September 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Latin American, Caribbean LGBT advocates to attend Peru meeting

Carlos Bruce, Peru, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Peruvian Congressman Carlos Bruce is among those expected to speak at a meeting of LGBT rights advocates from Latin America and the Caribbean that will take place this week in the Peruvian capital. (Photo courtesy of the Congreso de la República del Perú)

LGBT rights advocates from across Latin America and the Caribbean will gather in Peru this week to discuss ways they can become more involved in politics.

Gay Peruvian Congressman Carlos Bruce; out Long Beach (Calif.) Mayor Robert García; María Rachid, a lesbian lawmaker and LGBT rights advocate from Argentina, and Tatiana Piñeros, a transgender woman who became the head of the Colombian capital of Bogotá’s tourism office in July, are among those scheduled to take part in the gathering that will take place in Lima, the Peruvian capital, from September 4-6.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute co-organized what it describes as the “first-ever gathering of LGBT political leaders from Latin American and the Caribbean” alongside Promsex, a Peruvian LGBT advocacy group.

Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBT advocacy group based in Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, also co-organized the event.

“We are honored to participate in the inaugural meeting of LGBT political leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean,” Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “Victory has a long history of empowering local leaders, and we look forward to sharing these insights with aspiring LGBT advocates across the region. Until we are free everywhere, none of us is truly free.”

Rachid, who founded the LGBT Federation of Argentina, told the Blade on Monday she welcomes the opportunity to take part in the gathering.

“The participation of LGBT activists in politics is fundamental to advancing the recognition of rights for our community and for many other communities vulnerable to discrimination,” she said.

Deivis Ventura, a Dominican LGBT rights advocate who visited D.C. earlier this year on a State Department-sponsored trip, told the Blade on Tuesday he and other Dominican activists hope to learn from their counterparts throughout the region.

“For the Dominican activists participating in this gathering, the activity already has a vital importance that will allow us to learn from the successful experiences of groups and organizations that have been able to advance the LGBT issue in the political sphere,” he said.

The meeting is the latest gathering to take place as part of the LGBT Global Development Partnership, a public-private initiative the U.S. Agency for International Development launched in April 2013.

The initiative will contribute $11 million over four years to advocacy groups in Colombia, Ecuador and other developing countries.

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in June became the latest organization to join the partnership.

“When you empower LGBT people through economics, you give economic identity to people,” NGLCC President Justin Nelson told the Blade after National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced his group had joined the LGBT Global Development Partnership. “People listen. It moves minds.”

LGBT rights gain traction in Latin America

The Lima meeting will also take place against the backdrop of the region’s increasingly visible LGBT rights movement.

Same-sex couples are able to legally marry in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico City, French Guiana, the French islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy and the Caribbean Netherlands that includes the islands of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius.

Lawmakers in the Mexican state of Coahuila on Monday overwhelmingly approved a same-sex marriage bill.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in May publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples ahead of his country’s presidential election. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, has also spoken out in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians on the Communist island.

A handful of same-sex couples in Colombia have exchanged vows since July 2013, but the country’s inspector general has challenged these unions in court.

The Ecuadorian government is in the process of implementing a law that will allow same-sex couples to legally register their civil unions. Lawmakers in neighboring Perú and Chile are also considering the issue.

The Colombian Constitutional Court on August 28 ruled gays and lesbians in the South American country can legally adopt the biological children of their same-sex partners if they meet certain requirements.

Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2012 signed a law that allows trans Argentinians to legally change their gender on official documents without surgery and an affidavit from a doctor or another medical provider.

A bill that would allow trans Chileans to legally change their name and sex without sex reassignment surgery advanced in the country’s Senate earlier this year.

Cuba in 2008 began offering free SRS under the country’s national health care system. LGBT rights advocates who oppose the Cuban government have previously noted to the Blade that less than two dozen trans people have undergone the procedure — and the Cuban National Center for Sexual Education that Mariela Castro heads determines who will receive it.

More Latin American lawmakers come out

Lawmakers in Chile and Colombia in recent days have publicly declared their homosexuality.

Cristián Loyola González, a councilman from the Chilean town of Quilaco, on Monday came out as gay and announced he had left the conservative political party of which he had been a member. He also became a spokesperson for two LGBT advocacy groups in the South American country.

“On the right there are homosexuals like me,” said Loyola in a press release from the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation. “There are in many sectors a conservatism that impede equal rights. I am coming to contribute to the cause.”

Colombian Commerce Minister Cecilia Álvarez last week acknowledged she was in a relationship with Gina Parody, who is also a member of Santos’ cabinet. Former Bogotá City Councilwoman Angélica Lozano in March became the first openly LGBT person elected to the Colombian Congress.

Bruce, who represents Lima in the Peruvian Congress, came out in May during the debate on his civil unions bill.

Jowelle Taylor de Souza, a trans Trinidadian woman, on Sunday announced she will run in the country’s parliamentary elections next year.

Anti-LGBT discrimination, violence persists

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain pervasive throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in spite of legal advances.

Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Belize are among the Caribbean and Central American countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Javed Jaghai, a gay Jamaican man who challenged his country’s anti-sodomy law, last week withdrew his lawsuit because of threats he said he and his family have received. Advocates in Puerto Rico, Brazil and other countries have also spoken out against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination and their governments’ response to it.

Colin Robinson, a Trinidadian LGBT advocate who will attend the Lima meeting, told the Blade on Tuesday he hopes the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and other organizations can work “to plan something better targeted” to English-speaking Caribbean countries “in the near future where we have a chance to recruit participants still contemplating office.”

“We have a number of LGBTI elected officials, but none are out,” Robinson told the Blade. “Events like this week’s, if tailed to the Caribbean, can help build skills and strategic thinking of a future generation of public officials who are LGBTI and allies.”

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

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