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MEXICO: Green Light for Gay Marriage, Adoption in Capital

Emilio Godoy

MEXICO CITY, Dec 22 2009 (IPS) - The Mexican capital’s local parliament has authorised marriage between same-sex partners, a measure covering the eight million people in Mexico City proper. Adoption by gay couples will also be allowed.

With a tally of 39 votes in favour, 20 against and five abstentions, the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) used its majority in the parliament to approve changes to the local civil code, so that marriage is no longer defined as the union of a man and a woman, but as “the free uniting of two people.”

The vote was taken Monday night after a heated three-hour debate between advocates and critics of the reform.

“We want to correct the exclusion of millions of people from the rights we have established in law,” lawmaker José Muñoz of the PRD, the governing party in the nation’s capital, told the plenary session of the municipal parliament.

The rightwing National Action Party (PAN), which governs Mexico at the national level but is in opposition in the Mexico City municipal government, attempted to delay approval of the bill by proposing a referendum in the capital on same-sex marriage. But the PRD rejected the motion.

The reforms will enter into force after the city government has promulgated the new law, and a further period of 45 working days has elapsed. The PAN intends to challenge the bill in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

“This bill has no basis in law. It isn’t intended to secure recognition of human rights; what it’s trying to do is denaturalise and discredit marriage,” PAN lawmaker Carlos Pizano said from his parliamentary bench.

“It’s a huge social and cultural advance. We are very happy. We think this achievement began to take root with the 2006 law on civil unions, which was the first step. Now we’re no longer second-class couples, and gay partners have rights,” Antonio Medina, information coordinator for the non-governmental organisation Letra S, which works for sexual minority rights, told IPS.

A survey of Mexico City residents by the newspaper El Universal found that 50 percent of respondents were in favour of the legal reform, compared with 38 percent who were against and 12 percent who did not answer.

Among the men interviewed, 51 percent backed the change in the law, and 49 percent of women were also in favour.

The Catholic Church vigorously attacked the bill. The Archdiocese of Mexico, in the words of its spokesman Hugo Valdemar, called it “immoral.”

The Church “does not condemn persons, only homosexual acts and the proposal of marriage between people of the same sex,” Valdemar told the press.

Activists managed to overcome the lawmakers’ reluctance to include a legal framework for adoption by gay couples in the bill. “I pointed out that banning the adoption of children would feed stigma and homophobia at the national level, and aggravate the burden of oppression in the lives of other people, not their own,” PRD lawmaker Enoé Uranga, an activist in the lesbian movement, told IPS.

Legislatures in Austria and the western U.S. state of Washington have approved measures to legalise same-sex civil unions, with many of the privileges and protections that apply to married couples.

Meanwhile, an Argentine judge issued an injunction Nov. 30 overturning a marriage licence for what was to be the first gay wedding in the country, pending a final ruling by the Supreme Court. The marriage has been postponed.

Throughout this year, the gay, lesbian and transsexual community organisations have carried out a vigorous campaign to push for the civil code reform in Mexico City.

“Today more than ever before, at this historic crossroads representing the opportunity to achieve recognition of civil rights, the people, sexual diversity community organisations and civil society organisations that have supported this initiative will be part of the critical pressure to consolidate support for reform,” said the United Society for the Right to Marriage Between Persons of the Same Sex in the Federal District (Mexico City), before the parliamentary debate in the capital.

About 20 percent of the Mexican population of 107 million have or have had same-sex partners, according to the Mexican Society for Holistic Humanistic Sexology (SOMESHU), a non-governmental organisation devoted to spreading knowledge about sexuality issues.

There are at least 10 types of family in Mexico, according to the state National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

The good news arising from Mexico City’s local government, however, may be restricted only to the capital, if other local parliaments follow the example of the adjacent state of Yucatán, where the civil code was changed to ban same-sex weddings.

“It’s a risk we have been aware of from the start. We know that the passage of this law will make conservative states go into lockdown. There will be a backlash,” Medina predicted.

In the past few years, the city legislature has regulated the exercise of several rights. In late 2006 the civil union law came into effect, providing a legal basis for non-matrimonial unions of heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Between September 2008 and the same month in 2009, 241 same-sex unions and 45,107 heterosexual civil unions were formally registered, according to official figures.

And abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy was decriminalised in the capital in April 2007.

Immediately afterward, state parliaments in 18 out of the 32 Mexican states approved constitutional reforms to tighten restrictions on abortion.

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