Same-sex marriage is now the law in England and Wales

Same-sex couples will be able to get married in England and Wales after new measures became law.

The government’s controversial legislation on the issue received Royal Assent on Wednesday.

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backed the proposals, which were finally approved by MPs and peers earlier this week.

Continuing to call a measure “controversial” after all three major parties backed the proposals is only a comment on the BBC worrying about offending the few churchgoers left in the UK.

It is expected that the first gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies will take place by summer next year.

Under the terms of the the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, religious organisations will have to “opt in” to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so.

Commons Speaker John Bercow announced the bill had received Royal Assent – the formal approval of the sovereign required for all legislation. The news was greeted with cheers in the Commons chamber…

There will also be a review of whether groups such as the humanists will be allowed to carry out marriages, while ministers said they were prepared to look at eliminating any difference in the treatment of gay couples when it came to pension schemes.

During the Commons debate, Equalities Minister Maria Miller said the passing of the bill was “clear affirmation” that “respect for each and every person is paramount, regardless of age, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexuality”, she added.

Religious groups which traditionally support civil rights will opt-in, no doubt. Conservatives, cowards, cookie-cutter reactionaries will continue to whine until their children finally stop inviting them for holiday dinners – and they run out of people polite enough to listen to them.

Of course, all the reasons for passage of this law in the UK are as legitimate here in the United States. But, then, neither the White House nor Congress has sufficient courage to challenge bigots and backwards ideology.

Scouting in Oz joins the 21st Century

Australia’s Guides have dropped any reference to the Queen or God in their “promise”…

Instead of promising to “do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country”, Guides will now promise to “be true to myself and to serve my community and Australia”.

Belinda Allen, director of Girl Guides Australia, said the change followed extensive consultation over 18 months…”Many of the members didn’t feel that with our multicultural community of people from 200 nations that it was necessarily relevant for the Queen to be mentioned,” she said…

The “promise” is a pledge that Guides make soon after they join.

“We’ve been on a journey for the past few decades of redefining ourselves and community organisations are going through that process too,” said David Morris, national director of the Australian Republican Movement.

“I think we can all agree that our commitment is to this country and it can be a very inclusive thing, including respect for individuals who have a close connection to another country.”

Since 1994, Australia’s citizenship pledge has not included any mention of the Queen. Instead new citizens must pledge loyalty to “Australia and its people“…

At the same time as removing the Queen from their promise, the Guides will also remove the reference to God. “Our members feel very strongly that we are open to girls of all faiths and our indigenous belief systems do not have a god, so we feel that this new promise will be more inclusive,” Allen said.

Politicians here in the States would crap their pants if someone tried to bring scouting, public service, patriotism or Congress into alignment with thought sufficiently modern to match this.

Cripes, the hacks inside the Beltway are barely beyond the 19th Century whether the topic is economics or science, sociology or liberty.

Kudos to the Guides in Australia.

McGuinness makes history with a handshake of the British monarch

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II shook hands Wednesday with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in a historic gesture marking a giant step forward in the peace process relating to British rule of Northern Ireland…The handshake came 14 years after the end of a conflict that claimed about 3,500 lives, including that of the queen’s cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten in an IRA bombing.

McGuinness spoke to the queen in Irish as they clasped hands and made eye contact for several seconds in the ground-breaking public part of the event.

“Goodbye and godspeed,” McGuinness said, translating his comment for the queen. She smiled throughout the encounter but did not speak. The handshake followed a brief private meeting at which McGuinness told the queen their meeting was a powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership, his party…

He emphasized the need to acknowledge the pain of all victims of the conflict and their families, Sinn Fein said…

“It went good, it went really well,” McGuinness said afterwards, adding he is “still a republican” who opposes British rule of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams welcomed what he called a “historic meeting,” saying that “all in all, it’s a good day for Ireland and a good day for the people of these islands.”

Speaking outside the Irish parliament, he said: “It brings our journey of relationship building within this island and between these islands onto a new plane. I would to think we will build upon that.”

Sith gun robh so.

Bristol’s Banksy draws the Queen as Ziggy Stardust

Click photo for closer look

Street artist Banksy is believed to have stencilled a picture of the Queen as Ziggy Stardust to honour the Diamond Jubilee.

The graffiti expert is believed to be behind the painting, which shows the crown-wearing monarch sporting a jagged red stripe, just like the 1970s David Bowie creation. Her Majesty’s startling image – which sprang up as the country celebrated her 60 years on the throne – appeared on a wall previously used by Banksy…

A piece of street art purporting to be from the graffiti artist appeared on a London street in May. The picture, which shows a young boy of Asian origin hunched over a sewing machine, uses Union Jack bunting as an apparent nod to uniquely British celebrations.

So far, it has been interpreted variously as a comment on the upcoming Olympic celebrations, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and even the riots of last summer…

Created in Banksy’s conspicuous black-and-white style, the picture shows the little boy kneeling on the pavement and frowning in concentration while he works…

Banksy, who began showcasing his work in Bristol, is known for his satirical and subversive graffiti with underlying social commentary…

An artist of some controversy, his works have been much debated by councils and members of the public, in order to decide whether it should be removed as graffiti or left in situ as art.

I’m of two minds about graffiti – though not about Banksy. Most graffiti sucks and is useless vandalism from ego-smitten, no-talent scrawlers.

I have always supported the sub-group [like Banksy] which reflects public muralists as much as anything else. There’s a singificant different in intent, quality and talent.

The Queen introduces a bill to aid online spying — on you!

The Queen has formally announced plans to greatly increase surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies and the police, in plans that are being labelled a “snooper’s charter” by civil liberties groups.

She said the government would introduce “measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public”.

The plans were “subject to scrutiny of draft clauses”, the Queen added, caveat understood to have been inserted in her speech at the insistence of Libs Dems. They are concerned by the impact the Communications Data Bill will have on individual freedom and privacy, and feared detailed debate would be steamrollered in Parliament.

The Government did not reveal any technical details about its plans, which are designed to make it easier to discover who has contact whom, when and where, via internet services such as Facebook, Gmail and Skype. But a document released alongside the Queen’s Speech makes it clear that internet and mobile providers will be expected to intercept and store the relevant data for 12 months

Liberty, the human rights group, said it would campaign against the proposals, which it branded a “snooper’s charter”…

The Home Office said that the new system would offer “a proper avenue of complaint” for those who think they have been unlawfully spied upon.

I’m not entirely certain what that means in the UK – but, out here in the [former] colonies it means the government is telling you to go screw yourself and the horse you rode into town on. You have no rights.

Sarah Palin was as ignorant of foreign policy, military command, as you thought she was

Sarah Palin believed that the Queen rather than the prime minister was responsible for the decision to keep British forces in Iraq, according to research done for a new film chronicling her brief political rise.

The former Alaska governor reportedly made the comment during the 2008 presidential campaign as aides to John McCain, the Republican candidate, scrambled to bring his surprise-pick running mate up to speed on foreign affairs.

Her confusion emerged during a coaching session with Steve Schmidt, a top McCain adviser, who asked Mrs Palin what she would do if Britain began to waver in its commitment to the Iraq war.

In one of the many rambling responses that steadily eroded her credibility during the campaign, Mrs Palin reportedly replied that she would “continue to have an open dialogue” with the Queen…

The incident was revealed during research for Game Change, an HBO ‘docu-drama’ based on a book about the 2008 campaign by two leading American journalists.

While the film is a dramatisation – with the Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore playing Mrs Palin – its producers conducted dozens of research interviews and Mr Schmidt confirmed its accuracy in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

The incident can be added to a long list of policy gaffes made by Mrs Palin during her three months as the Republican vice-presidential candidate…

Game Change describes panicked cramming sessions during the campaign, with aides beginning their history tutorial with the Spanish Civil War and carrying through to post-9/11 era.

Mrs Palin was initially enthusiastic, making notes on hundreds of coloured flash cards, but became increasingly sullen and was described by tutors as going into a “catatonic stupor“.

Perhaps a catatonic stupor might be less embarrassing to the Republican Party than the confidently 19th Century noises brayed by the current herd of presidential candidates?

Give the Queen a new royal yacht for diamond jubilee – WTF?

Michael Gove has brushed aside Britain’s economic problems to propose the public donate a new royal yacht to the Queen as a mark of respect during this year’s diamond jubilee celebrations, according to a confidential letter to fellow ministers.

In the letter, which has been sent to Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary and minister overseeing the celebrations, and to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, Gove at one point comes close to suggesting that Britain’s dire economic climate means that a large-scale celebration is required to lift the country’s spirits…

Starting bids around £60 million.

Gove, an enthusiastic monarchist, writes in the letter: “I feel strongly that the diamond jubilee gives us a tremendous opportunity to recognise in a very fitting way the Queen’s highly significant contribution to the life of the nation and the Commonwealth…”

“My suggestion would be a gift from the nation to her majesty; thinking about David Willetts’s excellent suggestion of a royal yacht, and something tangible to commemorate this momentous occasion.” He adds: “The year ahead provides an enormous opportunity to showcase the very best of Britain.”

…Gove’s office confirmed the authenticity of the letter but refused to comment.

I suppose that aficionados of monarchies and other 18th Century silliness will not consider this proposal at all out of line. It’s only silly buggers like me – and my peers in the UK – who might consider the maths and suggest that this would pay for a useful number of schoolrooms. Something that benefits a nation much more than another craptastic toy for decorative leftovers from the era of Imperial England.

Police cars get the dreaded boot while coppers guard the Queen

A ”belligerent” clamper placed clamps on two unmarked police cars which were providing security for a visit by the Queen and refused to remove them despite an officer showing his warrant card, a trial heard.

Gareth Andrews, 39, of Fareham, Hampshire, denies a charge of wilfully obstructing a police constable in the execution of his duty.

Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court was told that the Queen had made an unannounced visit to Portsmouth, Hampshire, on Wednesday, May 25. Colin Shackel, prosecuting, said that Pc Mark Cox and a second officer, both in plain clothes, had parked their unmarked cars at the Gunwharf Quays marina retail complex that the monarch was visiting…

Mr Shackel said that the parking spaces allocated for the officers were temporarily being used by a delivery lorry so, after consulting security staff, they placed their vehicles in adjacent spaces, the court heard.

Mr Shackel said that one of the police officers had gone to consult colleagues and, while Pc Cox was talking to security staff, two clamping vehicles arrived. He described how Andrews and his colleagues then clamped the two vehicles, an Audi and a BMW, and he refused to remove them when confronted by Pc Cox.

The court heard that the two cars had been parked for about 15 minutes in the restricted spaces enforced by Shoal Enforcement.

Mr Shackel said: ”It’s not just a plain clothes officer speaking to the defendant, there’s uniformed security guards from Gunwharf, other officers arrived and identified themselves, even then Mr Andrews said he didn’t believe he was dealing with real police officers.

”By the time you have been shown a warrant card and security guards are involved, it would be clear to anyone that it was real officers who weren’t just trying to avoid a clamping charge and had duties to perform.”

Petty punks with a public service job – who think they are little tin gods – should be required to spend time training to be a thoughtful human being. Or at least thoughtful.

The Canadian military is “Royal” again – Huzzah!

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

There was likely some semblance of good sense in homogenizing the Canadian army, navy and air force 43 years ago, creating a single home team — with its relatively new national flag — to represent our nation in hot spots around the world…

The change made it clear Canada was not a colony of Britain. We were a grown-up country with our own armed forces, no longer beholden to the Queen…

Stephen Harper’s government made everything old new again with its announcement that the old names of the air and maritime divisions of the Canadian Forces will be restored, with the “royal” intact. Welcome back Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army. Never mind that the changes will not affect the military’s command structures.

The name changes come after five years of intense lobbying by veterans groups and military personnel, as well as recommendations of the Senate Committee on National Defence. In announcing the changes, federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay said it was important to correct a historic mistake made during unification. Restoring the historic identities, he said, is a way to reconnect today’s military men and women with the history and traditions of our armed forces…

But does the “royal” moniker make much difference to the young men and women starting their military careers? They are, after all, the future of our armed forces.

It seems a retrograde move to hearken back to colonial times, despite the fact that royal themes are ingrained elements in the fabric of our parliamentary democracy. It would be more appropriate for our military to look forward, not back, to define itself based on the present and the future, rather than the past.

Not that Harper and his Tory fan club are especially strong at forward-looking. I don’t know what my Progressive Conservative kinfolk on PEI think of the change – but, cyberfriends I know through one or another part of the blogosphere are embarrassed as all get-out. It should only cost about $25 million to get Harper a few new votes!

Yes – they must be teased. That rather advanced social and political structure up there in the GWN has proven capable of marching to the rear of backwards as easily as any Kool Aid Party birther. 🙂