Guatemalan legislators have been urged by LGBT activists to protect all families by voting against a new act that would exclude same-sex couples from the legal definition of “family.”

On Monday, Human Rights Watch called on the country’s lawmakers to reject the bill that would also eliminate single parents from the definition and threatens the legal status of children conceived through reproductive technologies. The bill would punish any Guatemalan officials who advocate, “in any national or international meeting,” for a different definition.

“No family will ever benefit from leaving others unprotected,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch. “The aim of this bill is to strip certain partners, parents, and children of rights and recognition all families deserve.”

The “Integral Protection for Marriage and Family Act” is currently scheduled for a final vote this week. The bill was initially proposed over two years ago, but Congress debated it for the first time in July 2007. On September 26, the debate over the bill was hastily reopened. Vice-president of the Congress Oliverio García Rodas, has stated that it was brought forward amid concern about the “celebration of same-sex marriages.”

The bill, however, would declare that the nearly 40 percent of Guatemalan families that are not traditionally nuclear (defined as those consisting of father, mother, and children) are not families at all. Crucial health services now provided for single parents, their children, and indigenous families under a 2001 law could be taken away.

“This bill takes aim at lesbian and gay couples, but it has almost half of Guatemalan children and parents in its sights,” said Cano Nieto. “Targeting children and their caregivers in the name of a political agenda is not only unjustifiable, it is morally reprehensible.”

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Guatemala is a party, protects children from discrimination on the basis of their parents’ or caregivers’ status. Guatemala has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the UN Human Rights Committee has held to ban discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation.

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