Sunday, December 21, 2008

Progress in Latin America

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Andres Valdez is the co-chair of Mateando the first Argentinean - Uruguayan LGBT group in New York. Mateando’s mission is to provide support, develop leadership and strengthen the Argentine and Uruguayan gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community of the state of New York, and its sympathizers and friends.

During my recent interview with Andres, I was pleased to learn there is much to be celebrated in the way of LGBT civil rights progress in Latin America. Last year, the first significant step in promoting region-wide sexual and gender rights in Latin America was taken when the human rights committee of the Southern Common Market issued a declaration to recognize and promote an end to discrimination against sexual and gender minorities by member countries. Should the entire Southern Common Market (which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay) pass the resolution next year, it will result in sweeping changes to the rights and policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Latin America.

Last August, despite the staunch opposition of the Catholic church. the Government of Argentina confirmed that it was allowing same-sex couples (who had lived together for a period of more than five years) the right to collect the pensions of their deceased partners. This signaled the first time that unregistered cohabitation and rights for same-sex partners were recognized nationwide. This same law went into affect in Uruguay in January 2008.

During our conversation, Andres stressed the importance of strategic LGBT community, regional, national, and international coordination . Our recent progress in Latin America, he said, is a direct result of integrating grass-roots organizing with high level political diplomacy. It is vital to use our strong “family first” cultural tradition as the center in our quest for equality. We represent our immediate families, extended families, friends and the entire family of Latin America. This is to be done very strategically at home and abroad.

As we talked, he could barely contain his excitement about being part of the Latin American LGBT contingent endorsing the recent non-discrimination statement at the UN on December 19, 2008. (See posting below) He smiles broadly, it’s going to be a very historic day — and it was.

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