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Religious Tolerance logo

Mexico: Same-sex marriages (SSMs)
can be obtained, with considerable difficulty.

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Introduction:

As of 2015-JUN, there are approximately 22 countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized. The exact number depends upon whether one refers to England and Wales as separate countries or not. In addition, Finland's government passed a bill legalize same-sex marriage during 2015, but it will not come into effect until 2017.

In almost all of these countries, the decision to make marriage available to same-sex couples was done on a national scale -- across the entire country at one time as a result of a decision by a national government or court. Only in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. has marriage equality been legalized gradually, one state at a time. In the case of Canada once most provinces had attained marriage equality, the federal government legalized it across the country in mid-2005. Currently, in the United States, 72% of the population live in the Territory of Guam, the District of Columbia and one of the 37 states that have legalized same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling during 2015-JUN on whether marriage equality will include the entire country.

Mexico is composed of 32 Federal Entities, including one Federal District and 31 individual states.

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Timeline of significant events leading to same-sex marriage:

  • 2009-DEC-21: Mexico City passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage: By a vote of 39 to 20, with five abstentions, Mexico City legislative assembly approved a bill to revise the civil code to define marriage as "the free uniting of two people." Previously, loving, committed same-sex couples were only able to obtain civil unions in the city. The marriage bill enables same-sex couples to apply for bank loans, inherit, be included in each other's insurance plans, etc.

    Victor Romo of the Democratic Revolution Party said:

    "For centuries, unjust laws banned marriage between blacks and whites or Indians and Europeans. Today, all barriers have disappeared."

    Actually, barriers still exist. Age and consanguinity limits are still in place that prohibit marriages by persons who are too young or too closely related.

    Armando Martinez, president of the College of Catholic Attorneys, was not impressed by the bill. He said that city legislators had:

    "... given Mexicans the most bitter Christmas. They are permitting adoption [by same-sex couples], and in one stroke of the pen have erased the terms mother and father."

    That is not really accurate, because the vast majority of future marriages -- certainly in excess of 95% -- will be between one woman and one man. If they have children, the terms mother and father will still apply. Only up to 5% of future marriages will probably be between two women or two men. Any children that they have themselves or adopt will still have two parents. However, they will be of the same gender.

    The conservative National Action Party planned to mount a court challenge. 1

By mid-2015, about 5300 same-sex marriages had been solemnized in Mexico City. Many were by couples from other states who vixited Mexico City, had their marriage solemnized, and returned to their home state as a married couple.

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  • 2010: Latin America's first same-sex marriage law took effect. Same-sex couples in Mexico City became able to register for marriage licenses. They were able to use their licenses in a week to ten days later, after the paperwork was processed. This raised the number of political jurisdictions offering marriage equality in North America to 20. 1 Three years later, it had risen to 24: ten provinces and three territories in Canada, the District of Columbia, and nine states in the U.S. and Mexico City in Mexico.

The Mexican Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the marriage law in Mexico City, and stipulated that other states had to recognize marriages that had been solemnized in Mexico City.

  • 2012: Same-sex couples began marrying in Cancun and throughout Quintana Roo State. Equality advocates took advantage of the state's civil marriage code which did not require that a married couple must consist of one woman and one man.

  • 2012-DEC-05: Earlier, Oaxaca State in southern Mexico had passed a law that banned same-sex marriages. It claimed that:
  • "one of the purposes of marriage is the perpetuation of the species."

The legislators may not have been aware of the large percentage of same-sex couples in marriages who conceive and raise children. Some adopt. Others have custody of children raised in previous opposite-sex marriages. Some are conceived as a result of artificial insemination. Some are born to surrogate mothers. ...

A lawsuit was launched by three gay couples to challenge the constitutionality of the state law. In an unanimous decision on DEC-05, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that restricting marriages to one woman and one man "violates the principle of equality." 2 In support of their ruling, they referred to

    "... the celebrated case of Loving v. Virginia, [in which] the U.S. Supreme Court argued that '[r]estricting marriage rights as belonging to one race or another is incompatible with the equal protection clause' under the U.S. Constitution. In connection with this analogy, we can say that the normative power to get married is of little use if the opportunity to marry the person one chooses is not granted." 3

However, this ruling will not produce any immediate change. Mexican law requires two more similar rulings by the Supreme Court of Mexico before same-sex marriage will be legal in Oaxaca State. In order to become legal in each of the other 30 states, five lawsuits declaring their marriage law unconstitutional would be required. In total 152 additional successful lawsuits would be needed to attain marriage equality across the entire country. That is because each state has its own civil laws. 3

Jaime Lopez, president of a gay-positive group in Mexico said:

"This makes it possible for the new generations of gays to see some hope that Mexico will [eventually] recognize their rights, and that they can one day live their sexuality openly. ... This ruling makes it possible for people to file similar lawsuits throughout the country."

Gerardo Rojas, 43, said:

"Within our community there will be people who won't want to get married, but there are also people who are conscious of their role in society and will want to formalize their relationships through marriage." 4

  • 2014-SEP-01: The state of Coahuila has followed the lead of Mexico City. It is now recognizing marriage by same-sex couples. This state is in Northern Mexico and shares a border with Texas. Back in 2007, they had passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. However, the couples were unable to adopt or have their relationship recognized for social security purposes. Like the U.S., the definition of marriage is left up to the individual states. Thus Mexico will have a patchwork of laws with same-sex married couples losing and regaining their marital status as they travel within the country -- just like the U.S.

  • 2015-JAN: Victor Manuel Aguirre, 43, and Victor Fernando Urias, 38, were married in Baja California. This is a state in Mexico that covers a peninsula south of San Diego, CA. It was not a simple task. The state does not allow same-sex couples to marry. They first had to obtain a court injunction to force state officials to issue them a marriage license. They were blocked by demonstrators and government procedures. At one point, they were unable to enter the civil registry building because of protestors. Mr. Aguirre said:

    "We were both dressed in white and went back home completely defeated and humiliated and just cried our eyes out."

    However, the mayor of Mecicali phoned them. explained that there had been a misunderstanding, and that they could marry. 5

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  • 2015-MAY & JUN: In a major decision, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that all state laws that restrict marriage to one woman and one man are discriminatory. They issued a decree stating that:

    "As the purpose of matrimony is not procreation, there is no justified reason that the matrimonial union be heterosexual, nor that it be stated as between only a man and only a woman. Such a statement turns out to be discriminatory in its mere expression." 5

    Since that ruling, state marriage bans in most states remain in place and effective. However, same-sex couples who are prevented from marrying can now ask for an injunction from their district judge, who is obligated to provide it. Marriage is thus a three step operation for most of Mexico's same-sex couples:

    • Obtain an injunction from the district judge, now a routine operation.

    • Obtain a marriage license, also a routine procedure.

    • Be married.

Estefanía Vela Barba, an associate law professor at CIDE University in Mexico City said:

"Without a doubt, gay marriage is legal everywhere. If a same-sex couple comes along and the code says marriage is between a man and a woman and for the purposes of reproduction, the court says, 'Ignore it, marriage is for two people'." 5

About 83% of the Mexican population is Roman Catholic. On 2015-JUN-14, Msgr. Eugenio Lira Rugarcía, secretary general of the Mexican bishops’ conference said:

"We reiterate our conviction, based on scientific, anthropological, philosophical, social and religious reasons, that the family, cell of society, is founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. ... [The church’s position is] stated in the millennia of Western legal tradition, collected and deepened throughout our history by legislators and judges from very different schools of thought and ideologies." 5

He is, of course, wrong. Plural marriages involving one man and multiple women have been legal in some locations over the past few millennia.

Hiram Gonzalez and Severiano Chavez were married in the state of Chihuahua during 2014, where marriages by same-sex couples remain technically not permitted. However, they felt that they should be able to marry in the state where they live instead of having to go to Mexico City to be married. They applied for an injunction, obtained it, obtained a marriage license and were married.

José Luis Caballero heads the law school at the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City. He said:

"What has to happen is that the state laws have to be reformed so that couples have the same rights and they don’t have to spend time and money. A couple with resources can get married. A couple without resources can’t." 5

Professor Jason Pierceson at the University of Illinois at Springfield, IL studies marriage equality activity in Latin America. He said:

"It’s a huge change from where things were 10 years ago. ... It certainly looks like there will be more marriage equality in Mexico in the near future. We don’t know if there will be any backlash or counter protest to stop it." 5

In the meantime, supporters of marriage inequality are encouraged by the fact that same-sex marriage is technically illegal in most of Mexico. Same-sex couples are encouraged by the increasing number of same-sex couples who are overcoming the additional expenses and delays involved in first obtaining a court injunction before being able to obtain a marriage license and marry.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Mexico City legalizes same-sex marriage," Associated Press, 2009-DEC-22, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  2. "Mexico's Supreme Court Declares Anti-Gay Marriage Law Unconstitutional ," Huffington Post, 2012-DEC-06, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  3. Marya Hannun, "For a lesson on marriage equality, look to Mexico (which looked to the U.S.)," Foreign Policy, 2013-MAR-29, at: http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/
  4. E. Eduardo Castillo, "Experts: Mexico ruling opens door to gay marriage," Huffington Post, 2012-DEC-06, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com
  5. Randal C. Archibold & Paulina Villegas, "With Little Fanfare, Mexican Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage," New York Times, 2015-JUN-14, at: http://www.nytimes.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010
Latest update: 2015-JUN-15
Author: B.A. Robinson
 

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