From Turin, Italy:
Conference - June 4, 2002
Holland Did It -
An Interview with Kees Waaldijk
Douglas Elliott praying for Cardinal
Ratzinger's enlightenment at one of the many beautiful alters in Turin's Duomo
di San Giovanni (home of the Shroud). Click on picture to enlarge.
Turin's Museum of Ancient Art demonstrates how a building's use and architecture
vary over the centuries to remain vital in a living city. (click on picture to
Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen, European Court of Human Rights at the Turin Conference
in June, 2002
relations are accepted as family life, discrimination, in general, seems less
easy to justify."
June 8, 2002
Royal gardens - Fountain (click to enlarge)
relations between persons of the same-sex among women are considered to be harmless
since this would alledgedly not differ from assistance rendered in personal hygiene."
Judge Dr. Hofmeister describing the disparity in treatment of individuals
(and genders) based on sexual orienation
Mr. Justice Edwin Cameron (South Africa), the moderator of the panel of distinguished
jurists at the Turin conference on marriage and partnerships. Judges shared their
perspectives on human rights.
Male sculpted figure in a park in Turin
Hans Ytterberg, Office of the Ombudsman against Discrimination because of Sexual
Orientation (Sweden) at the Turin conference.
Partnerships and Parenting
in the 21st Century
June 5-8, 2002
| Turin, Italy
International Lesbian and Gay Law Association and InformaGay (Italy) organized
to explore legal issues related to marriage, partnerships and parenting. We were
honoured to be the keynote speakers on Friday, June 7. The following are notes
and pics that we took during our inspiring time in Turin. Thanks To ILGLAW for
the invitation and the participants for an incredible time!
Bourassa and Joe Varnell
Lesbian and Gay Law Association
The Gay Agenda
was the final day of the conference. Everyone had been up late the night before
at the gala dinner, so it wasn't unpredictable to see the conference start a bit
late. But Douglas Elliott surprised everybody when
he launched into a speach in Italian - his maiden voyage in our host country's
language. I was lost in the vowels, as I heard his voice luxuriate in unfamiliar
continued in Italian long enough to show he could go on, when he switched to English
for the rest of us in the room.
International Lesbian and Gay Law Association, or ILGLAW, is a relatatively young
organization and may not be familiar to some of you," Douglas said. "In
1999, Robert Wintemute organized a wonderful
conference at King's college in London, England which many of you attended. We
all owe a great deal to Rob for giving us that marvolous opportunity to connect."
that first conference, "a number of us concluded that the electrifying energy
that so inspired us in London should be
given a permanent framework." And so ILGLAW was formed. Douglas became its
acting president until the fall of 2000 when the group had their first official
meeting in Amsterdam. They created a board with one male and one female representative
from each of the major regions of the world. Douglas became the first elected
is a gay agenda," Douglas said. "Equality! And we shall not rest until
our people have freedom and dignity in every corner of the globe. From the humid
cities of Asia to the deserts of Africa, from the Alps to the Andies, from Afghanistan
to Zanzibar, and yes, even into the Vatican itself. We shall not rest until all
of our people around the world can join in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. and sing out, 'Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.'"
final formal gathering of the conference was for a judicial forum. A rare opportunity
to get an inside look at the courts, and personal perspectives from its justices.
European Court of Human Rights
Family Life or Private
Thomassen began by explaining that she was sharing her personal view, and not
speaking for the ECHR,
which has 41 judges for a possible 800 million possible applicants.
law," Thomassen began, "should play a much bigger role in the issues
concerning living together. When it comes to, for example social security, legal
positions in respect to children, these kind of issues should, in my opinion,
mainly be protected in terms of family life, more than in terms of private life.
These issues concern sharing life and should not be discussed in terms of sex
or sexual orientation but as rights of individuals to have a life together that
should be protected against state intervention, and be supported by positive state
measures. The point
of view the point of view that living together as man and woman is to be considered
as family life, and living together as same-sex couples is private life is not
justified and leads to lesser protection of those [same-sex couples] living together."
went on to discuss case law in the ECHR and in particular, she looked at the definition
of "private life" in the case of Pretty vs. the United Kingdom:
"... the concept of “private life” is a broad term not susceptible
to exhaustive definition. It covers the physical and psychological integrity of
a person (X. and Y. v. the Netherlands judgment of 26 March 1985, Series A no.
91, p. 11, § 22). It can sometimes embrace aspects of an individual’s physical
and social identity (Mikulic v. Croatia, no. 53176/99 [Sect. 1], judgment of 7
February 2002, § 53). Elements such as, for example, gender identification, name
and sexual orientation and sexual life fall within the personal sphere protected
by Article 8 (see e.g. the B. v. France judgment of 25 March 1992, Series A no.
232-C, § 63; the Burghartz v. Switzerland judgment of 22 February 1994, Series
A no. 280-B, § 24; the Dudgeon v. the United Kingdom judgment of 22 October 1991,
Series A no. 45, § 41, and the Laskey, Jaggard and Brown v. the United Kingdom
judgment of 19 February 1997, Reports 1997-1, § 36). Article 8 also protects a
right to personal development, and the right to establish and develop relationships
with other human beings and the outside world (see, for example, Burghartz v.
Switzerland, Commission’s report, op. cit., § 47; Friedl v. Austria, Series A
no. 305-B, Commission’s report, § 45).
state, Thomassen concluded, has a "positive obligation" to encourage
the development of relationships, and then of course recognize them. When the
private life becomes one with another, family is formed.
think same-sex partnerships, and living together, should be more discussed in
terms of family life. When relations are accepted as family life, discrimination,
in general, seems less easy to justify. It's easier to say, 'There is no family
life' than to say, 'There is a family life, but it's an inferior one'.
law, in the European Union, is under national control, while individual rights
are guaranteed by the EU. In order for marriages to be portable, family law would
either have to come under EU control, or be harmonized across the member states
in Europe. Whereas
in Canada, a federal legislative body (Parliament) is already empowered to control
family law in its member provinces. The anticipated removal of same-sex restrictions,
and subsequent implementation across 10 provinces is seen, by some in the EU,
as a future lesson for similar change in Europe and elsewhere.
Hofmeister began by describing the inequities in Austrian law, where she is a
"is considered to be less dangerous to the public than male homosexual orientation,"
Dr. Hofmeister explained. "As an example, I may only mention a ruling of
the Consititutional Court from 1989 in which the higher age of protection in cases
of male homosexuality is considered to be justified in Article 209 of the Criminal
Code, and sexual relations between persons of the same-sex among women are considered
to be harmless since this would alledgedly not differ from assistance rendered
in personal hygiene."
conference theatre erupted in laughter.
can imagine that Freud could only be Austrian, when we develop such laws,"
Dr. Hofmeister said. "In effect, sexual self-determination and sexual orientation
are not respected legal categories in Austrian legal reality."
classification of a person by others with respect to gender identities, sexuality,
and assumed sexual orientation of that person, are essential criterial for answering
the question whether a person, as a legal subject, is recognized by society and
respected as being equal, or whether this classification, at first sight, causes
derogatory attitudes to be adopted towards that person - discrimination, and thus
violation of fundamental human rights. Today,
in fact, sexual orientation should belong to people's rights by birth."
society's shift to extend human rights to homosexuals "would result in a
change of paradigm in the value system of a society based idly on heterosexual
marriage, hitherto paternalistic, gender hierarchical ... our common basic assumptions
would have to be left for good. Instead, people would be respected and recognized
for their manifold talents, inclinations, and personal existance and be placed
as individuals in the centre of the legal system" rather than outside it,
reach this goal, we all must play a role, educating one-on-one or in group situations.
Dr. Hofmeister said, "human rights education is nothing but information about
a value system. It is a belief assuming that human rights are universal and indivisible,
needs to run through-out society and into the courts, where judges can contribute
to the realization of human rights.
requires a permanent process of awareness, education, and imparting knowledge,
as well as the willingness to deal with legal systems from other contries and
to learn from them. The development of consistutional states in Europe has shown
that the transformation of value systems in a society is implemented by interacting
with and transforming legal systems."
self-described heterosexual feminist concluded by reminding to look within for
our own opportunities to transform.
all can never stop trying to achieve further successes in the field of fundamental
human rights. Even those discriminated [against] may run the risk of practicing
discrimination themselves. This is what is particularly difficult in the realization
of human rights."
Judge, Court of Appeals, Stockholm
Ytterberg is on a leave of absence from the Court of Appeals in Sweden in
order to serve as the Swedish
Ombudsman against Discrimination because of Sexual Orientation (a six year
described a need for jurists to support one another when they "dare to do
the right thing".
would submit," Ytterberg said, "that there is a very strong culture
of conforming among judiciary. It is a problem."
that doesn't stop Ytterberg in having faith that more and more judges will deliver
human rights to homosexuals.
we can make a difference, we must make a difference," Judge Ytterberg concluded.
be transcribing more of our recordings of the conference proceedings, in order
to bring you some highlights, in the near future. Stay tuned!