Mexico City's law on civil
unions draws mixed reaction
MEXICO CITY.- Like many getting hitched for the first time, Antonio Medina is more than a little nervous about Friday's ceremony – not to mention the intense media scrutiny. Because unlike any other Mexico City resident before him, Mr. Medina is joining in a civil union with another man.
"Right now, we are in the eye of the hurricane and we are going to be closely watched," said Mr. Medina, 38, a prominent journalist who covers social issues like sexual diversity. "After four years and three months, we are happy. I don't know if we will be old men walking together, but either way, it is also our right to divorce."
Friday is D-Day in the latest culture battle in Mexico as hundreds of supporters of the capital’s "living partnerships law" are set to cement their unions in a celebration that has some Dallas activists as pleased as their Mexican counterparts.
"It's helping out our cause locally by having our mother countries stand up for us," said Jesse Garcia, spokesperson for Valiente, a Dallas/Fort Worth-based Latino group that works for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgenderrights —alluding to similar laws in Spain, Argentina and elsewhere. "Dallas is 40 percent Latino and in 10 years it will be 50 percent Latino. This is forcing the issue to the dinner table and doing so in a positive way because it is something the government is sanctioning."
Conservative lawmakers from Mexico’s ruling National Action Party, or PAN, and bishops from the Roman Catholic Church have vowed to campaign against any type of same-sex unions.
"We should not insult homosexuals or discriminate against them or hurt them, but we should not legalize something that is anti-natural," said Guillermo Bustamante, president of the National Parents Union, which is working to overturn the civil union laws.
At stake is a family-oriented, macho culture that is being threatened by globalized youths who are adopting U.S. lifestyles for better or worse, many on both sides of the issue agree.
Dallas gay activist Jesus Chairez, who writes the Internet blog "Sí Soy Gay" ( http://sisoyglbt.blog.com), said people like himself who often visit Mexico might end up living south of the border permanently.
"I wish we had it in Texas because it [a civil union] really shows a commitment…that you're not taking the relationship lightly," he said. "When I go to Mexico City and fall in love, now I may have somebody ask me to get married."
The Mexico City law, the first of its kind to be passed in Mexico, has already inspired a similar one in Coahuila. The northern border state's law took effect first, in January. Two women from Midland, Texas, were among the first to get hitched there after proving they were in Mexico legally. Texas does not recognize the law, although the rest of Mexico does.
In conservative Coahuila there have only been four unions, while nearly 600 couples have stated their intention to make use of the Mexico City law.
"In smaller cities, it's always going to be more stigmatized," said Raymundo Valadez Andrade, president of the group Proyecto Por Ti that supported the Coahuila law. "In Mexico City, there are specific places for gays and they have more self-esteem."
Both laws allow the couples some of the rights of marriage, such as inheritance and hospital visits, but not adoption or joint custody of children. They also allow couples to take advantage of anti-discrimination laws that protect them in the workplace and when seeking housing, for example. The unions can be dissolved, just like a divorce.
Manuel Nava, a publicist, plans a civil union with his boyfriend later this year, but thinks the Mexico City law is too limited because it is only recognized in the capital.
"But the important thing, of course, is to continue moving forward," said Mr. Nava, 40.
That's what causes the greatest fear in the Catholic Church, which claims 90 percent of Mexico's 105 million people.
JUST IN THE LAST MONTH:
• Pop star Christian Chávez, a member of the group RBD that is red hot in Latin America and the U.S., became the first Mexican star to publicly declare he is gay.
• The Mexican Supreme Court ruled that soldiers with the HIV virus cannot be forced out of the armed forces.
• The Mexico City government agreed to allow conjugal visits for homosexual prisoners.
• And a majority of Mexico City legislators said they would quickly decriminalize abortion. The proposal would make abortion legal in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.