Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Leading Guatemalan newspaper pranks gays, tells them they can marry

In Latin America, April Fools' Day doesn't come in April - nor is it called "April Fools' Day"... discuss.

Actually, it's called "Innocents' Day" and it comes around every December 28th.

Anyhow, considering all the hoopla surrounding the decision last week by Mexico City's Legislative Assembly to grant gays the right to marry and adopt, a Guatemalan newspaper thought that it would be hilarious to prank Guatemalan gay couples yesterday and make them believe that their government had also granted them the right to marry.

In an article titled "The gays will be able to create a family in Guatemala", El Periódico reported that Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom had broken away from his past and promised to promote a law making it easier for gays to marry. President Colom, according to the article, had hosted a surprise Christmas dinner with the country's LGBT leadership on Saturday and had been able to work out every difference that the LGBT rights movement might have held with his government. The article also said that most of the government's ministers had been present at the dinner, including the ministers of Defense, Education and Athletics, and that Colom had taken the opportunity to personally apologize for making comments against the LGBT community in the past.

In addition, the paper said that the Guatemalan president vowed to institute a series of measures to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community in the country, and that he would require any private institution doing business with the country to prove that at least 10% of its workforce was LGBT.

But, wait! It was all a prank!

In the last sentence in the article, the paper said "Lastly, the leader asked all communication media representatives to distribute the news until today, December 28th, Innocents' Day", the only sign that readers had been had.

A few readers caught up with the prank leaving messages behind calling it in poor taste. Others thought it was the real deal, including Guatemalan homophobes who called the news a travesty. And yet, so far, there has been no apology forthcoming from the paper's editors.


Gay couple in Argentina granted marriage license, 1st in Latin America

From AFP:
Two Argentine men on [Monday] became the first homosexuals to legally marry in Latin America, after the governor of the country's southernmost Tierra del Fuego province permitted their wedding... Although the Argentine civil code does not recognize same sex marriages, a court had approved the wedding of Alex Freyre, 39, and Jose Maria Di Bello, 41, before it was challenged pending the outcome of a Supreme Court appeal.... Tierra del Fuego Governor Fabiana Rios authorized [Monday]'s wedding after a civil registrar had refused to officiate earlier this month... The Argentine capital became Latin America's first city to approve civil unions in 2002. Buenos Aires grants gay couples some, but not all rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
I first had an inkling that something was afoot through Twitter as the ceremony in Tierra del Fuego and the Governor's decision were kept closely under wraps. The development, which surprised even those of us who were keeping an eye on the issue as it relates to Argentina, does not mean that other gay couples automatically will be granted the right to marry.

Freyre and Di Bello had been scheduled to marry in Buenos Aires on December 1st until the marriage was stopped by local authorities. Since then, dozens of gay couples throughout Argentina have registered at local marriage bureaus in protest. Conceivably, each court would have to determine whether they will grant each couple a marriage license.

Most probably the issue will be ultimately resolved by the Argentinian Constitutional Court which has announced that it will rule on the constitutionality of marriage rights for same-sex couples in 2010.

The one thing they will not be able to take away from Freyre and Di Bello, in what had become - in some ways - a race to the finish, is their claim to being the first gay couple to be granted marriage rights in all of Latin America.

Related: The provincial government of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina has provided Rex Wockner some great photos of the marriage ceremony. Click on the link below to see them.

Mexico City grants gays the right to marry and adopt

From Rex Wockner's weekly syndicated international LGBT news column via Bay Windows:
Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly voted 39-20 to legalize same-sex marriage Dec. 21... Federal benefits, such as pension, inheritance and social-security rights, will remain off-limits to married gay couples without changes in federal law to recognize the Mexico City marriages.
The bill, which also grants gay couples the right to adopt, is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard in January. The law would go into effect in March.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Marriage equality advocates in New York State are "Marching On"

The Empire State Pride Agenda has just posted this video on YouTube in the wake of the recent disappointing vote on marriage equality in the New York State Senate. In it, the Pride Agenda thanks the legislators who voted in favor of the bill and also gives the following warning to those who voted 'no':
We will not go away. We will only grow stronger. We will keep fighting. In the streets. In your districts. Until we win.

Schwarzenegger taps Latina lesbian for finance director post

Considering the current status of the California state budget, I'm not sure whether I would even congratulate anyone who might want to become the state's finance director. And yet, earlier in the week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he had appointed 34 year old Ana Matosantos to the previously vacated position.

The Sacramento Bee and other major English language papers note that Matosantos, who was born in Puerto Rico, would become the youngest person and the first Latina to ever fill the post (her appointment is still pending approval from the California State Senate).

Interestingly, none of the major English-language newspapers make note that Matosantos is also an openly lesbian woman. That information actually came from the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión who interviewed her for an article that ran on Tuesday. An translated excerpt:

Montesanos speaks openly and with no need to hide her personal life. She confesses that she is single, a lesbian and has a partner. "Once you have confessed to your parents, it doesn't matter what others might think." she says certain of herself [...] Additionally, I feel happy because my nomination reflects the diversity lived in the state, and California siempre pa' adelante [using a Puerto Rican colloquialism in Spanish].

[NOTE: That contradiction about being single and having a partner comes directly from the Spanish-language text].

After Senate approval of her appointment, Matosanos will have to present Schwarzenegger's state budget in January. In a statement, the Governor gave Matosanos full support by saying "In the coming year, our state will have to make incredibly challenging and tough budget decisions, and Ana has the knowledge and expertise necessary to guide my administration through that decision-making process."

With the pending appointment, Matosanos would become one of the highest ranking gay Latinos appointed to political office in the United States.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Scott Long on the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill

Yesterday I highlighted a couple of interviews that journalist Rex Wockner did during his stay in New York in October. I'd helped to transcribe those interviews from the original recordings and noted that there was a third interview that might or might not see the light of day - and that I'd make note of it if and when it was published.

Well, Rex just posted his interview with Scott Long tonight on his blog and it's truly worth a read. Scott is the Director of the LGBT Division at Human Rights Watch and, in it, he speaks candidly about his long-standing work on LGBT rights around the world.

Of particular interest, are his comments on a proposed and draconian anti-gay bill making its course through the Ugandan legislature which would make homosexuality a crime punished by death.

An advance quote:
When we first were leaked the text of it, a bunch of us were just looking at it in astonishment. (T)he preparation for it has been laid by years of fanatical homophobic agitation in Uganda that comes from the president and comes from the first lady and comes from ... the minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who are all obsessed by homosexuality. But the groundwork has also been laid, again, by these years of religious agitation, which has been promoted by U.S. evangelicals...
To read more about the involvement of U.S. evangelical leaders in this horrible bill as well as the rest of Rex's interview with Scott, please go here.

And, on a related note, for updates on the latest on the Uganda bill, please visit Box Turtle Bulletin. The latest, as of tonight: There are indications that worldwide pressure on the Ugandan government to scratch the bill might be working ("Op-Ed In Ugandan Gov’t Newspaper: 'Parliament Should Not Pass This Bill'”).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peru: Gays can serve in armed forces, says Constitutional Court

In a case that has been making it's way through the Peruvian courts since 2003, Perú's Constitutional Court has had final say on whether gays can serve in the country's police academy - as well as other armed forces institutions.

In a 3-2 ruling, the court declared that a "sexual option cannot be a prerequisite or precondition to determine capacity or professional ability" and ordered the institution to reintegrate a police cadet who had been kicked out on rumors he was gay.

The student, only identified by his initials, had always denied allegations that he is gay, but had argued that he should not have been kicked out based on mere rumors. The court ruled in his favor and went a step further saying that gays should not be denied service in the police or the military.

"To sustain [something like] this is not only anachronistic, but attempts against the principle of human dignity".

I had previously posted this annotated YouTube video in which the student was interviewed as well as one of the justices from the Constitutional Court who voted in the affirmative (Carlos Fernando Mesías Rámirez).

Previously on Blabbeando:

Top gay bloggers on blogging

Others have posted excerpts from these posts already but I wanted to bring attention to a couple of interviews that my friend Rex Wockner did during a rare stay in New York in late October. While in the city, he took an opportunity to interview two of my favorite bloggers: Andy Towle who runs Towleroad and Joe Jervis who blogs at Joe.My.God.

Both Andy and Joe have been more than generous in picking up on the stuff I write about here on Blabbeando and I haven't always acknowledged it or thanked them for it. This gives me a chance to highlight their tremendous work and also say gracias. Additionally, when it comes to these interviews, I also had the pleasure of transcribing the original interviews from Rex's digital recorder while I was in Maine in early November to cover the heartbreaking marriage equality vote so, in some ways, I am incredibly familiar with their words. They bring up a number of interesting issues about their high profile as bloggers and what it takes to keep up with their daily input.

I'll just pick up on a couple of key points they raise and provide a link to their full interviews:

Joe Jervis a/k/a Joe.My.God (left) on being fed information (click here for full interview):

"I am very aware of being managed. And I'm aware when obviously lots of LGBT organizations and other groups want to get their message out and how they'll try to massage me into being sympathetic either to their point of view or to feeling obligated to parrot their press release or their event or their rally or whatever, and I try to keep them at arm's length, you know, both emotionally and not to overstep my position journalistically. There are a few groups that are rather notorious for trying to manage bloggers, to make sure that the message they want is the one that we put out. And that's not to say that there aren't a lot of good people doing good work and their message isn't the right message. It usually is. But I'm also very leery of becoming their sock-puppet, and you learn by error. A few years ago, you might be flattered that someone from some major progressive or LGBT group might want to get you on the phone and ask for your opinion, and then a little bit wiser and later you realize that they were sweet-talking you into basically regurgitating to your readers exactly what they want them to read and believe. And so with bitter experience you start treating those sort of conversations with a jaundiced eye".

Andy Towle who runs Toleroad (right) on keeping up with the latest (click here for full interview):

"I feel overwhelmed right now because I'm not reading and I'm doing this interview instead, but, you know, it's how I regularly feel if I'm out or whatever. It's like there is always a constant barrage of news and things happening, so the struggle to keep on top of it is a constant challenge and I think anybody who's in news these days understands the same thing -- that it's just, you know, like a 24-hour thing and to stay on top of it, you just have to constantly keep reading".

I also transcribed a third interview that might or might not eventually see the light of day. It does not involve a blogger but I will highlight it, as well, if and when it is published.

In the meantime, please click through the links given above and read the full interviews with Joe and Andy.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

From "Coming Out at 48" to "Coming Out / Staying Out"...

There are more than a few interesting bloggers out there and one that caught my eye early in my own blogging timeline was "Chris P." who blogged at Coming Out at 48.

The sub-head below the blog title read "At 48, a married man tells his wife he is gay. Life stops in its tracks and then begins again. He still goes to sleep in the evening and he still rises in the morning, but everything has changed" and his blog entries were a fascinating series of semi-daily observations by a man whose whole world had suddenly shifted as he made his first tentative steps out as a gay man, not without some trepidation.

I wasn't the only one reading. Coming Out at 48 was featured in a New York Times article in August of 2006 ("When the Beard is Too Painful to Remove"). Here is an excerpt from the article:
The loss [of a long term spouse] comes on top of the adolescent awkwardness of not knowing the social norms of a new world, described on the blog Coming Out at 48. Its author, who identifies himself only as Chris, writes of changing his clothes many times before heading to his first gay bar, finding it empty and not realizing he had arrived too early. He writes of not understanding the sexual terminology in gay personal ads and looking for an “always gay’’ man to teach him what he needed to know.

In an e-mail exchange, Chris compared the experience to “living abroad,’’ where the “thrill of a new place’’ competes with “the deep loneliness’’ of unfamiliarity. It is not, he said “the existential loneliness of not knowing who you are and where you belong, but the loneliness of ‘What am I going to do this weekend?’ ‘How am I supposed to behave?’ or ‘When will the phone start to ring?’ ’’
Eventually, "Chris" found surer footing in this new world an met someone with whom he clicked. Coming Out at 48 remained online (it's still in my blog roll) but most blog entries disappeared. "Chris" decided to focus on his new life instead. Until now.

Meet Paul. For a while now, I have been keeping in touch with "Chris", whose real name is Paul, and he recently reached out to say that he had launched a brand new blog. He felt the itch to write again and to share his most recent experiences. His new blog, "Coming Out / Staying Out" has been added to my blog roll. It's still in its infancy but I am sure it will be worth your time. Feel free to ad it to your RSS feeds.


Olga Tañon comes out against homophobia

Spend a night at any of the gay bars in Jackson Heights, Queens, and you will probably hear one of her songs. For more than a decade, Olga Tañon has been the queen of Merengue and her songs, full of women who leave philandering lovers, women who strike back at lying men, and women who make it on their own despite the struggles, struck a nerve among some of the gay Latino immigrants that made Queens their home. Gay men probably identified with the telenovela-type of set ups in the lyrics and the idea of a strong woman overcoming bad relationships in her life. Or the idea that anyone could overcome hardship. Oh, and it helped that the songs were incredibly catchy and were ready-made for the dance floor. You haven't seen two gay men truly dance merengue unless you have seen them dancing to "Mentiroso" (below) or "Que se Valla".

Not that she only sings merengue and salsa, she has also explored Tex-Mex music in an album and recorded a rather mawkish and cringe-inducing Spanish-language version of the hymn of the United States last year called "Nuestro Himno" in support of undocumented immigrants (she was joined by with other recording stars including Wyclef Jean, Don Omar, Gloria Trevi, Ivy Queen and Pitbull).

Anyway, here is the thing: Recently I wrote about the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in Puerto Rico and the rallies that the brutal killing inspired in the United States and Puerto Rico. I also noted that two of Puerto Rico's most beloved stars, Calle 13 lead singer René Pérez and former Miss Universe Denise Quiñones, not only showed up at the San Juan rally but also publicly condemned the murder in a video captured by my friend Pedro Julio Serrano. René, as a symbol of his solidarity for the gay community, later went on to use his Twitter account to repeat the words he said on video: "I am 'homo' because I am 'Homo-sapiens', I'm 'sexual' because I am a sexual human being. Hence I am 'homo-sexual.'"

I personally thought it was a watershed moment when it comes to the Latino community and LGBT issues. Usually, when Latino super-stars come out in support of our rights it's either because it's late in their career and they want to market themselves to the gays that love them (see Gloria Trevi and Lucía Méndez) or because they are about to be outed (see Christian Chavez). But René and Denise's statement seemed incredibly heartfelt and uncensored in ways that a star's public relations handlers might not necessarily allow (in Denise's case, she is the exception to the rule and has been there for us before). But the remarks came just before the thanksgiving break and didn't necessarily get much traction.

Now comes Olga Tañon. In an article posted on Monday on Primera Hora, she unequivocally steps up against homophobia as yet one more Puerto Rican music superstar stands with us.

In the article, the singer repudiates the indifference shown by the island's political and religious leaders have shown towards the crime. She says it makes her feel ashamed and incredibly bothered by those who use excuses not to do a thing about the crime:
[it's] much rougher because many times it can't be seen; the injustice committed daily against gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgenders in Puerto Rico, Latin America and almost the entire world, in denying them the same rights as the rest of the community and singling them out as if they were different.
She applauds René and Denise and says:
As artists, it is our responsibility to carry the correct message, a message of unity, of tolerance, of acceptance, of respect towards a way of being [...] To use the name of God to separate someone and treat them differently is a very ugly thing. I have fans who have told me that they do not want to go on living because of rejection from their homophobic parents and that is something we have to act upon; that is something that should make all of us hurt and should make us react [...] They have the right to be who they feel to be and not as the community wants them to be [...] Even though, at the end, common sense is enough for you to repudiate rejection... Look, to be gay is nothing wrong. Sexual orientation, in itself, is nothing wrong; it cannot be used as a reason to punish or to reject. Everyone's conduct is another 20 pesos and has nothing to do with orientation. Why don't people understand that?
Just like René, Olga means what she says. In a weekly radio show in which she answers questions from fans, she will devote the whole hour TOMORROW NIGHT to the issue. She is promoting the hour on her official website. Tune in to Olga Tañon or to IsMiO on Wed., Dec. at 8PM EST to hear Olga discuss homophobia, LGBT rights, and justice for Jorge Steven López Mercado.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New York Senate sinks marriage equality bill

Today, after months of public and private pressure on the New York State Senate to bring a marriage equality bill to the floor for a vote, it finally happened. The Assembly had already passed their version of the bill and Governor David Paterson had vowed to sign the bill if it reached his desk. But passage in the Senate was never a done deal and today the bill was voted down by a margin of 38 to 24.

The loss wasn't necessarily a surprise, although it was certainly disappointing, particularly coming on the heels of the heartbreaking loss in Maine. But the margin, with 8 Democrats voting against the bill and NO Republicans voting in favor was certainly a big shock. Personally, I believed that a few Republican votes might make up for the Democratic deficit that had been evident for months. That did not happen.

Tonight at Times Square, an impromptu call for a protest rally drew approximately 200 to 300 people despite the threat of rain. My photos here. Selected ones below...

Rainbow flag designer Gilbert Baker came up with this banner. Black script on yellow. "N.Y. Crime Scene".

Angered by the results, the crowd was energetic and seemed ready for action. But there was also an air of uncertainty as what the next step should be. Most of the anger seemed directed at the 8 Democrats who voted against the bill with the crowd chanting "Vote them out! Vote them out!"

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer came out to the rally and spoke to reporters in condemnation of today's vote.

Blogger Joe Jervis (Joe.My.God) was there to cover the rally and to express his displeasure, singling out Queens Senator Hiram Monserrate.

Not proud to be a New Yorker tonight...

Update: Video of the rally from In The Life Media: