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Mexico’s high court: Homophobic slurs not protected as freedom of expression

Thursday, March 7, 2013

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that two homophobic words commonly used in Mexico to humiliate gay men are not protected as freedom of expression under the constitution, allowing those offended by them to sue for moral damages.

The magistrates voted 3-2 late Wednesday in favor of a journalist from the central city of Puebla who in 2010 sued a reporter at a different newspaper who had written a column referring to him and others as a “puñal” and “maricones.”

“Puñal” is a slang term used in some regions of Mexico akin to calling someone a “fag,” and “maricones” is a reference to “faggots.”

A press statement released by the Court stated the following (translation courtesy of Blabbeando):

In this sense, the First Chamber determined that homophobic expressions or — in other words the frequent allegations that homosexuality is not a valid option but an inferior condition — constitute discriminatory statements even if they are expressed jokingly, since they can be used to encourage, promote and justify intolerance against gays.

For this reason, the Chamber determined that the terms used in this specific case — made up of the words “maricones” and “puñal” — were offensive. These are expressions which are certainly deeply rooted in the language of Mexican society but the truth is that the practices of a majority of participants of a society cannot trump violations of basic rights.

In addition, the First Chamber determined that these expressions were irrelevant since their usage was not needed in resolving the dispute taking place as related to the mutual criticism between two journalists from Puebla. Therefore it was determined that the expressions “maricones” and “puñal”, just as they were used in this specific case, were not protected by the Constitution.

La Jornada reported that the ruling might be limited to the use of homophobic expressions in the media when the intent is to cause derogatory harm.

Alejandro Brito, director of Letter S, a gay rights group, said that the resolution will lead to a more respectful way of referring to gay people but that it falls short of having an impact on the mentality of anti-gay Mexicans.

“This will inhibit the use of the words in public forums and the media, and that’s very positive,” Brito said. “But this doesn’t mean that the person who stops saying these words will stop being homophobic.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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12 more reader comments:

  1. Sounds like a huge contradiction considering there’s two sides -_-” the one being hurt has a right to express themselves too right?…

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:18pm
  2. the one’s being “hurt” are now the one’s protected having been granted the opportunity to SUE those who use homophobic slurs

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:23pm
  3. About time homophobic slurs are prohibited! I wonder when the USA will do the same!

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:27pm
    CAN you call someone else a faggot, maricon, jota, etc on a newspaper and allude to hurtful stereotypes?
    I’m sure you CAN. But that doesn’t mean that you’re magically protected from being expected to take the consequences for being a bigotted homophobe.
    Also, ever heard of “Your rights end when mine begin”? Why would we want to protect people who by using hate speech are promoting the death of gay people? Cuz this isnt just “someone’s opinion” in a social vacuum. This is an act of violence that leads to more acts of violence and queer people not feeling safe in their own countries.

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:28pm
  5. Go Mexico!

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:32pm
  6. Mexico still has a LOT of work to do for other sectors of society, but I’m proud to see that sexuality doesn’t hinder someone from being equally. :)

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:40pm
  7. sure… “homophobic slurs are not freedom of expression” but if you really know Mexican government you know that if you send out a bribe, they can all pretend nobody heard it.

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 2:46pm
  8. Why is it other countries are outpacing America on human rights and protections like hate speech etc?

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:10pm
  9. So this is the real reason the US government wants us frightened of Mexicans! <3

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:19pm
  10. Good job Mexico!

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:24pm
  11. Congratulations Mexico! You’ve taken a Huge step in liberating yourselves from the prejudices of society, keep up the Fantastic work!!

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 4:08pm
  12. yes i love this

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 4:21pm