Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Gay Rights Under Attack in Honduras

On August 27 of 2004, three organizations - Kukulcan, Colectivo Violeta and the Sampedrana Gay Community - became the first LGBT advocacy organizations to be granted non-profit status in Honduras after fifteen years of community lobbying for the designation.

The decision, which seemed at the time to be a milestone for the Honduran LGBT rights movement, acually smashed right into a little noticed phenomenon: The meteoric rise of the evangelical church throughout Latin America in the past few years.

On September 13, 2004, close to a hundred people marched through the streets of San Pedro at the call of the evangelical church with chants and signs that warned that recognizeing these organizations was the first step towards the recognition of same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples. Larger protests and organized mail-in campaigns followed.

Politicians, fearful of the religious back-lash, quickly began to draft a constitutional amendment that would ban both marriages between same-sex couples and adoptions by same-sex partners. In a stunning show of either a fear of - or pandering to - conservative religious forces, the amendment passed unanimously through Congress with a 128-0 vote (!). A second vote on the amendment, required by the constitution before its passage, came in March of this year with an equally lop-sided loss as the amendment enshrined into national law (ironically evangelical fundamentalists argued that they had to take action before the 'immorality' that defined society in the United States reached Honduras, when the truth is that it's actually fundamentalist evangelism that has spread from the United States throughout the area along with its virulent homophobia). Now, fresh off these victories, the religious right is now gunning for an order to invalidate the non-profit status of these LGBT organizations.

What brings me to comment on the issue today is an interview with Javier Medina, Director of KuKulcan (pictured above), which runs in today's issue of the Honduran newspaper Proceso.

Mr. Medina explains that the word KuKulcan is "associated with the name that the Maya people gave their highest god... [who] symbolized the start of any new stage in Maya life and represented the highest masculine deity."

He speaks of experiencing discrimination at previous jobs and being fired for being gay and of hospitals refusing to treat patients who self-identify as gay.

On the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples, Mr. Medina says: "It's an issue we have not even contemplated, what's more, it was the church representatives who brought up the issue and made it relevant and - now that they have - why not consider it in the future?"

On God, he says: "I live my spirituality, I am not religious, I do believe in God... I do not believe in the Bible because it was written by men 90 years after the death of Christ, [and is based on a] translation from a dead language to a current language in the context of other writings."

On when he came out as being a gay man: "More than 20 years ago, in addition I am a public figure and why should I hide it?"

These are not easy times for gay people in Honduras. If you've read this far and are as outraged at the governmental trampling of their rights and the courage of people such as Javier Medina who are still willing to lead the fight I would urge everyone to take action by visiting this Amnesty International action alert page and following the steps to let the Honduran government how you feel about it.

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