Editor’s note: The Australian Prayer Network office is closed to allow staff to undertake major prayer assignments in restricted nations. This abridged newsletter was prepared prior to their departure for overseas and may therefore not contain up to date information. Full newsletter service will resume from 29 September.
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN DECLARES GAY RIGHTS TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER CULTURE AND TRADITION
Seeking to mobilize a global front against anti-gay violence and discrimination, Vice President Joe Biden has declared that protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions. Biden told a gathering of U.S. and international gay rights advocates that President Barack Obama has directed that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women around the world. “I don’t care what your culture is,” Biden told about 100 guests at the Naval Observatory’s vice presidential mansion. “Inhumanity is inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice.”
With anti-gay laws taking root in nearly 80 countries, Biden and other top White House officials met with religious, human rights and HIV health care advocates in a forum dedicated to promoting gay rights internationally. Biden, who has emerged as a leading gay rights advocate within the Obama administration, said that across United States government agencies officials have been instructed to make the promotion of gay rights abroad a priority. Where countries fail to move toward protections of LGBT people, he warned, “there is a price to pay for being inhumane.” Among those at the evening reception were leading gay rights activists and the ambassadors from Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
Earlier White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice cast the protection of gays from global discrimination, abuse and even death as one of the most challenging international human rights issue facing the United States. Biden called gay rights “the civil rights issue of our day.” “To achieve lasting global change, we need everyone’s shoulder at the wheel,” she said. “With more voices to enrich and amplify the message — the message that gay rights are straight-up human rights — we can open more minds.” Rice cautioned that the effort is difficult because laws limiting gay rights in some countries enjoy strong popular support. But she said cultural differences do not excuse human rights violations.
“Governments are responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and it is incumbent upon the state to foster tolerance and to reverse the tide of discrimination,” Rice said. The U.S. recently imposed visa bans on Ugandan officials who are violating the rights of gay people and others. Uganda passed a law that strengthened criminal penalties for gay sex and made life sentences possible for those convicted of breaking the law. Last year while in Senegal, Obama urged African leaders to extend equal rights to gays and lesbians. Senegal’s president said his country ” was not ready” to decriminalize homosexuality. Seven countries have laws imposing death sentences for gay sex and Brunei is on track to becoming the eighth one.
This latest forum was the latest administrative attempt by Obama to promote gay and lesbian rights both in the United States and abroad. Obama successfully pushed to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military and his administration stopped defending the Defence of Marriage Act years before the Supreme Court took it up. Obama has also announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Recently he also granted new benefits to same-sex couples, including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law.
FRENCH DOCTOR ACQUITTED OF HELPING 7 PATIENTS TO DIE
A French doctor was acquitted of poisoning charges after giving lethal injections to help seven terminally ill patients die, adding urgency to the growing debate on who can decide when a person is beyond treatment. Several relatives of Dr. Nicolas Bonnemaison’s patients had testified on his behalf. The case had drawn nationwide attention and emotion amid mounting calls in France to legalize euthanasia. It is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The decision came the same day Britain’s Supreme Court said that a ban on assisted suicide was incompatible with human rights.
The British decision was far-reaching. Although it dismissed the appeal from two severely disabled men who argued the law should be changed to allow doctors to legally kill them, the ruling suggested that Parliament change the law to be in line with human rights guarantees. Combined with court rulings in the case of a comatose Frenchman whose family is divided over whether to withdraw treatment, the cases cast new light on the legal struggle over medical treatments for the terminally ill or those in vegetative states. France’s top administrative court said doctors could withhold food and hydration for Vincent Lambert, saying he had made his wishes clear before the car accident six years ago that left him hospitalized.
The decision was overruled hours later by the European Court of Human Rights which ordered France to continue treatment until it can examine the case. The court has jurisdiction across Europe and member countries are bound by its rulings. Jean Paillot, a lawyer for Lambert’s parents said. “From our perspective, there is no reason to stop feeding or hydrating him.” In Britain, five of the nine judges concluded that the country’s ban on assisted suicide is incompatible with the right to private life, suggesting British politicians should amend the law to be in line with the human rights guaranteed under the European Convention.