The debate on the right to equal marriage ignited in Panama after the hearing held last Friday at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) requested by the Fundación Iguales.
At the hearing, the IACHR condemned that Panamanian legislation is discriminatory in the sense of not having adjusted it to give people of the same sex the opportunity to have the same rights as the rest of the population, and not only refer to marriage equality, but other fundamental rights of the spouses such as forming a family, alimony payments, inheritance rights, coverage of the social security system, among others.
The reprimand by the IACHR of the Panamanian government, to guarantee that this population be treated the same as the rest, stirred the spirits of conservative groups, mostly religious, who reject the legalization of equal marriage in Panama. A fiery discussion, which faces the so-called ‘living forces’ that defend traditional marriage tooth and nail, rooted in religious convictions and principles.
On Sunday, the Catholic Church issued a statement defending marriage between a man and a woman. “That is why she asks that it not be equated in any way with the equal union of people of the same sex, so that the family is not undermined. We have been saying this over and over again ”.
He also condemned any foreign intervention on the issue: “it is not acceptable for an international organization or a specific group of citizens to want to impose on a country the way of understanding marriage and the family.”
The stage, therefore, lanterns once again on the Supreme Court of Justice, which since 2016 has kept in the office of the presiding magistrate of this body, Luis Ramón Fábrega, two lawsuits of unconstitutionality against the phrase “between a man and a woman ”Contained in article 26 of the Family Code.
So far, the magistrate has prepared two draft judgments. One in which he concluded that the phrase in question was not unconstitutional. However, it urged the National Assembly to legislate on same-sex civil unions.
Two years later, a new bill circulated in which “it declared unconstitutionality not viable.” Both projects received various reactions from the magistrates on duty.
However, the stagnation of a decision by the Supreme Court, which should shed light on the constitutionality or not, of the phrase that defines the composition of marriage in the country, has exacerbated the spirits of those interested who are protesting, side by side. , in front of the steps of the Court.
Apparently the issue advanced faster in the IACHR, where a space was granted to listen to the situation in the country and then evaluate what responses are reached or addressed on it. In said hearing requested by the Iguales Foundation, which claims the non-discrimination of the population in question, several Human Rights rapporteurs participated, including Alberto Brunori, Flavia Piovesan and Julissa Mantilla, and representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Electoral Tribunal and the Ministry of security. Although the voice of those who defend that the debate should be held within the country and not by international imposition, as qualified by the active forces against constitutional change, was not heard.
“More than rejecting equal marriage, because marriage is between a man and a woman as dictated by the constitution and the law, we seek to have it recognized in Panama between a man and a woman,” says José Luis Delgado, president of the Coordinator National for the Family.
Delgado explained that the organization opposes “an intervention by Colombian jurists (who have made written pronouncements in the national media) or by the IACHR.” He reiterated that they will continue with the position that the debate should focus on domestic issues. “The spirit of the constitutionalist is that the marriage is protected and there is achievement”, settled Delagado.
Although the government of Panama maintains open channels for dialogue with the ‘gay’ population, these require concrete monitoring of actions and changes rather than demonstrations of solidarity in times of crisis.
They reported that 32 acts of discrimination were recorded during the pandemic.
Three same-sex couples explained their situation due to the impossibility of registering their marriages in the Civil Registry.
For Jelensky, homosexual marriage is a taboo word in Panama, as was AIDS in the time of former US President Ronald Reagan. “It is totally invisible,” he said.
For her part, Yami Garcés, said that as a woman she always dreamed of seeing herself as a girlfriend, when she found love and got engaged in 2010, she did so with mixed emotions. She legalized her marriage in Canada, she said, because her native country did not allow it. “It has been mentioned that if we remove the term marriage the leaders would speak out, but we would always be a second-rate population, my family that I have made with Jessica deserves to be visualized.”
They immediately gave the floor to the representatives of the Panamanian government, who once again blamed the CSJ as the entity that should deliberate on the matter.
Ana Cambria, legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acknowledged that the State is committed to ensuring universal and effective respect for human rights. “Likewise, we recognize that LGBTI people have historically been subjected to discrimination, persecution and other abuses including other factors such as intolerance that leads to the stigmatization of equal rights.” He then mentioned some mayoral anti-discrimination measures as part of efforts to prevent gay abuse.
The Electoral Tribunal, for its part, explained that the Civil Registry is unable to register same-sex marriages because the norm prevents it. However, regarding the sex correction procedure, the Civil Registry has opted for an interpretation of the norm in accordance with the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights that contemplates the consultative conventionality control allowing the change of sex of trans people, prior report of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.
If the rapporteurs insisted on something, it was the IACHR’s advisory opinion number 24 of 2017, which recognized gender identity and sexual orientation as categories protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. Based on this premise, the opinions of the rapporteurs turned who insisted on the need that Panama, as a member state, “has the obligation to give same-sex couples the same legal institutions as heterosexual couples,” said Alberto Brunori , United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ..
He then added: “We are aware that in several countries equal marriage is a controversial issue based on religious convictions. However, taking up what was expressed by the IACHR in its advisory opinion, although the important role played by these convictions is recognized, they cannot be used as parameters of conventionality because it would be prevented from using them as an interpretive guide to discriminate the rights of individuals. human beings”.”We encourage the CSJ of Panama, as well as all the judicial authorities of all countries to rule on this matter in order to guarantee equality and non-discrimination of people in accordance with international rights and the advisory opinion of the IACHR” ,
HIGH COMMISSIONER OF THE UNITED NATIONS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
He encouraged the Supreme Court of Panama, as well as all the judicial authorities of all countries, to rule on this matter in order to guarantee equality and non-discrimination of persons in accordance with international rights and the advisory opinion of the IACHR.
Flavia Piovesan, rapporteur for Panama and for the rights of LGTBI persons, indicated that since 2018, when a regional hearing was held on equal marriage, there have been two major advances in the region, the Ecuador (2019) and Costa Rica (2020). In the case of Panama, she suggested that the Executive should initiate training in a key area, such as the Civil Registry. “I make this recommendation to the Panamanian State, do the training according to advisory opinion 24, because the proper training of civil registries would guarantee the protection of gender identity and equal marriage because there is no way to accept the rejection of equal marriage” , he pointed.
LGTBI people belong to historically discriminated groups, “it is not an individual case for those who have come here, but there is a historical institutional discrimination”, exemplified Commissioner Julissa Mantilla. The commissioner suggested a sustained program of inter-institutional training, which is not a workshop for the transmission of knowledge but for the recognition of gender stereotypes and a change of mentality, thinking about the obligations that the state itself undertakes on the issue of non-discrimination.
Finally, the Panamanian State accepted the recommendation of the training and added that courses have been given to the public force on human rights, as part of the advances to avoid discrimination against the LGBTI population in Panama.
Finally, the president of the IACHR, Joel Hernández, called on the CSJ to resolve the situation in accordance with international standards. “There is the will of the State to move forward to close the gaps, we are respectful of the decisions of the Court’s actors and we trust that their jurisdictions are in tune with the IACHR,” he stressed.