A debate over same-sex civil union in Peru has grabbed attention this week, with one of the country’s best known intellectuals criticizing the position of the country’s leader of the Catholic Church.
Last weekend on his Saturday morning radio program, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, who is also archbishop of Lima, called for a national referendum on same-sex civil unions, of which he is highly critical.
“If there is an interest to get into these issues, they should be a referendum, the people should be consulted,” Cipriani said in comments reported by local media.
On Thursday, the Peruvian Episcopal Conference backed Cipriani’s comments, saying that allowing same-sex civil unions would “go against the natural order, distort the true identity of the family, contradict the purpose of marriage, violate the human dignity of all Peruvians, threaten the healthy orientation of children, and damage the fundamentals of our society, which aspires to an integral human development.”
The reaction from the Catholic Church in Peru, which in many ways is a conservative country although church and state are distinctly separate , has been in response to a bill being presented by lawmaker Carlos Bruce to allow for same-sex civil unions. The legislation is expected to be discussed in Congress soon.
Bruce said the legislation would make Peru a “more decent country.”
“The only thing that is going to happen in Peru if it is approved is that we will be a more decent country,” he said. “If this doesn’t pass, I’m going to ask that all the gays and lesbians in Peru be exempt from paying taxes because if they are going to have less rights than other Peruvians, then they shouldn’t pay taxes.”
A key aspect among the legal benefits that Bruce’s bill aims to achieve has to do with Peru’s inheritance laws, which require that a large share of any person’s property is inherited by immediate relatives (spouse, children, or siblings and cousins) and only a small percentage can be left as a legacy to non-relatives.
Cipriani’s calls for a referendum on the issue have come under fire from prominent intellectuals who say that Peru’s Constitution prohibits the use of referendums to curtail the rights of individuals.
Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, a strong libertarian, has been one of the most prominent defenders of the legislation.
“I’m in favor of civil union, I’m in favor of homosexual marriage, I’m in favor of gay marriage. I think that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, have the right to their sexual lives, to be respected in their sexual lives,” Vargas Llosa said.
In Latin America, same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.