repeal means that this cloud has lifted." Mr Raynsford added: "The government is pleased that Parliament has taken advantage of this opportunity to remove this unnecessary and offensive piece of legislation – which has fuelled prejudice and stigmatised homosexuality – from the statute book."

Stonewall has worked long and hard to have this deeply offensive law overturned, and we are delighted that it has finally passed away." Earlier, Labour attempts to repeal Section 28 had been blocked by the Lords. But, after the death last year of Tory former Lords Leader and prominent "family values" campaigner Baroness Young, peers’ resistance to repeal crumbled. A last-ditch attempt by Tory peers’ deputy leader Baroness Blatch to make the repeal of Section 28 dependent on parents being given new rights to vet schools’ sex education materials failed in July, in a free vote, by 180 votes to 130. UK

20 October 2003

Scottish LGBT "face higher risk of suicide and discrimination in the NHS"

A new survey of Scotland’s LGBT community reveals that they are more likely to be discriminated against by health workers and are more likely to experience mental problems including thoughts of suicide. The survey also found that gay men are more likely to take drugs than their straight peers, while lesbians are faced with more drink or substance abuse problems.

Conducted by Stonewall Scotland and the Scottish Executive, the study reports that 25% of the LGBT community have been the victim of inappropriate advice or treatment due to their sexuality or gender identity, while 24% reported homophobic staff. It also found that the community has a significantly higher rate of attempted suicide than heterosexual people – in the range of 20-42%. Gay men are less likely to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases than those in the rest of the UK, whether through an unwillingness to get tested or a lack of access. Additionally, 75% of gay men under 36 have tried drugs, compared to 47% of the general population.

However, it is not just gay men that take drugs – a massive 80% of lesbians and bisexual women reported that they or someone close to them had been adversely affected by alcohol and drug abuse. Stonewall’s Director of Parliamentary and Public Affairs Alan Wardle said that while the report shows that Scottish people are not being effectively covered by the NHS, it is likely to be mirrored across the UK. Alastair Pringle of Stonewall Scotland added that this could help revolutionise how the LGBT community receives health care in the country. " This report provides much needed evidence into the health and well-being of Scotland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered population, he said today. "It is clear that the needs of individuals vary and it is vital that everyone gets access to the right health services. "We welcome the fact that the Scottish Executive endorses the report and says that there is no place for discrimination in the NHS in Scotland. We look forward to the recommendations being implemented across the NHS." UK

November 10, 2003

Civil partnerships for gay couples to be in Queen’s Speech

The Government’s bill to allow gay and lesbian couples who register their partnership the same rights as straight married couples is expected to be included in the Queen’s Speech next week. The bill, which follows a consultation paper published over the summer, will allow couples to register their relationship at a register office. Registered couples would be able to take parental responsibility for one another’s children, as well as ensuring that pension rights only available to married couples can also be claimed by a gay or lesbian partner.

A family law expert told The Times newspaper: "The reform will be a huge symbolic step with real practical advantages for same-sex couples; the State is recognising and sanctioning same-sex relationships as deserving equal treatment. [It] would, in effect, be virtually the same as marriage, but as yet the tax treatment isn’t guaranteed to be the same." Although it was widely reported as part of the proposal published in the summer, exemption from inheritance was only mentioned in passing in the paper’s executive summary, and did not appear within the text of the paper.

It is believed that it will either be incorporated in the initial bill, or presented separately by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a budget speech. News of the bill has been welcomes by gay legal experts. Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, the Liberal Democrat peer, said: "If this is in the Queen’s Speech – and I would be very disappointed if it is not – then of course it is very welcome. It’s a great step forward for gay couples." Martin Bowley QC, a founding member of the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group, ackowledged the importance of the proposed reforms, saying: "At the moment we take on all the responsibilities that a married couple do, but we have none of the rights. Bowley quoted an Appeal Court ruling by Lord Justice Ward, which ruled that a gay man could inherit his partner’s flat.

"The question is more what a family does than what a family is. A family unit is a social unit which functions through linking its members closely together." But the proposed partnerships scheme has not been warmly welcomed by all. Church officials have condemned the move, saying that it risks intoducing a form of "same-sex marriage", while many political campaigners have suggested that partnerships should also be available to opposite-sex couples who wish to acknowledge their relationship without marrying.

The Guardian, London, England ( ),12592,1086800,00.html )

November 17, 2003

Section 28 gone … but not forgotten. County council writes spirit of repealed anti-gay law into curriculum of 600 schools

by Audrey Gillan
From midnight tonight, a piece of legislation described as "pernicious" and "homophobic" will be repealed. The new day will begin with the removal of a 15-year-old statute which gay people say made them second-class citizens under a "deeply offensive law". Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prohibited local authorities from "promoting" homosexuality or gay "pretended family relationships", and prevented councils spending money on educational materials and projects perceived to promote a gay lifestyle.

The section was voted out in the Commons by 356 to 127 votes in March. At the time, the local government minister, Nick Raynsford, said: "For over a decade, Section 28 has cast a cloud of confusion and ambiguity over local authorities’ ability to support and provide services to the whole of their community. Repeal means this cloud has been lifted." Today, the cloud is gone, waved off by a "Goodbye Section 28" party in London.

It is not going without a fight, though. Tory-led Kent county council has chosen to maintain the spirit of the legislation by being the only authority in Britain to fashion it into the curriculum of its 600 schools. Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservatives, has refused to condemn Kent for keeping elements of the clause, which was introduced by Margaret Thatcher. Mr Howard, whose Folkestone and Hythe constituency is in Kent, was local government minister when Section 28 was introduced and in March voted against its abolition. In a statement to the Guardian, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, leader of Kent’s council, denied he was keeping Section 28, saying the council’s position had been "misrepresented".

"In July 2000 Kent county council agreed a policy … which said, ‘KCC shall not publish, purchase or distribute material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’. "This in no way was a statement against homosexuality, and it certainly was in no way against school sex education including an understanding of homosexuality. It was against the ‘intentional promotion’, which is very different. "This is particularly important in primary schools and has widespread support among parents. I have, however, said repeatedly that neither the county council nor I myself have any view other than understanding about adult homosexuality, and … what two adults do is entirely up to them."

However, on the Kent Conservatives’ website, a page topped with Sir Sandy’s picture quotes him as saying: "We must protect our children as they grow up. We believe that Section 28 is right in prohibiting the intentional promotion of homosexuality in our schools. "The Section 28 debate is one of those defining moments in politics when the vast majority of ordinary people have risen to say enough is enough. They are leaving politicians in no doubt that to take away this safeguard would be a move too far away from traditional, deep-rooted family values.

"I took legal advice in December [1999] and we are determined to continue in Kent the spirit and commitment of Section 28, irrespective of the government’s intentions." The section’s removal from British law has been described as a "triumph for 21st century tolerance over 19th century prejudice". When it was introduced, Section 28 galvanised the gay rights movement, leading to protest rallies and campaign groups such as OutRage! and Stonewall.

The actor Sir Ian McKellen says he "came out" in disgust at the legislation. In the Lords, the debate about the ruling was interrupted by three lesbians who abseiled into the chamber from the public gallery. Perhaps more memorably, the day before the section became law four campaigners invaded BBC studios while Sue Lawley was reading the news. Yesterday, relieved to finally see the back of Section 28, Ben Summerskill, the director of Stonewall, said: "Its removal is hugely important because it is totemic … It was deliberately designed to stigmatise and demean 3 million people."

Sue Sanders, of the group Schools Out, which supports lesbian and gay teachers, said she was delighted: "What we are dealing with is ignorance, fear and embarrassment." Section 28 was first proposed in a private member’s bill by the independent peer Lord Halsbury, and tabled in December 1986. It was not aimed at "responsible homosexuals", he had said, adding that there were homosexuals who "would no more molest little boys than a responsible adult would molest little girls".

However, there were "sick" homosexuals, "suffering" symptoms of promiscuity, exhibitionism, "boasting" of homosexual achievements and an urge to persuade other people that their way of life was a good one. He said they acted as "reservoirs" for venereal disease. One of the main focuses of Tory outrage was a children’s story book called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, which showed a little girl in bed with her father and his boyfriend.

While no one was ever prosecuted under the section, it had a wide effect, with libraries refusing to stock gay papers, gay websites blocked on school and college computers, and Glyndebourne Touring Opera being forced to abandon a staging of Death in Venice. Section 28 did not directly legislate for schools, but it prompted staff self-censorship. Teachers were confused about what they could say and do, and were unsure whether they could act when pupils faced homophobic bullying.

A recent Stonewall survey of 300 secondary schools found that 82% of teachers were aware of verbal incidents linked to homophobia, and 26% knew of physical attacks. Only 6% of schools had anti-bullying policies designed to combat homophobia. The mental health charity Mind says two in three gay people are likely to have mental health problems. Many believe this is due to homophobia that has been fuelled by Section 28.

BBC News

26 November 2003

Gay couples to get joint rights

Gay partners will get the same tax and inheritance rights as married couples under plans to allow them to have civil registration ceremonies. The Civil Partnership Bill will give legal recognition to gay couples for the first time. The plans, announced in the Queen’s Speech, come after a long campaign for equality for same sex partners. But they have already faced criticism for failing to offer similar rights to unmarried heterosexual couples.

The plans to give gay and lesbian couples in the UK the same legal rights as married ones were outlined earlier this year. The new rights will include pension and property entitlements if couples register their commitment in a civil ceremony. Schemes which recognise committed homosexual relationships have already been set up in nine EU countries. And in June, Canada’s largest province Ontario ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry there. Under the plans, gay couples will not be entitled to a "marriage" ceremony, but will be able to sign an official document at a register office in front of the registrar and two witnesses. The proposals went out for consultation earlier this year.

The consultation paper did not use the term "gay marriage", but the Civil Partnership Registration Scheme seemed to have been designed to be as close to a marriage contract as possible. Gay couples would not have to live together for a certain length of time to be eligible for the rights, and if the partnership breaks up, there would be a "formal, court-based process" for dissolving it. New rights Under the plans set out in the consultation paper, gay couples in the UK will have:

+Visiting rights in hospitals +An ability to gain parental responsibility for each other’s children +Recognition for immigration purposes +Joint state pension benefits +Obligation to support each other financially +Ability to claim compensation for fatal accidents or criminal injuries +Recognition under inheritance and intestacy rules +The right to register their partner’s death and continue tenancy of a property +Exemption from inheritance tax on a partner’s home+ Exemption from testifying against each other in court

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: "Same sex couples face many problems in their day-to-day lives because there is no legal recognition of their relationship… "In many areas each partner in the couple is treated as a separate individual; they are denied rights and responsibilities that could help them to organise their lives together."