Uruguay Passage of Marriage Equality Calls Church’s Role in Latin America Into Question

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A successful Senate vote in Uruguay means marriage equality is only formalities away from becoming legal in that nation, making it the twelfth nation globally and second South American one to do so. Historically Catholic nations, like Argentina and Uruguay, have begun a trend in that region and the Catholic Church’s role these matters plays heavily, especially now that Pope Francis oversees the global church with his Argentine background.

CNN.com reports that Uruguay legislators in the upper house approved the marriage equality measure in a 23-8 vote, sending it to the lower house, which successfully passed a similar law last year, and then onto the president for approval. The Catholic hierarchy in Uruguay has made similar statements to those made by then-Cardinal Bergoglio when marriage equality was at issue in Argentina: warnings about the destructive nature of same-gender marriage and threats to children have been prominent in both cases. Their words seem deafened now, as CNN.com reports:

“For years, it was rare to see gay rights issues gaining traction in Latin American countries.

“Not anymore, Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, told CNN in 2010.

“‘Latin America currently has some of the most gay-friendly cities in the developing world,’ said Corrales, who ranked cities’ gay-friendliness in a book he co-edited, ‘The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America.’

“In 2009, Uruguay was the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. It was also one the first Latin American countries to allow same-sex civil unions.”

In another South American nation, Colombia, legislators have begun to mull marriage equality,  while Mexico continues adjudicating its tensions of having regionally-legalized rights.

It is well documented at this point that Pope Francis’ record on LGBT rights is mixed, with harsh comments about same-gender marriage coupled alongside vocal support for civil unions.In Uruguay, bishops spoke fervently against passage of the bill. In Colombia, where the measure is expected to fail, there has been greater silence by the hierarchy.

An interview on Public Radio International’s The World program presents one explanation for why traditionally Catholic nations in South America are leading the world in LGBT rights and equality. Lester Feder is a journalist who recalls the powerful narrative of human rights that emerged in Latin America as an explanation for why the quick integration of LGBT rights into legal structures occurred.  Feder also proposes that the Catholic Church is less powerful than is thought:

“”But the Catholic Church, especially in Argentina is a cultural institution with a lot of history, but its a very secular country and it doesn’t have a lot of power in politics…So, we have a kind of monolithic notion of Latin America and the influence of the Catholic Church, but the reality is more complicated.”

As the papacy of Pope Francis seems to indicate a shifting tone from legalism to pastoral concern, perhaps his experiences with the trend of full equality in Latin America will shape the global hierarchy’s response from Rome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

11 replies
  1. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    No, the Vatican’s record is not “mixed.” The Vatican opposes marriage equality everywhere, and has no plans to change. Last-minute support for civil unions does not represent any tolerance at all, and is only a trick. Here’s why.

    Since 2003, the Vatican has required local church officials to actively campaign for civil unions whenever that would prevent passage of a full equality law, which is what the church did in NH, ME, RI, WA, Argentina, Australia, Austria, England, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, and Wales.

    Since 2003, the Vatican has required Catholic politicians to “support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done” by proposed pro-equality legislation.

    Since 2003, the Vatican has refused to recognize the modern science about sexual orientation in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, and instead called homosexuality a “troubling phenomenon” observed in those who are “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically disordered” and “grave sinners.”

    Until the Vatican repeals its official policy, LGBT people must expect total opposition worldwide, and continued Trojan Horses like last-minute campaigns for civil unions as an antidote against full equality.

    Source: “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI), approved by Pope John Paul II. (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html)

  2. duckman44625
    duckman44625 says:

    And so, the grip of religious bigotry and oppression continues to lose its grip. Will the US Supreme Court have the courage and fortitude…the truthfulness…to end religious oppression in our nation too…make no mistake…it is oppression.

  3. Terence
    Terence says:

    There’s more to note, here.Latin America is not only heavily Catholic – it’s also the largest population bloc of Catholics, anywhere. Uruguay will be the second country in the region to approve marriage equality by legislative means, but there are three others where it’s effectively on the way, courtesy of the courts.

    You refer to Colombia, where legislators are considering proposals. They are obllged to do this, by order of the constitutional court. The bill does not seem to be making much progress – but that’s irrelevant. The court order stipulates that if no legislation is passed by June, the existing restriction to opposite – sex couples simply falls away, and equal marriage comes into force by default.

    In Brazil, a series of court judgements has affirmed that all couples have the same rights to marriage. A series of states have formalized this in state legislation, elsewhere couples can simply apply to have their civil unions registered as marriages.

    In Mexico, first Mexico, then two more states (Quintana Roo and Oaxaca) approved gay marriages within their jurisdiction – but the court has ruled that these marriages must be recognized across the country. Proposals are under consideration in a number of other states. So any Mexican couple can have a full same – sex marriage, with all the legal recognition of any other, simply by arranging their wedding in Mexico City or one of the increasing number of other states that have introduced marriage equality.

    In the region holding the word’s greatest concentration of Catholics, equal marriage is spreading rapidly – and where full marriage is not yet available, across most of the region, civil unions offer a second best alternative.

    • Agustin
      Agustin says:

      Uruguay is nowhere close to being “heavily catholic”. It has historically been the most secular country in Latin America, especially after the presidency of the fiercely secularist Jose Batlle y Ordones in the early 1900s and that is why it has been ahead of most Latin American countries (and sometimes of the USA as well) in such issues as the separation of church and state, laicity in education, divorce and, more recently, LGBT rights and abortion.

      • newwaysministryblog
        newwaysministryblog says:

        While Uruguay is indeed the most secular nation in Latin America, Catholicism remains the dominant faith there, with 45.7% of the population identifying as such. The atheist and agnostic population make up 14% of the nation.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] more nations in South America acted on marriage equality in the wake of legislative victories in Uruguay and Argentina.  Colombian legislators rejected equal marriage legislation in a heated vote, while […]

  2. […] In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender […]

  3. […] Uruguay Passage of Marriage Equality Calls Church’s Role in Latin America Into Question (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

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