365gay.com: Venezuela Moves To Protect Gays In New Constitution

(Caracas) Venezuela may become the first nation in South America to constitutionally protect its citizens on the basis of sexuality.

The government has been examining a call by President Hugo Chavez’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution.

The Chavez-controlled National Assembly this week approved amendments that would add sexual orientation to the categories protected under human rights. The issue had already received the OK of various committees, signaling the measure was likely to gain approval of the Assembly.

Among those speaking passionately in favor of the measure was Rep. Iris Varela from the state of Tachira.

The section of the proposed constitution also would include a ban on discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age and health condition.

The new constitution would lower the age at which people can vote to 16 from the current age of 18.

Chavez, who has come under fire from the US for his friendship with Cuban President Fidel Castro and his support for Iran, wants to constitution amended to end term limits, effectively allowing him to continue as president for an indefinite period of time.

The draft constitution must still be approved by the electorate.

Very encouraging news. The Gay rights measure is a good thing (something that Cuba only recently has begun to embrace, but not to the extent of putting it in the Constituition), but I am pleasantly surprised by the provision to allow 16-17 year olds to vote.

As a young person I was frustrated by the fact I couldn’t vote, and in hindsight I think my youthful ideals were right. Like many 16 year olds, I was working and paying taxes, as well as pursuing an education. I should have had a voice in how my taxes were spent and certainly should have a voice in educational policy (ok, hat was extremely idealistic and almost comical given the context of my life as student back then. I have many fond memories of high school, but not of the way schools are run. The typical Oklahoma high school has more in common with fascist dictatorship than any kind of true and free educational experience, and my high school was no exception… probably the best point being that you can’t beat adult prisoners with pieces of wood but you can do it legally to high school students. That is jacked up.)

Anyway I think 16-17 years old should be able to vote and I’m proud of Venezuela for taking this step.