Gaygentina

Two nights ago I met up with some friends here in Buenos Aires to take a look at our massed opponents, the thousands of people rallying in front of the giant Italianate Palacio de Congreso to demand that the Argentine senate reject a law, already approved by the lower house, granting full marriage rights to gay couples. The anti-gay marriage crowd on Tuesday night seemed to consist largely of families and their kids, though there were also a lot of priests in their cassocks. Seeing the sullen teenagers in the crowd—even the genuinely homophobic ones probably felt they had better things to do—it was impossible not to wonder which of them were gay, and knew it, and were standing around with their hearts in their boots.

The happier event started a few minutes later. This was a ruidazo—a noise protest—taking place under the tall obelisk that dominates Buenos Aires’ most central avenue and shows up on a lot of postcards. The demand was marriage for all. One of my friends started handing out mixing bowls and ladles from her backpack, and the group of us joined in the joyous, angry cacophony of shouts, chants, leftover vuvuzelas, pots and pans, and sympathetic car horns. It was a lot of fun, even though the night was unseasonably cold, and it wasn’t easy—for yanqui ears anyway—to make out all the chants. Was this We want love! We want love? No: Igualdad! Igualdad!

Last night I saw the same group of friends for a drink, and as we said goodbye on the street at 2 AM, we wondered what the senate had decided. The vote had been predicted to be close. As it turns out, the debate lasted for fifteen hours, until 4 AM. The result was 33–27 in favor of equal marriage rights. My friends and I emailed each other as soon as we woke up with the news. The front page of the left daily I read was bannered Sí, quiero: Yes, I do.

I’m no inveterate protester—I really should get out more—but I’ve marched a number of times over the last ten years: twice against the Iraq war, once to try to push the Democratic platform to the left, at other times against Occidental Petroleum’s actions in Colombia, or the IDF’s in Lebanon, or the IMF’s policies of structural adjustment, et cetera. I’ve marched in DC, New York, LA, London, and now Buenos Aires. This morning I experienced a sensation I’d never had after any of my prior protests. It was the almost entirely novel political sensation of getting what we wanted. It felt really good. –BK

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