Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ecuador: Santiago and Fernando want to get married

You might remember back in May when Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa went on the offensive against marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples and a gender identity bill currently making its way through the nation's legislature. There was enough of an international backlash for him to extend a semi-apology but he still stood behind his statements and proclaimed he was the best president the LGBT community in Ecuador had ever had.

One unintended consequence of the president's stand against marriage equality was the emergence of a marriage equality movement in Ecuador which had been dormant but jumped into action as LGBT advocates realized their president wasn't necessarily on their side.

Among them was Pamela Troya who angrily denounced President Correa on Twitter telling him he was denigrating and disrespecting people like her by using dogma and prejudice to govern.

His response? "No problem," he twitted on May 23rd, "We'll launch a popular referendum in the next elections and we'll see if those dogmas and prejudice are my own."

Since then Pamela Troya and her partner Gabriela Correa launched the Civil Marriage Equality initiative and on August 5th they headed to a civil registry office and filed paperwork requesting the right to marry

On August 8th the court denied that petition on the basis that the constitution defines marriage as that of a man and a woman.  They have appealed that decision and are awaiting for a response.

Until now, Pamela and Gabriela had been the public face of the Civil Marriage Equality initiative but this week they announced that a second couple in Guayaquil would be filing paperwork to request a marriage license and this morning Santiago Vinces and Fernando Saltos did just that.

Carrying signs that read "Love is equality", "Without equality there is no liberty" and "Love does not discriminate" two dozen people including Pamela and Gabriela, attorney Silvia Buendia and television soap opera star Erika Velez acted as witnesses for the couple and marched with them as they made their way to the civil registry office and submitted their paperwork. As with Pamela and Gabriela, the court has 8 days to respond and the couple will appeal that decision if they are denied the right to marry.

Gabriela Correa and Panela Troya.
In defending his stance against marriage equality, President Correa highlighted his work in securing passage of a 2008 constitution which allowed civil unions for same-sex couples even as it also defined marriage as that between a man and a woman. At least on paper, the constitutional reform meant that same-sex couples would have all the rights of married heterosexual couples except for the right to adopt.

In practice, though, an upcoming study to be released by Silueta X which surveyed civil registry offices in Guayaquil found that only 1.2% of 2,805 same-sex couples had registered their civil unions in the five years since the constitution was adopted and, of 42 civil registry offices in the city, only two reported having recently completed a civil union registration.  Silueta X says they will release the full results of the study on November 29th and report whether some registries are throwing roadblocks for same-sex couples who might want to enter into a civil union.

Advocates face an uphill battle in repealing constitutional language that bans same-sex marriages but President Correa's opposition certainly has lit a fire in them and as other countries in the region allow same-sex couples to marry it raises the bar for other regional leaders to follow.

There are signs that President Correa is willing to listen to some of these actions and appeals. At least on the issue of the gender identity bill he has continued to have a dialogue with transgender rights advocate Diane Rodriguez in the months since he publicly stated that he saw the bill as a Trojan horse attack on the institution of marriage.

In the meantime, while he "evolves", the resurgence of a visible LGBT rights movement in Ecuador is reason to rejoice.

UPDATE (Nov. 29th, 2013): It took just one day for the Ecuadorean government and its civil registry office to say Santiago and Fernando did not meet the qualifications for a marriage license since they were not a man and a woman.  Helpfully, it did urge the couple to come back if and when they manage to gather enough proof to prove otherwise.

The Ecuadorean Civil Marriage Equality initiative has said that they expected the ruling and will be appealing it. They also say they are recruiting same-sex couples who might be interested in joining their movement and launch similar petitions before the civil registry offices of Ecuador.

News report (Spanish):

Additional info:
  • More photos of this morning's press conference and rally here.
  • Follow Ecuador's "Matrimonio Civil Igualitario" on Twitter here.

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