Ecuador and LGBT rights: Like much of Latin America during the past couple of decades, Ecuador has seen its share of advances in extpanding legal protections to the nation's LGBT population.
Language penalizing sexual contact between same-sex individuals was struck down from the penal code by the nation's Constitutional Tribunal in 1997. A year later the country adopted a new constitution which became the first in the Americas to grant sexual orientation protected status.
Under president Rafael Correa who was elected to office in 2007, further changes to the penal code made hate speech a crime and set fines and prison sentences for "those who incite hate against any other person for reason of their sex, sexual orientation, or sexual identification."
In a set back, the 2008 constitution enshrined marriage as being that between a man and a woman and limited adoption rights to heterosexual couples but it also granted same-sex couples civil unions that offered some legal protections including inheritance rights. Correa had initially argued that there was no need to limit marriage in the constitution but caved in to pressure from evangelicals and fundamentalists who demanded the ban. Gay couples have also had a tough time registering their civil unions.
In 2008, when Ecuadorian immigrant José Osvaldo Sucuzhañay was attacked and murdered on the streets of New York after he and his brother were mistaken for a gay couple, Correa said "Together we will fight to forever root out these abhorrent acts committed by certain maladjusted individuals, root them out from the face of the earth, from humanity: Xenophobia, homophobia and all kinds of discrimination, all kinds of violence."
2008 also saw journalists Maria Alejandra Torres and Marjorie Ortiz break a major story about Ecuadorian teens being sent to rehab centers to be "cured" of their homosexuality. The scandal led to a 2011 international campaign to shut down the centers led by online petition sites All Out, Credo and Change.org and in 2012 the Correa government not only committed themselves to go after these centers but also named one of the women who led the fight against the centers as a member of the presidential cabinet: Carina Vance Mafla, the first openly lesbian woman to have been named to a presidential cabinet in Latin America.
An apology: Most recently and in the heat of his third re-election campaign, President Corréa lost his temper after a critic called him a "faggot" on a Facebook page and challenged the man to meet with him to let him show "who the real fag is." (VIDEO).
Members of LGBT-rights organizations were outraged and demanded an apology. They got two earnest apologies, one before the election (VIDEO) and one during his acceptance speech on the night he won a decisive vote for a third and final term (VIDEO). That was on February 17th of this year.
The reason for the second apology, Correa said, was because he didn't want the LGBT community to think he had apologized the first time for political gain. He added "I offer my full respect, my efforts and my commitment to eliminate all types of discrimination in this country."
Considering Correa's considerable track record on LGBT issues, his seemingly heartfelt apologies for using a derogatory word and his public commitment to protect the Ecuadorian LGBT community you might think the next four years might bode well for said community barring, you know, a stunning turnaround. Well...
A stunning turnaround: The national debate the last few weeks have been consumed by a decision by Health Minister Carina Vance Mafla to approve the "morning after" pill. Conservative religious leaders are apoplectic about the decision and a group calling themselves "The 14 Million" swore millions of people would demonstrate against the government last Sunday (by most newspaper accounts only 2,500 showed up).
A day before the religious rallies President Correa used his weekly televised speech to "counter" the claims made by the so-called "14 Million" and in the process actually gave them much more than they probably expected.
- He denied his government was pushing for marriage equality and highlighted the constitutional ban he once called unnecessary saying that no other type of partnership could ever be considered a marriage except for that between a man and a woman.
- He acknowledged there were current efforts in the national assembly to pass a gender identity law but mocked the legislator introducing the bill and promised to veto the bill if it ever reached his desk.
Twitter wars: Silvia Buendía, who ran for political office during the last election, sent a tweet introducing Correa to a lesbian couple profiled in a newspaper article telling him "Dear President Correa, I present my friends Diana and Maribel, they love each other, they take care of each other, they are family"...
Querido @mashirafael le presento a mis amigas Diana y Maribel extra.ec/ediciones/2013… se aman, se cuidan, son una familiaPamela Troya who was recently profiled with her family in La Hora, angrily highlighted a key contradiction in the Presdent's statements from stands he had taken as recent as February. "President Correa, look at you statements from February 12th during the NEVER FORGET campaign", she wrote.
— Silvia Buendía (@silvitabuendia) May 18, 2013
@mashirafael mire sus declaraciones del 12 feb en campaña PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR @noticiaslgbt @ecuatorianosglb @sentiido twitter.com/pametroya/stat…
— Pamela Troya (@pametroya) May 20, 2013
Using a marriage referendum as a threat: Pamela also tweeted "President Correa, you denigrate us and disrespect us when you use dogma and prejudice to govern."
This time it drew an angry response from President Correa himself. "No problem," Correa wrote, "I will set up a popular referendum during the next midterm elections and we will see if it's all about my dogmas and prejudices."
On Thursday, in an interview shot and aired a day before the inauguration of his third term Correa dug deeper in...
- "I am economically and socially progressive but very conservative when it comes to moral issues" Correa stated.
- Correa argued that the gender identity law is actually a Trojan horse being used to impose "gay marriage" on Ecuador.
- If Ecuador would follow worldwide trends and approve marriage equality, Correa argued, it would be akin to distributing drugs for free because drugs are also trendy (he then offered an immediate apology because, as he put it, drugs are illegal and homosexuality is not).
The head of the largest LGBT-rights organization in Chile, Rolando Jiménez...
En general, el "Progresismo Latinoamericano" es conservador y autoritario Presidente de Ecuador lo confirma cuando cambio cultural lo supera"In general, 'Progressive Latin America' is conservative and authoritarian. The Ecuadorian president confirms this when cultural change steps ahead of him."
— Rolando Jiménez(@rjimenez_perez) May 25, 2013
Cuban blogger Francisco Rodríguez (better known as Paquito el de Cuba) sent several tweets including this one:
Presidente Correa @mashirafael: Tener en gabinete a personas LGBT no le exime de postura homofóbica @presidencia_ec #Cuba #CubavsHomofobia"President Correa," Francisco says, "having LGBT people in your presidential cabinet doesn't free you to take homophobic stands."
— Francisco Rodríguez (@paquitoeldecuba) May 23, 2013
Spain's Miguel Angel Lopez, who used to publish one of the greatest LGBT-news publications in the world (ZERO) also made his views known...
#Correa @mashirafael avergüenza a la izquierda con su #homofobia contra el #matrimonioigualitario en #Ecuador #LGBTIQ bit.ly/16XdLph"Rafael Correa embarrasses the left with his homophobia against marriage equality in Ecuador"
— #rebeliónYA (@migue_a_lopez) May 24, 2013
Colombian LGBT-rights activist Mauricio Albarracín who was instrumental in the advances in LGBT rights we have seen in Colombia...
@mashirafael Presidente Correa. Hacer referendo para decidir derechos de minorías es propio de derecha reaccionaria @pametroya @marcosruizq"President Correa: To put up minority rights up to a referendum belongs to reactionary right wing governments."
— Mauricio Albarracin (@malbarracin) May 23, 2013
Maria Rachid, who was the head of the Argentine LGBT Federation when the country became the first in Latin America to pass a marriage equality bill tweeted this:
@mashirafael Lo respeto x muchas cosas, se equivoca en esto. Hay familias cuyos derechos no se respetan en Ecuador, usted puede repararlo."Rafael Correa, I respect you on many issues but you are mistaken on this one. There are families whose rights are disrespected in Ecuador and you can fix it."
— María Rachid (@mariarachid) May 25, 2013
Alex Freyre, who can claim with his partner José Maria di Bello the title of the first gay couple to ever get married in Latin America chose to go the humorous route:
Si conversamos 5 minutos con el bombón de Correa, aprueba el matrimonio igualitario por decreto."If they let me talk to that cutie of Correa for five minutes I'll make sure he approves marriage equality by presidential decree."
— Alex Freyre (@AlexFreyre) May 24, 2013
Correa was not moved.
Kids should only be adopted by heterosexual couples: On Saturday, a day after his inauguration ceremony, he appeared on his weekly television show, reiterated his newly minted "socially conservative" positions and added a few more. He also demanded gratitude from the LGBT community....
- "No other government has done more for the GLBTI community than mine," says Correa.
- The LGBT community would never ask as much from a right wing government and is upset because they have an "all or nothing" strategy just like indigenous people.
- Correa says LGBT groups hurt themselves and hurt the government by not acknowledging how much the he has done for them and should show gratefulness instead (he also says their rebellion threatens the stability of the country by opening the door to sponsoring future conservative governments).
- Correa admits he once supported the gender identity bill (without mentioning he gave his full support just two months ago) and says he changed his mind when he suddenly realized it was a ploy to get to same-sex marriages (yeah, right).
- He parrots the "14 Million" claim that family can only be that of "A man, a woman and a child" and that he opposes adoption rights for same-sex couples because adopted children should be raised by a "traditional" family.
No estoy de acuerdo con el matrimonio gay, enfatiza el Presidente #Correa #RCLogrosyDesafíos #Quito"'I am not in favor of gay marriage' empathizes President Correa."
— Presidencia Ecuador (@Presidencia_Ec) May 23, 2013
Gender identity law: The most heartbreaking reality in all of this is that a gender identity law Correa supported just two months ago lies in the balance and has now been trashed by the president.
Trans rights activist Diane Rodriguez has been calling Correa on this since he started this anti-LGBT crusade sending him a message on Twitter and asking him for a meeting...
Carta a #RafaelCorrea sobre reformas a la ley del #registrocivil por parte de #DianeRodriguez dianerodriguez.net/2013/05/21/car… @noticiaslgbtDiane is the leading advocate for a gender identity law and has participated in several PSA's calling such a law...
— DIANE RODRIGUEZ (@DianeRodriguezZ) May 21, 2013
She also ran for a local political office and as she stood on the voting line last year she tweeted about the humiliation she felt when she was forced by election officials to stand in the men's line despite asking to be allowed to vote on the women's line. It had nothing to do with marriage equality but perfectly illustrated why Ecuador needs a gender identity law.
Since all this broke, LGBT advocates have asked Correa to explain why he has turned his back on LGBT rights. Some have asked why he would even treat a presidential cabinet member as a second hand citizen.
So far Carina Vance has remained silent but Raul Vallejo - a former education minister and current Ecuadorian ambassador to Colombia expressed his disappointment:
El matrimonio debería ser institución q permita a 2 personas, sin perjuicio d su orientación sexual, proteger legalmente 1 proyecto d vida."Marriage should be an institution that allows 2 people to legally protect their plan for life, regardless of prejudice or sexual orientation," he stated.
— Raúl Vallejo (@banano59) May 23, 2013
Final point: Let's be clear here. Correa has tried to use his televised speeches to denigrate and blame the LGBT community for these series of homophobic statements but before his response to the "14 Million" movement he entirely supported the gender identity law and there was no active movement for marriage rights for same-sex couples in Ecuador.
Correa's statements are purely a president caving in to the fundamentalist religious leaders who drew only 2,500 to their rallies.
UPDATE: After asking for a meeting with the president, Diane was invited to the post-inauguration ceremony on May 27th, 2013 and shared this photo on Twitter. I asked her if she had a chance to speak to the president and she said she only had a chance to ask to speak to him on a later occasion and that Correa expressed a willingness to schedule a meeting.
- @MashiRafael, Ecuadorian President, Proposes Popular Poll to Determine Fate of Same-Sex Marriage (War Diaries)
- Ecuador's Rafael Correa opposes transgender bill (On Top Magazine)