Saturday, November 23, 2013

Photo of the day: Hugo Chavez's brother signs marriage equality petition

Barinas Gobernor Adán Chávez Frias signing marriage equality petition (photos by Luis Carlos Paredes Tapia, used by permission)
Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico City recognize marriage equality. Courts in other regions of Mexico and in Colombia have also granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Advocates in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Cuba and Costa Rica are demanding equal marriage rights. And here comes Venezuela.

Against all odds and despite the general polarization that defines Venezuelan politics, LGBT advocates on both sides of the political divide launched a signature gathering campaign earlier this year to force the National Assembly to take up the issue.

By September they announced they had collected 40% of the signatures they needed. Transgender rights advocate Tamara Adrian said that organizers might be ready to hand in all needed signatures by the end of the year.

It is the fifth time that LGBT advocates have tried to jump-start a debate on same-sex partnership rights since 1999 when the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez took office.

For all his years in power, it cannot be said that Chávez was particularly homophobic but he also was far from proactive on addressing the needs of LGBT Venezuelans or speaking about it publicly.

One of the rare occasions on which he did discuss same-sex marriage was in 2009 in Italy when a reporter asked him about it. At the time Chávez seemed to indicate he might evolve on the issue but personally was against it.

After those declarations and before his death earlier this year, Chávez and the Great Patriotic Pole party he lead increasingly embraced the LGBT community or the "sexually diverse" as they preferred to call it particularly when trying to draw away LGBT voters from the opposition.

In some ways his hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro has tried to mimic the inclusive rhetoric but has been less than tactful about it arguably using homophobic innuendo and accusations against his opponents.

In the meantime, LGBT advocates continue to collect signatures in support of a marriage equality law and on Wednesday they ran into Barinas state governor Adán Chávez Frias who was happy to add his sinature to the list.

Governor Chávez Frias happens to be the late president's brother.

It might reflect an increasing willingness among 'Chavistas' to embrace LGBT issues including marriage equality.

Related: The Facebook page for the coalition of LGBT organizations gathering signarures can be found here.

Photo by Luis Carlos Paredes Tapia, used with permission.

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