Monday, April 07, 2008

Ecuador: President Correa falls into political trap, accedes to right-wing demands, says gay couples deserve some rights

Last week, US-based conservative religious web portal LifeSite posted an article championing Ecuadorian Assemblymember Rosanna Queirolo and her efforts "to preserve family values in the nation's constitution" ("Famous Model and TV Announcer Wins Battle to Protect Life and Family Values in Ecuadoran Constitution," April 1, 2008).

Queirolo had launched
a well-publicized effort to remove anti-gay discrimination protections from Ecuador's constitution and to eliminate any access to abortion in a country that already bans them except in cases of rape or incest (it was those "in case of" instances that she also wanted to eliminate in part by establishing that life should be recognized by the constitution at conception instead of at birth).

She was soon joined by a few colleagues and by members of the Ecuadorian religious right who took to the streets to demand further changes to the constitution including access to ex-gay treatments for gays who wanted to be "cured," a ban on the official recognition of any partnership that was not between a man and a woman, and the inclusion of God's name in the magna carta.

Initially there were rumors that Queirolo would be censured by her political party, PAIS, particularly for statements made on the Assembly floor linking gays to pedophiles.

In addition, President
Rafael Correa (above) used his weekly radio show to categorically deny that he'd let the constitutional re-drafting process be entangled in these issues claiming that 1) The issue of same-sex marriage was a non-issue since the gay community wasn't asking for marriage and the government already had established that marriages could only be between a man and a woman; 2) Similarly, that abortion was also not a constitutional matter and that the country already had laws banning abortion and was respecting "life;" and 3) That including the word "God" in the constitution would discriminate against people who had religions other than Christian as well as atheists.

President Correa says he fell into a political trap, accedes to some right-wing demands, but still says that the rights of same sex couples should be recognized:
Since my last post on the issue, there has been a change in fortunes.

For one, instead of censuring Queirolo, the PAIS party released a 6-point official position paper on April 1st which seemed to cave in to some of the demands by the religious right.

Among those positions:
  • The preamble to the Constitution will include the name of God and the diverse forms of religiosity, spirituality and beliefs of Ecuadorians in an ecumenical manner
  • The new Constitution will guarantee life. And will recognize and protect it in all phases, including care and protection from conception
  • The State will strengthen families as the nucleus of society. Marriage will remain as the union of a man and a woman, recognizing civil unions
There are caveats but, in short, PAIS, which happens to be the party affiliation of the President, pretty much embraced some of the language that the right wing had demanded. They did close by also stating that "Nobody will be discriminated based on their sexual orientation."

On his radio show on Saturday President Correa admitted that he'd fallen into a political trap.

Ecuador Inmediato reports that Correa characterized the 5-hour meeting that led to the release of the PAIS statement as time spent on matters that did not have any "transcendence." He said that he personally still believed that the word God should stay out of the Constitution but admitted that it would now be included. He made a pledge to continue allowing "therapeutic abortions" in the case where a doctor deemed it necessary to save a woman's life or "in case of sexual violations." And, on the issue of same-sex partners he said that he would fight to guarantee certain legal rights of common law partnerships although he stopped short of saying whether those same-sex common law partnerships themselves would be recognized (not sure if any form of partnership between same-sex couples would be recognized if the constitution ends up enshrining the family as the nucleus of society and only recognizing family as being constituted by that conformed between a man and a woman).

"Let's not continue to play the right wing's game," Correa said, "let's not fall into their traps any longer, let's discuss the topics that should really be included in the Constitution, let's keep working."

Queirolo, for her part and having done the damage, promptly announced on April 2nd that she would be leaving the PAIS political party, according to El Comercio, although she made a commitment to follow through on making sure that the changes she championed made it to the final version of the Constitution.

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