Pretty sure the title of this blog post will be far more scandalous than the content. But hey, whatever gets people reading ...
-Bad news out of New York, as state lawmakers on Wednesday voted to reject a bill that would've made New York the sixth state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. The measure passed the state Assembly earlier and Gov. David Paterson had pledged to sign it -- which meant momentum seemed to be on the side of equality advocates.
Then again, we thought the same thing in Maine, and look how that turned out.
Still, the news did have an unexpected side story ... a straight couple in Brooklyn has applied to have their marriage annuled. Not because they can't get along or because they realized they made a mistake; no, Rachel Murch D'Olimpio and Matthew D'Olimpio are trying to annul their marriage in order to make a statement about marriage rights:
If the government won't allow same-sex couples the right to a civil contract (which, from a legal standpoint, is a exactly what marriage is), then they didn't feel that same government should recognize their civil contract, either.
How much of an effect this will have on the debate remains to be seen -- and the state might not even grant the couple their annulment request -- but the statement has been made. Granting heterosexual couples a right not available to same-sex couples is not right, and it violates equal protection laws.
Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts already see this -- as did California and Maine, before a well-funded advocate of bigotry proceeded to scare the electorate into taking away those equal rights.
However the debate unfolds in New York, I applaud the D'Olimpios for their sacrifice and their conviction.
-Even worse news, potentially, out of Uganda, as the legislature in that country is considering legislation that would essentially make homosexuality a crime punishable by either jail time or death.
No, you did not read that wrong.
The bill doesn't even try to hide its goal behind a convoluted title or complicated legal language; it's called "The Anti-Homosexuality Bill," and states the bill is designed to "protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Govenment entity in Uganda or any non-governmental organization inside or outside the country."
The bill "further recognizes the fact that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic."
The punishments are outlined as follows:
-Attempting to commit homosexuality will be a felony subject to a seven-year prison sentence. Just being gay could land you seven years in jail.
-Attempting to commit "aggravated homosexuality" will also be a felony subject to life imprisonment. This constitutes homosexual acts with persons under 18 years of age, homosexual acts in which the offender is HIV-positive and other such factors.
Cases of aggravated homosexuality will also be subject to capital punishment. Considering one of the definitions of aggravated homosexuality is "serial offence," chances are Uganda could execute someone for simply being gay even after an initial conviction.
-Victims of homosexuality (the bill's language, not mine) will not be charged, and in some cases, the offender might be required to pay the victim. But I wanna know ... who's the victim in the case of a consensual same-sex couple?
-Aiding homosexuals (like, say, knowing someone is gay and keeping quiet about it) will also be a felony subject to a seven-year prison sentence.
-One can also be sentence to seven years in prison for keeping someone detained for the purpose of committing a homosexual act, or for maintaining a brothel. On the surface, this provision doesn't seem so bad, but considering the blatant hatred and disregard in the rest of this bill, I seriously question the intentions.
-Individuals who purport a contract of marriage with members of the same sex will be subject to life imprisonment.
The bill also includes a provision essentially outlawing any language that might legitimize homosexuality: "Any International legal instrument whose provisions are contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act , are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency.
"Definitions of 'sexual orientation,' 'sexual rights,' 'sexual minorities,' 'gender identity' shall not be used in any way to legitimize homosexuality, gender identity disorders and related practices in Uganda."
I wish I was making all of this up; I wish there weren't countries out there that were still so neanderthal-like in their thinking that prosecuting homosexuality seemed like a good idea. Even worse, there are those in this country who have ties to the Ugandan government -- namely our favorite little secret fundamentalist group called The Family.
Rachel Maddow explains:
And here I thought we had it really bad because we're fighting for homosexuals to have the same rights we do in this country. The fight is important, don't get me wrong; but we are talking about legislation that would make being gay illegal. If this bill passes in Uganda, simply being in love could send someone to jail -- or even death.
More of our allies in Washington need to speak up about this, and the State Department needs to get involved and make sure Uganda knows this is unacceptable. Gay rights is not just an issue in America; it's a worldwide issue, and if this bill passes, what's to stop other nations throughout the world following suit?
We can't allow this to happen. We have to do something.