The United States has declined to offer its support for a historic ruling upholding same-sex marriage by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
Seven of the eight countries included in the LGBTI Core Group of the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a statement welcoming the January court decision, which paved the way for marriage equality in more than 20 countries. The IACHR ruling “reminds States of the obligation to guarantee and protect the rights of LGBTI persons across the region,” the declaration claims.
Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay all signed onto the statement. The United States did not.
Last month, the IACHR ruled countries under its jurisdiction must treat same-sex couples “without discrimination” in response to a petition from Costa Rica’s federal government, which asked the court to weigh in on LGBTQ rights. Judges said member nations in Latin and South America “must recognise and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.”
The decision is legally binding in the 17 countries under the IACHR’s purview which have yet to legalize marriage equality: Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname. Bolivia and Paraguay have explicitly banned same-sex unions.
The court has permitted governments, however, to issue “temporary decrees” until the decision could be fully implemented.
Effectuating the IACHR decision is likely to lead to a number of testy legal battles in this interim period. Costa Rica’s Superior Notary Council refused to certify same-sex marriage certificates over the objections of the federal government, claiming it was unable to do given national law prohibiting LGBTQ couples from wedding.
Mario Arias and Roberth Castillo, who were planning to wed in January, are challenging the notary board in court after their marriage was blocked.
Coincidentally, the LGBTI Core Group was formed to assist the IACHR in navigating these challenges. It’s mission is “to support the implementation of mandates contained in OAS resolutions on human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression,” as outlined in a 2016 press release.
Critics say the United States has failed to live up to the spirit of this pledge under the year-old Trump administration.
In October, the U.S. State Department was met with international condemnation after voting “No” on a United Nations resolution condemning the death penalty for adultery, apostasy, blasphemy, and homosexuality. Following backlash, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert claimed the vote stemmed from “broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances.”
But LGBTQ advocates say the White House’s failure to back the IACHR ruling is yet another indication its failure to uphold queer and trans rights.
“The Trump-Pence administration’s refusal to sign this statement in support of marriage equality and transgender rights is deeply troubling,” said Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, in a statement. “As the administration unleashes a torrent of attacks on the LGBTQ community here at home, it is also abandoning LGBTQ people around the world.”
“We are in desperate need of leadership that will advance America’s commitment to LGBTQ human rights in the U.S. and abroad,” he added.
The Human Rights Campaign notes that the U.S. government did not sign onto the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), a 1969 pact which pledged compliance with IACHR decisions, which may explain its reasoning for not weighing in.
But the LGBTQ advocacy group did not find that persuasive.
“Canada also has not, but that did not prevent their leadership from signing the statement,” the HRC said in a press release. “It is also notable that Chile, which does not yet have marriage equality, and a number of countries that do not offer transgender individuals the option to legally change their official gender markers, signed the statement.”
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