Argentina Marriage Equality Reaffirmed by Judge

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday April 9, 2010

A long-running debate on marriage equality continues to play out in Argentina's courts, with the latest development being a ruling in Buenos Aires affirming the marriage of Carlos lvarez and his husband, Martn Canevaro.

An April 8 article at anti-gay religious website LifeSiteNews, which frequently posts GLBT-related content, retraced the saga of marriage equality in Argentina, pinpointing last year's ruling by Judge Gabriela Seijas as the start of legal "ping-pong" involving marriage. Judge Seijas ruled last Nov. 20 that a male couple, Alex Freyre and Jose Maria di Bello, who are both HIV-positive, had a right to marriage equality. But before the men could proceed with a planned Dec. 1 wedding meant to coincide with World AIDS Day, Judge Marta Gomez Alsina halted the celebration--though without overturning Judge Seijas' ruling. Alsina said that the country's Supreme Court should weigh in on the issue.

The men had chosen World AIDS Day intentionally, said Freyre. ""We are in love and excited about getting married, but we can't really think about the wedding party, the wedding night, or the honeymoon," he told the press. "We are activists, and how can we show our faces if we forget about the rights we are representing?"

"They are shocked and saddened by the news" of Judge Alsina's decision, said Maria Rachid at the time. Rachid is the president of the Argentine Federation for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals.

The men did manage to seal their vows by going to Tierra del Fuego, where the governor granted them married status, making Freyre and di Bello Latin America's first same-sex married couple. But the legal struggle has been ongoing.

And the story actually begins earlier--at least as long ago as January of 2008, when another couple from Argentina headed to Spain to wed after being denied a marriage license at home. Cesar Cigliutti and Marcelo Suntheim were able to wed in Spain thanks to Suntheim having dual German/Argentinean citizenship, which allowed them access to the rights accorded citizens of the European Union.

The pair planned to pursue legality issues once back in Argentina and to press for the country to honor their marriage.

Now the issue is back with a Buenos Aires judge, Guillermo Scheibler, ruling on April 5 that Carlos lvarez and Martn Canevaro should be able to wed because prohibitions of gay and lesbian families getting married are, the judge said, unconstitutional.

The LifeSiteNews article noted that the wording of marriage issues in Argentina's constitution makes reference to men and women and talks about couples being "man and wife." The government has appealed the ruling.

Argentina's Supreme Court is expected to take up the question at some point. Nstor Kirchner, the husband of Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez, has said that the political party to which he belongs will propose the legalization of marriage equality through legislative means, rather than relying on the courts. Said Kirchner, "This has nothing to do with any religion, only to establish the equality of all persons before the law," reported GayNewsWatch on Feb. 23. The publication also reported that more than 40 same-sex families in Argentina are now seeking the right to marry.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.