18 February 2008

Civil unions in Santa Fe... coming soon?

Santa Fe Province is about to join the civilized world, in at least one respect, by passing a law of sex-independent civil unions. You might be familiar with this concept if you live in one of the (still comparatively few) countries that grant special status to couples, no matter whether hetero- or homosexual, who choose to register themselves as such before the state.

In Argentina this matter hasn't been debated seriously, that I know of, on the national level. The Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, the province of Río Negro and the city of Villa Carlos Paz in Córdoba recognize civil unions, each with slightly different implications. A draft for a civil union law was presented to the legislature of Santa Fe, but it was cajoneado — figuratively sent to the bottom of someone's drawer, where it expired without anyone ever caring to debate it. The legislature, especially the provincial Senate, was dominated by conservatives.

The new administration has changed this context quite a bit. It's made up mostly by people who worked in connection to past municipal administrations of Rosario, and their progressive ideas are also supported by a majority of the opposition. The homosexual community has renewed its demands for the recognition of same-sex couples, and now they know they're close to reaching one major goal, with a law project designed by two of their own lawyers, which would give even more comprehensive rights to registered couples (regardless of sex) than those acknowledged by the equivalent law in Buenos Aires City, such as a pension when one's partner dies, and family leave when s/he gets sick. This will hold for all municipal and public employees within the province, in principle, but the project says these are rights that must be acknowledged, as well, by all companies and organizations based in Santa Fe.

The law, they say, should be passed about four months from now, in the political fullness of time, once the debate is done and the paperwork is in place. This is good news not only for homosexuals, but for the many heterosexual couples who won't marry just yet, but feel they're serious enough. The best thing, so far, is that none of that "threat to the institution of marriage" crap that is commonly spread around whenever this discussion is opened, in many countries, hasn't flowed from the pulpits or from behind the desks of bigoted politicians. I'll keep you updated on this.

PS: ... And here comes the first update. A male homosexual couple is going to employ an interesting tactic for effect — they're going to Rosario's Registro Civil (that's where people get married and receive the corresponding papers) at the Center District, and they'll ask to be married. Of course they expect to be rejected, since the Civil Code only recognizes man–woman couples. Once the rejection is formally given, they'll go to the courts to denounce the marriage law as discrimination and ask a judge to suspend its application (this is called recurso de amparo). This is all done ostensibly to bring the issue to media and public attention.

Well, the interesting bit is that, to show their commitment to end discrimination and support the law I mentioned above, the witnesses to the ceremony will be the President of the Provincial Chamber of Deputies, the President of the Deliberative Council of Rosario, plus two other provincial legislators and a national one.

The two guys asking to be married are really a committed couple — a graphic designer and a soon-to-be accountant who've lived together for 5 years. I say this because some may think this is all for show, or merely a private interest group allied with some leftist politicians trying to advertise their "perverted" ideas of same-sex marriage. How can it hurt someone or something to have a couple get their partnership confirmed by the law, I can't conceive, and this is what these guys (people with real faces, with real lives) are trying to show.

PPS: The judge correctly told the wannabe husband-and-husband their thing was a no-no according to the law, before authorities of INADI (the National Institute against Discrimination) and the Sexual Diversity Department of the municipality.

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