'Censorship': Pro-Family Advocate Convicted of 'Political Violence' for 'Misgendering' Lawmaker
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A former Mexican congressman has been convicted in a court of "gender-based political violence" for social media posts he made in 2022 referring to a transgender-identifying Mexican lawmaker as a "man who self-ascribes as a woman." It happened while Rodrigo Iván Cortés was defending the right to speak about biblical views on sexuality.
Now Cortés is calling for the Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene after the "systematic violations" of his "fundamental rights" in Mexico.
In addition to being found guilty on the misgendering charges, Cortés, head of the political advocacy group Frente Nacional por la Familia ("National Front for the Family" or FNF), was also convicted by a Mexican court of "digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence," for using masculine references on Twitter and Facebook when mentioning Salma Luévano, a Mexican congressional representative.
Last week, Cortés addressed the OAS, telling the international body that as a result of his speaking out against legislation that could violate human rights, the freedom of expression in his country has been revoked.
"The freedom of expression of citizens is canceled and their free participation in the democratic conformation of laws is prevented," Cortés told the assembled representatives. "Unfortunately, I suffer this in my own flesh in the cases that are being carried out against me and the organization that I preside over, the National Front for the Family, for objecting to initiatives that ostensibly violate human rights."
The former Mexican congressman faced backlash after posting his response to social media last September about draft legislation in Mexico's Congress that would label the teaching of Christian views on sexuality as "hate speech."
"Disagreement is not discrimination, and peaceful dissent should never be penalized as violence," said Kristina Hjelkrem, legal counsel for ADF International, a nonprofit law firm representing Cortés. "It is deeply disturbing that Cortés, who is exercising his right to peaceably share his views on a matter of significant current debate, has been convicted as a violent political offender when in fact it is his opponents that have a history of perpetuating unrest within Mexico's political institutions. We eagerly await a ruling on his appeal."
The LGBT activist lawmaker Luévano filed a complaint against Cortés, arguing that a series of nine social media posts on Twitter and Facebook constituted a violation of the right to be acknowledged as a woman and a "denial of identity," according to ADF International.
Following the trial, Mexico's Specialized Regional Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power ruled that criticizing a transgender woman constitutes "undermining the political and electoral rights of women, and the unencumbered exercise of their public office."
Cortés has appealed the lower court ruling to the Superior Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power. It is his last legal remedy for his case. A ruling in the case is expected to be handed down soon.
The pro-family leader said this was just a process to "silence me."
"The real purpose of this process is to silence me from saying what every concerned citizen needs to hear—that these proposed laws are driving forward a radical agenda, which poses a very serious threat to the wellbeing of our society, especially our children," Cortés said in a press release.
"I remain committed to the peaceful expression of truth, the defense of our fundamental freedoms, and the protection of our children," he added. "Further, I reject violence on all grounds. One need only watch the videos of unrest in our Congress to see clearly that it is not me and my organization that is bringing chaos and disorder into Mexico's political institutions."
"Free speech is greatly threatened in Mexico at this time, and it has hit a crisis point with courts imposing severe censorship sanctions for the peaceful expression of views as evidenced by this egregious case. Unfortunately, Cortés' case is far from an isolated incident," Hjelkrem said.
"More and more, we are seeing the Mexican government violate its citizens' fundamental and constitutional right to freedom of speech. Cortés spoke out, peacefully, in support of self-evident truth, and for that, he has been convicted as a violent offender and subjected to onerous punishments. Censorship is not compatible with a free society," she added.
In addition, ADF International has filed the case of Mexican Congressman Gabriel Quadri at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Quadri was also convicted of "gender-based political violence" on the basis of his tweets on transgender ideology as a result of a complaint also filed by Salma Luévano. He is awaiting a decision on admissibility by the commission.
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