April 30, 2015 at 9:06 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Overseas advocates await outcome of U.S. marriage cases

Chile, Michelle Bachelet, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, center, on April 13, 2015, signed her country’s civil unions bill into law. The head of an LGBT advocacy group in the South American country says a U.S. Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage will have “positive effects.” (Photo courtesy of Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte)

LGBT rights advocates around the world continue to await the outcome of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that could extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians across the country.

A referendum on whether to allow same-sex marriage in Ireland will take place on May 22.

Tiernan Brady, campaign director for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, an Irish LGBT advocacy group, acknowledged his organization is “in the middle of our own marriage equality campaign.” He stressed the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network nevertheless remains supportive of their U.S. counterparts’ efforts.

“Our attention has been directed more to the hills and lanes of Kerry and Donegal than the hushed halls of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Brady told the Blade. “Rest assured you still have our hearts and support but currently not our eyes and ears.”

Ramón Gómez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, told the Blade on Wednesday that he feels a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples will lay a legal and “ethical foundation in regards to human rights.”

A 2012 lawsuit that Gómez’s organization filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who were unable to marry in Chile is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet earlier this month signed a law that will allow gays and lesbians in her South American country to enter into civil unions. Her Socialist government in February announced that it would no longer oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights case.

“Any marriage equality advance in the world is going to have positive effects in the short or long-term in other countries,” Gómez told the Blade.

Alex Ali Méndez Díaz is a Mexican lawyer who represents dozens of same-sex couples who have sought marriage rights through the country’s judicial system.

He noted to the Blade the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot infringe upon rights that are guaranteed under the country’s constitution — the tribunal earlier this month ruled laws banning same-sex marriage are “discriminatory.” Méndez said a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians could provide an additional basis upon which to further discredit arguments against them.

“Without a doubt it is going to be easier to counter (them) with more arguments that have recently been expressed,” he told the Blade.

Elias Jahshan, editor of the Star Observer, an Australian LGBT newspaper, noted to the Blade the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples in his country falls under the purview of the federal government.

The Australia High Court in 2013 struck down the Australian Capital Territory’s same-sex marriage law. The ruling also said members of the Australian Parliament can amend the country’s Marriage Act to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott — who has a lesbian sister — opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“A ruling in support of same-sex marriage rights from the U.S. Supreme Court could potentially have an effect on the push for marriage equality in Australia, but not a huge impact,” Jahshan told the Blade. “This is largely because the context is very different.”

Jahshan added Australian same-sex marriage advocates continue to closely watch the Irish referendum.

“Australians are also aware that should Ireland’s referendum be successful, we would be the last majority-English speaking nation where not a single one of its jurisdictions or states has marriage equality in place,” he said.

Gays and lesbians are able to legally marry in 37 states and D.C., Canada, Mexico City and the Mexican state of Coahuila, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Netherlands Antilles, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Iceland, Scotland, England, Wales, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in February signed his country’s same-sex marriage law that will take effect in 2017. Opponents of a gay nuptials and adoption bill that Slovenian lawmakers approved last month are seeking a referendum on it.

Vietnam does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, but a law that allows gay and lesbian weddings to take place took effect on Jan. 1. Lawmakers in Taiwan have debated the issue for more than a decade.

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

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