Eight years of equal marriage in Mexico: advances and setbacks

The landscape that is emerging offers a contrast of advances and setbacks animated by the recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, and legislative plans for a constitutional reform
Eight years of equal marriage in Mexico: advances and setbacks
A gay couple holds hands during a mass wedding in Mexico City - Photo: Edgard Garrido/REUTERS
05/10/2018
17:56
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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Eight years after equal marriage or same-sex marriage was recognized by the 31 federal states of Mexico, the landscape that is emerging offers a contrast of advances and setbacks animated by the recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ICHR) ruling, and legislative plans for allowing these unions across the country through a constitutional reform.

In Mexico, only civil marriages are recognized by law and all its proceedings fall under state legislation.

Same-sex marriage is performed without restriction in Mexico City and Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Puebla, and Quintana Roo, as well as in certain municipalities in Oaxaca and Querétaro.

Legislation to change the laws on the subject is currently proposed in almost every state.

Courts in all states must approve marriage licenses for same-sex couples when petitioned to do so, while same-sex civil unions are legally performed in the country’s capital and in Campeche, Coahuila, Michoacán, and Tlaxcala.

Since August 2010, same-sex marriages performed in Mexico are recognized by the 31 states and fundamental spousal rights—such as alimony payments, inheritance rights, and the coverage of spouses by the federal social security system—also apply to same-sex couples.

According to experts, in spite of representing a minority in civil registers, the approval of equal marriage, which started in 2009 at a local level in Mexico City, generated a major debate on the traditional family structure in the conservative Mexican society.

“While heterosexual marriages are declining and the number of divorces is increasing, same-sex couples—at least in statistics—seem to enjoy greater stability and are looking for unrestricted legal recognition,” said specialists Miguel Ángel Morales Sandoval and Graciela Gutiérrez Garza in the website of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute for Judicial Research.

In 2015, they highlighted, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, the ruling was considered a “jurisprudential thesis” and did not invalidate any state laws, meaning that the couples have to commence proceedings for the right to marry and wait for the respective judicial decision.

International day

On May 17, 2016, speaking on the International Day Against Homophobia, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced he had signed an initiative to amend article 4 of the Constitution to clearly reflect the Supreme Court opinion, “to recognize as a human right that people can enter into marriage without any kind of discrimination.”

“That is, for marriages to be carried out without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or nationality, of disabilities, of social or health conditions, of religion, or gender or sexual preference,” he added.

With the president’s decision, Mexico was moving forward in becoming the fifth country in Latin America to make same-sex marriage legal.

The announcement was hailed by LGBT activists and criticized by the church leadership, still influential among the second-largest Roman Catholic population in the world.

Peña Nieto also submitted a bill to make appropriate changes in the Civil Code, however, in November 2016 the Committee on Constitutional Issues of the Chamber of Deputies rejected his initiative 19 votes to eight, after receiving 47,000 letters expressing opposition to the measure, though none of them were signed.

For its part, on January 8, 2018, the ICHR ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage.

The ruling was fully binding in Costa Rica and set a binding precedent in other countries, including Mexico.

After this verdict from the Costa Rica-based tribunal, LGBT advocacy groups in Mexico have urged the federal government to abide by the decision, and fully legalize same-sex marriage.

Last month, the minority parliamentary group of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the lower chamber said that it is promoting a new constitutional reform bill in order to allow equal marriage nationwide.

Former Coahuila Governor and federal deputy Rubén Moreira Valdez stressed that the bill is sustained by the first constitutional article, banning any kind of discrimination against human dignity.

“This reform initiative wants to put human rights violations behind, to strengthen an evolution adhered to the principles of universality, interdependence, indivisibility, and progressivity towards what we may call equal marriage,” stated Moreira.
 

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Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen
 

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