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Inter-American court rules in favor of lesbian religion teacher in Chile

Sandra Pavez Pavez fired in 2007



Sandra Pavez Pavez (Photo courtesy of Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Wednesday ruled Chile is responsible for the discriminatory treatment of a teacher who was removed from her position in 2007 because she is a lesbian.

Sandra Pavez Pavez had worked as a Catholic religion teacher since 1985 at Colegio Municipal Cardenal Antonio Samoré in San Bernardo, a city that is just south of the country’s capital of Santiago. The Chilean Catholic Church on July 25, 2007, revoked her certification that the Chilean Ministry of Education required to work as a religion teacher.

The reason?

Pavez came out as a lesbian after a rumor indicated she was in a relationship with another woman. Pavez also refused to undergo psychological and psychiatric therapies the church offered her in order to change her sexual orientation.

The clergy acted under the Ministry of Education’s Decree 924, which the Pinochet dictatorship issued in 1983, that “regulates religion classes in educational establishments” and empowers churches to decide who may or may not teach the subject.

El Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), Chile’s main LGBTQ rights group, appealed the decision to the San Miguel Court of Appeals. It was rejected and the Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

Both Chilean courts ruled Pavez had not suffered discrimination under Decree 924, so Movilh sued Chile in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

More than a decade later, the court ruled “the State of Chile is responsible for the violation of the rights to equality and non-discrimination, personal liberty, privacy and work, recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Sandra Pavez Pavez, for the discriminatory treatment she suffered … based on her sexual orientation.”

“At no time were the effects that this measure would have on Sandra Pavez Pavez’s personal life or on her teaching vocation taken into account,” reads the decision. “The court determined that the right to work was compromised to the extent that, through the reassignment of functions, her teaching vocation was undermined and constituted a form of job demotion.”

As part of the resolution, the court ordered comprehensive reparation measures that include a public act of recognition of international responsibility and guarantees of non-repetition.

Chile is also required to amend its policies towards educational institutions, pay Pavez $35,000 in material and non-material damages and another $30,000 in costs and expenses.

‘This is a historic moment’

Pavez retired in January without being able to return to the classroom.

“I am very happy because from now on, with this sentence, in no country in America will teachers, and in particular religion teachers, be able to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Pavez. “Religious freedom and the right of parents to educate their children can no longer be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ people. This is a historic moment not for me, but for all discriminated people.”

“It was 15 years of struggle after my country denied me the right to practice the profession I studied and loved so much,” she added. “I regret that the discrimination I suffered at the hands of the church and the Supreme Court was accompanied by the total silence of successive governments in Chile, which never showed solidarity with my cause. I trust that the current government will turn things around and fully comply with the sentence.”

Movilh President Rolando Jiménez said “we are in the presence of an act of justice in the face of some of the most brutal abuses suffered by a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in Chile.”

“In an unprecedented event in the world, Sandra Pavez has defeated the State, but also all the churches in the country that last year united for the first time in its history to appeal to the Inter-American Court to deny rights to the teacher under an alleged religious freedom,” added Jiménez. “The court has been clear, the State cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, nor can it allow churches to do so. This is a landmark ruling, a double triumph over religious and State abuses.”

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Switzerland marriage equality law takes effect

Voters last September overwhelmingly approved ‘Marriage for All’ law



(Public domain photo)

A law that allows same-sex couples to legally marry in Switzerland took effect on Friday.

Swiss voters last September voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “Marriage for All” law.

Maria von Känel of Regenbogenfamilien (Rainbow Families) on Friday posted to her Facebook page a picture of her and her wife with a marriage license and a message that said “the celebrations can begin.”

Neighboring Austria, Germany and France are among the European countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Scott Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein who is openly gay, is married to Tim Gill.

“Today we celebrate marriage for all,” tweeted the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Friday. “Congratulations to Switzerland on this historic day.”

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Brittney Griner trial begins in Moscow

WNBA star faces up to 10 years in prison



(Screenshot courtesy of Russian television)

The trial of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner began on Friday in Moscow.

Russian media reports indicate authorities initially did not allow journalists into the court room, but two reporters were eventually able to enter. The Washington Post reported U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and other American diplomats were present.

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department later determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 14 spoke with Cherelle Griner. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan this week said he has also spoken with her.

Officials with the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on June 13 met with Brittney Griner’s teammates to discuss her detention and efforts to secure her release.

Brittney Griner on June 18 was unable to speak with her wife on their fourth anniversary because the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that she called went unanswered. A State Department spokesperson later admitted a “logistical error” prevented Brittney Griner from speaking with Cherelle Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

The Council for Global Equality and the Human Rights Campaign are among the dozens of advocacy groups who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week that urged them to do more to secure Brittney Griner’s release. The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 approved a resolution that called upon Russia to immediately release her.

“Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

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Final vote on new Cuba family code expected in September

Same-sex couples poised to receive marriage, adoption rights



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba is reporting a final referendum on whether the final draft of a new family code that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples will take place in September.

Tremenda Nota on June 23 reported a specific date for the referendum has not been announced, but it quoted comments President Miguel Díaz-Canel made the day before during a meeting of the commission that has written the draft. 

“We are entering a decisive stage,” said Díaz-Canel, according to Tremenda Nota. “We are going to need all the support that we need to ensure the emancipatory principles of equality and inclusion that the family code defends are actually approved.”

The National Assembly late last year approved the draft family code. 

A “popular consultation” ended on April 30. Tremenda Nota reported the last of the family code’s 25 drafts was presented to Díaz-Canel and other officials on June 6.

Díaz Canel and Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, are among those who publicly support marriage equality. Cuban voters in 2019 overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution, but the government’s decision to remove a marriage equality amendment before the referendum on it sparked outrage among independent LGBTQ and intersex activists.

Efforts to implement the new family code are taking place against the backdrop of continued persecution of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans and others who publicly criticize the country’s government.

Tremenda Nota Editor Maykel González Vivero is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. De La Cruz subsequently received a 6-year prison sentence, but he was released on house arrest last month.

Reports indicate Brenda Díaz, a transgender woman who was arrested during a July 11 protest in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province, on Wednesday received a 14-year prison sentence. 

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota’s original story is here.

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