3/07/2007

Executive Council and the Nigeria draft legislation.

Several folks commenting on this site have asked what, if anything, Executive Council had to say about the draft proposed legislation in Nigeria outlawing same-sex relationships.

Here is my sense of the matter: While EC legislation is not in final form until published the following is pretty close to the mark. The Living Church reported on the resolutions and discussion HERE.

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U. Utah Phillips observed that, like watching sausage being made, watching legislation being made is not a pretty sight. It doesn't make much difference where the making goes on, in Nigeria or the US or anywhere else. It is made by regular paid up human beings who are likely to have hidden agendas and motives. Still, the Nigerian legislature is considering a bill that seems to be pretty clear: it is legislation that would outlaw same-sex relationships and any advocacy of such relationships. You can read the latest version of the proposed legislation HERE. It has been in process for some time.

Deputy Elizabeth Kaeton (now President of the Standing Committee in the Diocese of Newark) submitted a resolution D073 to General Convention 2006, with the title, "Asylum for Persecuted Lesbian and Gay People." That resolution was written with the Nigerian legislation in mind. It was a companion piece to D005 (more about that later.)

It has become clear in the past year that the Archbishop of Nigeria, who is also the President of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria), has been a supporter of this legislation. There is at present a wide ranging effort to get him to rescind his support of the legislation.

The Kaeton resolution (D073) reads as follows:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church note with concern that homosexuality and the advocacy of equal treatment for gay men and lesbians is being criminalized in various countries around the world and that in addition to formal criminalization there is increasing violence against lesbians and gay men who are denied the protection of governments; and be it further

Resolved, That in light of such criminalization and lack of police protection that the government of the United States be encouraged to grant asylum to those whose advocacy of homosexuality is illegal in their home countries or whose lives are threatened for this reason; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church aid in the resettlement of such individuals; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention commend groups aiding persons seeking asylum in the United States because of serious intolerance of their sexual orientation."

This resolution was not passed by both houses and therefore needed to be dealt with by Executive Council if it was to be enacted.

D073 had this explanation attached (although we know that such explanations do not belong to the completed resolution): "It is not enough for the Episcopal Church to decry violence - both government sponsored and government encouraged - against people whose only crime is their sexual orientation. This Church should go on record supporting the work of Project Equality and similar organizations which work for the granting of asylum to such refugees who wish to enter the United States."

At the Executive Council meeting in Portland, Oregon, March 4, 2007 a resolution was presented by the National Concerns Committee with a slightly expanded title: "Asylum for Persecuted Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Persons." (NAC 020) It was presented to complete Resolution D073. Its final form was slightly, but not substantially different from the initial legislation.

The explanation offered was however considerably more specific. Such explanations are not subject to debate or "clean up," but they sometimes offer a clue of the current state of the concerns behind the resolution and the discussions that took place among members of the committee. That explanation is as follows:

"It is not enough for the Episcopal Church to decry violence – both government sponsored and government encouraged – against people whose only crime is their sexual orientation. This Church should go on record supporting the work of Project Equality and similar organizations which work for the granting of asylum to such persons who enter the United States.

As a church we have gone on record in declaring that efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (resolution D005 General Convention 2006). Legislation pending in Nigeria, for example, would, if passed, subject lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons to persecution, stigmatization, imprisonment and acts of physical violence. The same legislation would apply to those even perceived to be lesbian or gay as well as those who are friends and social acquaintances of such persons. Similar concerns have been expressed through a United Nations Press release (attached)."

You can read a UN article on this HERE. You can read D005, with the title, "Opposing Criminalization of Homosexuality" HERE.

D005 is the legislation that forms the basis for this Church's opposition to laws of the sort being proposed in Nigeria. The Kaeton resolution was a companion piece, one that calls the church to support asylum for those who suffer under such repressive legislation.

Executive Council passed the Kaeton Resolution, which had not been completed at General Convention, with slight modifications, with the clear explanation that it is partially in concern for those who may be subject to repressive legislation in Nigeria. Members of Council were given the UN Press Release at the time of consideration.

The campaign to get the Nigerian legislature to step back from the proposed legislation is an ongoing effort. A major letter from Religious Leaders has been published and sent. Political Spaghetti has extensive details of the work that is being done. You can read this HERE.

This action of Executive Council gives Episcopal Church staff working on refugee and asylum concerns, as well as on policy issues, a context for advocacy and action.

We have, of course, heard nothing from Archbishop Akinola to counter his continued support for this legislation.

It is disturbing that the Primates at their meeting did not see fit to condemn this proposed legislation and similar repressive legislation in other countries.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you, Mark. It goes without saying way too often: you do good work. Bless you.
    Lois Keen

    ReplyDelete
  2. One bright spot: the US does indeed grant asylum for persecution based on sexual orientation. I personally know of one Indonesian man who is seeking asylum. I believe the penalty for "sodomy" is 14 years in Nigeria, so even if the new legislation fails completely, Nigerian LGBT folk who want it probably have a good chance of obtaining asylum. I hear they've granted asylum to LGBT Singaporeans ... and while "sodomy" is illegal there and LGBTs aren't allowed to politically organize, I don't believe they are persecuted to the degree they are in Nigeria.

    That said, there are problems. LGBT asylum seekers often face identical prejudices from their immigrant communities. Having a supportive immigrant community can be key to successfully adjusting, particuarly if English isn't one's first language or the asylum seeker isn't familiar with American culture. Just figuring out taxes or credit or other finances, for example, is a nightmare.

    http://www.sodomylaws.org/usa/usnews22.htm

    Additionally, judges can be capricious. Because of the stringent requirements for asylum, it is a category where a judge's prejudices can come to the fore. The article below details two Egyptian men, who were involved, who submitted very similar cases to two different judges. One was accepted, one was denied. And anyway, it looks like the national denial rate for asylum seekers is 65%.

    http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=1ceb8db22b7cfe7bb2cff09a6da3d5bd

    While I would support Kaeton's resolution, it cannot be used as a band-aid on our consciences. There is still work to be done.

    ReplyDelete
  3. christopher+7/3/07 10:22 AM

    "It is disturbing that the Primates at their meeting did not see fit to condemn this proposed legislation and similar repressive legislation in other countries."

    It is more than disturbing - it is an outrage!

    Of course, such concerns would never have made it into a final communique, because Archbishop Akinola would not have signed. After all, he actually supports human rights violations against GLBT people in his own country.

    The greater problem is that the Archbishop of Canterbury and other influential religious leaders still fail to see - do not want to see - that there is a direct connection between all this religious talk of whether gay people exist as co-equal, fully integrated, whole children of God and the abuse and violence so often perpetrated against them.

    It is a forked tongue that is able to say, all at once, "you are human, you are welcome - but your sexual orientation is a sin, not a central part of your identity as a human being." This is just the religiously sanctioned excuse many people need to pound or electroshock the "sin" out of gay people; it is this which drives so many GLBT teens to despair and suicide; it is all the excuse some parents need to drive their gay children from their homes.

    The price of our endless debates over the heads of GLBT people is exacted in human flesh.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Would you be interested in coming on our page
    http://www.niger1.com/nigeria.html
    and discuss this further
    if yes email us at moub21@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. christopher+13/3/07 12:32 PM

    Niger1.com,

    Greetings to you! Are you a news service/wire? Another type of information service? Either way, best wishes as you track this issue of imminent human rights violations in Nigeria, backed by Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

    If you are looking for detailed and insightful background or comment, I recommend contacting the editors of the Episcopal News Service at:

    Episcopal Church Center
    815 Second Avenue
    New York, NY 10017
    Tel: 212-716-6000

    and/or

    Integrity, the national organization in the US, which serves as "a witness of God's inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community."

    Email: info@integrityusa.org

    Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete

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