How Mexico Quietly Legalized Same-Sex Marriage : Parallels A series of low-profile court rulings culminated with a Supreme Court decision this month that says limiting marriage to a man and a woman was discriminatory and in violation of the constitution.
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How Mexico Quietly Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

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How Mexico Quietly Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

How Mexico Quietly Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Gay marriage is essentially legal in Mexico. An opinion by that country's Supreme Court was quietly published earlier this month. It declares that state laws which define marriage as a union only between man and a woman are discriminatory and in violation of Mexico's constitution. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: If anyone knows how hard it's been for same-sex couples to be wed in Mexico, it's Victor Manuel Aguirre and Fernando Urias.

VICTOR MANUEL AGUIRRE: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Speaking by phone from their home in Mexicali just across the border from Calexico, Calif., Aguirre says the couple tried four times in the past two years to marry at city hall. Each time, they were confronted by protesters, hostile local officials and endless legal obstacles. They finally took their case all the way to Mexico's highest court, who ruled in their favor, and the two wed on January 16.

AGUIRRE: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Of this year," says Aguirre, "after so much troubles," he laughs. The men's case and a series of other successful challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage prompted the Supreme Court's ruling. Under Mexico's laws though, the judge's landmark decision does not go as far as to invalidate state laws. Local city clerks can still refuse to grant a marriage license to homosexual couples. Fernando Urias says the ruling is not perfect, but...

FERNANDO URIAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "...It will be much easier and much faster than it was for us," says Urias. Couples denied marriage licenses can now directly appeal to local judges who will be bound by the Supreme Court ruling and must force local clerks to issue the license.

ESTEFANIA VELA BARBA: No judge can exclude same-sex couples from marriage in any part of the country.

KAHN: Estefania Vela Barba, an associate law professor in Mexico City, says the justices particularly objected to state laws that determine the purpose of marriage as procreation. Vela Barba says the court ruled such statements as incorrect and discriminatory.

VELA BARBA: So for all intents and purposes, there is no reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage because they can perform what marriage is about, which is helping each other out.

KAHN: But in Mexico, where more than 80 percent of the country is Catholic, such statements didn't sit well with many. The Catholic Church reportedly objected to the ruling, saying it goes against the basic family structure founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Victor Aguirre and Fernando Urias in Mexicali say they are bracing for a backlash. The two were attacked and robbed at their business three months after marrying.

URIAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Despite what they both say is a tough road ahead in the fight for gay rights and acceptance in Mexico, "we've done something good for our society," says Urias. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

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