“Consultations offer a chance to discuss and to allow the society to better understand the issue. The Church does not support discrimination.”
“Is legislation the only way out? By asking people to not do the wrong thing is a negative approach. One may still harbor discrimination deep down. It’s important that one learns more about homosexuality. They [homosexuals] are not wild beasts, they are not monsters.”
“There are some bottom lines we ought to defend. The Church will not support same-sex marriage as marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. Relationship other than marriage, we can give it another name.”
The Church believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, it’s about the Truth. If believers were to be jailed for the Truth, then so be it. I am not too concerned.”
“The Church does not officiate wedding ceremonies for divorcees. If the Government sues us, we welcome it. We have our bottom lines. Religion has freedom and the Church has its own stance. We need to preserve our fundamental beliefs.”
“First we should not equate homosexuals with pedophiles. It is unfair to think that they are immoral because they are homosexuals. Is this to say that a man cannot teach in a female school? Whether homosexual or not, one should not be a pedophile anyway.
“One should not affiliates it [homosexuals] with AIDS, promiscuity or pedophilia. Some could be isolate cases, but one should not blame it all on homosexuality.”
“The Government needs an equilibrium, protecting homosexuals from discrimination does not mean the rights can be fully open to them. For example, as a reverend, I cannot adopt a child. Am I being discriminated? Children should be adopted by traditional families. Sometimes we think too much, worry too much. Our society is more rigorous than we think. I am not worried.”
Pledging that “we must right these wrongs,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today denounced discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and declared that religion, culture and tradition can never be a justification for denying them their basic rights.
“Governments have a legal duty to protect everyone,” he said in a video message to the Oslo Conference on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, voicing outrage at the assault, imprisonment and murder of. LGBTs. “Some will oppose change. They may invoke culture, tradition or religion to defend the status quo.
“Such arguments have been used to try to justify slavery, child marriage, rape in marriage and female genital mutilation. I respect culture, tradition and religion – but they can never justify the denial of basic rights.”
Mr. Ban, who has frequently condemned violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, said the world should be outraged when people suffer discrimination because of who they love or how they look.
“This is one of the great, neglected human rights challenges of our time. We must right these wrongs,” he said, warning that far too many governments still refuse to acknowledge the injustice of homophobic violence and discrimination.
“My promise to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the human family is this: I am with you. I promise that as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will denounce attacks against you, and I will keep pressing leaders for progress.”
The conference is jointly sponsored by Norway and South Africa and is one in a series of regional seminars scheduled to take place in France, Brazil and Nepal in March and April, and another is planned for Africa. The main purpose of these seminars is to gain better understanding of the specific human rights challenges for sexual minorities in each region, and to discuss how these challenges may best be overcome.
The seminars stem from a report issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights addressing the responsibility of states to end violence and discriminatory laws and practices based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Following Wednesday’s Supreme Court arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, there has been a lot of discussion of whether gays and lesbians individually, and the gay-rights movement in general, have become so politically powerful as to hardly warrant the safeguards of the equal-protection clause of the Constitution.
Substantial attention focussed on an exchange during the argument between Chief Justice John Roberts and the attorney for Edith Windsor, who is challenging the law. Justice Roberts asked Roberta Kaplan, “You don’t doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same-sex-marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?” When she disagreed with him, the Chief Justice somewhat snarkily responded, “As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.”
The issue is legally important—so important that it merited its own front-page story in the Times today—because in order for the court to apply what’s known as “heightened scrutiny” in an equal-protection context, it has required, in the past, a finding that the group seeking redress has historically lacked political power. Heightened scrutiny would mean, for example, that a court would look especially skeptically at a law that treated people of different races dissimilarly—the law would be suspect from the start. (One of the reasons that gay-rights groups may have been initially reluctant to take Windsor’s case for a large tax refund was that it looked like a claim for more money by an already affluent person.)
What is often lost in this discussion is that the legal test requires a finding of lack of political power historically. It has much less to do with political power, or lack thereof, in the present moment. In the DOMA context, what the court would need to look at, if it wanted to remain true to its precedents, would be the political power of gays and lesbians in 1996, when the law was enacted. Perhaps the best evidence of the lack of political power at that time is that the law—one of the most discriminatory anti-gay measure in American history—was passed by veto-proof margins in both houses of Congress and signed by a President who, even though he personally opposed the goals of the legislation, was unwilling to stand up against it in an election year out of fear that doing so would require that he defend himself against the charge that he supported the group stigmatized by the bill’s sponsors.
Moreover, and going directly to Chief Justice Roberts’s point about the success gay-rights advocates had in last year’s election—winning ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington—I hardly think having to raise tens of millions of dollars to obtain your rights, when they are free to everyone else, would suggest a lot of political power in the first instance. It’s more like good survival skills and ingenuity.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Windsor, which is being reviewed by the Supreme Court, actually made a specific finding on this point. ”Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public,” Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the controlling opinion. He might have added the modifier “historically,” but he was not wrong. After all, Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative, was passed not in 1978, or even 1998, but in 2008. And in May 2012—less than a year ago—voters in North Carolina approved a state-constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Rob Portman is still the only sitting Republican senator to express his support. He didn’t have to fall over any of his colleagues.
But on a much deeper level than the court was prepared or able to get into, there is a difference between the political powerlessness of gays and the political powerlessness of racial minorities. That’s because gays and lesbians can hide their true identity in ways that racial minorities mostly cannot. So there are (and have always been) gays and lesbians who are extremely powerful but closeted. The attorney Roy Cohn, who, at various times between the nineteen-forties and the seventies, controlled much in both Washington and New York, certainly comes to mind. But that is not the kind of political power the equal-protection clause considers. Just because a group is able to marshal its resources to undertake what is essentially a Herculean effort to protect itself, in a very limited and targeted way, does not mean it is unworthy of constitutional defense. Or think of it this way: just because the gay teen-agers on “Glee” are accepted, well-adjusted, loved by their peers, and able to kiss on television without consequence in their fictionalized reality does not mean that a poor, young, gay teen-ager living in the red-state South is not having a hard time of it. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve a day in court.
Outgoing EOC chairman wants to combine all four of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances to pave a smoother path for new ones in future
The Equal Opportunities Commission will complete by this year the drafting of a consultation document to review the four anti-discrimination laws, so that a public consultation into the matter can be launched next year.
Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong made the announcement after his last – and coincidentally 100th – meeting with members of the commission yesterday.
Former health secretary Dr York Chow Yat-ngor will take over his role next month.
Lam said the four ordinances had been drafted 18 years ago based on those in Britain and Australia. But while these two countries had improved on them over the past two decades, Hong Kong has lagged behind by at least 10 years, he said.
“The aim of the review is to modernise the existing four ordinances,” Lam said, referring to the sex, disability, family status and race discrimination ordinances.
“If we combine the four ordinances into one main ordinance … this will be more flexible.”
Doing so would make it easier and faster to introduce new anti-discrimination laws, as all that would be required then would be an amendment to the main ordinance instead of having to put forward a new and separate law, Lam explained.
“In the past, the government always said that the amendments we suggested were too trivial and so they could not be presented to the Legislative Council,” he said, adding that the amendments presented in Legco had to go through a priority-based selection process.
“So now we are hoping to make the changes all together. The government cannot say the changes are trivial any more.”
Lam hopes the commission will be able to submit a proposal to the government within two years, after listening to public opinion.
When asked whether the proposal would discuss introducing the controversial anti-sexual orientation discrimination law, he said the review would focus on improving the four existing laws.
He believed the public would voice their opinions on sexual orientation discrimination during the public consultation.
But whether such views would eventually be included in the commission’s proposal to the government was out of his control as he would no longer be chairman then, he said.
Lam praised his successor Chow as being highly experienced in the public service sector. He also applauded Chow for supporting the underprivileged on many occasions.
Lam called his work at the commission the happiest and most meaningful time of his 40 years in the public service sector.