January 31, 2017 at 7:31 am EST | by Staff reports
Blade announces 2017 Latin America reporting project
IDAHOT, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Havana, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

A march in support of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia took place in Havana on May 14, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers will travel throughout Latin America in 2017 as part of the newspaper’s ongoing commitment to covering LGBT issues around the world.

Lavers will report from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras from Jan. 28-Feb. 13. The Blade is also planning to report from Cuba, Colombia and Chile and attend LGBT and intersex conferences throughout Latin America in the coming months.

Lavers will interview LGBT activists, politicians and candidates while in Central America. He will also report on anti-LGBT violence and discrimination that remains rampant throughout Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

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The Honduran Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in October 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

President Trump last week signed two executive orders that spur the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and expedite the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Activists with whom the Blade has spoken say these mandates will have a sweeping impact throughout Central America.

“This new project will shine a light on the challenges and progress in Latin America related to LGBT rights,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff. “We will work to hold elected officials accountable, report on hate crimes, expose the cruelty of HIV criminalization laws and much more.”

LGBT rights vary in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, Colombia and Chile. Here is an overview of the situation in each country.

– Same-sex couples are not legally recognized.
– Anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws do not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
– Consensual same-sex sexual relations are legal.
– Transgender people can legally change their name without surgery. They cannot legally change their gender.
– Sandra Morán in 2016 became the first openly LGBT person elected to the Guatemalan Congress.

El Salvador
– The Salvadoran constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
– Anti-discrimination law includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
– Penal code includes enhanced penalties for anti-LGBT hate crimes, but activists say prosecutors rarely apply them.
– Consensual same-sex sexual relations are legal.

– The Honduran constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
– Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is banned, but activists say these provisions have little impact.
– Consensual same-sex sexual relations are legal.
– Erick Martínez, a gay activist from Tegucigalpa, is a candidate for the Honduran Congress.

– The Cuban constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
– Lawmakers in 2013 approved a bill that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.
– Consensual same-sex sexual relations are legal.
– The country’s national healthcare system has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries since 2008. Independent LGBT activists insist only a few dozen trans people have been able to undergo the procedure.
– Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, publicly champions LGBT and intersex issues.

– Same-sex couples can legally marry and adopt children.
– Discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal.
– Trans people have been able to legally change their gender without surgery since 2015.
– A peace agreement between the government and leftist FARC rebels that the Colombian Congress approved in November 2016 specifically includes LGBT Colombians.
– Angélica Lozano in 2014 became the first openly lesbian woman elected to the Colombian Congress.

– Same-sex couples can enter into civil unions, but not marriage.
– Discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity are illegal.
– A bill that would allow trans people to legally change their name and gender without surgery has been introduced in the Chilean Congress.
– The Chilean Ministry of Health in 2015 urged doctors to no longer perform surgeries that “normalize” the sex of intersex children.
– Jaime Parada, a councilman in the Providencia section of the Chilean capital of Santiago, is among the growing number of high-profile LGBT and intersex activists.

Latin American countries champion LGBT rights at U.N.

Chile and Colombia are among the Latin American countries that have championed LGBT and intersex issues internationally over the last decade.

Both countries, along with Uruguay and Argentina, co-sponsored a resolution against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted in 2014. Chile and the U.S. in 2015 co-hosted the first-ever U.N. Security Council meeting on an LGBT-specific issue that focused on the so-called Islamic State’s persecution of LGBT Syrians and Iraqis.

Chile and Colombia and other Latin American countries co-sponsored a 2016 resolution that approved the creation of the U.N.’s first-ever LGBT and intersex rights watchdog. Cuba and El Salvador are among the nations that voted for it.

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LGBT rights advocates gather outside the office of the Chilean Civil Registry and Identification Service in Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 22, 2015, to celebrate their country’s civil unions law taking effect. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Chile is among the contributors to the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the State Department manages with the U.S. Agency for International Development that seeks to promote LGBT and intersex rights around the world. It remains unclear whether Trump will allow this initiative, which the Obama administration launched in 2011, to continue.

El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia and Chile are among the more than 40 countries to which Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry has traveled since he assumed his position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in April 2015. The Trump administration has not publicly commented on whether it plans to eliminate Berry’s position.

The D.C.-based Organization of American States has adopted anti-discrimination resolutions that include sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/AIDS status. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which the Organization of American States created in 1959 as a way to promote human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere, regularly holds hearings on LGBT and intersex issues.

A Chilean advocacy group in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the commission on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which the Organization of American States created, in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a lesbian judge in Chile who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband because of her sexual orientation. The Chilean government subsequently apologized to Atala, paid her $70,000 and offered to provide her with medical and psychological care.

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet speaks at a United Nations LGBT Core Group event in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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