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Brazilian panel opens door to same-sex marriage

Brazil, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pride, LGBT, rainbow flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay pride in São Paulo, Brazil (Photo by Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons)

A Brazilian judicial panel on Tuesday ruled registrars in the South American country cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The newspaper O Globo reported members of the National Council of Justice that oversees Brazil’s judicial system ruled 14-1 in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Agence France-Presse said the body “affirmed that the expression of homosexuality and homosexual affection cannot serve as a basis for discriminatory treatment, which has no support in the Constitution.” The news agency said Joaquim Barbosa, the chief justice of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court who heads the National Council of Justice, referred to a 2011 ruling that said gays and lesbians can enter into civil unions.

“I am very happy,” gay Congressman Jean Wyllys wrote on his website. He and Congresswoman Erika Kokay in March introduced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the South American country. “Brazil just jointed the ever growing list of civilized and democratic countries that recognize that LGBT people have the same civil rights as any other citizen.”

Brasilia, the country’s capital, and 11 of Brazil’s 26 states that include Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have already extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Even though the National Council of Justice’s ruling appears to have extended nuptials to gays and lesbians across the country, Wyllys noted that Brazilian lawmakers have yet to approve a nationwide same-sex marriage law.

“The [National Council of Justice]’s decision does not mean that we have won in the National Congress,” he said on his Twitter page. “After this decision, it will be difficult for Congress to not approve [the bill.]”

Same-sex marriage continues to gain traction in Latin America

Gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in neighboring Argentina and 11 other countries, Mexico City and nine U.S. states and D.C.

Uruguay’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1. Lawmakers in New Zealand and France have also passed same-sex marriage bills in recent weeks.

The Colombian Senate last month rejected a bill that would have allowed nuptials for gays and lesbians in the South American country. Gays and lesbians in Colombia can legally register their relationships on June 20 if lawmakers fail to act upon the Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling that ordered them to pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in 2011 proposed a bill that would extend civil unions to same-sex couples in the country.

He has yet to formally introduce it.

14
May
2013

Brazilian invasion

Alma Tropicalia, Strathmore, Gay News, Washington Blade

Alma Tropicalia plays the Strathmore next week. (Photo courtesy Strathmore)

Traditional Brazilian music group Alma Tropicalia will perform Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on the Strathmore Music Hall grounds (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md.).

Elin, the lead singer, has an energetic performance style and sultry sound that she brought to DC Pride last year. The group blends samba, bossa nova, forró and a little rock and roll in their numbers. Singer/keyboardist Bill Dempsey is gay.

The performance is part of Strathmore’s free summer concert series. Those attending are encouraged to bring blankets and low beach chairs, but no pets. For more details, visit strathmore.org.

11
Jul
2013

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

Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained in London

Glenn Greenwald via wikimedia

Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for the Guardian, criticized British officials for detaining his partner in London.

The partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote about classified U.S. surveillance information leaked by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, was detained in London on Sunday by British authorities under a controversial anti-terrorism law.

The Guardian newspaper, for which Greenwald is a reporter and columnist, disclosed that British law enforcement officials invoked the British Terrorism Act of 2000 to detain David Miranda, 28, at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours.

Miranda and Greenwald live together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Greenwald, an American citizen, has said he and Miranda, a Brazilian national, set up a household in Rio prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented Miranda from obtaining U.S. residency as Greenwald’s spouse.

The British-based Guardian reported on Sunday afternoon that airport authorities refused to disclose why they detained Miranda when he arrived on a flight from Berlin, where he was helping an American filmmaker who has been collaborating with Greenwald on a project related to the documents leaked by Snowden.

The Guardian reported that the authorities released Miranda after holding him for nine hours, the maximum time allowed for detaining someone under the anti-terrorism law without placing the person being detained under arrest.

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard, the London police agency, told the Guardian that a “28-year-old man was detained at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000” and was later released but provided no further details. According to the Guardian, the authorities confiscated Miranda’s laptop computer, cell phone, camera, memory sticks, DVDs, and games consoles.

“This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process,” Greenwald said in a posting Sunday on the Guardian website. “To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ,” he said.

“But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists,” Greenwald said in is posting. “Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us to continue to report aggressively.”

The GCHQ is a British intelligence agency.

In June, U.S. federal prosecutors charged Snowden with violating the U.S. Espionage Act and theft of government property for the leaking of classified information in his role as an NSA contractor while employed by the contracting company Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden left the U.S. prior to the Guardian’s publication of the information he leaked. He surfaced first in Hong Kong, where he agreed to news media interviews, before fleeing to Russia, where he has been given temporary political asylum.

U.S. prosecutors working on the Snowden case couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether British authorities consulted them about their detaining and questioning of Miranda.

19
Aug
2013

Report documents anti-trans violence, bias in Brazil

Jean Wyllys, Brazil, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Brazilian Congressman Jean Wyllys (Photo courtesy of Jean de Wyllys)

A D.C.-based international human rights organization earlier this month released a report that documents violence and discrimination against transgender Brazilians of African descent.

The Global Rights report includes statistics from the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights that indicate trans Brazilians accounted for slightly more than half of the 300 reported LGBT murder victims in the country last year. The group noted an estimated 52 percent of them were people of color.

Grupo Gay da Bahia, a Brazilian advocacy group that has tracked anti-LGBT violence in Brazil for nearly two decades, said it saw a 21 percent increase in LGBT murders in the country between 2011 and 2012. The organization reported 128 of the 338 reported LGBT homicide victims in Brazil in 2012 were trans.

Grupo Gay da Bahia further noted 250 LGBT Brazilians have been killed so far this year. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported 20 trans people were murdered in Brazil in August and September.

The Global Rights report also cites additional statistics that show the homicide rate among Brazilians of African descent rose 5.6 percent between 2002 and 2010, compared to the 24.8 percent decline in these crimes among white Brazilians during the same period.

The Global Rights report also documents pervasive discrimination against trans Brazilians of African descent in law enforcement and employment and in the country’s education and health care systems because of their gender identity and expression and race.

The organization says Brazilian police frequently force trans women of color to strip naked in public and use racial, transphobic and homophobic slurs against them. The Global Rights report also documents cases where authorities transport trans suspects and detainees in the trunks of police cars and other confined spaces.

It also cites a researcher who documents anti-trans discrimination in Brazil that concluded an estimated 90 percent of trans women in the country are functionally illiterate due to discrimination they experienced in the Brazilian education system. A 2012 study from the Latin American School of Social Sciences, which is an inter-governmental initiative that UNESCO founded in the late 1950s, found roughly 51 percent of Brazilians of African descent are functionally illiterate.

“With a reality marked by multiple forms of discrimination, the LGBT community in Brazil has struggled to ensure that the human rights to life and public policies reach these groups,” Naiara Leite of the Odara Black Woman’s Institute in the city of Salvador said during a hearing on violence against trans Brazilians of African descent that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights held in D.C. on Oct. 29. “Over the last few years, the Brazilian LGBT rights movement has been greatly concerned with the excessive increase of murders and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and most importantly with the increase in violence against trans people.”

Brazil is among the 15 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1997 created what became known as the Secretariat for Human Rights. Brazil in 2003 became the first country in the world to establish a government ministry specifically charged with promoting racial equality.

Brazilian Congressman Marco Feliciano in March became president of the Commission for Human Rights and Minorities in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress amid controversy over anti-gay and racist statements he posted to his Twitter account. Gay Congressman Jean Wyllys and other commission members resigned in protest of Feliciano’s election and formed a separate human rights caucus that lacks legislative authority.

The Commission for Human Rights and Minorities last week approved a measure that would suspend the National Council of Justice ruling in May that opened the door to same-sex marriage in South America’s largest country. Commissioners also backed a proposal that seeks to hold a national referendum on gay nuptials and rejected a bill that would have extended tax and legal benefits to same-sex couples and their dependents.

“If there is a country in the world that has made efforts in combating racial discrimination it is Brazil,” Carlos Quesada of Global First said during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing. “In spite of these efforts to promote human rights, the reality in the country is different.”

João Guilherme Maranhão of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations defended his country’s LGBT rights record during the hearing.

He noted Brazil and Uruguay were the first countries to introduce an LGBT rights resolution to the United Nations in 2007.

The Organization of American States during its 2008 general assembly adopted an anti-LGBT violence resolution that Brazil introduced. Maranhão noted to the commission it has subsequently been renewed and expanded.

“The situation of violence faced by transsexuals and transvestites in Brazil is an issue that merits the state’s attention,” he said.

Wyllys, who represents the state of Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress, told the Washington Blade earlier this month that discrimination against trans people of African descent has “a long history in Brazil.”

“The trans population is less educated and the most vulnerable to experience sexual and police violence,” he told the Blade during an interview from Brasilia, the country’s capital.

Wyllys added he feels President Dilma Rousseff has responded “shamefully” to the problem.

The Global Rights report specifically calls upon Rousseff to condemn “all incidents of discrimination, violence and human rights violations” against trans and other LGBT Brazilians of African descent. It also calls upon her government to develop a comprehensive plan to address the aforementioned issues.

The organization also urges Brazilian lawmakers to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and violence.

“We need more political and public discourse to increase understanding,” he said.

25
Nov
2013

Gay advocates outside U.S. welcome Obama’s inaugural address

Barack Obama, Inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama made history by including gays and lesbians in his 2013 inaugural address in two instances. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT advocates around the world continue to praise President Obama for including gays and lesbians in his second inaugural address.

Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals or ABGLT in Portuguese, described the specific references to the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and “our gay brothers and sisters” as a “bold stance.”

“May the position you have taken publicly serve as an example for many politicians who are our allies but who remain in the closet when it comes to defending our rights publicly, or those that yield to political pressure from leaders opposed to gay rights and veto affirmative public policies for the LGBT population in exchange for political support,” he said in a press release. “Your gesture has demonstrated the importance of taking a firm and unambiguous position.”

Simón Cazal, chief executive officer of Somosgay, an LGBT advocacy organization in Paraguay, also applauded the president’s speech.

“President Obama’s declarations were received with much happiness in Paraguay because of the positive global impact they have on the LGBT movement,” he told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “It gives hope to activists in countries where we confront violence and even death for simply being who we are.”

LGBT rights around the world became a cornerstone of the White House’s foreign policy during the president’s first term.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Dec. 2011 declared “gay rights are human rights” during a landmark speech in Geneva that commemorated International Human Rights Day. The White House on the same day released a presidential memo that directed agencies responsible for American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights.

The State Department has also spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Honduras, Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries — Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha is among those Clinton honored at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the East African country’s capital, in August.

The former First Lady also spoke at the International AIDS Conference that took place last summer in D.C.

“Both achievements and failures in LGBT rights issues of America and other developed countries are often watched closely by emerging, young LGBT communities such as [the] LGBT Centre of Mongolia,” Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel, the group’s executive director, told the Blade in reference to Clinton’s speech in Geneva. “This time we are proud of Mr. Barack Obama who is in sync with the voice for equal rights and justice for all human beings. Mongolia — a small but ambitious nomadic mentality between two big powers — has been attempting to adopt democratic principles, values and ways of thinking into its post-socialistic transitional society and the United States of America is our third ally and definitely a role model of democracy.”

The president’s second inaugural speech also coincided with same-sex marriage debates that are currently underway in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, México and other countries.

New Zealand Parliamentarian Louisa Wall told the Blade she feels media coverage of the speech in her country “is contributing positively to the marriage equality debate” there.

“His words spoke to the heart of national identity based on passed social developments — all of us are created equal — recounting Seneca Falls, the evolution of women’s rights, Selma, [the] evolution of racial equality and Stonewall, the beginning of the evolution of the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s to live open and honest lives,” she said. “Marriage equality will fulfill the values envisaged in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — that all people have the ability to be born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

She added Obama’s LGBT-inclusive inaugural address reaffirm Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s previous comments against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“[For] President Obama to say ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well’ enshrines his commitment to full equality and non-discrimination in this his second presidential term,” Wall said. “This leadership is clear and concise — a truth that Obama is completely committed to, that of one law for all and the belief in and realization of full equality, in status, rights and opportunities for all.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, who last October became Chile’s first openly gay candidate elected to office when he won a seat on the Providencia municipal council outside Santiago, the country’s capital, agreed.

“Today’s most important [world] leader is actually saying to the rest of us that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from discrimination and abuses motivated by sexual orientation,” he told the Blade. “This cannot be overlooked. We expect a lot from Obama’s second term on this matter and hope that this will be able to translate to the rest of the world.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

Jaime Parada Hoyl on Oct. 28 became Chile’s first openly gay candidate elected to office. (Photo courtesy of Jaime Parada Hoyl)

24
Jan
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.

19
Feb
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

Brazil’s most populous state to allow same-sex marriage

Toni Reis, Brazil, gay news, Washington Blade

Brazilian LGBT activist Toni Reis (Photo courtesy of Toni Reis)

A São Paulo court on Thursday ordered notaries to begin offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples without a judge’s approval.

The decision, which will take effect in Brazil’s most populous state in 60 days, comes after the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court ruled in May 2011 that gays and lesbians can enter into civil unions. A São Paulo judge in June 2011 ruled two men could convert their civil union into a marriage — 206 of these unions have been converted into marriages in the state.

Alagoas in January became the first Brazilian state to extend marriage to same-sex couples without judicial approval, while Bahia on the country’s northeast coast late last month followed suit. Rio Grande do Sol and the Federal District that includes the Brazilian capital of Brasilia also allow gays and lesbians to marry.

The Brazilian government announced in 2003 it would recognize same-sex unions legally performed outside the country for immigration purposes. Authorities in 2008 simplified these regulations.

“It is a very important decision,” gay Brazilian Congressman Jean Wyllys told the Washington Blade. “And like the Constitution says, in its Article 226, that the state should facilitate the conversation of stable unions into marriage and it also says people are equal under the law, many same-sex partners demanded this in the court. What the judges are doing is complying with the Constitution, recognizing the rights of same-sex partners to enter into civil marriage.”

In spite of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court’s 2011 decision, Rio de Janeiro and many other states have yet to implement it. Wyllys has introduced a proposal that would amend the Brazilian Constitution to recognize same-sex civil marriage throughout the country. A bill that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot has languished in Congress since the mid-1990s.

“Justice is doing what should have already been done in the Congress and it deserves our applause,” Wyllys said. “The lack of a bill that ends this unjust discrimination, violation of the Federal Constitution and all the international human rights treaties, has left many partners to seek justice. Justice is doing its job well. Those of us who are missing are the lawmakers and the federal government that remains deaf to the call of millions of people who only want to be equal under the law.”

LGBT activist Felipe Pasqualotto shared Wyllys’ criticisms of the Brazilian government’s response to same-sex marriage and other issues.

“Even though São Paulo is just following the Supreme Court decision, it is a big step for Brazil considering we have been quite silent regarding human rights, especially gay [issues,]” he told the Blade.

The São Paulo ruling comes slightly more than a week after the Uruguay House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to legally marry in the South American country. Same-sex couples have been able to tie the knot in neighboring Argentina and Mexico City since 2010.

The Mexican Supreme Court on Dec. 5 unanimously struck down a law in the state of Oaxaca that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. A Colombian Senate committee on the same day approved a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage. (The country’s highest court ruled in June 2011 that gays and lesbians will be able to formalize their relationships in two years if lawmakers don’t tackle the issue.)

Lawyer Alder Martins told the Blade he believes internal Brazilian politics continue to play more of a role in the expansion of legal recognition to same-sex couples than recent developments in other Latin American countries.

“I don’t believe recent developments in Mexico, Colombia and Uruguay have influenced this process,” Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transgenders (ABGLT in Portuguese) added. “It’s a question of implementing Brazilian law.”

Costa Rica to consider legal recognition for gay couples

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican government announced on Monday it supports the extension of limited legal recognition of same-sex couples in the Central American country.

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda opposes nuptials for gays and lesbians, but her government urged lawmakers in a Dec. 7 press release to consider once again a measure that would extend inheritance, hospital visitation and other rights to same-sex couples.

“We hope that the Congress will continue to move forward with the bill and discuss the merits of the case and once and for all fill this legal void,” the government said in a press release. “The government urges respect and tolerance during this discussion that will take place in the Congress, the corresponding body which will take up this decision. Similarly it will respect the position of each deputy on this issue.”

The country’s highest court in 2010 struck down a referendum that sought to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Lawmakers who have repeatedly postponed debate on extending legal rights to same-sex couples are scheduled to potentially consider the proposal on April 30. The country’s Roman Catholic church and other religious leaders have spoken out against any attempt to do so.

Francisco Madrigal Ballestero of the Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America (CIPAC,) described the measure to the Blade earlier this week as “a project that was born partly out of fear.” He further categorized it as “an administrative exit to recognize unions with certain aggravating circumstances.”

“It is not either marriage or civil union, it is a legal figure type contract that gives rights to two people to live together,” Madrigal said. “We believe that this project does not solve the problem of citizenship that we have as LGBT populations, and it is for this reason that this project is not supported by the majority of organizations who work on human rights and sexual diversity.”

Madrigal also pointed out “we don’t see a quick exit” on the issue because the Costa Rican Constitutional Court has said it is the responsibility of the country’s Congress to decide the issue. “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court could choose to take this particular Costa Rican case,” he said. “We are aware above all the commission, like the court, will take its time to resolve it.”

A CIPAC poll earlier this year found 67 percent of LGBT Costa Ricans support civil unions, compared to only 22 percent who back the president’s proposal and 11 percent who endorse marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“From the people it’s no big deal,” José Chaves, general manager of Gay Tours that operates tours and other activities for gay visitors to Manuel Antonio National Park and other parts of the country, told the Blade. “We are not having manifestations of people in the streets saying like, ‘no, that should not be like that.’ It’s more like ‘of course, let the gay people have the rights and it’s no problem.’ But on the other hand it’s all these people in the government and the church from inside of the government that’s working against it.”

Pete Thelen, a co-owner of the Windy City Times who owns two vacation homes near Manuel Antonio National Park, agreed.

“Most Costa Ricans are a live-and-let-live kind of people, so if it doesn’t affect them, they don’t really mind it,” he told the Blade. “If civil unions would go through, I don’t think it would be a problem for most Costa Ricans. We’ve never had any problems with our neighbors. They’ve accepted us.”

21
Dec
2012