Mexico City Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
Im Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Coming up, were going to continue our coverage of the situation at the University of California at San Diego where a series of racially charged incidents have caused tensions. Well speak to two student leaders to get their sense of where things are in just a few minutes.
But first, this nations capital legalized same-sex marriage yesterday. And today another nations capital also legalized same-sex marriage and adoption. Were talking about Mexico City.
Joining us now from Mexico City is journalist Franc Contreras. He is a frequent contributor to Al Jazeera and the BBC, and hes at the civil registry right now. Welcome, thank you for joining us.
Mr. FRANC CONTRERAS (Journalist): Hi, Michel. Im glad to be with you live from Mexico City here.
MARTIN: Well, whats the scene like at the civil registry?
Mr. CONTRERAS: Well, I can see dozens of couples out now standing in front of this government building. Its an old government building, looks like the old-fashioned, almost even a church, its like, that sort of tone to this day. And theyre standing around. Theyve got documents in their hands.
And for the first time ever, theyre calling this a historic day, people are coming out into public holding hands. And this is not something you see very often in Mexico, lesbian and gay couples, and theyre preparing to turn in their documents now and begin the legal process of getting their marriage license. They will now have all of the same rights that heterosexual couples have had now for centuries in Mexico, legal rights to be able to take out loans together and even to be able to adopt children, Michel.
MARTIN: Now, for those who might not know, Mexico allows Mexico City to pass its own law separately from the rest of the country. And I wanted to ask you was this a popular measure when it passed? It passed apparently in December.
Mr. CONTRERAS: Well, you can imagine among the gay and lesbian community, it was a tremendously popular measure. They said theyve been struggling now for 30 years to try to get this right. And so, theyre they think that this is a tremendous thing.
But there are other members of the Mexican capital here, other people who live in the capital, I should say, who have their doubts. Theyre not so worried. Many people told me, this is not any sort of scientific survey that I took. But just talking to people in the streets, I was told that theyre not - most people dont seem to be against the idea of same-sex couples marrying. But what they do have their worries about is the idea that they can adopt children. Theres still this idea in Mexico among many people that, even in the capital here, that a child raised in a home with two people from the same sex, thats something that could damage the child.
And so, there are psychologists that are working with people here and trying to educate the Mexican society to show that probably thats not going to be the case. Many studies have shown that that children raised with same-sex couples can be, you know, healthy children as long as they receive proper health care, love, all the basic things you need in a household.
So, Mexican society is today on page one of this very long new book. The new life of a society accepting its gay and lesbian couples openly. But this is just in the capital. This is not happening all over the country, Michel.
MARTIN: Sure. But I wanted to ask, though, how the I was going to ask you how the rest of the country is reacting to this news. But before I do, I wanted to ask you about again the scene at the civil registry. What kinds of couples are you seeing there? Are they older? Do they seem like theyve been together for a long time? Are they younger folks? Can you just give us a sense of the scene?
Mr. CONTRERAS: Well, the ones who have gathered today and are taking advantage of the very first hour you can turn in your documents. Theyre mostly activists. The people I spoke to are young people who are from Mexico City. Theyre upper middle class people. They have university educations. Some of them are lawyers. Some of them are doctors. And most of them, as I said, are activists. They have been involved in this measure to try to bring about, you know, bring about the law that we have today. So, they know about the legal side of this as well. These are people who understand the social barriers that have been in place for many, many years here in Mexico that have prohibited this kind of thing from happening.
And so, the people we seen today are sort of theyve gathered because I think theyre they know there were going to be television cameras. And we see TV cameras from networks from around the world are here and also, of course, Mexican national television and Latin American television.
Remember, Latin America remains a very Catholic and conservative region of the world. And its not very common to even see people holding hands, gay couples, lesbian couples holding hands in public. So, you are seeing that right now. I see the flag that you see all over the world, the multicolored flag that represents the gay and lesbian rights movement, and a lot of reporters and other people standing around. There are people who are also here getting their birth certificates and death certificates, as what you do at the civil registry.
MARTIN: Sure. So, the business of the the rest of the business goes on as well.
Mr. CONTRERAS: (Unintelligible) there. And a lot of them are a lot of the other people who are heterosexuals are watching and theyre wondering. I think they are probably wondering what does this mean for our society.
MARTIN: Well, what about the rest of the country? Any sense of how this measure is going to be received? How its being reported in the rest of the country?
Mr. CONTRERAS: Absolutely. Theres already been a very strong sign of that from at least seven different Mexican states. Mexico, by the way, is called the United States of Mexico, and there are 31 states plus the federal district. And at least seven of those they are governed by the conservative National Action Party, thats the ruling party, the party of President Felipe Calderon.
And that party, in those states, the state governors have brought legal challenges to the law coming into effect today. And they tried doing that already in the last couple of months. They took those challenges right through Mexico Supreme Court, Michel. And the Supreme Court has overturned the challenges so far.
But there still remains one major challenge that the Supreme Court must take into consideration. Its a constitutional challenge that says that the idea of two people of the same sex marrying and becoming a family union is against the Mexican Constitution from this conservative perspective because it can damage the Mexican family. Theyre thinking about it as a danger to the Mexican family institution.
Mr. CONTRERAS: And, of course, that is an important institution in this country. And that legal challenge is coming straight from the attorney generals office. Imagine the attorney general of the nation is bringing that challenge to the Supreme Court. And, of course, hes a staunch supporter of President Felipe Calderon on the right wing side of the Mexican political system. And, of course, the damage was getting a lot of support from the Catholic Church. Theyre pouring in money to help bring the legal challenge and also bringing in their own lawyers.
MARTIN: Interesting, all right.
Mr. CONTRERAS: This is a controversial thing.
MARTIN: All right. Well, thank you, Franc. Franc, journalist Franc Contreras is a frequent contributor to Al Jazeera and the BBC, and he was kind enough to join us by phone from Mexico City. Hes at the civil registry right now, where marriage licenses are being offered to same-sex couples for the first time. Franc, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Mr. CONTRERAS: Im glad to be with you. Thank you.
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