As noted a number of times, the United States of America advertises that it is the land of liberty that grants religious freedom to all. But the reality is that the USA's advertised promise is increasingly hollow and being shown as such by neighbors both north and south of the USA's borders in the Western Hemisphere. A piece in Foreign Policy looks at the United State's increasingly embarrassing behind the curve position compared to countries in Latin America. Countries that many Americans once sneered at as "backwards." Who is backwards now? Here are highlights from the Foreign Policy article:
In his second inaugural address, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to make the United States a beacon for the world by recommitting the country to its ideals of equality. He also made history by saying those ideals demand marriage rights for same-sex couples just as they have demanded equal citizenship for women and African Americans.
But even if the Supreme Court or lawmakers soon agree with Obama's words -- "for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well" -- the United States will be a latecomer to advancing marriage rights. The world's leaders on this issue are not just from places Americans might expect -- Western Europe or Canada -- but many countries in our own hemisphere; places not usually known for progressivism on social issues. While Obama was undergoing his "evolution" on marriage rights, there has been a gay rights revolution that has stretched from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.
One dramatic illustration: When a broad coalition of human-rights activists brought a gay rights charter to the United Nations in 2007, the push was led not by the likes of Sweden or the Netherlands, but by Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
In 2010, Argentina's congress approved an "Equal Marriage" law, the same year same-sex marriage also became legal in Mexico City. A year later, Brazil's supreme court ruled same-sex couples were entitled to partnership rights through a kind of domestic partnership status, and some states -- including the largest, São Paulo -- are now performing full marriages for same-sex couples. The lower house of Uruguay's legislature voted in December 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, and its senate is widely expected to pass the law when it votes in April.
There were also several LGBT rights victories on issues beyond marriage. Though Bolivia's 2009 constitution bans same-sex marriage, it also bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Chile, one of South America's most conservative countries, passed a non-discrimination bill in 2012 and elected its first openly gay politician. And the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner built on its passage of the marriage law to enact the world's broadest legal protections for transgender people last year.
This is not to say that all of Latin America is a gay-rights paradise. Laws throughout Central America, where there is an especially strong evangelical movement, remain particularly hostile, as they do in Peru. . . .
The specific reasons these gains have been possible differ in each country. But a major factor in all of them is that LGBT activists have managed to link their cause to broader efforts to shore up human-rights protections in countries still coping with the legacies of anti-democratic regimes that fell in the late 20th century. Additionally, the courts have embraced their role as defenders of human rights and measure themselves against international standards.
Take the case of Colombia. In 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples must be considered a "family" under the law. It ordered the congress to pass a law equalizing the rights of same-sex couples within two years. . . . . The ruling came despite strong pressure from the Catholic Church, which is continuing to lobby against same-sex marriage in the Colombian congress.
Benedetti told me in a November interview in his Bogotá office. "That is the [influence of] the Catholic religion, which always puts its principles above the rights of minorities."
Latin America's marriage movement has been helped by the fact that most countries' courts take international jurisprudence far more seriously than do courts in the United States. Human rights law takes an especially international perspective, since almost every country in Latin America is under the jurisdiction of two human rights bodies within the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, charged with investigating violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which adjudicates violations on the recommendation of the Commission. Though the United States, Canada, and a handful of Caribbean nations do not recognize the court's jurisdiction, most of Latin America does.
On Dec. 5, Mexico's high court sided with the three couples and said that marriage could not be restricted to heterosexual couples. Technicalities of Mexico's legal system mean that more lawsuits are still required before same-sex couples can easily marry in every state, but this ruling means that it will soon be possible.
This year, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing exactly the same questions that Mexico's court has already resolved. But the U.S. justice system is fiercely resistant to considering legal decisions from abroad.
When the justices take up the gay marriage cases in March, there will be more at stake than the status of American gay and lesbian couples. They will be deciding whether the United States will fall behind as its neighbors establish a new standard of human rights, or whether it will join a revolution that is well underway.
That's right, the U. S. Supreme Court will ultimately be deciding whether the promises of the U. S. Constitution are a lie or whether it is time that religious based anti-gay discrimination is thrown on the trash heap of history where it belongs. The Christofascists may revel in their hate, bigotry and ignorance, but the rest of us ought to be concerned about the USA's declining position in the world as a beacon of of freedom.