How Argentina Did It: The Political Answer

Gay marriage would never have been legalized in Argentina if the couple who’ve dominated the country’s politics for the past decade hadn’t found it in their political interests. And it wasn’t until I understood this that I could make sense of how LGBT activists made Argentina the first country in Latin America to allow gay marriage.

President Cristina Fernández of the party Frente para la Victoria has been in office since 2007, and her husband, Néstor Kirchner, was president from 2003 to 2007 and a member of Congress after leaving the Casa Rosada. (He died in 2010.) Their brand of leftist populism has never made them popular in Buenos Aires, which is much wealthier than the rest of the country.

The gay marriage issue presented them, they hoped, with a way to establish a beachhead in the city, where polls showed overwhelming support for marriage legalization well before the law passed.

Diana Maffia, a former Buenos Aires city lawmaker and an academic who studies sexuality and gender, said, “This was a way to capture a progressive vote. [The Kirchners were], of course, thinking that, ‘If I give them equal marriage, all the gays are going to vote for me.’ That’s a little primitive …. but I think there was opportunism.” Continue reading