Wednesday, March 21, 2007

French High Court Affirms Lower Courts' Rejection of homosexual `Marriage'

Declares that "under French law, marriage is a union between a man and a woman."

Yesterday, France's highest court upheld the decision of a lower court and rejected the 2004 `marriage' of two homosexual men. The court declared the marriage annulled declaring that "under French law, marriage is a union between a man and a woman."

In 2004, Noel Mamere, Mayor of the Bordeaux suburb of Begles, illegally `married' the two men despite a prior warning from then President Jean-Pierre Raffarin that "any elected official who does not respect the law in this matter. will be exposed to the sanctions provided for by the law." Mam‚re ignored both the law and the warning and carried out the ceremony. The state prosecutor immediately initiated annulment proceedings for the `marriage' and Mam‚re was publicly criticized by several political figures and received a month long suspension of his mayoral duties as punishment.

Previous attempts by the homosexual couple to appeal the annulment in lower courts have also ended in rejection. Among other reasons, lower courts have argued that unmarried couples - both homosexual and heterosexual - already enjoy many privileges usually reserved to married couples, according to 1999 legislation which legalized civil unions, known as Partes Civil de Solidarit‚ (PacS). The PacS legislation allowed unmarried couples to share certain welfare and employment benefits, file joint tax returns, and enter into property agreements together.

As in other parts of the world, gay `marriage' is currently a hot and controversial topic of debate in France but even more so as French citizens face their upcoming presidential election in April of this year.

The two front-runners in the race, conservative Nicolas Sark”zy, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement party and S‚golŠne Royal, member of the left-wing Socialist party have waged many of their campaign battles around the issue. Sark”zy has vowed that, should his party win, he would affirm current French law that outlaws gay `marriage' and forbids homosexual adoption of children. Royal on the other hand, in a complete change from her previous "no gay-marriage" stance, has rallied the gay rights community by promising to legalize gay marriage and adoption.

As previously reported by, a commission formed by the President of the French National Assembly advised in 2006 that, despite recognition of the fact that the French concept of family has become "more diverse and less institutionalized", homosexual marriage and adoption and artificial procreation for homosexual couples should not be permitted under French law.

The purpose of the commission, entitled Information Mission, was to investigate where, if at all, French law should be updated to better protect the rights of children and to reflect changes in the French family. The commission spent a full year in an attempt to give complete attention to all viewpoints on the matter. The final report argued that, with gay marriage would necessarily come gay adoption because "Marriage is not merely the contractual recognition of the love between a couple; it is a framework that imposes rights and duties, and that is designed to provide for the care and harmonious development of the child."

The commission also concluded that, due to the procreative nature of marriage, natural marriage must be preserved. "This corresponds to a biological reality, that same-sex couples are naturally infertile, and to an imperative, that of helping the child develop his/her identity as necessarily coming from the union of a man and a woman."

In its conclusions, the commission publicized their findings saying that their ultimate decision to advise against gay marriage and adoption was "to affirm and protect children's rights and the primacy of those rights over adults' aspirations."


Vote to stop homosexual-rights law, bishops told

Bishops of the Church of England are being urged by their flock to turn out en masse on Wednesday for the Lords debate on equal rights for gay couples wishing to adopt. In an open letter sent to all the diocesan bishops of the Church, more than one fifth of the lay members of the General Synod urge the 26 bishops in the Lords to help to overturn the Sexual Orientation Regulations at its final vote. Many peers and MPs from across all parties are unhappy with the way the changes to adoption law have been processed through Parliament. Hundreds of Christians are expected to turn up for a peaceful protest vigil outside Parliament on Wednesday during the debate.

The Roman Catholic Church has led the campaign against the regulations, which could put its adoption agencies out of business because it would flout Catholic teaching for them to accept public funding to facilitate gay adoption.

Protesters also fear the regulations will compromise the teaching programmes in faith schools, which will not be exempt. They are warning of "substantial danger" that it will be illegal under the regulations for faith schools to continue to teach that sex outside marriage is wrong.

If the bishops are successful in persuading the Lords to defeat the regulations, it is certain to fuel the Government's determination to press for a 100 per cent elected chamber. If bishops were included, it would be with a nominal role only, without voting rights. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, told The Times that if the Lords reforms went ahead on this basis, the Church of England should press for disestablishment.

In their letter, more than 40 members of the General Synod quote the present Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, as saying: "We in the UK do not have anything like this history of top-down rule by regulation. "We have in practice taken for granted that the State is not the source of morality and legitimacy but a system that brokers, mediates and attempts to coordinate the moral resources of those specific communities, the merely local and the credal or issue-focused, which actually make up the national unit. "This is a `secular' system in the sense that it does not impose legal and civil disabilities on any one religious body; but it is not secular in the sense of giving some kind of privilege to a nonreligious or antireligious set of commitments or policies. Moving towards the latter would change our political culture more radically than we imagine."

The lay members continue: "Given the great significance of this vote, many people would understand that the responsibility that Bishops undertake as members of the House of Lords requires them on such occasions to vary their crowded timetable in order to attend the debate. "Many Christians will be praying outside Parliament at the same time, giving up other activities that could rightly claim their attention. "We also note the spirited defence made last week of the role of the Bishops in the House of Lords by the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Chelmsford. Important substance would be given to their words if all the Bishops in the Lords were to attend to vote."The regulations were dealt with last week by a House of Commons committee of 16 MPs, which met for 90 minutes. Christian protesters are complaining that even the MPs on the committee itself had been appointed just 15 hours before it met and the room arranged for the debate was so small that there was not enough room for all the MPs.

Observers present reported that the meeting started in confusion and that only four MPs were allowed to speak on the regulations before the vote was passed in favour. Eleanor Laing, the Tory MP, supported the Regulations and said that "her brand of Christianity" preached "live and let live". On Wednesday Baroness Andrews will move that the draft regulations be approved. The aim of the regulations is to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in relation to providing goods, services, facilities, premises, education and public functions.


Ga. Senate panel OKs Confederate month

A panel of Georgia lawmakers signed off Thursday on a plan to create a Confederate heritage month, even as legislative leaders reacted coolly to a push to apologize for the state's role in slavery. Sen. Jeff Mullis' bill would dub April as Confederate History and Heritage Month to honor the memory of the Confederacy and "all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause of Southern Independence."

The unanimous vote by the Senate Rules committee - which sent the plan on to the full Senate for consideration - comes days after black lawmakers announced plans to ask the state to officially apologize for its role in slavery and segregation-era laws. Virginia's legislature last month passed a resolution expressing "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery, and lawmakers in Missouri and Congress have proposed similar measures.

Democratic Rep. Tyrone Brooks, chairman of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said it's discouraging to see the Confederate month proposal moving ahead after leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate said they're not in favor of apologizing for slavery. "Georgia needs to recognize and apologize and atone for its part in the slave trade, as Virginia has done," Brooks said. "Until we do, I think there will continue to be resistance from African-Americans and others who are serving in the General Assembly" to efforts like Confederate month.

Mullis, a Republican, said his bill was not a response to the slavery-apology movement. "I'm from Chickamauga, so it seemed pretty appropriate for me to do something to commemorate the War Between the States," Mullis said. His family owned land at the site of the Battle of Chickamauga, the Civil War's second-bloodiest battle and the South's last major victory. Mullis has supported efforts to create a Civil Rights History Month in Georgia but opposes a slavery apology. "If I had done something personally, yes, I would apologize," he said.

The state's branch of the NAACP called the push for a Confederate month hypocritical. "Although the supporters of the Confederate history bill feel responsible to honor the past deeds of their ancestors through official governmental action, they resist all notions that they have any responsibility to apologize to their ancestors' victims through official governmental action," said Edward Dubose, president of the group's Georgia chapter. "That reeks of hypocrisy."

Brooks, who said black lawmakers plan to officially introduce their slavery legislation next week, said he hopes Mullis' bill at least will encourage discussion. He said he's not necessarily against the idea of a Confederate month - as long as similar recognition is given to the state's black history. "All of Georgia's history should be promoted and respected and highlighted," he said. "Hopefully this will lead us into some meaningful dialogue."


Australia: Extremists take over mosque

HARDLINE international students have wrested control of a major NSW mosque, ousting the local cleric amid accusations the group is rapidly converting followers to extremist Islam. Up to 150 university students from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt who follow the fundamentalist Wahabbism ideology were central to the overthrow at the weekend of the executive board of the Newcastle Muslim Association.

Deposed association president Yunus Kara yesterday accused the students of pushing for new leadership of the port city's mosque in order to advance their own extremist agenda and continue "brainwashing" local Muslims. "The international students have used their puppets to come forward and dictate," Mr Kara told The Australian. "They're driving them to whatever ideology that (suits them). Their ideology is extremism ... but they teach under the banner of Islam."

But the association's newly elected treasurer, Michael Cawley, denied the claims of the ousted leadership, accusing them of labelling opponents Wahabbis. Mr Cawley, a convert, said the international students were merely visitors to the mosque and had no control over the new leadership. "Basically, what happened is anyone who didn't agree with the (former) president's point of view were labelled Wahabbi," said Mr Cawley. "It's unfair."

Newcastle Mosque's deposed imam, Bilal Kanj, who was also voted out on the weekend, said while the students openly denied their Wahabbi beliefs and radical Koranic interpretations, they were converting people during prayer group meetings and other religious gatherings. "If you were to ask them, they will deny they're Wahabbi," said the Australian-born cleric, who moved to Newcastle three months ago to work as a full-time spiritual leader. "They play it very discreetly. We've been studying them all of our life and we know how to spot them very easily."

Mr Kara said the international students were aged between 20 and 30, and were known to make home visits to members of the port city's 600-strong Muslim population to preach their beliefs. This home preaching may suggest that the appointment of a new imam is not an immediate priority of the new leadership. Mr Kara said radical students have gathered more support over the past two years after they began to flock the mosque in larger numbers. He said an absence of proper religious leadership at Newcastle mosque over the past 30 years -- prior to Sheik Bilal's appointment - also meant the students could exploit the void to spread their own ideologies.

Sheik Bilal said the students were becoming more proficient at spreading their isolationist messages. "During my presence here it was very, very quick," he said. "Because they went really, really hard with (preaching) their beliefs." Sheik Bilal said the students were becoming popular with the locals by adopting name-and-shame tactics, spreading lies about the town's moderate Muslim leadership.


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