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  • April 21, 2010

    Don't cry, Argentina's activist judges

    Posted by: Chris

    Norma Castillo and Ramona arevalo lesbian argentina gay marriage Very encouraging news out of my former home Buenos Aires:

    A judge in Buenos Aires today upheld the validity of the first civil marriage between two women, rejecting the decision of another judge, Martha Gomez Alsina, who had set aside as "null and non-existent" the marriage between the two women, the newspaper La Capital is reporting.

    This is the latest twist in quite the roller coaster ride for Norma Castillo and Ramona Arévalo, who were married after 30 years together, only to see their marriage declared "null and non-existent" by a judge acting at the behest of Roman Catholic lawyers. Now that judge's order has been struck down and a gay group is filing a civil and criminal complaint against the interfering judge for malfeasance.

    It's the same pattern that followed Latin America's first gay marriage, also in Argentina, just last December, which was also later struck down by a second judge, acting at the behest of lawyers from the Catholic Church.

    Unless jurisdiction is a loosey-goosey concept in Argentina, this sort of interference should subject the judges to ethics complaints, at a minimum. These are not appeals court judges, overturning the rulings of lower courts, but judges with entirely different jurisdiction responding to appeals to religion by a church that has no business claiming to be a moral arbiter of anything these days.

    Don't expect to hear any condemnation of this very blatant form of judicial activism from the right. Just like conservatives here in the U.S. are marshaling forces to ask unelected judges to overthrow the will of the people on health care reform and financial regulatory reform -- and just as they already did on campaign finance reform. How will Republican senators question Obama's Supreme Court pick about "judicial activism" and keep a straight face?

    According to the nationwide gay rights group, none of these annulments has any legal effect:

    The Argentinian LGBT Federation reiterated that the ruling confirmed that "no" marriage between persons of the same sex has actually been annulled in the country, La Capital reported.

    "The acts of these judges … besides being a new act of discrimination, do not bear any legal or procedural analysis," the Federation said in a statement. The group reiterated that "all marriages of same-sex couples are still valid and in force" and questioned the conflicting court rulings, saying that "being a judge does not entitle anyone to impose their religious beliefs to the rest of the population."

    "They could not cancel any of the marriages because they do not have the legal authority to do so," said Maria Rachid, president of the Argentinian LGBT Federation. The group called for a ruling by the Supreme Court in these cases so that "these judges are no longer confusing society."

    The question may be resolved before it even reaches the Supreme Court, since it appears the country's parliament may take up legislation as soon as this week that will clarify that marriage rights extend to same-sex couples.

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    May 08, 2008

    Don't cry for her, Democratic Party

    Posted by: Kevin

    Clintonx_2The festering Clinton boil is finally being lanced within the Democratic Party, at least for this election cycle.  It's a tremendous bit of luck not only for the party -- despite its idiotic blindness to this fact.  It's a relief for the country, given the brand of politics that this couple would practice if it regained control of both the party and Washington.

    I haven't written much since Hillary Clinton entered the fatal win-at-all-costs phase of her doomed presidential campaign a couple months ago, frankly because there wasn't much more to say.  The ship would inevitably sink, it was just a matter of whether enough of the remaining idiots in her camp would get into the lifeboats and save themselves in time from the wake of her titanic disaster.

    A lot of tripe is thrown around about gay Republicans in the gay media, and has been for over a decade.  But not enough has been written about the toxic impact that Clintonism has wrought on the gay community and its political leadership.  The cravenness of it, the poisonous combination of raising hopes with glistening promises, and dashing them at the first sign of political risk -- all the while shifting the blame to others -- has done more to destroy what was once a potentially powerful movement than anything a small band of hapless, closeted gay Republicans on Capitol Hill (now "cleansed" for the most part) could ever have done.

    And if the rich content of her presidential campaign was any indication, Hillary Clinton would have been even worse for us as president than her husband.  Unlike him, she didn't have the touch when it came to using the charming lie on gay rights.  She speaks in half-tones, half-measures and platitudes with little heart in it, and made it fairly clear by the way her campaign did gay outreach that it was all about hack-o-rama appointments and personal ambition within the gay political community.  Basically -- get on board, or be cut out.  Very Karl Rove, and very lethal for those who sign up for it.  I can attest to that personally, as can nearly every Republican of every stripe in politics right now.

    Indeed, her brand of politics seems to have divided the gay Democratic camp into two clear factions -- those who envy the Republicans so much that they want to emulate them (all the while bashing and personally destroying gay Republicans, interestingly enough, to cover their own shame), and those who are fed up with calculation and ruthlessness in politics that they are willing to try almost anything that is new and different.  (A third, unregistered group simply has walked away and taken up new interests in frustration.)

    From my vantage point here in South America, it is amazing how parallel the Clintons are to the political couple that is running Argentina at the moment -- Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.  He was president last, and now she's president, while he is about to take the chairmanship of the main Peronist party.  They, too, rail at big business, count on labor unions and blue-collar workers as their base, and spin all sorts of webs to scapegoat, capture and destroy all political opponents, from inside their movement or outside it.  They, too, deflect any and all blame for their policies that do harm, and refuse to even acknowledge reality at most junctures.  (Sound familiar?)  They came from a backwater province in the south of the country, which Néstor ran as governor, and Cristina launched her own presidential campaign last year from a Senate perch she'd recently captured outside Buenos Aires city.  But Argentina is sinking into, perhaps, its worst social, economic and political crisis since the nervous breakdown it suffered in 2001 -- completely at the hands of this self-obsessed, knuckle-breaking political machine government that the Kirchners are running.  And Cristina, pig-headed to the end (The Economist says she lives "in the land of make-believe") is mobilizing unions to beat down protesters in the name of fighting big business.  The galloping 25% inflation rate is something she blames on "greedy rich corporate owners" who won't voluntarily lower prices, raise wages, and pay for it all out of their profits.  (It has nothing to do with her, of course, nor market economics.)   She answers the new crisis with gimmicks (hello, gas tax holiday?) and populist rhetoric, not because she's incompetent.  It's because the entire raison d'etre of Peronism - like it's North American cousin in Clintonism - is to win at all costs.  To say anything, do anything, blame anyone, and never surrender to win out in the end, at the expense of anyone outside the walls of their marital union.  Over the last half-century, it has destroyed a once powerful country, probably for good.

    Ask any gay Hillary supporter to say, in plain words, exactly why Hillary would be best for the country.  You will never -- I repeat, never -- get anything in response but platitudes mixed with venomous stabs at either Obama or the GOP or both.  ¡Que peronista!  And all her most prominent gay defenders are lifetime gay Democratic hacks simply hoping for a job.  Period.  They defend the Clintons in the face of the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and stand ready to defend them again to the teeth -- and the do-nothing Democratic Congress, and the "fight-on-the-ice" DNC -- should four or eight years pass without any movement on either under their watch.  ("It wasn't the {lying, hypocritical} president's fault! It was [insert blame here]!") They are the worst detritus of the Bill Clinton era of gay Washington, and would bring a sense of blind loyalty to power more dangerous and insidious than the paradoxical, circus-freak brand that has been trotted out in hit pieces on gay Republicans who still love George W. Bush.  Because it would have the air of respectability, and could not dare be questioned without reprisal.

    So breathe easy, gay Democrats.  Hillary is finally being shoved out the door by the length and breadth of the selfishness she represents.  Whether it's soon, or after the inevitable rejection of her 900th attempt at game-changing party rules on May 31st (nuevamente peronista), it's been in the cards since February. 

    Whether you realize it or not, it's good for you.  Embrace it.  And get back to work in making your party something other than a gigantic waste of money, hope and effort.

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    February 14, 2008

    More than just a pretty face?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mistergayintl There's a cute story out by Christopher Sandlin in Edge Boston about the Mr. Gay International competition that quotes yours truly, who you may recall posted a rather catty opinion about the contest when the winner was first announced. The headline asks, "Is Mr. Gay International more than just a pretty face?"

    Not surprisingly, winner Carlos Melia from Argentina sees the contest as a meaningful attempt to pick the hottie who does the most for his country. (Carlos' travel agency donates 1% a month to charity. That's called micro-tithing, I think.)

    My quotation was (predictably) a bit more skeptical:

    The Mr. Gay International contest is, in one sense, a creative excuse to show off hot gay guys from different countries, the same as any pageant. Living in both Brazil and Argentina during the preliminaries of the competition, I saw a mixed reaction.

    Some people seemed to take genuine pride in a representative of their country and gay community going to compete internationally. That was more the case in Brazil, in both São Paulo and Rio. In Buenos Aires, on the other hand, most guys seemed to think it reinforced why they don’t associate with 'the gay scene' anyway, because it is (in their view) superficial and obsessed with looks.

    The story also looked into the "controversy" over Melia's 11th hour substitution for Jorge Schmeda, who it was discovered has done gay porn:

    "I'm not concerned about what people do for career choice," said Josh Robers, America’s contestant in the competition. "But I’m not sure I’d want an adult film actor representing our culture. What we’re trying to do is break stereotypes, present a positive image to the community. Frankly I’m not sure if an adult film actor is the right image."

    The article doesn't indicate Robers' profession, but no sooner than Melia took the crown than he posed nude himself (link semi-NSFW) for a Swedish magazine. Apparently the pageant is about more than a pretty face; it's about having a pretty body, too.

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    January 21, 2008

    Mr. Gay International needs a recount

    Posted by: Chris

    Mrgaybeach It's a small gay world, or so they say, and I would agree with "them" today. I had to shake my head when I read just now that Mr. Argentina, Carlos Fabian Melia, was selected "Mr. Gay International" in Hollywood last night.

    (That's Miela in the photo on the far right, next to Luciano Lupo, the gorgeous Brazilian named the pageant's most popular contestant. I'm really not sure the difference between most popular and the winner -- perhaps it was the sand-castle construction competition. I'm not making this up.)

    Carlos was a last minute stand-in for the actual winner of the Mr. Gay Argentina pageant, who was disqualified when it was learned he had worked in the adult film industry. Apparently you can work in gay porn and go on to become a Cosmo calendar boy, an "American Gladiator" or even a blogger-hero for conservatives -- but it'll keep you off the squeaky-clean stage of Mr. Gay International.

    Jorgent Anyway, I happen to know both Miela and his booted Argentinian predecessor, Jorge Schmeda. (That's Jorge at the right.) Both were regulars at our gym in Buenos Aires and out in the bars as well. Jorge, for what it's worth, couldn't be nicer, always smiling and friendly. Carlos, on the other hand, runs a local gay travel agency and as such you would imagine would be friendly and outgoing. In fact, was the singularly least friendly person we met in our three months in Buenos Aires.

    It's funny because I never even connected Jorge or Miela as the guys from our gym until I saw photos from the contest posted online. But this is the guy -- and you all probably know one -- whose nose is so far in the air that even a casual "hola" or smiled acknowledgment never goes returned.

    Of course the entire notion of a "Mr. Gay International" contest is about as silly -- actually much sillier -- than mainstream beauty pageants that thankfully are finally falling out of favor with the general public. Bu this particular pageant just goes to show you that beauty really can be only skin deep…

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    January 15, 2008

    So long and thanks for the tango

    Posted by: Chris

    Darioflavio OK so we never actually danced the tango, but this morning my partner and I wind up our three months in Buenos Aires exile from exile. Our time here passed by quickly, except for the recent 90-plus degree days in our apartment with no air conditioning.

    It was by some measures much easier to be here than I expected and every bit as hard in others. B.A. is everything you've heard it is: very European, beautiful architecture, wide streets, clean, very safe, cultured. Making friends wasn't as easy as in Brazil, but we certainly did -- and we can't thank you enough for your hospitality Flavio and Dario (pictured above, as we welcomed in the New Year with a few thousand of our closest friends), Gustavo, Eric, Javier, Marco, Omar, Romina, Gonzalo, Fede, Steven, Rafaela and Marcelo and many, many others.

    Being away from home -- and in my case away from home twice removed -- for the holidays was tough, but our friends here came through, always making us feel welcome and well-cared for.

    Now it's back to Brazil -- first a few days in São Paulo and then back to Rio De Janeiro, just in time to set ourselves up in our new pad in Copacabana before Carnival comes to town. If my calendar is correct, the Fat Tuesday is also Super Duper Tuesday in the primaries this year -- so you can guess who won't be live-blogging the results that night.

    One final thank you before we leave: to you.  Anderson and I have both been touched by all the emails we receive from other couples in our same situation.  There is real truth to the old cliché about how much better you feel just knowing someone else is going through the same thing.

    So muchas gracias and hasta luego, Buenos Aires, and bemvindo ao Brasil!

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    December 25, 2007

    Feliz Navidad

    Posted by: Chris

    Ba_xmas Merry Christmas, Feliz Natal and Feliz Navidad, from me and mine to you and yours.

    Happy Holidays!

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    December 24, 2007

    A holiday politics break

    Posted by: Chris

    With the arrival of Christmas, we all settle down with our families -- whether blood or chosen or (if you're lucky) both. Anderson and I will spend this holiday in Buenos Aires, where we've been since October, enjoying this beautiful city for the quiet days to come.

    This particular holiday isn't safe from politics, with the Iowa caucuses just 10 days away, but I thought I'd take a break and share with you something on the lighter side -- some of the Latino pop I haven't been able to get out of my head these last months.

    If you only watch one of the videos, watch the first one -- the song "Perfecta" by Spanish artist Miranda is absolutely infectious. Throw in a silly, campy video and it reminds me of "Come On Eileen." one of the Brit pop classics from my teen years.

    If you prefer your Latin pop to be less Dexy's Midnight Runners and more Ricky Martin-heartthrob, then Colombian crooner Juanes is your man. His hit "Me Enamore" ("I Love") is everywhere in Buenos Aires, and count me among its victims.

    Finally, check out the latest video of Eduardo Cruz, brother of actress Penelope Cruz, which features a scandalous kiss between Penelope and her sister Monica.

    Lyrics to the first two tunes, along with English translations courtesy of Google, are available on the jump.
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    December 03, 2007

    GNW 5: Gay travel pro's and con's

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Larrycraigblue Four more men tell of sex with Larry 'I'm not gay' Craig: QUICK LOOK: David Phillips. Mike Jones. Greg Ruth. Tom Russell. Four gay men, willing to put their names in print and whose allegations can't be disproved, have come forward since... (MORE)
    2. Jeffissa Pa. library refuses parents' demand to pull gay book: QUICK LOOK: Storytime ceased abruptly when the picture book Eileen Issa was reading her 2 1/2-year-old son surprisingly ended with two men marrying and smooching. The tale about... (MORE)
    3. N.J. sperm donor ordered to pay child support to lesbians: QUICK LOOK: A Nassau County man who said he donated sperm to a lesbian co-worker as a friendly gesture -- and then sent presents and cards to the child over the years -- is legally considered the father and may... (MORE)
    4. Newark NYT: In progressive N.J., gays find danger in Newark: QUICK LOOK: To live in Newark often means grappling with unrelenting poverty, the anesthetizing lure of drugs, murderous gangs, a lack of decent jobs. But for gay men, lesbians and... (MORE)
    5. Grenada Grenada may ban gay cruises from island: reports: QUICK LOOK: Grenada is questioning whether to allow entry to ship passengers on all-gay cruises, news reports from the Caribbean island say. "We have not taken a policy as to whether... (MORE)


    • Axelhotel1 Macho Argentina warms to gay dollars and euros: QUICK LOOK: Home to the sexy tango dance and swarthy meat-eaters, this South American capital has long been thought of as a bastion of macho attitudes. But a new hotel here is adding... (MORE)

    My boyfriend and I finally made it downtown to visit the new Axel Hotel in Buenos Aires, the first five-star hotel for gays in Latin America. The occasion was the first-ever pool party in the hotel's chic three-level pool deck.

    The party and the hotel were first-rate and live up to the reputation set by the hotel's big sister, the original Axel Hotel in Barcelona, with its expansive use of glass floors and lighting to create a very open and minimal, yet opulent, feel. Surprisingly, the price range for a room at the Axel here is roughly the same (US$200-400) as the original in Barcelona. That runs contrary to the much lower cost generally of life down here, including hotel rooms.

    Gay life here in Buenos Aires is still something of a mystery to me, even after five weeks in the city. There are relatively few gay-only spaces, and the Argentine gays seem particularly proud of the fact that the mix comfortably with straight folks, whether in restaurants, bars, gyms or dance clubs. And yet they do so by avoiding almost any sign of affection toward one another, so it's not clear whether their achievement is one of progress or of rationalization of the closet.

    I've also been a bit disappointed by the infrastructure here, since Argentines proudly compare themselves to "backwards Brazil." But sitting in an apartment that still lacks air conditioning and Internet service -- after weeks of ISP bureaucracy I'm still stuck poaching a neighbor's WiFi from the balcony -- I'm less than convinced.

    And the men. Don't get me started on the men.


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    November 18, 2007

    You say 'Parada,' they say 'Marcha'

    Posted by: Chris

    Bsas_pride1blog This is Gay Pride weekend here in Buenos Aires, where my partner and I are living for the rest of this year. My first reaction was to the small size of the event, since B.A. bills itself (repeatedly) as "the gay capital of South America." I would put the numbers at tens of thousands, certainly smaller than most big city Pride events I've attended, and a tiny, tiny percentage of the millions who filled Avenida Paulista for the world's largest Gay Pride, in São Paulo, Brasil, back in June.

    The location yesterday was perfect, however, on the Plaza de Mayo, scene of Evita's famous speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. From that picturesque square, the parade proceeded through the Centro to the Plaza de los Dos Congresos. The event here in BsAs is called the "Marcha del Orgullo," or Pride March, and it did have a more political feel than the "Parada de Orgulho" in São Paulo.

    There were political banners for the event's theme, "Equality, Liberty, Diversity," as well as, "The same rights with the same names," a direct call for marriage and not simply civil union recognition for gay couples. Still, drag queens dressed in wedding gowns, gyrating to "The Wedding Song" is unlikely to change many minds on the subject.

    Gay marriage is a hot topic right now in Argentina, since the election earlier this month of Cristina Kirchner, the current first lady and a former senator. A prominent Cristina backer in the Senate introduced a gay marriage bill in the weeks leading up to the election, but gay Latino blogger Blabbeando has raised a number of legitimate questions about whether that support can be attributed to the prime candidate herself. Reading his analysis, Cristina comes off a bit like her cautious and calculating counterpart running for president back home in the U.S.

    It's a mistake to judge a community by its Gay Pride, but overall I'm surprised that gay Argentinians are pushing for marriage. Moreso than in Rio or São Paulo, many gays here seem to be fairly closeted, although many would have you believe they are post-gay rather than pre-gay. Perhaps a bit of both is fair, but it speaks well of the activists here and the political scene that gays can be a political force with such a (relatively) small visible presence.

    More pics follow here and on the jump as well.


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    October 21, 2007

    Next stop, Buenos Aires

    Posted by: Chris

    300pxargentinabanderap2080016 Score another win for immigration law over your's truly and my partner. After spending part of 2006 and most of 2007 so far in Rio and then São Paulo, Brazil, we've been evicted yet again and this time my partner will be forced to go ex-pat for us to stay together.

    That's because this time the problem isn't the immigration laws of the United States, though they still prohibit me from sponsoring my partner for residence back home.  The problem this time is Brazilian immigration law.  You see my tourist visa is about to expire for this year and after much wringing of hands with fellow ex-pats, Brazilian friends and some knowledgeable lawyers, we have decided not to risk my overstaying.

    That decision came several weeks ago, and was followed by a somewhat scattered search for options, which eventually narrowed down to two: Buenos Aires or Cape Town, South Africa. The choices are not as crazy as they sound.

    Like many of my fellow gay Americans in binational relationships, I am applying along with my partner to become "landed immigrants" in Canada, which will recognize our relationship even in the visa application. But since we're not married, we have to prove one year of cohabitation. That's doable, since we have lived together since September 2006, when I left Washington and moved to Rio. But it's complicated, involved and carries a somewhat greater risk of rejection.

    Aside from our immigration issue, we would love to marry after almost three years together, but (as I've explained before) only five countries in the world marry gay couples: Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. The three European countries all limit marriage to residents, and while Canada does not, getting a Canadian tourist visa for my partner is almost as difficult as getting one to visit the U.S.  That leaves South Africa, which marries non-residents and (like all of Europe including the U.K.) accepts Brazilian tourists without a special visa.

    We received some wonderful assistance from a network of gay friends in Cape Town, even though they weren't even our friends -- they were on loan from a very dear friend back in Washington.  But when we added up the expense of getting there and living there, we decided to stay closer to "home" in Buenos Aires.

    200410buenosairesobelisconocturno Buenos Aires is hardly a back-up option, even if we can't marry there. I spent a day there at the end of my first trip to South America in February 2005.  (It was supposed to be a week, but I met Anderson and extended my stay in Rio every day until I had only one left.)  It is a beautiful city, very European, gorgeous architecture, friendly people, clean, safe and one of the few places the dollar still has any value. (It's dropped below 1.80 Brazilian reais for the first time since 2000; it was almost R$3 per dollar my first trip here.)

    Several kind folk, including fellow bloggers Kevin (Club Whirled) and Rex Wockner have also leant me their friend network, as have several of our Brazilian friends. I'm sure they will help us acclimate and get to know our new home, if only for three months.  In January, we can return again to Brazil.

    I will leave Brazil, even temporarily, with a heavy heart.  I love this country, even with all of its problems, and I especially love its people.  And having finally semi-mastered Portuguese, it's back to the Spanish drawing board for me.  Hopefully the three-year assault by Portuguese hasn't undone all the Spanish I learned back in school.

    I am writing about this move with optimism because it is the way that Anderson and I are approaching it.  Our lives remain in a semi-constant state of upheaval, and yet another move will be a jolt to the system.  But like many "love exiles," we are practically old pros at this now.

    I also remain hopeful that someday in the not-so-distant future, the U.S. government will join 20 other countries in allowing gay Americans the same right that straight Americans have to sponsor a partner for residence -- just as our government already allows non-Americans to do when the come to work temporarily in the U.S.

    Whether change comes through passage of the Uniting American Families Act or through repealing the half of the Defense of Marriage Act that blocks the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, it can't come soon enough for us and so many others.

    For a complete news summary on gay immigration issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/immigration

    For a complete news summary on gay Latino issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/latino

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