Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, released a public statement on Monday in support of a bill that would legalize same-sex unions in Peru. The statement, titled “Yes to equality,” was published in the main Peruvian newspapers such as El Comercio, La República, Perú21 and Diario 26 and calls for “equal rights for all Peruvians, the inclusion of all the sectors of society, and for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Llosa was also joined by writer Santiago Roncagliolo and the president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Diego García Sayán.
The statement comes less than a month after independent Legislator Carlos Bruce introduced the bill to legalize same-sex unions. According to Bruce, “by failing to recognize same-sex couples, the Peruvian government is perpetuating discrimination and violating Article 2 of the Constitution.” The initiative was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and some political figures who believe that same-sex unions should not be recognized by the law. The bill has not yet been discussed by the Congress.
According to a national poll by the firm GFK released on Sunday, 65 percent of Peruvian citizens oppose the bill, while 26 percent are in favor. The poll revealed that the greatest opposition to the project comes from men between 40 and 70 years old. For Harvard professor Steven Levitsky, the passage of same-sex unions in Peru is only a matter of time because just like women’s rights and minority rights, marriage equality is accepted as a basic right in the Western world. “In 1996, only 27 percent of Americans supported gay marriage; now 54 percent is in favor. Change is coming to Peru,” he said.
Chile’s congress took a first step toward legislating rights for same-sex couples on April 10. If passed, President Sebastián Piñera’s Acuerdo de Vida Común (Life Partner Agreement—AVP) would allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships with notaries, granting them many of the same legal rights as married couples, such as shared health benefits, pensions and inheritances. The legislation stops short of permitting gay marriage, explicitly reserving that for heterosexual couples. Currently, Chile does not legally recognize gay couples.
President Sebastián Piñera sent the bill to Congress in August 2012, but it sat latent until Wednesday, when the Senate’s Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Committee approved the initiation of debate.
Chile, one of the more socially conservative countries in the region, has traditionally been among the last Latin American countries to adopt progressive social legislation. Only in 2004 did it legally permit divorce, and it still prohibits all abortions. Chile has been similarly slow to debate and enact gay rights laws, compared to its neighbors. Only in 1999 did Chile decriminalize gay sex, compared to Argentina and Brazil, which have allowed it since the nineteenth century.
Yet, in the past year, Chile’s gay rights movement has surged ahead. When the 2012 census gave Chileans the opportunity to declare living in a same-sex relationship for the first time, nearly 35,000 Chileans, or 0.5 percent of the population, did so—higher than in Uruguay and Argentina, both of which recently legalized gay marriage.
In early 2012, the government changed the rules on blood donation to prevent potential donors from being turned away for being gay and, in March 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the state to pay compensation to a lesbian mother who had been denied custody of her daughters by Chile's supreme court because she lived with a woman. The IACHR went further, instructing the Chilean government to educate its judiciary about gender issues. In May, Congress passed anti-discrimination legislation—often referred to as the Zamudio law, after Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man whose violent killing because of his sexual orientation propelled the law’s passage.
These consecutive milestones instigated the largest gay rights march in Chile’s history in June and put pressure on Congress this week to move toward legally recognizing gay couples.
Uruguay’s lower house passed the Ley de Matrimonio Igualitario (Marriage Equality Law) with a wide margin—81 votes in favor out of 87 total votes—last night, sending it to the Senate where it is expected to be approved. The law recognizes all marriages as legal and provides the same rights and responsibilities for both genders under a civil union.
The new law would also allow couples to decide which surname goes first when they name their children—breaking a tradition in Latin America that gives priority to the father’s name. This measure would replace Uruguay’s 1912 divorce law, which gives only women the right to break their vows without cause.
Legalizing same-sex marriage has been one of the main policy objectives of the ruling Frente Amplio (Broad Front—FA), the same party that has promulgated laws decriminalizing abortion and allowing state-controlled sales of marijuana in an attempt to blunt drug-related crime.
If the bill is signed into law, Uruguay would become the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage; Argentina was the first in 2010.
Javier Corrales and Mario Pecheny, co-editors of The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, point to growing secularization and stronger activism as key factors in the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, and Denmark have marriage equality on the books.
Seventy judges in the Federal District of Mexico underwent sensitivity training today at the Instituto Mexicano de Sexología in preparation for this Thursday, when same-sex marriage becomes legal in the district. According to the Judicial and Legal Services Council the workshops are intended to ensure that ceremonies are performed without “discrimination”.
Leticia Bonifaz, the councilor of the district, has said that two separate large-group ceremonies are planned for March 13 and 21. The Federal District passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and adoptions by same-sex couples on December 21, 2009. It is the first municipality after Buenos Aires to legalize gay marriage in Latin America.
Last week marked an important victory for gay rights in our hemisphere. Seven years after
The couple had originally planned to marry in
The Argentine marriage has now been referred to the country’s Supreme Court, but whatever the Court decides, gay couples’ right to marriage is gaining steam.
Almost five years ago,
But the most striking development is
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.