You may remember the story of Alex Freyre and Jose Maria di Bello, two Argentine men, both HIV+, who wanted to marry on December 1, World Aids Day. Earlier in the year the couple had managed to secure permission to marry from a Buenos Aires court after a judge ruled that the civil code ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
The ruling was immediately challenged by another judge who, although not disagreeing with the couple’s right to marry as such, disputed the lower court’s ability to strike down an aspect of the civil code, even if the ruling had only limited power to grant same-sex couples in Argentina’s capital the ability to appeal their right for a marriage license. The judge, Gabriela Seijas, filed an injunction and the couple were made to wait. You can read the full story here.
However, because the injunction only applied to Buenos Aires itself, the couple decided to search for another region to marry in, realizing that, so long as the area’s officials agreed, the marriage could still go ahead. CNN reports:
In Argentina, the issue of same-sex marriage is decided on the local and state level.
So Freyre and di Bello went to the southernmost state of Tierra del Fuego, where a pro-gay marriage governor welcomed the event, Telam reported.
Although the federal government could not directly intervene, Argentina’s National Institute Against Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) helped find a friendly jurisdiction where the couple could have their wedding…
The governor of Tierra del Fuego, Fabiana Rios, issued a special decree allowing the marriage. She cited that, although Argentina’s civil code bans gay marriage by definition, the Argentine Constitution does not, and therefore it was within her power to allow the marriage to proceed, saying that same-sex marriage was “an important advance in human rights and social inclusion”.
Alex Freyre and Jose Maria di Bello were married on Monday in what is believed to be a first for Latin America.
Roman Catholic leaders have condemned the marriage, with Bishop Juan Carlos of the city of Rio Gallegos calling the marriage “an attack against the survival of the human species”.
This isn’t the end of the matter, however. Argentina’s top court has chosen to examine the couple’s case and will report their findings next year. At this time it is unclear if the court will take on the question of the legality of banning same-sex marriage, or if they will instead limit their focus to this one case in point and whether the judge who originally overturned the ban had the power to do so.
If the court upholds the ban, Alex Freyre and Jose Maria di Bello’s marriage may be nullified. However, should the court decide that the original judge was correct, and therein agree that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the court’s decision may have wider implications.
Argentina’s lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would allow gay marriage. It is hotly opposed by political and religious conservatives and is not expected to pass. Greater support exists for civil partnerships, although they too draw controversy.
Despite this, one half of the married couple, Jose Maria Di Bello, has expressed hope that his marriage could be a symbol for change throughout Latin America and beyond, saying:
“I want this union to symbolise that this point, the further south in the world, is the end of the world, but also the beginning of everything, and from Ushuaia, the city further south in the world, and from Argentina, we are shedding light to the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
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