Why a “gay Roe vs Wade” is unlikely

Andrew Sullivan wrote last night that part of him is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court issues a narrow ruling in the gay marriage cases. He said:

To my mind, that smaller decision would be a relief. Why? Because I do not want a gay Roe vs Wade, a decision that appears to foist a premature answer on a still-not-entirely-convinced public.

Sullivan talks himself out of this desire by focusing on the “moral clarity of our cause,” which he thinks demands the court strike down all bans on same-sex marriage. But there’s a historical reason why he could breathe easier about the risk of a backlash.

The conservative movement has already won as much as it can on the gay marriage issue. Continue reading


Argentina: Where the government pays for sex changes and outlaws abortion

To my readers back home in the US: Imagine the US Congress legalized gay marriage nationwide and passed a law giving transexuals a right to sexual reassignment surgery. Then imagine abortion was almost completely illegal, and sex ed was kept out of many schools.

It’s hard enough to imagine this Congress championing LGBT rights. But it’s even weirder to imagine a climate that was so pro-LGBT yet simultaneously hostile to reproductive freedoms.

Yet that’s exactly the situation in Argentina today. After legalizing same-sex marriage in 2010, the national legislature passed a gender identity law that, as I understand it, funds sex change operations for those who want them. Yet abortion is still almost entirely illegal except in cases like rape–and now, according to a recent court ruling, doctors must “verify” that a woman was raped in order be able to get an abortion. And sex education in the schools also remains highly controversial.

As someone who’s covered American cultural politics for the past five years, this is a real mind-bender–it’s like being somewhere where the laws of Newtonian physics don’t apply. And it’s taken a great deal of explaining to the Argentines I’ve spoken with why their situation looks so weird to an American observer.

But the other night at a cultural event in Buenos Aires, I heard a city lawmaker observe the country’s paradoxical situation. This was Diputada Maria José Lubertino, the former head of the country’s national anti-discrimination institute, INADI.

“We are very proud … if it’s true that the government as made [Argentina] the friendliest place for lesbians, gays, transvestites, and transexuals, … it certainly is a global validation, but we should not feel satisfied or finished,” Lubertino said.

She pointed out that even in Buenos Aires there were efforts keeping sex ed out of the city’s schools.

We find in a city that is supposedly advanced, progressive, where, in parallel, … [there are women who are] victims of violence, victims of unwanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancy, abortions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, that probably … [with] sex education … could have been avoided.

The explanation I get from the people I’ve interviewed is that the opposition to abortion and sex education reflects the power of the Catholic Church. But no one’s been able to clarify for me why the church holds sway on these issues but not on gay marriage, which the country’s cardinal called “the work of the devil” before the law passed.

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.

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.”