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The Gay Year in Review: Top LGBT-Related Stories from the Americas

January 3, 2011

by Javier Corrales

It was a banner year in the history of gay rights in the Americas. Here are the top-20 LGBT-related stories.

20) Open Doors: United States. The law that banned HIV-positive non-U.S. citizens from traveling or immigrating to the United States officially ended. The ban began as policy in 1987 and became law in 1993 (January 2010).

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19) The Gay Man and the Sea: Peru. Gay director Javier Fuentes-León’s film, Contracorriente, about a love story between a fisherman married to a woman and his secret affair with a man, wins the Audience Award for World Cinema at the Sundance film festival (February).

18) An alternative Bolsa Escola: Brazil. Escola Jovem LGBT, Latin America’s first “school of gay arts,” as principal Deco Rebeiro describes it, opens in Campinas. The school was spearheaded by a Brazilian NGO and is financed by the state’s secretary of culture and Brazil’s ministry of culture (March).

17) Wings for all: Chile. LAN Airlines becomes an official sponsor of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, the first time a Latin American airline sponsors a U.S. pride celebration (June).

16) La niña bonita: Cuba. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuba's President Raúl Castro, marched along with hundreds of activates in an LGBT march celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia in Havana (May).

15) Negative campaigning: Chile. The government’s National Service for Woman launched a new ad campaign to fight violence against women with the slogan: “Faggot is he who beats a woman [maricón es el que maltrata a una mujer].” The largest LGBT organization (MOVILH) approved the use of the word faggot in the ads, arguing that in Chile the term refers mostly to a “non-transparent” person rather than to a homosexual and thus, using the term is not homophobic. Others thought the campaign was homophobic. Shortly after the campaign started, variations of the expression (e.g., “faggot is he who photoshops his picture") were widely tweeted across the country (October).

14) Good words: El Salvador. President Mauricio Funes issues a presidential decree banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the public service (May).

13) Beyond words: Brazil. Government creates the National LGBT Council, a specialized agency to protect the rights of the LGBT community.

12) In the dark: Vatican City/Santiago, Chile. The Vatican's second-highest authority, Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, says during a news conference in Chile that the sex scandals haunting the Roman Catholic Church are linked to homosexuality and not celibacy among priests. "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia.”

11) Fit to a T: Costa Rica. The Supreme Electoral Court publishes a resolution allowing transsexuals to appear on their national ID with the image they “frequently display” to society. This victory for the LGBT community was a reply to a demand from a male transsexual citizen, Andrey Porras Araya, to appear in his photograph as a female.

10) Evo-lutionary science: Bolivia. Speaking at an environmental conference, Evo Morales claimed that both homosexuality and baldness can be caused by the humble chicken. Chicken producers injected fowl with female hormones and insisted that "when men eat those chickens they experience deviances in being men."

9) Fallen heroes: United States. Iowans voted to remove three of the state’s Supreme Court justices, following the court’s ruling last year that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The vote marks the first time Iowa voters have removed a Supreme Court justice since the current system began in 1962 (November).

8) Rising Heroes: Costa Rica. The Constitutional Court ordered the Supreme Elections Tribunal to discontinue preparations for a referendum scheduled for December to allow voters to decide on the future of civil unions. The referendum was petitioned by Observatorio de la Familia, a conservative group. The referendum was supported by the Catholic Church, and 150,000 voters who signed the petition to hold the referendum.

7) YouTube gets better: United States. In response to a number of students taking their lives after being bullied in school for issues pertaining to sexuality, syndicated columnist and writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry launch the “It Gets Better Project.” The project consists of creating short YouTube videos by celebrities telling young LGBT adults that that life gets better with time. By the end of 2010, the project received 5,000 YouTube submissions (September).

6) Mea Culpa, Mea Cuba: Cuba. Former president Fidel Castro, in an interview to a reporter from La Jornada, took responsibility for the persecution of Cuban gays. He admitted that there were great injustices committed against the gay community. “If someone is responsible, it’s me,” he said (August).

5) When all else fails: OAS/Chile. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the OAS ruled that Karen Atala had suffered discrimination when the courts stripped her of custody over her three children in 2004 for being in a lesbian relationship, ordering Chile to compensate Atala.

4) Virtù e fortuna: Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin comes out publicly by posting a message on website stating: ‘I am a fortunate homosexual man.”

3) "In the Navy...": United States. The Senate repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which for 17 years allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation secret. The repeal means that gays can serve in the military openly. The repeal shows the enduring partisan divide: only 8 Republican senators voting Yea, 31 voting Nay (including former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain), and 3 not voting. All Democrats voted Yea, except one who did not vote (December).

2)The city and the pillar: Mexico. In an 8-2 vote, the nation’s supreme court declares that same-sex marriages in Mexico City are constitutionally valid (August).

1) Tangomania: Argentina. Argentina became the first Latin American country (and the second country below Parallel 30, after South Africa) to legalize same-sex marriage. Fighting pressure from the Catholic and Evangelical churches, which mobilized protest marches, the government won Senate approval for new legislation that modifies article 2 of the Argentine Civil Code, which established matrimony as being between two individuals of different gender. The law replaces the expression "man and woman" with "couple". Homosexuals will have the same rights as heterosexuals, including the right to adopt, inheritance, pension rights, and other rights relating to social security. The Senate vote was 33 to 27 in favor of the measure (July).

*Javier Corrales is Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and co-editor of The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). He serves on the editorial board of Americas Quarterly.

Tags: Gay Rights

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