Last month, the Supreme Court in Mexico declared discriminatory and unconstitutional state-level laws that define marriage as the union between a man and a woman only. Its decision, in effect, thus legalized same-sex marriage in all 31 states of the country.
The court’s ruling, which was published in Judicial Weekly on June 19, said procreation is not the sole purpose of marriage and therefore, restricting marriage to heterosexual couples only qualifies as discrimination against other couples who want to get married as well. Even though existing civil codes remain intact as of now, same-sex couples wanting to marry are free to seek injunctions against the laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples.
In its ruling, the court said, “Since the purpose of marriage is not procreation, there is not a justified reason that the matrimonial union be heterosexual, nor that it is stated as ‘between a man and a woman.’ Such a statement proves discriminatory, based on the sexual orientation of the person… The exclusion of couples of the same sex from the institution of marriage perpetuates the notion that couples of the same sex are less deserving of recognition than heterosexual (couples), offending with it their dignity as persons and integrity.”
Obviously, the Mexican Bishops’ Conference contended the court’s decree, saying it did not see any sense in its reasoning. The bishops went on to reiterate their conviction that a family based on marriage between a man and a woman with individual reproductive abilities assures the survival of society.
Their conviction “does not correspond with the Supreme Court creating new forms of marriage, because it would no longer be a marriage, rather another type of union,” the statement read. “While we value that no one should be subject to discrimination, as the first article of the constitution states, this does not mean that the essence of marriage should be modified.”
Mexico City had approved of same-sex marriage way back in 2009, thus becoming the first jurisdiction in Latin America to do so. A year later, the Supreme Court upheld that ruling and ordered all other states to recognize marriages performed in the capital. The local legislature approved such a law and the court upheld it despite intense opposition from the Archdiocese of Mexico City that objected to the development even more than before once same-sex couples were allowed to adopt children as well.
Mexico distinguishes marriages into two categories – civil and religious, with the former being performed by state personnel and not priests, though many ceremonies include both civil and religious elements in different venues.
Mexico City altered its marriage codes at a time when there was discord between the local government and the archdiocese. Apart from same-sex marriage, euthanasia and abortion were decriminalized too during that period. Apart from Mexico State, Coahuila in the north and Quintana Roo in the south also approve of same-sex marriage, as the civil codes there do not mention the gender of the participants.
Aldo Munoz Armenta, professor of political science at the Autonomous University of Mexico State, said most politicians do not consider proposing same-sex marriage legislation as politically profitable, which is why the issue has been sidelined for so long. Since 2010, advocates of same-sex couples wishing to marry have succeeded in acquiring
individual injunctions against laws that do not allow gay and lesbian weddings to take place. While they have regularly won such cases, thus making same-sex marriages possible across Mexico, the procedure has proven to be both convoluted and costly.
The northern Diocese of Saltillo in Coahuila has gone to great lengths to show support for the LGBT community by organizing pastoral outreach programs and celebrating mass for its gay members on a monthly basis.
“With the issue of marriage, “here has always been an interest (in the gay community) in that being an option,” said Robert Coogan, an American priest in Saltillo and spiritual adviser for the program.
He said that the community’s stake in expanding marriage laws was to make available for same-sex couples legal protection and rights to benefits like their spouse’s health coverage.
“We want this to show that our sentiments are real and deserve respect,” said Coogan.
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