July 16, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Second USAID-backed training in Colombia scheduled

Wilson Castañera, Colombia, Caribe Afirmativo, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson Castañeda of the Colombian LBGT advocacy group Caribe Afirmativo. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute next month will conduct its second training in Colombia that is designed to teach LGBT advocates how to become involved in their country’s political process.

An invitation sent to the Washington Blade on Monday said the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, along with Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBT advocacy group that works in cities along Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, and Colombia Diversa, a national LGBT rights organization based in Bogotá, the country’s capital, will conduct the training in Cartagena from Aug. 28-Sept. 1.

Running for political office, implementing an effective media strategy and connecting with voters are among the topics that will be discussed during the four day-gathering. A public event with openly LGBT politicians and elected officials is also expected to take place.

“The strengthening of the capacities of LGBT leaders who seek to rise to public office is essential to solidify the advances towards complete equality in Colombia,” the invitation reads.

The Cartagena gathering will take place roughly three months after 30 LGBT advocates from across Colombia attended a training in Bogotá that the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, Caribe Afirmativo and Colombia Diversa co-sponsored.

The Bogotá training was the first of the LGBT Global Development Partnership, a USAID-backed public private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world, to take place. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and other groups will contribute $11 million over the next four years to LGBT advocacy groups in Colombia, Ecuador and other developing countries.

The Cartagena training will also take place slightly more than two months after gays and lesbians began to petition registrars and judges to legally recognize their relationships.

Colombia’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled same-sex couples could legally register their relationship in two years if the country’s lawmakers did not pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

Colombian lawmakers in April overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians. The court’s June 20 deadline passed amid confusion as to whether gays and lesbians could actually tie the knot in the South American country because the Constitutional Court’s decision did not include the word “marriage.”

Several notaries said they would allow same-sex couples to enter into a “solemn contract” that is similar to an agreement into which two people enter whey they purchase a home together, as opposed to a civil marriage. A Bogotá judge last week said a gay couple could tie the knot in a ceremony that is scheduled to take place on July 24.

Advocate: LGBT advocates can learn from their U.S. counterparts

Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda Castro, who visited the United States in April with a group of other Colombian LGBT rights advocates on a State Department-sponsored trip, told the Blade during an interview at the Bogotá training that he feels his fellow activists can continue to learn from their American counterparts.

“In Colombia the LGBT community remains one of the most marginalized communities,” he said. “The U.S. visit allowed us to see first-hand experiences, situations, specific examples of people and institutions and organizations. We can take some of what we experienced [there] and apply it here in Colombia.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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