Friday, April 30, 2010

Chile: "Divine" fire from 1993 resolved, inside job instead of homophobia, culprits go free

If, like me, you have kept an eye on all things LGBT and Latin America during the past two decades, there are few iconic events that stand up when you think about discrimination.

Key among them was the tragic 1993 fire at "Divine", a gay bar in Santiago, Chile, which took the lives of 16 patrons and left another 29 people hurt (archive photo to the right taken the morning after the fire).

Now comes word, after 17 years, that the fire wasn't a homophobic crime after all.

In a report released last Friday and backed by the leading LGBT rights organization in Chile, the Movement for Homosexual Liberation (MOVILH), authorities named the bar's owners as the true culprits.

According to the report, a month before the fire, bar owners Nelson Arellano and Arturo Masafierro, were seen covering the walls and ceilings of the bar with materials that had been deemed not to meet the fire hazard standards of the day. They also lined up the walls with electrical cables, television sets and stereo speakers in a way that violated fire safety guidelines as well.

Carlos Hernández, a firefighter who had visited the bar on the eve of the fire and in its aftermath, told investigators that the owners had ignored previous fire violation warnings.

"Not only did [the fire escape] have a latch; it also had a chain and lock and, worse still, it opened from the outside in, which didn't allow for it to be opened on time and forced firefighters to tear it down," he said, "as a matter of fact, Arellano was told to correct that danger and he did not".

That according to El Mercurio, which also says the investigation of the case was shut down in 1994 only to be re-opened in 2003 at the bequest of MOVILH.

The report also indicates that, when it comes to crimes committed in Chile, there is a 10 year statute of limitation law in the books which means that the owners of the bar cannot be prosecuted for their actions back in the early 1990's.  It most probably mean that they will not be held accountable for the 16 people who died at "Divine" on September 4, 1993.

As for "Divine", the tragic incident was certainly turned into legend. There even was a movie made about it...

Below, the full report released last Friday by Chilean authorities (it's only available in Spanish)...

III Informe Movilh Divine Final

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Latin American LGBT advocates protest the Vatican's handling of child abuse cases

A couple of weeks ago the Europe-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, better known for their old name and acronym International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), joined Italian LGBT advocates to call for worldwide protests against the Catholic Church and the Vatican. Their reason?

From their alert:
On April 13 the number two in the Vatican hierarchy, the Pope’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, claimed that there is a link between homosexuality and paedophilia.

The LGBT movement worldwide has risen up against this false, despicable and anti-scientific statement from the Vatican, which is trying to deflect attention from priests’ sex crimes by blaming LGBT people.

While they are trying to hide the truth about the abuses perpetrated against innocent children, by making absurd parallels between homosexuality and paedophilia, ILGA and the Italian LGBT movement has launched an appeal to all citizens and associations all over the world to join an international protest against child abuse and support for victims in front of the Vatican embassies or the main Catholic churches.

Turning the paedophilia issue into a matter of sexual orientation, as the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone did, can only lead to failing to address the serious allegations coming from around the world. The point is not whether to identify the sexual orientation of paedophiles, but firmly prosecute those responsible for such abuses, especially if they have an educational or spiritual role.

The Catholic Church must answer to the courts and the world public opinion for the serious cover-up occurred worldwide. This is our call, to all women and men of goodwill, of any religion, who cannot be silent in front of these abuses against innocent children. Take Action Now! Contact your local lgbt association to organise a protest in front of the Vatican embassy or the main catholic church of your city.
LGBT advocates throughout the world have answered the call.  AFP reports that more than 100 people gathered in Paris on Saturday while a number of agencies reported a demonstration in Rome, Italy, on the same day.  On April 4th, Easter Day, a number of people here in New York, mostly members of the LGBT activist group Queer Rising, also protested outside New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, there were very visible reactions from advocates in Venezuela, Argentina and Peru.

Venezuela: On Friday, the Venezuelan LGBTI Network asked supporters to congregate at La Previsora tower at Plaza Venezuela in Caracas and participate in a procession to the Vatican's embassy. 

Holding signs that read, among other things, "Pedophilia is a crime, homosexuality is not", marchers arrived at the embassy and handed a statement "repudiating the discriminatory attitude of the church against the human and civil rights of gays and lesbians".

An article in Aporrea also indicates that activists in neighboring country Colombia also staged a protest on April 17th at Bogota's main cathedral but there are no other details.

Participants of the Venezuela action included renown transgender activist Tamara Adrián (holding the sing in the photo), José Merentes (standing behind her), Carlos Aray and representatives from several Venezuelan LGBT organizations. 

Argentina: The Argentinian Homosexual Community (CHA), one of the leading LGBT organizations in the country (link here), also called for a protest outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires. MDZ says it was a small group of people (so was the one at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York).  Participants carried similar signs as those carried by activists in Venezuela: "Abuse is a crime, homosexuality is not".

Another one read "We express our rejection of the abuse against boys and girls, let's denounce the Vatican's silence."

Crítica also has a report which includes an image of the protest.

Peru: "Neither prayer nor oration will stop a rapist" says the sign held by an LGBT Peruvian advocate in the photo to the right.

LGBT advocates in Lima, Peru, organized perhaps the most successful of the recent protests, at least in the American continent.  El Comercio reports that over a hundred supporters of the LGBT Peruvian Network gathered outside the residence of the Vatican's diplomatic representative in Lima (link here and photo at the top of the page).

The protest, which had been announced days earlier, also drew an estimated thirty counter-protester, says the paper.  They arrived an hour early and waited for the LGBT advocates by counting the beads on their rosaries and praying.

Once the LGBT advocates arrived, the paper reports that there were non-violent clashes for more than two hours.  It culminated when a Catholic priest named Carlos María Stiegler stepped out of the residence to shout at the activists that they were "the work of the devil".

"This manifestation is not God's work," he said, "the Devil is present here."

"To cover a crime is also a crime," responded the LGBT advocates.

Speaking for the LGBT advocates, Marbel Reyes told the EFE news syndicate that the Network had kept their protest peaceful even when Stiegler attempted to proffer his blessings upon those gathered (supposedly to drive away the devil inside them).

And, while few in the United States paid attention, the US right-wing religious right certainly did.

The US-funded and Peruvian-based ACI Prensa highlighted the good work of those who gathered to defend the Vatican's sorry record on child abuse and saluted those who would stand up to a "small group of hostile feminists and homosexuals".

They also provided the pro-Vatican video below...

Monday, April 26, 2010

'We respect gays': Bolivian government responds to outrage over President Evo Morales homophobic comments

The Government of Bolivia announced this morning that it had sent a letter to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual an Transgender Federation of Spain (FALGBT) in which they wished to "ratify" the respect towards sexual liberty as established in the Bolivian constitution ("Government of Evo Morales: We respect gays" RPP/EFE, April 26, 2010).

This comes a full week after Bolivian President Evo Morales stood on a podium at an international environmental conference hosted by his country and implied that eating chicken injected with "female hormones" might cause deviations in men.

The comments, which drew gasps of surprise and laughter from those gathered for the conference in the city of Tiquipaya, were first picked up by the Spain-based EFE news agency and then quickly made the international rounds through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

For the most part, supporters of Morales on the left spent the week pointing out that he never mentioned the word "gay" or "homosexual" in his statement without quite being able to explain what he meant by the "female hormones" causing "deviance" in men. Some also claimed that the worldwide attention that the comments drew were a ploy by capitalist media in developed nations to overshadow what was supposed to be a shining moment for Bolivia and Morales: An environmental conference that drew thousands of people throughout the world to challenge inaction on environmental issues by the world powers.

In the meantime, those on the right, particularly in Spain, grabbed on to the news to paint the left as silent when it came to standing up to homophobic left-wing figures. That wasn't quite correct either. Pedro Zerolo, the leading gay figure in Spain's Socialist Worker's Party was among a number of LGBT leaders who went to the Bolivian Embassy in Madrid and handed them a letter demanding an apology from Morales.

In fact, Iván Canelas, the presidential spokesperson who announced the letter this morning, said that it had been sent as a response to Zerolo's "personal protest" [UPDATE: As of 5:30PM EST, US time, Pedro Zerolo had yet to receive the letter; on his Twitter account he writes "Protests give results. It seems that the president, Evo Morales, has sent us a message in which he ratifies' his respect to sexual identity...", I asked him if he had received the letter and he said they had not as of now].

The full text of the letter was apparently not released but Canelas said that the message in the statement was that Morales "under no circumstance" was referring to homosexuality in a speech that specifically was addressing genetically modified foods.

"It has never crossed the President's mind, from any point of view, to attack the rights of homosexuals," said the spokesperson, adding that the Bolivian President was the one who pushed the new Bolivian Constitution and language which prohibits and bans any kind of discrimination based on gender, skin color, age or sexual orientation (see my past coverage: "New Bolivian constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation", Feb. 7, 2009).

As for me, I actually do not think Evo Morales is a homophobe, but I do think what he said was homophobic. His silence on what he meant by his words to this day is shameful (the letter sent this morning was sent by the government and apparently not by Morales himself or carrying his signature).

It also comes a full week after the statements were made and only after media such as the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine and The Guardian had picked up on the bru-ha-ha.

Yes, those are capitalist instruments for world domination, as I am sure many will point out. But they all were pretty late to the game and by then Morales, who was probably hoping to be nominated for a Nobel prize as a result of the environmental conference, had -instead-  become the laughing stock of the world (and, guess what, his party members went ahead and nominated him anyway after the conference was over!).

In this case, he has nothing but himself to blame.

By the way, 38 different LGBT organizations which conform The TLGB Collective of Bolivia also sent a letter expressing their disappointment at their president's statements and the shock they feel that the words came from a president who they thought was friendly to their cause (Spanish-language letter below).

President Morales might consider responding to the LGBT citizens of his own country. One suggestion: Do it in your own words.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

San Francisco's only Latino-owned gay bar vandalized

Disturbing news from KTVU in San Francisco this week:

One of the managers of what is described as the only Latino owned and operated gay bar in the Mission District of the city woke up Friday morning to see a number of swastikas spray-painted on the club's facade.

Edgar López, manager of the gay bar Esta Noche, said that there had been other times when he'd awoken to find spray-painting on the bar's walls but never something implying hateful sentiment.

Nevertheless, instead of calling the police to report it as a possible hate crime, López decided to quickly paint over the swastikas in an apparent attempt not to raise too much attention and to avoid a police visit.

“It's a lot of problems with police," López said to the KTVU reporter, "they have many paperwork and everything".

Armando Hernandez, of the Instituto Familiar de La Raza, indicated another reason why the manager might have thought twice about drawing police attention to the bar in these days of increasing xenophobic sentiment in this country.  "That it happened in a place that attracts Latino immigrants, gay identified individuals, transgender individuals should be a big concern," he said.

The article doesn't mention how KTVU got wind of the graffiti so I assume a viewer called it in.  Facing the media attention, the two co-owners of the bar say that they might file a report after all after sitting down with the manager and discussing the incident.  They also say they will definitely report any follow-up incidents if they happen.

Police tell the channel that the incident should have been reported but that there might be a problem investigating the case since the actual offensive symbols were painted over.

[h/t for this post: Towleroad, Rod2.0]

Friday, April 23, 2010

Puerto Rican singer Lisa M. comes out

UPDATE: I got to interview Lisa in September of 2011. For the English version of the interview click here. For the Spanish version click here.

When Lisa M. Marrero updated her Facebook status on Monday at 3pm with the words "IM GAYYY!" I'm not sure what her followers thought. Maybe that it was a joke. Twelve minutes later, Marrero once again updated her Facebook status with the words "IM GAY." The news, as it were, were first aired by the hosts of a morning radio show and eventually reached print media when Primera Hora ran an article yesterday. By then dozens of supportive messages had been left after each status update

Fans of Marrero know her as Lisa M.

Internationally, her most recognizable hit is probably her 1992 version of El General's "Tu Pum Pum" [An aside: If you click on that link you will see an interview following her performance of the song. At the 2:53 mark, Lisa M. and the interviewer start joking about the singer Cheyenne being Lisa M.'s boyfriend. The interviewer insists she wants Cheyenne all for herself to which Lisa M. replies "I'll give you Ricky Martin, I'll loan him to you". LOL].  

People en Español also picked up on the story today, but nobody seems to have been able to reach her for official comment yet.  What's striking to me is that she chose Facebook to come out.  Not some magazine or newspaper. Facebook. It speaks to the fact that long-closeted gay and lesbian stars like Ricky Martin and Rita Indiana are forgoing the usual paths to coming out and doing it on their own terms. Cut the intermediaries, press handlers or publicists.

On Wednesday, she acknowledged her fans' supportive messages by writing the following (and I have tried to translate the statement literally and save it's flavor):
I want to give thanks to everyone for your support and for accepting me just as I am, my family always have loved me as I am they have given me all the love in the world what happens is that us artists and specially in our Latino market where we are indebted to a certain image before the public they keep us from our freedom to love.
Lisa M., who says in her Facebook page that she lives in Miami, Florida, also told her fans that she is currently in Spain working on new music.

Anyway, as I promised, something newer and hot from Lisa M., here is the video for "Hey Ladies"...

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Bolivia: President Evo Morales says eating chicken might turn men gay

    ¡Ay dios mio! Bolivian president Evo Morales is warning men to stay away from eating poultry raised in chicken farms. The reason? Morales claims that chicken raised in non-organic farms are often injected with female hormones which, he said, might turn the men who consumed them gay.

    The Associated Press says the comments were made today when Morales was addressing thousands of attendees at an environmental conference in Tiquipaya, Bolivia, although they didn't quite translate the full statement.

    The AP simply says that Morales claimed that men who ate the chickens might "have problems being men" but, as captured by EFE in the original language, Morales actually said "El pollo que comemos está cargado de hormonas femeninas. Por eso, cuando los hombres comen esos pollos, tienen desviaciones en su ser como hombres"

    My translation: "The chicken we eat is full of femenine hormones. That's why, when men eat those chickens, they have deviations in their beings as men" - and we all know what people mean when they say you have deviated from being a man.

    And he didn't stop there.  According to EFE, Morales also claimed that chicken and beef treated with hormones was also the cause for the premature development of breasts in some girls; caused premature hair-loss in men (he said that baldness had reached illness proportions in Europe and pointed at his own mane of hair as proof that locals who avoided such foods also kept their hair); and riled against Coca Cola saying that plumbers who ran out of drain opening liquids usually turned to Coca Cola as an alternative.

    "Imagine the chemicals in Coca Cola," he said.

    And, to finish it all off, he also said that Western medicines might cure a problem but create two new ones.  OMG. My head hurts now. I better get an aspirin or two.


    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Argentina: Lesbian couple's marriage ruled valid once again

    OMG! Here we go again. Minutes after I wrote to my friend Ron Buckmire to say that Carlos Alvarez and Martin Canavaro were the only remaining legally married same-sex couple in Argentina, here comes word that an Argentinian judge has set aside this week's annulment of the first ever lesbian marriage in Buenos Aires.

    From Chris Crain's Gay News Watch:
    A judge in Buenos Aires today upheld the validity of the first civil marriage between two women, rejecting the decision of another judge, Martha Gomez Alsina, who had set aside as "null and non-existent" the marriage between the two women, the newspaper La Capital is reporting.

    "Administrative Judge Elena Liberatori confirmed the validity of same-sex marriages, and today ordered the City Civil Registry of Buenos Aires to deliver the marriage certificate to the court" for the lesbian couple. The judge furthered ordered that the certificate be kept "in judicial custody for safekeeping."

    The Argentinian LGBT Federation reiterated that the ruling confirmed that "no" marriage between persons of the same sex has actually been annulled in the country, the newspaper reported.

    Judge Gomez Alsina had issued the order in the case of Norma Castillo and Ramona Arévalo, who married after 30 years together. Judge Liberatori declared null and void the ruling by Judge Gomez Alsina and warned that if she persists in interfering, the dispute would be submitted to the country's Supreme Court of Justice...
    Who knows how long this will last but, for further information click here.


    "Just 'cause I'm shallow doesn't mean that I'm heartless"

    WTF! Is this, like, music week or something. Lovely video for the new LCD Soundsystem single "Drunk Girls!" Below...

    Loving this: Ay Haiti

    So I am on Shakira's Twitter feed (don't ask, and certainly, don't tell) and this came through a few minutes ago. I clicked through and found myself moved by a new musician-led effort to raise funds for disaster relief in Haiti following the devastating January 12th earthquake.

    The song, featuring some of the best singers from Spain as well as a few worldwide superstars, has been playing on the radio since March 27th but the video was just launched today.  It features superstars Shakira, Miguel Bosé, Alejandro Sanz and Juanes. Other participants include actress Paz Vega, soccer players Kaká, Andrés Iniesta, "Kun" Agüero, Diego Forlán and Sergio Ramos and singers Bebe, La Oreja de Van Gogh, Aleks Syntek, Anni B. Sweet, Macaco, La Mala Rodriguez, Belinda, OBK, Hombres G, Daddy Jean, Wally López, Zahara, Sandra Carrasco, José Mercé, David Otero, Enrique Iglesias, Marta Sánchez and Najwa Nimiri

    In a Madrid press conference yesterday to launch the video, producer David Summers - who also is the lead singer of Hombres G - said that the artists had hoped to be able to sell the song through iTunes but charged that Apple insisted on charging a 30% commission on sales instead of waving the fee and allowing all funds raised through the sale of the single to go towards the effort.

    I'm not sure if there is an international fundraising effort through the sale of the song but all proceeds will go to Intermón OxFam. If you like the song, you might want to make a donation here.

    In my humble opinion, this rocks! It beats those awful English-language and Spanish-language "We Are The World" remakes anytime (ok, the only thing all three share in lameness is the rap interludes and, if one thing jumps out from this new effort, it's just how white the pool of artists is. I mean, the rapper wearing black gloves? Huh?). Anyway, some of the lyrics are beautiful:

    There are lands that don't have any dreams
    There are lands that tremble in fear
    There are lands that want peace
    Haiti only wants to be normal

    There is still time to be reborn
    Of horse-riding above the hunger and the iron
    There is a time to give out love
    To erase the hunger and the destruction

    There is love, there is you, and in my voice, there's Haiti
    There is love, there is you, and in my voice, there's Haiti

    A life comes to a stop, desolation behind his back
    It's a child with a lost view
    Who, from the dust, illuminates with his own light

    Seriously, it made me tear up. Oh, and I simply love Bebe (she is the one with the ring through her lower lip). And Alejandro Sanz? That voice! *melts* Damn! Enjoy. And donate.

    Related: The "making of" video here

      Friday, April 16, 2010

      Argentina: First and only lesbian marriage has been annulled

      [NOTE: Click here for an update to this post. A court has ruled that their marriage is valid, after all - Andrés]

      And then there was one:  Of four same-sex marriages that have taken place in Argentina, only one remains with legal standing.

      From Telam this afternoon:
      The first marriage between women in Argentina, celebrated three days ago in the city of Buenos Aires between Norma Castillo and Ramona Areval - both 67 years old and having lived together for 30 years - was annulled today by a judge, in response to an injunction requested by an attorney, judicial sources said.

      The civil judge of the first court, Martha Gómez Alsina, declared the marriage "non-existent", until the underlying issue is resolved, in giving latitude for the claim presented by attorney Ricardo Ernesto Lamuedra.

      This is the same attorney who last Monday was able to get civil court judge Federico Gustavo Irazabal to declare that the marriage between Damián Bernath and Jorge Salazar was non-existent.
      The judge said that her judgment was based on the fact that the Buenos Aires Civil Registry specifically stated that marriages should be between a man and a woman and added that the decision "did not signify any advance opinion on the merits of the issue or discrimination against the stable co-living arrangements between people of the same gender."

      Telam says that Lamuerda also had a role in keeping any Buenos Aires civil court from marrying Alex Freyre and José Maria Di Bello when they were seeking to become the first couple to marry in Argentina (they would later marry in Tierra del Fuego although their marriage was also annulled this week).

      Freyre and Di Bello, Bernath and Salazar and now Castillo and Areval. All their marriages have been annulled in separate courts. The only one that remains is the one that took place yesterday in Buenos Aires between Carlos Alvarez and Martin Canavaro.  Expect that marriage to be challenged as well even as a federal marriage equality bill gets closer to being debated in the Argentinian legislature.

      Update (April 17, 2010): Sur 54 says that the LGBT Argentinian Federation (FALGBT) has announced they will appeal the Tierra del Fuego marriage annulment and seek to reinstate the validity and current standing of the Freyre and Di Bello marriage.  They argue that the judge acted arbitrarily and outside his purview and that the Freyre-Di Bello marriage stands until a final judgment.


      Thursday, April 15, 2010

      Argentina: Marriage equality whiplash as good developments follow bad

      Movement on legislative marriage equality bill: Following yesterday's announcement that a Tierra del Fuego court had annulled the first ever same-sex marriage in Latin America, there were welcome news today about the increased chances of a marriage equality bill reaching the floor of the Argentinian congress.

      Today, two legislative commissions - the General Legislation Commission and the Women, Children and Adolescence Commission - backed a full congressional debate of a bill that would amend Argentina's Civil Code to allow same-sex couples to marry.

      La Nación reports today the recommendation has already drawn support from members representing a plurality of the political parties sitting in Congress (which doesn't mean all party representatives sitting in congress will vote in favor once it does come down for a floor vote).  It also noted that members of two conservative parties, including the Peronistas - Quick! Someone call Madonna - er - Evita! - were holding off and willing to endorse a "civil union-only" bill that did not define legal same-sex partnership recognition as "marriage".

      Vilma Ibarra, the lead sponsor of the bill, said it would replace the words "man and a woman" in the Civil Code with "spouse". She also said that, considering the wide support that the bill received today, she expected a full debate in the next congressional session and passage of the bill.

      How many same-sex couples remain married?: In the meantime, questions have been raised about the number of partners that remain legally married in light of yesterday's news - and there are good news on that front as well.  Here is what I have:

      The courts have annulled the first two marriages - that of Alex Freyre & José Maria Di Bello which took place on December 28th (photo) and that of Damian Bernath & Jorge Esteban Salazar Capón (photo) which took place on February 23rd.

      Florencia Kravetz, an attorney representing Bernath and Salazar Capón, said the set back was temporary and vowed that the marriage equality question would eventually be resolved by the courts in their clients' favor.

      The third and fourth marriages are those of Carlos Alvarez & Martin Canavaro (above) which got the go-ahead on April 5th (photo) and Norma Castillo & Ramona Arevalo, the first lesbians to marry in the country, which got the go ahead on April 9th (photo).

      Castillo and Arevalo, the lesbian couple, were able to marry almost immediately because the news didn't come out until the 12th when a judge had already officiated their wedding.  That judge was Elena Liberatori - the same judge who officiated the annulled marriage between Bernath and Salazar Capón - so it wouldn't be surprising if they also face a court repeal.

      As for Alvarez and Canavaro (photo), they would have been able to marry last week as well if it wasn't for an appeal to the marriage decision.  That appeal was dropped this week and they were able to marry this morning (as shown the photo above).

      So two same-sex couples remain married in Argentina tonight and there are signs that congress will take up a marriage equality measure in the near future.  Good signs, despite the bad news this week.

      Photo credit: Clarin via AG Magazine.

      Ricky Martin gets naked

      Oh. Look. A new Tweet from Ricky Martin showing off one of his videos. And he's buck-naked.  Actually, the Tweet says that it was directed by Dago Gonzalez and used during his last tour so it's not necessarily new.  As for those tattoos that start to appear over his skin, they say stuff like: Cambia tu vida (change your life), perdona (forgive), descúbrete (find yourself), conócete (know yoursef), questiona (question things), acepta (accept), se dueño de ti (be your owner), desafíate (challenge yourself), ama (love someone), la paz nace en ti (peace is born within you) and vivir es nacer paso a paso (to live is to be born step by step). Whew! Just how many platitudes fit on a man's body! Anyway, watch the video below.


      Wednesday, April 14, 2010

      Argentina: Tierra del Fuego court annulls first Latin American same-sex marriage

      Late breaking news from Tierra Del Fuego this afternoon.

      The judge of the city's Children and Family Court, Marcos Meillien, has determined that what was the first ever same-sex marriage in all of Latin America is "non-existent" under the constitution and has, in fact, annulled it.

      According to today's Sur 54, the civil wedding between Alex Freyre and José Maria Di Bello was challenged by a local district attorney, Karina Echazú, on the grounds that the national constitution did not give gay couples the right to marry.

      For years, Freyre and Di Bello (right) had fought an uphill battle to be able to marry until a Buenos Aires court gave them the go-ahead in November. Plans to marry on December 1st were placed on hold when local authorities stepped in and put a stay on the order (they had chosen December 1st as a symbolic date since they are both HIV positive and the date marks World AIDS Day).

      Working behind the scenes, LGBT rights advocates sought a friendly government official with the power to perform a civil wedding and found her in the Governor of Tierra del Fuego, Fabiana Rios, who agreed to marry the men on December 28th, 2009.

      As I wrote yesterday, there have been another three positive court rulings allowing gay couples to marry in Argentina since Freyre and Di Bello tied the knot. One of those, the ruling allowing Damian Bernath and Jorge Esteban Salazar Capon to marry, has also been annulled.

      That leaves Martin Canevaro and Carlos Alvarez and Norman Castillo and Ramona Arevalo as the only two same-sex couples in Argentina with unrevoked marriage equality rulings.

      LGBT advocates have been pressing the Argentinian legislature to act upon the rulings and pass a federal marriage equality law but it's unclear where these set backs leave those efforts.

      Ultimately, it is expected that the Argentinian Supreme Court will take the issue later this year and perhaps rule in favor (Read: "Highest Court ready to back same-sex marriages, says justice, but there is one caveat").

      Tuesday, April 13, 2010

      Argentina: And the first lesbians to marry are...

      The Santiago Times, based in Chile, has saved me the job of translating Spanish-language reports of the first ever marriage by two lesbians in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  From their April 12 article:
      Two women that were exiled during the last Argentine military dictatorship (1976/1983) were married Friday in Buenos Aires, the first wedding among lesbians in the country, reported the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Federation of Argentina, or FALGBT.

      Norma Castillo, from Uruguay, and Ramona Arevalo, Argentine, were married by Judge Elena Liberatori after having requested legal protection within the framework of the campaign “Same right, same names,” which the LGBT Argentine Federation has been carrying out for several months. They are both 67 years old and have been a couple for over 30 years.

      “They asked for legal protection because they love each other and wanted their family to be recognized by the State,” said the Federation in an official release.

      The two women are activists of organizations belonging to the Federation and theirs was the third homosexual marriage in Argentina. Norma is the head of the pensioners' center Open Door to Diversity, an organization which fights for the gay-lesbian rights.
      While Buenos Aires enjoys the title of being the first city in any Spanish-speaking American country to adopt a same-sex civil union law back in 2003, none of Argentina's provinces nor the country has adopted a marriage equality law. The honor of adopting the first marriage equality law among countries in the hemisphere south of the United States goes to Mexico City, which saw its first marriages between same-sex couples on March 11th.

      But marriage equality activists in Argentina have been in a prolonged legislative and judicial battle to have their country recognize their right to marry and, with a combination of luck, positive local court decisions and amicable civil court judges, they have actually managed to claim the title of the first same-sex marriage in the region.

      That honor went to Alex Freyre and Jose Maria Di Bello who married in Tierra del Fuego on December 28, 2009 (photo).

      A second couple, Damian Bernath and Jorge Esteban Salazar Capon, were granted the right to marry in a Buenos Aires court on February 23rd (photo).

      And, on April 5th, a third couple, Martin Canevaro and Carlos Alvarez (right) received a go ahead as well.

      In the case of Bernath and Salazar Capon, their wedding was annulled by a Buenos Aires judge.

      In addition, there have been a couple of related stories about the lack of recognition in Argentina of same-sex marriages performed in other countries.

      Cesar Cigliutti and Marcelo Suntheim, who happen to be the first couple to be granted civil marriage rights back in 2003 and are also the directors of the Argentinean Homosexual Community (CHA), one of the largest LGBT rights organizations on the country, got married in Spain in 2008 but were denied the right to get their marriage recognized back home.

      At the same time, Diana Cordero, who is from Argentina, and her Spaniard partner C.P., are not only fighting for Argentina to recognize their 2008 Canadian marriage but also trying to keep Argentina from deporting C.P. back to Spain (photo).

      Anyway, this makes Norma Castillo and Ramona Arevalo's marriage the third same-sex marriage in Argentina and the first between lesbians.  If their name sounds familiar it's because I have featured them before on this blog.

      Last year, they were profiled by Argentinian newspaper La Nacion for their role in the launch of the first retirement home center for elderly gays and lesbians in Latin America.  At the time, I posted a YouTube video interview with them on which I added English-language subtitles.  I am re-posting it again tonight.

      NYC officials ask FCC to investigate homophobic remarks on Puerto Rican television

      Six New York City officials, including all four current openly gay city councilmembers, have just released a letter expressing their full support for claims filed before the Federal Communications Commission asking the federal agency to look into homophobic language used on Puerto Rican television.  They are Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, and openly gay councilmembers Christine Quinn, Rosie Mendez, Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer.

      The specific show at the center of the complaints is a variety show called "Super Xclusivo" and, while it is produced and aired in Puerto Rico for a Puerto Rican audience, it is also broadcast for thousands of viewers throughout the United States on WAPA America.

      Immediately after Puerto Rican music idol Ricky Martin came out, Héctor Travieso, the host of the show who uses a puppet as a bantering partner, repeatedly used the word "pato" (fag) to refer to the singer.  When viewers, including Puerto Rican LGBT rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano, complained, he only upped the ante and defended his usage of the word arguing that there was nothing bad in calling someone a "pato".

      The furor elicited by his comments, and by references he later made against Serrano's HIV status and sexuality (I will probably write a follow up post about those comments in the near future) has kept the confrontation between Travieso and Serrano in the island newspapers' front pages.

      Travieso, who also was the host of a radio show, announced on Thursday that he would retire from that spot.  He also extended a semi-apology to Serrano and the LGBT community in an interview that ran yesterday on Primera Hora. No, he did not apologize for using the word "pato".  He only apologized for referring to the LGBT community as "gentuza" (which could be translated as 'riffraff', 'trashy people' or 'worthless people').

      "I accept his apologies, but those apologies have to come accompanied by a change in his behavior," said Serrano to the paper, "He has to stop the homophobic conduct and stop making fun of the gay community."

      To date, Travieso continues to host "Super Xclusivo" but Serrano says that since Thursday, when the show host withdrew from the radio show, he has also stopped using the word "pato" or done any homophobic skits on television.

      This is not the first time that the four openly gay New York City councilmembers have stood up for the LGBT community in Puerto Rico. On January 9th, the four traveled, along with Serrano, to meet with and show support for the family of Jorge Steven López Mercado, the young gay man who was brutally murdered lat year.

      An aside: In addition to the New York City officials, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has also been very active on this case putting out a statement on April 7th and launching an action alert on April 9, 2010.

      And I have to say that, as caustic as he can be sometimes, blogger NG has followed the case as closely as any blogger out there.

      • Pedro Julio Serrano's Spanish-language blog here
      • My past posts referring to the amazing work of Pedro Julio here
      Here is the full text of the city official's letter to the FCC....
      April 13, 2010

      Hon. Julius Genachowski


      Federal Communications Commission
      445 12th St. , SW
      Washington , DC 20554

      Dear Mr. Genachowski,

      We are writing with respect to the ongoing use of troubling, anti-gay language on the Puerto Rican television show Super Xclusivo on WAPA América. Consumer complaints have been filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and we respectfully ask that you investigate these complaints thoroughly and swiftly.

      Most recently, during the April 5, 6 and 7 segments of the show discussing the coming out of singer Ricky Martin, the term “pato” was used repeatedly in a defamatory and profane manner. After viewer complaints, the show’s hosts increased their use of the word. The use of such derogatory language helps to foster bigotry which can lead to violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It must be made clear that these pejorative terms are harmful and unacceptable and should not be on the airwaves.

      While we respect freedom of speech, using anti-gay language in this context crosses the line and puts the public welfare at risk. New York and Puerto Rico have both been affected by a number of high-profile hate crimes in recent months. It is imperative to stand up against language that can contribute to bigotry.

      Thank you for your work to ensure that our airwaves are free of hate speech.

      Thank you.


      Christine C. Quinn, Speaker
      Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
      Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member
      Rosie Méndez, Council Member
      Daniel Dromm, Council Member
      Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member

      Monday, April 12, 2010

      Cristian Sancho in Romeo magazine

      An update of sorts to yesterday's post about the gay storyline in the Argentinian television soap opera "Botineras". In the soap, 34 year old Cristian Sancho plays El "Flaco" Riveiro, a soccer star having a torrid extra-marital affair with one of his teammates.  From what I have read about the soap, when it began airing in November, it was a somewhat comedic take focused on the plight of a group of women in relationships with soccer players (an Argentinian version of the British hit "The Footballers' Wives", it sounds like). But, as the show has continued, it has taken a darker turn with a murder mystery thrown in and the storyline about the nascent relationship between the male soccer players.

      As you read yesterday, Sancho has said that he is glad to have been given the opportunity to play El "Flaco" and calls it the role of a lifetime. Married to a woman, he also is not shy about a former underwear modeling career. And, last December, when "Botineras" was just starting, he wasn't shy either about posing for an Argentinian gay pin-up magazine called Romeo.

      Interestingly, back in January an actual Argentinian soccer player - Jesús Datolo - was reprimanded by the Italian soccer team he played for - for posing for an edition of the same magazine.

      In any case, I'm not sure the editors of Romeo had any idea that Sancho's character in "Botineras" was about to begin a gay affair but I am sure they were more than glad when he said 'yes' to posing for the magazine.

      Here is a clip of the Romeo photo shoot. And, no, I don't know where to get an actual copy of the magazine...

      Sunday, April 11, 2010

      Argentina: Soccer players in love

      Back in March there was a bit of a media sensation in Argentina when an actor who plays a star soccer player in a television soap opera called "Botineras" kissed another actor playing the role of an up-and-coming player. The kiss shocked viewers because both characters had been established as being romantically involved with women (the first with a wife and the second with a girlfriend) and because it came at the end of a scene in which the soccer star was consoling the teammate over an unrelated plot line. Watch...

      You can also watch the two immediate follow-up scenes here and here (it's worth it, if you have the time - English language subtitles courtesy of BlackAngel82).

      The kiss made the rounds of local media and was welcomed by local LGBT rights organizations.  It has also made "Botineras" the top rated television soap opera in Argentina at the moment.

      Cristian Sancho, the 34 year old actor who plays soccer idol El "Flaco" Riveiro (top man above, pun somewhat intended), is a former underwear male model and married to a woman in real life. He says it was the first time he had ever kissed a man but felt the pressure to make the scene as realistic as possible because he knew the LGBT community would complain about it otherwise.

      In an interview published in Clarin on March 31st, he said he was proud of the role and the willingness of the producers to break the mold.

      "What's good is there is no fear of taboos. Homosexuality in soccer is a topic that stems from years ago," he says, "there are tales of players that were as such and we all know certain myths."

      Sancho says he believes that gay soccer players fear coming out because of what might happen to them professionally and the potential reaction of soccer fans with their ingrained machismo.

      As to whether the character of El "Flaco" is gay or bisexual, Sancho has this to say:
      He is [currently] in the bi-polarity of not knowing how to distinguish what he wants. What he loves the most in his life is his family and he could not be able to live without them.  He lives in a machista world, and, indeed, he is machista. He believes his wife should take care of him.  There is love for her, but a fraternal love. He sees her as a mother-figure.  When I developed the character, I began from the basis that he is a man. I did not go with the stereotype of an effeminate gay. I wanted to have respect for the gay community, which is very demanding when it comes down to it.
      But wait! That's not all! Remember all the bru-ha-ha in December over the first ever gay sex scene on a US television soap opera? Well, you can watch that darkly-lit, candle-decorated, gauzy-lensed snooze-fest from "One Life to Live" by clicking here.

      Now compare: Something must have happened on "Botineras" during the past month because Lalo, as played by Ezequiel Castaño, seems to have gotten over his initial rejection of the advances by El "Flaco".  Here is the first sex scene between the two of them as aired Friday night on Argentinian television. It might show way more flesh than any of the US soap operas might show but, even taking away the nudity, THIS is how a TV soap should handle a sex scene between two leading men [Original source: AG Magazine].

      Extra points: A Twitter friend tells me that the music playing in this clip is from Sigur Rós. And, indeed, it is! ("All Right").  And any TV soap that uses Sigur Rós for a pivotal love scene must be the best. soap. ever!  I thought I'd let you know.

      Just beautiful...

      Saturday, April 10, 2010

      Dominican Republic: Cardinal speaks, police cracks-down on "indecent and immoral behavior"

      As usual, as with most LGBT-related news from the Dominican Republic, I first heard about this on Monaga.

      Anthony, who covers gay life in the island on the blog, warns of a potentially homophobic crackdown by police officers following local media reports of "indecent and immoral behaviors" at Duarte Park in the downtown colonial zone of Santo Domingo - a common gathering space for the city's LGBT community.

      Anthony admits that the park has seen better days and "could use a little cleaning up" but warns that whole exercise might be "solely about removing gay people from Parque Duarte" and advices those planning to visit the Park or any of the gay bars in the colonial zones to carry ID with them and dress nicely as to not get picked up by police.

      I have written about Parque Duarte before and it's historical role in raising the visibility of the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic.
      Now, my initial thought was that this latest crusade by Santo Domingo's police authorities stemmed from complaints received by local community members.  Turns out the crackdown stems directly from comments made by the island's ultra-homophobic and powerful Catholic Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodriguéz (the good cardinal, if you must know, is not beneath using the Spanish word for 'faggot' to refer to gays).

      I haven't found a direct link to the Cardinal's original comments but the first article I have seen directly related to the current police crackdown is an editorial that ran on Monday, April 5th, on Listin Diario, one of the leading Dominican newspapers ("Duarte Park, center of scandals").  The paper, which has been having a field day with the story this week, says in the editorial that the park has been overrun by "drunk, loud people, addicts to drugs and orgies."

      "Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodriguéz has denounced - responsively - the aberrations committed there", the editors say, "and so have resident neighbors who have not found answers from the authorities to put an end to this unsustainable situation."

      The editorial calls for the local authorities to step in as a means to bring back "good customs," asks them to stop any "shameful acts of immorality" and to put an end acts of "sexual perversity" in which park patrons engage (hm, I'd be willing to bet that the paper lifted the entire Sunday church homily given by the good Cardinal the day before).

      Monday, on the same day the paper ran the editorial, Listin Diario also published a separate article with a similar title ("Duarte Park is a center of promiscuity") in which they directly quote the Cardinal as saying that the park is "a space where all kinds of insolent and vulgar behaviors rule".

      Additionally, they also quote an anonymous local resident. "Those who attract attention in the Duarte Park." she says, "are the lesbians and the gays who sit down on the benches with their partners to drink alcoholic beverages, caress each other and share with others of their sexual preference, without caring about any of the spectators."

      The Cardinal was thrilled! The next day, on Tuesday, April 6th, Listin Diario published a follow-up article titled "Cardinal says vulgarity has reached extremes" stoking the fire they had set the day before.

      "Listin Diario's article about Duarte Park is very eloquent and enlightening, but it's not the only place," the Cardinal says, "I have also received complaints from neighbors of the ruins in San Francisco because, according to them, they cannot sleep."

      He also blames immoral acts and thanks the increased presence of the authorities implying that it was Listin Diario's reporting that brought interest on the area.

      The Cardinal also warns of impending violence if things don't change without a hint of condemnation of any violent acts that might erupt. "The later [the authorities] take action, the worse the solution will be," he says, "because the time will arrive in which the people will see themselves compelled to react in a manner that nobody wants."

      Yikes, final solutions anyone?

      But, readers want to know, what exactly does "immorality" mean to the editors and journalists of Listin Diario?

      On Wednesday, April 7th, the paper published two photographs in which two women sat on a park bench and kissed.  The caption for the photo on the right reads "In public: The homosexual couple caresses each other on a Parque Duarte bench"; the caption for the 2nd picture, in which they are seen talking to each other, says "Immorality: Homosexuals sitting on a Juan Pabo Duarte Park bench in the colonial zone".

      OMG!!! Two people!!!! Kissing!!!! What an orgy!!! The article, titled "National Police identifies gang at Duarte Park" names anonymous "police sources" as linking drug sales to gays.

      "In said park," the source says, "homosexuals show up to have a good time with their partners as well as individuals who are devoted to selling narcotics, an activity they engage in by using as an intermediary or feigning selling mints, which they keep inside a backpack, next to the drugs."

      Said unnamed authority also says that the number of homosexual partners - gulp! - grows exponentially once Thursday night rolls along and doesn't let up until Sunday night.

      Where is this all of this heading? You might as well have guessed it. Being criticized by the Cardinal and the media all week long for not taking action, the local police authorities, led by Santo Domingo District Attorney Alejandro Moscoso, organized a press conference for Thursday, April 8th. ("Attorney's Office will punish those who cause a scandal") in which he met with local residents.

      Yes. A week after the Cardinal suggested it was a citizen-led morality drive, the paper said that the Attorney held a community town-hall yesterday on the issue and promised folks that the police would shut down any sites that attempted against "morals and good behaviors". The article in which Listin Diario reported on the town-hall meeting, which was published yesterday, Friday, April 9th, was also the first time that the paper deemed it necessary to quote anyone from the Dominican LGBT community.

      Both self-described gay right activists stated that they were in agreement with authorities keeping the order at gatherings happening at the park, but Tania Guzmán, who told the paper that she was an ordained minister, expressed fear of the community turning violent against the LGBT community.

      Francis Taylor, who is also quoted, asked for the LGBT community to be included in any deliberations related to public order at the park.

      Neither said they had been invited to participate in the town-hall meetings.

      Previously on Blabbeando:

      Monday, April 05, 2010

      Mexico City: 88 same-sex couples have married in the month since marriage equality went into effect

      Since March 11th, 2010, the day on which same-sex couples were finally allowed to marry in Mexico City, the city's Civil Registry Office has received 125 marriage license petitions from same-sex partners and granted 88 marriages, according to city officials.

      Today's El Universal, which reports on the official numbers today, says that, of the 88 marriages, 50 have been between male couples and 38 have been between women. Age-wise, of the 176 individuals who have gotten married, seventy-two have ranged between the ages 31 and 40 and forty-five have been between 21 and 30.  Only twelve individuals fell in the 18 to 20 range [that doesn't quite ad up to 176 so I guess the rest - forty-seven individuals - might fall into the 41 and older range]. In five cases, one of the partners was born in a different country (including two Italians, two French and one British person). 

      There are 37 marriages between same-sex couples pending for the months of April, May and June.
      • The official statement from the government office of Mexico City can be found here (Warning: Loud audio clip plays upon opening page).
      Update: The Associated Press is all over the story and so is Andy.