Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Changing attitudes on homosexuality

All cultures have their own values regarding appropriate and inappropriate sexuality. Some sanction same-sex love and sexuality, while others disapprove of such activities.

Many countries have also seen rising support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in modern times including the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws. Even some Christian churches support members of LGBT and welcome them as parishioners. In some States in the United States, LGBT adoption and recognition of LGBT parenting is permitted. This also includes anti-bullying legislation and student non-discrimination laws to protect LGBT children and/or students and anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing, hate crime laws providing enhanced criminal penalties for prejudice-motivated violence against LGBT people.

Despite the improvements towards the rights of the LGTB in the United States, more than 100 anti-LGTBQ (Q-Queers) bills have been tabled in the last six months in the US along with the killings of LGTBQ people. 

In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed its first resolution recognizing LGBT rights, which was followed up with a report from the UN Human Rights Commission documenting violations of the rights of LGBT people, including hate crime, criminalization of homosexuality, and outright

Public opinion on homosexual behavior is still sharply divided and yet it is rapidly changing.       However, in the not too distant past, a great many people in Westernized nations frowned on homosexuality. Being frowned on is far better than being executed as what happens to homosexuals in the Middle Eastern and North African countries.         

Unfortunate, the current of acceptance was not always given to the LGBT class of citizens. As of May 2016, 73 countries as well as five sub-national jurisdictions  have laws criminalizing homosexuality with most of them located in Asia and Africa. However, in 2006 that number was 92 so some of the nations that condemned homosexuality changed their attitudes towards homosexuals.

Americans now overwhelmingly support basic civil liberties and freedom of expression for gays and lesbians, in contrast to the sharp division on such issues back in the 1970s. The rise in support for same-sex marriage has been especially dramatic over the last two decades. It went from 11 percent approval in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010, compared to 40 percent who were opposed, producing a narrow plurality in favor for the first time. The report is based on findings of the latest General Social Survey, conducted in 2010.

There is a large generation gap on the issue of same-sex marriage. While 64 percent of those under 30 back same-sex marriage, only 27 percent of those 70 and older support it. Those figures don’t surprise me at all considering that the older people lived in an era when homosexual sexual relations were considered as being a criminal act. I am in my eighties and when I served in the Canadian Navy, I remember reading in the Navy Rules in 1951; that a homosexual act could get an offender 14 years in prison.

The change toward acceptance of homosexuality began in the late 1980s and that acceptance has remained relatively constant. However, In 1973, 70 percent of people felt same-sex relations was always wrong and in 1987, 75 percent held that same view. By 2000, however, that number dropped to 54 percent and by 2010 was down to 43.5 percent. And yet, there are people who still condemn homosexuality.

In April of this year, prosecutors in Los Angeles charged a 69-year-old man with a hate crime, accusing him of killing his son because he was gay. Shehada Khalil Issa faces a charge of premeditated murder in the death of his son, Amir Issa outside the family home in the North Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.. Police are still investigating the death of Amir Issa's mother, whose body was found inside the home. This man (like many Muslims) simply won’t accept the changes that have come about towards homosexuality.

Aguirre and Fernandez were accused of torturing and killing their eight-year-old child, Gabriel Fernandez for several months, calling him gay, beating him when he played with dolls, striking him with belts and baseball bats, forcing him to eat cat feces and his own vomit, dousing him in pepper spray and locking him inside a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth and refusing to let him out to use the bathroom. In 2013, he was discovered with a cracked skull, several broken ribs, and BB pellets in his lung and groin. He died two days later. Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez were charged with capital murder shortly thereafter.

In 2012, former Marine, John Kelly O'Leary, 21 was arrested in the beating of two men outside a popular gay bar in Los Angeles and faced hate-crime charges for using anti-gay slurs during the attack. Following a verbal exchange with one of two alleged victims, O’Leary turned and began punching the first alleged victim as he continued to shout anti-gay slurs. The victim, who suffered a concussion and a fractured hip during the altercation, was knocked unconscious. As others joined in to break up the fight, O’Leary began punching and choking a second male victim before police arrived. O'Leary was charged with two felonies; battery with serious bodily injury and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. He faced up to eight years in prison, which includes time for the hate crime. O'Leary was charged with two felonies – battery with serious bodily injury and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury – and faces up to eight years in prison, which includes time for the hate crime allegation

Brandon McInerney was 14 in 2008 and was tried in a Los Angeles courtroom as an adult on charges of first-degree murder, use of a handgun and a hate crime for shooting to death a fellow student who was gay. The student was an openly gay teenager and was seated in the middle of the classroom with two dozen students and their teacher when McInerney shot him in the back of the head, resulting in his death. McInerney was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Thousands of people paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre during a memorial service in downtown Orlando. Many of those who attended the memorial service sobbed as the names of the 49 victims were read aloud. Other memorials were held around the world as a tribute to those who lost their lives during that massacre.

Compare the feelings and attitudes towards gays nowadays and the feelings and attitudes of people towards gays back in 1973.

The terrorist attack in Orlando that killed 49 and wounded 53 was the largest mass killing of gay people in American history, but before that horror occurred, there is a largely forgotten arson attack that took place in New Orleans.  

On June 24, 1973, an arsonist doused the stairs of the UpStairs Lounge with lighter fluid, set it aflame and rang the doorbell. Someone answered the door, unleashing a fireball into the room. One group of people fled out a back exit, but another was trapped across the room, caught between the flames and floor-to-ceiling windows fitted with metal bars. When firefighters extinguished the blaze, they found a pile of charred bodies, some embracing, others pressed against the windows. The fire killed 32 people.

This happened during an era of pernicious anti-gay stigma. Churches refused to bury the victims’ remains. Their deaths were mostly ignored and sometimes mocked by politicians and the media. A joke made the rounds in workplaces and was repeated on the radio: “Where will they bury the queers? In fruit jars!”

Congregants from the New Orleans chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBT-affirming group, were meeting there after services. The Rev. Bill Larson was among the dead. His charred body was left slumped against the window bars in full view of passers-by for hours. His mother refused to collect his ashes because she was too embarrassed to be in public when everyone would know that she had a gay son. Three victims were buried in unmarked graves in a potter’s field. They dug holes in the ground and put each of the three victims a bag and covered them with dirt.

The fire was an open wound for the gay community in New Orleans for years. No one was charged with the attack however a man viewed by many as the primary suspect was never arrested. He committed suicide a year after the fire he caused.

What took place in New Orleans that year was shameful. Nowadays, if a church refused to bury a gay person, protesters would block the entrance to the church so that its congregation wouldn’t be hearing filth from a bad priest.

I believe that the day will arrive when members of the LGBT will be free of all forms of abuse and will live their lives in the manner in which they choose as the rest of us do. 

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