“Doctor Laura” at the Michael Richards/Mel Gibson school of etiquette

The really frustrating thing about blogging is that sometimes a week will go by where a million bloggable things happen, and I’m left with the choice of either commenting on them 2 weeks late, or flooding you with Facebook/Twitter updates every 5 minutes. As a result, I am writing about this story right after it happens, but you’re not going to read this until today:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the talk show host who recently apologized for saying the N-word 11 times to a caller on the air, said Tuesday she plans to give up her radio show when her contract is up the end of this year.

For those of you who don’t follow talk radio (and Science bless you for that), Laura Schlessinger is a PhD in physiology who hosts a radio show in which she verbally abuses people who call in for help. Why anyone would care what a physiologist has to say about religion (she is, big surprise, a fundamentalist Christian) or relationships, or anything besides physiology, is beyond my understanding. But they do, for whatever reason, and she hands out bad advice.

On the show in question, a woman called in to ask Dr. Laura what she should do about her husband’s friends. It seems that the husband and his friends think that they have license, by virtue of the woman’s race, to make racist comments. It’s the whole “I married a black woman, and therefore I am not racist, and therefore I can say racist things and you’re not allowed to be offended” argument. The caller was looking for the proper way to broach the subject with her spouse.

In a fit of… I really don’t know what, Dr. Laura decided instead to accuse the woman of being “too sensitive”.

“Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.”

I’d laugh, but I’ve heard this same stupid argument from my own friends. It’s either that, or saying that it’s okay to say it because it’s in a song lyric, or that somehow “nigg-a” is different from “nigg-er“. These are all profoundly stupid arguments, and all I hear when someone says them is “I want the license to say things that I know to be racist and hurtful, and it’s your fault if you’re offended.” Congratulations, you are making the same argument as those brave freedom-fighters from Courtenay, and also rapists.

I’ve talked about the meaning and history of this word before. In essence, the word has no proper context that makes it not unbelievably offensive. It is rooted in the idea that Africans are not human, and that the sub-human treatment they received at the hands of their slave owners was justifiable. In my opinion, nobody should get to say it outside a discussion of its historical and/or sociological significance. Dr. Laura pretends as though there’s never been a good reason offered for why it’s ‘okay’ for black people to use the word, and that it’s a mystery why white people (and especially white people) aren’t allowed to say it.

I read a bunch of coverage about this issue, which I’m not going to link to because they mostly said the same thing. There was one commentary that I thought was interesting and worth sharing. A blogger mentioned the similarity between black people and the dynamic of a family. I have issues with my family, as we all do, particularly with my father. Because I was raised in a single-parent household, my dad and I frequently quarreled over pretty much everything. This, I gather, is normal parent/child stuff (incidentally, for those curious, things between my father and I are now better than they’ve been since I was a small child – growing up will do that). I used to fantasize about telling him off in front of a large crowd of his friends, perhaps at his funeral. Let’s stop this here, and simply conclude that I am not a daddy’s boy. That being said, I will not tolerate anyone speaking ill of him, even my other family members.

There are things we can say to and about our family members that sound (and may be) incredibly hurtful. But let someone from outside the family come in and try saying the same things, and sparks fly. Someone who is not in full possession of all of the facts, and who is not part of the dynamic, has no license to say things they may have heard just because someone else says them. In the same way, it’s highly inappropriate for any non-black person to use the word nigger, even if many black people think it’s appropriate to use with each other. Those who pretend that they don’t understand why this is so, and belligerently go out of their way to say it anyway, have suspect motives for doing so.

So am I saying Dr. Laura is racist? Let me answer that in this way…


I hope that clears up any ambiguity you may have at what I think of Dr. Laura.

Interestingly, she stumbled into another wheelhouse of mine when she said that she was quitting to restore her First Amendment rights:

“I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry — some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and sponsors,” she said.

Here’s the text of the First Amendent:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Also, you can spread racist speech, and private citizens are not allowed to be upset, or protest against your stupidity in legal ways.”

Can you figure out what part I added?

Phillipine sexy-time for Catholic Church

There is a fundamental issue I have discovered (in my many many years of life :P) when it comes to resolving an argument. There are often ideological positions on both sides. Some of them are logically flawed from the start, and such flaws can be pointed out easily. Other times they boil down to differences in value judgments – for example, I place a higher value on the utility and efficiency of social programs than I do on the slight amount that my privacy is compromised by the census. Others clearly do not. These kinds of arguments are intractable, since they boil down to what a person thinks is important, and the best you can hope for is to find some common ground.

However, more often than not, disagreements boil down to conflicts that can be resolved by simply looking at data. Will raising taxes on cigarettes reduce use? Does capital punishment work as a crime deterrent? Do people become happier with more money in their pocket? Those are questions that are about observable, measurable phenomena, and we can (and have) evaluate them.

Same goes for “does sex education lead to promiscuity?” The evidence is very clear: again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again the literature is explicit that sex education programs are effective at imparting useful and valuable knowledge about sex and reproduction, without turning kids into bang-happy sluts (any more than they were when they started, at least). Comprehensive programs on safe sex actually seem to, paradoxically, reduce the rate at which kids have sex – at the very worst they are no more likely to have sex when armed with information.

(Click for full-sized image)

It seems painfully obvious in this case that a simple, cursory glance at the mountains of evidence would be enough to settle the debate. We may not like our kids having sex, but teaching them about it doesn’t make them more likely to do it, it just means they’re more likely to do it safely if and when they do.

But of course, if you want to strip reason, logic and evidence right out the argument, all you have to do is talk to the Catholic Church:

In the Philippines, a conservative, predominantly Catholic country, even older students learn little about how to make babies, or – of more urgency according to many officials and health workers – how to prevent making babies. But despite stiff opposition from the Catholic Church, this could be about to change.

In yet another example of religion’s pre-occupation with sex; ironic, since all of these bishops and priests are celibate, the Church has taken up the cause against teaching kids things. Knowing things leads, as everyone knows, to doing things. The first thing I did when I learned about particle physics, after all, was go out and build a nuclear bomb (I named it ‘Shroom’). It’s no surprise to me, having been raised Catholic, to see the Church be wrong, yet again, both in terms of public policy and science. What does surprise me, however, is the secular response. Similar to what took place in Argentina and Venezuela, the secular authority is telling the Church to go anoint itself:

Recently, the education department decided to launch a pilot scheme introducing sex education into the school curriculum from the ages of 11 onwards. The former education secretary, Mona Valisno, who has just left office because of a change of government, spearheaded the campaign, saying it would empower schoolchildren to “make informed choices and decisions”.

Sadly, the Whore of Babylon still has some power to exert over lawmakers:

According to Mrs Valisno, there will be no mention of abortion, or even contraception, during any of the new lessons. She said the scheme was not designed to emphasise the actual sex act, but to promote personal hygiene and interpersonal relationships.

This is doing no favours at all for the poor in the Phillipines, who are the most in need of real instruction. I have no doubt that when the program, with all of the useful information taken out of it, fails to reduce unwanted pregnancies and STIs, the Church will crow about how education doesn’t work.

“Children are fragile creatures. The [education] department should be very, very careful not to teach children about matters they will imitate the following day,” said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, a spokesman for the highly influential Catholic Bishops Conference.

The shocking hypocrisy and complete lack of human decency inherent in a Catholic spokesperson arguing to protect the fragility of childhood leaves me cold. The stupidity of not wanting children to imitate the positive things they learn in school about protecting themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancy leaves me wondering why anyone with any kind of moral instinct would listen to a single word this organization has to say about values.

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Movie Friday – postitive thinking

Psst… do you want to hear something amazing? There’s an unbelievably simple trick you can use to get everything you’ve ever wanted, without having to work for it, put any effort at all into bettering yourself or your life, or kill off your rich uncle.

It’s called THE SECRET

Anyone’s who’s taken any type of eastern philosophy course knows about the law of attraction. Basically, the theory is that if you put positive energy out into the world, you will reap the benefits of that energy. Hindus call it karma, Taoists call it the Tao, and skeptics call it a heaping pile of steamy bullshit.

Like prayer, or ‘remote viewing’, or psychics, mediums, Tarot and horoscopes, the law of attraction (karma) relies on some fundamental cognitive heuristics our brains use. The first and most important is called confirmation bias – our brains selectively attend to those events that fit assumptions we’ve already made. The second is a logical fallacy called ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc‘ or, ‘after it, therefore because of it’ – we see two events and infer that the first causes the second.

For an example of this, think of what happens when you’re waiting for a bus. How many times have you waited for a bus, got fed up and decided to walk, only to have the bus show up a minute after you leave? Have you ever said “of course, as soon as I leave, the bus arrives.” Your leaving has nothing to do with the bus arriving – the two events are independent, but after it happens 2 or 3 times, your mammal brain puts them together.

So when you send out positive vibes and something good happens, the two aren’t necessarily causally related – indeed, there’s no mechanism by which they could be related. The “Secret” is just an appeal to your mammalian brain and the cognitive shortcuts we all use to get by.

“So what?” you might be saying. “It doesn’t hurt anyone to think positively.” Despite evidence that it absolutely CAN hurt people to have unrealistically positive outlooks, it also leads to victim blaming. People assume that if you can think your way to happiness and wealth, then anyone who is poor just has a bad attitude.

Let’s let Dave Chappelle have the last word here…

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Home-grown religious huxter

When I was at that “debate” between Hugh Ross and Brian Lynchehaun, Brian made what I thought was an interesting point toward the end. He asked the audience to picture a circumstance in which a loved one was dying a painful death, with no hope of a medical cure. Someone offers you a chance to visit a faith healer, who promises a miraculous result, and all it will cost you is your life savings. Left with your back against the wall and no other options, would you take that chance?

A skeptic atheist wouldn’t, and Brian’s argument was that this is a illustration of how skeptics are less likely to fall for scams than a religious person. It popped into my head when I read this article about a pastor in Montreal:

Several members of the Bethel Christian Community have gone public with troubling allegations about money they say they lent to their spiritual leader — Rev. Mwinda Lezoka, a Congolese native who has ministered to Montreal’s growing African community for two decades.

These are not rich people – these are ordinary working people, some of whom went so far as to remortgage their own homes. They gave their money to a man they trusted, and were not repaid. It turned out that pastor Lezoka was using the money he appropriated for… slightly less divine ends:

During the years Lezoka ministered to his parish at the Bethel Christian Community Church in Ahuntsic, he also studied gemology, and appeared to head a Kinshasa-based export agency specialized in diamond trading.

Lezoka was apparently an administrator of a diamond exporting firm in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – the firm has since gone bankrupt. It does not take a great deal of imagination to envisage a scenario in which Lezoka used funds that were loaned to him for the purpose of developing the church in order to prop up his failing investment.

Jewish and Christian scripture exhort the faithful to be honest and fair-dealing. Bearing false witness is in the commandments (God is not cool with it), and that has been extrapolated to include all types of lying. Surely a pastor, one whose life is devoted to the teaching of scripture, once caught in a lie, would come clean and be honest, right?

“I did not take anyone’s money,” said Mwinda Lezoka, speaking in French, in an exclusive interview with CBC News. “So I, Mr. Lezoka, am not responsible for deceiving anyone.” … The pastor was unable to produce any financial records, when asked by CBC News. Nor could he explain why charitable tax receipts he issued have false numbers, according to Revenue Canada.

It’s sad, but unsurprising, when people with religious authority show themselves to be as callow, evasive, and corrupt as people with just regular ol’ Earthly authority. Unsurprising to me, at least, because even while I was a believer I didn’t buy the fiction that priests are somehow more righteous or upstanding than anyone else. To borrow from (and paraphrase) Napoleon, religion is an agreed-upon fiction. It is built firmly on the basis that everyone believes the story – if you do not believe, you cannot be shown evidence to engender belief (the fundamental difference between science and religion). If the morals and righteousness are based upon fiction, there is no end to the number of cognitive dissonances and goalpost shifts possible to justify any act of evil.

I am well aware of the fact that these people might have been duped by anyone. Many people fall for scams that are not religious in any way. However, credulous belief in falsehoods and the associated elevation of people into positions of power and authority (and assumed rectitude) based on those falsehoods makes a person more likely to believe in nonsense. To put it plainly: those who are willing to believe anything are willing to believe anything.

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The consequence of misunderstanding racism

It seems I’ve been having this fight more and more since I started blogging about it: people don’t particularly like my definition of racism. Some argue that it is too broad, and that acts that are not maleficent should not be branded as ‘racist’. Others argue that using the word in this way strips it of its power – that ‘racist’ should be a term that shuts down conversation. I do not recognize the validity of either of these arguments, for reasons I have explained in my definition post. Briefly, an act does not have to be distinctly negative to be racist, and as a direct consequence the word should never be used to shut down conversation; rather, it should be used to accurately label those things that are motivated by an ideology that a member of an individual group is representative of the entire group.

Despite all the pretty talk about the so-called “post-racial” America, the United States has a serious race problem:

Mrs (Shirley) Sherrod was videoed giving a speech in March at a dinner of a Georgia chapter of the NAACP, a prominent civil rights group. The clip was picked up on by conservatives as evidence of anti-white racism in President Barack Obama’s government and within the NAACP, an organisation seen as Democratic-leaning.

The remarks in question were part of a story Mrs. Sherrod was telling about being reluctant to help a white farmer gain government assistance because of her history with white people. The offending clip can be seen here:

Pretty bad, right? Racist, in fact! A government employee discriminating against someone based on their race! It’s perfectly right to fire her, isn’t it?

The entire speech is 44 minutes long, and it was distilled into a 90-second clip by Fox News. Your bullshit radar should immediately go off. But of course, you’re a reasoning, thinking adult. You know whose bullshit radar didn’t go off?

Mrs Sherrod was promptly sacked, her remarks condemned by the administration and the NAACP.

That’s right, the NAACP (who, by the way, hosted the event, and heard her remarks in context) and her boss, Secretary Tom Vilsack, leaped into the fray with both feet before examining any of the evidence. Here’s the full speech, with the remarks in context (start watching at about 17:30):

Taken in context, this is a story about how this woman was able to realize that the black/white issue she had been taught was in have a rich/poor issue. She saw the man being mistreated at the hands of other white people, and realized the issue was about haves vs. have-nots, with race being a coincidental heuristic. It’s a positive story about learning to put racial history and animosity aside, and to deal with things as fact.

(@21:20)”Working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who haven’t. They could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realise then that I needed to help poor people – those who don’t have access the way others have.”

So why was such a snap judgment made? Why did this woman get fired immediately without having an opportunity to tell her side of the story? Why did the White House have to intervene and backtrack from a hasty and stupid decision? Because the word ‘racism’ was thrown into the conversation. As soon as that word comes up, conversation shuts down. Brains shut down. In order to avoid even the appearance of complicity with racism, we make stupid and hasty decisions. All this because we are so paranoid over talking about race and racial issues. Well the conversation is happening now.

It sends a chill down my spine whenever Glenn Beck gets something right:

But in this case, the blind squirrel finds a nut of truth.

One step forward, two steps back

Sadly, there is very little Paula Abdul in this post.

The Vatican issued a revised set of church guidelines Thursday to respond to the clerical sex abuse scandal, targeting priests who molest the mentally disabled as well as children, and defining child pornography as a canonical crime, but making few substantive changes to existing practice. (Full story here)

The Church is, let’s say, 1500 years old. Charitably, we could forget about the first 1000 years. We’ll chalk that stuff up to youthful exuberance. For past 500 years, the church has existed in its more-or-less present form – intimately involved in political power, having to deal with an increasingly-secular world. It took them 500 years to recognize that child pornography and the abuse of children and the mentally disabled are crimes. This only after condemnation from pretty much the entire world. Here’s a hint: when the world has to come together and bully you into passing rules against the abuse of children and the mentally disabled, you’re probably on the bad side of good.

But hey, they did it eventually, right? So bravo, we can finally all get off their back.

The Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor… defended the lack of any mention of the need to report abuse to police, saying all Christians were required to obey civil laws that would already demand sex crimes be reported.

This is exactly like the non-apology from a few weeks ago. If you pass rules that don’t do anything to solve the problem, you’ve done exactly nothing to help. You might as well have not passed the laws. If the Church was interested in even appearing to make amends, it would pass rules with some teeth, and bring about rigorous enforcement. Instead, they have elected to continue to hold themselves above secular authority, as though they have some legitimate Earthly power (which, incidentally, is the only type of power there is).

So they’ve passed a law, but the law is useless. So we’re no further ahead, but no big deal, right?

The new Vatican document also listed the attempted ordination of a woman as a “grave crime” to be handled by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, just as sex abuse is.

There cannot be any more proof in my mind that the Catholic Church does not understand why the world is upset. It doesn’t get that its claims to supernatural authority are meaningless, and increasingly rejected by the world at large. They can’t comprehend the fact that it’s not the simple matter of abuse that is making the world so angry – it’s the repeated attempts to cover it up and defy secular authority. They don’t get it, and it looks like they never will.

New elements in the text include treating priests who sexually abuse the mentally disabled — or an adult who “habitually lacks the use of reason” (emphasis mine) — with the same set of sanctions as those who abuse minors.

Surely that describes anyone who believes a thing these people say.

Movie Friday: The Real Jim Carrey

This would be funny if it wasn’t serious:

I am going to try taking this step-by-step.

0:30 – “I understood how thought was just an illusory thing”

Undoubtedly true for Mr. Carrey, who clearly has not thought one bit about the nonsense he’s about to spew out of his face-hole.

0:47 – “Thought is responsible for, if not all, most of the suffering we experience”

This means either one of two things. Either a) Jim Carrey is speaking of the ‘we’ in the room – rich, privileged people who don’t really suffer in any meaningful way; or b) he is completely ignorant of the multitude of people who suffer horribly every day because of lack of thought (and the resulting lack of food, or safety, or education, or human rights…). As someone who works as a thinker and a solver of problems, this is probably the most insulting thing to me personally in this video.

1:05 – “Who is it that is aware that I am thinking?”

Here you go, Jim. I hope this link is helpful.

1:29 – “I was suddenly aware… that I was bigger than what I do, I was bigger than my body…”

Subjective, personal experiences like this can be valuable. Everyone experiences them from time to time, particularly those who are being deeply introspective (or who are using LSD).

2:15 – “… and I want to take as many people with me as I possibly can, because the feeling is amazing.”

Is this the real Jim Carrey or the real Jim Jones?

2:28 – “It’s our intention, our intention is everything. Nothing happens on this planet without it; not one single thing has ever been accomplished without intention”

Ever fallen down? Ever been in a car accident? Neglect happens without intention, Jim. Suffering (the same kind of suffering that you think is caused by thinking) happens without intention, Jim. 5 billion years of life on the planet happened without intention, Jim. Channeling Deepak Chopra, are we Jim?

4:22 – “I’m so lucky to be part of this community, and to be doing something of value.”

Debatable. You at least gave me an excuse to scream at my computer screen, and enough fodder to write a blog post.

The world is a rough place, especially for those of us who will never read this blog post because they don’t have a computer, or electricity, or food. Improvements have been made and can be made by putting concentrated thought and effort into coming up with real, practicable solutions to problems. No problem has ever been solved by sitting around and waxing poetic about how suffering is caused by thought, and how we need to “be the universe”. That’s simply a load of arch-liberal hippie bullshit. I’m all for being aware of the individual’s membership in a larger entity. I’m all for the value of subjective experiences that take you outside your narrow ego-centric view. None of that is going to help anyone except you. It’s what you do in the world that matters, not the spiritual revelations you have in a semi-conscious state. If those revelations help you understand something about the world, then I applaud you, but magical thinking doesn’t solve problems. Action does.

Damn this video pisses me off…

Here’s something to make us all feel better: a marmot eating a cracker

Everybody must get stoned!

Aaaaand we’re back to Iran:

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a mother of two, faces imminent death by stoning after her appeals for clemency were denied. Ms Ashtiani had already been punished with flogging for what a court called an “illicit relationship”, when she was then charged with committing adultery.

The death penalty under any form is bad enough, but stoning? As if living in a theocracy wasn’t bad enough, if you step out of line you might get bludgeoned to death with stones for having a boyfriend after your husband dies – or at least being accused of doing so. There is a debate in many cases like this (particularly with ‘honour killings’ and homophobia laws) that what we’re talking about is a secular issue dressed up in religious clothing. We can put such debate aside in this case:

Under Iran’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, sex before marriage is punishable by 100 lashes, but married offenders are sentenced to death by stoning. The stones used must be large enough to cause the condemned pain, but not sufficient to kill immediately (emphasis mine).

(Gotta love religious rules. Not only do they specify the way in which a person must be executed, but they ensure the maximum amount of suffering possible. It takes a certain license for unabashed cruelty to write something like that into law, and only religious justification allows such license.)

That should be the first clue that your society is morally bankrupt: you must find a way to kill people for having sex, and in such a way as to cause them the maximum possible discomfort before they die. This is the reason the West cringes when Iran announces it intends to develop nuclear weapons. It’s not simple arrogance on behalf of the imperial powers, as many of my arch-liberal brethren like to claim. It’s not just that we want to keep ‘the club’ small or that Iran is a threat to American dominance – this is a country of people who murder people with stones for the crime of having sex. They’ve already demonstrated that they have the desire – what happens when they have the means to punish the entire world for its “sins”?

The government did a quick back-pedal after overwhelming condemnation from the international community (gotta love peer pressure) and said that the woman would not be stoned to death, but refused to specify whether or not her death sentence had been commuted. To be fair, apparently stoning is a rare punishment meted out to only the most deserving. Clearly, a woman who tried to move on after her husband died, was arrested, whipped and tortured into confessing crimes she now denies is an exemplar of those most deserving.

The tiiiiiimes they are a-changin’!

The 20th century, which saw some of the worst atrocities in the history of the world, also saw some of the greatest social victories. India accomplished its independence from Britain after a long and bloody struggle. A world was spurred to action to halt a racist and homicidal military political machine. Here in North America we saw the women’s suffrage movement finally force the establishment to officially recognize the fact that women are people, not property. Similarly, we saw many major battles won for black civil rights in North America, particularly in the United States, but also right here at home.

The latest battle seems to be the fight for gay rights. As LGBT people struggle to establish equal treatments and protections, the social zeitgeist seems to be moving in their favour. For example, this was front page news a couple weeks ago:

Vancouver Police announced charges Thursday against four men in two separate attacks on gays in Vancouver’s downtown core in recent weeks. Both attacks are being investigated as possible hate crimes, Const. Jana McGuinness said.

The fact that Vancouver has hate crimes is not exactly news, but the part that amazed me is not only that the arrests made front-page news, but how the police were able to apprehend the suspects so quickly:

In the Holtzman-Regier case, McGuinness said police got many tips from the public, especially after video footage of the suspects was released June 18. “It is so important that people get on the phone immediately and report these crimes to police,” she said. “The arrests are coming because we are getting the support and help of the public and we have victims who are willing to report these crimes.”

It seems that the days of victims of assault actually being victims is numbered. So too are the days when the public is willing to tolerate hate-motivated crimes against homosexuals. People are not content to perpetuate the status quo of systemic prejudice against this group of people (and, I hope, any group of people).

The part that I’m not wild about is the fact that the homophobic comments the attackers made can be admitted into court as aggravating factors, possibly netting a longer sentence. Similar to hate speech, I worry about hate crime legislation. I can almost understand the need to provide additional protection to groups that are particularly vulnerable to attack, but I am not a fan of legislating peoples’ feelings. If someone can show me data that hate crime legislation acts as an effective deterrent against assault, I’ll happily sign on; however, if they’re just a feel-good way to give longer prison terms to people whose views we don’t like then I have a big problem with that.

But yes, the social landscape appears to be becoming more equal. At least, if the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court is to be believed:

Two gay men who said they faced persecution in their home countries have the right to asylum in the UK, the Supreme Court has ruled. The panel of judges said it had agreed “unanimously” to allow the appeals from the men, from Cameroon and Iran.

The two men had to appeal their initial decision to the Supreme Court, because the initial ruling they received was that they wouldn’t face persecution if only they’d stop being so gay. Like, seriously guys. Why can’t you just hide your gayness in some kind of… enclosed space? Maybe like a bedroom? No, bedrooms are too big, and they have windows so people might be able to see. Maybe something smaller… with no windows… what could that be?

To my pleased shock and amazement, the presiding judge wrote a decision that I think will become a landmark in the gay rights struggle in the same way that Brown v. Board of Education is for the black civil rights movement:

Lord Hope, who read out the judgement, said: “To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is. Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight.”

That’s what equal rights means. Sadly, the government of Cameroon doesn’t seem to get that. If two straight people are allowed to walk down the street holding hands, or smooch on a sidewalk, or any number of things that couples like to do, then passing a set of laws forbidding gay people from doing those same behaviours is persecution. Saying that it’s only okay as long as you don’t get caught is ludicrous hypocrisy – akin to those people here in North America who complain about a gay agenda to ‘turn kids all queermosexual’, and that if they just stopped being so… well so gay all the time then they’d be safe from persecution. The problem isn’t with gay couples, the problem is with anyone who thinks that the rest of the world must conform to private bigotry.