* Due to technical difficulties, the publication of this article was delayed from its original postdate of April 19, 2013.
04/19/13 – (by kheinle) The first gay marriage in the state of Oaxaca was celebrated recently when three same-sex couples were married in late March 2013. The ceremonies were allowed after Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN) unanimously ruled in December 2012 that Oaxaca’s definition of marriage in its Civil Code (Código Civil) was unconstitutional. The wording previously read that “one of the purposes of marriage is the perpetuation of the species,” which the Supreme Court found violates the principle of equality. The case was brought forth by the three couples who were married only three months after the Court’s ruling.
Of the 32 states and districts in Mexico, only three others have allowed same-sex marriages to occur− the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF), Quintana Roo, and Colima−although most other states recognize gay marriages, but do not administer them. The nation’s capital broke ground on this with its first gay marriage performed in March 2010. One notable difference between Oaxaca’s recent marriages and those in the DF is that Oaxaca’s change stemmed from the federal Supreme Court and addressed the state’s civil code, whereas the DF’s came through its own district’s legislation (Asamblea Legislativa, ALDF) when it approved the same-sex marriage law in December 2009 that still stands. The DF’s law explicitly allowing gay marriage is the only one of its kind in the nation; all other states that have approved gay marriage ceremonies are due to officials’ interpretations of the state’s Constitution and Civil Code. Those states neither have a law that explicitly approves gay marriage, nor one that denies it. The the Supreme Court’s recent ruling may have far reaching effects outside of Oaxaca if other states’ codes are similarly called into question. CNN México reports that some states−specifically Guanajuato, Nuevo León, Puebla, and the State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex) −have already seen cases starting to spring up since December.
Quintana Roo followed the Federal District’s steps when officials in the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas approved the marriage of same-sex couples in December 2011. The mayor, Trinidad García Argüelles, argued that the state’s Civil Code does not specify that a marriage needs to be strictly between a man and woman. The first gay marriage in Quintana Roo was approved when the same-sex couple met all other Civil Code requirements for a marriage to move forward. The request “was started and opened in my municipality,” said Mayor García, “and we didn’t have to stop them or tell the couple ‘no’ as long as they were in compliance with the requirements the law establishes.” She continued, “We did what was right, and we are not trying to sidestep the law.” Despite the steps taken under Mayor García, other Quintana Roo municipalities have interpreted the state’s Civil Code differently, thus denying gay marriages to occur in the rest of the state.
For its part, Colima saw its first same-sex marriage in February 2013 after authorities in the municipality of Cuauhtémoc began approving gay marriage applications. State authorities allowed the first of such marriages on the basis of upholding the constitutional principle of “no discrimination.” As explained by CNN México, Colima’s state Constitution explicitly states that “marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman.” However, officials pointed to the fact that article 1 in the Constitution simultaneously prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their “sexual preferences.” Cuauhtémoc Mayor Indira Vizcaíno Silva said that municipal officials did not want to break both the state and federal constitutions’ anti-discrimination clauses. “We chose not to discriminate, and rather to comply with the obligations we have as municipal authorities not to deny any public service on the basis of sexual orientation,” she said. “We support our decision based on the Supreme Court’s interpretation in other cases, like Oaxaca.”
The steps towards marriage equality are significant in Mexico, and more generally in Latin America, given the country’s conservative nature and strong Catholic presence. The Federal District’s 2009 legislative reform on this matter made it the first place in Latin America to allow marriages between same-sex partners. Argentina is the only other country who has followed suit, although Uruguay is about to join once Uruguayan President José Mujica signs the legislation legalizing gay marriage, which already was approved by the nation’s Congress earlier this month, into effect.