Vanessa Ruiz Calva
Two weeks ago during a ceremony to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that he would be sending a package of initiatives to Congress to legalize same-sex marriage in Mexico. The initiatives would imply a constitutional reform to Article 4 establishing that marriages should be celebrated without discrimination due to ethnic origin, disability, social or health condition, religion, and now gender or sexual orientation. Furthermore, the Federal Civil Code would also be reformed to ensure marriage equality.
This historic moment follows and alludes to key rulings by the Supreme Court of Justice, which last year established that state bans against same-sex marriage were unconstitutional; since the ruling is considered “jurisprudential thesis”, it didn’t invalidate existing state laws, couples still needed to sue the state in order to be married. Thus the President’s action eliminates this legal move and establishes the right to marry permanently in the Constitution and Civil Code.
Growing up in Mexico City, I experienced a dynamic, cosmopolitan city filled with diversity and novelty. However, one thing missing from the majestic views of the Mexican capital were rainbow flags; there was a vibrant gay community but it was usually unseen, confined within the spectrum of its own sub-culture. People knew of “gays” but there wasn’t any interest in having a serious discussion of their rights. Stereotypes and a lack of information severely hindered people speaking out about their sexual orientation and gender identity. That social environment only added to the numerous questions, fears, and insecurities I was overwhelmed with when I realized I was gay, and the much needed conversations to adequately address the needs of my community seemed far way.
Even though the legislative process will now have to take its due course, this announcement is an enormous step towards the inclusion and defense of the Mexican LGBT community. Despite significant legal progress in measures targeting discrimination in health services, labor rights and bullying, according to the 2010 National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico (ENADIS), 52% of those surveyed believe that the main issues for LGBT people is discrimination, followed by a lack of acceptance (26.2%) and stigma (6.2%). Even more daunting, 4 out of 10 people would not be willing to share their household with someone who is gay.
This announcement, and the full participation of the federal government in commemorating IDAHOT, continued to lift the veil that has shrouded past conversations about LGBT rights. The fact that the President, and all the ministries and agencies that make up the Executive engaged in symbolic actions of support—such as changing their social media icons to support LGBT rights on this date for just the second time in Mexico’s history—is worth recognition. Even more so, the fact that a president openly discussed the freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity in terms of public policy and guaranteed constitutional rights is paramount.
These reforms do not only impact couples that want to get married—it impacts every single member of the LGBT community that has felt ignored, that had to hide his or her sexual orientation or gender identify, that endured bullying, rejection, violence, discrimination and even death. This goes beyond “acceptance” by the general public, this is about equality, rights, and standing against discrimination. Through these initiatives, Mexico voiced an historic sí in favor of marriage equality, and permanently opened the door that promotes the visibility and inclusion of LGBT people and their needs in public policy and law. This is certainly just a first step, but the depth of its footprint will be felt in the lives of millions.
The blog was initially published by The Hill.