Saturday, June 16, 2007

Good News from Colombia . . . and Massachusetts

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

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


Anonymous said...

The Boston Globe editorial would have rung a little less hollow if the supporters of same sex marriage in Massachusetts had had enough confidence in their position and support to have allowed the ballot referendum to take place.

By having politically maneuvered to stifle the vote they have rather guaranteed that the issue remains a live wire in Massachusetts politics and that it returns again and again until the people of Massachusetts are allowed to finally vote on whether they want their state to recognize marriages as only between spouse and spouse and not between men and women.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi David,

Thanks for stopping by.

One of the roles of legislative assemblies is to protect minority groups from the “tyranny of the majority.”

Remember, if the issue of racial segregation had been put “on the ballot” for “the people” to decide, it would not have been abolished when it was in the U.S. – especially in a number of Southern states. And I’m sure you’re not against the various court decisions to abolish segregation and other forms of racial discrimination.

Clearly, protecting and granting civil rights to LGBT people is a different story for you.



Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I am with David. Thwarting democracy looks like a manipulative and anti-democratic move on the part of democrats and the ruling elite. It does not sit well.

You could make a tyranny of minorities argument just as easily as a tyranny of majorities argument. In fact, as a socialist-leaning sort, I am sure you are quite against the wealthy elite ruling as a minority over the majority on many, many issues. Let's not pretend that this is not the lawyerly, monied, ruling liberal elite that has decided to force this issue on Massachusetts citizens. And in fact, it could create an actual Republican backlash and movement in one of the bluest states in the nation.

No one likes anti-democratic fascism, even for a noble cause.

That being said, LGBT persons and their tax dollars and know-how are welcome in Massachusetts! So, when you movin'?

Michael J. Bayly said...

C’mon, Winnipeg Catholic, do you really see legislative and/or judicial efforts at addressing societal prejudice and discrimination as examples of “anti-democratic fascism”?

Fascism, by definition, involves a collusion between government and powerful corporate entities. Please show me where and how corporate power is behind what has transpired in Massachusetts. (Maybe the wedding industry is bribing legislators?)

And to compare the actions of the Massachusetts legislature to the plutocracy (the rule of money) that dominates and makes a mockery of democracy in this country is also, I believe, off the mark. You’re right about one thing: I am opposed to “the wealthy ruling elite ruling as a minority over the majority,” yet the difference between what happened in Massachusetts and plutocracy is that the plutocratic elites don’t really believe or dare say that they’re seeking to protect the rights of a discriminated minority. Their methods are much more devious, corrupt, and self-serving. I don’t see these qualities reflected in the actions of the Massachusetts legislature around the issue of gay marriage.

And, believe it or not, even “socialist-leaning” folks like myself believe in empowering certain institutions to do the right thing by minority groups. Sometimes our leaders really do have to lead. And if they overstep their authority and are mistaken in their convictions, then there may well be a backlash as you suggested. A democratic system can and should allow for that. I guess time will tell if such a back-lash will occur in Massachusetts.

Somehow I don't believe it will. My reasons for thinking this way can be discerned in the following excerpts from an article entitled “EU Countries Divided on Same-Sex Marriage” in the March/April 2007 issue of the Gay and Lesbian Review. I think it provides both insight and hope in our deliberations on the issue of same-sex marriage in the US. It may also help explain why some are so rabidly opposed to any legal recognition of same-sex marriage taking hold here.

“Another striking pattern to emerge [from the survey] is the extent to which public opinion reflects the actual legal situation in these countries. Acceptance of same-sex marriage is highest in countries where marriage or its legal equivalent is currently on the books, which is the case in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Most of the other countries of Western Europe – France, Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic, among others – also recognize same-sex couples as eligible for many benefits of marriage. Presumably the legal situation reflects public opinion in these countries to a large extent; but it may also be the case that the existence of same-sex marriage as a legal reality has a liberalizing effect on public opinion. [Basically, people come to realize that same-sex marriage doesn’t herald the end of the world!]

“One thing is clear: countries that have had an active gay rights movement for the longest are the ones most likely to have both legal protections and favorable public opinion on these issues. From a baseline of nearly universal rejection in the mid-20th century, an atmosphere of tolerance has evolved only slowly and painstakingly as a GLBT rights movement has taken hold in Europe and the reality of gay people has been acknowledged and embraced.”



Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

You make some good points. That being said I do not believe for a second that gay rights advocates did not offer those politicians or the DNC with campaign funding to influence their votes. In fact, one wonders if the HRC will be able to challenge Andrew Sullivan that they are infact putting gay money to good use.

And I think you are further correct in asserting that if it makes no difference in people's lives, no one will care. But I doubt that will happen. Already we had a conflict over diversity training for first graders, wherein they were read some books about princes falling in love and so forth.

This change will bring conflict, and the anti-democratic means of the change limits our ability to resolve inevitable conflict.

Had you a pluralistic majority voted in favor there would be no backlash, and we would be in a better position to work out differences over things like diversity training. But as it stands, it is an agenda foisted upon us by the combined wealth of gays from all over the USA, not Massachusetts citizens.

At least that's how I feel and I'm a liberal who supports gay rights. That doesn't mean I like losing my right to vote or being forced to accept something at gun point.