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Denmark officials urged to reconsider blood ban

blood donation, Denmark, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo public domain)

Activists in Denmark say the blood ban there that prevents gay and bi men from donating blood lacks scientific evidence, Pink News, a British LGBT news agency, reports.

Six political parties have called on Copenhagen’s Health Minister Nick Haekkerup to revise the ban. In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a one-year deferral for gay and bi men to donate. Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Edwin Poots has resisted ending the lifetime ban there, Pink News said.

In some countries such as Uruguay, Mexico and Portugal, gay and bisexual men are able to donate blood without issue.

Enhedslisten, Denmark’s most left-wing political party, said lifting the ban would help increase blood stocks, Pink News reports.

07
May
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

Uruguay same-sex marriage bill receives final approval

Uruguay, Montevideo, gay news, Washington Blade

General Assembly of Uruguay (Photo by Fedaro via Wikimedia Commons)

The Uruguay House of Representatives on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the South American country.

The 71-21 vote came eight days after the measure passed in the country’s Senate.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the measure in December, but it had to vote on it again because it contained amendments the chamber needed to approve.

President José Mujica has previously said he will sign the measure into law.

“We are the 12th country in the world with equality for everyone,” Colectivo Ovejas Negras, an Uruguayan LGBT advocacy group, said in a post to its Facebook page after the bill received final approval. “Let’s celebrate Uruguayans!”

Neighboring Argentina, Mexico City and a handful of Brazilian states that include São Paulo allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples can also marry in Canada, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa and in nine U.S. states and D.C.

LGBT rights advocates throughout Latin America were quick to applaud the Uruguay vote.

“Today Uruguay has another face,” the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT rights group, said in a statement. “A face that smiles because it respects difference and social diversity through the humanization of its domestic laws, breaking down prejudices and discrimination.”

“The approval of the marriage equality law in Uruguay in the month on April is a very positive signal for equality,” Esteban Paulón, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Federation of Argentina, noted after the bill passed in the Uruguay Senate on April 2. “It is a form of telling everyone that from the Southern Cone of America we remain committed to the equality of all families and couples and that this advance will surely be one of many that will come.”

11
Apr
2013

Uruguayan president signs marriage bill into law

Uruguay, Montevideo, gay news, Washington Blade

General Assembly of Uruguay (Photo by Fedaro via Wikimedia Commons)

Uruguayan President José Mujica last week signed a bill into law that will extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the South American country.

The newspaper El País reported on Monday that Mujica and Education and Culture Minister Ricardo Ehrlich signed the measure on May 3. It received final approval last month in the Uruguay House of Representatives.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in neighboring Argentina and 10 other countries.

Mexico City; 13 Brazilian states that include São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, the country’s capital, are among the Latin American jurisdictions in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

The Colombian Senate on April 24 overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have extended nuptials to gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples in Colombia can legally register their unions on June 20 if lawmakers fail to extend the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage to gays and lesbians as the country’s Constitutional Court mandated in 2011.

Uruguay’s same-sex marriage law takes effect on Aug. 1.

07
May
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

Uruguay Senate approves same-sex marriage bill

Uruguay, Montevideo, gay news, Washington Blade

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

The Uruguay Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the South American country.

The 23-8 vote took place after an hours-long debate on the proposal.

The Uruguayan newspaper El País reported Sen. Rafael Michelini compared the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples in Uruguay as a “profound modification” for society that one could compare to the abolition of slavery and the law that established an eight hour work day. Sen. Francisco Gallinal told fellow senators that nuptials for gays and lesbians does not guarantee equality.

“The new marriage is not equal because it is not exclusive, it’s excluding,” he said, according to El País.

Neighboring Argentina, a handful of states in Brazil that include São Paolo and Mexico City 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.

“We are really very happy with what is happening,” Federico Graña of Colectivo Ovejas Negras, an Uruguayan LGBT rights group, told the Washington Blade after the vote. “We think that we are at the point of achieving a breakthrough that will put our country among the first to recognize the right to all forms of love.”

A final vote is expected to take place in the House of Representatives, which overwhelmingly approved the proposal in December, on April 10 because it contains amendments the chamber needs to approve.

President José Mujica has previously said he will sign the measure into law.

“At this point we are focused on trying to gain final approval of the bill,” Graña said. “We think that next week we will be achieving this objective and achieving that which was only a dream a few years ago: changing the law.”

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