Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's blistering 2010 statement against the new Pope

A couple of days before Argentina became the first Latin American country to pass a nationwide marriage equality law in 2010 president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner broke her silence on the landmark bill and secured its passage by throwing hell full support behind it. It was an impassioned speech carried live on Argentine television from a diplomatic trip to China and a full-throttled response to increasingly rabid homophobic opposition by Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

To begin with, I am a bit surprised about the tone, the tenor, and the content the dialogue has taken.  The truth is that it's worrisome to listen to expressions such as 'God's Battle', 'The Work of the Devil', things which actually bring us back to the times of the Inquisition, to Medieval Times, it seems to me. Particularly coming from those who should promote peace, tolerance, diversity and dialogue. Or at least that's what they've always said in their statements. And all of a sudden [we have] this aggressive language, this dismissive language invoking 'natural law' arguments.
To bring it back to our own history, when the civil code was approved, Vélez Sársfield has taken 'marriage' from Canon law. That's why they could only get married through the church! There was no possibility for people to get married in a civil registry in Argentina.
When immigration began - there are many people who are not Catholic, who are not affiliated with any religion, or are anarchists, or Communists, or are Jewish or Muslim - and it turns out that the only way they could get married was through Catholic rites.
And so, a reform to the civil code was proposed, which was incorporated in 1,888 through which 'civil marriages' were created.
I sincerely believe what's being presented before the current norm is something that the community already has. I believe it's fair - it's fair - to recognize this right for the minorities. And I believe it would be a terrible distortion of democracy if the majorities - the actions of those majorities - denied rights to those minorities.
But what worries me the most is the tone in which these issues are being discussed, invoking questions such as the Devil, or the war.
I heard someone talk about 'God's War'! As if we were still in the time of the Crusades! I can just imagine Roland going to conquer the Holy Sepulcher! The truth is I don't believe this is good...It's not good because it establishes, as a society, a place which I don't think any of us wants to have. 
We are all willing to debate, discuss, dissent, but do it within a rational frame, without stigmatizing others because they think differently, and, fundamentally, also without violating the constitution.
But in reality I don't think it's a question that should be taken lightly. We are talking about whether we are going to be a society which recognizes the rights of minorities. This is the axis. Or if we are going to require that when someone signs official paperwork, instead of writing an ID, they should write "gay" or "lesbian" so some public official can say "Yes, I will see you", "I won't see you", "You have the right to in vitro fertilization", "No, you don't have the rights".
Bergoglio is not mentioned by name but he had just made the statements that the fight against same-sex marriage was "God's battle" and that those fighting for it were doing the "work of the Devil".

Bergoglio became Pope Francis today. He has chosen to downplay his opposition to the recognition of LGBT rights since he lost the marriage equality battle in 2010 which means that he might have learned a lesson from the experience. Or it might mean that the Vatican hopes that they will be able to hold the line and perhaps roll back significative advances that have taken place in Latin America when it comes to LGBT rights.


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