Gays March in Uruguay
About 150 gays and lesbians staged a pride march in Montevideo, Uruguay, Sept. 28, the South African gay newspaper Exit reported in its December issue. Another 100 participants walked along on the sidewalks, out of view of media photographers. The city’s first gay-pride parade, in 1993, attracted 13 people, Exit said.
With the theme "Consciousness of Sexual Diversity," the parade traversed the city’s most crowded street, July 18th Avenue. One banner read, "Yes to alternative families, civil union, adoption and insemination." A float — the first ever in a Uruguayan pride parade — was funded by the City Council. Two "nuns" rode on it, dancing and blowing kisses. The next day, the Catholic diocese denounced the "nuns" as a "scandal." "Among all these people and rainbow colors, I felt so brave, so proud," one marcher, William, told Exit’s correspondent.
February 5, 2001 – New York Times
Prez Disses Gays
by Ana Simo
Uruguayans woke up on January 12 to the news that their President, Jorge Batlle, had dissed gays in, of all places, The New York Times. In a generally sympathetic profile of the 73-year-old Batlle, reprinted in Spanish by the major Uruguayan media, The Times’ Clifford Krauss wrote: " Mr. Batlle can also get carried away with his own glibness and say things that can be hurtful. While talking about his family history, and how his ancestors came from the Spanish fishing town and resort of Sitges, he said: ‘It was a better place when they lived there. Now it is full of gay Germans.’ Challenged to explain his remark, he said: ‘I prefer normality. I say what I believe and I am not a hypocrite. In a few words, I like women.’ Told that he would certainly receive a lot of mail for his remarks, he answered: ‘And I will respond. I don’t hide my opinions.’"
To drive the point home that he’s no closet homophobe, and that he really, truly, digs the ladies, the unrepentant Mr. Batlle then proceeded to post a full transcript of his Times interview on the official presidential web site. There, under the pretty, blue and yellow Uruguayan coat of arms, was a nasty sentence that the tactful Krauss had not included in his piece: in it, Batlle suggested that homosexuality was a "pathology" which should be "corrected."
Uruguayan queer activists were not amused. They’re afraid that if Batlle gets away with his public expression of homophobia, life could get more unpleasant for queers in Uruguay, both the relatively few who are out and the tightly closetted majority. Some fear his words could incite violence against gays.
The writer and gay activist Fernando Frontán told the Montevideo daily La República on January 17 that Batlle’s homophobic remarks were intended "to please the power centers that supported his presidential campaign, like Opus Dei (a conservative Catholic group) and groups linked to Reverend Moon." However, others see Batlle’s remarks as an outburst by a big mouth politico who is somewhat of a maverick—he favors drug legalization, for example.
Uruguay emerged in 1985 from a 12-year-long military dictatorship cum left-wing, urban insurgency. Thousands were killed, jailed, tortured, and disappeared. The nation was exhausted. A certain political apathy set in, which continues to this day.
Organized gay groups have existed in Uruguay since the early 1990’s and Pride marches have been organized in Montevideo, the capital, for the past eight years. But, in this culturally conservative country of 3.2 million, the marches have never attracted more than a couple of hundred people, and, up until now, the country’s political class has largely ignored gay civil rights issues.
The Batlle flap may help change all this. A coalition of local gay groups have launched an international letter writing campaign to let Batlle know that presidential homophobia doesn’t pay. And that, in the Internet era, the whole world is, literally, watching. They hope the message won’t be lost on the rest of their political class.
To give President Batlle a piece of your mind, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cc the Uruguayan queer coalition at email@example.com, as well as the gay-friendly President of the Uruguayan Chamber of Deputies, Washington Abdala, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the interview transcript from Uruguay’s Presidential web site, and media clips (mostly Spanish)
For the Uruguayan queer activist group Diversidad. (Mostly Spanish).
For a profile of Uruguay, by the estimable CIA World Factbook 2000. More or less accurate, except that it delicately skirts the Agency’s role propping the military dictatorship in the 1970’s.
March 5, 2001 – Diversidad
A Very Out Lesbian: Uruguayan Lesbian Activist Diana Mines
Diana Mines, one of the pioneers of lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual (lgtb) activism in Uruguay, talks about herself and the state of her community and her country. The Gully caught up with her last Fall, shortly after she helped organize Montevideo’s eighth annual Pride March.
I’m a 51-year-old photographer. I’ve exhibited my work, and taught, and written art criticism for newspapers. I came into contact with the lesbian and gay movement while I was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute between 1977 and 1980, before I came out in the mid-eighties. In the early 90’s, I began publishing articles in Uruguay in support of lgtb rights. I was a co-founder, in 1991, of the first Uruguayan lesbian group, The Same Ones. Both that group, and the next one I was involved in, Woman and Woman, 1996, fell apart six months after they started, when we tried to go from the stage of emotional unburdening and reflection to activism.
In 1997, I appeared with gay activist Fernando Frontán in a live, two-hour-long, TV news program on the eve of Montevideo’s fifth Pride March. That program was rerun twice that year by popular demand. Many of the people who are active today in our organizations came together as a result of that program. At that time I was teaching photography at the Catholic University here in Montevideo, a job I had held since 1981. I kept the job another three years after I appeared on TV. I wasn’t overtly harassed, but the university administration began to cut down my class hours and to pressure me in subtle ways, until they fired me for allegedly neglecting some administrative duty.
Fernando Frontán still works for the Consumer’s Credit Union, but after the program he was transferred to a department where he has no direct contact with the customers. However, for the past two years, he has been a panelist in Open Debate on channel 10, a private TV station. The two of us, and a handful other lgtb activists, have been interviewed in other television programs and news broadcasts. We also took part in a sexology conference, and several public forums, including an open forum on human rights, and a forum held recently at the Uruguayan Congress.
Personally, I tend to become an activist in whatever I do, whatever I’m passionate about. As a photographer, I worked for many years trying to put an end to the discrimination against photography that exists in Uruguay’s arts world. The fact that I accepted my lesbianism late in life (at age 36) has made me work so that other young people, particularly women, do not have to spend the best years of their lives mired in uncertainty, fear, and guilt. A Tiny Thaw ?I think that Uruguayan society at large, specifically here in Montevideo, has changed more regarding the lgtb issue than the lgtb community itself. Lately, the issue has appeared more frequently in the media and in conversations among people. Although we’re still greeted with scorn and lack of understanding, I nevertheless perceive a greater willingness to listen and to accept.
However, very few of us—lesbians, gay men, and transgender and bisexual people—join organizations. And, while Montevideo bars like Avanti, Espejismo, and Psicótico may be reasonably well attended, the fact is that only a minority of the capital’s presumed lgtb population ever goes to bars.
Overall, Uruguay is going through a period where there’s little political mobilization, in spite of big economic problems and unemployment. People have locked themselves in an individualistic stance, only caring about themselves and maybe their closest friends. The only thing that attracts many people to lgtb groups is the possibility of finding friends or lovers. Most are afraid to stand up for their rights; they don’t want to take risks. We have to remember that the most intense period of popular struggle in Uruguay ended with a twelve-year-long dictatorship (1973-1985), with thousands of people dead, tortured, exiled, and disappeared.
Public Indecency ?While there are no laws that punish us in Uruguay, there are also no laws that specifically protect our rights. There are some discriminatory regulations, however, like a ban on blood donations by anyone who acknowledges being gay or lesbian and the fact that anyone who has been arrested as a gay person can be denied the Certificate of Good Conduct that you need to get a passport here. And, as a gay person, you can be arrested for acts that the police consider to be "public indecency." Recently, the majority whip in Congress, Dr. Washington Abdala (a member of the governing, neo-liberal, Colorado party), has sent lgtb organizations two bills that he is planning to introduce in the House, regarding discrimination, civil unions, and sexual reassignment surgery. This kind of surgery is already been performed, free of charge, at the Hospital de Clínicas in Montevideo, but afterwards, gender reassignment is not recognized by the civil registry offices. In contrast, and this is a contradiction worth emphasizing, a bill recognizing the rights of common law couples, already introduced in the House by Left Coalition congressman Daniel Díaz Maynard, excludes same-gender couples.
Activists: Few, but Dedicated?There are currently several lgtb organizations in Montevideo. (We’re not aware of any in the interior of the country, although we’re in touch with some individuals there.) The membership in all these groups is small, and some of it overlaps. For example, some members of the Diversity Group are also members of the Amnesty International-Uruguay LGTB Group, or have helped found the Inter-sexual Research and Study Center.
The Uruguayan Transgender Association has been riddled with internal tensions triggered by its relationship with the Public Health Ministry, as well as by the prolonged jailing of one of the group’s leaders. Consideration in Parliament of a bill to regulate prostitution and set aside certain areas of the city for it has been postponed. Transgender people have some, very minimal, government protection (they get condoms and, occasionally, food parcels) and some freedom to work on the street, but many are forced to bribe the police to avoid harassment, and HIV infection and drug use is quite widespread among them.
Plaza Libertad Liberated?In June 1992, some 15 gay men and lesbians gathered in public for the first time, in Montevideo’s Plaza Libertad. Between 20 and 30 people watched us from a safe distance. The annual marches started in 1993. Since 1997, we have called them Pride Marches, to link them to our struggle for the right to our own identity and to non-discrimination. The theme of the last Pride March, on September 28, 2000, was "Awareness of Sexual Diversity." We also carried posters with other slogans, like "Discrimination Is Torture", "URU-GAY" and "Yes To Alternative Families: Civil Unions, Adoption, Insemination."
And we carried banners, including a 33 foot-long rainbow banner. The Montevideo Municipal Government, controlled for the past ten years by a left-wing coalition where very progressive leaders coexist with very homophobic ones, lent us a float, which we decorated with the colors of the rainbow. In The Heart of Montevideo?We marched some 12 blocks in the very center of Montevideo, from the university to Plaza Libertad. It was our longest march to date. We’ve always chosen to march in the evening because it’s after working hours and because people who are afraid, because of their jobs or their family situation, are less exposed.
Our marches have generally attracted up to 200-250 people. That’s been our record number. This last year some 150 people marched, and at least another 100 walked along the sidewalks, but were afraid to join the march. Masks and costumes were very common in the earliest marches, but this year there were few of them. Two male Diversity Group activists dressed as nuns and a picture of them kissing on the lips appeared the next day on the cover of the daily La República, with the caption "Harsh criticism of the Catholic Church…." When we arrived in Plaza Libertad, we made a huge circle, holding hands, and danced.
A Catholic Silence?The newspaper that gave most coverage to the March, both before and after it took place, was La República. The very conservative daily El País, the biggest in the country, only ran a small box announcing the March, but did not cover the event itself. The Catholic, ultraconservative El Observador, didn’t even mention us. Five of the March organizers openly appeared in a number of TV programs and newscasts: Fernando Frontán, Alejandro Chiesa, Jeanne Sosa, William Mallek, Sebastián Delgado, and myself. A fellow activist, Lilián F., told her story on TV, but her face was altered electronically.
The Pride 2000 Coordinating Committee, which organized the March, included Amnesty International Uruguay/GLTB Group, the Uruguayan Transgender Association (which this year, due to their internal problems, were practically absent), the GLTTB Library and Data Bank, the Inter-sexual Research and Study Center, the Ecumenical Congress for the Liberation of Sexual Minorities, the Diversity Group, and Men Who Have Sex With Men.
We’re Not "Dangerous," Yet?Traditionally, we used to hold our Pride March every year around June 28 (the 27th is the anniversary of the 1973 coup, so no one wants to celebrate anything on that day). Partly because June is the dead of winter in Uruguay, and because, coincidentally, the main lgtb groups here were founded in September (the Scorpio Foundation, at the height of the dictatorship, and then Gays United, Woman and Woman, and the current Diversity Group), we decided in 2000 to begin holding the Pride March at the end of September. On June 28 we will continue to honor the memory of Stonewall with panels, conferences, and the like. We are never openly censored, and we have never experienced violence or opposition during our marches, perhaps because we’re not yet big enough to be considered "dangerous." However, we have been the butt of jokes and ironic remarks by some radio broadcasters. We also know of individual cases of verbal and physical violence against gay and lesbian people.
For the Uruguayan queer activist group Diversidad
November 1, 2002 – Tentaciones Magazine (glbt)
International LGBT Latino/a Conference: Activists Re-Charge Energy
by Jenifer Ortiz
"Discrimination Towards Lesbians: Results of a Survey of Lesbian Discrimination in Montevideo, Uruguay," read one of the workshops scheduled to be presented at "El Encuentro," the international LGBT Latina/o conference held in Miami, Florida from October 10-14th. Hundreds of activists gathered to attend informative workshops and to recharge energy to take back into their communities. "El Encuentro" takes place every two years and is a venue for activists to learn about the latest developments in other communities and about topics of interests to LGBT Latina/o peopleck into their communities.
In the past, El Encuentro has taken place in Washington, D.C., New York, Puerto Rico, and San Diego-Tijuana. The National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organization (LLEG"), El Encuentroþs organizer, has chosen Seattle to celebrate the event in 2004. People attended from many places in Latin America including El Salvador’s Entre Amigos organization, Honduras’ Comunidad Gay San Pedrana and Peru’s Comunidad Cristiana Vida Nueva.
Mariana Perez OcaÒa, editor of Les Voz, the only lesbian publication in Mexico, says that "due to poverty and a conservative society, it is very hard to hold something like this in Mexico." She told Tentaciones Magazine that she comes to these types of conferences to talk to activists who have a story to tell. "We need to publish those stories," she assures. Les Voz’s editors received the "Visibility Award" for their efforts in bringing vital information to the lesbian Mexican community. Other awardees included The Marsha A. Gomez Cultural Heritage Award given to New York activist Ingrid Rivera and the Victor Rivera AIDS Activist Award presented to the Austin Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organization executive director, Martha Duffer.
In addition, the conference provided insightful information through the many institutes and the workshops. Topics ranging from Breaking Down the Barriers Between Transgender and Non-transgender Latina Lesbians to Using Art as Activism to Anal Health as The New Frontier were presented on Friday and Saturday. Miami AcciÛn Postiva, El Encuentro’s host committee, held a fantastic party in Miami Beach. There was entertainment, Cuban food, drinks, and lots of good karma. As a media outlet, Tentaciones Magazine presented Miami AcciÛn Positiva with its first Annual Vanguard Award for its leadership during Miami-Dadeþs election. Miami AcciÛn Positiva, along with other groups, formed unity Coalition to defeat the repeal of an anti-discriminatory initiative against LGBT people.
The group led the well-needed media effort to inform the Latina/o community about the discriminative ordinance. Tentaciones Magazine was also LLEG"’s Official Media Sponsor. RamÛn Valladares, Comunidad Gay San Pedrana executive director, told Tentaciones Magazine in spite of the cultural differences that Latinos in the U.S. have with Latin Americans living in those counties, he found the conference informative. "With a staff of 8 people and more than 100 volunteers, we need to take back all kinds of information," Valladares said.
On Saturday night, participants were offered a "Carnaval Caliente," a Mardi-Gras-alike party where attendees wore masks and danced to the tunes of Merengue, salsa and Cumbia. During the closing ceremony, Olga Orraca, Puerto Rican activist and one of three LLEG"’s Board of Directors, reminded the audience that they could contact her or the other two members of the Board regarding complaints or suggestions on how to help LLEG" reach out to all LGBT Latina/o communities in the country. Her comment came after a heated discussion about LLEG"’s efforts to effectively serve and represent all LGBT Latinos as the only national Latina/o organization during an open mic session led by MartÌn Ornelas-Quintero, LLEG"’s executive director. Nevertheless, El Encuentro served its purpose. It was a forum for activists to gather and share and obtain new information and to continue working hard at the local level to satisfy the needs of their communities. See you in Seattle in 2004.
On Fridays and Saturdays, pretty boys and their admirers head to the multi-level club Cain (Cerro Largo 1833 at Arenal Grande, no phone), which opens at 11 a.m. and doesn’t close until 7 a.m. In an enormous old building, you’ll find three dance spaces, as well as a few little corners where all kinds of things go on.
Mixed Ibiza (Rondeau at Uruguay; +598/2/901-7643; Wed-Sun 11 p.m.-7 a.m.) has something for everyone, gays and lesbians, transgendered folks, and straight guys and girls looking for something different.
Must see -Some must-sees in Montevideo include the Teatro Solis, an 1856 theater that was nearly destroyed in a fire in the 1990s and was reopened after years of renovation. Free tours take you through the elegant seating area and the modernized backstage areas.
Gay history and movie buffs should also head to Edificio Liberaij (Julio Herrera y Obes 1182 at Canalones) close to downtown. This is the building where, in 1965, two notorious openly gay Argentine bank robbers met their death after terrorizing Argentina and Uruguay for years like a gay Bonnie and Clyde. Residents of the apartment are proud of the weird and bloody history of their building, immortalized in the sexy 1998 Argentine film "Plata Quemada," which was a watershed for gay awareness in both Argentina and Uruguay.
How to go- Most people take in Uruguay as a side trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Owned by a gay Uruguayan, the U.S.-based Discover Uruguay (www.discoveruruguay.com) can create gay-tailored packages for all price ranges.
Aerolineas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com), Argentina’s national airline, offers direct flights between Buenos Aires and Uruguayan cities. The funnily named BuqueBus (www.buquebus.com), a boat that runs as frequently as a bus, connects Buenos Aires to many locations in Uruguay. American Airlines (www.aa.com) also has direct flights from Miami to Montevideo.
When to go- Punta del Este’s season runs until the end of March, when South America’s summer ends. The scene here is a great option for couples looking for a romantic break from their usual destinations.
September 14, 2006 – Reuters
Uruguay to pass gay union law
Montevideo – Uruguay’s Congress will pass a law to legalise gay and heterosexual civil unions, granting those couples the same rights as married ones, a ruling party Senator said today. The Senate already passed the Bill, and Senator Margarita Percovich told Reuters the lower house is expected to approve it easily given the governing leftist coalition’s majority. The legislation will allow gay and straight couples to form civil unions after living together for at least five years. " With this initiative, we are recognizing rights that were unclear under the law and which judges did not know how to resolve," said Senator Percovich, one of the Bill’s backers.
" If there is recognition (of the partnership), it’s as though it were a marriage," she said. The law would ensure inheritance rights for couples in civil unions and offer other advantages such as shared parental rights and pension benefits. Gay marriage is still illegal in Uruguay, a tiny South American country squeezed between Argentina and Brazil which is known for its secular streak in a predominantly Roman Catholic continent. The Argentine capital of Buenos Aires legalised same-sex unions in 2002, in a move hailed as a first in Latin America
First Hurdle for LGBT Rights Passed Within Latin American Economic Union
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Marcelo Ferreyra, IGLHRC Latin America Regional Coordinator, email@example.com
On August 7, 2007, the first significant step in promoting region-wide sexual and gender rights in Latin America was taken when the human rights committee of the Southern Common Market issued a declaration to recognize and promote an end to discrimination against sexual and gender minorities by member countries. Should the entire Southern Common Market pass the resolution, it will result in sweeping changes to the rights and policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Latin America, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
The MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur, or Southern Common Market) is a regional trade and integration agreement among a number of Latin American countries. Its origins date to 1985 when the Presidents of Brazil and Argentina signed an economic cooperation pact. Current full member states are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Associated members are Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In December 2004, the Associated States Human Rights High Authorities was formed to address the integration process among these Latin American members with regard to promoting human rights in the region. "This is a truly ground breaking opportunity for achieving the promise of full human rights throughout Latin America for sexual and gender minorities," said Marcelo Ferreyra, IGLHRC’s Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, who participated in the session. "We are confident that the governments will adopt the subcommittee’s declaration and set it on the road to a full resolution of the entire MERCOSUR."
Over the last year, IGLHRC played an instrumental role in coordinating LGBT groups within the MERCOSUR countries to form a MERCOSUR LGBT federation to ensure that the rights of LGBT people would be integrated into trade and other agreements in the region. When the MERCOSUR met in early August in Montevideo, Uruguay, a specific session on Sexual Diversity, Identity and Gender was held. IGLHRC and the MERCOSUR LGBT federation joined a range of civil society, human rights, and government officials in presenting to the High Authorities the urgent need to adopt clear policies for eradicating sexual orientation and gender identity/expression discrimination in these countries. The declaration, reprinted below in full, calls on Latin American governments to Repeal of laws that discriminate against LGBT people Promote public awareness and education plans Increase involvement of LGBT people at all levels of public education Take action to end police harassment and persecution Adopt laws to protect same-sex couples and their families Ease name change and registration for transgender people Create government agencies to support and provide services to LGBT people Promote inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the draft of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination Convene a regional entity to monitor state compliance.
The MERCOSUR LGBT working network was created in May 2006 in Rosario, Argentina, with the goal of having an impact on the human rights policies adopted by the MERCOSUR. "If this is declaration is ultimately adopted as a resolution by the MERCOSUR, it will mark the single biggest global development for the LGBT community since the range of inter-European entities set out to abolish discrimination and the criminalization of homophobia in Europe," said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC. Having full government support from so many Latin American countries will have a substantial global impact as these countries vote on human rights measures at the Organization of American States and United Nations," added Ferreyra.
What Does the Document Says:
Montevideo, Uruguay, August 7th 2007
The MERCOSUR Human Rights High Authorities Seminary on Sexual Diversity, Identity and Gender, organized by the Uruguay Pró-Têmpore Presidency, expresses the urgent need to work for sexual orientation and gender identity / expression discrimination eradication in these countries and to recognize Sexual Diversity Rights as Human Rights.
For this we considerer that it is necessary:
– To revoke and/or to modify any kind of legislation and/or discriminatory regulation criminalizing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people, and/or restrict any exercise and enjoyment of their complete civil rights. In this sense, to revoke any kind of legislation or regulation prohibiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or trans people from blood donation.
– To generate and/or impel cross-sectional public policies in all Governmental areas (as the "Brazil without Homophobia" and the Argentinean "National Plan against Discrimination" policies intend to do), nondiscriminatory laws, programs and actions, in the scope of education, health, work, etc., that specifically promote sexual orientation and gender identity/expression nondiscrimination, specially those allowing trans people access to those areas. In the case of enacted laws, these should be applied in ways that guarantee their operability, overturning the burden of proof. To fulfill this task it is important to establish a direct bond with civil society so that political decisions will emerge from joint work.
– To promote the inclusion of LGBT people’s Human Rights content in education (public and private, institutional and non-institutional) at all levels, including educator trainings, and to stimulate campaigns that tend to lessen prejudices based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression discrimination. To promote groups investigation of sexual diversity related issues.
– To take political decisions and actions that definitively stop security force harassment, discrimination, persecution and repression of LGBT people, especially towards trans people, in each country.
– To generate laws that guarantee the same protection and rights recognized for heterosexual family to LGBT people and their families, creating legal institutions like society of coexistence, concubinary union, civil union pacts or any comparable access to same sex marriage.
– To create laws to allow trans people to change their name and sex registration without any kind of surgical or medical requirements, and that guarantees public and free access to sex reassignment treatments and surgeries for those that wish it.
– To generate specific state institutional spaces to work on sexual orientation and identity/gender expression discrimination topics and to inform civil society about these bodies. To give those bodies the ability to receive and systematize complaints, to provide concrete answers according to each case, and, in addition, to allow them design and evaluate public policies in each place.
– To compel its political will to urge the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity expression in the Inter-American Convention Against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance draft text that is being discussed at the OAS.
– To urge the creation of a discriminatory practices Regional Observatory that includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression where civil society organizations interacts with the MERCOSUR Human Rights High Authorities and MERCOSUR parliamentarians, between others, to investigate, study, discuss and attend to those issues. To make this observatory able to produce information annually on the situation of LGBT people in the region and to be presented before national and international forums.
We recognize the need to advocate the development of the required measures enunciated in this declaration in each of our countries. We commit ourselves to organize another seminary, promoting the participation of the chancelleries and authorities of each different country; to permanently incorporate sexual diversity issues at the meetings of MERCOSUR Human Rights High Authorities (RAADDHH), across all groups, commissions and programs; to include sexual diversity issues on each country’s periodic Human Rights reports, for instance those before the CCPR and the CERD; and to study and to consider inclusion of the Yogyakarta Principles as subject for the next meeting, with the objective being to consider States Members’ support.
4th December 2007 – PinkNews
Uruguayan parliament passes civil unions law
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Uruguay will legally recognise same-sex civil unions. The country of 3.6m people is the first nation in South America to grant such protections, although some cities and regions throughout the continent have made similar legal provisions. The Uruguayan Congress last week passed legislation creating a civil union registry for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples. The measure had previously passed the Chamber of Senators.
The new law was a manifesto commitment of the ruling leftist coalition of President Tabare Vasquez. In March the senior Roman Catholic clergy in the form of the Episcopal Conference of Uruguay (CEP) echoed bishops in Europe by attacking the validity of gay relationships. "In no way can homosexual cohabitation be accepted because it does not meet the basic criteria defining marriage, it is therefore unacceptable to place it in suchlike equal level," a statement from CEP said.
The main opposition party in Uruguay, Partido National, tried to remove gay and lesbian couples from the new bill during a March debate in the Chamber of Deputies but was unsuccessful. Same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Uruguay, something LGBT rights groups say they will continue to fight. Because of the marriage ban judges have been unsure how to rule in a number of cases involving same-sex couples, particularly in areas of adoption, pensions and inheritance.
Senator Margarita Percovich, the author of the legislation, said the bill would give couples entering civil unions the same rights as marriage. Under the legislation couples would have be together for at least five years and sign a registry. The couples will receive heath benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights. In neighbouring Brazil, the border state of Rio Grande do Sul passed civil union legislation in 2004, two years after the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, passed a similar law. The decision to legally recognise gay couples in Uruguay makes the country the first in South America to have a national civil union law.
December 27, 2007 – www.chinaview.cn
Uruguayan president signs law legalizing gay couples
Montevideo (Xinhua) – Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez on Thursday signed a law that legalizes civil unions for homosexual couples, which is the first nationwide law of its kind in Latin America. Under the new law which is to take effect on Jan. 1, 2008, gay and straight couples will be eligible for civil unions after living together for five years and will have rights similar to those granted to married couples on such matters as inheritance, pensions and child custody. The bill was passed by the congress on Dec. 18, after heated debate.
The law was proposed by the ruling Broad Front Party, who described it as a "democratizing" measure that will protect people’s life options. But the opposition National Party opposed the bill, with the party’s deputy chief Alvaro Alonso arguing that it "creates an institution that runs parallel to a marriage, competing with it even though it is second rate."
Currently gay marriage remains illegal in Uruguay. In Latin America, civil unions between homosexuals are legally recognized in several places, including the Mexican capital Mexico City, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, and Argentina’s Buenos Aires, Villa Carlos Paz and Rio Negro.
April 18, 2008 – afp.google.com
Uruguay holds Latin America’s first gay wedding
Montevideo (AFP) — Uruguay on Thursday became the first nation in Latin America to marry a gay couple, after a law allowing couples living together to formalize their union went into effect at the start of the year. Judge Estrella Perez officiated the civil union between Adrian Figuera, 38, and actor and theater director Juan Carlos Moretti, 67, in a courtroom before a small group of friends and family, as witnessed by an AFP reporter.
Moretti later told AFP that after living together for 14 years, he and Figuera thought their marriage was "a matter of justice and a step forward for Uruguayan society." The so-called "cohabitation union law" went into effect on January 1, allowing heterosexual and homosexual couples living together for at least five years to receive the same legal rights and benefits that traditional marriage bestows.
December 17, 2008 – blabbeando.blogspot.com
Uruguay: Bill that would allow change of name and gender in public documents approved by Senate
by Andrés Duque
"Minors under 12 years of age will be able to change registered gender with parents’ permission": That’s the sensationalistic headline for an article in El País on the Uruguayan senate’s approval yesterday of a bill that would allow transgender individuals to legally change their name and gender in all public documents. "Transsexuals have won half a battle," said El País. A version of the bill would have to be approved by the South American country’s House of Representatives in order to become law.
The most heated exchange during the debate came when opponents argued that it would open the door to same-sex marriage. Their argument was that since the bill does not require gender reassignment surgery as prerequisite for a change of identity in public documents, and since those who change their identity would be allowed to "exercise of all the rights inherent in their new condition" including marriage to a person of the opposite gender, it would result in marriages by couples with similar sexual organs.
Proponents argued that the bill was not a same-sex marriage bill and that, in any case, it would only apply to a small number of individuals for whom the bill would greatly improve their personal lives. A last minute agreement did result in an amendment to the bill’s language which requires that "minors under 12 [years of age] should have permission from their parents to initiate the process." The language was added in response to opponents who said that children as young as four would be able to have access to the law without their parents’ knowledge or oversight.
If the bill becomes law, it would require a person seeking to change their public documents to go before Family Court and submit an evaluation proving that the person has had at least two years of conflict with his or her gender identity. According to AFP, the two year requirement would be waived for those individuals who have previously undergone gender-reassignment surgery.A temporary panel would be created to work with the Family Court on specific cases for what is expected to be an initial surge of requests (the panel would disband later as petitions decrease and Family Court staff become better qualified to oversee the process).
It would also require that the Civil Registry discretely inform a future spouse of a partner’s previous change in gender.
May 14, 2009 – DailyQueerNews.com
Uruguay to Lift Ban on Gays in the Military
Posted by Daily Queer News
Associated Press | 365Gay.com
(Montevido) Uruguay is moving to lift a ban on homosexuals joining the armed forces. The defense ministry confirms that Minister Jose Bayardi has signed a decree lifting the ban imposed by the 1973-85 military dictatorship. The army said Wednesday it has received the decree, which has yet to be signed by President Tabare Vazquez.
The law had barred people with what it called “open sexual deviations” from entering the military academies. It includes homosexuality among the “mental illnesses and disorders” that make a person unsuitable to join the armed forces. The new decree states that sexual orientation will no longer be considered a reason to prevent people entering the military.
May 18, 2009 – PinkNews
Uruguay lifts military gay ban
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Uruguay has opted to lift a ban on gays serving in its military. The ban was imposed under the 1973-85 military dictatorship. Under it, people with "open sexual deviations", which includes homosexuality, were banned from entering the military academies. The ban also included homosexuality among the "mental illnesses and disorders" that legally made a person unsuitable to join the armed forces.
President Tabaré Vázquez confirmed he had signed the bill, saying his administration does not discriminate against citizens on the basis of ethnicity, political beliefs or sexual orientation. In December 2007, Uruguay’s Congress passed legislation to recognise same-sex civil unions. The country of 3.6m people was the first nation in South America to grant such protections, although some cities and regions throughout the continent have made similar legal provisions.
The Congress passed legislation creating a civil union registry for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples who have lived together for at least five years. Senator Margarita Percovich, the author of the legislation, said the bill would give couples entering civil unions the same rights as marriage, such as heath benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights.
August 28, 2009 – PinkNews
Bill to legalise gay adoption moves forward in Uruguay
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Congress in Uruguay has passed a bill allowing adoption by gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. The legislation is expected to pass in the Senate, where the ruling party has a majority. The Senate will vote on the bill next month. In December 2007, Uruguay’s parliament passed legislation to recognise same-sex civil unions.
The country of 3.6m people was the first nation in South America to grant such protections, although some cities and regions throughout the continent have made similar legal provisions. The Congress passed legislation creating a civil union registry for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples who have lived together for at least five years.
In May Uruguay lifted a ban on gays serving in its military. The ban was imposed under the 1973-85 military dictatorship. Under it, people with "open sexual deviations", which includes homosexuality, were banned from entering the military academies. The ban also included homosexuality among the "mental illnesses and disorders" that legally made a person unsuitable to join the armed forces. Gay adoption has been opposed by the Roman Catholic Church in Uruguay.
Archbishop of Montevideo Nicolas Cotugno told the Catholic News Agency: "The adoption of children by homosexual couples is not a question of religion, philosophy or sociology. It has to do with respect for human nature itself. To accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples is to go against human nature itself, and consequently, it is to go against the fundamental rights of the human being as a person."
September 15, 2009 – The Washington Post
Uruguay law may not enable gay adoptions after all
by Raul O. Garces (AP)
Montevideo, Uruguay – A closer reading of an adoptions law promoted by Uruguay’s gay rights groups suggests it might not enable adoptions by gay and lesbian couples after all. With the law awaiting President Tabare Vazquez’s signature, gay rights groups have been celebrating the prospect that Uruguay could become the first country in Latin America to give gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to adopt.
But nowhere in the law does it specifically say that homosexual couples have a right to adopt. And in some places, it suggests otherwise – for example by specifying how the child should take a mother and father’s surnames. Lawyers, judges and even the law’s own authors now have doubts about how the law will be applied. Under Vazquez, Uruguay already legalized gay civil unions and ended a ban on homosexuals in the military, despite strong disapproval from the Roman Catholic Church.
The church also campaigned against the adoptions law, which shifts much of the decision-making to the national Institute of Children and Adolescents, and away from a system in which individual lawyers, notaries and religious groups had a central role. The new law would drop a requirement that children can only be adopted by legally married couples or single parents.
Deputy Margarita Percovich, who wrote the law, acknowledged that it doesn’t directly mention same-sex adoptions, but said it would enable them because gays and lesbians already can legally form civil unions, and "the law enables couples in civil unions to adopt children without impediment." But Attorney Juan A. Ramirez, an expert in civil rights law, told the leading newspaper El Pais that judges still won’t be able to approve same-sex adoptions, because this intent isn’t explicitly described in the law.
"Any objective interpretation of the law would conclude that either they forgot to mention that gay couples can adopt, or they didn’t want to mention it. They didn’t want to take the bull by the horns and resolve it clearly – they left it undefined," he said. Family judge Estrella Perez said the judges association now plans to meet "to see how to resolve these doubts."
"We all have them." And a lawyer for the institute, Edgard Marzarini, told reporters that he doesn’t know how to resolve a same-sex adoption given the law’s requirement that a child take a mother and father’s surnames: "These are the holes that later give us problems."
October 13, 2009 – PinkNews
Uruguay approves bill to allow trans people to change names and gender
by Jessica Geen
Trans men and women in Uruguay will soon be permitted to legally change their name and gender under a new bill passed by the government. It will come into force once it is signed by president Tabare Vasquez and means that trans people will be able to change their name and gender on all legal documents, such as passports and birth certificates.
The Roman Catholic Church and opposition conservatives argued that the change in law could allow gay people to marry. However, an amendment was inserted so that documents would be changed and archived, rather than the originals destroyed. Only those over the age of 18 can legally change their name and gender, while people must wait five years before being permitted another change.
Uruguay has seen a number of LGBT rights victories this year. In September, it became the first Latin American country to allow gay adoption. In May, the country lifted a ban on gays serving in its military. The ban was imposed under the 1973-85 military dictatorship. Under it, people with "open sexual deviations", which includes homosexuality, were banned from entering the military academies. Legislation to recognise civil unions was passed in December 2007.
July 20, 2010 – OnTop Magazine
Argentine Neighbors Uruguay, Paraguay To Debate Gay Marriage
by Carlos Santoscoy
In what is being described as a domino effect, two of Argentina’s neighbors will consider gay marriage bills. A gay marriage bill approved last week in the Argentine Senate and scheduled to be ratified Wednesday by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner makes the Roman Catholic stronghold the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage. The bill cleared Congress over the strong objections of the Catholic Church.
Now comes word that two of Argentina’s neighbors – Uruguay and Paraguay – will also consider legalizing gay marriage. Uruguay appears the likeliest to succeed. Former President Tabare Vazquez turned tiny Uruguay into a gay rights leader in the region. During his 5-year tenure the country dropped its ban on gay troops serving in the military and gave gay couples the right to adopt children. It also legalized civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Last year, Vazquez signed a groundbreaking transgender law that sets the legal guidelines for people who want to change their gender.
The gay rights group which lobbied for passage of the civil unions bill in 2007, Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep), says the time has come for full marriage equality in Uruguay. “We have respected Uruguayan political tradition of progressive changes, but now we are ready to achieve full equality at the legal level, so the next goal is marriage,” Diego Sempol of Ovejas Negras told Argentina’s Telam. Sempol added that initial discussions with leaders from Frente Amplio, the nation’s ruling party, were promising. But President Jose Alberto Mujica Cordano’s leftist credentials on gay rights remain untested.
Opposition to a yet-to-be-introduced gay marriage bill in Paraguay is already mobilizing. Roman Catholic Bishop Adalberto Martinez of San Pedo told La Nacion that the church is wasting no time in preparing a campaign against gay marriage. “We are going to put out an intense educational campaign on Christian values, to avoid the law of marriage between people of the same sex that was approved in Argentina from coming to Paraguay,” he said.
This after the gay rights group SOMOSGAY (we are gay) tweeted on Thursday that they will lobby for passage of a gay marriage bill in October. Paraguay Vice-President Federico Franco has already come out against the proposal. “God created man and woman to form a family,” he told UltimaHora.com. “I am a Catholic. I have always tried to be as direct and honest as possible.” Franco went on to say that he did not want to imagine a child being raised by gay parents or how the child would react upon learning that his/her parents are gay.
In a television appearance on Paravision, Senator Alfredo Jaeggli said he was in favor of legalizing gay marriage. Chile is preparing to debate a bill that recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
December 19, 2010 – OLA Uruguay
Getting Things Straight—Gay Rights in Uruguay
by Jane McDevitt
Uruguay has become a trailblazer for gay rights not only amongst other Latin American countries but also when viewed in an international context. President Mujica has yet to be tested on his stance on gay rights, however his predecessor President Tabare Vazquez was known for a progressive attitude to gay rights during his five year tenure. The then president produced a sweeping tide of legislative change, making Uruguay a desirable country in which to be openly gay. The current president’s much publicised liberal political ideology is being put to the test, as pressure increases from gay rights activists and human rights groups to legalize gay marriage, in a country where church influence on political issues has increasingly waned. Such groups encouraged by successes in neighboring Argentina want to see similar changes brought to Uruguay.
Uruguay might be lagging behind its neighbor Argentina, which introduced a right to gay marriage in July of this year, but Uruguay was actually the first Latin American country to allow same-sex civil unions on a countrywide basis. Argentina, prior to July 2010, did recognize civil unions but only in Buenos Aires and some other provinces. Argentina may have become the first Latin American country to allow gay marriage, but gay marriage was legalized in some Latin American provinces already. Mexico City in particular is a forerunner—it has allowed homosexuals to marry and adopt since March 2010.
Since January 1, 2008, unmarried couples in Uruguay, including those of the same sex who have been together for at least five years, are legally entitled to sign a registry and enter into a civil union. They then are recognized as being entitled, as part of a civil union, to receive health benefits, and inheritance, parenting, and pension rights associated with their civil partner. Other Latin American countries are set to follow suit. Chile, is considering legal changes to recognize same sex civil unions, and Brazil has attempted to legalize civil unions on a country-wide basis, but proposals to date have failed (civil unions are recognized in some Brazilian States). Although not creating the equal rights that gay marriage would bring, this changing attitude points to a willingness to take steps toward greater equality. Uruguay’s next step will likely be watched by leaders of other Latin American countries with interest.
Civil unions are not the only measures to be taken to put Uruguay to the forefront of gay rights. Uruguay has amended its laws to allow same sex couples the same rights to adopt as heterosexual couples. Since September 2009, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt. Uruguay was the first country to allow this despite staunch opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. (Those countries and provinces now legalizing gay marriage, such as Argentina, automatically give this right.)
Uruguayan legislation was also passed to allow transgender individuals to change their name on all official documents, from birth certificates to passports, to reflect the gender of their choice. The measure authorizes sex changes starting at age 18, although earlier proposals did suggest allowing these changes from the age of 12. Initial problems encountered in the passing of this law were overcome by placing emphasis on the fact that this would not legislate for gay marriage, as fears were expressed that same-sex couples would change their name and gender officially to marry. It is viewed as an important move forward for transgender individuals who encounter difficulties in living a life where previously tied to a gender with which they do not identify. Under the new law, documents reflecting the original gender and name will not be destroyed, but archived and amended.
The Uruguayan government under President Tabare Vazquez also lifted a ban on gay persons serving in the armed forces in May 2009. The ban was imposed by the 1973-85 military dictatorship. President Vazquez signed a decree stating that military recruitment policy would no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, paving the way for homosexuals to serve openly in the military. This is in line with the increasing global movement to lift such bans. Peru, Columbia, and Argentina have also removed bans in recent years, while the U.S. continues to be dogged by uncertainty as to openly gay recruits.