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The same old story … Latin American edition

10 November 2013

It seems the noisier the professional homophobe, the more likely he’ll be … um… a bit light in the loafers… in need of more closet-space … a ringer for the other team… unable to lift his own luggage …. whatever.

In Colombia, as in Mexico, an attempt is being made to create a second class of legal relationships that are open to persons of the same gender, as a way of preventing the courts from ruling on the constitutional right of same-gender couples to marry.  In both countries, equality before the law for persons regardless of sexual orientation is included in their constitutions, and the courts have signaled that they will uphold those rights when it comes to marriage equality.

In 2011, the Colombian constitutional court gave the country’s legislature an ultimatum: Grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples by the summer of 2013 – even if they didn’t call it marriage – or else all same-sex couples would automatically get access to the right to marry.

Congress took up the issue only to vote down a marriage equality bill and the court’s deadline came to pass.

Well aware that the court had ordered same-sex couples be allowed to legalize their unions, Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez and the director of the agency overseeing all notary offices came up with a ploy on the eve of the deadline: They invented a “solemn union” form and directed all notary officers not to grant any marriage license and instead have gay couples sign a “solemn union.” In addition, Ordoñez sent private memos to all notaries ordering them to keep track all instances in which a gay couple sought a marriage license and report them back to his office.

Marriage equality advocates saw through the strategy and took a different route: They urged same-sex couples to avoid heading to the notaries and instead they advised them to go before a civil court judge. A notary officer had full discretion in denying a marriage license without having to explain the decision while a civil court judge had to explain their decision in writing and a negative decision could potentially be appealed.

With judicial recognition of same-gender marriages on a case-by-case basis becoming more common, up popped a new organization to halt the march towards equality, Fundación Marido y Mujer (Husband and Wife Foundatin) to file injunctions against couples seeking judicial relief… and… just coincidentally, pay a salary to the founder (and only known employee) of the Foundation, Javier Suárez Pascagaza.

With the courts denying that Funcación Marido y Mujer have any legal standing in the cases involving various couples, Sr. Suárez has been garnering his fifteen minutes of fame in the Colombian media by leading noisy demonstrations outside courthouses.

No one apparently had ever heard of the Foundation, or of Javier Suárez Pascagaza until recently … if you don’t count former students of the Company of Jesus (i.e., the Jesuits) Seminary in Medellin, who remember him as the guy thrown out of the noviciate in 2003 for “openly manifesting his attraction to [other] boys.”

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Blabbeando, El Espectador (9 November 2013)

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