Venezuelan Bishops Oppose Gay Marriage

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday July 16, 2009

Ten years ago, the Catholic Church so vehemently opposed the inclusion of equality language for GLBTs in a reform of Venezuela's constitution that those protections were excluded from the country's bedrock law.

Now Catholic Bishops are protesting legislation, the "Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality," which they say would extend marriage to Venezuela's gay and lesbian families.

As a defense of their position, the bishops are pointing to the very constitution that the church prevented from including GLBT equality protections.

A July 15 article at anti-gay religious Web site LifeSiteNews reported that the bishops have issued a statement condemning the proposed legislation, saying, "we have well-founded reasons to affirm that within [the bill] serious violations and irreparable damage is committed against fundamental rights and structures of Venezuelan society recognized and guaranteed in our Constitution."

The bishops go on to claim that the proposed law "seriously offends rights that are consecrated and protected by our National Constitution, specifically the institutions of marriage and the family, and the superior interests of boys, girls, and adolescents... by legitimizing same-sex unions, awarding them the same juridical and patrimonial effects as those of matrimony."

The bishops offer the claim that the new law would undermine the rights of heterosexuals, declaring that gay and lesbian family equality would "render... juridicailly vulnerable" the rights of non-gays.

The bishops also indicate that the proposed legislation would open the door to legal abortion in the country, writing, "It likewise ignores the constitutional protection of the right of inviolability of human life, whether through contraceptive methods or by abortion."

The site acknowledged that the President of the Committee on the Family of the Venezuelan Congress, Marelis Perez, had contradicted the claims made by the bishops, saying that the proposed law did not address either marriage equality or abortion.

However, the site claimed that the proposed legislative language included a guarantee to "the right to 'sexual and reproductive health,'" which the site labeled "a common euphemism for abortion."

The site went on to say that another passage in the bill's text suggested that gays and lesbians might win the right to conduct their own domestic and intimate personal lives as they saw fit, citing a section that spoke of the "right of every person to live a pleasurable, responsible, and freely decided sexuality and the capacity to exercise sexual orientation and identity and expressions of gender without discrimination and in conditions of equality."

The bishops, the site reported, had adopted familiar anti-family rhetoric, saying, "When the institution of matrimony and of the family, which are the pillars of a society, are threatened by social, economic, ideological, or juridical situations, the various institutions of the society must begin to move in their defense."

The bishops went on to deny that gays and lesbians and their families partake in basic human dignity, writing, "In consequence the reaction and rejection of the society is legitimate when the dignity of the human person and the rights which are inherent in him are placed in danger, such as the enjoyment of a family structure constituted by a man and a woman and their children."

The site's article went on to link the issues of gay and lesbian family equality and reproductive freedom with socialism, setting that form of government in opposition to "traditional values."

Read the site's text, "Although Venezuela is regarded as having the most leftist government in South America, its president, Hugo Chavez, has done little to promote anti-life and anti-family policies during his tenure.

"It remains to be seen if the alliance of socialist parties that support Chavez will advance the bill or will block it in accordance with traditional Venezuelan values."

According to a Wikipedia entry about rights and protections accorded to Venezuela's GLBT citizens, several years after the church blocked guarantees of GLBT equality from the reformed constitution, President Ch?vez indicated dissatisfaction with the exclusion.

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.