Saturday, June 2, 2007

Only in California...

It must be a slow newsday in the world today. The NY Times just recently reported that gay California inmates will be allowed to have so-called "conjugal visits" just as their heterosexual counterparts.

Gay rights groups such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights in SFO called the decision a "great leap forward" in the movement for equality. These visits allow more than just partners of gay inmates to visit. Family members and children have often utilized this time to visit with their mothers and fathers who may be imprisoned.

The decision by the California comes after threats to sue over the policy which banned same-sex partners from visiting inmates because the government did not view them as family. Equality California says that there was just no reasonable justification for having the policy in place.

While gay rights advocates are happy about the change in policy there are indeed more important issues that the movement could focus on at this time. The perception about "conjugal visits" is one of moral depravity and impropriety. While some family members do visit inmates during these visits, it is highly associated and suggestive of sexual activity with an inmate's partner. Is this what the movement is concerned with? If the gay rights movement is to appear upstanding enough to earn the rights of marriage equality it must do it through means that also appear respectable and avoid getting caught in the wayside.

Children at Guantánamo Bay

Today's article in The New York Times regarding child soldiers detained during the "War on Terror" at Guantánamo Bay raises interesting questions about how children should be treated for committing war crimes.

The article explains that "the shrapnel from the grenade [thrown by the child]... ripped through the skull of Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer, who was 28 when he died.To American military prosecutors, Mr. Khadr is a committed Al Qaeda operative, spy and killer who must be held accountable for killing Sergeant Speer in 2002 and for other bloody acts he committed in Afghanistan. But there is one fact that may not fit easily into the government’s portrait of Mr. Khadr: He was 15 at the time."

Mr. Khadr is now 20. International law does not prohibit people under 18 from being tried for crimes of war. Lawyers for Mr. Khadr argue that instead of being perceived as a war criminal, he should be thought of as a victim of warfare. The article reads:

"The prosecutors, they say, included in their charges acts that occurred when Mr. Khadr was younger than 10. Mr. Khadr “was subject to undue adult influences,” said Muneer I. Ahmad, an associate professor at the American University Washington College of Law, who has represented Mr. Khadr.

'If Omar had had his free choice,' Professor Ahmad said, 'what he would have chosen to do is ride horses, play soccer and read Harry Potter books.'"
Speculation about what Mr. Khadr would have done if he were not subject to "undue adult influences" is a start. But what should concern lawyers and advocates even more now is what Mr. Khadr will do if he is acquitted of these charges. Would he willingly commit acts against the U.S. now that he is an adult (according to law) and can make his own choices? This should really be the concern of advocates on both sides of the issue.