Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina - A Reflection on the Institution of Marriage

Illustration by Neil

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina, two different debates have emerged: one is interesting and it is unclear whether the other is a debate at all.

The interesting debate is the question of marriage as an institution, as a way of life; even further, it is the question of partnership itself as the only way of experiencing love or sexual relations. With respect to marriage itself, there are many things to discuss. For centuries, has it not been the most brutal, silent, and everyday form of oppression for thousands of women—one might even say, their enslavement? Paraguay’s first feminist lawyer, Serafina Dávalos – who, incidentally, never married and lived with her “inseparable companion” – already made this argument in 1907.1 I will be told, of course, that she spoke with regards to heterosexual marriage - but can we really re-signify the institution?

On the other hand, don’t we go on selling the myth of eternal love, and marriage as the method of consolidating it, to the entire world? In other words, "true" love is life-long and it is perceived as more stable if the state recognizes it, and for some, even more so if God blesses it. That is why it is so difficult to escape in cases of domestic violence, because the myth of eternal love and marriage is never questioned, it is never challenged. We do not think it is a myth; rather, we think it is something that we personally cannot attain because we have failed at something.

There is much to say about this. Is marriage really the way we want to pigeonhole ourselves? Is it not an oppressive structure? What is the purpose of fighting to gain the same oppression that has characterized compulsory heterosexuality?

On the other hand, even while questioning the validity of an outdated institution, it is troubling to observe how every time a country approves same sex marriage, religious fundamentalists cry out in pain as if they had been pierced through the heart by an arrow—and not the arrow of Cupid. These cases trigger what I do not consider real debates, eliciting opinions that question our humanity, hate-filled messages that ask for us to be hidden, or even killed, and voices that link us to crimes of long, long ago. The other day I saw a U.S. group on a TV report, praying that there would not be discussions about the issue. Amazing!

Since we live in this world and not another, I think that this is an advance for Human Rights. I'm sure that it will solve the problems of many people, not only on the question of property and inheritance, but also on the custody of sons and daughters, insurance coverage, and legal residence for spouses of other nationalities. When we talk about human rights we are talking about state responsibilities. To acknowledge partnerships is one of those responsibilities, and for now, it is the way the state can fulfill its role.

The agenda of the LGBTI movement is varied. While I applaud the achievement of gaining the right to marry, I do not forget about discrimination in employment, abuse in health services, expulsions from the education system, or killings of transvestites, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and intersex people across the region. Today I read in the newspaper about two lesbians violated in a restaurant in Madrid with the complicity of the owner. While equal marriage in Spain was approved in 2005, it is clear that the Act did not end discrimination. There is much work to be done and we are determined to do it – with or without marriage.

1. "Her constant companion, Honoria Ballirán" so mentioned in 1959 by Dr. Ignacio Amado Berino, Secretary General of the National University of Asunción in his lecture on "Serafina Dávalos, the precursor of feminism in Paraguay," published in the newspaper "El Feminista" and reproduced as an annex to the thesis of "Serafina Dávalos: Humanismo," conducted by the Centre for Documentation and Studies and RP Ediciones.