Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mexico: As gays prepare to marry in Mexico City, Jalisco queers act-up for their rights

On December 21st Mexico City's legislative Assembly made history when it passed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. The law, which goes into effect on March 4th, became the first such measure to be adopted in all of Latin America.

Surprisingly, in the days that followed the vote, there was actually little visible reaction from any of the regular anti-gay forces in the country. Instead, as the new year began, a Twitter-led media frenzy erupted over homophobic comments made by a Mexican television morning show host named Esteban Arce.

Now, a week before the law goes into effect, the opposition has certainly raised its ugly head and come out in full force.

On January 27th, Mexico's Attorney General filed an appeal before the country's Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law. Last week six governors from the conservative PAN party also raised constitutional appeals claiming that the law might spread to other regions in the country. And - somewhat surprisingly - Mexico's president Felipe Calderón - also from the PAN party - stepped in and honed his conservative re-election bonafides by siding with anti-gay forces and stating his opposition to the law.

Patrick Corcoran, a freelance writer based in Mexico who blogs at Gancho, has a great breakdown of the partisan politics at play in an essay he wrote for Mexidata, and I quote:
Despite a lengthy to-do list that represents Mexican President Felipe Calderón's last gasp for an enduring legislative legacy, the president and his party have diverted their recent efforts toward a push to ban same-sex marriage.

The change of focus stems from a December law passed by the left-leaning Mexico City government legalizing same-sex marriage and providing gay couples with an avenue to adoption. Gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular had not been particularly divisive issues in Mexico, but the new law, which was the first of its kind in Latin America (the northern state of Coahuila did, however, legalize same-sex unions in 2007, though without the adoption provision) provoked a storm of controversy.

Even before the new law was official, the Mexico City PAN (National Action Party) was promising a legal challenge. Church officials, predictably, were apoplectic (although interestingly the Vatican conspicuously kept its distance). Opponents of same-sex marriage found a sympathetic ear in Los Pinos; Calderón is said to be personally close to Mariana Gómez, the PAN's most visible opponent of same-sex marriage, and in late January, his attorney general Arturo Chávez Chávez filed a challenge of the law before the Supreme Court. Five more states, all run by PAN governors, joined the fray last week, challenging the law on the grounds that it unfairly obliges them to recognize the capital's marriages.

Since Mexico City is light years to the left of much of the rest of the country, the backlash could undermine gay rights more than the Mexico City law advanced them. The Supreme Court could strike down the Mexico City law, rendering same-sex marriage illegal across the nation. Even if the Court refrains from doing so (which seems likely, given the court’s recent leftward tilt, its endorsement of Mexico City’s abortion legalization, and the flimsiness of the legal arguments), a series of statewide bans of same-sex marriage seem quite likely. This pattern, a progressive law in Mexico City sparking a harsh conservative reaction virtually everywhere else, was established over the past couple of years in the realm of abortion.

But even if the PAN’s strategy does bear fruit, this is a bad policy and ultimately a bad political move for the PAN... [read the rest of the essay here]
The good news this week: The Mexican Supreme Court has dismissed all six appeals from the governors of Sonora, Tlaxcala, Guanajuato, Morelos, Jalisco and Baja California.

Additionally, President Felipe Calderón, when asked yesterday to share his thoughts on the law once again, refused to reaffirm his opposition, simply referring to the one appeal against the measure that is still standing before the court: That of the Attorney General's Office.

"I will abstain from giving an opinion which might be interpreted as as if the President might be trying to introduce a belief, an opinion, a value that is different than the law", Calderón said.

He added that it was a delicate debate and argued that he respected every single person. "I absolutely do not have any bad taste nor reproach towards those who have a partnership with another of the same gender," he said, "I respect - I absolutely insist - such preferences".

David Razú Aznar, the President of the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City's Legislative Assembly, Tweeted this morning that this could be a signal that Calderón knows he is on the losing end of the debate. Aznar was among a team of lawyers and government officials who handed a report to the Supreme Court yesterday in which the City vouched for the constitutionality of the marriage equality law (you can download the complete report, written in Spanish, here).

Jalisco queers act-up: As good as it looks for marriage equality supporters in Mexico right now, what has been the most inspiring to see is how the LGBT community has reacted to efforts to sink the law. Mexico doesn't really have a national LGBT-rights organization that can act as a centralized force against these homophobic efforts. Instead, there is a large patchwork network of small local LGBT rights advocates and organizations that mostly work independently from each other. And, despite the fact that the law in question will only cover couples within the Mexico City district, it seems that LGBT folk throughout the country are rising up against efforts to derail it, particularly in Guadalajara, the state capital of Jalisco.

I already wrote about a march that took place in Guadalajara on Valentine's Day which drew more than 350 people and ended in a town square with kiss-ins and symbolic marriage ceremonies (Milenio has a full description here).

A week later, riding approximately 12 vehicles, 40 advocates made their way through the Guadalajara streets once again and stopped in front of the State's Human Rights Commission. According to El Occidental, advocates declared their opposition to their governor's Supreme Court appeal, as well as the interference of the other PAN-affiliated governors into the affairs of Mexico City. They also announced a campaign they called "Thousand for Our Rights" and said that they would be collecting 1,000 signatures from Guadalajara residents asking the Human Rights Commission to protect the rights of the city's LGBT community.

Milenio reported that leaders of three local LGBT rights organizations symbolically shut down the Commission's office by placing rainbow-colored chains and red-tape on its front doors and declaring a "quarantine" [see top photo]. Members of the Lesbian and Gay Committee (COLEGA AC), the Sexual Diversity Commission (Codise) and the Sexual Diversity University Network said that they were shutting down the office to protest the inaction of the president of the Commission, Jesús Álvarez Cibrián, who refused to take any action against the Supreme Court appeal filed by Jalisco's governor.

A representative of the Human Rights Commission refused to talk to demonstrators but said that the agency stood by its claims that the governor's actions were beyond their scope of work.

Rodrigo Rincón, president of Codise, said that protest organizers were considering taking additional actions, including outing political and religious leaders who stood in opposition to the advancement of LGBT rights, following similar actions by LGBT advocates in the United States.

From El Occidental:
In Jalisco we want to do the same: First we will look for them and see how they can support the cause, if there is no free will by gay public figures, or if they don't take a position that is of beneficial on these issues - because we have seen these officials speaking badly about the initiatives that have been presented - if this continues to happen, in the middle of the year we will release some pictures, videos, which include interviews with partners and ex-partners of the officials, so that they can provide names and be witnesses to all of this.
Finally, in an interview posted today on NotiSistema, Rosa Maria Trejo Villalobos, Coordinator of Codise stated that there were 14 couples from Jalisco who were planning to travel to Mexico City to get married on March 14th. She said that they would join approximately 300 other same-sex couples who had petitioned for the right to get married once the law goes into effect on March 4th.

Amazing all that's been happening in Jalisco, no?

As for the homophobic opposition to Mexico City's marriage equality law, it doesn't only come from within the nation. The United States religious right is also freaking out. Earlier today, the World Congress of Families, led by several right-wing religious groups in the United States, announced a "World Congress of Families Leadership Petition To Save Marriage In Mexico City".

US-based signers include Gary Bauer, Tom DeLay, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher and Yuri Mantilla. Oh joy! Funny how they would blow a fuse if another nation meddled into United States policies but are all too glad to tell Mexico what to do.

No worries in the short-term as their actions will probably have null effect on the current Supreme Court's deliberation of the constitutionality of the law. The clear intent is to push Mexico to adopt a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages because, if they haven't achieved a constitutional ban in the United States, why not try Mexico? Ugh.
  • Related: If you want to follow the latest on Mexico City's marriage equality law and you are on Twitter, you can follow the #MatrimonioDF hashtag or my @NoticiasLGBT Twitter account. A warning: Both feeds provide information that is overwhelmingly in Spanish.


Wonder Man said...

happy for Mexico City

michael said...

Absolutely love your blog; keep up the good work.

Small correction: You write that Calderon "honed his conservative re-election bonafides." Mexican presidents serve only one six-year term and cannot run for reelection.