Argentina scores a goal

Catholic Church lost in its bid to stop a win on same-sex marriage

Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Argentina suffered a distinct blow when its promising soccer team was bounced from the World Cup. What did the country do to pick up its spirits?

It passed gay marriage.

Argentina is the first nation in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians in Argentina will have all the legal rights and responsibilities that marriage affords straight couples.

Goal!

The days leading up to the momentous decision were infused with pressure, both sides pushing and pushing. About the only thing missing were vuvuzelas. And for all I know, some Argentine soccer fans brought those horns home from South Africa and blew them in the streets of Buenos Aires, aggravating people on both sides of the marriage battle.

The issue of same-sex marriage pitted the Catholic Church against Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

Time.com reported that Buenos Aires archbishop and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said, “This is no mere legislative bill, it is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Fernandez responded that Bergoglio’s statement was “really reminiscent of the times of the Inquisition.”

The hyperbole was sky-high enough to tickle St. Peter’s feet.

Polls indicated a solid majority of Argentines favored same-sex marriage, even though the country is overwhelmingly Catholic. With the president of the nation a strong supporter of the bill, and the lower chamber having approved it in May, all that remained was for Argentina’s Senate to get in the game.

In a march organized by the Catholic Church and evangelical groups, 60,000 people descended on Congress the evening before the vote.  Same-sex marriage supporters held smaller, loud rallies. As the final debate took place inside Congress, opponents stood outside reciting the rosary in freezing temperatures, and supporters chanted equality slogans.

These people must’ve wondered if the senators had escaped out the back door — the vote didn’t take place until 4:05 a.m., after 15 hours of debate. This game lasted so long it went into penalty kicks.

“Marriage between a man and a woman has existed for centuries, and is essential for the perpetuation of the species,” asserted Sen. Juan Perez Alsina, according to The Associated Press.

Sen. Norma Morandini compared the discrimination closeted gays experience to the oppression Argentina’s past dictators imposed. “What defines us is our humanity, and what runs against humanity is intolerance,” Morandini said.

With that, every dictator rose from his grave and tried to give her a red card, but no one noticed.

At the end of the long, tense session, the Argentine Senate approved same-sex marriage 33-27, with three abstentions. Argentina became the 10th nation in the world to approve gay marriage.

On the same day the Catholic Church lost the game, the Vatican announced that the “attempted ordination” of women is now one of the most serious crimes under church law, on a par with clerical sexual abuse of children.  Altogether, the Catholic Church is shooting on the wrong goal.

The first legal same-sex wedding is scheduled for Aug. 13.  Ernesto Rodriguez Larrese, 60, will wed Alejandro Vanelli, 61.  The men have lived together for 34 years, so presumably they require no pre-wedding counseling.

Mexico City, which legalized gay marriage last year, made an offer the guys might not be able to refuse: The city’s tourism minister promised a free honeymoon to the first gay couple wed in Argentina.

The minister seeks to recognize tolerance and to promote gay tourism, a healthy, eminently practical combo.

By the way, the two World Cup finalists, Spain and Holland, both legalized gay marriage. All the soccer-playing nations in the world, and it was those two that made it. I’m just sayin’ … .

Leslie Robinson thinks the U.S. better hurry up and legalize gay marriage if it is ever to do well in the World Cup. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Will marriage equality spread in Latin America?

Palacio legislativo, Montevideo, Uruguay

Since Argentina legalized same-sex marriage, other countries in the region have taken notice, and some are beginning to take action. But the process is not without setbacks.

In Costa Rica, one of Latin America’s oldest and most stable democracies, a referendum on civil unions was scheduled for the December ballot. According to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, the Costa Rican Supreme Court has suspended the process.

One of the issues with the referendum is that putting civil and human rights up for a vote may be unconstitutional. The referendum had been called by El Observatorio por la Vida y la Familia, a group related to the Catholic church and Evangelical groups. By removing the referendum from the ballot, the Costa Rican Supreme Court may be moving LGBT rights forward.

Since the Argentine marriage law was signed, the Chilean government declared that same-sex marriages performed in Argentina are not valid in Chile. The Santiago newspaper reports that the country’s 2004 civil marriage law recognizes marriages performed abroad, but only if they are between a man and a woman:

“A marriage celebrated in a foreign country in accordance with the laws of that country, Chile will produce the same effect as if it is concluded in Chilean territory, provided question of the union between a man and a woman. “

In Chile, where a civil union bill is being considered, the president said civil unions wouldn’t be the equivalent of marriage, but many rights would be granted.

In Bolivia, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said legalizing same-sex marriage is not a priority for the government, according to the Bolivian newspaper La Jornada. Linera is single and shares the official residence with Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca and President Evo Morales, who are also single.

But in neighboring Uruguay the situation is different. Civil unions were approved in 2007 and became law in 2008. Since the Argentine law, Uruguay is considering upgrading to full marriage.

Paraguay has also begun discussing same-sex marriage since the law passed in Argentina. Vice President Federico Franco came out against the proposal. He gave as reasons that he is Catholic and that it’s inappropriate to legislate for a small group, according to Ultima Hora.

Civil unions were approved in the new Ecuadorian constitution in 2009. At the same time the country banned same-sex marriage.

Translation assistance by Miguel Flores.

—  David Taffet