First comes marriage? A Paraguayan view.

In many countries’ LGBT movements, there is a debate about whether advocating gay marriage could way down other priorities, from protections against hate crimes to non-discrimination laws. Asking for too much too fast can provoke a backlash, they worry.

But the executive director of the Paraguayan group SOMOSGAY, Simón Cazal, tells me the movement has had marriage on its agenda from the beginning. And they view it as a way to move forward all their goals. This is partly because the movement in Paraguay–which is sandwiched between Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia–is very new. It came together after marriage had become a mainstream idea in the global movement. It’s also been heavily influenced by Paraguay’s close ties to Argentina and its proximity to Brazil. Continue reading

NJ Archbishop: Support gay marriage, skip communion

I don’t know if Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is the first bishop to say supporters of gay marriage shouldn’t take communion, but it certainly took me by surprise. In a statement to be made public today, Myers is telling New Jersey Catholics who disagree with the church’s teachings on gay marriage to “refrain from receiving Holy Communion,” according to the North Jersey Record.

During all my time in Argentina–the 80 percent Catholic country where gay marriage has now been legal for two years–I never heard about a political litmus test for receiving communion. I also never heard about priests denying communion to the politicians who voted in favor of the gay marriage bill, the way some American Catholic leaders have advocated for politicians who support abortion rights.

I actually asked about this during my interview with Father Alberto Bochatey, head of the University Catolica Argentina’s Marriage and Family Institute. Continue reading

The Argentine Catholic Church responds

After Argentina’s top bishop ran away from me, he sent in Nicolás Lafferriere to speak for him. Lafferriere is a member of the Conferencia Episcopal Argentina’s Life team and directs the church-sponsored Center for Bioethics, Personhood, and Family.

I asked him whether the fact that the gay marriage law’s passage in Argentina–and that it had a good deal of popular support nationwide–meant for the church in this overwhelmingly Catholic country. Did this reflect a loss of power or moral authority for the church?

“I don’t think it’s only an equation of power,” he said. It is, he explained, about faith and salvation, not about politics.

The church knows that its message isn’t purely about morality…. The church’s goal isn’t that you live morally well. The object of the church is that you love Jesus Christ and you know salvation… So, in a sense, it’s a problem shared in the world and the Argentine church is no exception. Continue reading

Wear a v-neck, get biryani. Fierce biryani.

Herukh (second from right) giving away free biryani to (from left) Pang, Loh and Jerome Kugan at Fierce Curry House in Bangsar Utama. Picture from The Star Online.

The Fierce Curry House in Kuala Lumpur gave away 15 servings of free biryani to men wearing v-necks and “sling bags” in response to the Malaysian Education Ministry’s recent warning that these are telltale signs of gaydom, reports The Star Online.

“When the guidelines came out, we thought it was ridiculous. But instead of joining in the fray to condemn it, we thought it would be an interesting concept to give out free briyani meals to the first 15 men who walk in with a V-neck and a man-bag,” said Herukh Jeswant, who owns the restaurant along with his brother, Kubhaer. The brothers extended the offer to ten more customers after the first 15 portions were claimed.

The Education Ministry has since distanced itself from the guidelines.

Argentina’s top bishop runs away from me–literally

I’ve never had an archbishop run away from me before.

I had to come half way around the world to have that experience. And this wasn’t just any archbishop, but the one elected president by all the bishops of an entire nation.

What made the experience even stranger is that he had actually invited me to his office to interview him. At some point between when his secretary scheduled the interview two weeks ago and when I showed up at four o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, Monseñor José María Arancedo, archbishop of Santa Fe and president of the Conferencia Episcopal Argentina, decided he was not safe in the same room with me.

After I arrived in Argentina at the end of August, I sent an email to the CEA’s press office. Figuring my chances of getting an interview were about as good as good as being ordained a priest myself, I wasn’t even coy about what I wanted to talk about. Continue reading

Argentine protestors come for Pres. Cristina Fernández

We stumbled upon a massive protest last night in the Plaza de Mayo, the plaza in front of the president’s official address, the Casa Rosada. According to unofficial numbers reported in the press, the crowd topped 200,000 in Buenos Aires. Thousands more gathered in other cities.

Their message? “We’re against Cristina,” said one protestor, a short woman who looked to be in her 60s, referring to President Cristina Fernández. “She’s becoming like [Hugo] Chavez,” said a middle-aged man in a pink shirt and Bermuda shorts.

The most astonishing thing about the protest was the noise–thousands of people were banging pots with spoons and singing protest songs. There were moments where the crowd solemnly sang as a chorus, then erupted with shouts and thunderous clanging. There was an urgency and conviction in the marchers I’ve rarely seen at American protests.

Continue reading

Turkey rejects gay rights protections

Turkey’s ruling AKP party vetoed a proposal by two opposition parties to add LGBT protections to a declaration of “Fundamental Rights and Freedoms” currently being drafted. From the Hürriyet Daily News:

“It is the duty of a state to eliminate practices and legal rules which stem from cultural or societal prejudices which are based on the supremacy of a gender,” the proposal introduced by the CHP and the BDP on Sept. 11 said. Continue reading

Malaysian Govt’s gay-spotters guide prompts v-neck celebration

A Facebook page declared October 1 National Wear V-Neck Day in Malaysia in  response to a parenting guide just published by the country’s education ministry with tips on how to spot gays and lesbians. Here’s the government’s field guide to the homosexual species, as reported by Free Malaysia Today–helpfully, the list includes the “inclination to be attracted” to people of the same sex:

For gays:

  • Muscular body and a fondness for showing off the body by wearing clothing, such as by wearing V-necks and sleeveless tops
  • A preference for tight and bright coloured clothes
  • An inclination to be attracted to men
  • A tendency to carry big handbags, similar to the kinds used by women

For lesbians:

  • Showing attraction to women
  • Distancing themselves from women other than their girlfriends
  • A preference for hanging out, sleeping and dining with women
  • Absence of feelings for men

One hundred and seven people had signed up for National Wear V-Neck Day on the page created by Adam Mosby Sharizman within hours of its posting. Sharizman wrote,

I love wearing V necks. Now they’re being discriminated. So are my friends. Lets wear v-necks to show our love for v-necks and to support our friends.

One commenter replied,

HEY I JUST MET YOU, your collar looks V, but here’s my number, so call me maybe?

Can law change norms?

Analía Mas

If the US were to legalize gay marriage, how long would it take opposition to dissipate? Would the law’s passage radically reduce anti-gay sentiment in places where it’s now strong, or would it just intensify in defeat?

Looking at their own experience, some of the activists who fought for the marriage law are stunned at how fast it became accepted. It had a transformative effect even in the country’s most conservative northern provinces.

I recently spoke with two lawyers who worked on the marriage and gender identity laws, Analía Mas and Mariana Casas. The told me the change in Argentine society came almost instantaneously.

Mas described how she went to Tecumán–a city in the far northern corner of the country–to attend the city’s first gay wedding after the law passed. She had been there just two months before to debate some lawyers opposed to the law. “The opposition in the province [to the law] was just terrible,” Mas said.

But she ran into the lawyers she had debated after the the wedding–which was for two laborers who had a son–and they were “very humble.”

“The same ones who had been opposed [to the marriage law] greeted me in the street saying, ‘Well, we don’t think the same [as the men who got married], but we congratulate them,’ Mas remembers. “The social acceptance had been enormous.”

In another anecdote, Mas said that a 20 year old lesbian whose father had not spoken to her for two years called her on the very night the law passed.

Mariana Casas summed up:

What happened was not only that gays and lesbians could marry, but also that the state said they exist. They exist and that is ok. Do you understand what happened?… That is legitimation. We hope the same will happen [for trans people] with the gender identity law, though it is a little more difficult.

And, as she sees it, Argentina’s now more accepting than many cities in Europe.

We’ve made up kilometers of in less time than Madrid or Barcelona … I come to Madrid, and I’m suprised that Madrid doesn’t have the assimilation that’s possible for gays and lesbians and trans people (that we have here)…. I’m 53 years old, and I don’t remember ever having seen two men or two women holding hands in the street like I see now.

Gay marriage “on the path of the Gospel of Jesus”?

Nicolás Alessio

Faced with the possibility of a law allowing people of the same sex to be “married” and to experience love and sexuality deeply, we understand that approving it … puts us on the path of the Gospel of Jesus.

These words began a statement issued by a group of priests from the city of Córdoba during the debate over Argentina’s gay marriage law. The priests belonged to the Grupo Sacerdotal Enrique Angelelli, a group affiliated with the Liberation Theology movement named for a bishop of Rioja killed by Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1976.

The group was led by Nicolás Alessio, who had been a priest in the San Cayetano for 26 years. In an interview, Alessio told me he thought that by opposing the marriage law, the church was committing the same sins it had during the junta, allying itself with the oppressors against the oppressed.

The [Catholic] hierarchy had collaborated with persecution, discrimination, stigmatization, of homosexuals. The church collaborated with the prejudice of considering homosexuals sick, sinners, and also delinquents.

The priests affiliated with Alessio were not the only ones to speak out in support of the law. Another group even published a statement in Pagina/12, one of Argentina’s major papers.

Most were allowed to continue being priests. But not Alessio, who refused to stop speaking out on the issue after his bishop ordered him to. He was suspended, and then decided to leave the church.

Today, Alessio explained,

I do pastoral work with a “remnant” of the community [from my old church] and with other “remnants” of various communities that don’t feel included by the official space. We are “the same other Church”; the “same” because we’re nog going to create nor build new structures, but “other” because we feel free from Roma, from the Vatican … free to live a faith that is plural, inclusive, of the poor, and prophetic.