News (World)

Mexican president proposes legalizing gay marriage

The Rev. Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City, urged lawmakers to listen to their “conscience” and oppose the initiative.

“Marriage has some very concrete aims which, of course, two people of the same sex do not fulfill,” Valdemar said, referring to procreation.

He called Pena Nieto’s initiative a “distraction” in a country where “there are more serious issues that should be attended to” such as violence and corruption.

About 80 percent of Mexicans are Catholic, though only about 15 percent to 20 percent regularly practice the faith, said Andrew Chesnut, chairman of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He added that a recent Pew survey said Mexicans’ acceptance of gay marriage and LGBT issues in general closely mirrored views in the United States, where same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court last year.

The president’s announcement “is just of monumental significance,” Chesnut said. “It really is symbolic of the rapidly waning, eroding influence of the Catholic Church on both politics and the social front.”

Gay marriage is already legal in some parts of Mexico such as the capital, the northern state of Coahuila and Quintana Roo state on the Caribbean coast. Adding it to the constitution and the civil code would expand gay marriage rights across the country.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for Mexican states to ban same-sex couples from getting married. But the decision did not specifically overturn state laws, meaning couples have had to sue in court in each particular case.

Alejandro Brito, director of Letra S, a human rights group specializing in sexual diversity issues, called Pena Nieto’s announcement great news.

“I think it sends a very clear message of respect and against discrimination toward sexual diversity,” Brito said. “If it is enshrined in the constitution and the Supreme Court has established a precedent on this, it would seem just a question of time before all (government) entities across the country recognize equal marriage. … I think this is a battle that has been won.”

Twenty-three countries around the world have legalized gay marriage, according to Pew Research. Argentina became the first in Latin America to do so in 2010, followed by Brazil and Uruguay in 2013 and Colombia earlier this year. Chile allowed same-sex civil unions last year. The U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico also legalized gay marriage by executive decree after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“This, in tandem with Colombia, which is still close to about 80 percent Catholic and is usually kind of looked to as the most devout Catholic nation in Latin America … it’s amazing,” Chesnut said.


Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.

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