June 7, 2014 at 10:31 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Organization of American States adopts pro-LGBT resolution

Caludia Zea, Elizabeth Castillo, Gachetá, Colombia, gay news, Washington Blade

The Organization of American States on Thursday approved a pro-LGBT resolution during its annual meeting that took place in the Paraguayan capital. (Photo by Paola Zuluaga)

Nearly three dozen countries on Thursday backed a resolution in support of LGBT rights during the Organization of American States’ annual meeting that took place in the Paraguayan capital.

Brazil introduced the resolution — “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” — that specifically condemns “all forms of discrimination against people motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” It urges OAS countries to “eliminate, where they exist, barriers that prevent lesbians, gays and bisexuals, transgender and intersex people” from taking part in “public life” and the political process.

The resolution further calls upon member states to condemn homophobic and transphobic violence, and urges them to “strengthen national institutions with the goal of preventing them, investigating them, so that victims receive equal access to judicial protection and that those responsible face justice.” It also urges OAS countries to collect data to more accurately report rates of anti-LGBT violence.

The resolution specifically urges member states to adopt laws and other policies to ensure intersex people receive appropriate medical treatment.

Colombia is among the countries that co-sponsored the resolution that dozens of LGBT advocacy groups throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America endorsed.

“This position from the OAS is necessary because the levels of discrimination and violence in the region are alarming,” said Mauricio Albarracín Caballero, executive director of Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group.

Rosanna Marzan, a Dominican LGBT rights advocate, agreed.

“It is an extremely important victory for the entire LGBT movement in the Americas,” she told the Washington Blade.

Paraguay alongside 10 other countries signed the resolution “with reservations.”

“It was adopted by consensus, and reflects yet another step forward in the international human rights community to acknowledge that all persons are worthy of equal dignity and treatment by their governments,” said Hunter T. Carter, an American lawyer who currently represents three Chilean same-sex couples who have filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights seeking marriage rights in the South American country. “This will help in our cause for marriage equality in Latin America. It also helps move Latin America towards the end to all other forms of state action that leads to the marginalization of the LGBT community and to violence that derives from state-sponsored denigration.”

LGBT rights gain traction in the Americas

The OAS resolution comes against the backdrop of the expansion of LGBT rights throughout the region.

Same-sex couples are able to marry in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, Mexico City, 21 states and D.C., Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and the Dutch island of Saba.

The Mexican Supreme Court earlier this week ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who sought the right to marry in the state of Colima. The same tribunal last month ruled in favor of 39 people who challenged the constitutionality of a Oaxacan law that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Mexican Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who separately sought legal recourse — known as an “amparo” in the country’s legal system — that would allow them to marry in the state. Same-sex couples have also sought marriage rights in Jalisco, Chihuahua, Quintana Roo and other Mexican states.

A handful of same-sex couples Colombia have exchanged vows since last June in spite of efforts to challenge them amid the ongoing debate over the Colombian Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling that said legislators within two years had to extend to gays and lesbians the same rights that heterosexuals receive through marriage. Lawmakers in Perú and Chile continue to debate bills that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Argentina and Uruguay allow transgender people to legally change their name and gender without sex reassignment surgery. Maryland is among the 18 states alongside D.C. and Puerto Rico that have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination laws.

LGBTs gain political visibility

Peruvian Congressman Carlos Bruce, who introduced a civil unions bill, last month came out as gay. Former Bogotá City Councilwoman Angélica Lozano in March became the first out person elected to the Colombian Congress.

Two trans Chileans — Alejandra González and Zuliana Araya — in 2012 won municipal elections in the coastal city of Valparaíso and Lampa, which is outside Santiago, the country’s capital. Jaime Parada Hoyl, a prominent Chilean LGBT rights advocate, the same year won a seat on the municipal council in Providencia, a wealthy Santiago enclave.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on June 4 nominated a prominent lesbian lawyer to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster has been in his post since late last year.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last month publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples — and the country’s vice president, Angelino Garzón, on May 29 discussed his country’s LGBT rights record during a meeting at the U.N. in New York. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, has also indicated she supports nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Michelle Bachelet, Chile, Socialist Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert of Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet last year backed same-sex marriage and a trans rights bill during her presidential campaign.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said shortly before her December 2011 election that her government would review the country’s anti-sodomy law and allow a so-called conscience vote that would allow parliamentarians to consult with their constituents on the issue.

Belizean first lady Kim Simplis-Barrow has publicly spoken out against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in her Central American country in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

Anti-LGBT discrimination, violence remain pervasive

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain pervasive throughout the Americas in spite of progress in efforts to extend marriage and other rights.

Statistics from the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights indicate trans Brazilians accounted for slightly more than half of the 300 reported LGBT murder victims in the country in 2012. A report from the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays says the organization knows of at least 30 gay men who have been murdered on the island between 1997 and 2004.

Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Dominica and Guyana are among the countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

Peruvian police on Friday used tear gas against LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a rally in support of their country’s civil unions bill outside the Peruvian Congress. Paraguayan authorities on June 2 clashed with activists who protested outside the hotel at which the OAS meeting took place.

Simón Cazal of Somosgay, a Paraguayan LGBT advocacy group, told the Blade he welcomes his government’s support of the OAS resolution in spite of its reservations.

“This signifies a very important victory against homophobia and discrimination that showed its ugly face during these days,” he said. “Paraguay is going to change and advance towards a horizon of clear equality, in that no person will be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The OAS last year adopted an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination resolution during its annual meeting that took place in Guatemala.

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

1 Comment
  • In light of a long history of violent actions against LGBT people and denial of gay rights in these areas and countries, it is really heartening to hear of the OAS resolution and also about many of the gay leaders and government leaders who are gaining some ground there for gay rights.

    Jamaica has one of the worst records in this regard, so even the slightest move toward at least thinking about changing their laws is a sea change for them. Let’s hope they, and other countries, keep moving in that direction and that we no longer have the sorts of reprisals from police that are still happening in Paraguay and Peru.

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