Tags: Brazil, catholic bigotry, catholic church, civil unions, gay marriage, gay rights, gay rights revolution, homophobia, human rights, katie soltis, Latin America, lgbt, same sex civil union, same-sex marriage
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The Brazilian Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex unions in early May marks the latest victory for gay rights in Latin America. The Court’s ruling grants equal legal rights to same-sex civil unions as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, including retirement benefits, joint tax declarations, inheritance rights, and child adoption.While the Supreme Court did not go so far as to legalize gay marriage, gay rights groups such as Rio de Janeiro’s Rainbow Group have nevertheless praised the decision as an “historic achievement.”1 The decision passed 10-0 with one abstention, but the justice who abstained had previously spoken in favor of same-sex unions.
An Unlikely Victory
As the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil was an unlikely venue for such a promising gay rights victory. The Roman Catholic Church has actively fought proposals for same-sex unions in Brazil, arguing that the Brazilian Constitution defines a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.”2 The Catholic Church responded to the recent ruling with outrage. As Archbishop Anuar Battisti put it, the Supreme Court’s decision marked a “frontal assault” on the sanctity of the family.3
The Catholic Church is losing its power in Brazil, which helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of homosexuals. Nevertheless, homophobia retains a tenacious grip on Brazilian society. Despite the fact that the nation boasts the world’s largest gay pride parade, the LGBT movement has been unable to achieve fundamental progress and quell discrimination at a societal level. For instance, Marcelo Cerqueira, the head of the Gay Group of Bahia, claims the country is “number one when it comes to assassination, discrimination and violence against homosexuals.”4 Additionally, in a disconcerting report, the Gay Group of Bahia found that 260 Brazilian gay people were murdered in 2010, exemplifying the level of hostility towards homosexuals.5 Because of this discriminating environment, gay rights activists traditionally have had little success in Brazil. Most notably, Congress disregarded proposals for gay rights legislation for nearly ten years.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling was therefore a major turning point after a history of protracted, unsuccessful struggles. The judicial decision was made in response to two lawsuits, one of which was filed by Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral and the other by the Office of the Attorney General. While Congress repeatedly ignored requests for equal rights for gay Brazilian citizens, the Supreme Court argued that “Those who opt for a homosexual union cannot be treated less than equally as citizens.”6 In this way, by appealing to the judicial system, the LGBT movement was able to achieve success despite deep-seated hostility throughout Brazilian society and in other branches of the government.
Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution
Professor Omar Encarnación of Bard College calls the recent string of gay rights legislation in Latin America a “gay rights revolution.”7 Brazil’s ruling came on the heels of several other noteworthy gay rights victories in Latin America, such as Uruguay’s legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2007. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American nation and eighth nation worldwide to legalize gay marriage. Other landmark decisions in the past few years include Uruguay’s decision to allow all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve in the military and Mexico City’s legalization of same-sex civil unions.
The recent surge in gay rights victories throughout Latin America is altogether stunning, considering the region has generally been regarded as very homophobic. The Catholic Church has traditionally been a formidable enemy to gay rights movements in the region, but the secularization of much of Latin America has led to the impressive expansion of opportunities for gay rights movements.
Yet this success of gay rights movements throughout Latin America cannot be attributed solely to the declining importance of religion in the region. It is equally important, if not more so, to recognize the vital roles played by gay activist groups and the dynamic strategies these groups employ. For instance, gay rights groups in Brazil were able to reverse legislation banning gays from the workplace by forming partnerships with progressive businesses. In recent years, the use of social media has provided much of the gay movement’s momentum by enhancing activist groups’ ability to communicate and spread information. For instance, as Javier Corrales notes, by simply posting a video of a hate crime in San Juan or of a gay wedding in Argentina on YouTube, gay rights groups have been able to reach thousands of people and garner support.8 These innovative strategies have brought success despite a notably hostile environment towards homosexuals.
Through a comparison with the United States, we can see how remarkable the success of gay rights in Latin America has been. Latin America is marked by a much more homophobic environment than the U.S., according to a survey conducted by Mitchell Seligson and Daniel Moreno Morales.9 However, although the U.S. has lower levels of societal discrimination towards gays, it is hard to imagine that the United States would completely legalize same-sex civil unions or gay marriage on a national scale. The fact that this legalization occurred in several Latin American nations, despite the formidable opposition there, makes these recent rulings even more significant.
Furthermore, the recent victories for gay rights exemplify the considerable progress toward the region’s consolidation of democracy. The three Latin American countries that have now legalized same-sex unions—Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay—were each ruled by repressive military regimes just over two decades ago. Even Colombia, which is one of the region’s worst human rights violators, granted same-sex unions equal rights regarding social security benefits and inheritance rights in 2007. The fact that gay liberation movements have been successful in these unlikely places is a testament to how far these countries have progressed in recent years.
References for this article can be found here
“Calling in Gay” Latest Prop 8 Protest December 8, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights.
Tags: California, call in gay, gay marriage, gay rights, human rights, lesbian rights, lisa leff, Prop 8, propositon 8, protest, roger hollander, same sex civil rights, same sex civil union, same-sex couples, same-sex marriage, san francisco
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Lisa Leff, December 8, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to “call in gay” Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it’s wise to encourage skipping work given the nation’s economic distress.
Organizers of “Day Without a Gay” _ scheduled to coincide with International Human Rights Day and modeled after similar work stoppages by Latino immigrants _ also are encouraging people to perform volunteer work and refrain from spending money.
Sean Hetherington, a West Hollywood comedian and personal trainer, dreamed up the idea with his boyfriend, Aaron Hartzler, after reading online that a few angry gay-rights activists were calling for a daylong strike to protest California voters’ passage last month of Proposition 8, which reversed this year’s state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.
The couple thought it would be more effective and less divisive if people were asked to perform community service instead of staying home with their wallets shut. Dozens of nonprofit agencies, from the National Women’s Law Center in Washington to a Methodist church in Fresno collecting food for the homeless, have posted opportunities for volunteers on the couple’s Web site.
“We are all for a boycott if that is what brings about a sense of community for people,” said Hetherington, 30, who plans to spend Wednesday volunteering at an inner-city school. “You can take away from the economy and give back in other ways.”
Hetherington said he’s been getting 100 e-mails an hour from people looking for volunteer opportunities, and that his “Day Without a Gay” Web site has gotten 100,000 hits since mid-November.
Despite Hartzler and Hetherington’s attempt to fashion a positive approach, some organizers of the street demonstrations that drew massive crowds in many cities last month have been reluctant to embrace the concept, saying that it could be at best impractical and at worst counterproductive to “call in gay.”
“It’s extra-challenging for people to think about taking off work as a form of protest, given that we are talking about people who may not be out (as gay) at work, and given the current economic situation and job market,” said Jules Graves, 38, coordinator of the Colorado Queer Straight Alliance. “There is really not any assurance employers would appreciate it for what it is.”
Tags: 2008 election, anti-gay bigotry, anti-gay victories Florida Arizona Arkansas, California Proposition 8, church state separation, Civil Rights, gay Lesbian rights, human rights, Keith Olbermann, religious bigotry, roger hollander, same sex civil rights, same sex civil union, same-sex marriage
© Roger Hollander, 2008-11-13
(dedicated to Keith Olbermann)
In light of the negative results for same sex civil rights in California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas elections on November 4, I suggest it may be helpful to take a political/philosophical/analytical look at the issue.
My thesis is the following:
Prejudice and bigotry aside, the greatest obstacle to resolving the human rights issue of same sex marriage is the unfortunate historic “marriage” of church and state in the marriage business.
Those who practice religious beliefs have the right to define in their own terms what a “marriage” between two human beings is. What they don’t have a right to do is to impose that definition on anyone else, least of all the state. Nor do they have the right to put into practice within their own communities a definition that violates human rights. This is true regardless of the degree to which their views are honestly held versus being based upon veiled bigotry.
From the point of view of civil society, what is generally referred to as “marriage” has to do with certain civil rights (inheritance, taxes, adoption, etc.) and restrictions (age, bigamy, incest, etc.). In a secular democracy where human rights are respected, these rights and restrictions need apply to everyone (it is a large part of the problem that the fundamentalist religious right in North America does not believe in or advocate secular democracy, rather they are intent upon imposing a theocracic form of government, not that different from their Islamic counterparts).
It has been the con(fusion) of the religious and civil concepts via state sanctioned religious marriages that has been the root of the problem. This reality reflects itself in the fact that many who oppose same sex marriage have no problem with civil unions.
This, of course, is not to underestimate the impact of bigotry, religious or otherwise, on the issue. However, it is important to have a clear political analysis with honest, clean and understandable definitions. Just as it has been crucial with respect to women’s reproductive health rights that the issue be defined as pro-choice and not pro-abortion; it is essential that those who favor same sex civil rights recognize and take into account that anti-gay bigotry is one thing, and the fundamental issue of the separation of church and state is another.
From a pragmatic political perspective, had the No vote for Proposition Eight prevailed in California, then perhaps it would have turned out for the good to have fought the battle on the grounds of “gay marriage.” Furthermore, it is understandable that men and women who are gay and Lesbian should feel entitled to the same rights and the rest of the population, even if the social institution of concern is morally or politically flawed. A gay or Lesbian pacifist, for example, would not be in self-contradiction advocating for equal rights in the military.
Nevertheless, in the long run I believe it is always best to struggle on the grounds of reason and justice even if it is going to entail a long and arduous battle. Plato said that we should judge the actual by the ideal and not the other way around. Separating religious union from civil union should therefore should never be lost sight of as the fundamental objective; it should be the long term goal regardless of tactical manoeuvres that may make sense along the way.
In an ideal world civil union would be the broader category; every couple who wished to be considered legally a single unit by the state, regardless of sexual orientation and regardless of religious affiliation, would be required to have their union performed and sanctioned by the state. Amongst that larger population, those with religious beliefs would be free, in addition, to be “married” by their church authority.
In and ideal world, a church that believed that “marriage” should only be between a man and a women, might only consider as “married” those both within and outside their community who meet that definition, but would in no way discriminate against same sex couples either within or outside their communities, who have entered into state sanctioned civil unions.
A final tangential thought. When I was a student in the 1950s and 1960s, I could not have conceived that in my lifetime we would see the election of an Afro-American President in the United States. I regret to say that at the moment, I find it just as hard to conceive of the election of an openly gay or Lesbian President in my children’s lifetime. It is my fervent wish nonetheless that History will prove me wrong once again.