Monday, February 25, 2008

Argentina: President Kirchner to push for same-sex marriage?

It's no secret that I have been guarded about what the recent election of Argentina's first female president means for the LGBT community.

Back in November, in the wake of
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's election victory, I noted that while some had called her win a victory for the LGBT rights movement, most of the excitement was based on statements made by close Kirchner allies and not Kirchner herself. During her presidential campaign she rarely mentioned LGBT rights and was one of the few candidates that refused to answer an election questionnaire by CHA, the leading LGBT rights organization in the country.

Kirchner, as far as I know, has still been pretty quiet on LGBT issues but a new interview with yet another close Kirchner ally is raising some eyebrows on whether Cristina will actively endorse and push for same-sex marriage rights in Argentina during her first term as president.

The ally, María José Lubertino (pictured above), president of the governmental National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI), sat down with journalist Marcelo Helfgot to answer questions about her work.

Here are translated excerpts from the interview: which was published yesterday in Clarin:

Marcelo Helfgot for Clarin: Did the Kirchneristas give you the mission of capturing the gay vote?
María José Lubertino: No. I was given the mission of ending discrimination in Argentina.
MH: If women tag someone who they don't like as being machista or if a homosexual gets offended by a term as common as maricón, what is the limit?
MJL: There is a great debate as whether insults are discriminatory or not. We consider it a crime. And if the words are not meant to be used as an insult, what has to change is the lexicon.
MH: What words should I stop saying?
MJL: We all have to do a daily exercise in how we refer to other people. One can call one's girlfriend 'gordi' or 'gordita' ['fatty' used as a term of endearment] and we won't report it. We all know when we want to denigrate another [person].
MH: Are you going to release a manual of banned words?
MJL: We are in a campaign for people to change the way that they express themselves. Even through jokes or through newspaper headlines. When 'work in black' appears [?] we receive thousands of complaints.
MH: If something is done "by left" does the Communist Party object?
MJL: It's like that.
MH: Should language be changed?
MJL: Of course. The power of words condition the realities. In Europe, for example, they take the fight against discrimination through humor seriously.
MH: What a problem for humorists if we eliminate jokes about gallegos...
MJL: It is a problem for humorists, but I can guarantee you that there are ways to tell a joke without using a person's disabilities or skin color.
MH: With [former Argentine president] Alfonsin, the divorce law was established. Will Cristina's accomplishment be gay marriage?
MJL: I have no doubt.
MH: Did she demand that the Court approve gay marriage by order of the President?
MJL: If they didn't want me to advance this issue, they wouldn't have put me in
charge of INADI.

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