Thursday, January 22, 2009

LAMBDA Wins at Supreme Court of Appeals

From Amnesty International:
The Turkish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) solidarity organization, Lambda Istanbul, has won its appeal against the closure of the association. The Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision was communicated to Lambda Istanbul’s lawyers on Tuesday.

A local court in Istanbul had ordered the closure of the association on 29 May 2008. The original ruling followed a complaint by the Istanbul Governor's Office that Lambda Istanbul's objectives were against Turkish "moral values and family structure".

The Supreme Court of Appeals rejected the local court's decision on the grounds that reference to LGBT people in the name and the statute of the association did not constitute opposition to Turkish moral values. The Court’s judgment also recognized the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to form associations.

The case will now go back to the local court in Istanbul, which is expected to uphold the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision.
According to Öner Ceylan, a long-time leader in LAMBDA with whom I spoke yesterday, the association has gained in members and organization since its beginnings in 1993. LAMBDA became an official association in 2003, and just last year, drew a crowd of over 2,000 people to one of its parades on İstanbul's famous İstiklal Cadessi. İstanbul Mayor Muammer Güler attempted to close down LAMBDA last year by challenging the legality of its charter under Turkey's law on associations. Before that, İstanbul police harassed the organization. For more on LAMBDA and LGBT rights in Turkey, see May 24 post.

UPDATE 1/27 -- LAMBDA has issued a statement in response to the Supreme Court of Appeals' reasoning. Despite the Court's reversal of the court of first instance, the ruling contains elements that should be read by activists and observers inside and outside the country as enabling future discrimination. From the press release :
We consider the reasoned decision we received as a positive step towards the continuation of the legal personality of Lambdaistanbul, proving the vital role of our movement today. However, as we take a closer look on the fifth page of the reasoning, it is noted that the court of appeal indeed agrees to a great extend with the court of first instance with regards to its persuasions on "general morals". Without a doubt, the following sentence on the fifth page is an open threat to all LGBTT organizations in Turkey:

"Certainly, the execution of the above mentioned articles 30 and 31 and the dissolution of the defendant association could still be demanded, if it would act counter to its constitution, in the ways of encouraging or provoking gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transvestite behavior or acting with the aim of spreading such sexual orientations."

Sexual orientation or sexual identity cannot be changed through imposition. It is the fact both for LGBTT and for heterosexual people, admittedly the majority of the population.

For the last 20 years, it is not the number of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and transvestites increasing, rather it is their individual and organized visibility that has been pressured and silenced until today. It is thus, unfortunate, that the court of appeal considers the organized visibility and rights struggle of the ignored LGBTT's, who are subjected to pressure and othering because of their sexual identity and sexual orientation, as a risk to society.
LAMBA has joined other LGBT groups in calling for an amendment to Article 10 of the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection from discrimination "irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect." LAMBDA argues that a similar protection guarantee from discrimination premised on sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in this litany. According to the group, its addition will curtail the homophobic interpretations of morals clauses used frequently to restrict the activities of LBGT individuals and groups.

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