With just over two months to go before voting in Peru’s presidential elections on April 10, candidates are now devoting their attention to a social concern that has not been a front-and-center issue in national politics. The focus on same-sex marriage comes on the heels of disparaging remarks made on January 24 by Bishop Emeritus of Chimbote Luis Bambarén that were directed at the gay community. He also stated that discussion on “useless things like gay marriage” was a ploy by politicians to garner more votes.
Currently leading in polls, former president Alejandro Toledo of the Perú Posible party has made statements suggesting that he is open to civil unions and working “toward an inclusive society.” Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Alianza por el Gran Cambio and Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza 2011 have both declared themselves in favor of civil unions as well. According to recent CPI and Datum polls, Toledo is in the lead by only a few percentage points over Luis Castañeda of Solidaridad Nacional with Keiko Fujimori in third place. Similar statements have been made by Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros of Fuerza Social. Mr. Cuadros has declared that he is in favor of reforming Peru’s laws to allow for same-sex marriages. Other candidates have not gone as far. Among them, Catañeda has proposed inheritance benefits while calling changing current laws to permit same-sex unions “a crazy… idea.”
Political analysts in Peru note that the gay vote played a key role in the recent election of Susana Villarán as mayor of Lima and so will now play a similar role in the presidential election. According to Fernando Vivas of BBC Mundo, the increasing role of the gay vote in Peru has helped to raise the issue of gay rights above other topics like illiteracy and poverty eradication in the election debate.
President Tabaré Vázquez signed a bill earlier this month permitting couples in any legal union, including same-sex couples in civil unions, to adopt children, but the law continues to cause confusion according to local reports. Lawyers and judges have criticized the law for lacking specifics and granting the Uruguayan Institute for the Children and Adolescents (INAU) too much power in the new adoption procedures.
Uruguay’s Senate unanimously approved the adoption law on September 9, 2009, as English-language media highlighted the move as a triumph for gay rights in Latin America. The country has passed a number of progressive laws in the past year, including legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. On October 12, 2009, the Senate also approved a bill that legalizes sex changes for people older than age 18 and permits citizens to change their genders on official identification documents.
There are, however, limits to Uruguay’s progressive legislation. Referring to the new adoption law, Pérez Manrique, president of the Second Session of the Court of Appeal of Family Affairs said, “On the whole, there is a conservative attitude among the legislators in not finding the final solution to all of this: that is approving same-sex marriage.”
After the Civil Registry Office warned that allowing people to officially change their names and genders would enable same-sex couples to marry, the Senate included an amendment in the sex-change law that strictly prohibits same-sex marriage. In November 2008, President Vázquez went against his political party in vetoing a law that would have decriminalized abortion.
Uruguay’s Senate approved on Wednesday a controversial law that enables same-sex couples to adopt children after at least four years of cohabitation. This measure follows the Ley de Union Concubinaria (Law on Civil Unions) that passed in January 2008 and grants same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, pending compliance with certain stipulations.
In response, opponents to the law voiced concerns through the Archbishop of Montevideo, Nicolás Cotugnoover, who, along with the Partido Nacional said that the measure disrespects “human nature itself.” Government officials defend the law, saying that it will simplify adoption procedures and increase transparency.
The procedure is to be regulated by the Uruguayan Institute for the Children and Adolescents (INAU) yet, like with heterosexual couples, will still have to be authorized by a court.
The law had failed to muster enough votes for passage in the Senate in July, and passed the Chamber of Representatives on August 27. Yesterday, the new bill was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 17 to 23 with all senators from Frente Amplio and Partido Colorado supporting it. The bill is now on the desk of President Tabaré Vázquez, waiting for his action.
President Vázquez signed the adoption bill into law. Click here for an October 27 update.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.