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Colombia marriage deadline approaches

Some notaries and judges will refuse to allow gays to register relationships

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Colombia, Senate, gay news, Washington Blade
Colombia, Senate, gay news, Washington Blade

The Colombian Senate (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Even though same-sex couples in Colombia will be able to legally register their relationships on Friday, it remains unclear whether some notaries and even judges will allow them to do so.

The country’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled gays and lesbians can legally register their relationships after June 20 if lawmakers failed to extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage. The Colombian Senate in April overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed same-sex couples to tie the knot in the South American country.

Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, executive director of Colombia Diversa, an LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Monday that some notaries have already said they will not marry same-sex couples after the court’s deadline passes. They would instead allow them to enter into a “solemn contract” that is similar to an agreement between two people who buy a house together.

“This in the view of Colombia Diversa does not comply with the Constitutional Court’s order,” Sánchez said.

Colombia Diversa and other LGBT advocacy groups are advising couples who encounter a notary or a judge who refuses to allow them to register their relationships–or enter into a civil marriage as Sánchez and other activists have described it–to petition a court to reverse the decision. Lina Cuéllar, director of Sentiido, an LGBT website she co-publishes in Bogotá, the country’s capital, told the Blade she expects some notaries and judges will accommodate gays and lesbians in the same way they treat heterosexual couples.

She said they will follow the court’s order, but it remains unclear how exactly they will interpret it.

“It is difficult to state concretely what is going to happen after June 20,” Cuéllar told the Blade.

Argentina is among the 12 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Gays and lesbians will be able to tie the knot in Uruguay and New Zealand in August.

Brazilian lawmakers have yet to consider a nationwide same-sex marriage bill in spite of a ruling from the country’s National Council of Justice last month that said registrars in the South American nation cannot deny marriage licenses to gay couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court later this month will issue rulings on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Advocates remain critical of government’s response to marriage debate

Dr. Zayuri Tibaduiza, an advisor to Vice President Angelino Garzón, told the Blade during an interview last month at her Bogotá office the Colombian government respects both the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the Senate’s vote against the same-sex marriage bill. Advocates remain critical of President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration for what they maintain is its continued silence on the issue.

“There is a general discontent on how the government managed the situation, since they could have legislated on this topic,” Cuéllar said. “They instead waited until the Constitutional Court’s deadline when nothing could have been done.”

Even though she said one can describe the tribunal’s ruling as “ambiguous,” Sánchez told the Blade it did not explicitly deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

“As of June 20, we are going to put this interpretation to the test,” she said. “We hope it will hold up because it is the one that recognizes equality for couples.”

Centro de Cuidadanía LGBTI Sebastián Romero, The Sebastián Romero LGBT Community Center, Teusaquillo section, Bogotá, Colombia, gay news, Washington Blade, Bogota

Centro de Cuidadanía LGBTI Sebastián Romero (The Sebastián Romero LGBT Community Center) in the Teusaquillo section of Bogotá. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Laura, a transgender woman who works at the Sebastián Romero LGBT Community Center in the Teusaquillo area of Bogotá that is named in honor of the first openly gay person elected to political office in Colombia told the Blade last month many people have what she described as a “limited understanding” of the same-sex marriage debate.

She noted during the same interview that anti-trans discrimination, homelessness and general mistreatment of LGBT people on the streets are among the problems that she and her colleagues continue to confront.

A report that Colombia Diversa released last month indicates 58 of the reported 280 LGBT Colombians who were murdered between 2011-2012 were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) noted in a separate report that 61 Colombian trans women have been reported murdered between 2005-2011.

“There are those who are definitely not interested in the (same-sex marriage campaign,) but simply want to gain their rights,” Laura said.

Opposition to same-sex marriage remains strong in Colombia, but Cuéllar said the “equality for all” message that came from the campaign in support of the issue has had a positive effect.

“A lot of allies have joined the cause,” Cuéllar said. “This has helped to widen the scope of what equality means in a country like Colombia.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alfredo Sarabia Quintero

    June 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    This is so sad to know about all the murdered to those people… I hope everything goes better in Colombia and I hope they can approve that law for the Gay marrige…

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World

Jamaica man attacked after using gay dating app

Victim’s penis partially severed before he was set on fire

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A Jamaican and Pride flag fly on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Oct. 15, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson's Facebook page)

An 18-year-old man in Jamaica remains hospitalized in critical condition after he was targeted on a gay dating app.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports the victim on Oct. 11 went to a neighborhood in Montego Bay, a resort city that is the capital of Jamaica’s St. James Parish, to meet the man with whom he was speaking.

The newspaper reports the man and two other men abducted the victim, robbed him and partially severed his penis before they set him on fire. Officials said the three men took his cell phone and used his bank card to withdraw money from his account.

“He is a very lucky young man because although they left him in a critical condition, he managed to make his way to a security checkpoint in the community where they assisted him to the hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition,” a local police officer told the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported a 43-year-old man in St. James Parish disappeared in January 2020 after he went to meet someone with whom he had spoken on a gay dating website. Authorities later found the man’s body, and two men have been charged with his murder.

Violence against LGBTQ Jamaicans remains commonplace. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in the country.

J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBTQ rights group, has condemned the latest attack.

“Like all well-thinking Jamaicans at this time, JFLAG is outraged at the recent attack on an 18-year-old man in St. James,” tweeted J-FLAG on Sunday. “His attackers must be brought to justice.”

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Botswana attorney general seeks to recriminalize homosexuality

High Court heard case on Oct. 12

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(Public domain photo)

GABORONE, Botswana — On June 11, 2019, Botswana moved toward being a state that no longer held some of its citizens (and, by extension, visitors) as criminals if they identified within the LGBTQ spectrum. However, the government didn’t take too long before it declared its intention to appeal the High Court judgment that asserted that consensual same-sex sexual activity in private was not to be a criminal act.

The appeal hearing took place on Oct. 12.

There are some key things to understand about what the High Court did for people in Botswana. The judgment, written and delivered by Justice Leburu, not only put a clear delineation between the state’s powers to intrude in people’s private sexual lives, but it also stated that laws that served no purpose in the governance of the people they oversaw were most likely worthy of “a museum peg” more than being active laws of the land.

In the hearing on Oct. 9, a full bench of five judges of the Court of Appeal was treated to the government’s case—as presented by advocate Sydney Pilane of the Attorney General’s Chambers—along with hearing the rebuttals from the legal counsel representing Letsweletse Motshidiemang, who brought the original case against the government, and LEGABIBO, an NGO admitted as amicus curiae, a friend of the court. The appeal, two years in the making, would have been expected to be based on facts rather than opinions of what could and could not be accepted by hypothetical Batswana. Pilane even went so far as to contest that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s utterances about how people in same-sex relationships were “suffering in silence” were taken out of context as he was talking about gender-based violence and not endorsing their relationships.

The 2019 ruling of the High Court, the most supreme court of incidence in the country, not only declared people who were or had interest in engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity not criminals, but it also allowed non-queer people to engage in sex acts that would otherwise be considered “against the order of nature” freely. The latter clause had often been interpreted as being solely about non-heterosexuals but on greater interrogation one realizes that any sex act that doesn’t result in the creation of a child was considered against this ‘order of nature’ and that nullified much of heterosexual sexual exploration—further painting these clauses as out of touch with contemporary Botswana as Leburu expressed.

In some of his appeal arguments, Pilane stated that Batswana “do not have a problem with gay people”, yet he based his contention on the fact that Batswana “respect the courts’ decisions;” as such they would not take up arms at the court’s decision to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Pilane maintained that the decision to decriminalize should be left to the Parliament on the recommendation of the courts. The bench was swift to query whether a body of politicians elected by a majority would be the best representatives of a minority that was oppressed by laws that the very politicians benefitted from.

Botswana’s legal system allows for the High Court ruling to remain the law of the land until such a point as it’s struck down. The Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Batswana’s sexual liberties will be a nail in the proverbial coffin of residual colonial sex-related laws plaguing Botswana. This will not be the end by any means though. Where the attorney general can form a case stating that decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations could be likened to people locking themselves in their houses with animals and having their way with them, we know that mindset changes need to be prioritized to ensure that all Batswana understand their constitutionally protected rights to privacy, expression, and freedom of association as relates to their personal and sexual lives.

The 2010 Employment Act of Botswana already protects people from being discriminated against based on their sex or gender identity. The nation’s sexual violence laws were made gender neutral, thus covering non-consensual sex (rape) in all its possibilities. In upholding the ruling of the High Court, the Court of Appeal will allow the LGBTQ and SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics) movements in Botswana some respite as attention is then channeled toward other pressing matters such as name changes, access to healthcare, and other culturally pertinent issues.

The Court of Appeal is expected to hand down a judgement following their deliberations in 4-6 weeks (mid to late November), however, this remains at their discretion. As it stands, since the High Court ruling in 2019, Botswana has experienced increased social accommodation for LGBTQ matters and figures—however, this is not to say there have not been any negative instances. With the continued sensitization, the expectation is that the courts, the government and NGO players will all contribute to a broad, national, culturing of LGBTQ rights in Botswana devoid of colonial residues.

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U.S. regains seat on U.N. Human Rights Council

Previous administration withdrew from body in 2018

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global forum, Human Rights Day, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

The U.S. on Thursday regained a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, three years after the previous administration withdrew from it.

The U.S. won election to the council alongside Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and United Arab Emirates.

The council in recent years has emerged as a champion of LGBTQ rights around the world, even though Cuba and other countries with poor human rights records are among the 47 countries that are currently members. Venezuela and Russia are also on the council.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first of more than two dozen anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, remains in custody and faces eight years in prison. The Washington Blade last month spoke with several Venezuelan LGBTQ activists who said persecution forced them to flee to neighboring Colombia.

Russia’s crackdown on LGBTQ rights and the Kremlin’s close relationship with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov continue to spark criticism around the world.

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley during a 2018 press conference that announced the U.S. withdrawal from the council noted Cuba and other countries “with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights record” are members. Haley also said the council has a “chronic bias against” Israel.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.  Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday in a statement said LGBTQ rights will be one of the U.S.’s focuses once it officially rejoins the council on Jan. 1.

“Our initial efforts as full members in the Council will focus on what we can accomplish in situations of dire need, such as in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen,” she said. “More broadly, we will promote respect for fundamental freedoms and women’s rights, and oppose religious intolerance, racial and ethnic injustices, and violence and discrimination against members of minority groups, including LGBTQI+ persons and persons with disabilities.  And we will oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country.”

President Biden in February issued a memorandum that commits the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The previous White House tapped then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead a campaign that encouraged countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, but many LGBTQ activists in the U.S. and around the world have questioned its effectiveness. The Washington Blade in August filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department that seeks Grenell’s emails around his work on the decriminalization initiative.

“The President and Sec. Blinken have put democracy and human rights—essential cornerstones of peace and stability—at the center of our foreign policy,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday after the U.S. regained a seat on the council. “We have eagerly and earnestly pursued these values in our relationships around the world.” 

“We will use our position to renew the council’s focus on the core human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Charter, which undergird the council’s founding,” added Price at the beginning of his daily press briefing. “Our goal is to hold the U.N. Human Rights Council accountable to the highest aspirations of its mandate and spur the actions necessary to carry them out.” 

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