My friend Francisco Madrigal, a long-time LGBT rights advocate from Costa Rica, sent me wonderful news earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the Costa Rican government released Executive Decree 34399-S with signatures from President Oscar Arias Sanchez and Health Minister Dr. Maria Luisa Avila designating May 17th as the nation's official "National Day Against Homophobia."
The measure, which came at the request of the Center of Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America (Centro de Investigación y Promoción para América Central en Derechos Humanos or CIPAC), was actually signed on February 12th of 2008 and reads:
"Public institutions must amply disseminate the objectives of this commemoration. They also must facilitate, promote and support activities directed at the eradication of homophobia."
The May 17th date was chosen by advocates as commemoration of the date that the World Health Organization officially removed "homosexuality" as a mental illness in 1990.
Efforts to declare May 17th as an "International Day Against Homophobia" or IDAHO have been led by Frenchman Louis-Georges Tin and the International Lesbian and Gay Association as well as the Fondation Émergence in Canada.
There have been sporadic events and demonstrations throughout Latin America in past years on May 17th but this is the first time that I know of a Latin American president signing an official declaration recognizing the event.
In Mexico, LGBT rights advocates were successful in getting Mexico City to officially recognize May 17th as a "Day Against Homophobia" but efforts to have the federal government recognize a national commemoration have faltered.
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