by Leah Waldron
Today in Chile, President Sebastian Pinera signed the country’s first-ever hate crime legislation, a milestone for LGBT rights. The new law is informally known as “Zamudio’s Law,” in commemoration of gay victim Daniel Zamudio, who was brutally attacked and tortured by a gang of neo-Nazi men. The nation watched as Zamudio, in a medically-induced coma for weeks after the attack, was eventually taken off life support in March.
“Zamudio’s Law” is the product of seven years of highly controversial debate among members of the Chilean government. It took a nationwide response to Zamudio’s death—a death so horrific many newspapers provided only minimal details—to push this landmark legislation forward. According to a statement by President Pinera, Zamudio’s death, while “painful,” was “not in vain… His passing not only unified wills to finally approve this anti-discrimination law, but it also helped us examine our conscience.”
Like hate crime victim Mathew Shepard’s death in America, Daniel Zamudio’s passing led to a new level of LGBT protection, awareness and solidarity. The profound progress of this law is astounding, especially in a country that is three-fourths Roman Catholic or Protestant, and considered to be one of the most conservative in South America. Yet, I was still shocked to learn that representatives of both Churches were already expressing opposition to “Zamudio’s Law,” and had even called it a sort of “gateway” legislation to gay marriage. In other words, representatives of each Church were saying: “give them national protection against being attacked in the street, and the next thing you know, they’ll want to get married.”
Yes, it’s a logical theory that if Chile passes a law protecting the lives of its LGBT citizens, the newfound momentum of LGBT civil rights may lead to the passing of gay marriage legislation. The Chilean government may do this, or they may wait another seven years and hem and haw. But to suggest, so arrogantly, that one’s life—anyone’s life—is not worthy of “saving” because it will lead to gay marriage (and, therefore, an unhappy God or Pope) is tantamount to sacrificing the individual in order to protect a just cause.
Religious people are so fond of talking about the martyrdom of Jesus, but when the Last Supper tables are turned, we find that Jesus is not unlike Zamudio and Shepard. These two young men may not have been physical manifestations of God, but according to Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrine, they were men who were made in God’s own image, and therefore, deserved the same love and respect as any man—regardless of his sins. Like Jesus, Zamudio and Shepard were killed in a ceremonious manner that involved religious symbolism (Shepard was tied to a fence much like Jesus was tied to the cross; Zamudio had swastikas cut into his flesh much like Jesus’ crown of thorns). Yet despite these brutal, Christ-like deaths, Chile’s religious representatives do not see Zamudio as a man or martyr, but as a cog in the wheel of the LGBT agenda.
Like Jesus, Zamudio’s death was, as President Pinera so eloquently put it, “not in vain.” If Chile’s religious representatives do not see the parallelism between both men, it will be up to their followers to remind them.