The boy kicked out at the world…

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Freedom of religion is a right; freedom to discriminate is not

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The Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the Lillian Ladele case before Christmas.  Ladele, 47, filed a complaint against the Islington Council, where she worked as a registrar, claiming she was harassed and treated unfairly, ultimately threatened with termination, because her conservative Christian beliefs prevented her from officiating over same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.  Ladele claims such unions are “contrary to God’s law.”

Lillian Ladele, a registrar for the Islington Council and an orthodox Christian, claims to have been discriminated against because her religious views prevented her from performing same-sex civil partnerships

This comes on the heels of Norwich grandmother Pauline Howe’s investigation by local police after writing a letter to her local authority complaining about a gay pride parade, in which she referred to homosexuals as “sodomites.”  And less than a month since a record number of complaints were filed with the Press Complaints Commission against Jan Moir for her now-infamous column questioning whether Stephen Gately died from homosexuality.  And the day after the Government failed to overturn an amendment to a clause in the Coroners and Justice Bill protecting freedom of speech for those who criticise homosexuality based on religious or moral objections.

That the amendment was included in the Coroners and Justice Bill is a good thing, as it protects freedom of speech, that most basic of democratic liberties.  Jan Moir, though utterly offensive and wrong, had every right to express her views, and The Daily Mail had every right to publish her column.  And yes, Pauline Howe has a right to stand on a street corner calling homosexuals “sodomites” and blaming them for every problem Britain faces from a stagnant economy to Jedward.  Both Moir and Howe are well within their rights.

Which is more than I can say for Lillian Ladele. Ladele was not told she could be disciplined or fired because of her beliefs, which she has every right to hold and express. Rather, Ladele was told her employment could be terminated because she allowed those beliefs to interfere with her job. Ladele isn’t complaining that she was discriminated against based on her beliefs—she’s complaining that she isn’t allowed to discriminate against others based on those beliefs.

Everybody has their biases. We are all prejudiced against one group or another. However, this does not make it okay to discriminate against said group. The law should—and does—protect Lillian Ladele’s right to say, feel, think, and profess whatever she wants. Nobody is telling Lillian Ladele that she can’t be a Christian, or that she cannot work for the Islington Council because of her beliefs. What the Islington Council is maintaining—and rightly so—is that she cannot use her beliefs to deny equal access to government services, or to shirk her job responsibilities.

Ladele’s refusal to marry same-sex partners brings to mind another case that made headlines here in the States recently. An interracial Louisiana couple was refused a marriage license by a justice of the peace because he did not personally condone such marriages. He was allowed to keep his job (though Louisiana did look into ways to remove him), but resigned under pressure in the end. And rightly so; his personal views prevented him from doing his job, for which he earned a salary paid by taxpayers of all races.

Imagine, if you will, a gay registrar refusing to marry a heterosexual Christian couple because he disagrees with their beliefs. He finds their religion to be fundamentally flawed and the greatest of human evils. Should he be allowed to discriminate against them because of his beliefs? Nobody would argue he cannot hold said belief, but to allow him to deny a marriage license to any couple because of those beliefs would invoke the ire of the Christian Institute and every other right-wing organisation in Britain.

Lillian Ladele works a job that requires her to uphold the law, regardless of whether she agrees with it or not. She isn’t fighting for her freedom of religion but for her freedom to discriminate. Ms Ladele has every right to hold whatever views she will about homosexuality, but when those views lead to discrimination in public services a line must be drawn. Lillian Leades has every right to her opinion, and she ought never to fear the repercussions of speaking it publicly. But when those opinions lead to direct discrimination against other Britons, she has crossed the line.
It is not discrimination if you are fired for discrimination.


Why it doesn’t matter whether there’s a sex scandal surrounding Stephen Gately’s death

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Ever since my article on Stephen Gately’s untimely passing went live over at Rise Over Run, I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails and comments from people telling me they feel the same way.  Stephen Gately had a huge impact on my generation of gay men, and his death has left us reeling with sadness.  Boyzone fans and the gay community in Britain and Ireland have rallied around Stephen’s husband, internet mogul Andrew Cowles, his family, and his band.  We’ve accepted the Spanish coroner’s report that he died of a congenital heart disorder that went tragically undetected.  And we’ve accepted that Georgi Dochev, the Bulgarian who claims to have found Stephen dead, was present, though why he was there and what he did or didn’t do remains murky.

PD*31824794Queerty was the first media outlet to insinuate Dochev’s presence was anything but innocent when they ran the headline “The 3-Way Sex Scandal That’s Accompnying Stephen Gately’s Death” on Tuesday.  I read with disgust, wondering how a gay website could possibly slander the name of our very own boy next door.  This outrage grew even more today, when the Daily Mail ran Jan Moir’s now-infamous column, in which she questioned the circumstances surrounding Stephen’s death, in the process revealing her own ignorance and heterosexism.  Twitter is outraged, the British public is disgusted, and Jan Moir is public enemy number one.

It is normal to speculate as to what happened that night, and with the facts we have, it is natural to assume there may be something more to this story we don’t know.  That being said, Stephen Gately was a hero to many, myself included, angeland an important figure in the history of gay and lesbian Britain.  He was, without a doubt, one of the most important figures from my childhood, and I would not be where I am if it weren’t for the example he set a decade ago.  It’s to be expected that gay Britain and Ireland feels defensive and protective of his memory–and we should.  What we recognize, and want the rest of the world to recognize, is that while yes, our minds may wander to the more sordid details of this (or any) story, why Dochev was there just isn’t important.  He didn’t kill Stephen, as Stephen wasn’t murdered.  So therefore, it really is nobody’s business.  What happened–or was meant to happen–shouldn’t be our focus.

The incredible, undeniable, charming and lovable talent of Stephen Gately and the tragedy of his passing should be our only concern.   We have lost an incredibly talented man, and we should let him rest in peace.  We may never know why Stephen and Andrew brought Dochev back to their home, and that’s fine.  Because what Stephen Gately deserves right now, more than anything, is respect.  He doesn’t deserve the British public, and certainly not Queerty and Jan Moir, speculating about the circumstantial evidence surrounding the nature of his evening as if it were true.  For all we know, Andrew slept on the floor that night.

In the end, none of it matters.  Whatever happened or didn’t happen, Stephen Gately is gone, dead from natural causes at 33.  He was too young to have died, and the world has lost a gentle soul and gifted entertainer.  That is what matters.  That is all that matters.

Written by skylarjordan

October 16, 2009 at 10:04 pm