Category: Secularism

Josh Kutchinsky: What is wrong with a Secular Europe?

Josh Kutchinsky is a trustee of the British Humanist Association and the Secretary of the Central London Humanists

What could be wrong with a secular Europe?
It would be a Europe where your right to your religion or belief is respected.

Here is what it says in the European Convention (formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms):

“Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes  freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with     others and in public or private, and to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching,  practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as     are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
(note: Sorry about the ‘his’  in the first paragraph but this document was drafted a long time ago in the year of my birth,  1950.)

Most European countries are signed up to the Convention. So, you may ask, what am I concerned about?
Well, actually at present 47 Countries have signed up and there are some non-European countries with observer status and one non-country. Guess the non-country? Yes. The Holy See !  see also this article.
Much of Russia is in Europe and it is not a signatory.
Belarus is not a signatory and neither is Kosova or Macedonia.
But point 2 of article 9 does provide something of a get-out-of-jail clause. Who is to decide on these matters?  The answer is, that as with any human institution (and I don’t know of any other!), these are political projects always and inevitably in a state of revision. There are political forces in many countries who would like to revise the Convention so as to allow certain sorts of bigotry and prejudice to rule. Others, like some in the UK, are even floating the idea of withdrawing from the convention altogether.

Don’t those who object to secular states have any point at all?
Of course some may do, but as far as I can see, this is invariably because they subvert the meaning of the word.  They may be misled by how authoritarian and non-democratic regimes have used the word. As far as I know there have been no brutal regimes which have been ‘secular’ in the sense of making no distinction between the  religion or belief of their citizens in their treatment of them.
Others demand the right to discriminate and the right to influence public policy by means of  privileged access to the seats of power. They argue that they are the purveyors and guardians of a universal morality, which is mystically truly objective  and grounded in the obscure nature of a supreme deity.
It is their manner to often be obtuse and mendacious. For example, they equate secular with material wealth, and with an anything goes mentality. They equate secular with atheist. They equate abortion (and contraception) with murder. They equate sex and relationship education with promiscuity and licentiousness. They equate secular with a  particular political system, usually of the so called ‘left’, socialism or communism. They equate secular with a philosophy capable of determining right from wrong, and so on.
Some claim that their religion has provided the  foundations of our societies and that they are therefore entitled to protect, for example, Holy Christendom  from contamination and expropriation. They, the true believers, are the hosts and the rest of us are  the guests. In countries where they think immigrants and those of other religions have been treated well, they see those who pursue a secular agenda as ungrateful and non-patriotic.

So what would a Secular Europe look like?
Countries can have their own political systems. It is difficult though to imagine how an authoritarian  dictatorship could provide the checks and balances required to  ensure true secularity i.e. the  equitable treatment by the state  of all people regardless of their religion or belief  and ensuring that no religion or belief organisation is given privileged access to the state or to power within it.  It takes little imagination to realise that there must be a single legal system with, within its jurisdiction, one law for all. The law must also be subject to some form of constitutional guarantee of the citizen’s rights – this can be achieved, in part,  by signing up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention. A free press and an an independent judiciary are also clearly necessary. The exact nature of these institutional arrangements are always under development. There is a sort of experiment going on. It is highly unlikely that, in the near future, there is any one system that will suit all. But as has already been said secularity does not dictate the system it just sets certain parameters which must be respected.

If you agree with me, then you need to make your voice heard. Join us in the Secular Europe Campaign  There is a focus on human rights because without respect for human rights there can be no Secular Europe in which the rights of all are respected.
On Saturday 14th September the Central London Humanists are organising this year’s March and Rally for a Secular Europe –  If you can’t make it then please try and spread the word and indicate your support
If you are a tweeter you could tweet the following – Join the Secular Europe March. Be seen be heard be Secular. 14th Sept 2013. Equal rights for all #SECM2013

Mention it on your facebook page and in other social media.

Here are some quick links
Event page on facbook:
Event page on Meetup:

Support a Secular Europe and a secular world – you know it makes sense!

Josh Kutchinsky | The lunchtime observers | 29 August 2013

Stephen Fry: An Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC

Stephen Fry compares Russian Winter Olympics to Nazi-hosted 1936 Olympics in letter to David Cameron.

Dear Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and Members of the International Olympic Committee,

I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, three years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.

Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milanov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).

I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.

“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” so wrote Edmund Burke. Are you, the men and women of the IOC going to be those “good” who allow evil to triumph?

The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country. For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever and wipe away any of that glory. The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.

I am begging you to resist the pressures of pragmatism, of money, of the oily cowardice of diplomats and to stand up resolutely and proudly for humanity the world over, as your movement is pledged to do. Wave your Olympic flag with pride as we gay men and women wave our Rainbow flag with pride. Be brave enough to live up to the oaths and protocols of your movement, which I remind you of verbatim below.

Rule 4 Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace

Rule 6: Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement

Rule 15 Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education

I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom i have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped pushed gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.

Yours in desperate hope for humanity

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry | August 7th, 2013

Protest this Saturday 10th of August in London on Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street, from 1pm to 4pm.
STOP the LGBT violations in Russia NOW !

EU: The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning Russian homophobic censorship law

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning Russian MPs for passing a draconian homophobic censorship law, with Labour MEP Michael Cashman saying “hate speech” from President Putin and others has resulted in the “barbaric killing of gay men”.

Several violent homophobic killings have taken place in Russia since the start of 2013 – the most recent involving a 39-year-old man in a village on the Kamchatka.

On the 13th of June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the “anti-propaganda” law voted in Russia’s federal Duma earlier that week.

It fines anyone organising a gay pride event or giving information about LGBT issues to those under the age of 18.

Members of the European Parliament noted that “[Russian] federal authorities have done nothing to stop discriminatory legislation banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ from coming into effect in nine regions of Russia”.

The Parliament said it was “deeply concerned by the negative consequences of the adoption of a federal law on ‘homosexual propaganda’, which could increase discrimination and violence against LGBTI individuals”.

The Council of Europe also condemned Russia’s new laws, which unduly restrict free speech in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that these laws breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Russia.

Michael Cashman, the British Labour MEP and co-president of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “hate speech from Putin and others had resulted in the barbaric killing of gay men”.

“This is unacceptable and uncivilised. The EU must continue to systematically express its strongest opposition to laws that restrict freedom of expression”, the MEP added.

The Austrian MEP Ulrike Lunacek MEP, who is also co-president of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “Not a month passes without Russia becoming less and less of a democracy. In addition to the propaganda law, the ‘Foreign Agents’ law also places undue pressure on NGOs.”

“Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev are the most dangerous same-sex couple in Europe these days; the EU and the Council of Europe need to up the pressure against Russia after these terrible laws are passed.”

Pink News | Scott Roberts | 14 June 2013

UK: protest in London (opposite Downing Street) against the Russian anti-gay laws – 10th of August 2013


Protest Details:
Static protest and signing of register of protest

Date: August 10, 2013
Location: Richmond Terrace, Westminster SW1A 2JL
Time: 1.00pm to 4.00pm

The nearest tube station is Westminster but it is also close to Embankment.



STOP the LGBT violations in Russia NOW.

In 2012 The Russian government banned all gay pride events throughout the country for the next 100 years.

In 2013, The Russian government adopted a trifecta of anti LGBT bills basically criminalizing homosexuality. One bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. This law imposes heavy fines for using the media or internet to promote “non-traditional relations.”

Secondly, the government made it illegal for the adoption of Russian children by gay couples or any single person who comes from a country that recognizes marriage equality.

Thirdly, a bill has just been passed giving authorities the rights to arrest foreign nationals whom they suspect being LGBT or pro gay and detain them for up to 14 days.

There is talk in the media of the next step being the removal of children from Russian homes, natural or adoptive, from parents who are, or are suspected of being LGBT.

We are witnessing imagery in the media showing unspeakable violence towards LGBT people. We see evidence that the new laws are being broadly interpreted by the Russian public and by the legal system to unfairly and violently persecute, intimidate and vilify LGBT people. This violence must stop, and the laws must be repealed.

We are organizing a peaceful static protest for our Russian LGBT family, with whom we show solidarity. We want our Russian brothers and sisters to be free from persecution and to have the freedom to love without fear.

We call on David Cameron, the UK Parliament and the G20 to urge the Russian government to repeal these laws and to provide the same level of human rights protection to all of its citizens regardless of their sexuality and gender.

Facebook Event Page:


Video: Band creates video protesting recent Russian anti-gay laws


A band has dedicated a new single from its debut album to supporting gay and lesbian people in Russia, and in opposition to recently passed anti-gay laws.

The track Moscow, by band Autoheart contains a strong message of opposition to the laws, which federally banned homosexual “propaganda”, and which have been widely regarded as a step backwards for LGBT rights in the country.

In the description for the video, the band says the lyrics are about the “daft optimism of being in love”, but then goes on to note the passage of the laws.

The video contains an image of two soldiers kissing in front of the Kremlin, as an act of defiance against the law. The band notes Section 28, similar legislation passed in the UK 1987 by the Tory Government under Margaret Thatcher.

The description reads; “We are lucky in Britain to have laws that mean whether we are gay, straight, bisexual or anything in between, our relationships are recognised and our rights protected by law. But in Russia there is an anti-gay crisis happening right now: their government does not want to afford their people those same rights and are trying to criminalise even the discussion of gay equality.

“Something similar happened in Britain not long ago: Section 28, brought in by Thatcher’s Tory party in the Eighties to stop teachers from talking about same-sex relationships in a positive way, was only repealed in 2003.

“These laws only serve to protect intolerance, ignorance, homophobia and hate crimes… In our video, two gay Russian soldiers kiss in front of the Kremlin — yet just last month same a group of same-sex couples in Moscow were violently attacked and then arrested for doing just this.”

There has been an international outcry recently, as several pieces of legislation have passed through the Russian Parliament, banning or inhibiting the rights of LGBT people.

The upper house of the Russian Parliament voted last month to approve both a bill banning adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples and the nationwide anti-”propaganda” bill banning the promotion of “non-traditional” relationships to minors.

Earlier this month the Duma, or lower parliamentary house, unanimously voted 443-0 to approve the draft law on adoption, as well as related amendments to Russian family law.

The bill, which has since been signed by President Vladimir Putin, bans foreign same-sex couples and unmarried individuals in countries where same-sex marriage is legal from adopting Russian children.

Last month, actress Tilda Swinton was pictured flying a rainbow flag in Moscow, at the St Basil’s Cathedral, in a gesture of solidarity with the LGBT community. 

The song was taken from the band’s debut album Punch, which is available to buy from 15 July. The video was directed by Gavin Leisfield, and will be available from 8 July.

The band encourages supporters to sign an AllOut petition, which already contains over 200,000 signatures, and calls from President Putin and other world leaders to act against the anti-gay legislation.

Joseph Patrick McCormick | Pink News | July 2013

UK: Hundreds of pro and anti gay marriage protest in London

Several hundreds of protestors crowded London’s Trafalgar Square rallying against and for marriage equality, this afternoon. Photo by Nicolas Chinardet

Several hundreds of pro and anti marriage equality protestors rallied to London’s Trafalgar Square, this afternoon.

The anti-equality protest started today (24 March) at 2pm and was organized by the French La Manif Pour Tous (March For All) campaign group.

Over twenty young children were forced to stand at the base of Nelson’s Column, shouting ‘Uphold Marriage’ as well as anti-gay slurs and holding banners in the freezing cold against gay marriage.

Organizers claimed as many as 2,000 people participated in their protest against gay marriage.

London co-ordinator Damien Fournier Montgieux, criticized the UK and French governments’ bid to legalize marriage equality: ‘Almost out of nowhere we are suddenly faced with a huge challenge to the future of marriage and the family in both France and the UK.

‘There has been no warning or consultation with the people.

‘It is children and the future generations that will suffer most as a result of these unjust changes.

‘This is now a pan-European challenge and it needs a pan-European response’.

One of the main speakers, Alan Craig, of the Anti-gay ‘Anglican Mainstream’ group declared that the UK and France are ‘united’ by a ‘willingness to stand up against sudden attacks on the vital institution of marriage’.

He slammed the UK prime minister, for supporting gay marriage, saying ‘David Cameron has bananas in his ears. He is not listening to us. The government are not listening to us’.

Despite organizes saying they were against homophobia, Craig alleged that ‘two men cannot be naturally intimate and consume one another by an activity’.

Other protestors shouted against adoption by ‘homosexuals who have an “interest” in children’.

Although fewer in numbers, the pro-equality protestors voiced their opposition with rainbow flags, shouting ‘shame on you!’ and ‘no bigots here!’.

‘The protest was supported by the Secular Europe Campaign, a coalition of over 80 European secularist associations. In particular members of the British Humanist Association, the Central London HumanistsNational Secular Society and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, were there today standing for universal human rights and equal marriage’ told Marco Tranchino, one of the organizers, to Gay Star News.

Student Eliza Goroya showed her support for marriage equality and anti-bigotry by going bare-breasted FEMEN style.

She tweeted: ‘Just went FEMEN against the anti-equality bigots at Trafalgar Sq. Feels good to be on the right side of history’.

Student Eliza Goroya showed her support for marriage equality and anti-bigotry by going bare-breasted FEMEN style. Photo by Nicolas Chinardet.

Nicolas Chinardet, blogger and LGBT rights advocate French ex-pat who lives in London told Gay Star news: ‘Most of the anti-gay protestors were French white upper middle class.

‘I found it particularly strange that the Manif Pour Tous protestors were talking about children’s rights, yet they made toddlers stand out in the cold and forced them to say things they probably don’t event understand’.

Chinardet, who is also a GSN contributor, also said that ‘despite the organizers claiming they are a grass roots campaign group without funding, they certainly had banners, leaflets and t-shirts which appear to have been well financed’.

‘I also find it curious that the Manif Pour Tous say they represent the mainstream and are not a religious campaign group, yet it sported religious figures, including Craig, the Anglican priest, evangelical groups and even a monk’.

Today’s protest in London coincided with larger protest by the Manif Pour Tous in Paris.

The National Assembly of France has already voted for the gay marriage bill which was last week approved by law commission of the French Senate; the bill will be put to a vote in the Senate in just over a week’s time.

The final text of the legislation will now be voted on by the full Senate in 15 days time.

The ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill’ for England and Wales had its first reading on 24 January and debated in the House of Commons on 5 February.

The bill was later approved on second reading in a 400–175 vote.

Gay Star News | Dan Littauer | 24th March 2013

Ireland: The Magdalene Laundries report confirms the need to keep church and state matters separate

Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny

It takes an age to squeeze much remorse out of the Irish government, doesn’t it? In 1999, after decades of child abuse in Catholic-run organisations, it finally issued “a sincere and long-overdue apology” to the victims and set up a Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which took nine years to present its findings.
Now the government has been told – by a report prompted two years ago by the UN Committee Against Torture – that the Irish state colluded in sending 30,000 women to the infamous Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996.

The prime minister, Enda Kenny, didn’t apologise to the families of the women who’d been incarcerated in these hellish institutions despite committing no crime. He said: “The stigma [of] the branding together of all the residents… in the Magdalene Laundries needs to be removed.” No, it doesn’t. The stigma of the Laundries will survive as a reminder of how inhumanly innocent people can be treated by supposedly charitable institutions.

These were places where “loose girls” or “fallen women” could be packed off to, girls impregnated by their fathers or uncles or the local priest, girls who were considered too flightly or flirtatious or headstrong to be biddable members of society. They could be put to work all day, washing sheets for the military, fed on bread and dripping, forbidden to speak and offered no way out, or any explanation about why they were imprisoned. Half of them were teenagers, doomed to spend their best years in a workhouse, being humiliated by nuns, told they’d offended God and that their parents didn’t want them.

The Laundries’ existence isn’t news. People have been familiar with their cosy-sounding name for years. Joni Mitchell wrote a song about them on her 1994 album Turbulent Indigo. Candida Crewe wrote a novel about them in 1996. Miramax produced the 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, left, directed by Peter Mullan. The only people seemingly oblivious to their existence are Irish politicians.

Why they stayed oblivious is pretty clear. Ireland has had a chronic problem of keeping church and state matters apart. Government and church traditionally, if tacitly, support each other – which meant, in the past, the authorities turning a blind eye to abusive priests. The girls sent to the Magdalene Laundries had committed no crime – they were accused of committing sin – but they could be taken by Gardai and locked away in prisons funded by the state.

No wonder the government didn’t want the ghastly business coming into the light. It’s vital Mr Kenny tries to frame some response to the victims’ families beyond feeling sorry for what the victims endured. And the Magdalene report confirms the importance of keeping church and state matters separate – even if, as we’ve seen in this week’s historic Commons vote, the institutions are heading for a fight.

The Independent | John Walsh | 6th February 2013

EU: Pussy Riot case goes to Strasbourg

Lawyers for three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot are contesting their convictions in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Natalia Tolokonnikova were sentenced to two years in prison for their irreverent “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral last February against Vladimir Putin’s return to Russian presidency.

Ms Samutsevich was later released on appeal.

The complaint filed on Wednesday alleges that the group’s conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial.

The conviction on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” has sparked global outrage, drawing attention to Russia’s intolerance of dissent under Mr Putin.

Breaking News IE | 7th February 2013

UK’s historic day for equality

Same-sex marriage has been approved in England and Wales by a big majority in a key vote in Parliament. The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225. But this is just the first of several votes needed for the bill to pass.

Member of Parliament Mike Freer, who is in a civil partnership, spoke passionately for equality in the debate. His fundamental argument was based on the fact that if equality exists, it must exist on all levels.

He told me outside the parliament that although he was privileged to be elected MP, his proudest day was when he started his civil partnership. Watch the interview here.

Reverend David Braid came all the way from Liverpool to call gay people paedophiles and accuse gay teachers of teaching their students to “become” gay. He said his wife had to cancel an operation because she was told she may get blood transfusion from homosexuals. He said he wanted to help gay people because they carried dangerous diseases. He was very confused about everything.

But the argument put forward by equality campaigners revolved around humans being treated as humans.

“Those who are oppose same sex marriage are basically saying that they support discrimination, and that gay couples are unworthy. That’s profoundly insulting. In a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law,” high-profile gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told me.

Watch campaigners who spoke to euronews here.

Stonewall is a major organisation that defends gay and lesbian rights. Their spokesman Andy Wasley told me Home Office figures show more than 4,000 hate crimes a year against gay people in the UK. This is appalling considering this country is one of the most tolerant in the world.

He also criticised the language used by some of the parliamentarians during the debate. Watch the interview here.

The bill is passed and it is truly a historic day for equality. But some important questions remain: Why is there a debate on this subject in the first place? Why sexuality of people should be ground for discrimination against them? This is the 21st century and we are at the heart of the so-called “civilised” world, but still we categorise people as heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual and so on and so forth. To me, this division is as absurd as categorising people with their skin colour – a totally false argument. We are only people, nothing else and nothing more.

Caroline Lucas Green Party MP concluded:

“There’s still a long way to go. Changing people’s values and culture takes a long time. Sometimes you have to change the laws first if you can, and that’s what we are doing now. And I think, you know, in a few years time people will look back to today and think what was all the fuss about.”

Follow euronews London correspondent Ali May’s updates on Twitter:

EuroNews | 6th February 2013

French MPs approve key part of gay marriage bill

France has taken an big step towards allowing same-sex marriage and giving gay couples the right to adopt children.

The Assembly in Paris approved a clause that is central in the controversial draft law by 249 votes to 97.

If the bill is passed as whole, this vote means two people will no longer have to be of different gender to have the right to marry each other.

The planned reform has already led to vigorous debate and robust opposition. There were gatherings to protest against the parliament’s vote in towns and cities all over France.

Demonstrating in Paris against a change in the law, Christine Rosset said: “Marriage has a very specific connotation. It’s a mother and a father who aim to have children. So it’s not two people of the same sex. That’s outside the nature of the word marriage.”

The French Assembly began debating the bill as a whole earlier in the week.
Such are the sentiments that it has aroused that more than 5,000 amendments to the draft have been presented.

Even with MPs working through the weekends, the debate is expected to last two weeks.

EuroNews | 3rd Febraury 2013

Icelandic Parliament passes life stance equality law

Hope Knutsson, President of Sidmennt, The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association

Today,  January 30, 2013, the Icelandic Parliament (Althing) passed a law which gives secular life stance organizations the right to apply for equal legal status with religions. The new law amends the current law about registered religious organizations. Thus, for the first time in Icelandic history, the government recognizes and guarantees equality between secular and religious life stances!

Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association has been lobbying for such a change for more than 10 years and celebrates this historic turning point. As soon as the law takes effect, Sidmennt will apply to the Ministry of the Interior for registration which will guarantee equal rights and freedom of conscience to its 300 members.  Sidmennt is grateful to the Minister of the Interior, Ogmundur Jonasson, who introduced and championed this human rights bill and to all those members of Parliament who voted in favor of it.

An additional improvement provided by this law is that newborn babies will no longer automatically be registered into the religion of the mother, but rather according to the religious or life stance registration of both parents, and only if the registrations match. Sidmennt members and many other people in Iceland including many legislators feel that this does not go far enough and that it is a human rights violation for government to be involved at all in registering people’s religious affiliation and is especially abnormal to register newborn babies in a religion. The sponsors of the new law say they want to work towards abolishing this anachronism but think it can only be done in stages.

Although this law is an important step towards equality, the government is not changing the privileged status of the Evangelical Lutheran State Church, which enjoys both legal and financial privileges over all other life stance organizations.

Hope Knutsson
President of Sidmennt

Sidmennt | 30th January 2013


Sidmennt – The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association

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