Is she the new Evita?
By the time you read this, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will almost certainly be the new president of Argentina. Kirchner, who will follow her husband to the Casa Rosada, has already been compared (and compared herself) to Eva Peron, and will also be the country's first female president. And while scouring the internet for her positions on LGBT rights didn't result in much information being found, there is reason to believe that her presidency will take place during a time when sexual rights in South America are moving forward rapidly. In some cases, there's even strong evidence that countries like Argentina are quickly outpacing the United States in recognizing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
It's enough to make you want to join the 1 million Argentines who chanted "Cristina! Cristina!" at her final campaign rally in San Justo.
One of Kirchner's strongest campaign supporters, Senator Vilma Ibarra of Buenos Aries, has proposed legislation in the Senate to follow in the footsteps of Spain and fully recognize same-sex marriage in Argentina.
As one blogger pointed out, "I can’t be sure how much support this bill will have – the conservative paper La Nación came out with the usual catholic argument the next day in one of its editorials that this bill is an insult to the family, to Argentine tradition, etc. etc., but the fact remains it was proposed – and by a supporter of the leading candidate for president. The Kirchneristas have a case when they choose to represent themselves as human rights advocates."
Even the proposal of same-sex marriage rights at the federal level is a giant step forward from where U.S. advocates find themselves today. With the possible exception of Senator Russ Feingold, it's difficult to imagine any American lawmakers tackling the issue . . . especially while supporting a leading candidate for the presidency.
The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission also points to progress in Argentina. In August, IGLHRC reports, a declaration from the human rights committee of the Southern Common Market in the country set the stage for moving forward LGBT rights by leaps and bounds.
The declaration calls on Latin American governments to:
- Repeal of laws that discriminate against LGBT people;
- Promote public awareness and education plans;
- Increase involvement of LGBT people at all levels of public education;
- Take action to end police harassment and persecution;
- Adopt laws to protect same-sex couples and their families;
- Ease name change and registration for transgender people;
- Create government agencies to support and provide services to LGBT people;
- Promote inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the draft of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination; and
- Convene a regional entity to monitor state compliance.
“This is a truly ground breaking opportunity for achieving the promise of full human rights throughout Latin America for sexual and gender minorities,” said Marcelo Ferreyra, IGLHRC’s Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean.
That news comes on the heels of reports that Cuban LGBT activists are making some progress, too. There has been so much advancement on the issue that USA Today was prompted to ask recently, "When it comes to gay rights, is Cuba inching ahead of USA?"
"We have to abolish any form of discrimination . . . ," said Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba's national assembly. "We are trying to see how to do that, whether it should be to grant them the right to marry or to have same-sex unions."
Gay marriage in Cuba but not Miami? Latin America is moving ahead, indeed.
Our lawmakers might be able to learn a thing or two from their counterparts in the south when it comes to human and LGBT rights. And if Cristina Kirchner keeps the ball rolling, she may be able to claim the mantle of Evita after all.