G20, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, LGBTQ

RIGHTS-MEXICO: “Yes, I Do” Want a Same-Sex Marriage Licence

Emilio Godoy

MEXICO CITY, Mar 4 2010 (IPS) - Emma Villanueva and her partner lined up at the civil registry office in the Mexican capital to register for a marriage licence Thursday, the day that Latin America’s first same-sex marriage law went into effect.

“We have worked hard for equality, so that our families will have the same rights as others. This is an act of justice,” Villanueva, an English teacher and translator who has been in a lesbian relationship for six years, told IPS.

She and her partner have raised her five-year-old daughter together.

Like them, a number of other couples were at the civil registry office in downtown Mexico City to register for marriage, in the face of fierce opposition from the Catholic Church and just ahead of Family Day in Mexico, which is celebrated on Sunday.

The law, passed by the Mexico City local assembly in December, gives gay people full marital rights, including the right to adopt.

The leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) used its majority in the assembly 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 defence of the secular state is a key and strategic aspect, in order for the rights of families of all shapes and kinds, as well as sexual diversity and different gender identities, to be respected,” Lilia Monroy, a researcher with Social Development and Citizen’s Initiative (INCIDE Social), a local NGO, told IPS.

In this country of 107 million people, there are around one million single-parent households, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), which defines 10 different kinds of families.

The new Mexico City law also gives same-sex couples access to loans and social security services, and grants them the same inheritance rights as heterosexual couples enjoy.

“This was a joint achievement by organisations, individuals and the city government itself, which reflects how public policies cannot be imposed on us, but must adequately reflect society in all its diversity,” José Sánchez, with Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD – Catholics for Choice), told IPS.

The same-sex weddings will begin to be held on Mar. 12. And more than 30 couples are planning a collective marriage ceremony for Mar. 21 in central Mexico City.

However, the constitutionality of the reforms to the local civil code has been challenged by the Attorney General’s Office, which filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court in January.

But the Supreme Court has already dismissed similar legal action in five states governed by the conservative ruling National Action Party (PAN), which argued that the legal reforms would set a precedent forcing other states and municipalities to accept gay marriages.

The Observatorio de Familias y Políticas Públicas (Observatory of Families and Public Policies), to which Incide Social, CDD and 11 other NGOs belong, rejected such arguments Thursday.

“The reforms are not creating a reality but acknowledging it: same-sex couples exist and have always existed in our country. And children, adolescents and young people already live in these families, or with single or separated homosexual individuals, under their responsibility and protection,” said Monroy.

People in Mexico City can now adopt children, independently of their civil status and sexual orientation.

“Up to now, we didn’t have any mechanism for our families to have legal recognition,” said Villanueva, the head of the NGO Círculo de Familias Diversas (Diverse Families group).

“The huge majority of same-sex couples who will get married have already been living together for a long time,” Sergio Sarmiento, a columnist with the Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma, wrote Thursday. “The only difference will be that they’ll have a document that will give them greater stability in their relationships.”

Another threat is the possibility that the local parliaments of other districts in Mexico will adopt measures to specifically ban same-sex marriage, as the legislature of the state of Yucatán, in the southeast of the country, did in July.

In the last few years, the Mexico City local assembly has been a pioneer in certain areas. A law on civil unions, which applies to both heterosexual and homosexual couples, went into effect in late 2006. And a law legalising abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy entered into force in April 2007.

“The challenge is effective enforcement of these laws, so that they will gradually help eliminate intolerance and social discrimination,” said Sánchez.

“The recognition of rights is a pending issue in civil unions, so they will enjoy the same rights as married couples, which they do not yet have,” said Monroy.

On Wednesday, the first same-sex marriage licences were issued in Washington, D.C. And the first gay marriage in Latin America took place in December in Argentina.

 
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