Four Days, Three Big Steps For Gay Rights In The UK, U.S. And France



PARIS - Gay marriage rights are gaining momentum around the world. In the last four days, three countries have each taken a major step toward expanding marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Though the legislative process is just beginning, the French National Assembly approved a centerpiece bill on Saturday to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. This comes amidst vocal opposition to the initiative President Francois Hollande's socialist governement – Catholic organizations picketed the French Parliament, after some 340,000 demonstrators marched in the streets of Paris on Jan 27.

Inside the Parliament – and most of all on Twitter – France's legislators continued to battle over the proposed changes, including amendments to allow gay couples access to adoption and assisted reproductive technology (ART).

#DirectAN @chtaubira explique à l'opposition que leur amendement est un recul pour les familles hétéroparentales. Silence sur leurs bancs...

— Corinne Narassiguin (@CorinneNara) 5 février 2013

Translation: "Christine Taubira explains to the opposition that their amendment is a step back for heterosexual families too. The opposition stays silent.."

#directAN #MariageGay. L'article 1 est voté ouvrantà terme PMA et GPA . Triste moment . Pas ma conception de l" Homme et de la société .

— Philippe GOSSELIN (@phgosselin) 2 février 2013

Translation: "The first article has been ratified, leading to ART and surrogacy. Sad moment. Not my idea of what mankind or society should be."

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who introduced the legislation, did manage to provide a bit of levity. Having made a racy play on words as she addressed Parliament, Taubira began to laugh...and laugh...and....then find her seat:

The British House of Commons on Tuesday voted 400 to 175 to approve a draft law allowing gay marriage. There were a fair share of lively remarks too, but Prime Minister David Cameron concluded: “There are strong views on both side of the argument - I accept that. But I think this is an important step forward for our country.”

David Cameron: "I'm a marriage man... now two gay people who love each other can get married." #PMQs live:

— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 6, 2013

Here is the House of Commons' reaction to the final vote:


The Associated Press is reporting another major step forward for same-sex couples in the United States military. Some 16 months after the Pentagon repealed its ban on openly gay service, the military is poised to extend some benefits to the same-sex partners of service members. Among the benefits being considered are access to the on-base commissary and other military subsidized stores, as well as some health and welfare programs.

A potential win for Gay rights. Military to expand benefits to same-sex couples.

— athousandlittlewars (@athousandlittle) February 6, 2013

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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