Obama’s marriage endorsement continues to have impact abroad

From the Associated Press:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly cast a first vote in favor of a gay marriage bill that was given impetus by President Barack Obama’s public support of the issue.

The 80 to 40 vote in front of a packed and cheering public gallery was the first of three votes Parliament must hold before the bill can become law…

The proposed changes can be directly traced to Obama’s declaration in May in support of gay marriage. That prompted center-right Prime Minister John Key to break his long silence on the issue by saying he was “not personally opposed” to the idea. Then lawmaker Louisa Wall, from the opposition Labour Party, put forward a bill she had previously drafted.

“If I’m really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama’s announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer,” Wall told The Associated Press. “The timing was right.”

Wall, 40, is openly gay. She represented the country in both netball and rugby before turning to politics, a background she said helps give her focus.

Can anyone please tell me what netball is?

Dollar difficulties and peso problems

I thought I might take a break from the gay marriage news to share a bit about the reporting life so far. The truth is, virtually all I saw of Buenos Aires our first week was the inside of banks, change houses, and my computer screen, where I’ve been writing notes that alternate from contrite to furious to our Argentinian landlord.

I could have had a much more interesting itinerary over the past couple days if the landlord had just told us he wanted payment in US dollars in one of the many emails we exchanged before our arrival. I assumed we were booking the apartment the same way we booked our hotel in Brazil—the price was quoted in dollars, but payment would be made in local currency. We haven’t been traveling with any cash, instead relying on ATMs. But when we arrived at 2 AM on Sunday morning, our landlord told us he wanted cash in dollars.

I’ve spent the week learning why dollars are so precious here—and fearing we were going to get evicted. Continue reading

Gay Marriage tempers Argentine church?

The church overplayed its hand in opposition to the gay marriage law in Argentina, and now is taking a softer approach to its current fight against changes to reforms of the civil code.

That, at least, is the opinion of Senator Marcelo Fuentes, who’s chairing the commission overseeing the reforms. The church is fighting proposals that would facilitate assisted reproduction and divorce. Following a hearing with the Catholic leadership, Fuentes told the Argentine newspaper Pagina/12 that he detected a gentler tone. This, he said, stemmed from the church’s

parliamentary defeat in the discussion of the equal marriage [law]. They mounted an effort of pressure and mobilization [that portrayed] those of us in favor of equal marriage… [as doing] the work of the devil. It was a medieval posture…. Today they come with a stance that is much more receptive to another point of view.

But journalist Washington Uranga suggests this is just a change in tone–not in the church’s underlying attitude. The new head of the Argentine church, Archbishop José María Arancedo, is more open to dialogue and more “cordial” than his predecessor, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Uranga writes, but that doesn’t mean that “the positions and presiding body are different from those Bergoglio championed in his time.”



PS on Argentine church post

When I posted yesterday on the Argentine church’s criticism of proposed changes to the country’s laws onreproduction, I meant to include this screenshot of the story from Clarín’s website. I don’t think the juxtapositions are intended to be an editorial critique, but perhaps we should read it that way?

PS By popular demand, I’m switching from “Argentinian” to “Argentine,” although both are correct, dammit.

Marriage law introduced in Colombia

A lot of marriage movement today.

The Spanish-language gay news site DosManzanas.com reports that a legislator in Colombia, Alba Luz Pinilla, has introduced a same-sex marriage law.

The Congress is required to act under a 2011 ruling by the Colombian Constitutional Court that required equal rights be extended to same-sex couples within two years.

This ruling was the latest in a series of rulings defending gay couples’ rights: in 2003, the court granted gay prisoners the right to conjugal visits; in 2007, it extended the rights equivalent to those of common-law marriages, and in 2008 guaranteed inheritance rights.

Same-sex marriage legislation introduced in Coahuila

Lawmakers in the Mexican state of Coahuila are considering legislation that would open the door to same-sex marriage by removing gender references in the marriage code, according to the news site Infonor.

If passed, Coahuila would become the second jurisdiction in Mexico to legalize gay marriage. Mexico City became the first in 2009, and the country’s Supreme Court ruled that these unions must be recognized nationwide.

There hasn’t been a lot of movement on the issue since, however, though some couples have managed to marry in the state of Quintan Roo after legal strategists realized the state’s civil code never had any reference to the gender makeup of couples in the first place.

Argentinian bishops attack reforms of Civil Code

Argentina’s Catholic bishops attacked proposed reforms to the country’s Civil Code in a document released Wednesday.

The church has lost some key social battles in Argentina recently. The same-sex marriage law passed in 2010 despite the fact that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio–a runner-up for pope–declared a “holy war” against it. Argentina jumped into the vanguard of gender rights earlier this year by passing a broad law guaranteeing legal protections to transgendered people.

But the church still has an upper hand on reproductive issues in a country where abortion remains illegal, and that’s where it focused its firepower in Wednesday’s statement. The most controversial parts of the proposed changes concern assisted methods of conception, according to the newspaper Clarín. These include surrogacy, the handling of embryos, and the post-mortem donation of gametes. They write,

Motherhood and fatherhood will be disfigured by the so-called ‘procreation by will’ ['voluntad procreacional]; it will legitimize, on the one hand, the promotion of ‘surrogacy’ that objectifies women and, on the other, the indefinite freezing of human embryos, which can be discarded or used for commercial purposes and research.

The church also took issue with changes that would make it easier for couples to divorce, saying that they will mean that “matrimonial bonds will be left weakened and devalued.”

The power of cities

I’ve finally gotten settled in Buenos Aires, capitol of one of the world’s most progressive countries on LGBT rights. In addition to becoming the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage a couple years ago, it passed a landmark gender identity law earlier this year that even its supporters describe as “radical.” Its progressive laws are having a spill-over effect on its northern neighbor, Uruguay, which is poised to pass its own marriage law sometime this fall.

When I’ve asked LGBT activists in these two countries how they’ve gained so much ground so quickly, I get one answer that surprises me: the power of cities. In both countries, they tell me, about half the population lives within the capitol’s metro area. And the media is heavily concentrated in the capitol, too, so if they can win sympathetic coverage on the airwaves they can shape the impressions of much of the rest of population.

Of course there are other factors that shape the evolution of the gay marriage debate. But it’s interesting to ask whether there’s a larger structural effect here–is there a strong correlation between urbanization and LGBT-friendly laws? What does this mean in countries like Brazil, where activists are close to winning full marriage rights but are facing much more successful pushback than activists experienced in Argentina?

LGBT Activists Arrested in Zimbabwe

Sorry for the hiatus–I was camping and then visiting family in before leaving the country for the year-long reporting expedition.

Today brings news that the cops in Zimbabwe arrested members of the group Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe during a party at its headquarters. From Radio VOP:

Harare, August 13, 2012 – Police arrested 44 members of the Gays and Lesbian Association of Zimbabwe (Galz) at their Milton Park offices at the weekend.
The members were arrested while holding a party at the association’s offices.

They were released on Sunday without charge.

Earlier on the organisation had launched a book chronicling human rights violations against their members at the Book Cafe.