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Posts for January, 2013

Marriage update – South America

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2013

It’s getting marriagey all over the place. And it’s also getting hard to keep track of what is going on where. So here is an update to help (which will probably be outdated by the time I hit “publish”).

Central South America:

Argentina - marriage has been equal since 2010.

Bolivia - in 2011 a bill to grant some limited couple recognition was introduced into the Bolivian Chamber of Deputies. It was referred in April 2012 to the Human Rights Commission, where it appears to have fallen asleep.

Brazil - since May 2011, Brazil has had recognizd civil unions for same-sex couples. The states of Alegoas and Bahia allow couples to administratively convert the civil unions to marriage. Since last month, same-sex couples in Sao Paulo may marry without any converted-civil-unions process.

Chile - on March 27, 2012, Daniel Zamudio was tortured and beaten to death. Much in the same way that Matthew Sheppard’s story changed the United States, Zamudio’s has been changing Chile. A long-stalled non-discrimination bill was quickly passed and signed and the populace is now impatient with institutionalize homophobia.

In August 2011, conservative President Pinera sent a civil unions bill to congress and two months ago he reaffirmed that the end of his term, March 2014, is the deadline for its passage. In hearings on the bill in the first weeks of the year, the Catholic Bishop of San Bernardo testified that the bill “brings the destruction of human beings and, although they deny it, destruction to social and family peace among men.” However, public polling shows strong support and the President has named the bill “a top priority”.

The opposition party’s contenders for Presidential nominee debated earlier this month whether same-sex couples should have civil unions or marriage rights. It is likely that civil unions will be achieved this year and that marriage equality will then follow at some point.

Colombia - in July 2011, the Supreme Court found that same sex couples have the same contitutional rights to recognition as heterosexual couples, but they left the structure open to Congress to legislate. Since that time there have been various bills pass one house or the other, but none came to completion. Currently there is a marriage bill in the Senate which has passed the first committee hurdle. Should no bill be enacted by June 20th, same-sex couples will be able to go to judges and become recognized. As there is no alternative legal structure in place, it seems logical that the only legal alternative for judges is to declare them married. But as legislators are disinclined to turn over power to anyone, it’s even more likely that something – civil unions or marriage – will be in place by that date.

Ecuador - while marriage equality is banned by constitution, Ecuador has had civil unions since 2008.

Uruguay - civil unions have been available since 2007. Last month a marriage equality bill passed the House of Deputes with a wide margin last month and is expected to pass the Senate in April.

And while other nations in South America are strongly hostile to same-sex marriage recognition, many of them place strong importance on the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has been increasingly supportive of gay rights. It may be that this court plays a role in shifting the continent’s laws in the near future.