Victory for gay rights in Mexico's Catholic stronghold

Legalisation of same-sex marriages in capital is a first for Latin America

The global gay rights movement was yesterday celebrating the passage of a bill in the Mexico City legislature legalising gay marriage, making the huge and overwhelmingly Catholic megalopolis the first territory anywhere in Latin America to put same-sex couples on the same standing as heterosexuals.

The law, which is likely to be signed soon by the city's increasingly high-profile leftist Mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, was passed by a vote of 39 votes to 20 in the city assembly on Monday to loud chants from supporters in the galleries of "Yes, We could. Yes, we could" – words that will become "We do" for some couples early in the new year.

It was a victory not just for gay rights activists in Mexico and across Latin America but also for the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) which has controlled government of the sprawling Mexican capital since 1997. The bill was opposed by members of President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (PAN), which holds power nationally. Party officials have already vowed to challenge the new city law in the Supreme Court.

As in many – though not all – parts of the world, calls for marriage rights for gays and lesbians have begun to resonate more loudly in Latin America. Civil unions, which fall some way short of outright marriage, have been available to same-sex couples in Mexico City for some years as they are in all of Uruguay, Ecuador and Colombia.

Debate on the issue is raging in Argentina meanwhile. Same-sex civil unions were approved in Buenos Aires a full seven years ago. Now, however, the country is awaiting a ruling from the national Supreme Court on the marriage of two men after a lower court judge declared that the government's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. The couple had planned to marry late last month before the wedding was blocked.

Mexico City, which passed its law in the face of fierce opposition not just from the top ranks of the Catholic Church, joins the seven countries and five US states that offer full marriage rights to gays.

Canada, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium permit gay marriage as well as Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire in the US. (New Hampshire's law comes into effect in 2010).

But while gay rights advocates around the world were toasting Mexico City, none could ignore the sobering counterpoint from another continent, Africa, and specifically Uganda where parliament seems poised to pass a law not only criminalising homosexuality but threatening the death penalty in certain circumstances, for instance if one of the parties is HIV-positive or is under 18 years of age.

A law conferring same-sex marriage rights was passed this month by Washington DC. The city's Mayor, Adrian Fenty, signed it into law last week. Otherwise, however, the year 2009 has been one mostly of disappointment for the gay rights movement in the US. Lawmakers in Maine signed gay marriage into law only to see it overturned by a popular ballot in November. And efforts to push gay marriage through the New York state legislature ended in failure.

For Mayor Ebrard signing the marriage law holds some risk. Regarded as a strong steward of the capital – the population of greater Mexico City exceeds 21 million – he may be positioning himself to run for the Mexican presidency in three years' time. While recent polls showed that residents of the capital were evenly split over gay marriage, the rest of the country remains far more socially conservative and will look askance at the law.

For same-sex couples who witnessed the vote on Monday, it was a moment of pure celebration, however. "This is wonderful," commented Judith Vasquez, a gay rights activist. "Gay couples have effectively been together for years, decades, centuries. But now it is our right." The vote changed the definition of marriage in the city's civil code from being between a man and a woman to the "free uniting of two people".

"For centuries, unjust laws prohibited marriage between whites and blacks or Europeans and [indigenous] Indians," declared PRD representative Victor Romo who voted for the law. "Today all those barriers have come down."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform