SANTIAGO - The month of April brought some very good news for supporters of gay marriage, and one piece of bad news.
The best news in Latin America came from Uruguay, where the Chamber of Deputies gave same-sex couples the right to marry by the overwhelming majority of 71 to 21, topped off by a momentous speech by Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. The law has since been approved by the Senate, and should enter into force any minute.
Two days after the success in Uruguay, the same thing happened in New Zealand, where the parliament approved gay marriage legislation 77 to 44, making it it the first country in Asia to approve marital equality.
The bad news came from Colombia, where a law legalizing gay marriage was voted down in the senate 51 to 15 after being approved in committee in December. Supporters have one last recourse: appealing to the Constitutional Court.
The latest word on gay marriage has come from the famously civilized country of France, where the legalization of gay marriage was supposed to be just a formality but ended up turning into a war. Since 58 percent of French citizens have said they are in favor of gay marriage, observers in France and elsewhere were surprised at the virulence of the debate. There were attacks on gay couples on the streets of Paris and other cities, and an arson attack at a gay bar in the northern city of Lille. Around 350,000 people marched in the streets of Paris against gay marriage just a few days before the National Assembly approved the law permitting same-sex couples to marry and adopt children by 329 to 229 votes.
With or without heated debates, the wave is bound to continue. There are only 14 countries worldwide where gay marriage is currently legal, but there are concrete plans in the works to legalize it in many more.
In Latin America, only two countries sanction gay marriage -- Argentina and Uruguay -- but change is brewing throughout the region. Brazil is one of several countries preparing to join the group of countries with the most extensive package of LGBT rights. In 2011, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals have the right to marry, and last year the Senate’s Commission on Human Rights approved a national civil marriage law that should be passed by the full Senate and Congress this year. At the same time, judges in seven Brazilian states have given a green light to civil marriages for same-sex couples.
In Mexico, the Constitutional Court has approved the constitutionality of gay marriage on a national level, and same-sex couples can already marry in Mexico City and three Mexican states.
In Chile, the Senate is about to approve a civil union law, which would give gay partners the same financial rights as a married couple, though it would fall short of marriage equality. Supporters of gay marriage in Chile will have to wait for the next legislative session to make their case.
There might not be another issue that is so marked by generational divide. In the United States, where gay marriage is legal in Washington DC and eight states, until recently the majority of the population was against gay marriage. But as younger generations are included in surveys, the results change, and now a majority is in favor of marriage equality.
To be in favor of gay marriage is to be on the right side of history. But we support gay marriage for reasons more important than statistical convenience.
América Economía supports gay marriage because the magazine supports freedom. We are in favor of the freedom to start a business, the freedom to make economic choices, and in favor of all individual and public freedoms if they do not harm society. And we do not see how a marriage between two people will harm society.
We also believe in equal opportunity and equal rights for all. And we understand that equal rights can not truly exist in a society if some people are not treated the same way as others.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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