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South African court clears way for gay marriage
By Elizabeth Davies
Published: 02 December 2005 The Independent
South Africa's highest court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny gay people the right to marry. The country is now on track to become the first to permit same-sex marriage on a continent where homosexuality remains largely taboo.
The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg ordered parliament to amend existing legislation within a year. It will make South Africa the fifth country in the world to legalise gay marriage after Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada.
"The exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage ... signifies that their capacity for love, commitment and accepting responsibility is by definition less worthy of regard than that of heterosexual couples," Justice Albie Sachs said yesterday.
The ruling, which ordered that the definition of marriage written in the South African constitution be changed from a "union between a man and a woman" to a "union between two persons", is a major victory in the battle to outlaw discrimination in a country which has seen more than its fair share of oppression and human rights violations.
Post-apartheid South Africa, in reaction to the bloody years of its recent history, has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. It was the first such document in the world to enshrine equal rights for gays and lesbians when it was drawn up in 1996. In contrast to many African countries where gays and lesbians are persecuted, activists in South Africa have won many legal victories in recent years, including the right to adopt children and inherit from partners' wills.
The ruling African National Congress, which under Nelson Mandela led the country from apartheid to democracy, said that the developments confirmed the government would not tolerate discrimination against its citizens.
"Today's ruling, like others before it, is an important step forward in aligning the laws of the country with the rights and freedoms contained in the South African constitution," the ANC said.
The ruling was the culmination of a long-running battle by a South African lesbian couple to have their right to marriage recognised. Marie Fourie and Cecilia Bonthuys, both from Pretoria, thought they had succeeded in gaining equal status with heterosexuals last November when the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled they should be allowed to wed. They had previously, in October 2002, been refused the right to marry on the basis of the common law interpretation of marriage.
The women later discovered that they were unable to register for a church wedding and were told that the department of home affairs had refused their application, arguing that only parliament could change the law. Neither Ms Fourie nor Ms Bonthuys were present at the court proceedings.
Reaction to the ruling was not universally positive. Though largely welcomed by rights activists, it was also condemned in some quarters for being too slow-moving. Keketso Maema, a lawyer for the Lesbian and Gay Equality project, explained his dismay that the Constitutional Court had not ordered the amendment to be put into action immediately. "It's a bit disappointing. It feels like it's one step forward and still another one step backwards," he said.
Another protester who had been waiting for the verdict in Johannesburg also felt impatient. "We would've liked to get married as soon as we could," said Fikile Vilakazi, wearing a yellow T-shirt with the words "Marriage - anything less is not equal".
The only one of the court's 11 judges to dissent from the ruling, Kate O'Regan, did so precisely because she argued for the immediate legalisation of same-sex marriage instead of allowing for a 12-month delay.
Opposition to the change in legislation was led by the church and the African Christian Democratic Party.
"Studies of previous civilisations reveal that when a society strays from the sexual ethic of marriage, it deteriorates and eventually disintegrates," the party claimed yesterday.
Around the world
As Britain prepares for its first gay marriages in December, with Elton John and David Furnish among the first, it follows behind the Netherlands, the first country to offer full civil marriage rights to gay couples in 2001. Belgian gay marriages were allowed in 2003. In July, the first gay marriage took place in Spain, as the law changed to allow gay couples to marry and adopt children. Canada also legalised gay marriage in July.
In October, an Afghan refugee and a local tribesman were "wed" in a ceremony in Pakistan. The tribal council instructed the pair to leave the area or be killed. The 145-year-old colonial Indian Penal Code clearly describes a same sex relationship as an "unnatural offence". Despite two million people converging for the Gay Pride march in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in May, violence against gays ranks among the worst in the world.
December 2, 2005 latimes.com
High Court in S. Africa Backs Gay Marriage
Ruling in favor of a lesbian couple, the justices give Parliament a year to enact changes.
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — On a continent where politicians, church leaders and traditional figures often harshly condemn homosexuality, a South African lesbian couple who wanted to wed won the case for same-sex marriage in their nation's Constitutional Court on Thursday.
But gay activists who hoped for a bunch of weddings had to wait: Instead of immediately legalizing same-sex marriages, the court gave Parliament a year to bring the country's marriage laws in line with its constitution.
After the long years of apartheid, which denied blacks the vote and other democratic rights, South Africa crafted a liberal constitution in 1996 that outlawed discrimination on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation.
South African activists have used the charter to steadily consolidate gay rights, in stark contrast with the bulk of African countries where homosexuality is still illegal and gays are often ostracized or brutally attacked.
President Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe has frequently vilified homosexuals as "lower than dogs and pigs," while Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has described homosexuality as "unnatural" and ordered police crackdowns.
South Africa stands out on the continent for its constitutional protection of gay rights, but the government has opposed same-sex marriage. Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada allow gay marriages.
Despite winning a case in the Supreme Court last year supporting their right to marry, lesbian couple Marie Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys still encountered opposition — from the Department of Home Affairs. Government lawyers appealed the Supreme Court ruling.
But in a unanimous decision, the Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that it was unconstitutional to deny homosexuals the right to marry and warned that unless Parliament amended marriage laws, the court would automatically alter the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.
"The exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage … signifies that their capacity for love, commitment and accepting responsibility is by definition less worthy of regard than that of heterosexual couples," Justice Albie Sachs said, according to Reuters news service. The court is the nation's highest judicial panel on matters related to the constitution.
The ruling African National Congress released a statement acknowledging the decision. It also said it would respect the court's verdict.
"The Department of Home Affairs will assess what practical steps will be needed to give effect to the change in the law and make appropriate recommendations to the minister," a one-paragraph statement said.
Melanie Judge, program manager of OUT Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual Wellbeing, said reactions in the gay community were mixed: There was jubilation that the right to marriage was upheld but also disappointment that the ruling would not take effect immediately.
"The champagne corks can't quite pop yet," she said in a phone interview. "We do come from a history of intolerance where certain groups were excluded on the basis of sexual orientation or race or gender, et cetera, so it takes time for social attitudes to shift and to get used to notions of tolerance, of respect and dignity."
She said that although the ANC government had initiated some legal reforms, activists had had to take the government to court to win rights on issues such as same-sex marriage.
The decision sparked criticism among some religious and political groups. The conservative African Christian Democratic Party called for a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to that between heterosexuals.
"Every long-standing society has viewed marriage as a union of male and female. Studies of previous civilizations reveal that when a society strays from the sexual ethic of marriage, it deteriorates and eventually disintegrates," said spokesman Steve Swart, quoted by the South African Press Assn. The court said marriage officers could refuse to marry same-sex couples if their consciences prohibited it.
Britain opens up to gay marriage
Fri Dec 2, 2:13 PM ET - AFP
Debbie and Elaine, Roger and Percy will be among the first to break new ground in Britain, taking advantage of new laws that come into force Monday allowing them to marry their gay partners.
According to official predictions, some 22,000 people will sign so-called civil partnerships between now and 2010, giving them the same rights and privileges as married, heterosexual couples.
Britain is the fifth country to introduce legislation allowing gay unions, following Belgium, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands.
Given the legal requirement of publishing the banns, the first ceremonies are scheduled for December 19 in Northern Ireland, December 20 in Scotland and December 21 in England.
The first ceremony itself will take place in Londonderry on December 19.
The southern English seaside resort of Brighton and Westminster, in the political and tourist heart of London, both wanted to be the first in England to marry same-sex partners. Ceremonies will be held there on December 21 at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) on the dot.
Both places are expecting a boost to their image and also hoping to attract the financial clout of the "pink pound".
In Brighton -- Britain's self-styled "gay capital" where 40,000 of its 161,000 inhabitants are homosexual -- vicar Debbie Gaston will marry Elaine Cook, her companion of 16 years.
The town's local authority believes choosing a woman of the cloth will reinforce the message.
"I've had comments made on me on various fundamental Christian sites on the internet, about how I'm going to hell," Gaston recalled with a smile recently.
" I think that perhaps they'll have a shock when they get to heaven and they see me there as well."
Westminster has opted for another symbol with Roger Lockyer, 77, and Percy Stevens, 66, who will finally be allowed to be legally united after 40 years in love.
The local Conservative-run council recognised in November "the important tradition" of homosexuality in the area, which includes the gay heart of London, Soho.
It also hastily quashed an old bylaw banning the flying of the "gay pride" rainbow-coloured flag in its streets.
If the advent of gay marriage sparks little debate in Britain, it has nonetheless forced the country's religions to show their hand.
The main ones reject the idea, apart from one of the three Jewish traditions in Britain.
Religious group Liberal Judaism has even created a specific blessing, "the Covenant of Love".
"Liberal Judaism champions justice, equality, compassion and inclusion," explained Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, rabbi at the Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue.
"The new liturgy ensures that these values are put into practice as far as lesbian and gay Jews are concerned, by enabling couples to celebrate their partnerships in a Jewish framework."
Britain's main religion, the Church of England, has refused to bless same-sex unions but advised priests to act "with sensitivity".
The beginning of civil partnerships also has its showbiz element: pop star Elton John and his longstanding partner David Furnish intend to be among the first to sign up in December. George Michael has also announced his impending marriage to his companion Kenny Goss.
Like any issue in society, gay marriage has already prompted "politically correct" reactions.
Officials at the town hall in Liverpool, northwest England, changed the paintings in the register office "so as not to offend homosexual couples".
Landscapes now take the place of one painting showing Romeo and Juliet on a swing and another of a young married woman.
Meanwhile, a recent gay wedding exhibition in London issued the reminder -- if one were needed -- that all husbands-to-be had the same hopes and aspirations, whatever their sexual preferences.
"We want our weddings to be dignified," said organiser Richard Jones, adding: "They are not about men wearing dresses."
Can Sexy Women Climb the Corporate Ladder?
A New Study Suggests That Bold, Revealing Clothing May Keep You From Getting a Promotion.
By ERIC NOE - ABC News
Dec. 2, 2005 — - If you're a professional woman with designs on occupying the corner office, your fashion sense better be more Hillary Clinton than Pamela Anderson.
A new study on women in the workplace finds that people are likely to feel negatively toward a provocatively dressed businesswoman in a position of power. But as long as she's the secretary, it seems most people won't mind.
"Playing up sexiness is sort of a dangerous game, particularly for higher status jobs. It's something that has more costs than benefits," said Peter Glick, the Lawrence University psychology professor who conducted the study.
The study, which appears in the December issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, focused on how women who emphasized "sexiness" were evaluated within high status work roles. Participants in the study viewed videotapes of women who were deemed to be equally attractive and then dressed both conservatively and provocatively.
The results showed that a provocatively dressed women in a managerial role evoked hostile emotions and were deemed less intelligent. But when study participants were told that the woman was a receptionist, there were no negative emotions or negative perceptions of the woman's competence.
"For women, it's not just about physical attractiveness, it's about how you play it up," Glick said. "If you look too sexy, the stereotype is that you're not that bright, and that's certainly not beneficial if you're planning to move up the ladder."
Dealing With a Double Standard
Numerous studies have shown that being physically attractive is beneficial for both men and women. Attractive people are generally assumed to be smarter and more competent. But for women, appearance stereotypes can be more complicated, particularly in a business environment.
Glick said the reasons for the negative response to the sexy female managers in his study were probably tied to traditional office mores and gender roles. Because high-powered jobs have traditionally been held by men, managerial positions became associated with masculine personalities. The challenge to that stereotype is likely what caused a negative emotional reaction, Glick said.
And, of course, there is the age-old "bimbo" or "dumb-blond" stereotype that often plagues attractive women. Though obviously not politically correct, Glick said women with aspirations of career advancement might be wise to recognize that these emotions exist.
"If you're really trying to demonstrate your abilities, looking sexy might not be the best way of going about it," he said.
At least one image consultant took that sentiment a step further.
"The first thing I tell clients is that [dressing too provocatively is] the kiss of death," said Sandy Dumont, president of the Image Architect, a consulting firm. "If you have to flaunt it, it tells people that you're not qualified and you have to use something else to get ahead."
Fashion Guidelines Relax Over Time
Mary S. Hartman, a Rutgers University professor and director of the university's Institute for Women's Leadership, noted that as more women entered the workplace during the last 30 years, there was pressure to assimilate to more masculine behavior and dress. She noted one particular 1970s study in which women were asked to dress in clothes identical to their male co-workers, complete with jackets and ties.
"Fortunately a lot of women in that study said, 'I don't think so, we'll dress as we please,'" Hartman said.
Over time, the expectation that businesswomen must behave exactly like men has faded. That has allowed women more leeway in their career choices and their clothing.
"There has been a lot of relaxing of what some of those standards were," she said. "The message now is not to dress like a man, but just to dress sensibly."
Younger Women Most Likely to Make Mistakes
Some experts say that dressing inappropriately is a particular problem with younger women who are likely to be more familiar with the clothing styles they see in fashion magazines than corporate boardrooms. The fluctuations during the last decade between "business casual" and formal attire have also made the situation more confusing. And television images of women in the workplace can distort the idea of what is acceptable.
Ginger Burr, president of Total Image Consultants, said she couldn't think of a single image in the media that would serve as a good model for young businesswomen.
"The blouses on the women on TV are cut down to the navel, and that's not acceptable. It all started with 'Ally McBeal,' and it's not getting any better," she said.
Burr noted that it was important for a woman to understand what's acceptable in her particular profession and office. A graphic designer who manages an office of artists will likely dress more casually than a corporate executive. But casual, she said, does not necessarily mean sexy.
Both Burr and Dumont said that women must accept a certain double standard when it comes to office attire and stereotypes. Men who dress poorly may be considered sloppy, but that probably won't affect the perception of their competence.
"For women, people will immediately assume: 'Oh, if she can't put a skirt and a blouse together, then how is she going to handle my finances?'" Burr said. "For men, they're more likely to say: 'Well, he's a bad dresser, but he's a whiz with numbers.'"
"There is a double standard for men and women, and it may always be that way. Women need to empower themselves and learn what impressions they are giving off with what they wear."
The Old Reliable Navy Business Suit
Both Dumont and Burr said the classic navy business suit was usually a good starting point. And they stressed the importance of finding clothes that fit properly.
Dumont said that, because of lifelong gender conditioning, many women were naturally drawn to soft colors like pastels. But she tells clients to create a more distinctive look by mixing dark colors like navy, black and racing green -- and avoid orange at all costs.
"Orange is just too aggressive. You don't even have to open your mouth, and people will just assume that you have a loud, shrill voice."
The goal, she said, is to look appropriate for a business environment but avoid clothing that will stand out.
"I always insist that you have to be perfect from head to toe. If they're not noticing your clothes or the scuff on your shoe, then they just pay attention to you and your credentials," she said.
The results of the Glick study are not surprising, the image consultants said. They said it was important to understand that while not everyone can be a fashionista, a woman can really hinder her career by accentuating her sexuality too much.
"If they're going to dress provocatively, they have to be ready for repercussions. People are going to talk about you, and you may not get promotions. Knowledge is power, and young women need to know that the image they're presenting may be holding them back," Burr said.
Belgium votes in gay adoption
Ben Townley, GAY.COM
Friday 2 December, 2005 13:03
Belgium’s parliament has voted in favour of giving lesbian and gay people adoption rights, as the country moves even further towards full equality.
The country’s Chamber of Representatives voted 77-62 in favour of the bill, according to the Reuters news agency.
It must now be backed by the Senate, which is expected to approve the bill early next year.
Although the country has already legalised full gay marriage, the debate over adoption rights had split the country’s parliament along political lines.
Left wing groups, on the whole, showed support for the bill while the country’s Flemish Interest and Christian Democrats party both opposed it.
Campaigners welcomed the move, saying the laws would give formal recognition of existing family structures.
"Gay parenthood is already a reality,” Mieke Stessens of Belgium's Gay Federation told the Telegraph newspaper.
“We just want to give it the correct legal framework. With the vote last night, we've come a step closer."
Belgium is already well regarded on its gay equality stance after it legalised gay marriage in 2002. At the time, it was only the second country to do so, after the Netherlands.
Since then Spain and Canada have approved gay marriage.
Yesterday, South Africa’s highest court told the country’s government that its ban on marriage was illegal and urged for new laws within 12 months.
Belgian parliament approves adoption rights for gay couples
www.chinaview.cn 2005-12-03 03:15:50
BRUSSELS, Dec. 2 (Xinhuanet) - The Belgian Parliament on Friday approved legislation granting gay couples the right to adopt children.
The vote followed a tense debate in the Parliament. However, the final tally of 77 votes for and 62 opposed (with seven abstentions) was a bigger majority than expected.
The legislation has not been officially passed, but will now head to the Senate for further debate.
In the meantime, the gay and lesbian lobby group Holebifederatie was exceptionally pleased with the passing of the legislation.
"A lot of gay couples wanting children are now very pleased," the group's spokeswoman Mieke Stessens said.
Stessens also said his organization will continue lobbying to ensure the legislation is not delayed in the Senate.
|| News ||
Belgian parliament approves equal adoption rights for gay couples
Gay rights activists on Friday welcomed a vote by the Belgian chamber of representatives granting gay couples equal rights in adoption. Lawmakers voted 77–62 Thursday night in favor of the bill, which now goes to senate for final approval, likely in March.
"Gay parenthood is already a reality. We just want to give it the correct legal framework. With the vote last night, we've come a step closer," Mieke Stessens of Belgium's Gay Federation told VRT news. However, Stessens said she feared a number of senators would try and delay the implementation of the bill.
Socialist, Liberal, and Green parliamentarians voted mostly in favor of the bill, while Christian Democrats and the far-right Flemish Interest party voted against.
If the law is adopted by the senate, Belgium will become the fourth European Union member state allowing same-sex couples equal rights in adoption, after Spain, the Netherlands, and Sweden. (AP)
Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 11:11 GMT
Belgium backs gay adoption plans - BBC
(Photo) Supporters of the bill were at parliament for the vote
Belgian MPs have backed plans to allow adoption by gay couples, two years after legalising same-sex marriage.
The lower house of Belgium's parliament voted 77-62 in favour of the measure, which must also pass the upper house.
If fully approved, Belgium will become the third EU country, after Sweden and Spain, to allow same-sex adoption.
Belgium campaigners say that many children are currently cared for by homosexual couples, but without adequate legal protection.
The law will grant gay couples in Belgium the same rights as heterosexual couples, allowing them to adopt children from anywhere in the world.
In Germany and Denmark, homosexual adoption is limited to the partners' biological children.
Final approval by the upper house, or Senate, is expected in March.
Two years ago, Belgium voted to approve same-sex marriage, with an estimated 5,000 ceremonies held since then.
A string of other European countries also allow gay marriage or full civil rights, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and other Scandinavian nations.
Britain will legalise "civil partnerships" this month.
Belgium Closer To Allowing Gays To Adopt
by Malcolm Thornberry, 365Gay.com European Bureau Chief
Posted: December 2, 2005 11:00 am ET
(Brussels) The Belgian government has moved a step closer to allowing same-sex couples to co-parent.
The lower house of Parliament has approved legislation to permit gay and lesbian couples to adopt and for both partners to be recognized as the legal parent of each other's children.
It not only permits co-parenting but would also ensure the children in same-sex households would have the same rights to inheritance and succession as children of heterosexual couples.
The bill passed 77 to 62. If it gains approval in the upper house it would make Belgium the third member of the European Union to allow co-parenting, after Spain and Sweden.
The measure is expected to be voted on in the Senate in March.
Earlier this year in committee hearings on same-sex couple adoptions psychologists testified that children raised in same-sex households do about the same as those raised in traditional homes. (story)
Gay and lesbian couples in Belgium won the right to marry in 2003 (story) but, the law did not provide for adoption. Since then LGBT rights groups in the country have been fighting for adoption rights.
According to a recent study by the University of Ghent in Flanders, 42 percent of gays and lesbians in Belgium would like to have children. Among lesbians the figure climbed to 55 percent.
There have been about 5,000 same-sex marriages in Belgium in the past two years. The only other EU countries to permit gay marriage are the Netherlands and Spain.
Most other EU countries allow varying recognition of same-sex relationships. Britain will legalize civil partnerships this month.
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