About that Mexican Supreme Court ruling…

The Oaxacan Front for the Respect and Recognition of Sexual Diversity had scheduled a roundtable in Oaxaca City Wednesday night to discuss a landmark ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court about whether couples could marry in the state.

But the court didn’t rule on Wednesday, even though it had put the case on its public calendar.

At the Oaxaca event, the main lawyer in the case, Alex Alí Méndez Díaz said he was hopeful this was a good sign. This case is actually one of three Oaxacan marriage cases pending before the court, and it is scheduled to rule on the second on December 5. If the cases are combined, it could mean an even more significant ruling is in the works.

That’s because it takes more than one ruling for the overturn a law in the Mexican system. (This is a little confusing for Americans, so stay with me.) If the court were to rule in the first case that the couple, Lizeth and Monteserrat, can marry, that would only affect them: Lizeth and Montserrat would be able to register their union, but no other same-sex couples could. But a similar ruling in a second case could trigger the process by which the law is changed for everyone. So if it allows two (or three) same-sex Oaxacan couples to marry, the state’s marriage statute could be on its way out for good.

The outcome is complicated, though, because yesterday was the last session for one of the justices, and a change in personnel could shake things up.

Of course, there could also be no special reason for the delay–the court had a couple other big cases on their docket for yesterday, and it could have simply decided it was more than one session could handle. We’ll just have to wait another week to find out.

Colombian congress president apologizes for member’s “excremental sex” remarks

During a kiss-in protest Tuesday by Colombian LGBT activists, the president of the country’s Congress offered an apology for anti-gay remarks by Senator Roberto Gerlein.

“As President of the Senate, I offer public apologies to all the country’s LGBTI community for the discriminatory remarks of one of the members of Congress. Here all personal opinions are respected, but we do not accept discriminatory acts,” said the president of the Congress, Roy Barreras.

Meanwhile, conservative Senator Hernán Andrade called for a counter-protest in support of Gerlein. In a tweet, he called for a “classical and formal” kiss-in of men and women in the Plaza de Bolivar at 3 pm Wednesday. No word yet on the turnout.

Mexican Supreme Court could strike down law against same-sex marriage Wednesday

The Mexican Supreme Court could rule Wednesday that state laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violate the country’s constitution.

The court ruled in 2010 that marriages performed under a Mexico City ordinance must be recognized nationwide. But same-sex couples still can’t marry in most of the country.

If the court sides tomorrow with a lesbian couple from Oaxaca, Lizeth and Montserrat, it could start the process of undoing barriers to same-sex marriage in all of Mexico’s 31 states.

“If we win this case, practically any couple in Mexico could marry” regardless of what their local laws say, explained Alex Ali Mendez Diaz, legal director of the Oaxacan Front for the Respect and Recognition of Sexual Diversity. Continue reading

Dust-up in Colombia over “excremental sex” continues

Conservative Colombian Senator Roberto Gerlein may have given an unintentional boost to supporters of a gay marriage bill. He’s certainly made himself the center of controversy rather than the bill itself.

“Definitely Gerlein´s comments could help the discussion in the Congress. People are really angry,” said Mauricio Albarracín of Colombia Diversa via email.

Gerlein shut down debate on the measure last week after expressing his revulsion at sex between men, calling it, “dirty, repulsive, it is sex that deserves condemnation and is excremental sex.”

Now some liberal members of Congress are demanding he be investigated for violating the country’s antidiscrimination laws, though even some of his enemies say he should have parliamentary immunity.

Gerlein defended his comments:

Tell me how I’ve discriminated and against who because I don’t agree with gay marriage? I’ve only repudiated behavior repudiated by much more than half of Colombians… I clearly explained that by my criteria the problem of being gay is a genetic problem.

Gerlein’s critics are trying to make it an issue in the reappointment of the Procuradoría General, Alejandro Ordóñez, who oversees disciplinary action for civil servants.

He’s up for reelection this week and is widely expected to win.

Gays in Mayan Chiapas? A (colorful) conversation.

I’d arranged to meet Chip at five. “We can do coffee at Na Bolom or margaritas at El Paraiso,” he’d said when I’d called him on our walk into San Cristóbal from our cabin just outside of town.

“You know this town better than I do,” I said.

“It depends whether or not you want margaritas.”

The woman who was renting us the cabin in San Cristóbal de las Casas recommended I connect with Chip. He is an American who’d won a MacArthur Genius grant for his work on Mayan textiles in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. She thought he might know something about gays in the indigenous communities. This could be an interesting conversation—I was coming from getting my hair cut by a kid from one of the more indigenous parts of neighboring Oaxaca state, where he was telling me homosexuality is accepted and trans women are revered.

I found El Paraiso, a block from the main cathedral, with deep blue and beige stucco walls. The restaurant was empty except for one bearish man who looked like he could have been Mr. Natural’s cousin. He had a long, scraggly ponytail and a full beard that almost reached his chest.

“Chip?”

He stood, smiling so faintly I barely detected it beneath his mustache.

“How long have you been working in Chiapas,” I opened after getting settled at the table.

“Forty years,” he said. “It was a town of 14,000 people. There were no stoplights, no restaurants, and one bar.”

“How did you come here?”

“By accident,” he said, reaching for some peaunuts. He spoke so softly I could barely hear him.

“By accident?”

He was traveling with a friend who had a friend who was working down here, so they swung by. He was so impressed by the textiles that he stayed.

I told him about my project.

“I don’t know much, but I have some stories,” he said. A neatly dressed waiter in a white shirt and black vest came over and Chip ordered us two margaritas. They came out in enormous, shallow blue glasses filled with pebbles of ice, too much salt coating the rim.

“One time I took a gay couple to Zinacatán,” said Chip, Continue reading

Anti-Gay tirade shuts down Colombian marriage debate

The first debate on legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Colombia was postponed after conservative Senator Roberto Gerlein went on a 20-minute rant.

Highlights included his denunciation of sex between men as “dirty, repulsive, it is sex that deserves condemnation and is excremental sex” and his psychological theory that “the homosexual has a smaller hypothalamus.”

Catholic = Anti-Gay Marriage? Not quite.

Watching the post-election fallout while reporting on gay marriage in Latin America has been a little bizarre. With Latinos in the United States actually giving President Obama an even greater portion of their support this time around, there’s a lot of head-scratching from the pundits at home. Latinos are supposed to be Catholic, right? And Catholics aren’t supposed to like gay marriage, right? And that means they should punish Obama for his support of gay marriage, right?

The politics of the issue in Latin America presents a similar paradox. Despite the fact that most of Latin America is heavily Catholic—and increasingly evangelical in many places—the region is well ahead of the United States in recognizing same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

Even though there’s no sign that the church is fading as a political institution, it seems to have lost a lot of traction on this issue—among American Catholics, Latin American Catholics, and, well, European Catholics, too. (Spain and Portugal were among the first to legalize gay marriage, and France is also on its way. And, sure, Europe is more secular, but it’s still worth noting the trend.) Sometimes the courts are ahead of public opinion in pushing things along, but the countries’ Catholicness doesn’t seem to be putting major breaks on the issue.

In Latin America, it’s striking that the church is increasingly throwing its weight behind civil unions in order to head off marriage, a shift that suggests it recognizes all-out opposition is a losing proposition.

“It seems logical that two people of the same sex who care for each other and want to share their lives together can have some sort of civil acknowledgement, but it can’t be the same as what governs marriage,” Uruguay’s top bishop, Jaime Fuentes, said last week as the country’s congress debated the issue.

While the Catholic church remains an important institutional home for opposition to LGBT unions, when we look globally (and speaking in the most simplistic terms), Protestant and Muslim populations seem to be more pivotal demographics for the intensity of opposition to marriage.

A glance at this map from the Economist makes that pretty clear. Laws criminalizing homosexuality are found throughout Africa and the Middle East, but not so much where Catholics are the clearest majority.

In Uganda, for example, 42 percent of the population is Catholic, but another 42 percent is Protestant (mostly Anglican) and another 12 percent is Muslim.

And in Latin America, opposition to LGBT rights is generally strongest where the evangelical movement is strongest. Take the situation in Peru, where a backlash among evangelicals to Lima’s pro-LGBT mayor is driving a recall election.

The gap between what the church says and how this plays out politically is growing—fast. I wonder when that will stop coming as a surprise.

Christians and Muslims unite against gay marriage in Liberia

From The Associated Press:

A few hundred Liberians representing the Christian and Muslim faiths and civil society organizations gathered here Saturday to launch a campaign to press the government to ban same-sex marriage.

At Saturday’s anti-gay marriage rally, an outspoken clergy, representing the Liberia Council of Churches, Rudolph Marsh, lashed out at the influence of foreign powers.

“There are good things in America that we can copy,” he said, “we don’t have to copy the bad ones; let’s leave the bad ones with Americans.”

Marsh called on Liberian Christians and Muslims to remain united “and stand together and tell the world that Liberia is a place of civilized people and will not allow same-sex marriage.”

Yucatán to legalize same-sex marriage?

After a last round of interviews with leaders of Colombia Diversa in Bogotá, I’ll fly to Mexico tomorrow. I’m starting in Quintana Roo (home of Cancún), which was the second jurisdiction in Mexico to legalize gay marriage. Now legislators in the neighboring state of Yucatán are hoping to follow suit.

The coordinator of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática in the state government, Bayardo Ojeda Marrufo, has announced that he will introduce a “universal marriage” bill on November 20 instead of the domestic partnership measure he originally proposed.

Though the PRD does not have as strong a presence in Yucatán as it does in Mexico City—where the party won passage of a gay marriage bill in 2009—Ojedo Marrufo said this week that he believes the party can build on its progressive history in Yucatán:

We were the first on the vote for women, we were the first on the subject of abortion, and, I believe, that it is time-—not having political overtones right now, not having electoral campaigns—now is the moment that we work on this subject.