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International News Archive
November 08 - November 14, 1999


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This page contains news for the period Monday, November 08, 1999 through Sunday, November 14, 1999.





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Saturday, November 13, 1999

Groups Defends the 'Natural Family'

An Associated Press story filed today reports that conservative Christian organizations expect 1,000 delegates this weekend in a show of strength for "traditional families'' with lots of children.

The group hopes to counter standard United Nations thinking that small families are the best for society. Organizers of the Second World Congress of Families have lined up a key Vatican official and the widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as speakers to help them promote large families that include both parents. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders were also among speakers scheduled to speak at the four-day conference being held in Geneva, home to the U.N. European headquarters.

The story says that other causes on the agenda include defending marriage and fighting mass schooling, which activists say takes away the parents' rights to educate their children as they see fit.

"In recent years the human family has been ignored and abused, particularly in certain international assemblies. We are trying to make a positive case,'' said Allan Carlson, director of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.

The starting point for the congress is what it calls a "time-honored'' definition of the family: "The fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage.''


Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Federal court in Canada to decide if same-sex couples should get marriage leave

A story published today by Southam News in the National Post reports that a Canadian appeals court will decide if gay couples must be given matrimonial leave. Canadian law gives federal workers a week of paid vacation from work when they marry. However, private marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples are not considered as legal marriages in Canada.

The story said that when he married Brian Mombourquette in a church ceremony in 1994, Halifax scientist Ross Boutilier felt he should have been given matrimonial leave.

At first it was granted and then revoked by his employers at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Boutilier, a geologist, fought back, and yesterday travelled to Ottawa to watch as his case was argued before the Federal Court of Appeal.

"I suddenly was thrown into making this a political as well as a social act, but one thing we promised as a couple [is] that we would never walk away from fighting for our relationship," said Boutilier, 44.

Boutilier's fight for recognition of "union celebrations" comes as the federal government, after losing in the courts, is promising to amend dozens of laws to extend equal legal benefits to gay and lesbian couples, ranging from pensions to income-tax deductions.

Boutilier's local supervisors at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography initially granted him paid time off, but the benefit was revoked by senior officials in Ottawa who decided he did not qualify under the collective agreement, which stipulated the leave was "for the purposes of marriage."

Boutilier filed a grievance and won in a 1997 decision by the Public Service Staff Relations Board, which found that marriage, for the purposes of the collective agreement "took place in this case."

The ruling was overturned last year in the Federal Court of Canada. It ruled that the staff relations board had no jurisdiction over the matter, which, the court said, should be settled by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The Federal Court of Appeal must now decide who has the power to rule on Boutilier's case. A ruling in his favor would restore the 1997 decision, while a decision against him would send the matter to the rights commission, where it could be held up for years.


Tuesday, November 09, 1999

New French unmarried couples law is ruled constitutional

Wire releases by Associated Press and Reuters reports that yesterday France's Constitutional Council gave its approval to a new law that grants extensive legal rights to both heterosexual and gay unmarried couples.

After a year of intense political debate, the National Assembly approved the law in October by a vote of 315-249.  In an attempt to derail the measure, conservative lawmakers had asked the 9-member constitutional watchdog group to decide whether the law violated the constitution, in which case it would have been void.

The legislative package will take effect in the coming months after President Jacques Chirac signs it as a symbolic gesture.

The law would affect up to 4.4 million heterosexual couples who live together but are not married as well as an unknown number of same-sex couples.

Unmarried couples who registered with local authorities will be able to file joint tax forms after three years together.  The law will also help people bring foreign partners to France and require employers to take couples' joint vacation plans into account.  It will also make partners accountable for each others' debts.

Conservatives have argued the measure violates the constitution by penalizing single people, who cannot benefit from the tax breaks the law will offer. But the council ruled yesterday that the tax advantages for couples "were not excessive."

The council's decision added a word of caution, however, saying the law must not allow for unattached people to sign a contract out of mere "common interests." The pact "implies a life together," the council ruled.

Conservative legislators have argued the law would undermine traditional family values. But the Socialists, who introduced the bill, said the law would better protect couples regardless of gender.


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