Gay marriage law in Argentina signals waning Catholic influence
The recent enactment in Argentina of a gay marriage law is being largely viewed to indicate the waning influence of the Catholic church in Argentina–and generally, Latin America.
The law, which allows gay couples to marry and adopt children, is perceived to indicate that there is a greater desire for more liberal social legislation in what had long been viewed as a Catholic stronghold, Reuters said.
The law was signed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on July 21 after bitter legislative debate and strong lobbying from the Catholic church, with a 33-27 vote. Some aver that this also paves a way for the president’s husband, Nestor Kirchner, to be reelected president in 2011, RD Magazine says.
Mr. Kircher was formerly Argentina’s president and there is speculation that he may run again. The passage of the gay marriage law may give him a more widely acceptable liberal image that could garner the votes, RD Magazine says.
The Catholic church’s failure to derail the law is also indicative of a new cultural direction in Latin America, which is comparable to the experience of Portugal and Spain, both of which have legalized gay marriage despite a strong history of Catholicism and a near-past history of Catholic dictatorships, Time Magazine says.
Among Argentina’s gay community, it is believed that the vote reflects loathing towards the Catholic hierarchy, Marcelo Ernesto Ferreyra of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission said. Time Magazine noted that Ferreyra cited the loss of prestige of the Catholic church in Argentina.
The church has said that homosexuality is perverse, and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who heads Argentina’s church has argued that more than a political struggle, the legal sanction of gay marriage goes against God’s plan, Reuters said.
Gay marriage is also legal in Mexico City and Uruguay; while Chile’s president Sebastian Pinera also has expressed plans to enhance the rights of same-sex couples, Reuters said. With the new law, RD Magazine said there may be new changes in the future, for example abortion may soon be legalized in Latin America.
Already, a leading candidate for president in Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, has expressed favor for legalized abortion. Of note, Brazil has the highest Catholic population in the world, Reuters said.
Professor Ana Maria Bidegain, who teaches religious studies at Florida International University said, “Evidently the Church has been losing presence and influence regarding political decisions, which is part of a secularization process. People are still Catholic and they still believe in the fundamentals … but they no longer agree with what (the Church) says regarding morality,” Reuters reported.
Bidegain cited a number of reasons for the change, including urbanization in Latin America and the worldwide incidence of sexual abuse scandals among priests, Reuters said.