Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Winter 1999-2000


by Brett Humphreys

In what may come to be seen as a sign of changing ethics in the use of the Internet, on 18th August 1999 the Rev. Fred Phelps’s notorious domain name mysteriously fell into the hands of gay Christians Kris Haight and Rich Mackey, who immediately redirected it to point to their own rival site God Loves Fags. Two days later, following threats of legal action, the domain name was back in the possession of Benjamin Phelps, who runs his grandfather’s nomadic site – a pragmatic move, no doubt, given that the Phelps clan includes at least 13 lawyers and quite literally has its own family law firm, Phelps Chartered. Disclaiming responsibility for the original misappropriation of the domain name, Mackey said: “We didn’t set out to be activists. But sometimes you just have to take the hand God deals you.” A mystery indeed!

The latest offering from the Phelps stable is God Hates America. This “sister” to godhatesfags seems almost moderate by comparison but is equally obsessed with sex and “sodomy”. Presumably the overall effect will be as self-defeating as Pat Robertson’s views on Scotland turned out to be. For the latest information on Fred and his kind, visit HateCheck, which incorporates the Fred Phelps Resource Page. The site is similar in aim to HateWatch, mentioned previously in this column, but concentrates specifically on anti-gay hate sites.

On 27th September the European Court of Human Rights delivered judgment in the cases Lustig-Prean and Beckett v. UK and Smith and Grady v. UK. As expected, the Court ruled that the UK Government’s policy of discharging members of the armed forces on grounds of sexual orientation violates Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Human Rights Documentation Database (HUDOC) provides the full text of both judgments, as of all the other judgments of the Court and findings of the European Commission of Human Rights going back to Dudgeon v. UK (1981) and beyond.

The outcome of the armed forces cases is a tribute to the work of the late Peter Duffy QC who, until his untimely death in March 1999, represented the applicants in these and many other human rights cases over recent years including a number of leading cases on issues of gender and sexuality, some of them in association with Stonewall. Those within the scope of HUDOC include the age-of-consent cases Wilde, Greenhalgh and Parry v. UK (dropped by the Commission following the partial law reform of 1994) and Sutherland v. UK (currently stayed), the gender reassignment case Sheffield and Horsham v. UK (lost by a narrow majority in 1998) and the less successful S&M cases Laskey, Jaggard and Brown v. UK and V., W., X., Y. and Z. v. UK (1995).

It remains to be seen what effect devolution and the Human Rights Act 1998 will have for lesbian and gay rights under UK law. In the meantime, given the extent to which progress so far has depended on action in the European courts, HUDOC remains a particularly valuable resource. The powerful full-text search facility makes it easy to locate cases on a given topic, and known cases can be found by simply entering the applicant’s surname as the title.

Outcast is the new monthly current affairs magazine launched in August 1999 by Chris Morris, whose own age-of-consent case, together with that of Euan Sutherland noted above, is the source of the present Government’s undertaking to change the law. The magazine is intended to “bring something new to the shallow ‘boyz’ culture that is currently dominating the gay press”. Like all the best magazines, Outcast provides an online selection of content from the current issue on its website. At the time of writing there is no archive of material from back issues but this is promised in due course.

The best known regular contributor to Outcast is Peter Tatchell, whose stand in 1998 against the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on homosexuality famously led to a rare prosecution under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act of 1860. His writings, sometimes controversial but invariably well-argued, have long been represented on the excellent OutRage! website, but he now also has his own personal site. Given his stated commitment to “the long and honourable tradition of ethical humanism”, it comes as no surprise that no fewer than three of the first six articles to be posted here are concerned with exposing the homophobic influence of some of the world’s major religions.

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Created : Sunday, 2000-01-30 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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