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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Argentina Leads the Way on Queer Families

'Open Door' spells freedom for gay senior citizens

Buenos Aires, Argentina (CNN) -- Despite what has traditionally been regarded as a macho culture, Argentina has been viewed in recent years as a leader on gay rights issues in Latin America.

In 2002, Buenos Aires was the first Latin American city to grant civil unions to gay couples, and the capital is consistently ranked as one of the world's most gay-friendly tourist destinations.

During the last six months, five gay couples have been married in Argentina, which is a predominately Catholic country.

The upper house of Congress is set to begin debating Tuesday the legalization of same-sex marriage in the entire country. The initiative passed the lower house May 6.

During the past year Argentina has also taken steps to assist an often overlooked sector of the world's gay population: senior citizens.

Situated behind the tall, wooden doors of a century-old building in Buenos Aires, the Puerta Abierta ("Open Door") center is Latin America's first community center for gay senior citizens.

Since opening its doors in September 2009, some 120 gay seniors have participated in the center's activities, from movie outings and beach trips to therapy sessions.

On a recent Monday afternoon, 64-year-old political consultant Mercedes Sanchez was there to attend a group counseling session.

Sanchez says she had two serious relationships with men before acknowledging her true sexual identity. She has been living her life openly as a lesbian for more than three decades, but admits she never told her parents before they died.

"Back in that era, Argentine society was much different," Sanchez says. "My parents thought differently. It was hard for me to admit that I was different. But coming here and being with other people like me has helped me tremendously."

Despite the support that the center offers them, Argentina's gay retirees still say they face many obstacles and experience discrimination. Some of the Open Door center members say they lived much of their lives in conventional, heterosexual marriages, and only came out of the closest later in life. Many have struggled during the transition period.

"What we hear most from gay seniors is how they feel lonely and isolated," says Alejandro Viedma, a psychologist who counsels Open Door's members. "For young gay people, there are lots of possibilities for meeting people, like bars, saunas and caf├ęs. But for older people, it is really more difficult."

Norma Castillo,68, and her longtime partner, Ramona Arevalo, 68, became Argentina's first legally-married lesbian couple on April 9. However, a week after the wedding, a judge annulled their marriage. Now the courts need to decide if their union is legally binding. Castillo is convinced it is.

"We didn't fight for this in vain," Castillo says. "This was like a calling. Since we started, we've always had the rights of gay senior citizens in mind.

Aside from Castillo's and Arevalo's marriage, judges have allowed four other same-sex marriages since December, although at least two of them also face legal challenges and are tied up in the courts.

Regardless, gay activists are optimistic that momentum will continue in their favor. They are lobbying lawmakers to pass the historic gay marriage legislation, and also plan to fight for additional rights, like adoption.

"We are slowly achieving change here, and this is inevitable, because the world is changing," says Open Door co-founder Graciela Balestra.

"Fortunately, we get to be the protagonists in these historic changes."

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Support For Full Marriage Growing in Scotland

Scotsman (letter):

The Scottish Government commissions a regular social attitudes survey, which every four years asks about attitudes towards discrimination

Each survey is conducted by the Scottish Centre for Social Research, and involves arepresentative sample of around 1,600 people across Scotland.

One question asks whether people agree or disagree that "gay or lesbian couples should have the right to marry one another if they want to".

In the 2002 survey, 41 per cent agreed, and 29 per cent disagreed; the remainder said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

By 2006, 54 per cent agreed and 21 per cent disagreed – that's an overall majority in favour. The 2010 survey will take place later this year.

Meanwhile, a national survey of a representative sample of 1,000 people across Scotland, conducted in April 2010 by Angus Reid Public Opinion, asked an identical question. In that survey, 58 per cent agreed with same-sex marriage and only 19 per cent disagreed, with the rest saying they neither agreed nor disagreed.

Marriage Equality Gaining Support in Maryland

When Maryland AG announced guidelines approving state recognition for out-of-state same sex marriages, he encountered a howl of outrage, and political attempts to counter his guidelines. New research shows that politically, he was right. A clear majority of Marylanders agree that marriages legally contracted elsewhere deserve recognition.  There is also now a small plurality supportive of gay marriage in Maryland, representing an increase in support since the last poll.

As the number of legally married gay or lesbian couples in Maryland increases, so support will continue to increase, just as it has done elsewhere. Political approval for marriage equality in Maryland is only a matter of time.

From the Washington Post, Maryland Politics: 

Poll finds gains for same-sex marriage in Maryland
Maryland residents are shifting toward a more positive opinion of same-sex marriage, with registered voters now narrowly supporting a law to allow it, a Washington Post poll has found.
A clear majority of people responding to the poll -- 55 percent -- also say that if gays get married in another state, those unions should be considered legal in Maryland; 38 percent say the state should not recognize them. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) in February told state agencies to begin granting married same-sex couples from elsewhere the same rights as Maryland's heterosexual couples.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Argentina Lower House Approves Equality Bill.

The LGBT equality bill which was postponed last week, has now been passed by the Lower House. It must still go through the Senate. If it passes there, Argentina will become the first South American country to introduce same -sex marriage, country-wide. (Marriage is also possible in Mexico, but only in Mexico City.) Also included in the bill is approval for adoption by same sex couples.

If passed, it will put an end to the current legal ping-pong, whereby  several couples have secured approval for licences, married, and then have had the marriages invalidated after legal challenges initiated by the Catholic Church. Last week in quick succession two marriages were ruled invalid by judges. This week, a fifth couple were married. Without passage of this bill, there is no doubt that this too would meet a challenge in the courts - and if overturned, would then wind through a lengthy appeals process, just like the others. ( After Alex Freyre and Jose Maria De Bello, the first male couple married in Argentina, have promised to pursue the appeals process right up to international courts if necessary.)

From Reuters India:

 Argentina's lower house passes gay marriage bill
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's lower house passed on Wednesday a gay marriage bill that, if also approved by senators, will put the South American country among a handful in the world that allow homosexual couples to marry.
"Love isn't owned by heterosexuals," said Deputy Felipe Sola, who backed the bill. "If we're all equal before the law, why do we want to give a different name to unions between same-sex couples?"
The bill permits gay couples to adopt children for the first time, one of its most controversial provisions.
If the law is passed in the upper house, Argentina would be the first country in predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America to allow same-sex marriages. Neighbouring Uruguay grants extensive rights, including adoptions, to gay couples in civil unions but does not allow them to marry.
Mexico City is the only other place in Latin America where gays have the same marriage and adoption rights as heterosexual couples.

(Read the full report)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Argentina Marriage Decision Postponed.

Monitoring the progress of marriage equality in Argentina is like watching a tennis match, with the initiative going alternately with supporters and opponents. The parliament was due this week to debate a proposal to approve both marriage and adoption for same sex couples, but this was unexpectedly delayed. There's nothing sinister in this though - they simply ran out of time, with a tax bill squeezing it out.  The debate has now been rescheduled for next week Wednesday..

From On Top magazine:

Argentine Lawmakers Postpone Gay Marriage Debate

Gay rights proponents in Argentina's Chamber of Deputies (la Camara de Diputados) failed to gain sufficient support to open debate on a gay marriage bill Wednesday, but lawmakers say they'll hold a special session next Wednesday.
“It's very painful,” Cesar Cigliuti, president of Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (Homosexual Community Argentina), told EL COMERCIO. “We had every confidence it would move forward. We felt we were going to live a historic moment. But we hope that next Wednesday we will make the initial approval.”
A polarizing tax debate elbowed out discussion of the gay marriage bill, which received the approval of a key committee two weeks ago.
In an interview with Ultimo Minuto, National Deputy Vilma Ibarra confirmed that the majority party had agreed to hear the bill next week.
(Read the full report)