Marriage Equality Faces Challenge from Right in Venezuela

A conservative group filed their official opposition to same sex civil marriage and the right to legal identity modifications for transgender individuals last week.

By Jeanette Charles
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Venezuelans participate in annual pride march. The rainbow colored posted reads: "I am Venezuelan, I am a citizen, I am a mom, I am a professional and I am a lesbian. I ask for equality." (Runrunes/@Boonbar)
Venezuelans participate in annual pride march. The rainbow colored posted reads: "I am Venezuelan, I am a citizen, I am a mom, I am a professional and I am a lesbian. I ask for equality." (Runrunes/@Boonbar)

Tegucigalpa, July 25, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Former National Assembly member Vestalia Sampedro officially filed the Movement for Sowing Right's opposition to same sex civil marriage in Venezuela last week. Sampedro cited “pro-family” as among the reasons for the conservative group’s filing before the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ).

The group’s actions comes as the struggle for marriage equality and LGBTQ rights gains pace in Venezuela. Earlier in May the TSJ moved to declare article 44 of Venezuela's civil code as unconstitutional. The clause explicitly stipulates that marriage is only legally valid between a man and woman in Venezuela, outlawing the possibility of same-sex marriage. Last week, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega also expressed a legal argument in support of transgender citizens' right to a legal identity in accordance with their sex and gender expressions.

The Movement for Sowing Right’s legal request was accompanied by a protest on Wednesday against same sex civil marriage and the right to change one’s identity. In attendance were individuals belonging to the Evangelical church and other sectors of civil society, reported Últimas Noticias.

According to Sampedro, “the constitution does not allow for same sex unions nor a new identity in suite with a sex change. Above all, the Magna Carta should be respected.” Sampedro added that, “all Venezuelans should unite to defend the Venezuelan family” and build a campaign in “support of the family and Constitution”.

The opposition group considered it "strange" that the TSJ would review the legal request for transgendered Venezuelans to change their names in accordance to their gender.

In response, the Venezuelan Attorney General voiced her support in defense of National Assembly member Tamara Adrian’s legal request before the TSJ to recognize her name as a transwoman as legally legitimate. Adrian, of the opposition Popular Will Party, is not the first transgender person to demand a legal name change for this reason. However, she is arguably the most high profile public transgender figure in the country as she is also the first transgender woman elected to public office in Venezuela.

"Each person is unique and unrepeatable and the right to identify is for yourself and not another,” expressed Ortega.

Ortega continued, “it is contrary to human rights...to require that the citizen Tomás Mariano Adrián Hernández continue with a legal identity that does not correspond to the sex with which they identify, and it is only from respect and recognition of their identity and the reassignment of their legal sex with their psycho-social sex will they be able to develop their personality, with the protection of rights, anchored in equality and nondiscrimination for sex or gender expression.”

The Attorney General also affirmed that sexual reassignment surgery is not a requirement for a new legal identity and stressed that the most important factor is one's self-identification in regards to sex and gender expression as defended by the Yogyakarta Principles international human rights law.

The TSJ's landmark decision in May came after nearly three and a half years since social movements officially submitted their proposal for same sex civil marriage in January 2013 to the National Assembly.