Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Beneath the Radar: Aruba, the Cherokee Nation and the Mayan Indians

Just beneath the radar, there have been some interesting developments on the same-sex marriage front in the Caribbean and among indigenous groups in the United States and Central America.

· Yesterday, Arubas Superior Court said that the government had to register the Dutch marriage of two women, Aruban-born Charlene Oduber-Lamers and Dutch-born Esther Oduber-Lamers, under laws established when the Caribbean island was a Dutch colony. Unlike former British colonies in the Caribbean (i.e. - Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica and Belize), Dutch colonies (i.e. - Aruba and the Dutch Antilles) never inherited anti-sodomy statues from their colonizers which – in general – makes them supposedly less homophobic. Nevertheless the ruling is already creating tensions between the Aruba government and Holland as Aruba is determined to make a final appeal before the Dutch Supreme Court arguing “that Dutch law also grants the island the right to self-rule - permitting it to ignore Holland's legalization of gay marriage” and that “the civil code [does] not allow for same-sex marriage and that it would go against Aruba's way of life.”

· Just as in the case of the Oduber-Lamers, Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds are a lesbian couple who are also struggling to have their marriage recognized by a different nation: The North-American Cherokee nation. Both had received a marriage certificate when they exchanged vows in May of 2004 but its official filing was stopped when Todd Hembree, a member of the tribe and attorney, sued to have it blocked arguing that he would suffer grave harm if the marriage was allowed to stand. In June of 2005, the tribe adopted language limiting marriages to couples of different sex. And, while on August 3rd a tribal court dismissed the suit saying that Mr. Hembree had no standing to file the suit and could not show how he would be harmed by the women’s marriage, on August 10th a group of Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors filed another petition requesting a temporary injunction while also arguing that recognition of the women’s marriage would cause irreparable harm to the tribe. On August 15th, the court granted the injunction. A hearing will soon be held and debate still simmers.

· In the meantime, down in Guatemala, similar rifts were exposed recently among Maya tribe members when an unsigned Mayan Wajxaqbib’ No’ Indian Defense press release was sent out on July 6, 2005, which, among other things, stated:

Gays have risen as a result of the social decomposition in the midst of the 20th century. We cannot rationalize this issue since it does not fit within our culture as indigenous people, just as it also stands against the development of humanity according to nature’s principles…

If they were born with this defect or learned it later, we cannot, or there should not be any room for these same things to continue happening or by copying other countries’ behaviors.

It should not be strange that countries that are politically, militarily or economically powerful are the ones which have the most gays, since they are responsible for the atrocities committed against poor communities, they are the ones who export their filth and pollute our communities.

Just as the Unites States and other wealthy nations are the ones who export all type of transgeneric products, industrial pollution, chemical warfare, lack of culture, assimilation and illnesses such as AIDS and others.

This type of attitudes or customs are an inheritance from the ‘democracy’ of industrialized countries, who lack spirituality and who – currently – only see the human self as a cybernetic machine, with whom they can do as they please.

Countries such as Guatemala could not remain behind and those who govern us are the premier degenerates. Now these [governing bodies] put the legalization of gay matrimony in their agendas – is it perhaps because they cannot see the principal problems that afflict the nation?

Local non-profit, Amigos Contra el SIDA (Friends Against AIDS) picked up on the release and immediately demanded an apology, stating that it was irresponsible for a marginalized and oppressed minority to attack another, defending the right for gays to marry and adopt children, reiterating their respect for the Maya tribes and sharing anecdotes about the repression of gays in Guatemala under the hands of the police and the government.

The call to action by Amigos must have had an internal impact in certain Maya circles because, on July 31st, 2005, the Wajxaqbib’ No’ Indian Defense released an
Error Notice Related to the Press Release Sent Out on July 6th about the Gays:”

We assume institutional responsibility for the enormous error caused by an individual’s opinion, the limited articulation of ideas on the subject in the press release, and not our institution’s political or ideological stand.

We ask for forgiveness from all those persons and institutions that received this degrading expression which caused great damage, to people and institutions that assume their full right to sexual diversity, we let you know that the position of the Indian Defense is related to the defense and respect of the rights of every person as an individual or a collective.

Though this apology is apparently the official statement that the Defense is sending out to people who contact them on the issue, to date, Amigos have yet to receive the statement directly. Amigos remain open to talking to the Maya leadership on these issues the Defense admit having little knowledge of or much familiarity.

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