TV & Radio
Battle lines drawn as Italy plans law recognizing gay couples
by Gina Doggett
Sat Dec 9, 5:03 PM ET
Battle lines were drawn over a plan to grant legal status to gay couples in socially conservative Italy, with the Vatican up in arms along with the right-wing opposition.
L'Osservatore Romano, a Vatican mouthpiece, slammed the plan, warning in an editorial: "Eradicating the family is the priority of Italian politics," while the opposition also pledged to defend the traditional family.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Thursday that his government would draft legislation on civil unions in the Catholic-majority country by January 31.
He said it would "represent a fundamental step forward" as his center-left Union coalition honors its electoral pledges.
The measure would apply to all unmarried couples without reference to their sexual orientation, granting them inheritance rights, joint medical insurance and visiting rights in prisons and hospitals, among others.
Friday's announcement of the planned legislation "confirms once again the hypocritical nature of these initiatives that aim to recognize an alternative form of family," L'Osservatore Romano said.
If the government insists it is defending "individual rights" and that "nothing intends to endanger the traditional family, it will be lying."
The Italian opposition, led by Forza Italia of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, also blasted the plan, while doubting whether Prodi's motley coalition -- ranging from communists, Greens and radicals to centrist and traditional Catholics -- will be able to unite behind the initiative.
"We will defend the family as we always have," Forza Italia's Isabella Bertolini told the ANSA news agency, while adding: "The false majority won't agree on anything."
Granting legal status to gay couples has been a subject of dispute not only between right and left in Italy but also within Prodi's Union coalition, which promised in its manifesto ahead of April elections to legally recognize common law partnerships, stressing that "their sexual orientation will not be an obstacle."
The head of Forza Italia's group in the Senate, Renato Schifani, said Saturday: "Nothing has been decided, as some in the left want people to believe.
"The debate on civil unions is completely open. Not only are we firmly opposed ... but the Catholics in the Union have already said they would never vote for it," he said.
A member of the Margherita party, a traditional Catholic grouping within Prodi's coalition, however told Saturday's Rome daily Il Messagero that he favored the recognition of gay couples' civil rights but not gay marriage or "parity between civil unions and the family."
A member of the small left-wing Rose in the Fist meanwhile accused "Catholic fundamentalists" of wanting to block the legislation.
"We are in the presence of a veritable cultural and philosophical offensive with the authoritative guidance of the pope who wants to impose on Italy a sort of tutelage by the Church on civil and political life, unknown in other big European democracies," Roberto Villetti told ANSA.
He was reacting after Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that religious symbols should be allowed in public places.
The Vatican condemned Spain's gay marriage law last year as "a defeat for humanity" and attacked Prodi for "tearing apart the family in a search for votes."
Italy splits over status of gay, unwed couples
By Phil Stewart
7:34 a.m. December 8, 2006
ROME – Italy's political right and Catholic Church officials voiced outrage on Friday at a Senate request that the government put forward legislation giving rights to unmarried couples, including homosexual ones.
One Roman Catholic cardinal warned the move risked 'destroying' the family and centre-right opposition leaders threatened to put up a stiff fight in parliament.
The motion, passed late on Thursday, commits the government to present a bill over recognition to unwed couples by January 31. But it was vague and stopped short of suggesting legally binding marriage contracts to same-sex couples.
It came just days after a city in northern Italy's Catholic heartland became the first in the country to allow unmarried heterosexuals and homosexuals to register formally as couples.
'By opening the door to new forms of cohabitation there is the risk of destroying the family,' Cardinal George Cottier told Italy's left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper.
Cardinal Paul Poupard cautioned that the family taught 'man and woman about how to be social'.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who campaigned on giving legal recognition for unwed couples, said the unanimous Senate motion about a form of national legislation 'represents a fundamental step forward'.
Centre-right politicians saw it as a mission-creep toward legalising gay marriage and threatened to block the measure.
CLASH IN PARLIAMENT
'There will be a clash in parliament in January over civic values but (the bill) will not pass,' said Osvaldo Napoli, with the opposition Forza Italia party in the lower house.
Many in the centre left support legal recognition of unwed heterosexual and homosexual couples similar to that in France, which has granted all couples the right to form civil unions, and to joint social security and other benefits.
Family Minister Rosy Bindi said any Italian move would be a far cry from legalising gay marriage, adding 'it should not be a source of concern even for the Church'.
But the Church was already up in arms after the city council of Padua in the northern Veneto region on Monday voted in favour of allowing homosexual and heterosexual couples to register as 'families based on ties of affection'.
It would allow the couples to receive a 'certification of family' document from Padua city hall establishing the date a family was started.
Such certificates are needed in Italy to join waiting lists for public housing, to obtain permission from employers to stay away from work to assist a sick family member at home or in hospital, and for various minor legal proceedings.
In a strongly worded editorial, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano condemned the move as an 'incredible' attempt to allow what it called 'a parallel family' and branded its political backers as 'hypocrites'.
Italy's opposition promises to battle proposed legislation giving rights to unmarried couples
The Associated Press
Friday, December 8, 2006
Opposition leaders reacted angrily Friday to a request by the Senate's center-left majority to give unmarried couples — including gays — some of the same rights as married couples, and promised to fight what they said was harmful to families and Italy's Catholic tradition.
The issue is a divisive one in a nation that is home to the Vatican and is still influenced by church positions. It is also sensitive for the coalition of Premier Romano Prodi, which ranges from Christian Democrats to anti-Vatican radicals and has struggled to find a common position on the matter.
At issue is a decision Thursday by the majority in the Senate, which called unanimously on the government to come up with legislation for all unmarried couples by the end of next month.
Barbara Pollastrini, equal opportunities minister, agreed in a statement Friday that the government would do so by the end of January.
"This is an answer to a maiden prayer for the right, because it's something they can raise a big stink about and take attention away from the issue of money and who is responsible for the debt," said James Walston, political science professor at the American University in Rome.
The response from the opposition was swift.
"We will fight this in parliament and in the country, getting the moderate, Catholic and non Catholic groups, involved," Pier Ferdinando Casini, a Christian Democrat and opposition leader, said in a statement carried by Italian news agencies.
Among other things, the proposed legislation would give unmarried couples including gays inheritance rights, joint medical insurance, visiting rights in prisons and hospitals, the right to carry on one another's leases, and the right to take decisions in case one partner becomes ill.
"There is one part of the majority that wants to bring Italy closer to Zapatero's Spain, making the regular family equal to homosexual cohabitants," Casini added, referring to the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which legalized gay marriage last year and has pushed through other liberal laws including fast-track divorce and less onerous terms for medically assisted fertilization.
"This is an offense to the identity of the family and the Catholic principles of the majority of Italians," Enrico La Loggia, a deputy with the conservative Forza Italia party, was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.
The Senate's majority asked for the legislation after it took out a reference to unmarried couples in a fiscal measure contained in the proposed 2007 budget, which must be approved by parliament by the end of the year.
Prodi called the move a "step forward" in putting the government's platform into effect and said addressing the issue of unmarried unions was "crucial." However, he has said his government would stop short of endorsing gay marriage, which the Vatican firmly opposes.
About 90 percent of Italy's 58 million citizens are at least nominally Catholic.
Senate majority asks Italian government to propose legislation on unmarried couples
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006
The center-left majority at the Senate called on Premier Romano Prodi's government on Thursday to present legislation giving legal rights to unmarried couples by the end of next month.
The issue is a touchy one in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation that hosts the Vatican and is still influenced to a degree by church positions. It is also sensitive for Prodi's coalition, which ranges from Christian Democrats to anti-Vatican radicals and has been struggling to find a common position on the matter.
The majority in the Senate has agreed to take out a reference to unmarried couples in a fiscal measure in the 2007 budget, which must be approved by parliament by the end of the year.
But it also unanimously called on the government to come up with the legislation on unmarried couples, including homosexual ones, by the end of next month.
"We have decided to present a motion ... that calls for a government proposal by Jan. 31 on couples," said Anna Finocchiaro, a senator for the center-left coalition.
Finocchiaro said the proposal should "recognize rights, also in fiscal matters, and prerogatives to people who are part of an unmarried couple," without any discrimination over gender or sexual orientation.
Prodi called the move a "step forward" in putting the government's platform into effect and said the issue of unmarried unions was a "crucial" one.
However, finding a common position on what sort of legal status should be given to unmarried couples — and whether that would include homosexual ones — is likely to spur further bickering within the center-left coalition.
Prodi's electoral platform included a generic pledge to give some legal status to unmarried couples, but made no direct reference to homosexual ones and offered no details — a possible sign of the divisions among coalition members.
In another sign of tensions, some leftist lawmakers complained Thursday that the reference to unmarried couples had been taken out of the budget measure.
Prodi has said his government would stop short of endorsing gay marriage, which the Vatican firmly opposes.
About 90 percent of Italy's 58 million citizens are at least nominally Catholic.
"Nobody wants to discriminate against de-facto or gay couples. But it must be clear that in no way can homosexual unions be considered equal to families in our legislation," said Pier Ferdinando Casini, a Christian Democrat and opposition leader.
A boy, 5, left, who identifies as a girl, plays with a friend in Northern California. He began emulating girls shortly after turning 3.
The New York Times
Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
Published: December 2, 2006
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 1 — Until recently, many children who did not conform to gender norms in their clothing or behavior and identified intensely with the opposite sex were steered to psychoanalysis or behavior modification.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, encourages children to be content with their gender.
But as advocates gain ground for what they call gender-identity rights, evidenced most recently by New York City’s decision to let people alter the sex listed on their birth certificates, a major change is taking place among schools and families. Children as young as 5 who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.
Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions.
“First we became sensitive to two mommies and two daddies,” said Reynaldo Almeida, the director of the Aurora School, a progressive private school in Oakland. “Now it’s kids who come to school who aren’t gender typical.”
The supportive attitudes are far easier to find in traditionally tolerant areas of the country like San Francisco than in other parts, but even in those places there is fierce debate over how best to handle the children.
Cassandra Reese, a first-grade teacher outside Boston, recalled that fellow teachers were unnerved when a young boy showed up in a skirt. “They said, ‘This is not normal,’ and, ‘It’s the parents’ fault,’ ” Ms. Reese said. “They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.”
As their children head into adolescence, some parents are choosing to block puberty medically to buy time for them to figure out who they are — raising a host of ethical questions.
While these children are still relatively rare, doctors say the number of referrals is rising across the nation. Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have laws protecting the rights of transgender students, and some schools are engaged in a steep learning curve to dismantle gender stereotypes.
At the Park Day School in Oakland, teachers are taught a gender-neutral vocabulary and are urged to line up students by sneaker color rather than by gender. “We are careful not to create a situation where students are being boxed in,” said Tom Little, the school’s director. “We allow them to move back and forth until something feels right.”
For families, it can be a long, emotional adjustment. Shortly after her son’s third birthday, Pam B. and her husband, Joel, began a parental journey for which there was no map. It started when their son, J., began wearing oversized T-shirts and wrapping a towel around his head to emulate long, flowing hair. Then came his mother’s silky undershirts. Half a year into preschool, J. started becoming agitated when asked to wear boys’ clothing.
En route to a mall with her son, Ms. B. had an epiphany: “It just clicked in me. I said, ‘You really want to wear a dress, don’t you?’ ”
Thus began what the B.’s, who asked their full names not be used to protect their son’s privacy, call “the reluctant path,” a behind-closed-doors struggle to come to terms with a gender-variant child — a spirited 5-year-old boy who, at least for now, strongly identifies as a girl, requests to be called “she” and asks to wear pigtails and pink jumpers to school.
Ms. B., 41, a lawyer, accepted the way her son defined himself after she and her husband consulted with a psychologist and observed his newfound comfort with his choice. But she feels the precarious nature of the day-to-day reality. “It’s hard to convey the relentlessness of it, she said, “every social encounter, every time you go out to eat, every day feeling like a balance between your kid’s self-esteem and protecting him from the hostile outside world.”
The prospect of cross-dressing kindergartners has sparked a deep philosophical divide among professionals over how best to counsel families. Is it healthier for families to follow the child’s lead, or to spare children potential humiliation and isolation by steering them toward accepting their biological gender until they are older?
Both sides in the debate underscore their concern for the profound vulnerability of such youngsters, symbolized by occurrences like the murder in 2002 of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager born as Eddie, southeast of Oakland.
“Parents now are looking for advice on how to make life reasonable for their kids — whether to allow cross-dressing in public, and how to protect them from the savagery of other children,” said Dr. Herbert Schreier, a psychiatrist with Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland.
Dr. Schreier is one of a growing number of professionals who have begun to think of gender variance as a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than a disorder. “These kids are becoming more aware of how it is to be themselves,” he said.
In past generations, so-called sissy boys and tomboy girls were made to conform, based on the belief that their behaviors were largely products of dysfunctional homes.
Among the revisionists is Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, a child-adolescent psychiatrist at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington who started a national outreach group for parents of gender-variant children in 1998 that now has more than 200 participants. “We know that sexually marginalized children have a higher rate of depression and suicide attempts,” Dr. Menvielle said. “The goal is for the child to be well adjusted, healthy and have good self-esteem. What’s not important is molding their gender.”
The literature on adults who are transgender was hardly consoling to one parent, a 42-year-old software consultant in Massachusetts and the father of a gender-variant third grader. “You’re trudging through this tragic, horrible stuff and realizing not a single person was accepted and understood as a child,” he said. “You read it and think, O.K., best to avoid that. But as a parent you’re in this complete terra incognita.”
The biological underpinnings of gender identity, much like sexual orientation, remain something of a mystery, though many researchers suspect it is linked with hormone exposure in the developing fetus.
Studies suggest that most boys with gender variance early in childhood grow up to be gay, and about a quarter heterosexual, Dr. Menvielle said. Only a small fraction grow up to identify as transgender.
Girls with gender-variant behavior, who have been studied less, voice extreme unhappiness about being a girl and talk about wanting to have male anatomy. But research has thus far suggested that most wind up as heterosexual women.
Although many children role-play involving gender, Dr. Menvielle said, “the key question is how intense and persistent the behavior is,” especially if they show extreme distress.
Dr. Robin Dea, the director of regional mental health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, said: “Our gender identity is something we feel in our soul. But it is also a continuum, and it evolves.”
Dr. Dea works with four or five children under the age of 15 who are essentially living as the opposite sex. “They are much happier, and their grades are up,” she said. “I’m waiting for the study that says supporting these children is negative.”
But Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, disagrees with the “free to be” approach with young children and cross-dressing in public. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children. In his studies, 80 percent grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex.
Dr. Zucker tries to “help these kids be more content in their biological gender” until they are older and can determine their sexual identity — accomplished, he said, by encouraging same-sex friendships and activities like board games that move beyond strict gender roles.
Though she has not encountered such a situation, Jennifer Schwartz, assistant principal of Chatham Elementary School outside Springfield, Ill., said that allowing a child to express gender differences “would be very difficult to pull off” there.
Ms. Schwartz added: “I’m not sure it’s worth the damage it could cause the child, with all the prejudices and parents possibly protesting. I’m not sure a child that age is ready to make that kind of decision.”
The B.’s thought long and hard about what they had observed in their son. They have carefully choreographed his life, monitoring new playmates, selecting a compatible school, finding sympathetic parents in a babysitting co-op. Nevertheless, Ms. B. said, “there is still the stomach-clenching fear for your kid.”
It is indeed heartbreaking to hear a child say, as J. did recently, “It feels like a nightmare I’m a boy.”
The adjustment has been gradual for Mr. B., a 43-year-old public school administrator who is trying to stop calling J. “our little man.” He thinks of his son as a positive, resilient person, and his love and admiration show. “The truth is, is any parent going to choose this for their kid?” he said. “It’s who your kid is.”
Families are caught in the undertow of conflicting approaches. One suburban Chicago mother, who did not want to be identified, said in a telephone interview that she was drawing the line on dress and trying to provide “boy opportunities” for her 6-year-old son. “But we can’t make everything a power struggle,” she said. “It gets exhausting.”
She worries about him becoming a social outcast. “Why does your brother like girl things?” friends of her 10-year-old ask. The answer is always, “I don’t know.”
Nila Marrone, a retired linguistics professor at the University of Connecticut who consults with parents and schools, recalled an incident last year at a Bronx elementary school in which an 8-year-old boy perceived as effeminate was thrown into a large trash bin by a group of boys. The principal, she said, “suggested to the mother that she was to blame, for not having taught her son how to be tough enough.”
But the tide is turning.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, requires that students be addressed with “a name and pronoun that corresponds to the gender identity.” It also asks schools to provide a locker room or changing area that corresponds to a student’s chosen gender.
One of the most controversial issues concerns the use of “blockers,” hormones used to delay the onset of puberty in cases where it could be psychologically devastating (for instance, a girl who identifies as a boy might slice her wrists when she gets her period). Some doctors disapprove of blockers, arguing that only at puberty does an individual fully appreciate their gender identity.
Catherine Tuerk, a nurse-psychotherapist at the children’s hospital in Washington and the mother of a gender-variant child in the 1970s, says parents are still left to find their own way. She recalls how therapists urged her to steer her son into psychoanalysis and “hypermasculine activities” like karate. She said she and her husband became “gender cops.”
“It was always, ‘You’re not kicking the ball hard enough,’ ” she said.
Ms. Tuerk’s son, now 30, is gay and a father, and her own thinking has evolved since she was a young parent. “People are beginning to understand this seems to be something that happens,” she said. “But there was a whole lifetime of feeling we could never leave him alone.”
Published: December 2, 2006
Gender identity refers to a person’s deep-rooted sense of being male or female, which may or may not correspond with their anatomy.
Gender variance is sometimes called gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria, an intense psychological discomfort with one’s sex.
Transgender is an umbrella term for those who do not conform to traditional notions of gender expression, including transsexuals, who may undergo sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatments. There is a consensus among doctors that a person should be at least 18 before sex reassignment surgery.
Young Children and Gender Choices (3 Letters)
Published: December 7, 2006
To the Editor:
As a transgender child growing up in the late 1950s and ’60s, I can only applaud “Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear” (front page, Dec. 2).
In my teens, when I finally made my self-declaration as being identified as a different gender, a result was an almost immediate trip to a psychiatrist.
Until my gender change at age 48, I did not really discuss my identification with anyone. Many gender-variant children ultimately do decide that they will live with their gender assignment at birth.
But the psychological toll on those who make such a choice and never really resolve the issue is big; the number of gender-variant people of all stripes who suffer from chronic depression and/or die of suicide cannot be overstated.
Three cheers for those mental health professionals who support the right of children to be who they think they are and the parents who support their children’s gender-different expression. They are the ones who ultimately allow the celebration of life in all of its natural diversity.
Boulder, Colo., Dec. 2, 2006
To the Editor:
As a child, I desperately wanted to be a boy. Puberty was the one thing that allowed me to figure out my gender and sexual identity.
This is why I am so appalled at the doctors and parents who “block puberty medically to buy time to figure out” who the children are. This is ethically horrifying.
Beyond that, it is also counterproductive: no one can figure out identity without going through puberty. For me, puberty made it impossible to pass as a boy.
My new hormones also made it very clear that I was attracted to boys. I’m still a tomboy, but I’m also perfectly at ease with being a heterosexual woman. I wore a dress at my wedding and liked how it looked.
All I can do is urge parents to understand and accept their children’s gender and sexual identity and let nature take its course.
Greenbelt, Md., Dec. 2, 2006
To the Editor:
As a psychologist who works with transgender adults on a daily basis, I see the long-term effects of forcing transgender children to conform.
Most of my patients have memories of being discouraged or punished for gender-inappropriate behaviors. They made every effort to cooperate with their parents’ wishes and with the messages they received from the people around them.
Later in life, they find the pressure to express their inner gender identity to be unbearable. They may wait for their parents to die, for their children to go to college or for retirement before they finally make a gender transition.
Others are in the middle of building a family and career when they are finally worn down by the internal struggle.
That small group of children who will grow up to be transsexual are clearly best served by being allowed to express themselves in childhood and to make an early transition.
New York, Dec. 4, 2006
Gender Identity (1 Letter)
Published: December 9, 2006
To the Editor:
Re “Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear” (front page, Dec. 2):
I felt a complex pang, both joy and pain, seeing the little boy at play in his dress and long hair. Anyone who feels that his parents are wrong to allow it has obviously never been there.
As a transgender child in the 1950s, I found no encouragement and only a merciless campaign to turn me into somebody else. Soon I lost touch with my own validity, and I lived a false life for many decades.
Experts fear that misplaced indulgence will bring trauma. But worse damage is inflicted by rejecting a declaration of gender identity. If a transgender child is pressured to display a false self, her true self is never acknowledged — or loved — at all.
A transgender saying is, “I am who I say I am.” I am the one who knows, and no one else. It is time for other people to start listening and believing. How dare anyone else claim an opinion?
I wish that I could have played in a dress, back then. But I am so glad to witness the happiness of gender-variant children, living an unencumbered life. Katherine Collins
Vancouver, British Columbia
Dec. 2, 2006
毎日新聞 2006年12月8日 東京朝刊
毎日新聞 2006年12月8日 東京朝刊
UK Today12/8 男性同性愛者カップル、英国初の正式「離婚」を決意！
This is London
The first gay divorce
One of the first same-sex couples to tie the knot have separated and will make British legal history when they divorce.
Darryl Bullock, 42, and Mark Godfrey, 32, were one of the first to wed when new 'gay marriage' laws came in last year.
But Darryl has revealed the relationship had faded and the pair intend to annul their marriage as soon as is legally possible after December 21.
Darryl said: "We were really proud to be one of the first couples to have the service and we had a great six months but then things went wrong.
"I suppose we were part of history and I have got lots of press cuttings from that day but we didn't do it to make the news or just to be first.
"We were completely committed but things change in any relationship. We are lucky that there is no property or kids involved but we have both moved on now in our own way."
The couple were among the first in the UK to make legal history when they took part in a civil partnership ceremony on December 21 last year.
They exchanged vows at The Guildhall in Bath, Somerset, at 8am, beating Elton John and David Furnish's ceremony in the Guildhall in Windsor by three hours.
But while Elton and David sipped pink champagne with over 700 guests at their reception, Darryl and Mark were tucking into an English breakfast with 20 friends at their local pub.
The pair chose Marks and Spencer over Versace for their wedding gear and spent their honeymoon in the less-than-exotic resort of Torquay in Devon.
And while Elton is reported to have splashed out £1million on his big day, Mark and Darryl spent a more humble £700.
However, freelance writer Darryl and Mark's three-year relationship faded as they grew apart and Darryl has now taken legal advice about ending the partnership.
Healthcare assistant Mark has since moved out of the plush flat the couple shared in Bristol.
However, under the laws brought in last year, the ex-lovers cannot formally apply for a 'divorce' until one full year after the 'wedding'.
Their civil partnership is likely to be dissolved through the county court in a process that will begin on December 21.
Darryl refused to give the grounds for the dissolution of their relationship because he said it would form part of the proceedings.
He said: "It's in the lawyers' hands. I've spoken to my solicitor who will take whatever action he thinks is fit on or after December 21.
"It could end up being one of the first dissolutions but it's not my intention to jump the gun to be the first."
He added: "My experience hasn't put me off. If I meet the right person at some point in the future I'll give it a go again.
"I can't think there'll be a vast rush of gay and lesbian couples rushing to dissolve their partnerships on December 21. Most couples I know are blissfully happy.
"It's just like heterosexual couples. Some people have their problems and some don't get over them."
In marriage, divorce proceedings first grant a conditional cancellation, or decree nisi, before later formally ending the marriage with a decree absolu.
In civil partnerships, couples dissolve their partnership rather than divorce, and the first stage is to be described as a conditional order, followed by a final order.
Unlike marriage, however, adultery is not grounds for dissolution - because the law only recognises adultery as sex between a man and a woman.
Divorce lawyer Mark Harper, of London law firm Withers, said that, otherwise, the dissolution of a partnership was almost exactly the same as any other divorce.
He said: "The court would look at the assets that existed at the start of the relationship.
"The presumption would be that assets built up during the course of a relationship would be equally divided even if one partner earned much more than the other."
In May, a lesbian couple who wanted to annul their civil partnership after accusations of cheating were told by their lawyer they would have to wait until a year had passed.
Insurance broker Liz King, 40, and Eurostar worker Daphne Ligthard, 36, registered their civil partnership in Ashford, Kent, on Feb 11 before sharing a honeymoon in Amsterdam.
Mark Godfrey was not available for comment.
Posted on Fri, Dec. 08, 2006
San Francisco fights over its character
JUSTIN M. NORTON
SAN FRANCISCO - An effort to clean up some of the city's seedier neighborhoods and rid the streets of junkies, hookers and runaways has run headlong into San Francisco's free-to-be-who-you-are ethos.
Nearly four decades after the Summer of Love, residents and merchants frustrated with what they regard as blight are turning to the city for help or taking revitalization into their own hands.
But other residents of the Tenderloin district and Haight-Ashbury contend a crackdown would rob their neighborhoods of their identity and violate everything San Francisco stands for.
Joey Cain, a board member of the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council, complained that those who would drive the vagrants from the neighborhood are turning their backs on the Haight's "historic obligation" to shelter the downtrodden.
This is, after all, the city that proved so appealing to the Beats, the hippies and practically every other brand of noncomformist.
Haight-Ashbury was the very capital of the Summer of Love in 1967, when young people flocked for the music, sexual freedom and drug culture. They are still coming, panhandling on corners and sleeping under the trees in nearby Golden Gate Park.
But the neighborhood has changed. Its stately Victorian homes sell for millions, and the head shops are mixed with chain stores and trendy cafes. Business owners and longtime residents complaint that street kids harass the elderly and leave playgrounds littered with needles.
"There is definitely a tension in the neighborhood between the people who live here and the scene on the street," said Gary Frank, manager of Haight Street's Book Smith shop since 1976.
Earlier this year, the city decided to enforce an ordinance that makes overnight camping in Golden Gate Park a misdemeanor. It gave 200 homeless people time to remove their belongings; they were paired with social workers who advised them on how to find housing. Those who had someone back home to care for them were given a one-way ticket.
But an online neighborhood message board was soon filled with diatribes accusing the city of pandering to well-to-do residents and abandoning its principles.
Cain, the Haight-Ashbury community leader, said those who want to drive the homeless out are simply trying to keep real estate prices high.
Elected officials in San Francisco know they must tread lightly to avoid offending people's ultraliberal sensibilities.
"If that behavior is negatively impacting a neighborhood, we are going to deal with it," said Trent Rhorer, the city's head of human services, "but deal with it sensitively and responsibly in a way that gets people in real services instead of simply fining them, citing them and putting them in jail."
Other parts of the Bay Area are feeling similar tensions. In Berkeley's People's Park, site of historic 1960s protests, the University of California has proposed eliminating the grassy hills where the homeless have long congregated. Critics complain the plan would destroy what makes the park special.
In the Tenderloin district, San Francisco's seediest quarter with its flophouses, strip clubs and sex shops, a community group wanted to plant hundreds of trees and enlisted an organization that helps homeless young people to do the work.
But the beautification project angered some gay and transgender residents.
Pamphlets were handed out deriding the proposal, and a picture of the community group's chairwoman, Carolynn Abst, was featured on "Wanted" posters accusing her of heading a "brutal gentrification squad."
Those who want to preserve the grittiness of the Tenderloin point with disgust at San Francisco's Mission District, where in the late 1990s the working-class, mostly Hispanic residents were pushed out by rich dot-com employees.
Abst said opposition to the tree-planting effort was driven by a small group of gay activists. She said she was stunned by the personal attack over what she saw as a good-faith cleanup effort.
San Francisco's image as a city that accepts all comers "is everybody's initial good idea," Abst said. "But over time it wears thin. There is always a new wash of people coming here for the first time and you are cleaning up their bathroom habits."
Despite creeping gentrification, San Francisco continues to draw transients, like the young people in tattered black sweatshirts who sat on a street corner in the Haight with leashed pit bulls recently, asking for change.
"You can get around by the kindness of people's hearts," said Jaclyn, a 25-year-old who would only give her first name.
Associated Press Writer Lisa Leff contributed to this report.
MPs defeat bid to reopen same-sex marriage debate
Motion tabled by Tories falls 175-123
Last Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2006 | 6:56 PM ET
A motion to reopen the same-sex marriage debate was easily defeated in Parliament on Thursday, as expected.
MPs voted 175-123 against the controversial motion tabled by the ruling Conservatives.
The motion had asked the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.
The Liberal and Conservative parties allowed their members to vote freely, and there were some surprises.
Twelve Tories — including cabinet ministers Peter MacKay, David Emerson, John Baird, Jim Prentice, Lawrence Cannon and Josée Verne — broke from party lines and voted against the motion.
"It was simply a matter that I felt had received fair discussion and airing in the House of Commons and other venues, and I feel there are other pressing matters before the Canadian people and certainly before this chamber right now," MacKay said after the vote.
Most Liberals present gave the motion the thumbs down. Among them were Joe Comuzzi, who gave up his cabinet post in 2005 so he could vote against a same-sex marriage bill proposed by the Liberal government.
Thirteen Liberals supported the motion.
All Bloc Québécois and NDP members present voted against Thursday's motion, as their party leaders had directed.
Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a free vote — promised during January's general election campaign — would settle the matter, the vote should put an end to parliamentary wrangling about same-sex marriage.
"We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue; we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we'll accept the democratic result of the people's representatives," Harper said Thursday following the vote. "I don't see reopening this question in the future."
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Harper must now accept defeat.
"It was the wrong move to question the rights of the people and to try to override the Charter [of . He must not be very proud of that."
Victory bittersweet, activist says
Laurie Arron, national co-ordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, said the victory is bittersweet.
He said he's pleased the vote was defeated, and by such a large margin, but it's unfortunate the issue came up at all. He said he and others already fought hard to have same-sex marriages legalized in Canada in 2005.
"I'm relieved that we're not going to have to fight this battle again," he told CBC News Online. "This issue's been debated to death. I'm glad today it's finally laid to rest."
Same-sex marriage became legal in Canada last year when the Liberal government passed Bill C-38 in response to a series of court rulings that said gays had the right to marry.
That bill passed 158-133.
Thirty-two Liberals voted against it, while 95 supported it. Only three Conservatives gave the bill the thumbs up.
Thursday's motion hollow, Liberals say
Liberals called this most recent motion hollow because, even if it had passed, it would not have struck down the right of gays to marry.
Most constitutional lawyers have said the only way the Tories could change the law would be to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something Harper has said he would not do.
Charles McVety, head of the conservative Canada Family Action Coalition which is opposed to same-sex marriage, said his group will not give up the fight.
"The people of Canada are not going to let this go, because marriage is too important an institution to just let it evaporate because of the emotions of a few people in Parliament," he told a news conference.
Canada upholds law allowing same-sex marriage
Thu Dec 7, 2006 4:36pm ET
By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Parliament upheld a 2005 law allowing same-sex marriage on Thursday when it threw out a bid by the minority Conservative government to revisit the contentious issue.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward the motion after promising his socially conservative backers that he would do so, but most observers had expected it to fail.
The Conservatives are set to fight an election next year and had legislators backed the idea of revisiting the law it would have become a campaign issue.
"We made a promise to hold a free vote and we kept that promise. The result was decisive and we'll accept the democratic result," Harper told reporters.
Legislators voted 175 to 123 to reject a motion by the right-leaning Conservatives to re-examine the law, which some religious groups and critics say undermines society.
The law was passed by the previous Liberal government after a number of courts ruled that banning gay marriage contravened Canada's charter of rights.
Some Liberal legislators shouted "Shame!" as the Conservatives voted.
Harper seemed to reject the idea of looking again at gay marriage, even if he won a majority government.
"I don't see (us) reopening this question ... It's not our plan," he told reporters. Six of his cabinet voted against the motion on Thursday.
Canada was the fourth country, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, to legalize homosexual marriage.
Last year's vote was 158-133 in favor of the new law, but the Conservatives said it had not truly reflected the will of Parliament because the Liberals had forced cabinet ministers to vote in favor. Both parties allowed their members to vote according to their consciences on Thursday.
The signs were clear from the beginning that the motion was likely to fail. Even some parliamentarians who voted against the law last year said the matter had been settled and did not need to be reopened.
Asked whether the issue was now resolved once and for all, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion replied: "It will be, especially if we win the next election ... This prime minister tried and he failed."
Groups opposed to the law vowed to continue the fight and warned Harper that the affair would cost him votes.
The Canada Family Action Coalition said the Conservatives who voted against the motion "have just set a tone that could result in a Conservative loss in the next election. When a party abandons the values of its core base, it loses support".
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who backed the idea of reopening the debate, said that when he was attorney general of the province of Ontario he had fought for the civil rights of all Canadians, including same-sex partners.
"I did that proudly. I think it was the right thing to do. But marriage is something different," he told reporters.
The motion called on the government "to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages."
(With additional reporting by Louise Egan in Ottawa)
Canada's Parliament votes not to reopen gay marriage debate
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Canada's Parliament voted Thursday not to reopen the gay marriage debate, letting stand legislation passed last year that legalized marriage for same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriage is legal in only four other countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa. Gay marriage is also legal in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, but not in any other state.
During the last election campaign, Conservative leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to hold a vote in the House of Commons on whether Parliament should reconsider the issue.
Harper's government, which draws most of its support from the conservative west, was seeking to appease its base, even though Christian activists acknowledged this week the law would stand.
Twelve Conservative members of Parliament, including several members of Harper's Cabinet, joined Liberals and Canada's other opposition parties to defeat the motion 175-123.
"I don't see reopening this question in the future," Harper said.
Gay marriage became legal in Canada last year under the previous Liberal government in response to a series of court rulings that gave gay people the right to marry. Thousands of gay Canadians, as well as foreign visitors, have gotten married.
Laurie Arron, national coordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, said the vote reflects a growing consensus among Canadians that it is time to move on. Last year's vote to allow gay marriage was 158-133.
"It's clear that this issue is now settled. The vote today was quite overwhelming," Arron said.
New Liberal Leader Stephane Dion allowed Liberals to vote freely on the motion, something former Liberal leader Paul Martin did not allow for when it was passed in 2005.
The Liberals and Canada's other opposition parties did not support reopening the divisive debate and had enough votes to defeat the motion.
Charles McVety, a Christian activist who is the head of the Defend Marriage movement, acknowledged the defeat but said the fight to overturn the legislation is not over. He vowed to punish Parliament members who voted against the motion by organizing against them in the next election.
"We didn't expect it to carry, but it was defeated by a higher margin than we thought," McVety said.
Gay taunt causes uproar in Zimbabwe parliament
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006
A Zimbabwean Parliament session during which neighboring South Africa's gay marriage law was discussed erupted when an opposition lawmaker accused some top government leaders of being homosexuals.
Movement for Democratic Change lawmaker Moses Mzila-Ndlovu did not name any government leaders and later "apologized in the interests of progress" during Wednesday's debate, officials said Thursday.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, but the government stays out of South Africa's affairs, the official media reported Thursday.
"In Zimbabwe, we are very clear that men marry women and women get married to men. In Zimbabwe we prohibit marriages of similar sexes," acting leader of the ruling party in Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, told lawmakers, the government controlled media said.
"We have no duty to criticize laws passed by another parliament," Mnangagwa said.
Zimbabwe's longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe once described homosexuals as "lower than pigs and dogs," a common sentiment in conservative Africa.
South Africa last month became the first country in Africa, and only the fifth in the world, to legalize same sex marriages. Homosexuality is illegal in most sub-Saharan countries. Gays and lesbians are often attacked even in South Africa, where the post-apartheid constitution banned discrimination for any reason, including sexual orientation.
Web posted at: 20:23 JST
（時事通信） - 12月7日9時1分更新
Groups mixed on Mary Cheney's pregnancy
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
Wed Dec 6, 9:09 PM ET
Conservative leaders voiced dismay Wednesday at news that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Dick Cheney, is pregnant, while a gay-rights group said the vice president faces "a lifetime of sleepless nights" for serving in an administration that has opposed recognition of same-sex couples.
Mary Cheney, 37, and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, 45, are expecting a baby in late spring, said Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for the vice president.
"The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation" to the arrival of their sixth grandchild, McBride said.
Mary Cheney was an aide to her father during the 2004 campaign, and now is vice president for consumer advocacy at AOL. She and Poe moved from Colorado to Virginia a year ago to be closer to the Cheney family.
Family Pride, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian families, noted that Virginia last month became one of 27 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"Unless they move to a handful of less restrictive states, Heather will never be able to have a legal relationship with her child," said Family Pride executive director Jennifer Chrisler.
The couple "will quickly face the reality that no matter how loved their child will be. ... he or she will never have the same protections that other children born to heterosexual couples enjoy," Chrisler said. "Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children."
For years, Mary Cheney's openness about her sexual orientation had posed a dilemma for conservative activists who admire Dick Cheney's stance on many issues but consider homosexuality a sin.
Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."
"It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group's think tank. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."
Crouse said there was no doubt that the news would, in conservatives' eyes, be damaging to the Bush administration, which already has been chided by some leaders on the right for what they felt was halfhearted commitment to anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights causes in this year's general election.
Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, expressed empathy for the Cheney family but depicted the newly announced pregnancy as unwise.
"Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea," said. "Love can't replace a mother and a father."
The vice president's office declined to elaborate on the circumstances of Mary Cheney's pregnancy.
The news was welcomed by the president of the largest national gay-rights group, Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign.
"Mary and Heather's decision to have a child is an example that families in America come in all different shapes and sizes," he said. "The bottom line is that a family is made up of love and commitment."
Mary Cheney and Partner Are About to Be Moms
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; C01
Mary Cheney, the vice president's openly gay daughter, is pregnant. She and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, are "ecstatic" about the baby, due in late spring, said a source close to the couple.
It's a baby boom for grandparents Dick and Lynne Cheney: Their older daughter, Elizabeth, went on leave as deputy assistant secretary of state before having her fifth child in July. "The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild," spokesman Lea Anne McBride said last night.
Cheney, 37, was a key aide to her father during the 2004 reelection campaign and now is vice president for consumer advocacy at AOL. Poe, 45, a former park ranger, is renovating their Great Falls home.
News of the pregnancy will undoubtedly reignite the debate about gay marriage. During the campaign, Mary Cheney was criticized by gay activists for not being more publicly supportive of same-sex marriage. Her father said people "ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to" but deferred to the president's policy supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Cheney herself called the proposed amendment "a gross affront to gays and lesbians everywhere" in her book, "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life," which was published in May.
Cheney has described her relationship with Poe -- whom she took to last year's White House dinner honoring Prince Charles and Camilla -- as a marriage. The two met in 1988 while playing ice hockey and began dating four years later. They moved from Colorado to Virginia a year ago to be closer to Cheney's family. In an interview with the Post six months ago, when asked if she and Poe wanted children, Cheney said that was a "conversation I think I should have with Heather first."
In November, Virginia voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions; state law is unclear on whether Poe could have full legal rights as a parent of Cheney's child. The circumstances of the pregnancy will remain private, said the source close to the couple. This is the first child for both.
December 07, 2006
Italian city votes to extend rights to cohabiting couples, gays included
The city of Padua has become the first in Italy to allow gay couples to have their partnerships legally recognized. Padua's city council decided on Monday night to recognize unmarried cohabiting couples, including gays, allowing the statistics office to issue certificates to domestic partners recognizing them as "a family founded on bonds of affection."
While the move is being viewed by some as an advance for gay rights, it was also motivated by the growing number of nontraditional families, even in Roman Catholic Italy, in which children are being raised by single parents or unmarried couples. "This is for couples who don't want to get married—couples who are living together who want to register that they are cohabiting," city spokeswoman Donatella Gasperi said Wednesday. "It's not necessarily for gays, but if two gays come in, they will be registered."
The number of unmarried cohabiting couples in Italy has increased from 227,000, or 1.3% of all couples, in 1994 to 555,000, or 3.8%, the national daily La Repubblica reported. Nearly 14% of children are born to unmarried parents, an increase of 70% from 1995, the newspaper said.
The measure was sponsored by Alessandro Zan, a city councilman from the Democratic Party of the Left who is also the regional president of the gay rights group Arcigay. Zan said the measure wasn't intended as a precursor to gay unions but rather as official recognition of a legal status.
"It will be a very important instrument because it grants power to obtain all the rights and benefits that many laws and rules give to domestic partners but which you can't enjoy without an official certificate from the statistics office," La Repubblica quoted Zan as saying. Such a certificate could be useful, for example, in obtaining a joint bank account or protecting the rights of a partner in the case of death.
While Roman Catholic Spain has embraced same-sex marriage, the issue remains hotly contested in Italy, which is strongly influenced by church positions. (AP)
Comune Padova riconosce coppie gay, Cdl protesta alla Camera
martedì, 5 dicembre 2006 5.08 17
ROMA (Reuters) - Dopo che nella tarda serata di ieri il consiglio comunale di Padova, città amministrata dal centrosinistra, ha approvato una mozione per il riconoscimento anagrafico anche delle coppie omosessuali, oggi la polemica è approdata alla Camera, dove una parte del centrodestra ha chiesto che il governo riferisca sulla vicenda.
La mozione approvata a Padova, proposta da un consigliere dei Ds, impegna il sindaco e la giunta cittadina a dare disposizioni agli uffici del Comune affinché rilascino l'attestazione di "famiglia anagrafica basata su vincoli di matrimonio o parentela o affinità o adozioni o tutela o vincoli affettivi" alle coppie che ne facciano richiesta, sulla base di una legge del 1954, come recita il documento.
Il testo della mozione sottolinea la necessità di "garantire alle persone i diritti civili e sociali (come sancito dall' articolo 2 e 3 della Costituzione), senza discriminare coloro che affidano i propri progetti di vita a forme diverse di convivenza, siano esse tra persone di sesso diverso o dello stesso sesso".
Ma nonostante la mozione specifichi che "il riconoscimento di tali diritti non intende modificare o alterare il riconoscimento e l'importanza della famiglia fondata sul matrimonio", la sua approvazione ha provocato oggi le proteste di una parte del centrodestra.
"Appresa questa notizia, noi della Lega Nord Padania che, come sapete bene, abbiamo degli ideali ben chiari e ben precisi per quanto riguarda la famiglia costituita da un uomo, da una donna e dai figli, chiediamo al Governo di svolgere su tale vicenda un'informativa urgente", ha detto in aula a Montecitorio la deputata leghista Paola Goisis.
"Quanto accaduto ieri sera in consiglio comunale a Padova è certamente una cosa veramente vergognosa", ha detto la deputata di Forza Italia Giustina Mistrello Destro.
"Per quanto riguarda l'anagrafe, non basta una mozione o risoluzione di un consiglio comunale per modificare un provvedimento dello Stato", ha osservato invece il capogruppo dell'Ud Luca Volonté.
Il provvedimento è stato invece difeso a Montecitorio dal deputato Ds ed ex presidente dell'ArciGay Franco Grillini, secondo cui "sono moltissimi... i comuni che hanno adottato la soluzione prescelta dal comune di Padova e, prima ancora, da quello di Bologna. Si tratta, in altri termini, dell'idea di fare riferimento a ciò che è previsto dalla legge in materia di anagrafe, risalente al 1954".
Secondo una portavoce del Comune di Padova, il riconoscimento anagrafico consentirà anche alle coppie omosessuali di usufruire dei diritti e benefici già riconosciuti alle coppie di fatto eterosessuali.