THE AMERICAS

Mexico’s President Peña Nieto backs legalizing same-sex marriage

Leader will send Congress proposal for constitutional reform

One of the first same-sex marriages held in Mexico City in March 2010.
One of the first same-sex marriages held in Mexico City in March 2010.Eduardo Verdugo / ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Mexico took another important step in the fight against discrimination this week after President Enrique Peña Nieto announced he will send a proposal to Congress to amend the Constitution to allow marriage between same-sex couples. The initiative would also require the Foreign Ministry to accept new birth certificates that reflect gender confirmation as valid forms of identification for the issuance of passports. The president made the announcement at an event held at Los Pinos, the presidential residence, to celebrate Mexico’s National Day Against Homophobia, a holiday he created by decree on March 21, 2014.

“It seems simple for us to gather here in Los Pinos but we are turning the page on a new chapter,” said Luis Perelman, an LGBTI activist who spoke at the event. Perelman, the president of the Mexican Federation of Sexual Education and Sexology, recalled how ingrained homophobia is in the country. Forty percent of Mexicans say they are not willing to share their home with a homosexual. “It is one of the few [cases of] discrimination where family is the biggest enemy,” he told the crowd.

The government wants to reform Article Four of the Constitution, which guarantees the rights of the individual, to incorporate the Supreme Court’ June 2015 ruling that gay marriages are equivalent to marriage between heterosexuals. The Court thus legalized this kind of union and declared any law that forbids it unconstitutional. Several Mexican states, however, were reluctant to adapt to the ruling. “We cannot have people in our country who have certain rights in some states but not in others,” Peña Nieto said.

It seems simple for us to gather here in Los Pinos but we are turning the page on a new chapter

Luis Perelman, Mexican LGBTI activist 

Mexico will create an amendment to enshrine that right in its Constitution. “I trust that once this change has been approved for the Federal Civil Code it will eventually be added to the civil codes of different federal states that do not yet have it,” the president added.

Gay marriage is legal in eight of Mexico’s 32 states: Campeche, Coahuila, Quintana Roo, Jalisco, Nayarit, Chihuahua, Sonora and Mexico City. Campeche approved same-sex unions on May 11 with 34 votes in favor and just one against. The opposition was Adriana Avilez Avilez, a congresswoman from a leftist party who said: “It goes against all of nature; we can’t mix oil and water.”

Alexandra Haas, president of the National Council to Prevent Discrimination, said even though the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders 26 years ago, it remains “a real disease that we have to eradicate.” Peña Nieto has promised that the Ministries of Education and Interior will organize a nationwide campaign to raise awareness against this kind of prejudice. According to Alejandro Brito, executive director of the organization Letra S, there have been 1310 hate crimes committed in Mexico since 1995: 1021 against gays, 265 against transgender women and 24 against cisgender women.

The president has also asked Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu to join 19 other UN countries in promoting the rights of homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people around the world.

English version by Dyane Jean-François.

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