European Union Launches
Human Rights Agenda
for Year 2000
At a conference in Vienna 9-10 Oct., 1998, the human rights agenda for the EU for the year 2000 was launched and debated by high-level experts and officials, including from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. This agenda is the result of the European Commission-sponsored project "A human rights agenda for the European Union for the Year 2000" carried out by an expert team led by Professor Philip Alston, head of the Department of Law at the European University Institute in Florence. This project is marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be celebrated in December, 1998, and is intended to formulate a comprehensive future human rights policy for the EU. Based on the extensive Final Project Report prepared by this expert team, a Comite des Sages has elaborated the human rights agenda for the EU for the year 2000. The Comite des Sages consisted of Antonio Cassesse, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Catherine Lalumie re, member of the European Parliament and former Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Peter Leuprecht, former Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Both the final project report and the agenda have now been published and both refer to human rights of Lesbians and Gays. The conclusion and recommendation of the expert team that "discrimination based on sexual orientation continues to be widespread and should be more systematically addressed through a Commission action plan and the development of a draft directive on equal treatment" (paragraph 208 of the Final Project Report) was included in full text in the agenda of the Comite des Sages (paragraph 12).
"This reference is, after Article 13 TEC as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam, another clear and strong commitment and mandate for the European Union to combat sexual orientation discrimination and to treat it in the same line as other human rights violations," said ILGA-Europe co-chair Kurt Krickler who attended the two day-conference in Vienna. "And it is another lobbying success of ILGA-Europe because ILGA-Europe had submitted a contribution on sexual orientation discrimination to the expert team which was prepared by Mark Bell, a PhD researcher at the European University Institute in Florence, and supplemented by the recommendations of ILGA-Europe's report 'Equality for Lesbians and Gay men - A Relevant Issue in the Civil and Social Dialogue' published last June."
Supreme Court Upholds
Homophobic Ballot Initiative
On Oct. 13 the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding a 1993 anti-Gay ballot initiative in Cincinnati. The Court refused to hear the case Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati v. Cincinnati, thereby allowing homophobic Issue 3 to take effect.
Cincinnati's ballot measure Issue 3 amended the city's charter to prohibit civil rights laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It was approved by voters in 1993 after a divisive campaign. When the Court struck down a similar Colorado provision in Romer v. Evans, it sent the Issue 3 case back to the Sixth Circuit for reconsideration. The Sixth Circuit disregarded the Romer decision and upheld Issue 3. The Court refused to hear an appeal to that decision, allowing the discriminatory measure to take effect.
The following statement is attributable to Kerry Lobel, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
"Today the U. S. Supreme Court allowed equality to take a back seat to homophobia. It is unconscionable that the Court would allow this ruling to stand and refuse to act on behalf of all Americans.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to our allies in Cincinnati. For decades, they have worked hard to create a community to extend opportunities to all of Cincinnati's citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation. Standing together, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered people and their allies spoke out eloquently and passionately about fairness and their vision for justice. We have confidence that they will work hard to bring justice to their community. We stand ready to assist them in passing new laws that will repeal Issue 3.
"All Americans deserve to live free from violence and discrimination. We will ultimately defeat the right-wing's broad anti-democratic agenda that seeks to deny basic rights for GLBT people."
NBLGLF Calls on Congressional Black Caucus
to Pass Hate Crimes Prevention Act
In the wake of the brutal murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum is calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to press for passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, officials announced Oct. 21.
"As Blacks, as Gay men, as Lesbians, as Bisexuals, and as Transgenders, we are doubly at risk for hate crimes," said Willa J. Taylor, chair of the Leadership Forum's board of directors. "Matthew Shepard's tragic, senseless death has focused national attention on a troubling undercurrent in our society today, and this has brought home for millions of Americans why hate crimes legislation is needed."
Taylor also pointed to a recent example of hate crimes that were motivated by both race and sexual orientation. In Minneapolis, an African American Lesbian found a note reading "Hate Nigger Faggots" at her door shortly after moving to a new apartment. Over the next several weeks, she and her child were the target of verbal slurs from their neighbors. She was finally forced to move after a burned cross was left outside her door.
"Matthew Shepard's death in Wyoming, the gruesome death of James Byrd being dragged behind a pickup through Jaspar, TX, and the bigots who drove that woman from her home in Minneapolis are all varying degrees on a spectrum," Taylor said. "The campaign of intolerance wafting from the religious right and conservative politicians demonizes Americans who happen not to be white, Christian or straight cannot be ignored as a contributing factor to these dangerous attitudes that lead to such behavior.
"The members of the Congressional Black Caucus have the opportunity to pass some much-needed legislation, and the Leadership Forum urges them to sign on as co-sponsors and actively, vocally fight for its passage," Taylor said. "The Caucus has declared itself the 'fairness police' for President Clinton's impeachment process. We expect them to be no less for the victims of hate and bias violence whose only 'crimes' are being who they are."
The NBLGLF is the only national organization dedicated to empowering the nation's 2.5 million Lesbians and Gays. Founded in 1988, the Forum has thousands of members nationwide.
Maryland's Criminal Ban
on "Unnatural Sex" Voided
In a legal and political triumph for Lesbians and Gay men, a Maryland court has voided a decades-old law criminalizing same-partner oral sex. The surprise ruling came virtually at the outset of a class-action lawsuit filed in Feb. by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the ACLU's National Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
"In battles over civil rights, same-sex marriage, and hate crimes, our opponents have invoked laws like Maryland's to say we are not entitled to equal treatment," said Matthew Coles, Director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "They can no longer justify opposition to Lesbian and Gay rights by saying that we are criminals once these laws are struck from the books."
In a decision issued on Oct. 16, Circuit Court Judge Richard T. Rombro held that the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution would be violated "if acts, considered not criminal when committed by a heterosexual couple, could be prosecuted when practiced by a homosexual couple." Rombro then interpreted the statute not to apply to any form of private, consensual, non-commercial sex.
The law, which dated back to 1916, made it a felony for Lesbians and Gay men to engage in oral sex and attached penalties of up to $1,000 or 10 years in prison.
"This case was about securing basic civil liberties," said Michael Adams, lead ACLU lawyer. "Laws criminalizing sexual intimacy have left Lesbians and Gay men vulnerable to job discrimination and open to unfair attacks in child custody cases."
The case was brought on behalf of five men and women who represent a broad class of Maryland individuals who are negatively impacted by the state's law. The ACLU will now seek to certify the case as a class-action suit on behalf of all Maryland residents.
"After today, everybody will be treated the same under laws concerning intimate sexual activity in our state," said Dwight Sullivan, lead attorney in the case for the ACLU of Maryland. "For the Gay and Lesbian people of Maryland, a dark cloud has been lifted."
Laws criminalizing sexual intimacy, including sodomy, were once on the books in all 50 states, but many have been repealed or struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. Most recently, the Montana Supreme Court voided its same-sex law last July, concluding that the government has no place in the private bedrooms of consenting adults.
Sodomy and oral sex laws remain on the books today in 20 states, 15 of which target intimate activities for both Gay and heterosexual couples. Louisiana is one.
Germany to Compensate Holocaust Gays
With negotiations completed for Germany's new ruling "Red-Green" coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, and with Gerhard Schroder expected to be sworn in as Chancellor in the coming week, the two Gay-friendly parties have already agreed to one advance for Gays and Lesbians, who are hopeful of many more. The coalition plans to set up a fund to compensate the so-called "forgotten victims" of the Nazi Holocaust, this time to include Gays as well as Gypsies and others who have so far been excluded from such compensation. The usual figure cited for Gay men incarcerated in the concentration camps is 10,000, although one historian believes it could be as high as one million. Not only did they usually suffer the most brutal treatment in the camps, they were the only group who were still considered to be felons after liberation, and so generally hid their identities after the war.
For about a year, the Swiss group Pink Cross has been working to identify Gay Holocaust victims to help them obtain their share of new compensation funds from Switzerland and its banks. The SPD's Schroeder and the Greens' foreign minister-to-be Joschka Fischer are far from having worked out the concrete details yet, but several German corporations have been setting up funds to compensate those who served them as slave labor during the war. [NewsPlanet]
Halloween at RubyFruit
to Aid Worthy Causes
Rubyfruit Jungle will be holding a Halloween weekend of fundraising activities at 640 Frenchmen St. in the Faubourg Marigny.
Fri., Oct. 30, from 9pm till, it's Voodoo Dreams, a fund raiser for the Tulane Xavier National Center of Excellence in Women's Health and the American Breast Cancer Society. Entertainment will feature a voodoo priestess, the gargoyle dancing girls, special guest vampires, tarot readings and the haunted catacombs. The grand prize will be a cruise for two aboard Commodore Cruise Lines. Winner must be present to win.
On Sat., Oct. 31 a $500 Halloween Costume Contest will benefit the Tulane Xavier National Center of Exellence in Women's Health and the American Breast Cancer Society.
A special illusion show will end the weekend's festivities at 9pm on Sun., Nov. 1 and will feature the "Jungle Jezebels" starring Reba Douglas, Teryl-Lynn Fox and Luwanda Jackson. This event will serve as a fund raiser for Yvonne Caballero to assist in her fight against breast cancer.
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