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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Homosexuality: from the death penalty to gay marriage

Taiwan's top court ruled government must recognise same-sex unions within two years
Taiwan's top court ruled government must recognise same-sex unions within 2 years.
Same-sex marriage, which Taiwan's top court ruled in favour of Wednesday, is currently legal in around 20 countries around the world, 13 of which are in pioneering Europe.

Such unions are, however, still illegal in most parts of Africa and in the Middle East, where homosexuality is in some cases punishable by the death penalty.

European pioneers


The Netherlands in April 2001 became the first country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in a civil ceremony.

Twelve European countries followed: Belgium, Britain (except Northern Ireland), Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Some European countries only allow homosexuals to enter into civil partnerships, including Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Estonia became in October 2014 the first former Soviet republic to authorise this kind of civil union.

Many eastern European countries -- including Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia -- still deny homosexuals the right to marry or enter into unions.

Slovenians in December 2015 voted in a referendum against efforts by their national parliament to legalise gay marriage.

Some 15 western European countries allow same-sex couples to adopt children, whether within marriage or civil partnership. They include Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. Others like Finland, Germany and Slovenia allow gay people to adopt the child of their partner.

Ten countries allow lesbian couples to conceive children with the help of assisted reproductive technologies (ART): Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and the Nordic countries.

Surrogacy remains restricted across most of the continent.

Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands allow for volunteer surrogacy and in Greece, women can be reimbursed for the costs of carrying a child for someone else.

Progress in America


Canada led the way in North America, authorising same-sex marriage and adoptions in June 2005. ART and surrogacy are also allowed.

In the United States, with gay marriages still banned in 14 of the 50 states, a historic Supreme Court decision in June 2015 legalised gay marriage nationwide.

Mexico's federal capital led the way in Latin America towards civil unions in 2007 and full marriages in 2009.

Same sex marriages are also legal in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia.


A crime in Africa


On a continent where around 30 countries ban homosexuality, only in South Africa can gays legally marry, adopt or have children by ART and surrogacy.

In Sudan, Somalia and Mauritania homosexuals face the death penalty, while only a handful of countries -- Gabon, Ivory Coast, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Mozambique -- have decriminalised the practice.


Hostility in Middle East, Asia


Israel leads the Middle East in terms of respect for homosexual rights, and recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere, though such marriages are not performed in Israel itself. Gay couples can jointly adopt children.

Homosexuality is theoretically punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while Lebanon is more tolerant than other Arab countries.

In Asia, after Taiwan, the taboo surrounding homosexuality is slowly eroding in Vietnam and Nepal.


Asia Pacific


The only country in the region that allows gays to marry is New Zealand, which passed a law in April 2013, 27 years after homosexuality was decriminalised.

The most recent attempt to legalise gay marriage in Australia hinged on a planned referendum that was blocked in November 2016.

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 24, 2017

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