Tag Archives: argentina

Progressive leaders respond to election of new pope

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church ended their conclave earlier today and announced that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the new pope. The leader of the 1.2 billion church has taken the name of Francis.

Francis, 76, according to various reports, is a humble man who cares about the poor.

He also is a conservative man, who opposes same-sex marriage and says that it is discriminatory for children to have gay parents because they are denied a mother and a father. He once called gay marriage “a destructive attempt to end God’s plan.”

In the hours after the announcement of the election of a new pope from Argentina, some progressive leaders responded:

President Barack Obama said, “On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.  As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years – that in each other we see the face of God.  … Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.”

Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program, said, “We congratulate Pope Francis in his new position as leader for the Roman Catholic Church. As pope, he has enormous power to be a source of spiritual healing for millions around the world. But for him to be the best kind of spiritual leader, he must acknowledge the signs of the times and embrace LGBT people as worthy of dignity and respect. American lay Catholics are fully supportive of equality, even more so than the broader population.  The new pope should follow the virtuous lead of his flock.

“We hope the new pope understands the time for religious-based bigotry is not only over, but must be denounced. Demonizing LGBT people and their families from this powerful platform not only fails to keep faith with the most charitable principles of Catholic teachings and the Jesuit tradition of caring for the marginalized, but it does real psychological damage to millions of LGBT people around the world.”

Herdon Graddick of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said, “For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict’s short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely. This, in spite of the fact that the Catholic hierarchy had been in collusion to cover up the widespread abuse of children within its care. We hope this pope will trade in his red shoes for a pair of sandals and spend a lot less time condemning and a lot more time foot-washing.”

He also said, “The National Catholic reporter said Pope Francis called adoption by gay and lesbian people a form of discrimination against children. The real discrimination against children is the pedophilia that has run rampant in the Catholic Church with little more than collusion from the Vatican.”

Jon O’Brien of Catholics of Choice stated, “We welcome Pope Franci and look forward to hearing about his priorities in the coming days. We do not expect very many changes, but sincerely hope that the culture will change to better reflect the needs of the church and of Catholics. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he was outspoken against the recent liberalization of Argentinian laws on abortion, stating flatly that ‘abortion is never a solution.’ But this is no surprise, as he and his fellow electors were all appointed by his two conservative predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.”

The Equally Blessed Coalition said, “We are inspired by his humility, his devotion to the poor and the depth and thoughtfulness that characterize much of his writing. Pope Francis understands that we are all in need of God’s mercy, and we hope that he conducts his papacy with this kind of humility. … It is our fervent hope and continuing prayer that Francis will break new ground in opening a conversation with LGBT people so that he may come to know a little about their experiences of God’s grace, mercy and love.”

Joe Mirabella of All Out said, “I along with fellow Catholics around the world hoped the church was ready to send a signal that they were ready to stop attacking our families. Sadly, with the election of Jorge Begoglio the church has demonstrated they remain out of touch with the flock. LGBT people and our allies are not likely to find a friend in Pope Francis I.”

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall UK said, “We hope Pope Francis shows more Christian love and charity to the world’s 420 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people than his predecessor.”

Editor’s note: to be updated

Uruguay’s lower house approves gay marriage law

Lawmakers in taboo-breaking Uruguay have voted to legalize gay marriage, approving a single law governing marriage for heterosexuals and gays.

The proposal now goes to the Senate, where the ruling coalition has enough votes for passage. President Jose Mujica plans to sign it into law early next year.

The proposal, which passed the lower house of Congress by a wide margin, would also let all couples, gay or straight, decide whose surname goes first when they name their children.

That breaks with a tradition that has held for centuries across Latin America, where in nearly every country, laws require people to give their children two last names, and the father’s comes first.

“It’s an issue that will generate confusion in a society that has forever taken the father’s name. But these changes in society have to be accepted,” said Deputy Anibal Gloodtdofsky of the right-wing Colorado Party, who told The Associated Press he planed to join the ruling Broad Front coalition and vote in favor.

The “Marriage Equality Law” also would replace Uruguay’s 1912 divorce law, which gave only women, and not their husbands, the right to renounce marriage vows without cause. In the early 20th Century, Uruguay’s lawmakers saw this as an equalizer, since men at the time held all the economic and social power in a marriage, historian Gerardo Caetano said.

“A hundred years later, with all the changes that have occurred in Uruguayan society, this argument has fallen of its own accord,” Caetano said. “It’s absolutely logical now that divorces can happen if either party wants it. And I really think it won’t have much of an impact.”

The projected law’s co-sponsor, Broad Front deputy Anibal Pereyra, said Uruguay’s civil code needs to be updated so that all the rights and responsibilities apply to anyone who wants to marry, straight or gay.

Uruguay became the first Latin American country to legalize abortion this year, and its Congress is debating a plan to put the government in charge of marijuana sales as a way to attack illegal marijuana traffickers.

The new proposal would make Uruguay the second nation in Latin America and the 12th in the world to legalize gay marriage, after The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark.

The bill also would clarify rules for adoption and in-vitro fertilization, and eliminate the words “marido y mujer” (husband and woman) in marriage contracts, refering instead to the gender neutral “contrayentes” (contracting parties).

The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to the proposal, but the church has little political influence in secular Uruguay.

Judging from the congressional debate so far, giving gays and lesbians all the same rights and responsibilities of married straight couples seems to have been the easy part for most lawmakers. The naming change seemed to cause the most controversy as the measure came through legislative committees.

In the end, the legislators proposed to let all couples choose which surname comes first for their children. And if they can’t decide, the proposed law says a “sorteo,” such as the flip of a coin, in the civil registry office should decide the issue.

The law also sets out naming rules for adoptees and people born outside marriage. A child registered by a single parent would take that parent’s name as a first surname. And one whose parents are unknown altogether would be given “two commonly used names” selected by the civil registry office.

In the United States and many other countries, couples are free to decide what surnames to give their children. Even in many Latin American nations, some people already shun convention and use a mother’s name if family circumstances make use of the paternal name inconvenient or impossible.

Uruguay’s neighbor Argentina has been more rigid: When it became the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage in 2010, its lawmakers said last names would go in alphabetical order for the children of same-sex couples, and they left the naming traditions of heterosexuals unchanged. 

While Uruguayans seem broadly in favor of legalizing gay marriage, the naming issue has led to some confusion.

“I really can’t understand the point of letting heterosexual couples choose the order of their surnames. In reality, I think it’s for political correctness, and the price is to lose information: Today when someone is presented, we know clearly who the father is and who the mother is. Not so in the future,” said office worker Daniel Alvarez.

Gloodtdofsky acknowledged that non-gays may not have realized yet why these changes are necessary, “but the reality is that gays have been living as couples for years, generating rights. These rights must be recognized and attention must be paid to this new version of marriage.”

Uruguay has had a civil unions law that covers gay couples, and Bishop Jaime Fuentes of the Roman Catholic Church’s Episcopal Conference of Uruguay said “It seems logical that two people of the same sex who care for each other and want to share their lives can have some kind of civil recognition, but it can’t be the same as what governs marriage.”

But Federico Grana of the Black Sheep Collective, a gay rights group that presented a first draft of the bill, said “society is much broader than just heterosexuals, so the law should reflect this, with everyone included, and no discrimination.”

Argentina’s president issues first ID cards under new transgender rights law

In a ceremony at the government house this week, Argentina’s president gave out the first identity cards issued under the world’s most progressive transgender rights law.

The measure passed in May, with the support of a majority of lawmakers, including President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The law gives self-identified transgender people access to critical services without the need for medical intervention and provides for specific human rights protections.

The law also allows for transgender people to alter the gender and the name on their official documents, such as a government ID card, without receiving a psychiatric diagnosis or undergoing surgery.

Additionally, the law requires medical practitioners to provide free hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery for those who want it, including those under age 18.

During the government ceremony, the president, standing before an image of Eva Peron, said in Spanish, “Whoever opposed this initiative has not caught up with the times.”

Argentina, she added, “is paving the way not only in the region but also in the world.”

At the start of her speech, she said, “Today is a day of tremendous reparation, today we do not shout for liberation but instead we shout for equality, which is just as important as freedom.”

“I do not want to use a word that bothers me greatly: Tolerance. No. I do not believe in ‘tolerance,'” Fernández said. “To tolerate is to say I’ll allow you to be because I have no other choice. I want to talk about equality, and I want to talk about all of you who will now have the same rights I have enjoyed from the moment I was born and the rights that so many millions of Argentinians have enjoyed from the moment they were born. This is the society we want.”

Fernández also signed a decree closing a loophole that was prohibiting some in same-sex relationships from registering as co-parents of children born before the marriage equality law passed in 2010.

A video, in Spanish, of the president’s speech at the ceremony.

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Argentina passes world’s strongest gender identity law

Activists say Argentina now leads the world in transgender rights after giving people the freedom to change their legal and physical gender identity without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric and medical procedures beforehand.

The gender identity law that won congressional approval with a 55-0 Senate vote this week is the latest in a growing list of bold moves on social issues by the Argentine government, which also legalized gay marriage two years ago.

These changes primarily affect minority groups, but they are fundamental, President Cristina Fernandez has said, for a democratic society still shaking off the human rights violations of the 1976-1983 dictatorship and the paternalism of the Roman Catholic Church.

Activists and academics who have tracked gender identity laws and customs worldwide said on May 10 that no other country has gone so far to embrace gender self-determination. In the United States and Europe, transgender people must submit to physical and mental health exams and get past a series of other hurdles before getting treatments.

Argentina’s law also is the first to give citizens the right to change their legal gender without first changing their bodies, said Justus Eisfeld, co-director of Global Action for Trans Equality in New York.

“The fact that there are no medical requirements at all — no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis — is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries,” said Eisfeld, who researched the laws of the 47 countries for the Council of Europe’s human rights commission.

“This law is saying … that what you say you are is what you are. And that’s extraordinary,” said Katrina Karkazis, a Stanford University bioethicist who wrote “Fixing Sex,” a study of the legal and medical boundaries around gender identity issues in the United States.

Argentina legalizes gay marriage in historic vote

Argentina became the first Latin American nation to legalize gay marriage earlier this month, granting same-sex couples all the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage brings to heterosexuals.

The law’s passage – a priority for President Cristina Fernandez’s government – has inspired activists to push for similar laws in other countries and a wave of gay weddings are expected in Buenos Aires. Some gay business leaders are predicting an economic ripple effect from an increase in tourism among gays and lesbians who will see Argentina as an even more attractive destination.

But it also carries political risks for Fernandez and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner. The vote divided their governing coalition, and while gay rights have strong support in the capital, anti-gay feelings still run strong in much of Argentine society, where the vast majority of people are Roman Catholic.

“From today onward, Argentina is a more just and democratic country,” said Maria Rachid, president of the Argentine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender federation.

The law “not only recognizes the rights of our families, but also the possibility of having access to health care, to leave a pension, to leave our assets to the people with whom we have shared many years of life, including our children,” she said.

The 33-27 Senate vote was tallied shortly before dawn, after a marathon debate that touched on religion, ethics, the legacy of Argentina’s dictatorship and the challenges of raising children. There were three abstentions. Since the lower house already approved it, the law took effect within days.

Gays and lesbians who have already found Buenos Aires to be a welcoming place to live will likely rush to the altar, but same-sex couples from other countries will need to live in Argentina before becoming eligible, and the necessary residency documents can take months to obtain.

The approval came despite a concerted campaign by the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical groups, which drew 60,000 people to march on Congress and urged parents in churches and schools to work against passage. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio led the campaign, saying that “children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother.”

Opponents of gay marriage proposed a civil-union law instead that would have barred gays from adopting or undergoing in-vitro fertilization to have children, and enabled any civil servant to “conscientiously object” to register gay couples. In the end, parliamentary maneuvers kept the Senate from voting on civil unions as the government bet all or nothing on the more politically difficult option of marriage.

The final vote split both the governing coalition and the opposition, with lawmakers on both sides saying they went with their convictions.

Sen. Juan Perez Alsina, usually a loyal supporter of the president, called marriage between a man and a woman “essential for the preservation of the species.”

But others compared the discrimination closeted gays face to the oppression millions suffered under Argentina’s dictatorship years ago, and urged their fellow senators to show the world how much Argentina has matured. “Society has grown up. We aren’t the same as we were before,” Sen. Daniel Filmus said.

Same-sex civil unions have been legalized in Uruguay and some states in Mexico and Brazil, and the Colombian Constitutional Court has granted same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance plans.

Mexico City went even further, not only legalizing gay marriage but launching a tourism campaign to encourage foreigners to come and wed. Two weeks ago, Mexico City officials offered a free honeymoon in Mexico to the first gay couple to wed under the new Argentine law.

Argentina doesn’t allow non-resident foreigners to tie the knot, but it is likely to draw more gay tourists who already spend millions in the country’s economy, said Pablo De Luca, founder of the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Buenos Aires.

“The fact that we are the first country in Latin America that respects the rights of the gay community by law sends a solid message that makes Argentina even more attractive,” said De Luca, who estimates that 18 percent of the tourists who come to Argentina are gay or lesbian.

Still, many Argentines, especially outside the capital, remain firmly opposed to gay marriage, and while the president’s confrontation with the Roman Catholic Church may play well in the socially liberal Buenos Aires, the vote may encourage fissures in her ruling coalition.

Some opposition leaders accused Fernandez and Kirchner of trying to gain votes in next year’s presidential elections, when Kirchner is expected to run again.