Did you know that Mexico, in the middle of a bloody war on drugs, approved same sex civil unions? That Colombia, in the midst of a civil war, did the same? Can you imagine any serious Mexican politician saying that they would only consider discussing the issue after catching el Chapo? Or any Colombian politician saying he won’t even talk about the subject until FARC signed a peace agreement with the government?  

Even South Africa, with its enormous problems, on the brink of a race war and in the middle of a deadly battle against HIV, managed to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and to approve same sex marriage. Ten years ago.

Alas, we’re not in Mexico or Colombia or even South Africa, we’re in Venezuela, where it’s still considered perfectly ok for a high profile political leader like Chúo Torrealba to first say Same Sex Marriage is “important” and “must be discussed” and then pivot immediately to describing the issue as a “first word problem”.  

In a remarkable bout of pragmatism, message discipline and an astonishing display of focus, the other day Quico backed Chúo on this very blog, questioning the wisdom of discussing SSM in the Asamblea at this stage because “it’s not a priority”. We are on the brink of mass starvation, and a humanitarian crisis, the argument goes, and this does not help to solve those issues.

It seems this extraordinary focus only applies when someone suggests discussing LGBT rights. Inviting movie directors to speak about the national film industry and approving a resolution in praise of La Divina Pastora, it seems, are just the ticket against hyperinflation. Celebrating the 100th birthday of the man who released Chávez from jail, too. If we are so close to a catastrophe, why aren’t we demanding that the Asamblea really focuses on the economy, instead of frittering away institutional focus on this kind of trivia?

Quico talked about getting real. Right. Here’s some real for you: unless you really think Divina Pastora or the ghost of Rafael Caldera is going to protect us from Luis Salas, this crap about “priorities” is a scam.

We don’t remember Quico denouncing the construction of a gigantic monument to la Divina Pastora, spending resources that should have gone to hospitals, schools or even to supplying food. We don’t remember Caracas Chronicles lambasting Henri Falcón, for using this monument for political gain.

This talk about a humanitarian emergency is not really an argument, it’s a pretext to avoid even talking about LGBT issues.

Are you going to be devoted to the emergency? By all means. Get incensed. Fight to avoid it. But be serious about it. And don’t use such a dreadful situation to cover your prejudice or your apathy.

What about reforming the Fair Prices Law? What about repealing the clearly unconstitutional reform of the Central Bank Law? And hey, doesn’t passing a law for Cestatickets for retired workers increase the deficit and actually make the situation worse?

You could argue that an SSM law would benefit relatively few people. OK, but the Assembly has made it clear its top priority is an Amnesty Law that would benefit literally fewer than 100!

Back in 2014 several LGBT NGO’s affiliated with chavismo introduced a draft bill legalizing same sex marriage with the AN with support from PSUV’s deputies. Wouldn’t it be amazing for the opposition to approve their draft? To make chavismo squirm at their own hypocrisy if they choose not to support it?

As Pedro argued in comments, the real issue for Torrealba is that he knows very well many people inside MUD don’t actually approve of same sex marriage. Saying “it’s not a priority” is a way out of weaselling out of the debate. The real issue is that even the MUD leaders who support SSM aren’t really sure they could get enough support from their caucus to approve a proposal.

It’s sad because it makes it clear that the inclusion of Tamara Adrián as an alternate deputy was a reflection of VP’s position, not MUD’s. In the end, support for gay rights divides both the MUD and the PSUV caucus – that’s why they’re both afraid of this debate.

Having said that, sure – and, gay or not, everyone agrees on this – there are more pressing matters.

But currently we are not paying as much attention as we should to those issues, we are wasting time and resources on trivial stuff. As Anabella argued, the Asamblea has to show it can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Chúo is telling us that they don’t want to, that they don’t care and that we don’t matter. When Venezuela is a first world country, we can worry about that. So, maybe in 2080?

Sure, we know it would not be an easy fight, but there’s already a bill at the Assembly that was never discussed. Giving up on SSM is wasting a fantastic opportunity to prove to the nation and to the world the illiberal nature of Chavismo, to show all its prejudice and homophobia, to let them paint themselves into a corner and drop the pretense of progressivism, to show the real colors we every now and then see under their mask. This could be a PR nightmare for the government, played correctly.

Quico says that discussing SSM would distract the country from “the basic fight to restore something like a working democracy”. No, Quico, you have it backwards. Discussing SSM is precisely part of the process to restore a real and healthy democracy to Venezuela. Human Rights and fair treatment of minorities are part of any sound democracy. You cannot run away from this and claim you are restoring democracy. You are betraying it.

This is especially despicable when the arguments used are exactly the same arguments that chavistas used for 17 years to avoid the discussion. So, you are telling us that in order to save us from chavismo, you will behave like chavistas? No me jodas.

Look, even if we agree that the priorities lie elsewhere, Torrealba’s words were dismissive and offensive. Politics is a slow process, messy and difficult, we get it. Nobody is expecting a SSM law to emerge fully right away.

Torrealba could have punted the issue to a subcommittee. He could’ve said it’s in a queue to be discussed there. That it may not happen right away, but it won’t be forgotten.

Instead we got an immediate rejection and dismissal. We are not important, they do not care. Coming from Torrealba, who a few days ago was apologizing to the chavistas for taking the pictures of Chavez out of the Asamblea, this is shocking.

The irrational followers of a personality/death cult get more respect and tact than us, LGBT citizens. Chúo Torrealba has disdained us and our causes, proving again our status as second class citizens. This is unacceptable. Dignity doesn’t wait for political expediency. We cannot accept this utter lack of respect and consideration.

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