Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Colombia: 1st day back in class for high school lesbians who were booted out

Right: "'Degrees' of intolerance" by Colombian editorial cartoonist Ricky from today's editorial page of the Manizales newspaper La Patria. The caption bubble reads - "And they say that Leonardo Da Vinci was gay"

Yesterday was the first day back in school for the two lesbian high-school students who were booted out back in February but allowed to go back by court order.

The case has drawn the national attention not the least because of this extraordinary video captured on Thursday when the students registered for class.

Getting most of the heat has been Leonardo Da Vinci High School principal Magola Franco Pérez who stood by as more than 700 students heckled the two girls as they registered last week holding anti-gay signs and banners and and shouting "We don't want you!" against the girls and "We want Magola" in support of the principal (the principal continues to argue that it was a "spontaneous" demonstration over which she had no control although she admits that some students mysteriously gained access to the schools PA system and were able to lead the chants).

She had threatened to resign if the two young women were ever allowed to return to the school (she didn't) and late today she began legal proceedings - AGAIN - against both students arguing that they should not be allowed back in school based on a technicality: She says the girls signed the incorrect registration forms (hm, I wonder who made sure they didn't sign the right forms). Yes, folks! Despite the court order she is trying her damnest to get rid of the two students.

Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti officially submitted a complaint against the principal with the national Attorney General's office as well as against Manizales Mayor Juan Manuel Llano Uribe for allowing the anti-gay protests in light of a court order that determined that the two students were dismissed based on discrimination. He also asked for the dismissal of principal Franco Pérez. This according to an article published in La Patria today ("The Da Vinci, to learn from tolerance").

For his part, Mayor Llano Uribe says that Benedetti is overreacting since he does not know the facts and defending the rights of the other students to protest since he deems that it was OK for them to defend themselves from the perception that they were all lesbians.

In addition to reporting on the issue and running the political cartoon above, La Patria also ran two opinion columns that supported the students' rights to return to class.

In "The sin is to be a lesbian" columnist Martin Franco V. says:
What we experience with this case is nothing more than an acid test on tolerance: Students at the high school have to learn to respect the sexual tastes of their schoolmates, in the same way that the reintegrated students should understand that they can live their sexuality without a problem, as long as and whenever they do not bother or transcend the limits of those that surround them. But to judge a person for their sexual condition is an absurdity. Even though, taking a good look at it, the issue is a paradox: Leonardo Da Vinci himself, Renaissance genius, was stigmatized for his sexual condition. Isn't it ironic?
And in "An Infamy" columnist Jorge Raad Aljure says:
It's not a sin, and even less illegal, to be a homosexual. Those who see and judge others without the least intention to accept differences also have their right, but [it does not give them the right] to turn into aggressors as the makers of all truth and purity.

The corruption of minors is infamous as well as to ridicule human differences. By doing so you stain a humans' value.
In the meantime a protest has been organized in Bogota this Friday at noon in Bogota through Facebook (with other cities throughout the country showing interest in doing similar events).

My friend Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, Director of the Colombian LGBT rights organization Colombia Diversa, has been in touch with the students and their parents and here is what she says:
On Saturday morning they were feeling awful and they felt on their own in this fight but according to their lawyer our calls cheered them up. They are very grateful for all the demonstrations and the support that they have received.

They and their parents do not have an issue of [them] being lesbians and, more than that, with [then] having a loving relationship... and they are ready to receive all the help they can.
As for their first day in class, El Tiempo reports that even though the two students feared the worst, a dozen students welcomed them to school by embracing them. There were no new demonstrations and, while there was a greater awareness as to their presence, there weren't any outright hostile demonstrations against them. At least for today.

In the meantime, if you thought anti-gay fervor was the domain of certain high-school principals in Colombia please head over to this post on PageOneQ on a similar case here in the United States ("
Principal ousts gays, ACLU steps in").


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