After two weeks in which front page headlines blared that members of his own political party were pushing for changes in the Ecuadorian constitution that would 1) remove existing constitutional language protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation; 2) ban the official recognition of any sort of same-sex partnerships be it through marriage or civil unions; 3) determine that life starts at conception and ban all forms of abortion; and 4) enshrine the word "God" in the magna carta, President Rafael Correa (right) finally went on the record and addressed these issues in his weekly radio show on Saturday.
As Ecuador Inmediato (freebie online subscription needed) reports, Correa said the following:
On same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex partners: Correa stated that it wasn't even gays and lesbians who were asking for the right to marry. Instead, he said that it was a "story invented by certain communication media" and by groups that wanted to make an issue out of it to distract voters and to draw opposition to a new draft of the constitution.
"Every person has dignity, in other words, one must respect a person independently of their sexual preference," Correa stated, "Be careful on denying employment to someone based on their sexual preference, this is discrimination, that is unconstitutional."
But when it came to specifics he didn't offer many.
"Let it be clear that the profoundly humanistic position of this government is to respect the intrinsic dignity of everyone, of every human being, independent of their creed, race, sexual preference, and that [the government] will seek to grant certain guarantees to stable same-sex unions, but without ever arriving at the point of marriage."
To me this sounds more like the piecemeal approach to partnership rights that has been taking place in Colombia in which courts have ruled that same-sex couples have the right to share and inherit belongings without necessarily recognizing civil unions or same-sex marriage. In this respect, Correa might be ceding ground to those who would deny same-sex couples any recognition of their partnership through civil unions while extending a few protections of their joint belongings.
El Comercio seems to back this up. In their coverage they say that Correa gave an example: "Now, if one dies, the other cannot inherit anything, for this reason we will give certain guarantees to the stable gay couples, but matrimony will continue to be reserved for a man, a woman and the family."
On abortion: Correa said that abortion wasn't even a constitutional issue and that the government was already in agreement with "defending life" (according to this site "In Ecuador, abortion is allowed in cases of rape, but only if the woman is mentally retarded or insane").
"We believe that one of the duties of the State is to defend life, defend it from conception, we are - Sirs - the staunchest defenders of a full life."
On inserting the name of "God" into the constitution: Stating that Ecuador is a secular State that respects all religions, Correa said that the name of God should not be included in the constitution.
"If the name of God is not in the Constitution it doesn't mean that we are rejecting God, a secular state means that there is respect for all beliefs, but as there is respect for believers that have a particular religion, there is respect for those who don't believe there is a God, atheists,"said Correa.
He added, "If we [include] the name of God there is inclusiveness of the believers, but there is discrimination against atheists and that's a contradiction in a secular state, I am saying this as a practicing catholic and don't let those fundamentalist priests come to tell me 'There you are, Satan, 666, the anti-Christ,' because they want to take the name of God from the Constitution and I am pretty coherent in my beliefs."
Bizarrely, on this point El Comercio, disagrees with Ecuador Inmediato's coverage. According to El Comercio, Correa stated "If the majority wants the name of God in the Constitution, it will be. We want a Christian Ecuador, more just, with better income, without discrimination."
In any case, at least Correa is confronting right-wing fundamentalist leaders.
Related: Liking Ecuador tonight (Rex Wockner, March 31, 2008)
Previously: A push to eliminate constitutional protections for gays and lesbians (March 26, 2008)
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