Argentina: Support Civil Unions Bill In Buenos Aires Province

SUMMARY

MP Hebe Febles has submitted a Civil Unions proposal to the Buenos Aires Province Legislature. If passed, the proposal would create a Civil Union Registry and would grant "all rights and benefits that the Province grants to spouses and/or de facto spouses, like social security, housing, sick and bereavement leave, etc.". Similar proposals are still under debate by the Buenos Aires City and Mendoza Province Legislatures, and the counterpart bill at the federal level has never been discussed by Congress Congress.

ACTION

The office of MP Febles is asking for letters of support to the proposal, with the hope that these might increase the possibility for discussion by the Legislature.

Please write to:

hfebles@hcdiputados-ba.gov.ar

You will find below a model letter in Spanish and its translation in English. We suggest that you send the version in Spanish.

MODEL LETTER

Honorables señoras legisladoras y señores legisladores de la Provincia de Buenos Aires:

Les escribimos para manifestar nuestro apoyo al Expediente D 2225/02-03, presentado por la diputada Hebe Febles, que busca crear la figura de la Unión Civil.

De aprobarse ese proyecto, se lograría remediar la situación de desigualdad ante la ley que hoy en día viven las parejas formadas por personas del mismo sexo en la Provincia, y que vulnera principios constitucionales así como aquellos consagrados por tratados internacionales ratificados por Argentina, como el Pacto Internacional sobre Derechos Civiles y Políticos y el Pacto Internacional sobre Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales.

La gravísima situación socioeconómica que atraviesa Argentina hace más necesario que nunca el corregir toda desigualdad que afecte el acceso de sus habitantes a la vivienda, las prestaciones sociales, las pensiones y otros beneficios que otorga el Estado como parte de su obligación de garantizar "un orden social … en el que los derechos y libertades … se hagan plenamente efectivos" (Artículo 28, Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos).

Con la aprobación de esta ley, la provincia se sumará a una tendencia creciente en el mundo, ya que en la actualidad 18 países otorgan todos o algunos de los derechos matrimoniales a las parejas del mismo sexo (Alemania, Australia, Austria, Bélgica, Canadá, Dinamarca, España, Finlandia, Francia, Hungría, Islandia, Noruega, Nueva Zelandia, Países Bajos, Portugal, Reino Unido, Sud Africa y Suecia). A nivel provincial, 4 estados australianos, 9 canadienses, 4 españoles, 5 de los EEUU y 1 suizo, también reconocen a estas parejas. No escapará a vuestra atención que en casi todos los casos se trata de los países con mayores índices de desarrollo humano y de equidad de género. El reconocimiento de la diversidad de formas de convivencia que en toda comunidad existen parece ir de la mano con la construcción de sociedades en las que todas y todos puedan vivir de manera más humana y justa.

Confiamos en que ustedes dedicarán a este proyecto toda la atención que merece.

Cordialmente,

(nombre, organización y dirección)


English translation

Honorable members of the Buenos Aires Province Legislature:

We are writing to express our support to Expediente D 2225/02-03, submitted by MP Ms. Hebe Febles, which allows for the legal establishment of Civil Unions.

If the proposal is passed, it will remedy the situation of inequality before the law in which same-sex couples currently live in Buenos Aires Province. Such a situation violates constitutional principles, as well as those consecrated by international treaties ratified by Argentina, like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The extreme socioeconomic situation that Argentina faces makes it more urgent than ever to amend any inequality affecting its people in terms of access to housing, social benefits, pensions and other benefits granted by the State, as part of its obligation to provide "a social order … in which rights and freedoms… can be fully realized" (Article 28 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration)

With the passage of this law, the Province will join the growing ranks of countries around the world--currently 18--that grant all or some conjugal rights to same sex couples (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). At the state level, in addition, four states in Australia, nine in Canada, four in Spain, one in Switzerland and five in the USA grant some recognition to same-sex couples. You cannot fail to notice that, in almost all cases, those countries where these rights are recognized also tend to earn the highest scores in terms of human development and gender equity. Recognition of the different forms of living arrangements that exist in every community would seem to go hand-in-hand with the building of societies in which all can live in a more human and fair way.

We trust you will devote to this proposal the attention it merits.

Sincerely,

(Your name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND

Expediente D 2225/02-03, submitted by MP Hebe Febles, creates the category of "civil union", defined as the "free union of two individuals who live together in a public and stable relationship, analogous to marriage, irregardless of their sex or sexual orientation". For a partnership to be recognized as a civil union, partners must have lived together for at least a year and be 21 years old or older. Article 3 grants the Civil Unions "all rights and benefits granted by Provincial laws to spouses and/or de facto spouses, like social security, sick and bereavement leave, housing, etcetera".

Article 5 establishes the creation of a Civil Union Register. Partners in a Civil Union have the freedom to celebrate contracts with each other regulating how their property will be divided in case of separation. Civil Unions can be dissolved by mutual agreement, or by the will of one of the parties, or by de facto separation for at least a year.

The author of the proposal defines "family" as: "the loving union of two individuals who, as a couple, commit before society to create a functional and mutually responsible union, an union that must be born of two adults' mutual, loving and free choice."

In support of that definition, the author quotes Judge Gabriela Mastracuso, from Mendoza, who in her verdict for Case 48,931 (granting the right to social security to a gay couple), October 20, 1998, stated: "Family can not be defined solely on the basis of the capacity to bread and socialize children… What defines a family is, above all, the fact of people living together under the principle of solidarity. A community of life that supports the material and affectional lives of their members, promoting their development and well being."

Article 19 of the Argentinean Constitution and Article 25 of the Buenos Aires Province Constitution establishes that "Nobody must be forced to do what the Law does not prescribe, nor deprived of what it does not forbid." The author of the proposal argues that the lack of regulation for same-sex unions violates those articles because, while straight people have the choice to allow the State to regulate their unions (through marriage or de facto union), same-sex couples have no other choice than to exist on the margins of the State's recognition.

Article 19 of the Argentinean Constitution and Article 26 of the Buenos Aires Province Constitution states that "Those private actions that do not offend public order and morals, nor damage a third party's rights, are only reserved to God and beyond the authority of the magistrates." The author of this proposal argues that the State is violating the text of those Articles when it intervenes in such intimate matters as affection and sexual orientation, using them as a basis to recognize or deny individual rights.

IN THE LAW

Right to non-discrimination and to equality before the law: Article 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 1 and 24 of the Interamerican Human Rights Convention as well as Article 16 of the Argentinean Constitution, Article 11 of the Buenos Aires Province Constitution.

Right to own property: Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 21 of the Interamerican Human Rights Convention.

Right to social security: Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of oneself and of one's family: Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11/12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. - Right to form a family: Article 16 of the UDHR, Article 23 of the ICCPR and Article 17 of the IAHRC.

Right to the protection of the family: Article 16 of the UDHR, Article 10 of the ICESCR, Article 23 of the ICCPR, Article 17 of the IAHRC, as well as Article 14 of the Argentinean Constitution and Article 36 of the Buenos Aires Province Constitution.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights has made a similar observation, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health- to be applied to all economic, social and cultural rights.

Argentina ratified the ICCPR and the ICESCR in 1986, and the IAHRC in 1984. The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member States of the United Nations.

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