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Mexican Supreme Court Quietly Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Mexican same-sex couples celebrate achieving marriage equality. (Photo: Javier Hidalgo/Flickr Creative Commons)

Mexican same-sex couples celebrate achieving marriage equality. (Photo: Javier Hidalgo/Flickr Creative Commons)

Mexico has become the 20th nation to legalize same-sex marriage as its Supreme Court has issued a landmark legal ruling that has shocked many in the traditionally conservative Catholic country.

The New York Times reports the Supreme Court has decreed via jurisprudential thesis that it is unconstitutional and discriminatory for states to ban same-sex marriage, requiring other courts throughout the nation of 122 million inhabitants to allow gays and lesbians to legally tie the knot. While the court did not explicitly state that same-sex marriage has been legalized, its opinion effectively legalizes such unions, opening the door for same-sex marriages throughout the nation.

The court’s opinion rejected the notion, espoused by many gay marriage opponents, that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation.

“As the purpose of matrimony is not procreation, there is no justified reason that the matrimonial union be heterosexual, nor that it be stated as between only a man and only a woman,” the ruling said. “Such a statement turns out to be discriminatory in its mere expression.”

While the still-powerful Catholic church and millions of Mexicans expressed their shock and disappointment, LGBT Mexicans rejoiced at having finally achieved marriage equality.

“When I heard the judge pronounce us legally married, I burst into tears,” said Hiram Gonzalez, whose 2014 union with his boyfriend, Severiano Chavez, is now official. “It is not just the legal battle, but what it involves, the emotional and physical strain of the process,” Gonzalez told the Times. “At the end, it’s a fight for your dignity.”

In 2009, Mexico City, the federal capital district, made international headlines when it became the first place in Latin America to legalize gay marriage. Since then, there have been more than 5,000 such unions, often of couples traveling to the capital from less progressive areas of Mexico. Of the 31 Mexican states, only one—Coahuila, on the US border— has formally legalized same-sex marriage. Quintana Roo, home to the resort cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, has allowed gay unions since 2012 but has not passed a legalization law.

Predictably, the Mexican Catholic Church lamented the ruling.

“We reiterate our conviction, based on scientific, anthropological, philosophical, social and religious reasons, that the family, cell of society, is founded on the marriage of a man and a woman,” Msgr. Eugenio Lira Rugarcía, secretary general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, said in a statement reported by the Times.

But LGBT marriage equality has been slowly spreading throughout the traditionally male-dominated, machismo-fueled and overwhelmingly Catholic societies of Latin America. Argentina was the first Latin American nation to legalize gay marriage in 2010, followed by Brazil and Uruguay.

Worldwide, 20 nations have now legalized same-sex marriage, most recently Ireland, which last month became the first nation in the world to do so via popular referendum despite opposition from the still-dominant Catholic church. The other 18 nations besides Mexico and Ireland which have achieved LGBT marriage equality are: The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg and Finland. Some 37 states, plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and Guam in the United States, have also legalized gay marriage.

At the other end of the spectrum, 79 nations, mostly in Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East and South Asia, have outlawed homosexuality, with penalties as severe as execution for ‘offenders.’ All of the countries where same-sex relations are punishable by death are Muslim: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen and Brunei. Northern Nigeria and parts of Somalia, both also controlled by Muslims, also execute gays.

In some African nations, notably Uganda, Evangelical Christians, including some American church leaders, have successfully pushed for draconian anti-gay legislation punishing LGBT people with lengthy prison sentences (14 years in Nigeria), or in the case of Uganda, life imprisonment.

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