Tag Archives: human-rights

We can always call them Bulgarians. — Samuel Goldwyn (Attributed)

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Dining with my friend Plamen at a restaurant in Sofia.

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“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

Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet. — Lewis Mumford

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Using the toilet is a basic human need. Everyone needs to relieve themselves and defecate; these are natural bodily functions. As  small children, going to the bathroom is typically a shameless affair. It is not unusual to do your business under the care and supervision of a parent or caregiver at home and in public washrooms. I remember accompanying my mother into public women’s washrooms as a small boy when I had to go. As we grow older, using the bathroom becomes a more private affair. People generally prefer to respond to the call of nature without an audience. This preference was brought home to me the time while serving in the Canadian Army I found myself and my regiment taking part in an exercise at a National Guard camp in Grayling, Michigan. In 1979 at least, the U.S. Army did not concern itself with privacy in the washroom facilities for the lower ranks. The urinal was an open trough and the “shitters” were in a row in plain view. Pooping in plain view of your comrades took a little getting used to. Fortunately, with existing etiquette concerning public washrooms one is generally assured a modicum of privacy. In addition, public washrooms are designated for men and women separately. This has long been the norm and quite reasonable, so how did public washroom etiquette become such a hot button issue in recent history? Continue reading

If a couple of gay guys want to throw the gayest, most fabulous wedding of all time, the only way it should offend you is if you weren’t invited. ― Orlando Winters

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“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

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one. — Alexis de Tocqueville

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Despite gains in the movement for marriage equality in the United States, such as the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2013 and the repeal of Amendment 1 in North Carolina by a U.S. District Court in 2014, resistance rooted in cynical appeals to populism and the tyranny of the majority rears its head in Alabama. This is manifest in the looming showdown between Judge Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) following the repeal of the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, in a ruling handed down by Justice Callie V. Granade  of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama on January 23, 2015. This is not unlike the showdown that took place between Governor George C. Wallace and President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when Governor Wallace defied the SCOTUS ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in 1954 that declared segregation unconstitutional. In both cases, support for segregation and for a ban on same sex marriage was overwhelming and Wallace and Moore insisted their respective stands on the issues was justified in that they represented the opinion of the majority of voters in Alabama. Continue reading

At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage — Billy Graham

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Religion and the definition of marriage remain intertwined in the present, just as in the past. Historically, disputes over the definition of marriage concerned marriage, divorce and remarriage. Dispute over these issues in the court of King Henry VIII of England in the 16th century caused upheaval in the Church and English society. Heads rolled, literally, in the process. In the present, there is an ongoing dispute over the definition of marriage or the redefinition of marriage to allow same sex couples to marry. As I view the movement for same sex marriage, defined as marriage equality, in the United States, North Carolina is a focal point. Amendment 1 to the state constitution, enacted in 2012 following a ballot measure, defined marriage as the union of one man to one woman. Amendment 1 was struck down on October 10, 2014 by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr.  It is now lawful for same sex couples to marry in North Carolina, much to the dismay of opponents of marriage equality, including Charles L. Worley and Billy Graham, who object on religious grounds. Heads are rolling, though not literally, in North Carolina now that Amendment 1 is no longer in force. Continue reading

We are living at a time when creeds and ideologies vary and clash. But the gospel of human sympathy is universal and eternal. — Samuel Hopkins Adams

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Is religious liberty under threat in the United States? This is an interesting question and bears examination. The controversy over the passage of SB 1062 in Arizona and the decision by the Governor, Jan Brewer, to veto the legislation has many people insisting their religious liberty is threatened and determined to stiffen their resistance to this perceived threat. Regarding religious liberty in US society, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, in 1944 (then Federal Council of Churches of Christ), formed the following definition:

Religious liberty shall be interpreted to include freedom to worship according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents; freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate, publish and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to organize with others, and to acquire and hold property, for these purposes. (as cited in Wikipedia)

At present, these are fundamental freedoms guaranteed in US law. Is there any reason to believe they are at risk? Continue reading

The religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. — James Madison

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Mika and I have never travelled to the United States together. We have, individually, visited the United States on a number of occasions. Growing up I lived in Laurel, Maryland for several months in 1965 with my family. My father was serving in the Canadian Army at the time and was posted to Washington DC briefly. As a boy, Mika visited Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming with his family. I have been as far south in the United States as Florida; I took a holiday with my family during March break in 1977. I have been to New England and in 2012 had a very nice time visiting with a good friend and his family in Washington state. I have made periodic visits across the border into upstate New York on shopping trips. For our first trip together to the United States, Arizona is a state Mika and I are interested in visiting for a holiday. The appeal for us is to see the desert habitat, its hot, dry climate, the plants, like Sonora cactus, the wildlife, like road runners and javelinas and to get a taste of the culture of the Southwestern United States. Continue reading