Archive | March, 2012

Gay Marriage Rights

30 Mar

Here in the UK, Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005, giving gay couples similar legal rights to married heterosexual couples, with such rights including burial rights of loved ones, access to pensions and insurance, decisions on health, and home ownership. Prior to 2005, a female or male couple, in a committed relationship, could not automatically pass on their possessions to their partner, and such possessions and benefits would not automatically become the property of their partner after death. Quite often, possessions and benefits would be conferred to the family of the deceased partner. Attempts for the surviving partner to claim possession would have to be resolved through the courts, with little protection or prospect of a positive outcome for the partner. The law was always in favour of the family, and therefore, it was discriminatory and unjust, in practice.

Today, it has become apparent that “gay marriage” is not just concerned with matters of equality, ownership of the deceased partner’s possessions, and benefit in pension rights. It is also about the equal right to marry the person one loves, where that marriage can take place, and whether such a joining of two individuals can in fact even be called a marriage. Christians and other religious communities, such as Muslims, would have it that the sanctity of marriage is and should be reserved for the joining of a man and women. But is this also an unjust discrimination? And what of the right of same sex couples having the right to marry in a place of worship? This is the new equality debate that is being contested on both sides at the moment.

In the UK, the laws that came into force in 2005 to make things more equal still prohibit same sex couples from “marrying” and doing so in a place of worship. Instead the marriage between same sex couples was/ is called a “civil partnership” and can only take place in a non-religious venue and vows cannot contain any religious quotations and references. For Gay Christians, however, this is not complete equality and support for complete equality has slowly been gathering momentum. Gay Christians have argued that their religion guides all aspects of their lives, and so, should not be excluded from something considered as important as their official joining to the person they love, in celebration of their faith and commitment. Others in the gay community, who may not be religious, argue that anyone should be able to call their joining a marriage and also be permitted to marry in any venue, religious or otherwise. The latter, for the non-religious, would represent complete equality under the State and in the eyes of the law.

That this has become a key issue in the debate between religiosity and marginalization of Christianity, has given rise to the Christian Church to assert ownership of the accord of marriage as an integral component of Christianity itself. This is despite marriage only being drawn into and claimed by the Christian church since the Middle Ages, presumably with the purpose of the Church claiming its ownership to assert the importance of the presence of religion in people’s lives’ and also to maintain position of power within society (See: Marriage Etymology: Wikipedia).

If religion has any claim to the sanctity of the joining of a man and women in a place of worship, it cannot be in claiming ownership of the term “marriage”. Otherwise it would have been decreed and recorded as such in the foundations of religious texts and cultural practices. Equally, same sex couples have no claim to the right of a joining in a place of worship, unless it can be established that their religion accepts their joining as being as natural as and equal to that of a man and a women. As appears to be the case, the question of same sex equality; in the eyes of religion still remains to be established, as much as it does when considering whether the State has any right to intervene in such matters.

Author: Jason Schumann

Tags: Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture,Gay Rights, Church, Gay Marriage, Gay Equality, Gay Christians, Christianity, Civil partnerships, Same sex marriage, Politics, Religion and Sexuality,

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Iran: International outcast and nuclear bad boy

30 Mar

Yes, Iran and Syria are, or appear to be, the bad boys in the international school playground. What with accusations of funding terrorism, persecuting citizens, antagonizing neighbours and the international community, reported attempts at stalling the middle east peace process, and generally not playing ball. For Iran, international concerns are centred on terrorism funding- to disrupt peace in the Middle East and other regions- and its ongoing nuclear proliferation programme. We should acknowledge that the former is more hush-hush from public view, for obvious diplomatic reasons, but it is always referred to when mentioned in conjunction with the latter.

One of the primary incendiaries for such contention is in the possible implosion of the Middle East process and, more importantly, the position and proximity of Israel in the region and the perceived threat of Islamic state sponsored terrorism to destabilize the Israeli government in efforts to free Palestinians from its grasp. A little simplistic, but it basically covers a key point of the causes of instability and disagreements between Middle Eastern countries when adding the presence of Israel to the equation. Of course there are other major factors contributing to discord in the region, including religious and cultural divisions between Jews, Arabs and Muslims alike.

Though, of the five or so “official” nations with nuclear capability- Iran is not one of them- and no one wants it to be either. Neither is Israel an “official” nation with nuclear capability, for that matter. However, let’s not forget that Iran’s nuclear programme got off the ground with the help and support of the United States. That is, until that United States switched sides to Israel after the Iranian revolution, and continues to promote the efforts and interests of Israel in light of recent Islamic terrorist threats. This is not to say that such threats are perpetrated by those such as Syria and Iran, but that Iran’s nuclear capability would certainly tip the balance- in further threatening the position and sovereignty of Israel as a lone state in the region full of Arabs, tribal groups, and Muslim factions.

Israel’s position is, therefore, to maintain its sovereignty which, no doubt stems from a persistent insecurity and block thinking of continued persecution that Jewish people have suffered throughout history at the hands others who would deny Israel its right to existence. Incidentally, we could blame the British and the Americans for all of the present situation. After all, it was Britain and the United States that gave Israel and the Jewish people their independence after the Second World War, much to dissatisfaction of the Palestinians and others in the region.

Israel’s attempts to prevent the nuclear proliferation of Iran are perhaps valid, but to what extent? Does the international community condone Israel’s assassinations of Iran’s scientists, engineers, and politicians? There is much evidence of this, including Israeli threats to launch rocket attacks on Iran. If so, then why is it more outrageous that Iran should defend itself in the same way?

Surely, the Middle East peace process should be brought to its conclusion through negotiation? Could it not be then, that Israel and Iran, both having nuclear capability, can be an instrument and key factor in forcing a peaceful conclusion? As far as the laws of the playground go, it would appear that, whilst Israel thinks it is the victim, it is the international community that is actually treating Iran as the victim.

There is no simple answer, as to how best to resolve this situation, but it is certainly not to deride and make Iran appear the bad guy, especially when Israel may be considered just as guilty of wrongdoing. This is purely a case of, we can have nuclear, but you cannot, in this author’s view, anyway. Time to grow up, kids! Put down your weapons and play nicely!

Author: Jason Schumann

Tags: Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture,Iran, Syria, Israel, China, United Nations, Middle East, Terrorism, Nuclear proloforation, Politics, Hamas, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Western sanctions, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Islam, Nuclear Security Summit, international atomic energy agency, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Scotttish, English v British: Which one are you?

15 Mar

If it were relevant to yourself and someone were to ask: Are you English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, or are you British or do you even feel British? For the Scottish Premier, Alex Salmond, the answer he would have on your lips, is that if you are from Scotland you are Scottish and cannot be British. In pressing for greater change, Salmond believes Scotland deserves its independence, and rightly so, you might agree. But what of the potential political turmoil and economic instability that may well ensue, you might ask? Although very much an integral part of the question of devolution, this is a separate consideration.

Continued unity, is, for some, a futile pursuit of a long forgotten and archaic British Empire. It appears that some believe attempts to maintain the last remnants of an empire and to hold in to it is something that only exists in the minds of politicians and stalwarts. David Cameron, UK Prime Minister’s comments that,“we’re better off together”, seem to echo this belief. However, of the ordinary people, the Scottish appear indifferent on the matter, and the English do not necessarily consider such a union as a matter of great importance.

Alex Salmond, and those who share his opinion to assert independence, are the ones suggesting the idea of a united Britain is a figment and a relic of an imperialistic and often brutal past. The idea that the people of British Isles- whether new migrant settlers, celts, or otherwise, are all the same- and believe in the same ideals of a united Britain- has become an anachronism. But a complete dissolution of the union appears a long way off. As we have already seen in the case of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland has so far refused reunification.

The hope of Scotland’s independence, is Alex Salmond’s endgame, and legacy to himself in the annals of modern history. Whether this is a deeply personal matter from Salmond, or a righteous crusade, is not exactly clear. But this brings us back to the question of who are we, and how we define ourselves? Can a Scottish person be English, a Welsh person, or an immigrant ever be English?

The simple answer is no. But why? Because that’s how the old English guard would have it of course. Although the Welsh, the Irish, the Scottish, and others far a field, were brought into the fold, civilized, and forced to discard customs and languages, only the English are English, and everyone else is British. And what it means to be British has never been clear.

Author: Jason Schumann

Tags: Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture,Alex Salmond, David Cameron, British Politics, Scottish Independence, United Kingdom, Scotsman, Being British

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