Sunday, April 17, 2011

Colombia: Taking communion on Palm Sunday to protest religious anti-gay bigotry

After being appointed as the Archbishop of Bogotá by Pope Benedict XVI in July of last year, Colombian Monsignor Jesús Rubén Salazar Gómez set three specific goals for himself: "Protecting marriage" as that between a man and a woman; fighting abortion rights for women at all costs and, last of all, promoting peace in the South American country.

So it wasn't necessarily a huge surprise to see him use his standing as Archbishop and his role as the president of the Colombian Episcopal Conference to release a public letter yesterday - on the eve of Holy Week - to ask Catholic believers throughout the country to speak up against efforts to grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children.

"Catholics like us are opposed to minors being entrusted to couples made up of same-sex partners and we reject any eventual Constitutional Court decision to that effect," the good pastor said in his letter.

The letter was understood as a call to arms for Catholic churches throughout the nation to take up the issue during today's Sunday mass and throughout the rest of the week.  It also comes in a week that saw great news in the advancement of LGBT rights in the country.

On Wednesday, the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled by an overwhelming 8-1 vote that common-law heterosexual partners and unmarried same-sex partners had the right to inherit their partner's belongings in the case of their partner's death, adding to a series of rulings by the same court in favor of LGBT rights.

The president of the Colombian Constitutional Court, Juan Carlos Henao, took pains on Thursday to say the ruling applied to anyone who could prove they had lived in a common-law partnership for two years, regardless whether it was a straight or gay couple, implying that they had yet to rule on whether same-sex couples had the right to marry.

That's because the Constitutional Court already has a couple of cases in it's docket that addresses both adoption rights for same-sex partners and marriage equality... hence the current Colombian Catholic church freak-out.

I have to say that I have no idea how the Constitutional Court will come down on either pending case.  Advocates who have brought previous cases before the Colombian Constitutional Court have been careful not to engage the marriage equality argument and target, instead, specific partnership rights such as inheritance and access to social security and health insurance benefits.  In other words, they have not asked the Constitutional Court to declare whether same-sex couples should be considered a "family" under the Colombian constitution.

Today, though, a dozen lesbian and gay advocates in Bogotá took the Archbishop's challenge head-on.  According to today's El Tiempo, they attended the Palm Sunday mass at the Metropolitan Church in Bogotá and stood in line to receive communion. They each wore a white T-Shirt that read "I am homosexual. I have children. I am Catholic" on one side and "Homophobia is not Christian!" on the other (see picture above).

Reportedly they all received communion.

"Obviously, as Catholics, we feel the pain of encountering a statement coming from the church saying we are not able nor apt to adopt children, or to raise them lovingly," said Elizabeth Castillo who led a group of lesbian mothers, "That is why we are here, it was important to us to establish our voice of protest - we deserve respect!"

"Supposedly, the Church is based on a message of love" she added, "it's incomprehensible why it is that they have sent a press release to the entire nation asking them to protest against adoption rights for gays."

I so love Elizabeth and all the other folk who showed up today at the Metropolitan Church in Bogotá asking not only for respect but also for equal rights.

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