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[News] COLEGA Demands Equality for ALL at QUEENS PRIDE PARADE

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  • Andres Duque
    COLOMBIAN LESBIAN AND GAY ASSOCIATION (COLEGA) PRESS RELEASE Press Contact: Andrés Duque 917 992-6098 cell colega_ny@yahoo.com e-mail COLOMBIAN LESBIAN AND
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2003

      Press Contact:
      Andrés Duque
      917 992-6098 cell
      colega_ny@... e-mail

      Organization asks for international pressure to secure passage of same sex
      partnership bill in Colombian senate

      Jackson Heights, New York, June 1, 2003 - Despite the rainy weather, members
      of the Queens-based Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA), and
      others, marched in today's 11th annual Queens Pride Parade, dressed in full
      wedding regalia, to demand the passage of Ley 043, a bill that would
      recognize civil rights for same-sex partners in Colombia, including
      inheritance and social security benefits.

      "Because passage of this bill seems within reach, conservative forces in
      Colombia have rallied to defeat it," said Raul Gonzalez, President of
      COLEGA, "Fortunately, their attacks have been so offensive and outrageous
      that most editorial pages and a majority of the Colombian citizenship have
      rejected these arguments as being prejudiced and homophobic."

      Conservative organizations, including the Catholic church, have been
      lobbying senators to defeat this specific bill and have ran full-page ads in
      national Colombian newspapers that have attempted to categorize gays as
      'unnatural' and as being 'disease carriers.'

      Why Queens Pride?

      Jackson Heights, Queens, which hosts this annual event, is widely recognized
      as being the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. For years it
      has also served as home to the largest Colombian immigrant community in the
      United States as well as to one of the largest Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual
      and transgender communities in the world. Raising awareness about this bill
      in this community honors the global theme of this year's parade and serves
      to highlight that achieving tolerance and equality for lesbian, gay,
      bisexual and transgender communities is a worldwide struggle, not just a
      local one.

      "As Colombian immigrants, we are fully aware of how much impact
      international pressure has on our country's policies," said Andres Duque,
      co-founder of COLEGA, "and we believe that if Colombian legislators become
      aware that their vote is being monitored by people outside Colombia, they
      will be less willing to show prejudice against gays and lesbians."

      In February, COLEGA hosted a roundtable discussion in Manhattan with
      Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, author of the bill. At the meeting she
      attributed an assassination attempt earlier this year to her outspoken
      positions on liberal causes including the legalization of abortion and her
      advocacy for the rights of black, gays and indigenous communities in

      Ley 043 has already cleared the Colombian Senate's First Commission and is
      scheduled, after repeated delays, to be debated on the Senate chambers this
      coming Wednesday, June 4th at 4 p.m. Although the bill would still have to
      be approved by the House of Representatives and be sent to President Alvaro
      Uribe for his signature, it is widely believed that Senate passage would
      create enough momentum to make passage of the law a reality before year's
      end. Former Colombian president Alfonso Lopez Michelsen is supposed to
      testify in favor of the bill and Grammy winner Colombian singer Juanes has
      also expressed his support.

      Recently, the municipalities of Buenos Aires and Rio Negro, Argentina,
      passed local civil union bills, becoming the first Latin American localities
      to recognize same-sex partnerships. Similar efforts to secure equal rights
      for same-sex partners are underway in Mexico City, Brazil and Venezuela.
      Passage of Ley 043 would make Colombia the first Latin American country to
      secure same-sex partnership rights.

      "This is an incredible turning point in Latin American gay activism," Mr.
      Duque added, "In the past five years we have seen a surge in the visibility
      of Latin American gay movements with annual gay pride marches being
      celebrated in Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil,
      the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, among others, and the passage of
      legislative bills such as Ecuador's constitutional civil rights protections
      for gays and lesbians."

      Tragedy hits home

      During today's march, COLEGA was led by Dario Rendon, a long-time Jackson
      Heights resident of Colombian descent who celebrated his 40th year
      anniversary with his partner Javier Gaitan back in February. Mr. Gaitan had
      expressed his desire to celebrate their partnership by building a float for
      this year's Queens and Manhattan Pride marches and displaying photographs
      that would illustrate their life together over the past 40 years.
      Unfortunately Mr. Gaitan lost his life back in March in a car accident in
      Ohio. Mr. Rendon, who survived the accident, honored the life of his
      partner by bringing those photographs along and leading COLEGA during the
      march. He wore the orange shirt that both had worn when they participated
      in a commitment ceremony that took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the
      National Latino LGBT Organization's conference in 1997.

      In the wake of the accident, Mr. Rendon spoke to the weekly periodical Gay
      City News about his loss: "I don't need to apologize to the politicians," he
      said. "It is their doing that we don't have the right to live in this
      country as full citizens. They don't want to hear about human rights for
      gays - I was never able to marry my friend."

      COLEGA is no stranger to tragedy. In 2001, COLEGA organized a massive
      silent candle-light vigil through the streets of Jackson Heights to call
      attention to the murder of one of our members, Eddie Garzon. The murder was
      also the focus of our participation in last year's Queens Pride Parade when
      members of COLEGA and our supporters marched dressed as angels, led by
      Eddie's parents, as we demanded justice. The crime remains unsolved to this

      For more information, please contact COLEGA at colega_ny@... or Andres
      Duque at (212) 584-9306. Better definition photos are also available.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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