[News] COLEGA Demands Equality for ALL at QUEENS PRIDE PARADE
- COLOMBIAN LESBIAN AND GAY ASSOCIATION (COLEGA)
917 992-6098 cell
COLOMBIAN LESBIAN AND GAY ASSOCIATION, OTHERS, CALL FOR EQUALITY FOR GAY
COMMUNITIES IN COLOMBIA AT QUEENS PRIDE PARADE
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
"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.
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