Norway Briefly Lead By Gay Prime Minister
February 24, 2002 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Norway Briefly Lead By Gay Prime Minister whilst Egyptian Human Rights Groups Cannot Defend Gays Compare and contrast: this cannot be seen simply as another East/West culture clash, when we know that there are a variety of views in the 'West' about gay 'rights', and indeed within Egypt itself. However, once achieved for homosexuals in western Europe (note the support of the French President), is the march to progressive equal rights going to have any effect on friendly countries elsewhere in the world? What's the situation like in your neck of the woods? (hint: we've done Alabama...)
posted by dash_slot- (9 comments total)
"We are a religious society... Homosexuality is rejected by all people."

except, i assume, the homosexuals in egypt? or is egypt one of those countries that had "no homosexuals?"
posted by rhyax at 7:57 PM on February 24, 2002

That would be China.
posted by Zool at 8:03 PM on February 24, 2002

Nothing like the state's idea of the ideal citizen: doesn't question the government, pays his taxes, doesn't smoke, only drinks domestic beer, only looks at heterosexual pornography, and has 2.1 children.

I'm rambling because I think MetaFilter has already beaten this issue into the ground.

Although I know I tempt all the fiery flamebait of MeFi when I ask the following question: what exactly does "progressive equal rights" mean for homosexuals? I understand the idea of equal protection under the law, but do progressive equal rights include such things as state-sanctioned gay marriage? Are these rights protected, in say, America, where we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Or are we talking about more basic issues, where fundamentalist, islamo-fascist regimes (apologies to Chris Hitchens) jail, punish, and sometimes kill people for being gay? Let's skip the progressive equal rights for a moment and look at the BASIC human rights violations in these countries, like the rights mentioned in the Declaration...

For all the 'progressive' changes made in the West, I doubt they do much to sway these governments from changing their stance on even the most basic of human rights, the rights to life, liberty, and property. Is there really such a thing as rights? How do we know? The founders of the U.S.A. said that the basic human rights are 'inalienable' and 'self-evident.' Obviously, by their actions, these regimes do not believe that.... but does this philosophy extend to these 'progressive rights?' Do we have a right to medical care, for example? As an inalienable, human right?(non-sequitr, but it was mentioned in an earlier thread) There is still so much disagreement in our own culture, it is not as if, with one unified voice, we are leading other nations and peoples by example. In conclusion, how can a severely fractured Western polity convince any other social group to adopt progressive rights, when these groups do not even believe in the philosophical concept of 'rights' in the first place?
posted by insomnyuk at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2002

It's conservative around here. Twenty-five years ago, a woman who worked at the high school built a house with her "roommate." Although she was a formidable figure given to dressing in rather severe suits, the adults made it clear that it was very appropriate for her to live with a "roommate" since she was not married. An unmarried woman who lived alone was not only vulnerable, gossips might accuse her of entertaining men! (Egads.) There was no child support owed to an unmarried woman in those days, so the overwhelming concern was the possibility of pregnancy. Because physical contact between women didn't make babies, it was conveniently ignored, as long as everyone remained ladylike. "Conservative" isn't necessarily a problem. Being nosy and gossipy is where trouble starts!
posted by sheauga at 8:59 PM on February 24, 2002

insomnyuk, if i'd seen this thread earlier than today and your comments in it, i may have been less surprised at your reaction: which is, well, confused, no? What does..."Nothing like the state's idea of the ideal citizen: doesn't question the government, pays his taxes, doesn't smoke, only drinks domestic beer, only looks at heterosexual pornography, and has 2.1 children." ..mean?

I appreciate for you (hetero, white, male, young, middle class, western, 8/10 on HotorNot......hey, you're even partly educated!;)); all your rights are secure. You can walk down the street and hold hands with your sweetheart..hell, you can even marry her! Yes, I would like that right, too.

What harm is done to the free enjoyment of human rights in the West by those who have them, if those rights are extended to others? Conversely, what good may flow? Is there a finite amount of 'rights' available, or can we all hope for equality some day?

Once we have answered those questions, hopefully in the positive, maybe they can be logically extended to other nations, which is of course the basis of the Global Liberal Conspiracy. (We do all know about that, don't we?)

"Do we have a right to medical care, for example? As an inalienable, human right?" Well, in other parts of Europe (I think the industrialised North & West), health care is seen as a basic right.
In the UK, medical care is free at the point of delivery to all - close to a right (we may argue about some of the standards, but generally, its passable).
" can a severely fractured Western polity convince any other social group to adopt progressive rights, when these groups do not even believe in the philosophical concept of 'rights' in the first place?" Well, over the years, the successful work of Amnesty International (who recognise sexuality can be a human rights issue), the U.N.H.C.H.R. and others have shown people all round the world how to promote The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, seen as the baseline by most. Nothing in that seems to contradict equal rights for gays.


(no name calling)

- john
posted by dash_slot- at 9:26 PM on February 24, 2002

Certainly I would think that equal rights for gay and lesbian people would include not having judges advocate their IMPRISONMENT and EXECUTION.

Seriously, I was completely pissed off at the thread about Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's bizarre rant of a concurring opinion that suggested that the state could, and should use all of its powers, including "imprisonment and even execution" to combat the "inherent evil" of homosexuality.

As usual, it degenerated into a "blah, blah, Christian-bashing on MeFi again" race to the bottom. What was overlooked was the true depth of Moore's barbarity--he wasn't just suggesting that gays and lesbians weren't good parents, he was advocating their IMPRISONMENT and EXECUTION.

I am a practicing Christian myself (though, admittedly, in a sect that's full of lesbian bishops and the like). Outrage at Moore's completely inappropriate statement isn't a matter of "Christian-bashing"--it's a matter of appropriate outrage at someone who is advocating the IMPRISONMENT and EXECUTION of gays and lesbians.

(I use the kook-CAPS not because the voices in my head tell me to, but because some people on the other thread considered it "mean" for Moore to be compared to the Taliban. Um, I think executing people because of their sexual conduct with other consenting adults is a
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:28 PM on February 24, 2002

This reminds me of Betty Friedan's famous moniker for homosexual activists in the 70's: the lavender menace. Friedan and her ilk were worried that by advocating gay rights, feminists would 'water doen' their agenda and lose what little credibility they had in more conservative eyes by aligning themselves with lesbians.

The similarity to the Egyptian groups is interesting, but different in that at the time of all the civil activism in America, basic human rights were not the issue. It was specific civil rights; While many in America had to contend with opposition that was religious in nature, they weren't battling theocracy. The US government didn't execute people in the same way that Saudi Arabia does, for instance.

I believe there is a far greater and more basic set of rights that needs to be dealt with in these countries, which would begin with the complete seperation between mosque and state. This does not mean giving up one's religion, but it means a severance of state law from canonical law. One of the important tenants of a successful democratic society is the removal of the church as an official state power, something our forebears understood.

Democracy does not mean that everything is perfect and all wrinkles are immediately ironed out. It means gradual change, and the ability to openly debate and oppose the philosophies of the state, and by this pressure of give and take, arrive at a workable medium. It took the US a long time to arrive at our current state, and I have seen the perception of gays in America change very rapidly since the early 90's when I came out. Such social pressure and change would have been unthinkable in a society dominated by the lone voice of canonical law.

That said, no one gives me the right to be what I am, that is no one's to give or take. If people are executed, it is because they already have that inalienable and self evident right, and those that wish to suppress it are afraid of that power. Why do you think the Islamo-fascists advocate killing above all else?
posted by evanizer at 11:02 PM on February 24, 2002

I was typing some comments for about 20 minutes and my bloody computer we go again

As for the initial comment in my post, that's kind of random rambling mixed in with what I think is the extreme irony of the federal government's powers being expanded by a liberal president for 8 years, and then being wielded and actively used by a conservative president. No, I don't think it's poetic justice, I think any centralized power is a bad thing, conservative or liberal in power, I don't care. I think during the campaign Bush talked a lot of jive about limited government, I haven't seen ANYTHING limited, save a piecemeal tax cut, which does nothing to curtail the power of the federal government, which I believe, is largely being exercised in direct violation of the enumerated powers of article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

As for the rest of my post. Well, I sound confused probably because I am. I'm a big fan of voluntary association, and I agree that what these regimes are doing is despicable. However, the main point of my post was not my opinion on the validity of gay marriage as a human right, necessarily. I was talking about how difficult it would be simply to move a nation from persecuting homosexuality to not persecuting it, especially when said nation does not even believe in the idea of 'rights' as a valid concept. If you do not believe that human rights exist and use your religion as a template for ruling people's lives, you're bound for problems, none of which are easily solved. Summary: its tough to talk about any rights, least of all gay rights (which are pretty modern and progressive, in my estimation), and it is especially hard to convince a nation to accept them when the nation doesn't believe in rights in the first place.

What harm is done to the free enjoyment of human rights in the West by those who have them, if those rights are extended to others? Conversely, what good may flow? Is there a finite amount of 'rights' available, or can we all hope for equality some day?

John, I don't look at rights as a quantity, but as a fairly limited set of standards, which the government should secure. Outside those rights, in my opinion, the government has no place telling people how to live, or what to do, so long as they do not violate the rights of others. The other part of the confusion is personal, because of my upbringing(Christian conservative, would you have guessed?), and because of people who I know and care about that deal with these issues. I think the issue of sexuality is intensely personal, to everyone....

My definition of marriage is a legal, spiritual, physical, and emotional bond between a man and a woman. It's an ideal, I know, and probably not often realized... People who tout the virtues of marriage often fail to mention the high rate of failure in our country. Life is not ideal, and people are different. Words like equality, rights, and the like are tough to define, I guess the definition of marriage is up for grabs too, and that's fine with me. So at this juncture, what is my political response? If a social institution wants to sanction a union between two people of the same sex, great, that's liberty at work. I think the federal government, though, should only secure the rights to life, liberty, and property. People at local levels of government, pursuant to obeying those rights, should have some level of self-rule. Gay marriage is legal in Vermont. Case in point. I think it can only happen when the people in general are willing, and I dont think it should be forced nationally from the top down. If there are people who think that the traditional idea of marriage is a good idea, they should be able to exercise it within their local community, and peacefully coexist with their fellow man, even if he lives a life you completely disagree with (so long as it does not violate the rights of others). That is the cost of living in a free, liberal society.

Change can occur, but it is difficult, and constitutionally, I don't know how states would work it out... if gay marriage is illegal in Ohio, but not Vermont, is a gay couple's marriage legally recognized in Ohio? Due to the Constitution, I think the answer is yes. That would create an odd set of circumstances. Our nation is built on a combination of ideologies(I could go on about that too), and this is one of the purest examples of a conflict between them that I have ever seen. The Founders created a nation where compromise had to occur, where hopefully Christians(the majority of the population at the time), Deists(Enlightenment thinkers), and everyone else could peacefully coexist. It's hard to predict what a big change this will bring, for better or for worse. I wonder how Vermont is doing. Does anything I said make sense? Sorry for laying out my entire thought process.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:36 PM on February 24, 2002

I've always been amused (in a frustrated kind of way) by the use of phrases like "progressive equal rights", and (one that the Labour Party here in the UK used to use a lot) "[Working for] greater equality". Utterly oxymoronic: you can't have degrees of equality - you can either be equal or not.

So not only gay men and women, but also many other groups in practically every country are not equal with whatever passes for the 'standard model' in those countries, let alone with some 'international standard of human rights and equality'. Plus, let's face it, in countries where individual areas can make laws that further confuse the issue, any hope of even a single national equality is pretty unlikely. And this is categorically not just a sexuality issue, it's also about race, gender, age, disability, class, education and countless other qualities on which judgement is based.
posted by jonpollard at 3:19 AM on February 25, 2002

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