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Axis of discrimination

The approval of gay marriage in a number of new countries this spring means a remarkable acceleration in the direction of equality

The French parliament has just enacted a gay marriage law, the final touch to an exceptional month in which Uruguay and New Zealand passed similar legislation. The United Kingdom is in the process (Scotland has its own). Germany, Andorra, Finland and Ireland are talking about it. In the United States and Taiwan the courts must now rule on the prohibition of same-sex marriage, in a context of favorable public opinion. Before this April, equality in marriage already existed in 11 countries and in dozens of states in the US, Brazil and Mexico, and this spring is seeing a remarkable acceleration in the direction of equality.

The partisans of equal rights for all have plenty of reason to be glad. However, we should not lose sight of the reaction generated by this advance. Recent weeks in France have seen a certain trivialization of homophobic language, and violent attacks have taken place in Bordeaux, Lille and Paris. Those against equality in marriage have used a wide array of forms of protest. Their online campaign was based on technology supplied by Opus Fidelis, a Christian group that works for the US National Organization for Marriage, which in turn is working to create an International Organization for Marriage (read, against gay marriage), a sort of International of Discrimination aimed at influencing debates in countries such as Ireland.

In Africa a spreading crusade reviles homosexuality as a Western import. However, what is being imported is the radical homophobia of American fundamentalist Christians, who see a more receptive field in Africa than in their own land. The best-known case is that of Uganda, where the evangelist preacher Scott Lively has been blamed for his input to a wave of anti-gay hysteria, which includes parliamentary proposals to apply the death penalty to homosexuals, and the newspaper publication of names, photographs and addresses of supposedly gay persons under the legend "Hang Them." Not long afterward David Kato, an openly homosexual activist, was murdered. American evangelist, Mormon and Catholic groups are financing political activity against homosexual rights, as they have been doing against sexual and reproductive rights throughout Africa. The presidents of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda have welcomed them.

In Africa a spreading crusade reviles homosexuality as a Western import.

These same US preachers are also working to influence legislative debates in countries such as Latvia and Moldavia. In Central and Eastern Europe, disenchantment with the EU has propitiated a resurgence of populist nationalism, which calls into question the advances in the struggle against discrimination. Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary and champion of the national-conservative cause, is having matrimonial discrimination written into the Constitution and boasts of his defense of a Europe based on Christian values, to the applause of the continent's most radical right.

The first attempts to enact gay marriage laws, some two decades ago, aroused a mobilization of religious fundamentalism in the US. With the last decade's victories for equality in the US, Europe, South Africa and Latin America, the discriminatory offensive has gone global. The constant attack on the sexual and reproductive rights of women, led by the churchmen and in particular the Vatican, points the way for this Axis of Discrimination. In its attempt to stop the historic advance of equality, the detractors of homosexual people's rights are fomenting a homophobic hatred that destroys lives and families, dooming millions to an existence of fear and suffering. But all this human suffering can matter little to those who, in the name of their dogma, are working to deprive millions of women of the right to decide on their own sexuality and maternity. It is important never to underestimate their capacity to envenom public discussion and coexistence, as they have done in France. But the best answer to their aggression is to keep firmly on the road toward full equality of rights.

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