January 15, 2018 at 7:55 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Latin America countries urged to abide by landmark LGBT rights ruling

Panama’s Supreme Court in 2017 heard oral arguments in a case in which the plaintiffs are seeking marriage rights in the country. The Panamanian government has yet to publicly say whether it will abide by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ landmark ruling in support of LGBT rights that it announced on Jan. 9, 2018.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LGBT advocacy groups across Latin America have urged their governments to abide by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ landmark ruling that recognize same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

México Igualitario, Visibles in Guatemala, Comunicado y Capacitando a Mujeres Trans in El Salvador, Fundación Igualitos in Costa Rica, Fundación Iguales in Panama, the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile and more than two dozen other groups on Monday signed a statement that notes the court “urges all the countries” that signed the American Convention on Human Rights “to embrace equality.”

Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, also endorsed the statement.

“We reaffirm the principles of freedom, equality under the law and nondiscrimination are fundamental elements to bolster development and social harmony,” it reads. “We respectfully call all people of good will to support this historic advance in the construction of a more humane society.”

The court issued its ruling on Jan. 9 after the Costa Rican government asked for an advisory opinion on whether it has an obligation to extend property rights to same-sex couples and allow trans people to change their name and gender marker on identity documents.

The Organization of American States created the Costa Rica-based court in 1979 in order to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. It’s ruling is legally binding in Costa Rica and 19 other countries — Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Suriname — that currently recognize the convention.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico City and several states in Mexico. Mexico City, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay also allow trans people to legally change their name and gender without undergoing surgery.

Costa Rican Vice President Ana Helena Chacón has said her government will abide by the ruling, even though it does not say how to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Fundación Iguales President Iván Chanis Barahona on Monday told the Washington Blade the Panamanian government had yet to publicly announce whether it will comply with the court’s ruling, even though the country’s Supreme Court in 2017 heard oral arguments in a case that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Trans rights advocates in the Dominican Republic also noted their country’s government has not announced its position.

“We hope the Dominican state takes the court’s recommendations into consideration and guarantees rights to everyone,” said Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigos, a trans advocacy group that is based in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo.

Colombia is among the Latin American countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry and transgender people can legally change their name and gender without surgery. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Diane Rodríguez, a trans woman who is president of the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations and a member of the country’s Congress, on Monday in a statement urged Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s government to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Ecuador’s constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but same-sex couples are able to legally register their relationships.

Danilo Manzano, an activist who is based in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, pointed out to the Blade on Monday the country’s Civil Registry is considering a “formal petition” that would allow a trans girl to change her name and sex. Manzano said a ruling on whether a lesbian couple’s daughter can have both women’s last names is expected to be announced on Wednesday.

“The court’s decision will allow us to also advance the marriage equality petition in a direct way,” he told the Blade.

Outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet last August introduced a bill that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. Her government has also urged lawmakers to support a measure that would allow trans Chileans who are at least 18 years old to legally change their name and gender without surgery or going before a judge.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in Chile. Bachelet’s government agreed to introduce the marriage and adoption bill as part of an agreement it reached with the LGBT advocacy group in 2016.

Chilean President-elect Sebastián Piñera will take office in March. Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents the Movement for Integration and Liberation in their marriage lawsuit, told the Blade in a previous interview that Piñera’s government will be “bound by international agreements to implement marriage equality and other legislative changes to bring justice to the LGBT community and perfect Chile’s democracy.”

Editor’s note: Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo on Tuesday told reporters the court’s decision is binding. She did not say, however, whether her government will immediately extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

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

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