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Top US Indian court upholds first gay marriage
Wed Jan 4, 2006 7:53 PM ET
By Adam Tanner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The top court of the Cherokee Nation has declined to strike down a gay marriage in what is seen as a pioneering case in American Indian country, the couple and officials said on Wednesday.
Cherokee tribal members Kathy Reynolds, 29, and Dawn McKinley, 34, married in May 2004 in Oklahoma, just weeks after the city of San Francisco ignited a national debate on gay marriage by briefly allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Gay rights advocates say the pair are the first registered same-sex marriage in Indian country.
Because tribal law at the time allowed same-sex marriages, a tribal clerk gave them a wedding certificate. But members in the Tribal Council sued, saying the marriage would damage the reputation of the Cherokees, and the law was later changed.
In a December 22 decision announced on Wednesday, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation, the tribe's highest court in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, rejected the request for an injunction against the marriage.
"Members of the Tribal Council, like private Cherokee citizens, must demonstrate a specific particularized harm," the court ruled. "In the present case, the Council members fail to demonstrate the requisite harm."
Historians say Native American culture before the arrival of European settlers tolerated homosexuality, although the settlers' religious teachings ultimately turned the tribes against it.
"Since the tribe has become so Westernized and adopted Christian religions and European ways, they strayed away from traditional Cherokee values of indifference," Reynolds told Reuters. "Cherokees are very private where they respect each other and respect how they live."
Reynolds, a graduate student, said she had lived together with McKinley, who works in the retail industry, for four years before they opted to wed. Both women said their friends and family welcomed their decision although tribal officials disapproved.
"We really thought our tribe would be accepting of us," Reynolds said. "That hasn't proven to be the case."
Added McKinley: "Because of their law we were able to get married, but now they want to say that it is not family values or that it is bothering them."
McKinley said the couple did not marry to make a point, but because of love. "It's exciting and it's scary at the same time," she said of their pioneering status.
The lawyer for the Tribal Council, Todd Hembree, said the tribe would no longer fight the marriage. "As far as the Tribal Council is concerned, that is the end of the legal proceeding," he said in an interview on Wednesday.
He said it was also possible that the U.S. government would have to recognize the marriage because of the sovereign status of Indian tribes, which could, in theory at least, make them eligible for federal tax benefits denied to date to gay couples.
Lena Ayoub, an attorney who represented Reynolds and McKinley, said the federal government has not recognized any same-sex state marriages to date and called the federal obligation to recognize sovereign tribal marriage "a very complicated area of the law."
The largest Indian reservation, the Navajo Nation, also banned gay marriage last year.
Cover Story/ Quest for truth: What secrets did Japan's ancient emperors take to the grave? And will we ever know?
By HIROSHI MATSUBARA, Staff Writer
This is the fourth in a series on issues and topics facing Japan's imperial family.
Part 1: Imperial Family/ Uncharted terrain:Those who do not want females or their descendants to become emperor feel stymied.
A new challenge is being mounted that may eventually put the Imperial Household Agency in something of a tight corner.
Academics have long called on the agency to open imperial tombs to full inspection to resolve riddles of Japan's ancient past and put to rest lingering doubts about the authenticity of some of the final resting places of emperors.
All this time, the agency, the guardian of imperial tombs and all matters concerning the imperial family, has never accepted these requests on grounds that the "tranquillity and dignity of imperial ancestors" must be respected.
But now, a new twist is being added to the debate over imperial tombs.
It stems from Mayor Keisuke Kihara of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, who believes he has a game plan to put his city of 830,000 people on the map.
In a nutshell, he wants to promote a fifth-century burial mound that is said to hold the mortal remains of Emperor Nintoku. The keyhole-shaped mound is one of the largest burial monuments in the world.
Kihara wants the site designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Such listing would draw tourists to Sakai from all over the world, he says.
Kihara has strong community backing for the project, but he realizes he faces an uphill battle in trying to get the household agency to reconsider its stand.
"I will make every effort to pave the way to achieve this difficult goal before my current term ends (in 2009)," Kihara said.
His grand plan was a major plank of his campaign pledge in the October 2005 mayoral election.
Kihara is now preparing to set up a committee of experts to map out a strategy to win the household agency's cooperation.
It seems certain that his decision will reignite debate between the household agency and academics over how imperial tombs should be treated.
For its part, the agency takes the stance that imperial tombs, including those constructed during the Kofun Period (between the third and seventh centuries), should not be regarded merely as objects of academic inspection.
The imperial tombs controlled by the agency include those built for mythical emperors, such as Emperor Jinmu, Japan's first emperor.
He is said to have reigned between 660 B.C. and 585 B.C., according to the ancient chronicle Nihon Shoki, which was completed in 720.
About the first dozen in the chronicle's list of emperors are widely believed to be mythical figures created by court historians in the seventh century. Public support sought
Whatever the truth of the matter, Kihara is champing at the bit to change the status quo.
"The tumulus is a historical and cultural treasure not only for Sakai residents but also for the entire world," he said. "The question is whether it should be viewed only as a grave and be controlled by the Imperial Household Agency alone."
For the Nintoku tomb to be qualfied for recognition as a World Heritage site, it must be first designated as a national cultural treasure by the Cultural Affairs Agency.
But here the household agency is unbending. It currently controls about 900 imperial tombs and apparently has no intention of handing over control to either the Cultural Affairs Agency or local governments.
Sakai officials have already repeatedly asked the agency to reconsider, but to no avail.
The agency has told The Asahi Shimbun in a written statement: "The purpose of conventions on world cultural and natural heritage sites is for the signatory nations to join hands to protect treasures that face extinction or destruction. Imperial tombs are being used as imperial assets and are sufficiently managed and most properly preserved from the viewpoint of maintaining their cultural significance. Because of this, the agency believes that there is no need for them to be designated as historical sites nor for them to be registered as World Heritage sites."
"Since our request requires a change in the rules, the prospect of my plan succeeding is still not clear," Kihara said. "Success will depend on whether or not we can take advantage of public sentiment that calls for more openness in the way the agency handles the affairs of the imperial family."
Some scholars pin their hopes on Kihara because he may have put the agency on the defensive.
Last year, the agency was red-faced when Noboru Toike, assistant professor of history at Den-en Chofu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, produced agency documents that revealed for the first time its doubts about the authenticity of at least 10 imperial grave sites where emperors are supposedly buried. The scholar used the Freedom of Information Law to obtain the documents from the agency.
Based on his studies of public documents from the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century, Toike pointed out that many imperial tombs, which do not have epitaphs, were hastily refurbished and designated in the late Edo Period (1603-1867) amid a wave of nationalistic sentiment calling for restoration of the emperor system. The Meiji Restoration in 1868 provided the finishing touch by politicizing the historical authority of the restored emperor system, he said.
Still, the agency shows no sign of wanting to re-examine its policy.
"Scholars' requests alone will not bring any change in the attitude of the agency," said Yoshiyuki Habuta, professor of archaeology at Senshu University and a former chief researcher at the agency's mausolea and tombs division. "The issue is a highly political one. Only strong public opinion demanding more access to the tombs could sway the agency." School teachers dismayed
The standoff is not limited to scholars and the Imperial Household Agency. Students also are being taught a version of history that may well be wrong in many areas.
The Gunge Elementary School in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, is a case in point. The city's Imashirozuka-kofun (ancient burial mound) is believed by most scholars to be the grave site of sixth-century Emperor Keitai. Yet, this is at odds with the agency's official position that Emperor Keitai was buried at Ota-Chausuyama-kofun, 1.5 kilometers west of Imashirozuka-kofun.
In August, about 2,500 local residents, including students of the elementary school, staged a mock ancient funeral by dragging a wooden chamber containing a replica stone coffin using materials resembling broken bits that were unearthed from inside the tomb's compound.
The event was based on the understanding that the Imashirozuka-kofun is the emperor's true resting place.
In fact, the Imperial Household Agency documents obtained by Toike indicate that even the agency's internal committee concluded in 1936 that the other tomb is highly likely where the emperor was laid to rest.
“Incredibly, our teachers still cannot tell their pupils much about the fact that the Imashirozuka-kofun is most likely the real grave," said Masahiro Miki, principal of Gunge Elementary School, located adjacent to the Imashirozuka-kofun.
"Any discussion concerning the authenticity of the designation of imperial tombs will be viewed as a challenge to the foundation of the emperor system and may draw severe criticism from some parents," he said.
For Yasuhide Hiramatsu, a 12-year-old at the school, all this talk of history is almost beside the point.
“I was glad the discoveries of burial figures at the tomb made me realize that my favorite place for hide and seek is a precious historical monument.
“I was told by my mom if any object decisively linking the tomb to the imperial family is unearthed, the Imperial Household Agency may move to control it and prohibit us from entering the tomb. I do not want that to happen." FOOTNOTES
The Imperial Household Agency guards its control of 896 imperial tombs, including the tumuli of 124 emperors.
Based on archaeological discoveries, scholars believe that few of the ancient tombs are authentic.
However, the agency has neither reviewed the original designation nor accepted outside researchers' requests for extensive academic inspections.
In an apparent compromise, the agency since 1979 has allowed representatives of academic societies and journalists to enter one or two tombs for a brief inspection tour each year.
A tomb designated as that of legendary female sovereign Emperor Iitoyo in Nara Prefecture was opened for the tour in December.
It turned out that the tomb underwent a major refurbishment in the late Edo Period.
Experts believe the work was intended to make the tomb look solemn enough for an emperor.
In July last year, 15 academic societies urged the agency to allow them to enter 11 burial mounds, including Emperor Nintoku's tumulus, for inspection. The agency replied it will examine the request on the basis of whether the tombs should be viewed more as sites of imperial rites or cultural treasures.
The agency is expected to announce its decision this year.(IHT/Asahi: January 5,2006)
The Princess and the Workforce
The controversy over bringing four-year-old Princess Aiko into the line of royal succession may have larger implications for Japan's women and economy
By Brian Bremner
Updated: 7:00 a.m. ET Jan. 4, 2006
The Japanese royal at the center of a national debate is all of four years old, and she's hardly the stuff of tabloid headlines. When the Japanese Imperial Household Agency releases photos of Princess Aiko, it's usually along the lines of the little princess digging sweet potatoes with her mother, Crown Princess Masako, at one of the Imperial family's royal palaces. Following Princess Aiko is about as scintillating as a covering a croquet tournament for the 80-plus set.
Yet this tot finds herself in an animated struggle between Japan's archconservative cultural guardians and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government. Sometime this month, Koizumi plans to submit legislation that would revise the Imperial House Law to allow Aiko to become second in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after Crown Prince Naruhito, her father and the heir apparent to reigning Emperor Akihito, who just turned 72 and seems to be in splendid health.
In many ways, the legislation makes sense. For one thing, the royal family has had a devil of a time producing male heirs. The last one was back in the mid-'60s. Also, if Japanese press reports are to believed, Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito, now both in their early 40s, have had a tough time conceiving, and only the Sun Goddess Amaterasu knows whether they'll produce another child, male or female. So after Naruhito passes on into the great beyond, there may not be a male heir...and that's a huge, really catastrophic deal among some cultural conservatives in Japan.
THE RIGHT SYMBOL. The legislation before the Diet will allow Aiko to become the first Empress of Japan since the late 18th century. The country has had only eight female empresses over the last 2,000-plus years or so. And opponents such as Lower House Diet member Takeo Hiranuma have warned that Japan's very national identity "will face a meltdown" if the law Koizumi has in mind is passed. Hiranuma prefers a revision that would make it clear Aiko would be an exception, and the whole institution would revert back to male control once a suitable heir with the right lineage could be found.
I'm not Japanese, so maybe I have no business butting in. Still, I doubt most youthful, iPod-toting Japanese really worry about whether the country should have a female Emperor. And I wonder how many of them could tell you the name of Japan's last female one. [For the record, she was Go-Sakuramachi, who reigned from 1762-70.]
Actually, I think having a female heir is just the right sort of symbolism for Japan at this juncture. While it's in the midst of one its longest post-war expansions, its population started shrinking last year, and the economy is facing labor shortages in some key sectors such as engineering and research. Labor conditions are the tightest since 1992, according to government data -- a situation aggravated by the fact that the baby boom generation is nearly the traditional retirement age of 60.
GOODWILL AMBASSADOR. Massive immigration is unthinkable in a culturally insular society like Japan, but getting more of its highly capable and educated women into the workforce in a serious way shouldn't be. In sharp contrast to their Western counterparts, Japanese women rarely reach the upper echelons of corporate life. In Japan, 55% of all women work, vs. about 62% in the U.S. Closing that gap would add 2.4 million women to the workforce over time, according to a study by Goldman Sachs.
Koizumi understands that, which is why he's expanding day-care facilities in Japan. And perhaps that's also behind his provocative backing of the revision on Imperial succession in Japan. If you ask me, he ought to think about bringing Harvard-educated and former diplomat Crown Princess Masako into his government or turn her into a more of an official goodwill ambassador for Japan abroad.
Until all this is settled, though, here's to Aiko having the blissful childhood she deserves. And to continued prosperity for the royal family and Japan, with its surprisingly revived economy, for 2006.
Copyright © 2006 The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, January 4, 2006 - 12:00 AM
Scientific study crucial to "gay gene" issue
By Faye Flam
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Geneticist Dean Hamer says he never chose to be attracted to men. As we talked inside the renovated Washington, D.C., townhouse he shares with his partner and two dogs, the scientist popularly associated with so-called "gay genes" told me he knew he was gay since he was about 5.
That's what partly motivated Hamer, 54, to switch from basic molecular genetics to studying sexual orientation in 1992. When he told his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute what he was doing, they were puzzled. "It was pretty far out there," he says. Others thought the answer was too obvious — that of course it was genetic.
But outside the scientific community, Hamer says, it's still widely believed that gay people somehow choose their orientation, and this further fuels discrimination. (President Bush was asked in the presidential debates whether being gay was a choice. He said he didn't know.)
But will studying sexual orientation fight hatred or give it new tools? If scientists identify a "gay gene," will expectant parents use it for selective abortion?
"That scares some straight people away from studying this," says Hamer. "They're afraid of offending someone or causing harm." Most of the leaders in the field are gay, he said, for the same reason female researchers dominate the study of sex differences in the brain.
That limits study of what he considers to be one of the most important aspects of biology and human health. "We have the worst epidemic out there since the plague," he says. "It's spread by sex." Hamer said he was inspired to switch his focus by several studies in the late 1980s, especially one that looked at twins.
If a trait is shared more often by identical twins than by fraternal twins it means there's some genetic component. For men, if one identical twin is gay there's about a 50 percent chance the other will be, too. That falls to about 20 percent if they're fraternal. For women, the story is more complicated, though science shows biology matters there, too.
Hamer realized he might be able to use the tools of molecular genetics to isolate specific genes. He studied 40 pairs of gay brothers and found a particular marker on the X chromosome that was shared more often when both brothers were gay.
When he published his result in 1993 it became known as the "gay gene," but he said this label oversimplified the science. Many straight people have the "gay" version of the marker.
Scientists now know sexual orientation can't be detected from testing any single gene — it's set by a complicated combination of genes and environmental factors.
Only a few studies attempted to replicate Hamer's finding. It remains unresolved. Hamer said other gene findings are followed by hundreds of follow-up studies, but the gay gene is not popular subject matter.
Neuroscientist Charles Wysocki and his colleagues at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia investigated the way male body odor caused spikes in women's hormones.
They found the effect only in straight women, but not lesbians. Intrigued, he followed up with a study suggesting sexual-orientation influences not only how you react to the scents of others but how you yourself smell.
Other startling insights have come from studies of animals. By altering a single gene in fruit flies, researchers in Austria created males who courted and tried to mate with males, females with females. And in Oregon, researchers are finding brain differences between straight and exclusively gay rams.
Scientists say it's next to impossible to get federal funding to research anything related to sex, and especially homosexuality.
And yet our political and cultural debates often hinge on such issues. Should we allow gay marriage? How do we prevent HIV? How do we educate our children so they don't contract and spread this epidemic? How can we deal with anti-gay discrimination?
Science may not have all the answers, but if given the chance, it could at least inform these debates.
Faye Flam writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her Carnal Knowledge column appears Wednesdays in The Seattle Times.
The (London) Times January 05, 2006
Women are told to have a litter in Year of Dog
From Leo Lewis in Tokyo
IN A sign of rising despair over the country’s dwindling birth rate, the Prime Minister of Japan has suggested that his people should take their cue from the canine world and breed larger litters of offspring in the Year of the Dog.
Junichiro Koizumi’s unexpected “do as dogs do” advice arose during his new year press conference — his first public appearance since it was revealed a week ago that Japan’s population contracted by 19,000 last year and is shrinking for the first time in more than a century. Since this is now the Japanese Year of the Dog, he explained, Japanese in 2006 have an ideal role model from the animal kingdom: “Dogs produce lots of puppies and, when they do, the pains of labour are easy,” he said, adding that he will now do everything in his power to “fashion an environment where people can think raising children is delightful”.
Beyond this canine counsel, and in what is almost certain to be his last new year’s speech as Prime Minister, Mr Koizumi offered no other ideas about how to deal with the birthrate problem. In Tokyo, home to 30 million people, the rate has declined to 0.99 children per woman.
Although Mr Koizumi has pushed through a string of difficult reforms in Japan, his failure to address the birth issue is striking. He has repeatedly been asked whether he has a strategy in place, and repeatedly said that he does not.
The arrival of Japan’s first year of natural population decline has been vaguely predicted but has actually come far sooner than expected. Even the Prime Minister’s jovial dog litter remarks, say political analysts, have the “clear ring of panic about them”.
In its last session of 2005, the Cabinet announced a gender equality initiative that was widely interpreted as a last-ditch attempt to stave off the country’s looming demographic catastrophe. The seemingly impossible plan was designed to create conditions in which the nation’s women will both stay at home to have more children and work harder.
At its core the new drive is a package of improvements to working conditions which, it is hoped, will remove some of the obstacles preventing women from having larger families. Measures include the introduction of flexible working hours and a proposal that hundreds of shops left vacant by the recession be converted into childcare facilities.
But the scheme also attempts to address the other side of the demographic problem: as the population contracts, so too does the workforce, with potentially dire economic effects. The Government’s solution is to cajole more women into coming back to work after their child-bearing days are done.
The plan, which has been awkwardly dubbed Help Female Re-Challenge and has been pushed through the Cabinet by Mr Koizumi himself, aims to create a generation of women leaders in business and political fields.
Around 70 per cent of Japanese mothers do not return to work after childbirth. Part of that pattern is cultural, but much of it has to do with the practical difficulties of returning to work: women find it nearly impossible to return to good jobs that they have left in order to have children.
This forces Japanese women to make a stark choice between career and maternity, and the current generation is increasingly interested in pursuing a career.
By introducing flexible working hours and actively encouraging mothers to return to work, the plan aims to present child-rearing as something that does not hamper a career.
ドキュメンタリー映画『３０年のシスターフッド：７０年代ウーマンリブの女たち』（山上千恵子・瀬山紀 子監督 2004年）アメリカ上映ツアーが２月にいよいよキックオフ！監督のひとりは当ファイトバックの会呼びかけ人、音楽も、出演者にもファイトバックの会メンバー。北米中西部、東部地域の１０大学をまわって、上映会、ディスカッション、ワークショップ、授業訪問をする予定です。その時生まれていたあなたも、生まれてなかったあなたも私も、みんなで応援しよう！