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Mexico City Legalizes Latin America's First Gay Marriages

By L. K. Regan

A week after the city council in Washington, DC voted to legalize gay marriage, another capital has joined the growing equal-rights trend. Mexico City's legislature voted this week to allow gay marriages, despite the fact that the city's population is overwhelmingly Catholic.

Mexico City is a vast city with a substantial gay population and a liberal mayor, Marcelo Ebrard. Ebrard will shortly have the opportunity to sign a gay marriage bill that passed the city's legislature by a wide margin—39 to 20. As the vote was taken, supporters in the galleries overlooking the legislative chamber loudly chanted, "Yes, we could! Yes, we could!". Mexico City has had civil unions for same sex couples for years, as have several cities and regions of Latin America: Buenos Aires had the first civil unions in 2002; Uruguay has legal civil unions nationwide. But the Mexico City weddings, which are expected to begin early next year, will be the first true gay marriages in Latin America.

The legislature's vote is also a blow to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (PAN), which opposed the bill. Mexico City's legislature has been under the control of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) since 1997; their platform is far more liberal than that of Calderon's party, officials from which have already announced their intent to challenge the city's new law in court. "For centuries, unjust laws prohibited marriage between whites and blacks or Europeans and [indigenous] Indians," declared PRD representative Victor Romo, who voted for the law. "Today all those barriers have come down."

Not everyone is happy about the bill, of course. The primary objection comes from the Catholic Church, which is largely framing the issue in terms of the expansion of rights for gay couples not only to marriage, but to adoption. Said Armando Martinez, president of the College of Catholic Attorneys, "They have given Mexicans the most bitter Christmas. They are permitting adoption [by gay couples] and in one stroke of the pen have erased the term 'mother' and 'father.' " Some city residents feel similarly. Says city resident Roberto Nava, "What is hardest for me to accept is the adoption of children by two men."

Whether the law survives will depend on the result of legal challenges based on exactly these kinds of issues. Earlier this month, Buenos Aires anticipated performing its first-ever same-sex wedding, but court rulings have stalled the process. Here's hoping the Mexico City law has a smoother journey through the courts.