Tag Archives: legislating morality

The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement. — John Stuart Mill

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The publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 was a landmark in the movement that led to the destigmatization of homosexuality across the Western world in that it brought about the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. The repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c.69) accomplished this. Section 11 of the Act, in particular the clause known as the Labouchere Amendment, applied to male homosexuality. In short, the clause provided for a term of imprisonment “not exceeding two years”, with or without hard labour, for any man found guilty of “gross indecency” with another male, whether “in public or in private”. In 1953 the Home Secretary, David Maxwell Fyffe, referred to male homosexuality as a “plague over England,” and vowed to wipe it out. In 1954, the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution was convened with John Wolfenden appointed chairman. Continue reading

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Piety is not a goal but a means to attain through the purest peace of mind the highest culture. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Years ago I remembered while having a discussion of theology with a group of friends, one in the group referred to himself as a pious atheist. I was taken aback by his comment as piety and atheism were not terms I associated with one another. Piety is most commonly associated with religious belief and practice. Since then I gave this notion a great deal of thought: is secular piety a possibility? This question is worth considering in light of the reality that how one expresses their piety in an increasingly secular society such as Canada has become a contentious issue of late as is evidenced by the controversy surrounding the proposed Quebec Charter of Values (Charte de la laïcité or Charte des valeurs québécoises). The stated aim of the charter is to ensure there is a clear separation of religion and state and that public employees have religious neutrality. What this means is the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols or garb on the job will be prohibited. Continue reading

You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight. — Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)

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The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the United States is great news for gay couples who are employed by the federal government, particularly those who are serving in the US military. Interestingly, the ban on gays serving in the US military was lifted before the repeal of DOMA, and the effort to lift this ban was supported by what you might think was a most unlikely advocate: none other than Barry Goldwater (1909-1998).  Goldwater was a staunch conservative, an anti-communist politician whose career in federal politics began in 1952 as a Senator for the State of Arizona and presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1964, continuing until his retirement in 1987. He was forthright and transparent in his thought concerning gay rights in US society and gays serving in the US military and not in the way you may be thinking.  Concerning gays serving in the military, he stated “everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar. They’ll still be serving long after we’re all dead and buried. That should not surprise anyone.” He added:

The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people’s private lives. Government governs best when it governs least – and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone’s version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays. (Lifting ban on gays in military should be conservative cause) Continue reading