Monday, February 8, 2010

Gay Marriage Puts Mexico City at Center of Debate

Gay Marriage Puts Mexico City at Center of Debate

As Mexican marriage law now stands, gay people have the right to civil unions, not marriages. While the government only legally recognizes civil marriages, not just ecclesiastical ones, this article deals with Mexico City’s new legislation allowing gay couples to marry and adopt children. As the law now stands, only the biological parent of the child is recognized as the legal parent. Mexico has a tradition of a rocky relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. Starting with the Constitution of 1917, Mexico has started to become more secular. The provisions of the Constitution were strictly enforced until around 1980 when the Church started to speak out. The Church became highly outspoken regarding its “eroded” legal status and called attention to major government corruption. With the Salinas government’s plan in 1991 to remove all constitutional restrictions on the Catholic Church the tensions between the Church and the government eased into a much more realistic relationship. However, some strains on the new relationship remained, particularly in southern Mexico in general and in Chiapas in particular.

Forceful disagreement with this new law erupted as soon as word got out. Mexico City is unique in its very liberal leanings, compared with the rest of Mexico-the city has legalize abortion past 12 weeks of pregnancy and has simplified divorce laws. In his final homily of the year, the Cardinal called this law an “attack” on the Mexican family, while President Felipe Calderon said “the Constitution defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Although legal experts refute his statement, his attorney general has filed a challenge before the Mexican Supreme Court, stating that the law breaches a constitutional clause protecting the family. Although Mexican families are torn apart from migration, experts say that the idea of the ‘nuclear’ family is still very important to most Mexicans. Mariana G√≥mez del Campo, the Mexico City leader of the president’s National Action Party, or PAN, said ““The same word cannot have two different meanings…it will weaken the legal definition of marriage” She also feels that there will be a negative effect on children’s rights, “one of their rights is to have a family…a child does not get to decide what kind of family it is.”

Mexico City’s mayor, Marcelo Ebrard is a social liberal hoping to run for the presidency in 2012. However, he may face some resistance outside of Mexico City, as the Catholic Church still has tremendous power in rural Mexico. Mexico City’s decisions have caused the Catholic Church to speak out-and even begin lobbying. This is significant because the Church has been careful to stay out of politics since their rights were fully restored in 1992.

The main issue here regarding religion and law is how much can lawmakers allow their religious beliefs to affect their policy-making? The President of the country is claiming that the constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but most legal scholars in the country disagree. I think this is salient because Mexico is supposedly a secular state, and yet the President is allowing his religious beliefs to over-ride the laws of his country.

I think this issue is important because it shows that acceptance of gay marriage is clearly not just an American issue. Also, I think it relates to what we talked about last class in that while Mexico is a secular state on paper, the law in action is often much different. When the human aspect is added in, with firmly held beliefs significantly affecting their decisions, the letter of the law can often become very jumbled. I think Mexico is in a very interesting situation because the capital city has significantly more liberal political ideals than the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see how involved the Catholic Church becomes in this issue and what the Supreme Court rules in regards to whether the constitution protects only the traditional ideal of the family.


Abby P said...

This article proved very interesting; and it once again brought to light the issue of same-sex marriage. I fully agree that the Mexican President, although claiming to be the head of secular state, still utilized a religious definition when he referred to the notion of marriage. As was discussed in class the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman is definitely religious in nature. To argue that this new law goes against a set definition of marriage is to use religion to bolster one's argument. I think that this law is certainly a positive breakthrough for Mexico City; and hopefully the resistance it has already faced and will continue to face will not result in the courts declaring it to be unconstitutional. Also, as was stated in the post, the controversy over this law certainly shows that same-sex marriage is not only an American issue. This was very interesting to me because I usually only focus on the nature of this controversy in the United States and not in places elsewhere in the world. This certainly opened my eyes to the fact that the U.S. is not the only country struggling with this issue.

Alicia_W said...

I agree and support Abby’s post. I, too, tend to forget that many of our problems in the United States are similar elsewhere. In regards to Mexico, I feel that the President was right in his actions because I feel a civil a union is the first positive step. Especially in a country of great corruption, this should only be seen as a positive thing. Also, if the United States decided to give out civil unions instead of a marriage license, our own president could be faced with the same accusations that he was forced by his own religious up brings or those in his cabinet. With such a controversial subject, I feel it should be examined from a moral point of view rather than religiously but then we run into the problem that our morals tend to be founded from our religion. I commend Mexico for taking a step forward in the realm of social rights.