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April 3, 2009


In a stunning unanimous decision, the Iowa State Supreme Court declared that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Iowa is considered to be the "heart" of the heartland and the decision to allow gay marriage in this state is truly significant. It mirrors Iowa's long history of commitment to the concepts of equal justice and equal treatment under the law. In 1839, years before slavery was outlawed across the country, the Iowa Supreme Court's first-ever decision was one that struck down all slavery laws within the state.

According to the Des Moines Register, Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who wrote the unanimous decision, said in his 69 page opinion that:

Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage.”

He also addressed the alternative suggestions of civil unions by saying:

“A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.”

The ruling recognized the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate,” and said judges must remain outside the fray.

“Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them.”

The justices also stressed that the ruling explicitly does not affect “the freedom of a religious organization to define marriage it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman.” Churches would still be free to decide that for themselves.

Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal excitedly exclaimed, “We won! It is unanimous! Today the dream becomes reality … and Iowa constitution’s promise of equality is fulfilled. Iowans have never waited for others to do the right thing. Iowa took its place in the vanguard of the civil rights struggle, and we couldn’t be more proud to be part of this.”

Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights and a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, said today’s decision could mean as much to gay couples outside Iowa.

“I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest state in the mainstream of American thought. Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

This is a great day for our community! Let's hope Socarides is right and we see this spread across our country like a rising sun.

April 2, 2009


Sweden just became the seventh country to legalize fully equal gay marriage in an overwhelmingly strong vote of 261 to 22 with just 16 abstentions.

According to PinkNews.co.uk:

The new legislation comes into effect as of May 1st, replacing the current legislation established in 1995 approving registered partnership much like civil partnerships in the UK.

Couples with a 'registered partnership' can either retain this status or apply to the relevant authorities to have it amended.

Soren Juvas, president of the Swedish Federation for LGBT Rights, called the ruling “a great victory” and Evon Frid of the Left Party said it was “a positive change."

The Christian Democrats were the only party that opposed the ruling. They said that they wanted to keep the "several hundred-year-old concept" of marriage.

A January 2008 Sifo Institute poll found that 71 per cent of Swedes approve of gay marriage.

Sweden now joins the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa.

It seems that the United States is rapidly becoming isolated as one of the most backward, supposedly free countries in the world - at least on any issues that deal with GLBT rights and protections. How sadly ironic is that?

April 1, 2009


Since my monday posting on the Jamaican Boycott a couple of things have happened.

First, JFLAG (Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays) published a posting on their website that both thanked everyone for their support and then asked that the boycott be at least reconsidered.

While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE's boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before. The stories told to us by many victims included hints that we (gays) were getting foreigners to force their nasty lifestyle on Jamaica and other derogatory remarks so the attackers felt justified in their actions.

The posting went on to say:

Let us remember too that it was Red Stripe, one of the targets of this ban campaign that withdrew financial backing for events and artists who promote violence of any sort against Jamaicans some time ago, we wouldn't want to erode that small gain now, small as it was it was a step in the right direction.

Although I can certainly empathize with the sentiments expressed in the posting, I have to agree with Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin:

I mentioned my reluctance in joining the call for a boycott, and this was one of the main reasons. It continues to give me great pause, and I do not take these concerns lightly. But when I read the State Department Human Rights Report on Jamaica, it is clear that violence against LGBT people is already at a crisis level. Jamaica is a small country. It’s estimated population of 2,804,332 is similar to the populations of Kansas, Arkansas or Mississippi. Imagine the outcry we would be hearing if any one of those three states were experiencing the scale of violence that LGBT people in Jamaica are experiencing already without the boycott.

As I see it, it’s damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t. What do you do in the face of this scale of violence, and how do you weigh taking action against the threat of more violence? Do you take the modest step of declaring that you won’t spend your money on that nation, or do you remain silent and hope for the best?

We’re not demanding that Jamaica changes its laws. We’re not asking Jamaicans to change their religious views. And we’re not asking Jamaican politicians to “embrace” anyone. In fact, there’s nothing the least bit radical or controversial in either of these goals. All we’re asking is that Jamaican officials defend the lives and safety of Jamaican people.

Personally, I feel that because I now know of the horrific violence and injustices that the Jamaican government has so willingly inflicted on our Jamaican brothers and sisters I can't, in good conscience, participate in or condone shoring-up that government by pouring money into it.

Jamaica is uniquely susceptible to a boycott of this kind because of its overwhelming dependence on the monies generated by both its limited exports and its primary tourism trade. If that flow of dollars is interrupted because of its politician's conscious and intentional actions against the GLBT community, it's a pretty good bet that the financial powers that fuel their economy will put enormous pressure on those politicians to change or leave office.

As is the case with any boycott, it ultimately comes down to a personal decision whether or not to participate. I, for one, don't see any other moral alternative.

March 29, 2009


On March 10th, I reported on a Jamaican travel warning that was issued because of the worsening climate of hate and violence towards all LGBT people in that country.

Over the weekend, a coalition of activists gathered at the Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco to declare an all-out boycott of Jamaican products and travel.

Fittingly, the plaza is where Harvey Milk launched his highly successful crusade against Coors beer for their blatantly defiant homophobia. That campaign was so effective that it ultimately crippled Coors' sales so severely that the company was forced to completely restructure its policies and attitudes towards the GLBT community.

Michael Petrelis of the Bay Area Reporter said in his article:

There are several avenues of participation I ask you to consider. Personally boycott Myers's rum and Red Stripe beer. Ask your favorite bars to boycott them also. If you're a bar or restaurant owner willing to pull those products, call me to add your establishment's name to the growing list of gay venues boycotting Jamaican drinks. My phone number is: (415) 621-6267.

Deliver a pro-gay and pro-boycott message to Mr. Anthony Johnson, the Jamaican ambassador to the U.S. Send e-mails to: mbassador@jamaicaembassy.org. You can reach the embassy by telephone at: (202) 452-0660.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin said of the boycott:

After much debate and with some reluctance, I too join the call for a boycott. My reluctance stems from concerns about the impact this boycott may have on LGBT Jamaicans. But in the end, I cannot recommend that American dollars be spent in such a hostile environment. I believe consumers have a right to know what’s happening there and make their spending decisions accordingly.

According to the Boycott Jamaica website:

This nation should be avoided at all costs until the Jamaican government takes action to end the country’s virulently homophobic climate and draconian laws that persecute homosexuals. Until Jamaica takes the following easy steps an official boycott is in effect:

1) Publicly commit to end gay bashing on the island and improve the human rights situation.

2) A statement from the Prime Minister clearly and unequivocally condemning violence against GLBT people and expressing regret for past violence

As I did during the Coors boycott, I will support this boycott by not buying anything Jamaican and if I order any drink in a bar or restaurant that uses rum as an ingredient, I will tell the bartender/waiter that I don't want Myers' rum or any other Jamaican product used in my drink.