Latin America’s gay marriage revolution

Published by Foreign Policy Magazine.

In his second inaugural address, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to make the United States a beacon for the world by recommitting the country to its ideals of equality. He also made history by saying those ideals demand marriage rights for same-sex couples just as they have demanded equal citizenship for women and African Americans.

But even if the Supreme Court or lawmakers soon agree with Obama’s words — “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well” — the United States will be a latecomer to advancing marriage rights. The world’s leaders on this issue are not just from places Americans might expect — Western Europe or Canada — but many countries in our own hemisphere; places not usually known for progressivism on social issues. While Obama was undergoing his “evolution” on marriage rights, there has been a gay rights revolution that has stretched from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.

One dramatic illustration: When a broad coalition of human-rights activists brought a gay rights charter to the United Nations in 2007, the push was led not by the likes of Sweden or the Netherlands, but by Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Same-sex marriage was not legal in any of these countries then, but a lot has changed in the years since. Continue reading

Why Latin America is beating the U.S. to marriage equality

There’s been a lot of surprise in the American media following yesterday’s ruling from the Mexican Supreme Court striking down a ban on same-sex marriage—how is it that a Catholic country in Latin America is way ahead of the United States on gay marriage?

If we paid a little more attention to our hemisphere, we really wouldn’t be that surprised: there’s been an LGBT rights revolution in Latin America that has well surpassed us.

John Aravosis, for example, voices incredulity at this fact over at AMERICAblog:

I never cease to be amazed at how many countries, and which countries, around the world are ahead of the US on this basic civil and human right. I grew up being taught that America was the greatest and freest country on earth…. I’m still blown away that in traditionally Catholic countries, and Latin countries to boot, marriage equality is proceeding ahead of the US.

To review where things stand in Latin America:

  • The first country to legalize marriage through legislative action was Argentina, which passed an Equal Marriage law in 2010. Several municipalities have started performing weddings for foreign couples, making it an engine for advancing same-sex marriage across South America. I took an in-depth look at how this was possible here, here, and here. Continue reading

Marriage bill passes committee in Colombian Senate

A law to legalize same-sex marriage in Colombia passed its first test in the Colombian Senate on Tuesday, clearing committee on a 10-to-5 vote.

It now heads to the full Senate, where its sponsor, Armando Benedetti, believes it has a good shot at passage.

The road to final passage remains rocky, however. Even if it makes it through the Senate, it still will face stiff opposition in the House.

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.

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.

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.”

Bogota’s “Councilman of the Family” flees Colombia fearing for his safety

Bogotá city Councilman Marco Fidel Ramírez—who calls himself the “Councilman of the Family”—put out a release on Friday saying he was leaving the country out of fear for his safety.

The dramatic departure comes after he presided over a hearing Thursday targeting LGBT programming on the city’s public television station, Canal Capital. He demanded the channel’s director, Hollman Morris, turn over a list of all its LGBT employees.

Morris refused, and the councilman came under some strong attacks from his colleagues, including from Angélica Lozano. In Friday’s statement, he implied that this was part of the reason he felt unsafe remaining in the country.

I have been heavily attacked by the very system of Capital News, and politically and religiously persecuted by the district administration, through several of its officials … which leads me to leave the country for protection of my integrity.

This reads to me more like a political stunt since he doesn’t mention any direct phyiscal threats. Nevertheless, Councilwoman Lozano put out a statement saying she “laments any threats” against Marco Fidel Ramírez.