Dining with my friend Plamen at a restaurant in Sofia.
“We can always call them Bulgarians,” is a quotation attributed by Wilella Waldorf to “Samuel Goldwyn or somebody” in the New York Post, September 17, 1937. (as cited in The origin of “Bulgarian” as a euphemism for sexual minorities.) The euphemism was used in American cinema and theatre when referring to gay and lesbian characters on screen and on stage starting in the first half of the 20th century. What made me think of this is my recent trip to Bulgaria. I left Ottawa, bound for Bulgaria, on July 14th and returned on July 25th. I met up with my friend Plamen in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, and embarked on a whirlwind tour with him as my guide and interpreter. We had a great time. Bulgaria has a rich history and culture going back to antiquity and today Bulgaria is a peaceful and prosperous society. During the tour, we did not visit any gay bars or clubs in Bulgaria. This was not on the itinerary, still, in the back of my mind I wondered what life is like for gay people in Bulgaria. Do gay people live openly in Bulgarian society or do they remain closeted and if so, why? Continue reading →
There is a great deal of discussion about Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, jailed by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning who found her in contempt of court on September 3, 2015. She defied the court order to issue marriage licenses as required in her capacity as County Clerk. Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefellv. Hodges on June 26, 2015 that made same-sex marriage lawful across the United States. She justifies her refusal to issue marriage licenses on the grounds of her religious objection to same-sex marriage. As she stated: “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.” (New York Times) The question here is whether her refusal to issue marriage licenses is genuinely a matter of faith and conscientious objection to same-sex marriage or, as many of her critics allege, simply a cynical ploy on her part to draw attention to herself and feather her own nest in the process. Is this nothing more than religious hypocrisy on her part? Continue reading →
“No shirt, no shoes, no service,” how often am I confronted by a sign with these words posted when I approach the entrance to a restaurant or shop. There are hotels, bed & breakfasts, resorts and housing developments that refuse to allow children. I remember in 1968 my mother and father were asked by owners to leave their bed & breakfast in Cheltenham, England, because other guests did not like that there were children on the premises. I remember back in 1987 when I was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University trying to find a place to live in Kitchener-Waterloo. It was a very tight market for student housing and for one of the ads I answered was told curtly by the voice on the telephone “we only take girls.” In 1989 back in Ottawa as I browsed ads in the newspaper for shared accommodation I noticed more than a few that included the phrase “straight only.” People discriminate against others in the marketplace for various reasons and in many cases, such as those listed above, it is lawful to do so, while in others it is not. The question is what is the appropriate response if you find yourself confronted with a situation when you think you are the butt of either unjust or unlawful discrimination. Continue reading →
Polygamy is a broad term and when applied to human society refers to plural marriage which means having more than one spouse. Facets of this term include polygyny which refers to a form of plural marriage in which a man is allowed to have more than one wife. Polyandry describes the form of plural marriage in which a women has more than one husband. Polyamory is a form of plural marriage where a family consists of multiple husbands and wives at the same time. These kinds of marriages existed historically in human societies and continue in some societies in the present. However, in the Western world monogamous marriage (between one man and one woman) became the norm and was enshrined in law with the rise of the Roman Empire and the ascendance of Christianity as the dominant faith. In the current controversy over same sex marriage raging across the U.S. critics and opponents of same sex marriage often refer to polygamy as a reason to deny marriage rights to same sex couples. The common assertion is that if monogamous marriage is redefined to allow same sex couples to marry, then people who want to enter into polygamous marriages will demand the right to to so pointing to the fact that same sex couples are free to marry. Is there any merit to this claim? Continue reading →
Indiana is a state situated in the mid-western United States and is well-known across the rest of the United States and much of the world for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, one of the most prestigious motor sport races in the world. This week, however, Indiana finds itself in the spotlight because of the the passage of SB 101 theReligious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 26, 2015 and the law goes into effect on July 1, 2015. The legislation is necessary, as supporters of the legislation such as Eric Miller of Advance America asserted because, “it is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana […] to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!” (Victory at the State House) Those in opposition to the legislation such as Democratic Party Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane fear the legislation allows for discrimination on religious grounds. As Senator Lanane stated it is “extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation. Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards; things which I believe most Hoosiers reject.” (as cited in the Indy Star) Governor Pence disagrees, stating “this bill is not about discrimination and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” (as cited in the Indy Star) Is religious freedom threatened in Indiana and does this legislation intended to safeguard religious freedom allow for lawful discrimination on religious grounds? These questions merit further discussion. Continue reading →
Stefano Gabbana & Domenico Dolce are two successful designers of luxury clothing for men and women who launched their fashion house in 1985 in Legnano, Italy. They are gay and were romantically linked as a couple from 1980 to 2008 before parting ways, but their business partnership prevails and they continue to prosper. Recently, in an interview for the Italian magazine Panorama, they expressed controversial opinions on gay parenting and reproductive technologies. In short they asserted: “we oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one,” and “no chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” Stefano Gabbana added, “the family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.” (as cited in the National Post) This was not the first time they expressed this point of view. In an interview with an Italian newspaper in 2006, Stefano Gabbana stated: “I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents […] A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.” (as cited in Pink News) Their public condemnation of gay parenting came as a surprise to many as they are gay and were a couple for several years. Interestingly, in expressing their opinions on gay parenting and reproductive technologies they reflect the official position of the Catholic Church on these issues. These are serious issues and bear examination in greater detail as the rights and happiness of gay parents and their children are at stake. Continue reading →
The issues of gay rights, religious liberty and tolerance of religion in Canada and the United States remain contentious. While the destigmatization of homosexuality is a welcome trend in Canada and the United States, it is by no means a fait accompli. Lawful discrimination on religious grounds against gay people remains an issue, notably in secondary and post-secondary education, as religious institutions operate and have sole proprietorship of their own high schools, colleges and universities. The issue of lawful discrimination against gay people on religious grounds and opposition to it from the wider society is highlighted by recent events concerning Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia and Lutheran High North (a high school ) in Houston, Texas. Both schools have moral codes founded on their interpretation of Christianity that bar sexual activity outside marriage and between persons of the same sex. The schools stand firm in their opposition to homosexuality in the face of controversy and maintain they are within their rights to do so. In either case, presumably, a gay student is welcome to attend, provided they abide by the moral codes instituted by the respective schools. This is legal in both Canada and the United States, but is it tolerable and what is the appropriate response for those who take issue with these school policies? Continue reading →