The Worldwide Fight for Civil and Gay Rights in Catholic Countries

There’s something shocking about the fact that heavily Catholic countries are granting rights to their gay citizens that Californians are fighting to deny them.  Land of the free and the brave, indeed.

[My short list below is not comprehensive.  Here’s the list that is available on Wikipedia of which countries have adopted laws that extend or protect the civil rights of their gay citizens.]

According to the BBC, “In Latin America, only Uruguay has legalised civil unions nationwide and allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.  A handful of cities – in Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia – allow gay unions.”

Mexico City (from the same article I just quoted, which was written back in March, when the law went into effect):

The law, which was passed by the city’s local assembly in December, gives gay people full marital rights, including the right to adopt.

Several gay couples are now expected to register to get married as early as next week.

Mexico City is one of the first capitals in Latin America to fully recognise gay marriages. […]

With this law – and previous legalisation on abortion and some form of euthanasia – the Mexican capital has become a liberal and progressive island in what remains a mostly conservative nation, says the BBC’s Julian Miglierini in Mexico City.

But local gay activists say homophobic attacks are still frequent across the country, where people continue to face discrimination in the workplace for being gay or are attacked when displaying public affection to a person of the same sex, our correspondent adds.

Both the Catholic Church and conservative groups oppose the legislation, and the centre-right government even tried to get a ruling by the Supreme Court to block Mexico City from issuing gay marriage licences; they have so far been unsuccessful.

Despite the move in the capital, a gay marriage law at a federal level in Mexico remains unlikely.

Judith Vazquez says: “Our real battle is with our people in Mexico… Now we will have to leave our symbolic closet because we will be [considered] citizens and we have to go out to live in freedom.”

Argentina (from Yahoo! News):

Argentina became the first Latin American nation to legalize gay marriage Thursday, granting same-sex couples all the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage brings to heterosexuals.

The law’s passage — a priority for President Cristina Fernandez’s government — has inspired activists to push for similar laws in other countries, and a wave of gay weddings are expected in Buenos Aires. Some gay business leaders are predicting an economic ripple effect from an increase in tourism among gays and lesbians who will see Argentina as an even more attractive destination.

But it also carries political risks for Fernandez and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner. The vote divided their governing coalition, and while gay rights have strong support in the capital, anti-gay feelings still run strong in much of Argentine society, where the vast majority of people are Roman Catholic. […]

“Today’s historic vote shows how far Catholic Argentina has come, from dictatorship to true democratic values, and how far the freedom-to-marry movement has come, as 12 countries on four continents now embrace marriage equality,” said Evan Wolfson, who runs the U.S. Freedom to Marry lobby.

Wolfson urged U.S. lawmakers to follow suit: “America should lead, not lag, when it comes to treating everyone equally under the law.”

Gay activists in neighboring Chile hope Argentina’s milestone will improve chances for a gay-marriage law currently in committee in their own Congress. […]

Activists in Paraguay plan to propose a similar law in October, said Martin Viveros of the group Somosgay. And in Uruguay, gays unsatisfied with the partial civil-union rights are preparing legislation to replace “man and woman” with references to “spouse” throughout the civil code.

Now, Poland (MSNBC via the AP):

Thousands of gays and lesbians from around Europe marched Saturday through Poland’s capital to demand equal rights and more tolerance toward homosexuals in this heavily Roman Catholic nation.

The parade, part of the EuroPride gay rights festival, is meant to give a boost to the fledgling gay rights movement in Poland. Gay rights were strongly repressed during the communist era, and gays and lesbians have struggled since communism fell 20 years ago for acceptance in a society still strongly influenced by the church.

Let’s compare all of this to “Citing same-sex marriage bill, Washington Archdiocese ends foster-care program” in Washington, D.C. (from The Washington Post):

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District rather than license same-sex couples, the first fallout from a bitter debate over the city’s move to legalize same-sex marriage. […]

City officials knew of no other faith-based groups that said their city contracts were in jeopardy.

As Feministing says,

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which threatened to abandon their contracts for providing social services in DC if gay marriage became law, has already ended its foster care program. And starting yesterday Catholic Charities no longer provides benefits to spouses of new employees or those who are not currently enrolled in a health care plan. Because opposing gay marriage is way more important than the health care of employee’s families.

These moves are despicable. And attempts by the Archdiocese to blame the new same sex marriage law are ridiculous. The law didn’t force the Archdiocese to abandon children in foster care or screw over their employee’s families. The blame sits squarely on the shoulders of church leadership that’s decided to prioritize a commitment to discrimination over valuable social services work.

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