June 28, 2013 at 10:02 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay advocates outside U.S. applaud Supreme Court rulings
Louisa Wall, New Zealand, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

New Zealand Parliamentarian Louisa Wall (Photo courtesy of the office of Louisa Wall)

LGBT rights advocates around the world joined their American counterparts in celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8.

“This is a fantastic outcome from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, an Irish LGBT rights group, said. “The ruling is a pivotal moment in the achievement of equality for lesbian and gay people in the U.S. and the decision will echo across the world.”

A commission charged with reforming the Irish constitution in April overwhelmingly approved a recommendation to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore last Friday said a referendum on the issue will take place in 2014.

The British House of Lords continues to debate a proposal that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales.

Andy Wasley, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT advocacy group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade on Thursday his organization hopes “we’ll be celebrating too within the next few weeks.”

“It’s heartening to see a more enlightened attitude towards the rights of 19 million lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from the Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re delighted for those in California who can now dust off their wedding plans and look forward to their special day.”

Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, a lawyer who represented three same-sex couples in the Mexican state of Oaxaca whom local authorities denied marriage licenses in 2011 and 2012, agreed.

The Mexican Supreme Court in February released its ruling that found the Oaxacan law against same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The three couples whom Méndez represented who petitioned the Mexican judicial system to ensure local authorities would protect their constitutional rights exchanged vows shortly after the country’s highest court announced its decision. Chihuahua and Baja California del Norte that includes the city of Tijuana are among the five other Mexican states in which same-sex marriage efforts are also underway.

“The decision from the (U.S. Supreme) Court is great news,” Méndez told the Blade. “Without a doubt it represents an advance and at the same time it is the realization of the international trend for equality and not to discriminate against the LGBTTTIQ community.”

Canada, Argentina, Iceland, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and South Africa currently allow same-sex marriage.

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

Brazil’s National Council of Justice last month said registrars cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians in neighboring Colombia last Thursday began to apply for civil marriage licenses, even though it remains unclear whether a 2011 ruling from the country’s highest court allows registrars and judges to issue them.

Louisa Wall, the New Zealand parliamentarian who introduced her country’s same-sex marriage bill that received final approval in April, told the Blade she is “incredibly proud” of LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. for “their persistent, progressive and inclusive pursuit of equality under the law.”

“I am also buoyed by the reaction to the decision by President Obama and his directive to officials to identify laws that this decision is relevant to and to expeditiously implement the necessary changes to guarantee legal equality for all couples,” Wall added.

Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said the Supreme Court decisions “sends a powerful message” to his country’s lawmakers on the issue.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision sends a direct message to Australian politicians that our law against same-sex marriage violates basic principles of equality and fair treatment must be removed,” he said.

LGBT rights advocates in other countries in which same-sex couples cannot legally marry echoed Croome.

Three gay Chilean couples who had been denied marriage licenses last September filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after the South American country’s Supreme Court ruled against them.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh,) a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement on Wednesday the Supreme Court decisions “changed the political and cultural context in relation to same-sex marriage.” The organization added it feels the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will certainly take these changes into account when it considers the case of the three gay Chilean couples.

“The signal given today by the U.S. Supreme Court is that the days of homophobic laws like DOMA are numbered,” Movilh said. “This is a process that nobody can stop.”

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Ugandan activvist Frank Mugisha (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT rights advocate, also welcomed the rulings.

He and other activists in Uganda and around the world have criticized the country’s lawmakers for supporting the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

Mugisha, whom then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored last summer at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, said he feels the Supreme Court decisions “weakens the extreme religious conservatives” whom he categorized as exporting “hate to Africa and Uganda.”

“I celebrate every step towards equality, especially in the United States,” Mugisha told the Blade hours after President Obama applauded the rulings and responded to a question about the criminalization of homosexuality in Senegal during a press conference in the Senegalese capital with the country’s president. “Although our fight in Uganda is at the first step and not about marriage equality, due to the global village, equality for same-sex couples in the United States in certain ways adulterates homophobia in Uganda as Ugandans get used to gay people being normal globally.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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