14 Mar 2007

news around the world 14-mar-07

Hong Kong's Legislative Council panel has unanimously passed a motion demanding that the Broadcasting Authority withdraws its earlier ruling that a TV show that discussed same-sex partnerships was biased. In France, the highest court has declared the first marriage by a gay couple in France to be unlawful.

Hong Kong lawmakers want ruling on gay show reversed
A Legislative Council panel has unanimously passed a motion demanding that the Broadcasting Authority withdraws its ruling that RTHK's Hong Kong Connection - Gay Lovers which discussed same-sex partnerships was unfair, partial and biased towards homosexuality.

Well known lesbian activist-couple Connie Chan (left) and Wei Siu-lik, and gay activist Joseph Cho Man-kit discussed same-sex partnerships in Hong Kong Connection -- Gay Lovers which aired late last year.
The panel on Monday also called into question the independence of the board since its members were appointed by the government and did not include members of the broadcasting industry.

The controversy began when the authority issued a warning to RTHK in January on its programme broadcast in July last year, Hong Kong Connection - Gay Lovers, criticising it for only presenting the views of a gay man and a lesbian couple on same-sex marriage. The trio who was interviewed were gay activist Joseph Cho Man-kit, and well known lesbian activist-couple Connie Chan and Wei Siu-lik who were interviewed on Fridae last year.

It said RTHK's interview with homosexual couples had breached the Codes of Practice on Television Program Standards as it presented only a pro-gay view. It also ordered TVB to remove what it called offensive language should there be a repeat showing of An Autumn's Tale.

The ruling has also attracted the ire of some 20 gay and gay-friendly organisations and individuals who expressed their disagreement and disappointment at the authority's ruling which, they said, prescribed moral standards and did not respect human rights.

"I felt humiliated [by the ruling]," Cho was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post. "The authority's decision is discriminatory and it implies that homosexuals are deviants and should be kept from everybody else."

Citing discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians in Hong Kong, he called for legislation to protect them from unfair treatment and to allow same-sex marriage in the programme.

"It is a genuine documentary about my life. I was not trying to change people's views or sexuality," he said. "I just want to be treated equally. People wouldn't expect a TV programme on Christians to have a half segment on the views of the atheists, would they?"

He has sought legal advice from solicitor Michael Vidler and barrister Hector Pun Hei about applying for a judicial review by the end of this month. He explained that a legal challenge might be a last resort given that gay rights groups had exhausted all avenues in seeking action against the contentious ruling.

Vidler argued that the authority's ruling had breached the Basic Law, the Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee equal treatment for all. He said discrimination against gays touched on many aspects of life in Hong Kong, including tax laws, immigration and employment.

The Equal Opportunities Commission said it had received 1,103 inquiries on the case up to the end of last month, with most expressing disapproval with the authority's decision.

The programme can be viewed on RTHK web site at www.rthk.org.hk.

Related articles:
Gay marriage show sparks TV row in Hong Kong
Fighters and lovers: Connie Chan and Wei Siu-lik

France high court rules same-sex marriage invalid
France's highest court has on Tuesday declared the first marriage by a gay couple in France to be unlawful, thus annulling the knot tied by the two men in 2004.

The couple, Stephane Charpin and Bertrand Charpentier, were married in a much publicised civil ceremony on June 5, 2004, in Begles, a town in the southwest Bordeaux region. The government immediately said the union was outside the law, and a series of court decisions unfavorable to the couple followed.

In the latest decision, the court ruled that "under French law, marriage is a union between a man and a woman," backing a 2005 decision by an appeals court in Bordeaux.

The lower court that initially rejected the marriage noted that gay couples in France are already covered by legislation that grants non-married cohabiting couples of the same or opposite sexes some rights enjoyed by married couples.

No other gay couple is known to have married in France.

Prosecutor Marc Domingo said during an earlier court hearing that it is the parliament, not judges, who should have the final word in any legalisation of marriages involving same-sex couples.

No apology from top military officer for gay remark
Despite a flurry of condemnation by gay rights groups and lawmakers in the United States after the country's top military commander said he believed homosexual acts were "immoral," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday he should not have voiced his personal view but stopped short of apologising for his remarks regarded by many as being offensive.

In a newspaper interview Monday, Pace likened homosexual acts to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.

He said: "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe that the armed forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way."

On Tuesday, Pace issued a statement acknowledging that the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays is a sensitive subject and said: "I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views."

Lawmakers of both parties and two gay advocacy groups have strongly condemned Pace's remarks.

"General Pace's comments are outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces," said the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has represented some of the thousands dismissed from the military for their sexual orientation.

"Their sexual orientation has nothing to do with their capability to serve in the US military," said Luis Vizcaino, spokesman for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.

Under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, introduced by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 to relax a complete ban on gays, commanders are not allowed to enquire about the sexual orientation of their personnel.