You can also read this article on the Al Jazeera English website here.
Judith Vazquez and Lolkin Castañeda are preparing for their wedding. The two academics and gay rights activists have been living together for 6 years and are now enjoying a landmark decision that has given Mexico Citys gay population the right to marry, with all the legal benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. They will be able to open a joint bank account, inherit property from each other and adopt children together. Judith believes that it is a defining moment.
“It is a triumph for those of us who believe that society and the world can change, for those that have the certainty that things can be different tomorrow, if you get involved. It’s a huge step forward.”
For some it is a step too far. Since the leftist government of Mexico City voted in the law in December, it has proved polemic. The nations ruling political party PAN has headed the opposition. Mariana Gomez del Campo, party coordinator in the Mexico City Legislative Assembly, claims that marriage should be reserved exclusively for heterosexual couples.
“It’s an institution for a man and woman for mutual help and procreation, those are the two reasons to marry, that’s what our laws say and our constitution.”
The fact that the law will give gay couples the right to adopt children has proved an inflammatory issue. The Catholic church has entered the debate, with the top Mexican cleric Norberto Rivera arguing that the law violates the rights of children.
“The government should be the first to respect the need for children to have a father and a mother.”
The official Catholic newspaper of Mexico City, “Desde La Fe” or “From the Faith”, calls the law “Immoral, unacceptable and reprehensible”. José Martín Rabágo, Archbishop of the central state of Leon, goes further, questioning whether the recent natural disasters are a divine response to “Legal initiatives which affect the base of society; the family”.
Even the Federal Attorney General has launched a legal counterattack against the law, citing an article in the constitution that makes reference to “protecting the family”. The Supreme Court is still reviewing this challenge which, if successful, could eventually overturn the measure.
Many gay activists are unsurprised by the strong reaction from these powerful institutions, saying that Mexico remains a macho society in which homophobia is prevalent. The capital is noticeably one of the more liberal, cosmopolitan areas, in which gay couples walk down the main avenue, Paseo Reforma, hand in hand and areas such as Zona Rosa are famous for gay cafes and bars.
Now the battle seems to be for the rest of the country, where the law does not apply. Some gay couples from other states plan to travel to Mexico City to marry and then return to their homes and attempt to force the state authorities to recognize their union.
Others are pushing directly for the law to be expanded into other states. 22 gay couples celebrated a “symbolic” marriage ceremony in Tlaxcala on 26th February to highlight the issue.
Their opponents will be equally determined to prevent the reform from spreading. The conservative states of Jalisco, Baja California, Sonora, Guanajuato, Morelos and Tlaxcala have already had consitutional challenges against the law in Mexico City rejected by the supreme court. They would put up a stiff resistance to it moving outside of the capital.
When the first couples in Mexico marry in the middle of March, Judith Vazquez and Lolkin Castañeda will be among those tying the knot. It is part of a growing trend in Latin America which saw the first gay wedding in Argentina at the end of December and gay couples in Uruguay granted the right of adoption in September. For Judith and Lolkin, it is the end of a long struggle to be recognized as any other married couple.