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International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Eighty-eight Gay couples have married in Mexico City
A month after Mexico City's law legalizing same-sex marriage came into force, 88 Gay and Lesbian couples have gotten married, El Universal reported April 5.

Fifty male couples and 38 Lesbian couples tied the knot. An additional 37 couples applied for licenses and will marry in April, May or June, the report said.

Five Gay foreigners applied to marry Mexican citizens - two Italians, two French people and one Briton.

The federal government is challenging Mexico City's legalization of Gay marriage, but the case likely will not see any action by the Supreme Court for more than a year.

Inter-American rights body rules against Chile in custody case
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has ruled that the Chilean government discriminated against a Lesbian judge, Karen Atala, when it deprived her of custody of her daughters because she is Gay and was living with a partner, La Tercera reported April 5.

The commission recommended "full reparation" to Atala for the violation of her family rights, and urged Chile to adopt legislation, public policies, programs and directives to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation in all areas of government jurisdiction.

Chile now will respond to the commission's findings, and the nature of the response will determine whether the commission goes on to pursue a case against Chile in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Costa Rican president supports same-sex partnerships
Costa Rican President Óscar Arias said April 5 that he supports legal recognition of same-sex couples, La Nación reported.

The comment came in response to a question from the newspaper.

"Yes, there should be legal recognition," Arias said. "One doesn't choose sexual inclination. It is given by nature or God. One doesn't choose it, neither men nor women."

"It goes against nature to believe that someone stops to think at age 14 whether they will be heterosexual or homosexual," the president said. "They are things given by God and we simply have to evolve and accept them. ... The [Catholic] Church will have to evolve."

The president of the LGBT group Movimiento Diversidad, Abelardo Araya, called Arias' statement "bold" but "a little late."

He said the remarks are a "symbol" and can help "establish a bridge" with President-elect Laura Chinchilla.

Lesbian activist Emma Chacón added: "He could have done it a year or two ago [but it] is positive for the new government. It's a legacy that he is leaving Chinchilla."

A bill to grant Gay couples pension, inheritance, immigration, social security, and other rights is languishing in the Legislative Assembly, and Chinchilla has expressed no interest in making its passage a priority.

During the campaign, Chinchilla said: "We defend the right of all Costa Ricans, independently of their sexual preferences, to have the protection of the state and of the institutions, and to have access to the different opportunities that Costa Rican society offers. Nevertheless, there are different ways other than marriage to guarantee homosexual couples the right to the patrimony of their partner, to patrimonial rights, to political rights, to civil rights. We are working on this and I hope that we certainly can get ourselves in agreement without needing to touch an institution like marriage, which also has been conceived by so many Costa Rican families within a different concept."

Council of Europe passes "historic" LGBT recommendations
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, representing the national governments of its 47 member countries, unanimously adopted "historic" recommendations March 31 to combat anti-LGBT discrimination, reported ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

The recommendations cover hate crimes and speech, employment, education, health care, housing, asylum, sports, and freedom of association, expression, and assembly, among other areas. They also instruct member states to order national human rights bodies to address anti-LGBT discrimination.

"This is the world's first intergovernmental agreement codifying the application of human rights standards to LGBT people," ILGA-Europe said. "The recommendations establish how international human rights standards should be applied to LGBT people and contain specific measures for member states on how they should improve their legislation, policies and practices."

Martin K.I. Christensen, co-chair of ILGA-Europe's board, called the move "a truly historical development."

"For the first time in history, the European continent came together to codify human rights' applications to LGBT people," he said.

Co-Chair Linda Freimane added, "These recommendations go well beyond the current situation in many European countries for LGBT people and will surely serve as a blueprint for our members in working with their national governments."

Freimane said ILGA-Europe will "follow closely the three-year review mechanism agreed by the Committee of Ministers to ensure the full implementation" of the recommendations and will encourage the Council of Europe "to organize a campaign among its member states to promote these recommendations."

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland called the development "an important achievement, being the first legal instrument in the world dealing specifically with one of the most long-lasting and difficult forms of discrimination to combat."

"The recommendation is an expression of the Council of Europe's commitment to equality for all and respect for the dignity of all," Jagland said. "I invite all member states to make all the necessary efforts to implement this recommendation."

Euro Parliament LGBT group denounces Cotonou Agreement
The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights has denounced the newest Cotonou Agreement, which delineates political and trade relations between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs had vowed to include nondiscrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the agreement's revised terms, as demanded by the European Parliament, but he then failed to do so "despite blatant increases in state-supported violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people in the ACP region," the Intergroup said.

Forty-nine of the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific nations that are parties to the agreement criminalize Gay sex with up to 14 years in prison. Five punish Gay sex with the death penalty.

"This is unacceptable for the European Parliament," said Intergroup Co-President Michael Cashman. "The [European] Commission backed down in the face of governments that increasingly discriminate, imprison, torture, and kill people because of their sexual orientation. It is a dangerous signal that there is a hierarchy of rights: some will be defended, but others will not. This matter will not be left to rest here."

Intergroup Co-President Ulrike Lunacek added: "I would have expected Commissioner Piebalgs not to give in to pressure from ACP governments. ... The European Parliament will confront the Commission with this decision."

The Cotonou Agreement will be signed in June in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Portuguese same-sex marriage bill advances
Portugal should see legalization of same-sex marriage one way or the other in a matter of weeks.

Parliament passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in February and sent it to President Aníbal Cavaco Silva in March. The president then sent it to the Constitutional Court for review. On April 8, the court said there are no problems with the law and returned it to Cavaco Silva, who has 20 days to sign or veto it.

If he signs it, it becomes law. If he vetoes it, Parliament is expected to pass it again, which would force Cavaco Silva to sign it.

The law specifically excludes access to adoption for married same-sex couples.

Socialist Prime Minister José Sócrates has said legalizing same-sex marriage "rights a wrong" and increases freedom and equality.

The European Region of ILGA - the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - called the law's passage "fantastic" and said, "It is clear that a European consensus is fast emerging on marriage equality."

Same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden; in Mexico City and Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province; and in Washington, D.C., and the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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