Two positive developments in the Americas!
First, the Associated Press reports that:
Colombia is set to become the first Latin American country to give established gay couples full rights to health insurance, inheritance and social security under a bill passed by its Congress. The plan approved Thursday is expected to take effect soon. It is backed by the country’s conservative President Alvaro Uribe.
The measure would allow gay couples in long-term relationships to have the same health insurance and social security benefits as heterosexual couples. It also guarantees that assets accumulated during the relationship will be divided between the two, and in the case of death, inherited by the survivor. Previously, possessions were passed on to blood relations.
Some states and cities in Latin America have passed similar laws, but no other country in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic region has done so at a national level, said Marcela Sanchez, director of the gay rights group Colombia Diversa. She said as many as 300,000 gay couples in Colombia stand to benefit.
“I’m elated,” said Catalina Gomez, an English teacher, who said she plans to use the new legal status to take out health insurance for her partner Monica, a self-employed designer and disc jockey. “It validates our union before the law so we no longer have to going around lying about our relationship.”
To read the full Associated Press report, click here.
The BBC’s coverage of this “great step” can be read here.
Meanwhile in the U.S., the Boston Globe reports that:
A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was defeated today by a joint session of the [Massachusetts] Legislature by a vote of 151 to 45, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. The measure needed at least 50 votes to advance.
The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the group that spearheaded the court case that led to the Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 decision to legalize same-sex marriage, issued a statement praising the vote.
“We’re proud of our state today, and we applaud the legislature for showing that Massachusetts is strongly behind fairness,” said Lee Swislow, executive director Advocates & Defenders. “The vote today was the triumph of time, experience, and understanding over fear and prejudice.”
An excerpt from an editorial of the Globe reads:
Legislators deserve to be proud of their votes, and residents can be proud of Massachusetts.
After three years of experience with gay marriage that has harmed exactly no one, the state’s gay and lesbian couples can now get back to their ordinary lives, enduring the mundane tasks and rituals of daily life alongside their neighbors and co-workers. But now they do so secure in the knowledge that they are full citizens in a Commonwealth of inclusion.
What a pity the leadership of the Catholic Church isn’t enlightened enough to be at the forefront of efforts to ensure full civil rights (including marriage rights) for LGBT people. Members of the Catholic leadership could (and should) be supporting and celebrating with us today these recent events in Colombia and Massachusetts.
Postscript - June 21, 2007: Timothy Kincaid over at Box Turtle Bulletin reports that:
Colombia’s bill to recognize same-sex couples is not a go, after all. A floor vote was called for when many supporters were absent. And it seems the Catholic Church threatened Senators with being denied the sacraments, and some of those who previously supported the bill got cold feet . . .
So the race is still on for who will be the first Latin American country to grant same-sex couples rights and protections. Will it be Costa Rica? (Probably not.)
The Colombian bill will be reintroduced in July.
Image 1: Jose Luis Santos, 36, left, and Jaime Beltran, 34, a gay couple from Colombia pose for a portrait in Bogota, Friday, June 15, 2007. Colombia is set to become the first Latin American country to give established gay couples full rights to health insurance, inheritance and social security under a bill passed by its Congress. (AP Photo/William Fernando Martinez)
Image 2: Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Real Gay Agenda
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
Naming and Confronting Bigotry
On Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Recommended Off-site Links:
“Bay State Stands Tall” (Hartford Courant editorial)
Love Makes A Family
Spouses for Life: A Wedding Album