Pope Francis is slated to hold his first public meeting with a married gay activist during a visit to Paraguay On July 11th.
Activist Simón Cazal, executive director of the Paraguayan LGBT rights group SOMOSGAY, husband of Sergio López (pictured below at the MSMGF Strategic Planning meeting) will have a public audience with the pope in Paraguay. The couple was married in Argentina in 2012. While Pope Francis has held meetings with LGBTI people in the past, this marks the first time he will publicly meet with a married, gay political activist.
Simón currently serves as the Latin American NGO delegate on the Program Coordinating Board of UNAIDS and has been an active member of the MSMGF since January 2011.
"We were delighted to receive news of Simón's invitation to participate in a discussion with the Pope," said Dr.George Ayala, Executive Director of The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF). "The invitation is a testament to Simón's respected advocacy work in Paraguay and regionally on behalf of LGBT people."
Cazal received the invitation on June 4th from the committee of the Paraguayan bishops’ conference to participate in a roundtable with the pope and civil society leaders. The invitation said it was extended in recognition of the “high impact of your organization on Paraguayan society.”
The invitation continued, "We request the presence of a representative of your organization as a contribution to this meeting as it will strengthen the development of a culture of trust that allows us all Paraguayans build a better country."
Somosgay had not requested the meeting. It came as a total surprise to the couple and the organization. Paraguay also is one of the few South American countries where no protections exist for LGBT people or same-sex couples; their marriage in Argentina has no legal force in their country.
The invitation comes shortly after SOMOSGAY launched a campaign calling on the Catholic Church to “abandon the positions of intolerance and insults dehumanizing LGBT people.” They are also counting on the pope to address the issue of violence targeting LGBT people.
We at MSMGF anxiously await the developments of this historic event which will be held on July 11 in the capital, Asunción. Kudos Simon and SOMOSGAY!!
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