Mexico City has emerged as the first Latin American city to endorse legal gay marriage and a host of other rights for gay couples.
In a landmark decision, the Mexico City legislature voted 39-20 to approve legislation that will change the definition of marriage in the city’s civil code to read “the free uniting of two people.” Gay couples may be able to marry as early as February 2010. The bill also provides gay couples with the right to adopt children, to be included on one another’s insurance, obtain joint housing loans and the right to inheritance.
The move has angered Mexico’s religious leaders and politicians in the conservative ruling party.
“They have given Mexicans a very bitter Christmas. They have eliminated the word ‘father’ and ‘mother,'” Armando Martinez Gomez, president of the College of Catholic Attorneys, told the Los Angeles Times. “There will be repercussions, the unleashing of homophobia. Ours is not a very tolerant society.”
The Mexico City move comes just weeks after Buenos Aires was on the verge of becoming the first Latin American city to endorse same-sex unions. Contradictory court rulings prevented two Argentinean men from legalizing their union in a Dec. 1 civil ceremony at the last minute. Judges in the area have pronounced differing judgments on whether city laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional. Gay rights activists have vowed to continue their efforts.
While deeply religious Latin Americans’ attitudes towards gays are not as severe as regions like Africa – where most countries have laws on the book criminalizing gay relationships – it has until recently been a most unwelcoming place for gays. Uruguay has moved to make adoption easier for gay couples. Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador are considering measures to allow gay marriages. Several cities in the region already allow civil unions.