Show anyone from Ecuador a photograph of Rosanna Queirolo (left) and they will probably recognize her.
A former model, television news anchor and triathlon athlete, Ms. Queirolo ran for the Ecuadorian National Assembly on a platform promising to protect the environment and to provide a bridge to the Ecuadorian immigrant community in the United States and she won.
Immigrant rights! Environmental protections! Stunning beauty! What's not to love?
Well, since joining the Assembly she certainly has made an impact but not necessarily on environmental issues (she has admitted in interviews that her interest on environmental issues is recent and stems for her admiration of the work of former United States Vice President Al Gore on global warming, not that she has any environmental protection experience or capacities).
To her credit, she did do a photo shoot at the Galapagos Islands for a coffee table book printed by her ex-husband which they supposedly developed to promote the island's natural beauty (I assume the bikini was bio-degradable).
But I digress.
Instead of making a mark as an environmentalist, Queirolo has instead come to prominence for her embrace of the country's nascent ultra-conservative Christian Evangelical movement and for championing a few of their interests.
On abortion: In a YouTube video uploaded last week that is also being prominently promoted on her website, Queirolo is asked in a television interview if women who are raped should have access to abortion. She first tries to avoid the issue by raising questions as to whether women who are victims of rape are actually at high risk of becoming pregnant [these particular translated comments come in at the 2:56 mark]:
We should also know that the product of that rape, in the majority of the cases, a woman is not left pregnant. Why? Because we have to see if that woman is fertile. Two: Normally, the woman doesn't ovulate due to her state of anxiety. And three, 58% of men who commit rape have a sexual dysfunction, in other words, they have premature or tardy ejaculation, for these reasons it's very difficult for a woman to become pregnant.Yikes! You don't need to be pro-choice to detect the dismissiveness of those words. Only Ann Coulter could get away with such a statement on American television.
Queirolo, who has advocated for the constitutional recognition of life at inception, goes to argue that if there is a pregnancy, the woman should have the baby and let him/her in the care of a government agency if she elects not to raise it. And - big surprise! - she blames "sexual minorities" for policies that allow people to abort [at the 4:o4 mark of the video]:
We are talking about the issue of 'sovereignty of the body' which was created by groups of the extreme-left - feminists, sexual minority groups, travestis, transsexuals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals [interviewer tries to cut in and express his surprise at the comments; Queirolo finishes her statement] ...this concept was created by sexual minorities who defend the right of people to make decisions about their own bodies, to abort whenever they want to abort, to practice euthanasia whenever they want to practice it, and something much more dangerous, including something as important as abortion." (emphasis added by yours truly).OK, then!
The drive to kick gays out of the constitution: In 1998 Ecuador became the first country in the Americas to adopt constitutional language granting protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But now, under President Rafael Correa, the country is looking at yet another stab at re-drafting the constitution.
Enter Queirolo and her religious supporters.
A week ago today Queirolo stunned some legislators, including some from her own party, when she stood up at a public hearing and asked the Constitutional Assembly to consider changing parts of the constitution pertaining to "sexual orientation". She claimed that the word "orientation" should be changed to "preference" since, in her interpretation, the former word also pertained to "pedophiles and other degenerates" (El Universo, March 22, 2008).
Outraged, members of the LGBT community responded by sending messages to legislators blasting Quierolo's comments and rejecting her attack on vulnerable communities. In a new blog set up by the LGBT rights organization Friends for Life Foundation (FAMVIDA), activists posted an image of a young man being crucified for being a "maricon" (you might recognize the image from this previous entry).
They ask supporters to send messages to Assemblymember Queirolo expressing their repudiation of her comments respectfully by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with a CC: to other Assemblymembers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. They also ask to post copies of the letters on their blog.
In the meantime, Queirolo has been talking to members of the press and expanding on her comments:
"The best thing would be to remove the words 'sexual orientation' and to include 'sexual preference.' The word 'orientation' leaves the door open to pedophiles, to bestiality" (El Universo, March 25, 2008)
"Sexual orientation can include not only homosexual, bisexual and transsexual groups but also pedophile organizations... God created us to procreate and the only way to procreate is through the union between a man and a woman. Any human invention cannot fit within a constitution" (El Universo, March 25, 2008).
She also added that God should be named in the Constitution as the ruler of mankind.
Evangelical groups react, promote ex-gay therapies: Not surprisingly, right wing religious denominations grabbed on to the spotlight on Queirolo and announced that they were on their way to gathering 2 million signatures demanding that God's name be included in the constitution, that abortion be penalized and that same-sex marriages be banned. Otherwise, they said, they would ask their followers to vote against any new constitutional drafts that did not include these three demands (El Universo, March 24, 2008).
By the time they held a vigil yesterday, they said that they had already gathered 100,000 signatures and were also demanding that the Constitution declare homosexuality a "a pathological state of a human being" and that it guarantee access to treatment for rehabilitation of gays through "therapies based on psychology, science and Christian faith." Two members of the PAIS political party, Assemblymembers Balerico Estacio (an evangelical preacher himself) and Teresa Benavides, joined them.
PAIS political party member Rolando Panchana said he agreed with the demands when it came to banning abortions but distanced himself on the other issues stating that he considered that calling gays "sick people" was discriminatory.
Assemblymember Tania Hermidia, also from PAIS, rejected their petition outright and said that the proposals "reveal a profound ignorance in what concerns human rights, the new [constitution] will have to expand on already conquered rights" (El Universo, March 25, 2008).
Official repudiation?: Despite some of the comments by some of the PAIS Assemblymembers above, most legislators were so disturbed by Queirolo's comments that there were internal calls for an official condemnation of her statements (Queirolo, as well as President Correa, are also from PAIS).
Instead, members of the PAIS party are said to be drafting a statement unequivocally stating that same sex marriage, abortion and the invocation of the name of God are not constitutional matters and will not be considered in the new constitution.
Fernando Cordero, Vice President of the Assembly, told El Universo that "Those who promote this debate seek to tarnish the name of the Assembly, to divide Assemblymembers and the Ecuadorian people" (El Universo, March 26, 2008).
So it appears that for now these drives to undermine protections for gays and lesbians in the Ecuadorian constitution seem to be dead on arrival. Unfortunately, expect some of the same ugliness in months and years to come particularly if Queirolo remains in the Assembly.
Update: President Correa on same-sex marriage, abortion and including 'God' in the constitution (March 31, 2008)