March 29, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Peruvian official backs civil unions bill

Antonio Capurro, Peru, LGBT rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Peruvian LGBT rights activist Antonio Capurro holds a sign that reads “And where are our rights? We are also citizens.” (Photo courtesy of Antonio Capurro)

A Peruvian official last week recommended lawmakers in the South American country approve a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Public Defender Eduardo Vega Luna told Congressman Juan Carlos Eguren Neuenschwander, president of the Commission of Justice and Human Rights in the Peruvian Congress, in a March 26 letter that legislators should approve the measure.

Vega also told Eguren that lawmakers should also support other efforts that would extend rights to LGBT Peruvians.

Roger Rodríguez Santander, director general of human rights for the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, also backs civil unions measures that Congressmen Carlos Bruce, Martha Chávez and Julio Rosas have introduced.

“The report also cited an approximation of the situation of the fundamental rights of LGBTI people in the country and recommends to the Executive Branch and the Congress the adoption of public policies directed to overcome the state of vulnerability of the fundamental rights of this important part of the population,” wrote Vega.

Antonio Capurro, director of Plural Perú, an organization that supports the civil unions bill, applauded Vega.

“We salute the immediate response of the public defender, that has been together with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, one of the premier public institutions in defense of equal rights for same-sex couples,” Capurro told the Washington Blade. “Setting aside religious beliefs to offer citizenship and rights to the entire population, which also incudes us. It is what can be done within a secular state because policies are not dictated by the beliefs of who governs, but rather by what the law says.”

Clauco Velásquez Wong of the Homosexual Community of Hope in the Loreto Region, an LGBT advocacy group based in the city of Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon, told the Blade the report illustrates “a picture of the problem concerning the fundamental rights that affect this community.”

Vega issued his report ahead of a debate on Bruce’s civil unions bill that is expected to take place in the Justice and Human Rights Commission of the Peruvian Congress in the coming weeks. The measure would extend economic benefits to same-sex couples, but not adoption rights.

A 2013 poll found 65 percent of Peruvians oppose any efforts to allow same-sex couples to enter into a civil union. Lima Archbishop Juan Luís Cipriani and other leading Peruvian religious figures are among those who oppose Bruce’s measure.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humana opposes civil unions. Two of his opponents in the country’s 2011 presidential election – Keiko Fujimori and Alejandro Toledo – backed the issue.

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010, also supports the civil unions bill.

Velásquez’s group and other Peruvian LGBT rights organizations have begun to share an ad campaign in support of the measure.

“I have the right to love anyone I want,” says a woman in the spot.

Neighboring Brazil, along with Uruguay and Argentina, is among the more than a dozen countries in which gays and lesbians can legally marry. Same-sex couples on Saturday began exchanging vows in England and Wales.

A handful of same-sex couples have tied the knot in Colombia since last July, but the country’s inspector general has spearheaded efforts to challenge them.

A measure that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in Chile in January advanced in the country’s Senate.

“We remain ready to combine all of our forces to achieve fair policies for our community,” Velásquez, who is among the Latin American LGBT rights advocates who visited the U.S. earlier this year on a State Department-sponsored trip, told the Blade.

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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