Hearts Beating Behind the Law
By Jesús Aguado
For six years, Guanajuato was the “Land of Opportunity.” However, among other issues, homosexuals did not find in the state government’s slogan the opportunity to marry persons of the same gender, which they want as a right.
In the Mexican Republic
In Mexico, no statistics exist on how many lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people there are. But during the gay pride parade celebrated annually in Mexico City around May 28 (International Pride Day), the numbers can reach up to 100,000. These are people who have been asking for the right to getting married to the person they have love for years; they also want the rights to health care access and adoption.
Despite the fact that Mexico is a country with a mostly Catholic population, a study conducted in 2013 by the Pew Research Center (PRC) brings up the question of whether society should accept homosexuality. What they found was that in Mexico, 30 percent of the people surveyed said no, and 61 percent said yes. In Canada, according to the PRC, the no response was 14 percent versus 80 percent who said yes. The most tolerant country was Spain, with an acceptance rate of 88 percent.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in the Mexican states of Quintana Roo, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Nayarit, Campeche, Guerrero, Michoacán, Chiapas, Morelos, Colima, and México. In the rest of the states (20), if gay people want to get married, they need an amparo (a legal action that is an effective and inexpensive instrument for the protection of individual rights).
In 2015 the Supreme Court of the Nation (SCJN) issued jurisprudence stating that denying of the right to people to be married was an act of discrimination. However, some states, including Guanajuato, still deny that right. The problem comes from the Mexican Constitution as well as from the Federal Civil Code. The Civil Code, in Article 147, states that “any condition contrary to the perpetuation of the species” has to be denied; in the following article, it states the requirements for a man and a woman to get married.
On the other hand, the State Civil Code makes clear in Article 144 that marriage is for the perpetuation of the species. And although it does not state that the union has to be between a woman and a man, in other sections it notes the rights and duties that a man and a woman have after the union. In 2015, the announcement of the SCJN was well received abroad. However, in Guanajuato, gay marriage is still not permitted.
Guanajuato, State of Compromise
When Atención questioned Governor Márquez about the jurisprudential thesis of the SCJN, he stated that it was a topic for the state congress, and they would define it. He made it clear that “my government will respect the decision of the legislature.” Although he can present initiatives of law or reforms to the congress, he remarked that on this topic he would not do it. He highlighted that he respects the gay community, and he is not prejudiced. The legislature closed last September and the situation was not solved.
Then, we asked Government Secretary Antonio Salvador García López whether the civil registries would conduct same-sex weddings if they were requested after the thesis from the SCJN passed. García López commented that they had not received the notification of the resolution yet. He said that if the State Civil Code was unconstitutional, it would have to be reformed. If the Civil Code and its regulation are not reformed by the congress, the civil registries will keep denying the service. He noted that they would be waiting for amparos because the situation needs to be resolved in the local congress. “If a gay couple goes to the offices of a civil registry and asks for a marriage ceremony, we will not provide it because the State Code has not been reformed,” he noted. García López stated that if there were an amparo commanding them to marry a couple, they would respect it, and they had respected them previously when this situation arose.
Miguel Valdez Reyes, President of the State Court, confirmed that judges on the state court had to respect the jurisprudential thesis from the Supreme Court. He explained that he did not know the content of the thesis well, but it had to be analyzed and respected. Having the document, the state court would not deny the amparos of same-sex couples, but everything would depend on the particular case. He said that reforming the code would be most prudent.
The Demand Is the Same in 2016
A year has gone by and nothing has happened. Amparos are still needed for same-sex weddings. That is why the President of the Mexican United States, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced last month that he will submit an initiative to the federal congress in order to reform the first paragraph of Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution. The part to be added states “the criteria of the SCJN acknowledges same-sex marriages as a human right without discrimination; that is to say, these marriages have to be accepted without discrimination of any kind, and sexual preferences have to be considered, in that paragraph.” He will also submit the initiative to reform the Federal Civil Code so people older than 18 years can get married.
The Episcopal Commission for Family, Youth, Adolescents, Secular, and Life of the Catholic Church responded in a press release, saying that at all devotees of Jesus Christ should defend the family according to God’s will, a church for family that defends marriage between a man and a woman and right to life. The press release stated that children have to be a gift and not a right, and that children need a father and a mother.
At the State Congress
Colectivo Ruby, based in Guanajuato’s capital city, attended the State Congress on May 26 in order to submit a document. For four hours, the members of this group waited to be heard by the legislators. Almost all ignored them, but deputy Irma Leticia González (who was not at that time president of the Commission of Human Rights and Attention to Vulnerable Groups) decided to talk with the representatives of the LGBT community.
Rubí Araujo, who is transgender and the director and founder of the organization, told Atención that in Guanajuato homosexual men and women and others have died due to the lack of health care “because we are denied access to health services if we are not legally married to the person we love,” she said. She also commented that if one partner dies, and the pair is not married, the other one does not have a legal right to the will. Such circumstances have led people to live with nothing, she said, sometimes ending up on the streets after giving their lives to their loved ones.
In the document received by deputy González, the group asked for respect “as Mexicans to decide with whom they want to spend their lives and for reform to the civil code for approval of same-sex marriage as well as the rights and duties that it includes for the partners. They also asked for laws to punish homophobes so the LGBT community can live without discrimination.”
A Prudish Legislature
In Mexico the state of Guanajuato is considered one of the most conservative, more so now that it has been run by the National Action Party (PAN) for 21 years. The website of the National Action Party states in its doctrine that “all forms of discrimination or inequality of opportunities for reasons of sex, age, physical capacities, religion, conviction, economic status, or any other form should be rejected, corrected, or punished.” Nevertheless, according to PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) deputies, the doctrine has not been implemented.
Deputy Irma Leticia González (PRI) commented that the initiative of president Enrique Peña Nieto “should be embraced by the legislators,” who should reform the Civil Code to allow people of the same gender to marry. She also said that the LGBT community must be included, remarking that in the PRI, the LGBT community will find support. For that reason, she has held several meetings with different groups “in order to know what they need.” She said that fighting against PAN would be complicated because that party works for its own benefit and not for society. “It will be complicated, but now that they have agreements with the PRD, they may be convinced to approve the reform.”
González said that in the short or medium term she would present the initiative. However, she noted that she has statistics stating that 66 percent of the population in Mexico says that they do not want to live under the same roof with a homosexual. In addition, 50 percent of the young population does not approve same-sex marriage. The culture does not allow it, “but I am the president of the Human Rights Commission, and I will work for vulnerable groups,” she finished.
Deputy Luz Elena Govea told Atención that she was the first in the congress who embraced the proposal of Peña Nieto. “I support and applaud when all human beings are treated [as] equal, independent of their gender, sex, or any other category. That is inclusion.” She criticized the civil code, saying that the code should not address perpetuation of the species because there are persons who are married—legally—and they do not have children. That does not mean that they do not respect the law or their faith. Having children or not is a couple’s decision.”
She remarked that fighting in the state for same-sex marriage will be difficult because the PAN party has 19 of 36 legislators in the country, and they approve nothing that they do not like. “But we will make the proposal of reforming the law. If they do not approve it, that will always be on their consciences; but the LGBT community has to know that we work in their favor,” she finished.
Isidoro Basaldúa Lugo, coordinator of PRD deputies, stated that in Guanajuato his party has always worked for human rights, and they have also exhorted the Commission of Human Rights to present an initiative to reform the code and acknowledge these marriages. “Morelos and Michoacán are ruled by the PRD party and they have legislated in favor of the LGBT community. In Guanajuato we have tried our best.” In this legislature, all the commissions have a majority of PAN, deputies and they identify themselves as conservatives. I see it as very complicated, but we will keep working to see if we can convince them to approve the reform.”
Basaldúa said that he has had conversations with some PAN deputies, but they have to conform to Governor Marquez’s opinion. “The governor has said no, even if the population accuses him of being prudish. He has a Catholic background, but I am not in agreement with it because he does not have the right to be against the citizens’ interests. Just by saying it, Governor Márquez is not respecting other people’s rights. He is the executive, and his comments can create homophobia. I ask him to respect the LGBT community.”
Finally, Basaldúa exhorted religions to stop appointing people from those groups because they are denigrating and discriminating against them, and discrimination, he said, is forbidden. “Religions ought to be prudent and stop interfering in state topics.”
A Long Way to Go
Sanmiguelense local legislator Juan José Álvarez (PAN) told Atención that the topic of sexual preference “is very sensitive, with diverse and opposite even extreme opinions,” but he remarked that it needs much debate and knowledge.
“I understand that the members of the LGBT communities want to have legal certainty for accessing health services, and they have that right. What we need to do is find the most appropriate legal means for the unions of people who have decided to live harmoniously and also to guarantee them their rights without interfering with the idea that we have had of ‘family’ for years,” he said.
Álvarez remarked that he is not against homosexual relationships; however, a term has to be found for the unions, a concept that answers the demands of those people who are present in our daily lives. The legislator said that in Mexico the concept of family that people have is the marriage between a man and a woman that procreates children. “That is perpetuation of the species. Now there are groups with different sexual preferences, and they are asking for reforms, and we will do it eventually. We cannot ignore the topic forever.” He said that PAN legislators have to respect their doctrine of keeping the family concept safe, but he remarked that if the topic is setten in the federation, then the local congress has to make the reforms.
Gay Friendly or Money Friendly San Miguel
Guadalupe Álvarez adds to the economy of San Miguel through planning weddings. She has dealt with all kinds of couples and weddings. She has also planned weddings for people of the same gender, although she has had to help them to get married first in states where the union is legal, the closest being Mexico.
She says she sees the benefit of a possible reform of the Federal Civil Code because, if same-sex marriage were legal, that could bring more money to the city’s economy. Nonetheless, she made it clear that even if people in San Miguel are gay friendly, there are still those who are shocked when they see boys and boys or girls and girls holding hands or kissing in public during a callejoneada. “But little by little, they will accept it.”
The most recent wedding she planned was between Joey and Ken from New York City. According to Álvarez, they fell in love the first time they visited this city, and they asked her to plan their celebration. Legally, they got married in the US, but they chose San Miguel for the party.
“Homophobia Is Real”
Karen Ocampo, director of the LGBT organization Colectivo 41 (C41), said that her group has at least 200 members in San Miguel. She said that according to the stories told at C41, “San Miguel is friendly, but in the C41 we know that locals do not have access to the same places as tourists. We have anecdotes from our members; they have been asked to leave some bars and restaurants for their sexual preferences,” said the director.
She commented to Atención that the recent murders in Orlando were very sad, as sad as the crime against gay people who were murdered in a nightclub in Xalapa, Veracruz last month. She remarked that those facts are a clear example that LGBT-phobia exists.
Ocampo commented that her group is working with other organizations in the state to make the petitions stronger in congress to reform the civil code and to have access to health care. She also said that the state needs laws against LGBT discrimination, and they are working on a document for the congress.