LGBT rights in Venezuela
|LGBT rights in Venezuela|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1997|
|Discrimination protections||Originally protected in 1999, though removed due to pressure from the Catholic Church|
|Civil Unions in Merida|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Venezuela may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Venezuela, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
Homosexuality has never been punishable since Venezuelan independence. However, under the "Vagrants and Thugs' law" (Ley de vagos y maleantes) (pre-criminal behavior laws as in place in Europe and Latin America during the 20th century). In Venezuela, contrary to Spain, this law did not refer expressly to homosexuals. However, it was occasionally applied to homosexuals and transgendered individuals engaged in prostitution, as well as sex workers in general as reported by amnesty International. People submitted to this law by "administrative measures" could be placed under "re-educational programs" in special "confinement places" without trial, as has also happened in many other countries, including Spain. This law was declared unconstitutional by the former Supreme Court of Justice in 1997. The universal age of consent is equal at 16.
Recognition of same-sex couples
There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples explicitly in the Venezuelan law. In fact, same-sex marriage is constitutionally banned as Article 77 defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman 
In 2003, a gay NGO called Unión Afirmativa (Affirmative Union) submitted an Appeal to the Supreme Court for legal recognition of economic rights (pensions, inheritance, social security, common household, etc.) for same-sex partners. The ruling, issued on 28 February 2008 despite recognizing that "same sex partners enjoy all of the rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights- they do have not special protection similar to concubinage or marriage between a man and a woman, that is, in the same terms than heterosexual partners have. Notwithstanding this, the National Assembly is the government body with the mandate to legislate to protect such rights for same-sex partners. The decision also indicated that these rights were covered under the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
On 20 March 2009, Chamber of Deputies member Romelia Matute announced that the National Assembly would explicitly legalize same-sex unions and recognize them as asociaciones de convivencia (association by cohabitation) as part of the Gender and Equity Organic Law. This initiative was never discussed. Further other initiatives concerning this subject and recognition of identity of trans population were submitted by the civil society to the National Assembly, but no formal discussion has ever take place.
Discrimination in labor on the basis of "sexual option" was outlawed in the 1996 by the Rulings of the Labour Organic Law (Ley Orgánica de Trabajo) (art 9). In 2010 the Organic Law of Work and Workers prohibited discrimination on the grounds only of sexual orientation (but not gender identity).
In the process leading up to the adoption of the new 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, anti-discrimination provisions were proposed; however, due to forceful opposition from the Catholic Church, they were dropped from the final draft. In 2001, there were renewed attempts to include them in the Constitution. In 2002, then President Hugo Chávez voiced his regret for their exclusion, signaling that they may be included in future rounds of constitutional reform.
The Venezuelan constitutional referendum in 2007 would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation but both of the two reform packages, which covered a wide range of social and economic measures, were narrowly defeated.
Civil society has proposed to the National Assembly to legislate on equality in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, but the proposals had never been considered in the agenda.
Venezuela is home to a thriving gay community. Since 2000, International Day of Gay Rights has been marked, while recently the government began participating in Gay Pride Day for the first time. However, police harassment and homophobia in the workplace remain as serious problems.
- http://www.juridicas.unam.mx/publica/librev/rev/indercom/cont/27/leg/leg8.pdf, http://www.monografias.com/trabajos74/sentencia-derogada-ley-vago-maleantes/sentencia-derogada-ley-vago-maleantes.shtml
- Same-Sex Unions Not On the Table After All?, Queerty
- New York Times, 3 December 2007, Venezuela Hands Narrow Defeat to Chávez Plan