Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mexico: As gays prepare to marry in Mexico City, Jalisco queers act-up for their rights

On December 21st Mexico City's legislative Assembly made history when it passed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. The law, which goes into effect on March 4th, became the first such measure to be adopted in all of Latin America.

Surprisingly, in the days that followed the vote, there was actually little visible reaction from any of the regular anti-gay forces in the country. Instead, as the new year began, a Twitter-led media frenzy erupted over homophobic comments made by a Mexican television morning show host named Esteban Arce.

Now, a week before the law goes into effect, the opposition has certainly raised its ugly head and come out in full force.

On January 27th, Mexico's Attorney General filed an appeal before the country's Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law. Last week six governors from the conservative PAN party also raised constitutional appeals claiming that the law might spread to other regions in the country. And - somewhat surprisingly - Mexico's president Felipe Calderón - also from the PAN party - stepped in and honed his conservative re-election bonafides by siding with anti-gay forces and stating his opposition to the law.

Patrick Corcoran, a freelance writer based in Mexico who blogs at Gancho, has a great breakdown of the partisan politics at play in an essay he wrote for Mexidata, and I quote:
Despite a lengthy to-do list that represents Mexican President Felipe Calderón's last gasp for an enduring legislative legacy, the president and his party have diverted their recent efforts toward a push to ban same-sex marriage.

The change of focus stems from a December law passed by the left-leaning Mexico City government legalizing same-sex marriage and providing gay couples with an avenue to adoption. Gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular had not been particularly divisive issues in Mexico, but the new law, which was the first of its kind in Latin America (the northern state of Coahuila did, however, legalize same-sex unions in 2007, though without the adoption provision) provoked a storm of controversy.

Even before the new law was official, the Mexico City PAN (National Action Party) was promising a legal challenge. Church officials, predictably, were apoplectic (although interestingly the Vatican conspicuously kept its distance). Opponents of same-sex marriage found a sympathetic ear in Los Pinos; Calderón is said to be personally close to Mariana Gómez, the PAN's most visible opponent of same-sex marriage, and in late January, his attorney general Arturo Chávez Chávez filed a challenge of the law before the Supreme Court. Five more states, all run by PAN governors, joined the fray last week, challenging the law on the grounds that it unfairly obliges them to recognize the capital's marriages.

Since Mexico City is light years to the left of much of the rest of the country, the backlash could undermine gay rights more than the Mexico City law advanced them. The Supreme Court could strike down the Mexico City law, rendering same-sex marriage illegal across the nation. Even if the Court refrains from doing so (which seems likely, given the court’s recent leftward tilt, its endorsement of Mexico City’s abortion legalization, and the flimsiness of the legal arguments), a series of statewide bans of same-sex marriage seem quite likely. This pattern, a progressive law in Mexico City sparking a harsh conservative reaction virtually everywhere else, was established over the past couple of years in the realm of abortion.

But even if the PAN’s strategy does bear fruit, this is a bad policy and ultimately a bad political move for the PAN... [read the rest of the essay here]
The good news this week: The Mexican Supreme Court has dismissed all six appeals from the governors of Sonora, Tlaxcala, Guanajuato, Morelos, Jalisco and Baja California.

Additionally, President Felipe Calderón, when asked yesterday to share his thoughts on the law once again, refused to reaffirm his opposition, simply referring to the one appeal against the measure that is still standing before the court: That of the Attorney General's Office.

"I will abstain from giving an opinion which might be interpreted as as if the President might be trying to introduce a belief, an opinion, a value that is different than the law", Calderón said.

He added that it was a delicate debate and argued that he respected every single person. "I absolutely do not have any bad taste nor reproach towards those who have a partnership with another of the same gender," he said, "I respect - I absolutely insist - such preferences".

David Razú Aznar, the President of the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City's Legislative Assembly, Tweeted this morning that this could be a signal that Calderón knows he is on the losing end of the debate. Aznar was among a team of lawyers and government officials who handed a report to the Supreme Court yesterday in which the City vouched for the constitutionality of the marriage equality law (you can download the complete report, written in Spanish, here).

Jalisco queers act-up: As good as it looks for marriage equality supporters in Mexico right now, what has been the most inspiring to see is how the LGBT community has reacted to efforts to sink the law. Mexico doesn't really have a national LGBT-rights organization that can act as a centralized force against these homophobic efforts. Instead, there is a large patchwork network of small local LGBT rights advocates and organizations that mostly work independently from each other. And, despite the fact that the law in question will only cover couples within the Mexico City district, it seems that LGBT folk throughout the country are rising up against efforts to derail it, particularly in Guadalajara, the state capital of Jalisco.

I already wrote about a march that took place in Guadalajara on Valentine's Day which drew more than 350 people and ended in a town square with kiss-ins and symbolic marriage ceremonies (Milenio has a full description here).

A week later, riding approximately 12 vehicles, 40 advocates made their way through the Guadalajara streets once again and stopped in front of the State's Human Rights Commission. According to El Occidental, advocates declared their opposition to their governor's Supreme Court appeal, as well as the interference of the other PAN-affiliated governors into the affairs of Mexico City. They also announced a campaign they called "Thousand for Our Rights" and said that they would be collecting 1,000 signatures from Guadalajara residents asking the Human Rights Commission to protect the rights of the city's LGBT community.

Milenio reported that leaders of three local LGBT rights organizations symbolically shut down the Commission's office by placing rainbow-colored chains and red-tape on its front doors and declaring a "quarantine" [see top photo]. Members of the Lesbian and Gay Committee (COLEGA AC), the Sexual Diversity Commission (Codise) and the Sexual Diversity University Network said that they were shutting down the office to protest the inaction of the president of the Commission, Jesús Álvarez Cibrián, who refused to take any action against the Supreme Court appeal filed by Jalisco's governor.

A representative of the Human Rights Commission refused to talk to demonstrators but said that the agency stood by its claims that the governor's actions were beyond their scope of work.

Rodrigo Rincón, president of Codise, said that protest organizers were considering taking additional actions, including outing political and religious leaders who stood in opposition to the advancement of LGBT rights, following similar actions by LGBT advocates in the United States.

From El Occidental:
In Jalisco we want to do the same: First we will look for them and see how they can support the cause, if there is no free will by gay public figures, or if they don't take a position that is of beneficial on these issues - because we have seen these officials speaking badly about the initiatives that have been presented - if this continues to happen, in the middle of the year we will release some pictures, videos, which include interviews with partners and ex-partners of the officials, so that they can provide names and be witnesses to all of this.
Finally, in an interview posted today on NotiSistema, Rosa Maria Trejo Villalobos, Coordinator of Codise stated that there were 14 couples from Jalisco who were planning to travel to Mexico City to get married on March 14th. She said that they would join approximately 300 other same-sex couples who had petitioned for the right to get married once the law goes into effect on March 4th.

Amazing all that's been happening in Jalisco, no?

As for the homophobic opposition to Mexico City's marriage equality law, it doesn't only come from within the nation. The United States religious right is also freaking out. Earlier today, the World Congress of Families, led by several right-wing religious groups in the United States, announced a "World Congress of Families Leadership Petition To Save Marriage In Mexico City".

US-based signers include Gary Bauer, Tom DeLay, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher and Yuri Mantilla. Oh joy! Funny how they would blow a fuse if another nation meddled into United States policies but are all too glad to tell Mexico what to do.

No worries in the short-term as their actions will probably have null effect on the current Supreme Court's deliberation of the constitutionality of the law. The clear intent is to push Mexico to adopt a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages because, if they haven't achieved a constitutional ban in the United States, why not try Mexico? Ugh.
  • Related: If you want to follow the latest on Mexico City's marriage equality law and you are on Twitter, you can follow the #MatrimonioDF hashtag or my @NoticiasLGBT Twitter account. A warning: Both feeds provide information that is overwhelmingly in Spanish.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If it's on Gawker, it must be good, no? (or Ruben Diaz, Sr. pisses off the gays... again)

Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven't been blogging much as of late. So sue me! But tonight I've been getting some massive hits from Gawker and I had to find out what that was about.

Turns out that they did a thingie today on the latest ramblings by homophobic New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. regarding the gays. To wit, from his official website:
February 22, 2010

For Immediate Release

Where Are Governor David Paterson’s Friends?

Albany - State Senator Rubén Díaz, Sr. remarked today at the apparent difficulties Governor David A. Paterson is having in obtaining support from two key “backers”.

“The Governor went out on a limb for the gay community in his efforts to support marriage equality and to bring that bill to the Senate floor, even though he knew it did not have sufficient votes to pass and that thousands of people in New York State did not want it and will not support him for election because of that issue,” remarked Senator Díaz. “Where is the gay community now that the Governor needs them?” Senator Díaz wondered.

Likewise, Governor Paterson suffered one of his biggest setbacks and received a ton of criticism when he bypassed Caroline Kennedy and chose Kirsten Gillibrand instead for the United States Senate. “For that Governor Paterson has paid dearly and gained a lot of negative ink. Governor David Paterson must be wondering ‘I was there when they needed me, where are my friends now that I need them?’,” continued Senator Díaz.

“I remember back on Sunday May 17, 2009, I organized a demonstration of tens of thousands people in front of Governor David Paterson’s Manhattan office to protest his staunch support for gay marriage and the Governor stood by the gay community and didn’t waver.

“I am not endorsing Governor Paterson but I admire his commitment to those whom he believes are his friends. My father used to say in Puerto Rico ‘My friends are my friends with their virtues and flaws’,” said Senator Díaz.
This is pure red-meat gay baiting by Diaz who must be feeling bereft that the cameras, for the most part, have stopped following him now that last year's marriage equality vote is done with. And queer bloggers bit hard! Among them, Queerty, Queeried, Towleroad and Joe.My.God.

I wasn't impermeable to the good Senator's charms. I Tweeted about his comments! Gawker simply looked back on past examples of Diaz douchebaggery and found these pearls from our past coverage:
Who knows! Perhaps the next time he'll blame Teabaggers! It's par for the course for the gleefully anti-gay senator. True story, though: The more attention he gets, the more he loves it! The next time he spouts his mouth, perhaps it would be better to ignore him altogether. After all, if a tree falls in the forest...

Argentina: Court authorizes the 2nd same-sex marriage in all of Latin America

A Buenos Aires court has given a gay Argentinean couple the green light to get married in what would be the second such marriage to occur in all of Latin America. From an AFP news brief posted this evening:

A judge on Tuesday authorized two men to marry in Buenos Aires in what would be the country's second same-sex marriage.

In December, two Argentine men, Alex Freyre and Jose Maria Bello, became the first homosexuals to legally marry in heavily Roman Catholic Latin America, after the governor of southernmost Tierra del Fuego province allowed them to wed in the provincial capital, Ushuaia.

Judge Elena Liberatori gave her approval to the second couple, two men whose names were not immediately released, to set a date to wed at the Civil Registry.

She said they were exercising their rights even if current laws "are not in line with the times."

Diario Digital, which offers the full 15-page ruling for download here (it's in Spanish), names the couple as Damián Bernath and Jorge Esteban Salazar. They also say that while the judge paved the way for the couple to get married, she stopped short of declaring current marriage laws as being unconstitutional (nevertheless, the country's Supreme Court is expected to take up the marriage equality issue at some point in the future).

When a court ruled in Freyre and Bello's favor back on November 11th, the men made plans to marry on December 1st in observance of World AIDS Day (both said they were HIV positive). They knew that theirs would be a historic marriage ceremony and they wanted to draw attention to to the plight of those living with HIV/AIDS.

That plan ran into trouble when another two city courts stepped in and asked for a stay on the proceedings at the very last minute and when the office of Buenos Aires Mayor Maurico Macri asked the Supreme Court to clarify if the city should follow the extraordinary court ruling.

That petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court and Freyre and Bello eventually were able to get married in a surprise wedding that took place on December 28th in Tierra Del Fuego, the southernmost region in the American continent.

This second time, Mayor Macri has announced that he will not appeal the ruling.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Argentina: Highest Court ready to back same-sex marriages, says justice, but there's one caveat...

As you might remember, on December 28th, Alex Freyre and José Maria Di Bello became the first gay couple to ever receive a marriage license in all of Latin America. Their victory came after years of struggling with the Argentinian courts and with much help from marriage equality advocates, including the Argentinian LGBT Federation.

Previously, the country's Supreme Court had indicated that they would take up the question of whether denying marriage rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional and, in the wake of the surprising wedding announcement, they reaffirmed their intent to take up the issue later this year.

In the meantime, last year there was an aborted effort to bring a marriage equality bill to the country's Parliament and strong indications that there would be another push this year (there have been efforts to do so since 2007).

Now, in an extraordinary front page article that ran yesterday in Argentina's Pagina/12, the paper takes a look at both the Parliamentary and the judicial paths to marriage equality in Argentina and it begins with quite a bombshell ("The Two Roads to Gay Marriage") .

"The judicial decision is quite simple, that's not the problem" says an unnamed source, "it's a clear case of supervening unconstitutionality, the same thing happened with joint divorce".

The problem, according to the unnamed source is this:

"What is difficult, what is doubtful (he weighs), is whether we should dedicate ourselves to rule on any of the files we have, or if we [should] wait for Congress to debate the law."

Those words coming from any anonymous source would be almost meaningless but when the source is identified as one of the seven Supreme Court Justices in Argentina they are simply stunning. Basically, the unnamed justice is saying that the Argentinian Supreme Court is all but ready to rule in favor of marriage equality but also seem willing to wait for issue to go through the Parliamentary process.

Mario Wainfeld, the reporter for Pagina/12, says he was surprised that a sitting Supreme Court Justice would agree to discuss an issue that was on the docket and still unresolved. He was even more surprised, he says, by what he described as the vehement insistence by the judge that the outcome of the Supreme Court's decision would be "easy" and fall in the favor of same-sex couples.

It's not clear whether there are enough votes to pass a marriage equality bill through Parliament, particularly in the Senate, and the reporter says that the judge agrees with that statement. Without a tape recorder to capture the conversation, the reporter paraphrases the judge's comments:
Judge: If that is the case, it would be better to wait for the topic to be aired through society and through the Parliament. Of course, if the bill doesn't advance or it's delayed, the Tribunal would have to decide.
Reporter: In that case, would it be that easily resolved? (reporter insists).
Judge: The file would have to be passed around, there are some strong individuals here, each one will want to establish their position, it's a historic decision. But it is almost certain that there will be majority support.

Bizarre. The last time I remember a judge from the highest court discussing a case on which the court had yet to rule was when Peruvian Constitutional Court Justice Carlos Fernando Mesias Rámirez went on Peruvian television to argue that a ban on gays in the military might violate the Peruvian constitution. The court went on to decide just as much six months later.

But how would you feel, as a member of the highest court, if another member spoke to media about a case on the docket and predicted that a majority of the court would vote in one way or another? I hope he or she knows exactly what he or she is doing, because I can see how those comments might back-fire easily. At the same time, though, the interview was probably arranged in advance with accompanying prerequisites (the judge could be identified as a judge but not by name, no tape recorders, etc.). What if it was meant to send a message to the legislative branch as they mull taking up the issue once again?


The Pagina/12 article then takes a look at previous efforts to bring a marriage equality bill to the Argentinean Parliament (see my previous post: "Argentinean president-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner coy on LGBT issues, activists split on same-sex partnership strategies").

The current President, Cristina Fernandez de Kichner and her government come out as duplicitous and opportunistic on the issue (that's her with the violin and her husband and former president Nestor Kichner, who now backs marriage equality). I have never been a fan of President Kirchner on LGBT rights and the article confirms some of my hunches and reservations.

From the article:

Also simple and brief is the bill that came within a hair of being taken up by Parliament last year. It's being sponsored by, among others, deputy Vilma Ibarra (New Encounter party). It calls for the reform of a single article in the current Civil Code. Where it is established that an essential prerequisite for marriage is the "freely expressed full consent by man and woman", it would substitute "man and woman" for "persons of the same or different gender". The rhetoric economy of the modification is not due to chance or negligence. It seeks to underline the equality of every person, in their civil rights.

The Front for Victory party (FpV) joined the initiative at the end of last year until it was resolved from the Pink House that it should be delayed [Buenos Aires' Pink House is the equivalent of DC's White House]. It came on the eve of president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's trip to the Holy See. Her Chief of Staff, Anibal Fernández, according to rumors by opposing MP's and fellow party members, suggested that it was inopportune to move ahead just before the imminent meeting between Férnandez de Kirchner and her Chilean counterpart, Michelle Bachelet, with Pope Benedict XVI to commemorate the mediation by John Paul II that averted war between the two countries. Having engaged in the ceremony and averted any alleged embarrassment to the Pope, the ruling bloc has the intention to join the move. Their support is necessary, although not sufficient. It's already known that it doesn't have its own quorum but it's the largest minority; their numbers and their discipline ensures an important number of loyalists. They won't all be from the same party, because it deals with one of those so-called "question of conscience" norms in which legislators are allowed to deviate from party discipline.

The ruling party strategy is to build a progressive platform agenda to revamp its image and start to weave alliances, even if they are contingent, with center-left parties. And, by the way, try to regain the support of progressive citizens.

As a matter of fact, Nestor Kirchner, a former Argentinean president and husband of the current president, officially announced his backing for the marriage equality bill earlier this year (echoes of Bill Clinton backing marriage equality last year while Hillary has yet to do so)..

Ultimately, the article says, the topic is heading to Congress and it's certain that, if rejected by the Congress, the Supreme Court will have its say. If that happens and the high court rules in favor, the civil code will remain on the books. Same-sex couples who have brought their demands to the highest court in the nation would be allowed to marry but other couples would have to take their case to the courts and wait to be granted marriage rights on a case by case basis.

Picture that: A ruling presidential political party, which is in trouble with its progressive branch, unabashedly - if opportunistically - embracing marriage equality as a progressive calling card.

Monday, February 15, 2010

NYC newsdaily announces weekly LGBT news pull-out section

Calling it the first time that a daily US newspaper will offer a weekly section with a focus on LGBT news, N.Y. De Dia says that they will feature a four-page pull-out supplement called "Dimensión LGBT" every Tuesday.

Content for the supplement, an editorial says, will come from the Latino Commission on AIDS and three of its programs (full disclosure: I am a former employee of the agency).

News of the publication actually came my way via Twitter from Mexican LGBT news webportal Anodis. Today they Tweeted that some of their content will also be used (I assume it's through an agreement with the Commission).

I spent some time visiting the online site for N.Y. De Dia and saw limited original reporting and lots of wire stories. It's par for the course for several low-staffed freebie newspapers in New York fighting for advertising dollars - including several Spanish-language publications. Still, all in all, it was a good mix of current local, national and international stories.

I was caught off-guard by one segment in the editorial:
With this decision [to publish the weekly supplement], we do not take upon, nor support criteria related to marriages between members of the same sex, whether they can or can't have children among other things, but instead we are a window to diversity, a writing wall which - through tolerance - allows the airing of opinions without others crossing the limits of respectfulness.
Bizarre. You trump the fact that you are running the first ever weekly LGBT news supplement for a US daily in one breath but then say that it doesn't mean you have any position whatsoever about LGBT rights. Read: Gay advertising dollars, yes! Editorial backing of LGBT rights, no! Well, good luck with that.

The leading Spanish-language newspaper in New York, El Diario La Prensa, has ran an annual LGBT pride special supplement for years and has also editorially backed marriage equality on several ocasions. So did their leading but now defunct contender Hoy. Back in the naughties LGNY, the weekly newspaper that was reborn as Gay City News, also had a generous bi-lingual Latino section. The only other daily newspaper I know that has a weekly stand-alone LGBT news supplement is Argentina's Pagina/12 and their Soy supplement on Thursdays. In that regard, N.Y. De Dia can safely claim that they are the first daily to run an LGBT supplement in the United States.

An aside: The other leading Latino HIV service organization in the city, the Hispanic AIDS Forum, also has ties to another LGBT-specific publication called "Zona Rosa" ("Pink Zone"). You can peruse and print issue one here and issue two here.

On Valentine's Day, gays in Latin America demand marriage equality and an end to homophobic violence

As commercialized as Valentine's Day has become over the years, it also has become a prime opportunity for the LGBT community to make our lack of partnership rights visible whether it's in the United States or any other country that 'observes' the unofficial ode to lovers.

Take France, for example. One of our favorite French blogs posted an amazing video of a massive kiss-in that took place in Paris ("Yagg: Kiss-in against homophobia"). The awesome scene has been a sensation and been picked up by a lot of the big blogs out there including The Huffington Post, Towleroad, Joe.My.God, Queerty, Mike Tidmus, etc.

Definitely less massive but just as important were several demonstrations that took place yesterday throughout Latin America.

Peru: Meet Jonathan and Oscar (right), college students and members of the LGBTI Student Bloc of Lima. In what Blog de Lima calls the 2nd annual "Kisses against homophobia" street action, they joined other several gay and lesbian couples and tried to take over the main public space inside a popular Lima shopping mall.

The couples held hands and kissed as they made their way through the mall but ran into heavy security as they tried to congregate inside the mall's main gathering spot. Several couples embraced each other and kissed for the cameras once they left the building (thanks to leading Peruvian LGBT rights advocate Jorge Alberto Chávez Reyes for providing images and video).

Meanwhile, across town, members of the Peruvian TTLGB Network congregated at the "Love Park" in Lima's Miraflores district for a symbolic marriage ceremony between same-sex couples. The Network, which had participated in previous kiss-in actions, said that they wanted to highlight the lack of same-sex partnership rights in the country.

"Just as the laws have to change in Mexico and Argentina, making civil rights be available for everyone, that's what our community demands", said well-known lesbian attorney Susel Paredes, who participated in the ceremony and symbolically married her partner, as quoted by the EFE news service.

There are conflicting reports of how many couples participated in the symbolic marriage. EFE says there were five but Peruvian media says that there were four as well as a heterosexual couple who was there in support for same-sex partnership recognition but did not participate in the ceremony.

Argentina: I haven't seen any coverage yet, but on the eve of Valentine's Day, the leading network of organizations advocating for marriage equality in Argentina called for members of the LGBT community and allies to participate in the 2nd annual "Picnics for the Same Love". The Argentinian LGBT Federation, in collaboration with [off-line at this moment] were the leading organizers (source: AG Magazine).

Two Argentinean men became the first same-sex couple to marry in all of Latin America back in December after a court declared that it was discriminatory to deny them the right to marry but other gay couples wishing to marry are awaiting an expected Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of allowing gay couples to do so.

I do know that, as part of the Valentine's Day events, Argentinean advocates launched their YouTube video version of Lily Allen's "Fuck You":

Chile: Chile is further back on the path of recognizing marriage equality but that didn't keep members from the United Movement of Sexual Minorities (MUMS) to take to the capital's Army Plaza and demand the right to marry.

"Chile is a country in which not everyone is equal," said MUMS director Fernando Muñoz, "it's a country where the laws keep you out and put you on the margin specifically in the sense that there is no recognition of same-sex partners or of common-law partners in the law that recognizes partnerships, nor of those who might want to conform one."

Muñoz also said that if the current law specifically establishes that marriage is only allowed for procreation and implied that it was hypocritical to keep gays from marriage but allow straight couples who cannot procreate to marry even if the law said they don't qualify (source: Radio Cooperativa).

Mexico: As in Argentina, marriage equality is a red-hot topic in Mexico ever since the Mexico City legislature passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in Mexico's capital city (the law goes into effect in March). The measure, which also explicitly would allow same-sex couples to adopt, has run into vehement opposition from right wing politicians and religious leaders - and will also be heading to the country's Supreme Court for review later in the year.

Yesterday's La Jornada reported that different LGBT rights organizations from Jalisco, Colima and Guanajuato marched down the streets of Guadalajara to demand equal partnership rights. The group, mostly made up of lesbian and gay members from different regional university student groups, carried signs and expressed a desire for having similar rights granted to gays and lesbians in Mexico City. The group gathered outside the University of Guadalajara and made their way to the city's main plaza where they staged a kiss-in as the shadow of the city's Metropolitan Cathedral fell on them.

Milenio describes the scene outside the Cathedral and gives a better sense of how massive the march was. They estimate the crowd at 350 and say that, in addition to the kiss-in, eleven gay and lesbian couples also participated in a symbolic wedding ceremony. They also report homophobic insults and obscenities being hurled at marchers even as organizers expressed relief that there were no outbursts of violence.

"We received many threats form many people who said they were not going to allow us to march, including many who said they would be waiting here at the Cathedral to prevent us carrying on with the event, but at the end, none of that came to be," said Karina Velasco Michel.

These weren't the only LGBT-rights demonstrations that took place yesterday in Mexico, nor in other cities throughout Latin America, but I wanted to give you a flavor of what went on.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cause Commandos to the rescue in Haiti

Each week I get a fair amount of promotional e-mails and press releases from people promoting something or other they think I might write about on this blog. Most times you wonder if the promoters sending those press releases have even seen the blog since the stuff they are promoting clearly doesn't fit within the topics I address (no, I will not write about your latest neon red Valentine's Day dildo). At other times, they are clearly product placement pitches which makes you wonder why the company simply doesn't take an ad on the blog (no, I'm certainly not going to write about the latest hair product being used by Eva Longoria). And then, there's those few promotional e-mails that actually do fit in with the blog, some of which also go by the side particularly if I haven't been blogging consistently during a period of time.

And then, well, your mouth just drops when you get something like this.

Meet Cause Commandos! From the press release:
When disaster struck the impoverished island nation of Haiti, it also struck close to the hearts of boyfriends Luke Montgomery and Nate Gudias. Having lived in Haiti and founded an AIDS orphanage in the coastal town of Jacmel, Montgomery feared the worst when no word was received from the orphanage. Within 48 hours the couple raised over $10,000 from family and friends in the gay community and were on a plane bound for the Dominican Republic which borders Haiti. When news reached them that children in the AIDS orphanage were unhurt but that the local hospital had collapsed on its patients the couple says they were transformed into "cause commandos" with a mission to get medicine and medical supplies to survivors.
Now, a month after the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation, Montgomery and Guidas have decided to expand their personal mission and go public with their efforts through the launch of and a series of YouTube clips showing their work. Their goal? To rally support from the LGBT community for Haitian relief causes and to allow site visitors to "directly buy medicine, food & tents".

"We're on a mission to help as many people as we can with medicine, food and tents for shelter. We're buying the supplies across the border in the Dominican Republic and running them by boat into the parts of Haiti that aid is still slow to get to. When a country is as poor as Haiti was before the quake, even the biggest relief effort is not enough. So we're stepping up to the plate and hoping that the gay community can join us," says Montgomery.

Their efforts are not the first time that gays in the United States have stepped up for Haiti. The Red Cross launched an LGBT Haiti Relief Fund that has raised more than $150,000; a small LGBT foundation based in San Francisco with previous work in Haiti called the Rainbow World Fund also launched one of the most immediate LGBT-specific responses to the earthquake; and the good men of Onyx, a "brotherhood of Men of Color in the Leather lifestyle" raised $1,200 for Haiti at a fundraising party. Olivia, Atlantis and RSVP, the leading travel cruise ship companies in the LGBT community, also called for the LGBT community to donate money in collaboration with the Red Cross. But I was first taken aback and then actually amused by the "Amazing Race" feel of Cause Commandos site and video.

I mean, my first reaction was actually that it trivialized the suffering going on in Haiti by adopting some of the 'reality show' elements in promoting assistance for Haiti and featuring yourself as the lead super-heros in the midst of all of it. But then those feelings actually subsided - I do tend to criticize everything - and began to see it for what it was. Two guys with a personal past commitment to Haiti who actually lived there before the earthquake using the internet to call others to do good. The "give now" button on their site takes you to their Paypal account so I can't voucher for how donations might be accounted for. But I also don't see any reason to think that the guys are anything but genuine in their intention. They do say that 100% of proceeds will go towards helping people in Haiti. And, looking again at the video, I actually have come around to think it's a pretty smart idea to engage certain segment of the LGBT community.

An aside: Something else caught my attention. At the bottom of the release there is also a little blurb that reads "Luke Montgomery is a former AIDS and gay rights activist best known for his highly-publicised interruption of President Clinton's 1993 World AIDS Day speech and legal name change to 'Luke Sissyfag' in the 1990's."

Yup. Luke Montgomery is Luke Sissyfag reborn. In 1995, Montgomery told The Advocate "I wish people would forget about the person named Luke Sissyfag and move on, I have. It's not part of me anymore".

It would be tough to outrun that past so I guess Montgomery has learned to live with it. He probably knows that putting that blurb there will probably get Cause Commandos more attention. For those of you who have no idea who Sissyfag is, I won't bore you with details. Let's say he was incredibly polarizing and, in some ways, Montgomery might still be. But last year I was purging my files, news clippings, and old magazines, and ran into a couple of articles I had saved about him. I'd actually nearly forgotten about him but I was shocked by the charge I felt in looking at clippings from that time. Whether he likes it or not today, he was a shock to the system, and I might have disagreed with a few of the things he did and said. I was equally shocked when blogger and friend Michael Petrelis ran this post in May of last year.

It's fascinating to me to see a man who was such a public figure go into media hibernation and emerge years later as a different person. In that sense, good bye Luke Sissyfag, welcome back Luke Montgomery.

For more information:

  • Cause Commandos official web page here
  • Cause Commandos YouTube page here
  • Cause Commandos Twitter feed here

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mexican supreme court will determine constitutionality of Mexico City's marriage equality law: NY Times

On December 29th Alex Freyre and José Maria Di Bello shocked the world by becoming the first gay couple to be allowed to marry in all of Latin America. Their marriage victory in Argentina came after a protracted court battle which ended when a Buenos Aires judge ruled that it was discriminatory to deny them the right to marry. A Buenos Aires court placed a stay on that ruling but the couple circumvented that last obstacle by traveling to Tierra del Fuego, where that municipality's Governor's Office allowed the marriage to proceed, making Latin American history at the end of 2009.

By some accounts, more than a hundred same sex couples in Argentina have filed marriage claims following Freyre and Di Bello's historic wedding but, as of now, there are still no laws allowing same-sex couples to marry anywhere in Argentina and no marriage bureaus willing to grant marriage rights to other couples.

is no law allowing those marriages to take place or a marriage bureau willing to start processing additional marriages. The matter is to be decided later this year when the Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter and determine whether the Argentinian constitution is indeed discriminatory in not allowing same-sex couples to wed.

Buenos Aires already enjoyed the reputation of being the first city in Latin America to have granted limited civil union benefits to same-sex couples in the year 2003. In 2007, Uruguay became the first Latin American country to adopt a country-wide same-sex civil unions measure. In 2009, the Colombian constitutional court stopped short of calling for marriage equality but ruled that same-sex partners had the right to the same rights as heterosexual couples. Mexico City and other Mexican localities have also passed limited same-sex civil union statutes since 2006. Some municipalities in Brazil and Ecuador have also passed similar measures. But it wasn't until December that Mexico City became the first municipality in all of Latin America to approve a law allowing same-sex partners to marry. The law goes into effect on Thursday, March 4th, and hundreds of couples are expected to take advantage of the opportunity to marry.

As you would expect, the measure, which also allows same-sex couples to have the same adoption rights as heterosexual partners, has drawn the ire of right-wing political parties and conservative religious groups. Mexico's attorney general has filed a suit to block the law before the Mexican supreme court. The court recently announced that it will accept the suit and determine whether the law is constitutional. But the suit won't reach the court until possibly the end of the year and, by then, hundreds of couples might have already married.

Today's New York Times takes a look at the law and its repercussions. I believe it gives too much credence to the conservative parties that are trying to derail the law but it is a worthy read ["Gay marriage puts Mexico City at center of debate"]. It is also the only English-language coverage that I have seen covering the right-wing challenges that await the landmark law in months to come.

So, come March 4th, please join me in celebrating the same-sex marriages that will take place in Mexico City and rejoice in their historic nature. But also know that the law faces incredible challenges in the future and that the marriage equality fight in Mexico, as in the United States, is far from won.