Source: Toni Reis
President Barack Obama, welcome to Brazil!
This moment is an historic meeting between a person who has fought against racism and a person who has fought against male chauvinism (“machismo”). The first Black president of the United States of America and the first woman president of Brazil.
I am a member of several LGBT rights organizations, both in Brazil and in the Latin American region.
As such, I would like to make the most of your visit to Brazil to put forward some considerations.
In your 2008 election campaign, you publicized specific proposals for the LGBT community, summarized as follows:
· expand hate crimes statutes, including those perpetrated on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity;
· fight workplace discrimination and promote rights;
· support full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples;
· oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage;
· repeal Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell;
· fight AIDS worldwide.
During your government, so far, you sanctioned the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Act, which punishes violence, including violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity; you held a summit meeting in the White House on bullying; and recorded a video message for LGBT teenagers victims of homophobic bullying, in which you said, among other things: “What I want to say is this: you are not alone.” “You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
You worked to equalize tax treatment for same-sex couples and provide benefits to domestic partners of gay and lesbian federal employees, in line with their straight colleagues.
You support the proposed Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, because it discriminates same-sex couples.
You have repealed the policy of “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell”, and stated “I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform, your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the military””
You ended a ban on HIV-positive immigrants and foreign visitors. We hope you will continue to strengthen initiatives like Pepfar and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
You held a reception for LGBT leaders in the White House on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, birthplace of the modern LGBT movement, and proclaimed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, saying “I call on the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Your government also recommended its representatives to vote in favour of ABGLT, the institution I preside, being granted consultative status on the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
All of these are extremely positive measures, representing a considerable advancement in the achievement of full citizenship for LGBT people in the USA and worldwide.
In 2008, you said of president Lula that “this is my man”. I can reaffirm that Lula will go down in history for (among so many other wonderful achievements) having convened the first ever National LGBT Conference, taking part in the opening ceremony and, shortly afterwards, issuing a decree proclaiming May 17th as the National Day Against Homophobia.
Today in Brazil we have a National Plan for the Promotion of LGBT Citizenship and Human Rights, we have an LGBT executive coordination linked to the Office of the President of the Republic and, on March 30th, the first members of the newly created National Council for the Combat of Discrimination and Promotion of the Human Rights of the LGBT Population will be instated, with 15 government members and 15 civil society members. An example for the United States and for the world.
I would to emphasize that it is very important that you to continue and further strengthen your efforts towards the decriminalization of homosexuality in the countries where it is still a crime, and that your continue to take a firm public stance whenever LGBT people’s human rights are violated, as in the case of the murder of Ugandan activist David Kato, when you stated that “LGBT rights are not special rights, they are human rights” and that “my Administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad”.
There are still 7 countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty, and a further 75 where it is a crime. This scenario must be changed to one that respects sexually diversity.
In Brazil, the National Congress has not approved a single law in benefit of our community. And the principle cause of this is religious fundamentalism which is growing in society and consequently in the parliament as well. Efforts are needed to combat homophobia in Brazil, in the United States and throughout the world. We need more pronouncements by public figures, like the following one you made: “Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday … but I hear people saying thinks that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian”.
I would like to refer to two final issues. I had the possibility to stay in Cuba for two weeks and saw at first hand the suffering of the Cuban people because of the North American embargo that has been in force for nearly 50 years now. I ask that your government makes every effort to put an end to this policy. The Cuban people also have human rights and deserve respect.
The second, but not least important issue, is that the United States give their support and articulate so that Brazil has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. A new world order, more plural and democratic, involves the recognition of the role of protagonism played by various countries like Brazil.
Finally, we are confident that together with president Dilma, who had the support of a large part of the LGBT community in her election, we will approve in the National Congress laws that promote the human rights of LGBT people, and we will develop policies so that we can have a Brazil without homophobia, where everyone respects sexual, cultural and religious diversity, and all the diversities of human beings.
Global Alliance for LGBT Education, Director for Latin America
General-Secretary of ASICAL – Association for Integral Health and Citizenship in Latin America and the Caribbean
Focal Point of IDAHO – International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
President of ABGLT – Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Association
Member – National Council for the Combat of Discrimination and Promotion of the Human Rights of the LGBT Population