Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Times They Are a'Changing!

Equality is moving quickly in many parts of the world, and the last couple months of 2012 have been no exception.  My liberal progressive heart is loving every minute of it!

Here's a quick, simplified round-up:

THE PHILIPPINES:  Naturally, since the Philippines is dear to my heart, I have to give BIG kudos to the Filipino people for the recent passage of the Reproductive Health Bill in both the House and the Senate.  Even though it doesn't have anything to do with gay rights, it's still a wonderful step forward!  As soon as President Aquino signs the bill, we can finally start referring to it as the Reproductive Health Law.  It's been a long time coming, so congrats, Philippines!

URUGUAY:  On December 12th the House of Representatives of the South American nation of Uruguay passed a Marriage Equality Bill, 87 votes to 81.  The bill will next go to the Senate for approval, where it is expected to pass.  The president, Jose Mujica, has said that he will gladly sign the bill into law as soon as the Senate approves it.  Looks like another majority-Catholic country will soon be joining the ranks of countries with marriage equality.  Go Uruguay!

MEXICO:  The Mexican Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the first week of December, striking down the state of Oaxaca's ban on same-sex marriage.  The ruling does not strike down similar bans in other states, but sets a powerful precedent and paves the way for marriage equality throughout Mexico.  Currently same-sex marriages are only performed in Mexico City and in the state of Quintana Roo, but in 2010 the Mexican Supreme Court ordered all of Mexico's 31 states to honor and recognize same-sex marriages no matter where they're performed.

COLOMBIA:  The First Committee of the Senate of Colombia has approved a same-sex marriage bill on December 4th.  The bill will proceed through the legislature in the coming months of early 2013.  If no action is taken by the legislature by June 20, 2013, same-sex couples will automatically be granted full marriage rights by order of a Supreme Court decision that came in 2011.  But wait, isn't Colombia majority-Catholic??  Yes it is!

UNITED STATES:  1.  In November, pro-marriage equality President Barack Obama was re-elected, and four ballot initiatives in four states turned out very well for equality.  The state of Maine legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote; the voters of the state of Washington approved marriage equality after the state legislature had already passed it last year; and voters in the state of Maryland did the same.  In Minnesota, voters were asked if they wanted to include a ban on same-sex marriage in their state's constitution... the people said "no!"  It was a great day for liberty and equality!  America seems to be progressing faster and faster all the time.

2.  In early December the US Supreme Court announced that it will hear two majorly important gay rights cases in its current session.

      a)  The first is regarding section III of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), which, if found to be unconstitutional, would mean that the US federal government would be able to formally and officially recognize same-sex marriages for tax purposes, Social Security purposes, immigration purposes, and all the other 1,000+ rights and privileges that go along with marriage.  This would be huge.  Most legal analysts believe the Supreme Court will strike down DOMA section III, and the ruling - whatever it may be - will come in June of 2013.

     b)  The second case regards Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that removed the right to marry for same-sex couples in California.  No one's really sure what the Supremes will decide on this one, but a ruling will also come in June of 2013.  The high court could uphold the ban (highly unlikely), could strike down the ban and return marriage equality to California (most likely), or strike down all same-sex marriage bans across America (possible, but not a sure bet).  It's exciting to be sure, so keep an eye on these cases.

3.  Next up:  Illinois.  America's fifth most populous state already has civil unions, but the Illinois legislature is scheduled to take up a full Marriage Equality Bill in January.

CAMBODIA:  Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Kingdom of Cambodia is now speaking out publicly against anti-gay discrimination, speaking on TV to his countrymen not to foster anti-gay bias.  Cambodia, like its neighbor Thailand, is known for being tolerant, but LGBT Cambodians are starting to request the same rights and freedoms as their straight countrymen, and it seems the government is starting to listen.  The late king of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk, who passed away in October of this year, was known for his liberal ideals.  In 2004 he stated:  "As a liberal democracy, Cambodia should allow marriage between a man and man, or between woman and woman.  It is not their fault that God makes them the way they are."

FRANCE:  Draft legislation has been formally presented by the government of social democratic President Francois Hollande, and it will be voted on in the National Assembly in Paris in early 2013.  Vive la France!

SCOTLAND:  A draft Marriage Equality Bill has been formally published by the Scottish government as of December 12th.  Public consultation will proceed through March of 2013, after which time a bill can be presented to parliament for a vote.  As part of the UK, Scotland already has Civil Partnerships.  The proposed law, however, will bring full marriage equality for straight and gay couples alike, including giving religious and other belief communities the right to conduct same-sex weddings if they so choose.  We're cheering you on, Scotland!

THAILAND:  Finally!  The Thai government is drafting a same-sex Civil Partnership Bill.  The committee has already begun meeting, and the process should reportedly take six weeks.  Sure it's just drafting, but it's long overdue for Thailand.  After the drafting is complete it will be sent to legal experts to be ironed out further, and then presented to parliament for consideration.  I can't believe it's taken tolerant Thailand so long to get this ball rolling, but kudos to them for finally getting on with it!


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