The Body Electric: California Versus Uruguay on Queer Issues--Guess Who Wins This Week?
In this corner, California: home to the Bay Area, which is probably among the most queer-friendly places in the world. Though notoriously "pro-H8," California has relatively comprehensive domestic partnership laws and the Bay Area, in particular, offers a host of legal and health services to the GLBTQ community.
This week, our consistently inconsistent governor, the still-bizarre-to-me-former-action-hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, made headlines by signing two bills into law: a state-wide day to honor (watch the language: the state is not officially recognizing it as a holiday) gay rights activist Harvey Milk, and another confusing bill that further muddles the web of bureaucratic bullshit that is gay marriage in America by acknowledging the marriages of all queers who did so--in any state--before the passage of H8.
But wait! Schwarzenegger did not sign into law two bills relating to basic rights for queer and transfolks. One would have given transpeople in California the right to change their birth certificates--which seems to me a reasonable and basic final administrative change needed to create consistent paperwork for access to services and employment.
The other vetoed bill--a human rights bill, and the most disturbing veto I can think of in recent history--would have made gender identification and sexual orientation a consideration when placing prisoners.
Harvey Milk--who made amazing contributions on behalf of gay rights--is still a gay white man whose memory is being acknowledged (way too late) by another white man here in the land of the free, while many queer/genderqueer/trans prisoners are at risk for their lives every day in a state that benefits enormously from a prison-industrial complex that is deeply entrenched in all aspects of our culture.
In this corner: Uruguay, a Latin American country that also made headlines this week. Uruguay, which is primarily Roman Catholic, allowed for gay adoptions in September. In 2008, it legalized civil unions between queer couples.
This week, Uruguay's president was sent a bill, unanimously approved by the Senate, that allows for transpeople to change their name and sex on legal documents. The bill notes that, "Every person has the right to freely develop their personality in accordance with the proper identity of their gender..." Wow! Wish we felt that way here in America! Of special note: the bill would allow original documents to be amended.
Seems like a KO, California.
Uruguay has demonstrated over the last few years what is possible when the political leadership of a country stands up to the objections of bigots and zealots. If only America had lawmakers willing to fight for the freedom, safety, and dignity of everyone; not just the rights of the nutjobs with the biggest mouths and pocketbooks.
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