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TSA poised to change airport security for gay couples

César Zapata, Hunter Carter, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, César Zapata and Hunter Carter said American Airlines personnel at the Medellín, Colombia, airport separated them on Jan. 18 as they checked into their flight to Miami. (Photo courtesy of César Zapata)

The Washington Blade has learned the Transportation Security Administration is poised to allow same-sex couples to undergo pre-flight security screenings together in response to two recent incidents with American Airlines personnel at a Colombian airport.

Hunter Carter, a prominent same-sex marriage advocate in Latin America who said American Airlines personnel at the airport in the Colombian city of Medellín separated him and his husband, César Zapata, as they tried to check into their Miami-bound flight on Jan. 18, received an e-mail from Alec Bramlett, senior litigation attorney for the airline, on Wednesday afternoon.

“TSA has communicated to our Corporate Security folks that they are working on a technical change to its directive, and that pending that change, we can immediately begin screening same-sex spouses together,” wrote Bramlett in the e-mail the Blade obtained from Carter. “We are working on communicating this change in procedures to our stations ASAP.”

The TSA does not conduct airport security screenings outside the U.S.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA, with whom the Blade spoke on Wednesday could not immediately comment on the policy change. Witeck Communications President Bob Witeck, who frequently works with American Airlines, confirmed the content of Bramlett’s e-mail to Carter.

“It used to be that discrimination against same-sex couples who are LGBT people wasn’t newsworthy, but that has changed,” Carter told the Blade on Wednesday. “Today a major corporation and a government agency swiftly changed a legacy policy that was discriminatory and humiliating. Now when César and I fly we know we will not be flying as second-class passengers but on equal terms with all other married couples as is our legal right.”

Carter and Zapata are the second same-sex couple in less than two months to allege American Airlines personnel at the Medellín airport separated them as they tried to check into their U.S.-bound flight.

Ana Elisa Leiderman said an American Airlines ticket agent separated her from her wife, Verónica Botero, and their two small children as they tried to check into their Miami-bound flight on Dec. 13. A third gay couple — Tomás Georgi and Mark Cline — told the Blade late on Wednesday they experienced a similar experience on Dec. 1 as they tried to check into their American Airlines flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to New York.

“I was told to get back to the end of the line when I protested,” said Georgi. “As a native of Argentina, I was fully able to discern the distain and anti-gay sentiment with which I was treated.”

Georgi told the Blade another gate agent whom he asked to allow him to board his flight with his partner “dismissed” him “callously.”

“Not until I insisted again and drew the attention of the 100 or so fellow passengers was I permitted to join my partner who was waiting for me on the jet way after being physically separated from me and searched,” said Georgi. “The staff, which had originally prohibited me from joining my partner, hurled snide remarks at me as I walked past them to join him.”

An American Airlines spokesperson told the Blade on Jan. 10 the company regrets “the circumstances” that Leiderman “faced with her spouse and family” while traveling from Colombia to the U.S. The spokesperson added airport personnel in Medellín “followed existing security screening rules mandated by the” TSA.

Georgi provided the Blade an e-mail he received from Stefania Meyer of American Airlines on Dec. 16 that noted, among other things, the company has received a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for nine consecutive years. The letter also said the men would each receive a $96 refund for seat upgrades they purchased for their flight from Argentina.

“Our customers should always experience polite and efficient service from our employees, regardless of the circumstances,” wrote Meyer. “Your comments regarding the lack of professionalism on the part of our gate staff is of significant concern to us. Please accept our apologies for the poor agent demeanor and other problems you and Mr. Cline encountered that day.”

The letter made no mention of TSA security screening policy. Georgi said American Airlines Director of Customer Relations Tim Rhodes “dismissed my complaints as the fault of TSA and took no responsibility” for the alleged incident during a telephone call he said he received from him on Jan. 6.

“What I cannot get over is the reaction of the head of customer service,” Georgi told the Blade. “He explained to me that it is difficult to read peoples’ intentions. However, I speak Spanish fluently, I was born in [Buenos Aires,] I could read the intentions of the American Airlines staff very clearly, especially when I was told to go to the back of the line.”

23
Jan
2014

U.N. report criticizes Vatican over anti-gay rhetoric, sex abuse

Pope Francis, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis. (Photo by Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A U.N. committee has sharply criticized the Vatican over its opposition to homosexuality and other issues.

“The committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples,” said the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in a report it released on Wednesday.

The committee described Pope Francis’ statement last July that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized as “progressive” and “positive.” The U.N. body nevertheless urged the Catholic Church to address discrimination against gay and lesbian children and those born to unmarried parents.

“The committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality,” reads the report.

The report also criticized the Vatican over its response to the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” it said.

The committee also criticized the Holy See over its ongoing opposition to abortion, access to contraception and information about sexual and reproductive health.

The Associated Press reported that Archbishop Silvano Tomasi on Wednesday said LGBT advocacy groups and those who back marriage rights for same-sex couples “reinforced an ideological line” with the committee.

The report’s release comes against the backdrop of Francis’ ongoing efforts to temper the Vatican’s rhetoric against homosexuality, marriage rights for same-sex couples and other social issues since he succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last March.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” said Francis during an extensive interview that La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine, published last September. “When we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Francis, who is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, in 2001 kissed and washed the feet of 12 people with AIDS during a visit to a local hospice. He also spearheaded opposition to Argentina’s same-sex marriage law that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed in 2010.

Fernández sharply criticized then-Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio after he categorized the gay nuptials measure as a “demonic plan” and called for a “holy war” against it.

Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, on Twitter questioned what the Advocate — which named Francis as their 2013 person of the year — and Rolling Stone — which placed him on the cover of the magazine’s Jan. 29 issue — would say “about their idol the pope after the U.N.’s definitive report about sexual abuse and cover-up”

“Beyond the nice declarations about sexual diversity, Francis and the Vatican cannot continue turning their backs to the reality that it has affected the lives of millions of boys and girls around the world,” Paulón told the Washington Blade from New York where he and six other Latin American LGBT rights advocates are on a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip. “They clearly demonstrate a network of guaranteed impunity from senior Vatican officials (including the pope) for those criminals.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., also welcomed the U.N. report.

“Many government leaders around the world and many Catholics in the pews have expressed the opinions that report articulated so clearly that the Vatican’s negative messages against LGBT people cause violence, harm and in some cases death,” he said.

DeBernardo added he expects Francis will respond to the report because “a prestigious organization like the U.N. puts weight behind that message.”

05
Feb
2014

Latin American LGBT advocates visit U.S.

Michael K. Lavers, Alberto Moscoso Flor, Esteban Paulon, Diane Rodriguez, gay news, Washington Blade

A group of Latin American LGBT rights advocates toured the Washington Blade offices on Jan. 31 (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The State Department has invited a group of Latin American LGBT rights advocates to the U.S. to meet with their American counterparts.

LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón; Alberto Moscoso Flor, executive director of the Civil Association for Social Development and Cultural Promotion of GLBT Freedom in Bolivia; Juan Fuentealba Álvarez of the Chilean It Gets Better Foundation; Paulina Torres Mora of “Beso Diverso” in Costa Rica; Deivis Ventura of the “Amigos Siempre Amigos” Network of Volunteers in the Dominican Republic; Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano, president of the Silueta X Association in Ecuador and Clauvo Velásquez of the Homosexual Community of Hope for the Loreto Region of Perú arrived in D.C. on Jan. 25 as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

The group met with former Human Rights Campaign President Elizabeth Birch, members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer while in the nation’s capital. The advocates also toured the Washington Blade office on Jan. 31 where they met with this reporter and publisher Lynne Brown.

The group met with gay New York State Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell; Hetrick-Martin Institute CEO Thomas Krever; Adam Frankel of Human Rights Watch; staffers of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and All Out and gay blogger Andrés Duque while in New York.

The activists are scheduled to visit Texas and California before leaving the U.S. later this month.

“Our work is focused on showing other realities to LGBT kids and youth so they can have hope for the future and celebrate diversity,” Fuentealba told the Blade. “We believe that all players involved in the construction of our society play an important role in this goal. And newspapers, TV stations and the film industry, among others, are key elements on making a change.”

Rodríguez, a transgender woman who unsuccessfully sought a seat in the Ecuadorian Congress last year, filed a complaint against her South American country’s government with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights while in D.C.

She was able to receive an amended identity card without her birth name after she won a lawsuit in 2009, but it did not list her gender as female. Rodríguez told the Blade she was kidnapped for four hours in 2012 because of her advocacy efforts.

“I hope that the court will analyze my case and the case of transgender people who are coming behind me,” she said.

U.S. LGBT rights advocates who met with their Latin American counterparts welcomed the opportunity to do so.

“Human rights activism offers precious few opportunities to sit back, even just for an hour, and share information about the struggles and strategies of our peers,” IGLHRC Latin America and Caribbean Coordinator María Mercedes Gómez exclusively told the Blade, noting she and her colleagues discussed anti-LGBT violence in the region, bullying, access to health care and gender-appropriate identity cards during their meeting with the group on Wednesday. “We talked about the fact that those who are the most vulnerable to abuse are those who transcend and challenge prevailing gender roles — in other words, our struggle is not only about sexual orientation or gender identity, it is about the freedom of everyone to be who they are.”

“The State Department invited a remarkable group of young activists from across Latin America and the Caribbean, each a leader in his or her community,” added Beyer, who announced her candidacy against Maryland state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) late last month. “Their insights about common problems, derived from their own national experiences, were often diverse, and prompted some fascinating conversations.”

O’Donnell said in a press release his office released after his Feb. 3 meeting with the advocates that they discussed marriage rights for same-sex couples, anti-LGBT violence and efforts to curb bullying.

The New York lawmaker also talked about the important role he feels openly gay legislators can play in debates over the aforementioned issues. He highlighted his own experience with his fellow lawmakers during the 2011 debate on the Empire State’s same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law.

“That way someone is always around when legislation is being debated, not an outside person or group, but one of their own, a colleague,” said O’Donnell.

The State Department has previously invited Latin American LGBT rights advocates to the U.S.

Six Colombian activists visited D.C., Iowa and California last April. A group of LGBT rights advocates from Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Panamá, Costa Rica and México visited the U.S. in 2012.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and two Colombian advocacy groups – Colombia Diversa and Caribe Afirmativo – have organized two trainings over the last year designed to encourage LGBT people to become more involved in the South American country’s political process. These gatherings are part of the USAID-backed LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next three years to activist organizations in Ecuador and other developing countries.

Two Cuban LGBT rights advocates – Ignacio Estrada Cepero and Wendy Iriepa Díaz – met with Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and others last year while in the U.S.

A number of Russian LGBT rights advocates have visited D.C. and other U.S. cities in recent months ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that begin on Thursday in Sochi, Russia.

Latvian LGBT rights advocate Kaspars Zailitis is also in the U.S. on another State Department-sponsored trip.

06
Feb
2014

Gay Mexican couple seeks right to marry

Supreme Court, Mexico, gay news, Washington Blade

The Supreme Court of Mexico (Photo public domain)

A gay Mexican couple seeking the right to legally marry on Monday filed a formal complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in D.C.

The couple, who remain anonymous, say an official in the state where they live denied their request to tie the knot.

The two men have sought legal recourse — known as an “amparo” in the Mexican judicial system — that would allow them to marry. Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer representing the couple, notes one of the men who is living with HIV does not have access to his partner’s medical benefits — and medications used to treat the virus — because they lack legal recognition.

“Every day that they cannot be legally married, his health and their family are threatened more,” said Carter.

The Mexican Supreme Court last month ruled in favor of 39 people who challenged the constitutionality of a Oaxacan law that bans gay marriage. The same tribunal in 2012 ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who separately sought legal recourse that would allow them to marry in the state.

Gays and lesbians have been able to marry in Mexico City since 2010. Same-sex couples have also sought to exchange vows in Jalisco, Chihuahua, Quintana Roo and other Mexican states as the issue gains additional traction in the country.

The Mexican Supreme Court in January ruled the same-sex spouses of those who receive benefits under the country’s social security system must receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera argued against the “new definition of marriage” in a brief filed last November with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking the ability to tie the knot in the South American country. The New York City Bar Association — of which Carter is a member — last month filed a brief with the Colombian Constitutional Court on behalf of two gay couples who are challenging efforts to nullify their unions.

Same-sex couples are able to legally marry in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and 18 U.S. states and D.C.

“The Americas are in the vanguard of marriage equality: the majority of same-sex couples in the hemisphere live where they can get married, or if married elsewhere can have their marital rights recognized,” said Carter. “But many, as in Chile and Mexico, still cannot because their leaders still practice a pure discrimination that is unsustainable under international human rights law and constitutional principles of the equal protection of the laws.”

“We call upon the Inter-American Commission immediately to hold substantive hearings on these applications and on the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples generally,” he added.

12
May
2014

Denmark to allow legal gender changes without sterilization

trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Danish lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that will allow transgender people to legally change their gender without sterilization and surgery. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Denmark on Wednesday became the first European country to allow transgender people to legally change their gender without undergoing medical and psychological treatment.

Agence France Presse reported the law, which received final approval in the Danish Parliament, will allow Danes who are at least 18 to legally change their gender after stating their desire to “belong to the other sex” and completing what the Danish government describes as a six-month “reflection period.” They had previously been required to undergo sex-reassignment surgery and sterilization before making the request.

The law is slated to take effect on Sept. 1.

“Today we have dropped the requirement of sterilization when transgendered people need a new personal identification number as part of a legal sex change,” said Minister for Economics and the Interior Margrethe Vestager in a statement to Agence France Presse. “It will make life easier and more dignified for the individual.”

Danish LGBT rights advocates applauded the new law.

“We are highly satisfied that the government decided to go with the most progressive solution and that the Parliament provided a majority vote for it,” Søren Laursen, chair of LGBT Danmark, a Danish advocacy group, told the Washington Blade.

“We are very happy that the law regarding legal recognition of gender identity has been updated,” added Sarah Baagøe Petersen, vice chair of Lambda, another Danish LGBT advocacy group, in an e-mail to the Blade. “The fact that transgender people can now freely apply to change their gender — legally — without surgery or a psychological evaluation is a big step in the right direction. The entire LGBT community welcomes this change.”

Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2012 signed what is considered the world’s most progressive trans rights law that allows people in the South American country to legally change their gender on official documents without surgery and an affidavit from a doctor or another medical provider. Neighboring Uruguay has adopted a similar statute.

The Dutch Senate late last year approved a bill slated to take effect on July 1 that will allow trans people to legally change their gender without undergoing sterilization and sex-reassignment surgery. They will still need to obtain a statement from an “expert” to fulfill their request.

German parents have been able to designate the gender on their intersex children’s birth certificates as “indeterminate” since last November.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley last month signed a bill that added gender identity and expression to the state’s non-discrimination law. Efforts to prompt a referendum on the law failed after opponents did not collect enough signatures.

Laursen and other European LGBT rights advocates said they hope other countries enact laws that allow trans people to legally change their gender without surgery or sterilization.

“We are very pleased to see the Argentinian model for legal gender recognition being introduced in Europe by Denmark today,” said ILGA-Europe Co-Chair Paulo Côrte-Real. “The benchmark is set high now and we encourage other European countries to follow suit and to remove unnecessary, humiliating and degrading requirements which hinder people across Europe to fully enjoy their lives in preferred gender.”

“We are the first European country to go with this model – in fact, such a solution exists today only in Argentina and Uruguay,” added Laursen. “I am convinced that other European countries will now follow.”

12
Jun
2014

Pope says gays should not be marginalized

Pope Francis I, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho via Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis on Monday said gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized.

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?” he told reporters in response to a question about gay priests as he returned to Rome after his week-long trip to Brazil for World Youth Day as La Nación, an Argentine newspaper reported.

Francis’ comments come amid renewed calls to welcome gays and lesbians back into the church following Pope Benedict XVI’s abrupt resignation in February.

“You are made in God’s image and likeness,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during an interview in March. “We want your happiness… and you’re entitled to friendship.”

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic late last month referred to James “Wally” Brewster, an openly gay man whom President Obama nominated to become the next American ambassador to the Caribbean country, as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a press conference.

Francis himself seemed to echo Dolan’s call during his comments to reporters.

“The Catechism of the Catholic church explains this in a very clear way,” the pontiff told reporters. “It says that these people should not be marginalized. They should be integrated into society.”

Majority of Catholics back same-sex marriage; hierarchy remains opposed

A Quinnipiac University poll in March found that 54 percent of Catholics support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is among the Catholic state executives who have signed same-sex marriage measures into law.

Catholic hierarchy continues to oppose the issue in spite of this increased support.

“Marriage exists obviously we believe by the will of God because the sexual orientation between men and women tends to create babies,” Father Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington (Del.) said before Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law that extended marriage to same-sex couples in the state.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence (R.I.) in May also spoke out against the issue in a letter to Rhode Island Catholics before Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

“Like many others, I am profoundly disappointed that Rhode Island has approved legislation that seeks to legitimize ‘same-sex marriage,’” Tobin wrote.

Francis, who was among the most prominent opponents of efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in his native Argentina, also spoke out against what he described as the “gay lobby” within the Vatican. These comments came in response to questions over the reported homosexuality of Monsignor Battista Ricca, whom the pontiff last month appointed to oversee the Vatican bank, that began to emerge last week in the Italian press.

“When one encounters a person like this, one have to distinguish between the act of being gay and lobbying, because no lobby is good,” Francis said. “The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying.”

The Archdiocese of Washington did not have an immediate comment on Francis’ statements.

“He’s articulating well in a beautifully tender way the traditional teaching of the church,” Dolan said during an interview on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday. “While certain acts may be wrong, we will always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an LGBT Catholic organization, told the Washington Blade she welcomes what she described as a “change of tone from the very harsh and damaging rhetoric” of Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

“We hope it translates into similar expressions of openness among bishops and cardinals here in the U.S. and in other countries,” Duddy-Burke said. “The best news would be if the Pope indicates a willingness to begin a dialogue with LGBT Catholics and our families about our experience in the Church and in our societies. He’s shown humility in walking with other marginalized groups. We’d hope it would extend to us, as well.”

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin struck a similar tone.

“While Pope Francis’s words do not reflect a shift in Church policy, they represent a significant change in tone,” he said. “Like his namesake, Francis’s humility and respect for human dignity are showing through, and the widespread positive response his words have received around the world reveals that Catholics everywhere are thirsty for change.”

Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, highlighted the pontiff’s opposition to same-sex marriage in Argentina.

“A profound self-criticism on the part of the church hierarchy about the position it has historically taken with regard to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people is essential,” Paulón said in a statement. “Let’s not forget that this same pope that today said don’t judge us the same man who called for ‘a holy war against the devil’s plan’ to block the same-sex marriage law. These types of declarations, coming from the top of the Catholic church hierarchy, only promote hate and discrimination.”

29
Jul
2013

LGBT Catholics welcome Francis’ comments on marriage

Pope Francis I, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis

LGBT Catholics have welcomed Pope Francis’ comments that the church has grown “obsessed” with same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.

“We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the Pope’s firm desire that the church be a ‘home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with love rather than condemnation,” Dignity USA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said in a statement on Thursday after America, a Jesuit magazine, published the pontiff’s extensive interview with with Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine, that took place during three separate meetings last month in Rome.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., said Francis’ comments amount to a “new dawn” for the Catholic Church.

“Pope Francis’ words and example have opened up new opportunities for the Catholic Church to welcome and dialogue with LGBT people,” DeBernardo said. “His words will give courage and hope to thousands of pastoral ministers and Catholic faithful who have been doing this work for many decades, but who have often received penalties and discouragements from church leaders who did not share this pope’s broad vision.”

Francis’ comments come less than two months after he told reporters who asked him about the reported homosexuality of the man whom he appointed to oversee the Vatican bank on his flight back to Rome after a week-long trip to Brazil for World Youth Day that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized. The Argentine-born pontiff reiterated this statement during his interview with Spadaro.

“In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation,” Francis said. “It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington told the Washington Blade that Cardinal Donald Wuerl was traveling on Thursday and did not have any comment on Francis’ statements.

“He is a man who profoundly believes in the mercy of a loving God, and who wants to bring that message of mercy to the entire world, including those who feel that they have been wounded by the church,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a statement. “As a priest and a bishop, I particularly welcome his reminder that the clergy are primarily to serve as shepherds, to be with our people, to talk with them, to be pastors, not bureaucrats.”

Dolan, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, further discussed the pontiff’s comments on “CBS This Morning” on Friday.

“If we keep [a] kind of a negative, finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive,” Dolan said.

LGBT Catholics greeted Francis’ election in March to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who vehemently opposed same-sex marriage and condom use to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and enforced the Vatican’s moral doctrine before ascending the papacy, with cautious optimism.

Francis, who is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, in 2001 visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet of 12 people with AIDS. He told Spadero he used to receive letters from gay people who said they were “socially wounded” because they felt “like the church has always condemned them.”

“The church does not want to do this,” Francis told Spadero.

The pontiff was among those who led the opposition to Argentina’s same-sex marriage law that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed in 2010. Francis described the measure as a “machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God” before Argentine lawmakers approved it.

Fernández herself criticized then-Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio’s comments against the measure that included references to it as a “demonic plan.” Francis also called for a “holy war” against the gay marriage bill.

“He says not to interfere with the lives of gays, but in the countries where lawmakers are debating laws of equality, the Catholic hierarchy lobbies ferociously to ensure that these laws don’t advance (the same pope played a part of this in Argentina,)” Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón told the Blade on Friday. “This leads us to ask ourselves who is the Pope? Is he the same Bergoglio of the holy war and demonic plan (about marriage equality) or the ‘compassionate’ Francis toward gays.”

Even though it appears Francis’ comments will have no impact on Catholic teachings on same-sex marriage and other social issues, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Thursday wrote to Dolan as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. He urged them to end their public opposition to pro-LGBT measures.

“Doing anything less will put you in direct conflict with Pope Francis’ message of welcome and mercy — and create an even greater gulf between you and the broad majority of the American Catholic laity, who support their LGBT neighbors’ freedom to marry the person they love in a civil ceremony,” Griffin wrote.

20
Sep
2013

‘XXY’ to get campus screening

XXY, gay news, Washington Blade, intersex

Scene from the film, ‘XXY.’

Anne Arundel Community College (101 College Pkwy., Arnold, Md.) screens “XXY” as part of its “LGBT Themes and Issues Film Series” Monday night at 7 p.m.

“XXY” is an Argentine film that tells the story of 15 year-old intersex Alex, who has been living as a girl her whole life by taking medicine to suppress her male features. Alex decides to stop taking the medicine to live as a boy all while dealing with the judgments in her town and a first love.

Tickets are free. For details, visit aacc.edu.

14
Nov
2013

Uruguay Senate to vote on same-sex marriage bill

Uruguay, Montevideo, gay news, Washington Blade

Uruguayan Parliament in Montevideo (Photo by Libertinus via Wikimedia Commons)

Uruguayan lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to approve a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the South American country.

The vote in the Uruguay Senate will take place nearly four months after the country’s House of Representatives backed the measure by an 81-6 vote margin. President José Mujica has said he will sign it into law.

Neighboring Argentina, Mexico City and a handful of states in Brazil that include São Paolo currently allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot. The Colombian Senate on April 10 is scheduled to debate a proposal that would allow same-sex marriage in the country.

02
Apr
2013

Mexican Supreme Court finds gay marriage ban unconstitutional

Oaxaca, gay marriage, marriage equality, same sex marriage, Mexico

Lawyer Alex Ali Mendez Diaz represented three same-sex couples from the Mexican state of Oaxaca whom local authorities denied marriage licenses. (Photo courtesy of Alex Ali Mendez Diaz)

The Mexican Supreme Court on Monday formally released its ruling that found a Oaxacan law that bans same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The 56-page decision cites two U.S. Supreme Court cases that specifically addressed race-based discrimination and segregation: Loving v. Virginia that found state bans on interracial marriages unconstitutional and Brown v. Board of Education that struck down laws that allowed separate public schools for black and white students.

“The historic disadvantages that homosexuals have suffered have been amply recognized and documented: public scorn, verbal abuse, discrimination in their places of employment and in the access of certain services, including their exclusion from certain aspects of public life,” the judges wrote. “In comparative law it has been argued that discrimination that homosexual couples have suffered when they are denied access to marriage is analogous with the discrimination suffered by interracial couples at another time.”

They further point out the U.S. Supreme Court said in Loving v. Virginia that restricting marriage on the basis of race is “incompatible” with the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

“In connection with this analogy, it can be said that the normative power of marriage is of little use if it does not give the possibility to marry the person that one chooses,” the judges wrote.

The court released its decision more than two months after the judges unanimously struck down the Oaxaca law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Three couples tried to apply for marriage licenses in the state, but local authorities denied their applications. Lawyer Alex Alí Méndez Díaz filed lawsuits on behalf of two of the couples in Aug. 2011 and a third in Jan. 2012 who sought legal recourse — an “amparo” in the Mexican judicial system — to ensure local authorities would protect their constitutional rights.

The ruling also comes roughly six weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

“They do it when in our country there is no previous rulings on the subject,” Méndez told the Washington Blade from Mexico City when asked whether it is common for Mexican Supreme Court judges to cite cases from other countries in their decisions. “These rulings are the first at the national level that support the topics in the way in which we had planned.”

Marriage debate continues throughout Latin America

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the Mexican capital since 2010, and the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled other states must recognize gay marriages legally performed in Mexico City. Gays and lesbians have also married in Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, while the state of Coahuila offers property and inheritance rights and other limited legal protections to same-sex couples.

The Uruguay House of Representatives in December overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot. Same-sex marriage advocates expect the measure will easily pass in the country’s Senate in April — President José Mujica has said he will sign it into law.

A Colombian Senate committee in December also approved a same-sex marriage bill. A court in the Brazilian state of São Paolo later that month ordered registries to begin offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples without a judge’s approval.

Argentina has allowed same-sex couples to marry since 2010, while Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in 2011 said he would introduce a bill that would allow gay men and lesbians to enter into civil unions. Same-sex couples would be allowed to tie the knot and adopt children in French Guiana under a proposal the French Senate is scheduled to begin debating on April 2.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Feb. 2012 ruled in favor of lesbian Chilean Judge Karen Atala who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband in 2005 because of her sexual orientation. Three gay couples from Chile who had been denied marriage licenses filed a lawsuit with the tribunal last September after the South American country’s Supreme Court ruled against them.

The Mexican Supreme Court cited the Atala case its decision that only applies to the three same-sex couples who had sought marriage licenses in Oaxaca.

“It just confirms that fighting for marriage equality on a federal level makes more sense and is becoming an increasingly global trend,” Enrique Torre Molina, an LGBT activist and blogger in Mexico City, told the Blade.

The Mexican Supreme Court on Wednesday is expected to formally announce its decision on whether the Oaxacan law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman is discriminatory. The judges will have to rule on an additional “amparo” from Oaxaca before gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in the state.

“For there to be same-sex marriage throughout the country, if there is not a reform of the civil laws of each state, we will need five rulings in each one of the states that comprise the federation [of Mexico,]” Méndez noted.

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