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Mexico City Approves Same Sex Unions
Law for Coexistence Partnerships to take effect in March 2007
Erich Adolfo Moncada Cota (komodo)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-11-19 14:56 (KST)   
On Nov. 9, Mexico City's congress voted to approve (43-17) the "Ley de Sociedades de Convivencia" (or Law for Coexistence Partnerships) which allows civil union between same-sex couples. Following a path set by countries like France (Pacte civil de solidarite), Germany (Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft) and many others, it will take effect in March 2007.

The initiative was launched five years ago, passed four times by legislative commissions, but repeatedly got stuck in plenary voting for its sensitive nature. The federal branch of government is ruled by a catholic, conservative party (PAN: National Action Party) and according to studies in 2000, almost 87 percent of the population professes Catholicism. Nevertheless, there is serious data showing an important growth in nontraditional families, especially the 20 percent of Mexicans who acknowledge having some sort of past or current homosexual relationship.

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Former major of Mexico City and defeated presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the center-left Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), never fully supported this law despite having a majority in the local assembly. But as a new leftwing major (Marcelo Ebrard, former security minister for Obrador) is expected to take power in December, the legislation was pushed ahead. It was fully backed by the four leftist parties in congress, with aid form the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and strong antagonism from the PAN.

The new law won't emulate the marriage institution but will recognize unregulated civil unions as different from concubines to give them legal status. From now on, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and straight couples will have the right to demand reciprocal maintenance and heritage. The downside is the impossibility for adopting children.

Opposition and favoritism for the legislation was intense from religious and gay communities.

The Mexican Archdioceses (La Jornada, Nov. 13) labeled as "sinners" the congressmen who voted for the law, and complained it was "vengeance against the Catholic Church from the more radical groups from the left, who felt it was a demand for justice." The president of the Bar of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, Armando Martinez Gomez, sent a list of observations to the city's current major, Alejandro Encinas, demanding a veto for numerous irregularities in the legal text.

The bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, Felipe Arizmendi, warned that the next stop is allowing adoption rights to couples, something that "can affect children deeply." A coalition of business and religious churches led by the National Parent Union (El Universal, Nov. 14) has vowed to start a campaign to promote a punishment vote against the PRD. Telling their members to evade offenses against "those people living with the homosexuality problematic," and arguing the assembly had legalized something "unnatural and abominating, trying to promote it in the whole nation."

Emilio Alvarez Icaza, chairman of the National Humans Rights Commission of Mexico City, declared (El Universal, Nov. 11) the law was not a threat to anyone in particular, and that it will be a matter of time before it shows positive consequences for different social groups.

Luz Rosales, director for the city's Women's Institute, said she was happy for the steps being taken "to acknowledge the people's right to choose how to organize their families." Orgullo Mexico, a gay-rights union, considered legislation had conquered a five-year-old demand from the lesbian-gay community (El Universal, Nov. 10). Lastly, sociologist Roberto Bermudez went far beyond, suggesting a nationwide implementation of the legal instrument, granting full adopting rights to couples (El Universal, Nov. 12).

One thing is certain: Catholics could be engaged fiercely in this culture war against minorities to create a smokescreen and divert attention from recent child abuse scandals involving several Church priests, and alleged cover ups from high-ranking bishops and archbishops. Their moral credibility is badly compromised. Does it make sense to fight over traditional values while a priest from my own town got a girl pregnant (Cambio Sonora, Nov. 15), and promised her that he would "be the best 'padre' (father) he could be" if she aborted the baby?

This could be a lost battle for conservatives: according to a poll by El Universal newspaper of 600 readers, 59.2 percent were in favor of the civil unions, 32.4 percent were against it and 8.3 percent didn't care either way.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Erich Adolfo Moncada Cota

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