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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Photo courtesy Chatham House. Creative Commons license.

From Shootings to Same-Sex Marriage, Mexico’s Gay Community is Still Struggling.

Last month, just before the Madame gay nightclub shooting in Xalapa, Mexico, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced his intention to push for the legalization of gay marriage across the entire country. The Xalapa shooting has been largely blamed on to local drug dealers, but its overlap with the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, which occurred during Latin night, is an eerie coincidence.

Both shootings were horrible tragedies, but one has to wonder why no one — unfortunately, including Wear Your Voice — reported on the Madame shootings. Mexican Americans and those across the border must have been wondering why the news didn’t catch media attention the way the Orlando massacre did.

Will Mexico Be The Fifth Latin American Country to Legalize Gay Marriage?

Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia have all legalized gay marriage. Mexico’s Nieto has proposed two bills to the Congress of Mexico that would change the language of the Constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry. It would also reform the federal civil code to protect marriage equality in every Mexican state.

Marriage was almost legalized last year, but the law adapted by a court ruling was not worded in such a way that became sovereign over state laws. The ruling found that it was unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage. However, the practice did not require states to rewrite gay marriage laws.

“Following this line of thought, it is possible that civil registries ask same-sex couples to submit paperwork, these registries might continue refusing to marry these people directly. In this scenario, couples will have to file an appeal for constitutional protection and here’s where the Supreme Court ruling comes into play: all the judges are forced to protect the couples and demand the civil registry to marry them,” Estefania Vela Barba explained to Buzzfeed Mexico shortly after the historic ruling. 

Nieto announced in May he wanted the Mexican Constitution “to recognize as a human right that people can enter into marriage without any kind of discrimination.”

While this is absolute cause for celebration, one must not overlook potential threats to the equal rights of the Mexican queer community.

Potential Threats to Same-Sex Marriage in Mexico

The 2010 National Survey about Discrimination in Mexico found that 7 out of 10 LGBT people feel their basic rights are violated. 

There have been outspoken opponents of gay marriage in Mexico, just as there have been in the United States. Reverend Hugo Valedmar clings to procreation-based arguments to back his cause. “Marriage has some very concrete aims which, of course, two people of the same sex do not fulfill,” Valdemar said.

Keep in mind, not all cis-heterosexual married couples desire to or are physically capable of having children. His point of view doesn’t necessarily reflect the majority of the 80 percent Catholic country, though 15 to 20 percent report actively practicing the religion. Mexico is still the second-largest Catholic population in the world (Brazil is the largest), followed by the Phillipines, the United States and Italy. It should be noted that Brazil still managed to legalize gay marriage in 2013 — in spite of outspoken opponents.

Andrew Chestnut, chairman of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, spoke with Forbes magazine last month after Nieto’s announcement of his intent to push for legalization of same-sex marriage.”It 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.”