While some of us are celebrating that Mexico City and South Africa seem poised to grant partial or full recognition of same-sex partnerships, let's take a look at what's been going on in Buenos Aires, Argentina (the first city in Latin America ever to pass a gay-friendly "civil union" law back in 2002).
In yesterday's Clarin, Argentina's leading newspaper, Rosario Medina takes a look at the number of couples that have sought to have their partnerships recognized through a civil union in Buenos Aires since 2003. Granted, the article says that only one office in all of Buenos Aires is allowed to grant civil union rights to same-sex couples, but the numbers might still surprise you.
The truth is that while newspapers and anti-gay advocates call these measures "gay marriage" or "gay civil unions," in most places these measures do not only recognize the rights of gay couples but also that of heterosexual couples who might not have had the possibility to seek civil unions instead of religious matrimony in the past.
In other words, civil unions might be an old concept for people living in the United States, but for Latin America, long under the spell of the Catholic church, the concept is actually new: In some of the municipalities that have recognized the right of same-sex couples to have access to civil unions, the measures are also the first time heterosexual couples have also had an option to seek recognition of their partnerships through a non-religious measure. This is the case with Buenos Aires.
Clarin reports that at least since December of 2005, the majority of couples that have been granted civil union status have been straight (112 heterosexual couples vs. 91 gay couples in 2005 and 106 heterosexual couples as of June of 2006 vs. 43 gay couples).
Pedro Anibal Paradiso Sottile, Legal Issues Coordinator for the Argentine Homosexual Community (CHA) tells Clarin "We knew from the start that (the civil union law) would be used not only by our community but by the community in general. It wasn't only needed by the gay community. Heterosexual couples also use this tool because there is no other outside of marriage."
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