OAS chief: Countries in the Americas have obligation to expand LGBTI rights

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Above: (Photo by Polly Terzian/NYU Washington)

Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro on Wednesday said countries in the Americas have an obligation to extend rights to their LGBTI citizens.

“We expect that the violence in the whole continent against LGBTIQ people, the discrimination that they suffer is resolved,” he told the Washington Blade at New York University Washington’s Abramson Family Auditorium in downtown Washington. “We want every country to resolve this discrimination that LGBTIQ people suffer. We want every country to investigate and to resolve any matter of LGBTI peoples and communities … We want every country to provide solutions for how the basic principles of human rights can be made operative in order to resolve these issues.”

Almagro, a former Uruguayan diplomat, spoke about LGBTI rights in the Americas during a discussion that Geovanny Vicente Romero, a political analyst who has contributed to the Blade, moderated.

The Blade asked Almagro about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to face criticism from activists over his rhetoric against LGBTI Brazilians and other minority groups. The Blade also asked Almagro about the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a Costa Rica-based court the OAS created in 1979 to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights.

The court in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. The decision is legally binding in the 20 countries — Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay — in the Americas that currently recognize the American Convention on Human Rights.

Ecuador’s highest court last month heard oral arguments in a case that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the country.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in January signed a law that allows trans people over 14 to legally change their name and gender without surgery.

The Chilean Supreme Court late last year ruled marriage for same-sex couples is a human right. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean advocacy group, has said Piñera’s government has “reneged” in a 2016 agreement it reached with Chile in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who want to get married in the country.

“We want every country to resolve the discrimination that LGBTQ people suffer,” Almagro told the Blade.

Almagro said the OAS has a Department of Social Inclusion and has installed gender-neutral bathrooms in its D.C. headquarters. He told the Blade he marched in Vancouver’s 2018 Pride parade and plans to participate in this year’s Capital Pride

Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, the ongoing unrest in Nicaragua, Cuba’s human rights record and Haiti are among the other issues that Almagro discussed.

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