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The seal of the State of Chihuahua.
As a result of a court ruling, Chihuahua has become the fourth Mexcan state to achieve marriage equality. It joins Mexico City, Quintana Roo, and Oaxaca in allowing same-sex couples to marry. Same-sex marriages in these states must be recognized throughout the entire country. The remaining states are expected to be ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples soon.
Andrew Potts reports at GayStarNews that same-sex couples may now be married through the Civil Registry of Chihuahua after a District Court Judge ruled in favor of a gay couple whose application to marry had been rejected.
The couple, identified as Tony and Tomás by the Spanish-language site ElPueblo.com, had sought to marry on April 30, 2013 but were turned away at the Chihuahua State Civil Registry. In response, they sued. On August 22, District Court Judge José Juan Múzquiz Gomez ordered the registry to allow the couple to marry.
He gave the Chihuahua state government ten days to object to the ruling, which it failed to do. On September 3, State Legal Adviser Mario Trevizo announced that the deadline had passed and that henceforward all eligible same-sex couples would be permitted to marry.
On December 5, 2012, the Supreme Court of Mexico announced a unanimous decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriage in the southern state of Oaxaca. Two and one-half months later, on February 18, 2013, the Court issued the actual opinion, which ringingly affirms the principle of equal protection under the law and cites precedents from both the Supreme Court of the United States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Writing for a unanimous tribunal, Minister Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea asserted that "The historical disadvantages that homosexuals have suffered have been well recognized and documented: public harassment, verbal abuse, discrimination in their employment and in access to certain services, in addition to their exclusion from some aspects of public life. In this sense . . . when they are denied access to marriage it creates an analogy with the discrimination that interracial couples suffered in another era. In the celebrated case Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court argued that 'restricting marriage rights as belonging to one race or another is incompatible with the equal protection clause' under the US constitution. In connection with this analogy, it can be said that the normative power of marriage is worth little if it does grant the possibility to marry the person one chooses."
Zaldívar also noted that it would be contrary to the principles of the 1954 school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education to restrict same-sex couples to civil unions or domestic partnerships while barring them from marriage.
"It can be said that the [other] models for recognition of same-sex couples, even if the only difference with marriage be the name given to both types of institutions, are inherently discriminatory because they constitute a regime of 'separate but equal.' Like racial segregation, founded on the unacceptable idea of white supremacy, the exclusion of homosexual couples from marriage also is based on prejudice that historically has existed against homosexuals. Their exclusion from the institution of marriage perpetuates the notion that same-sex couples are less worthy of recognition than heterosexuals, offending their dignity as people."
The sweeping nature of the ruling, which effectively changed Oaxaca's civil code to state that marriage takes place "between two people" instead of between "a man and a woman," has led court observers to say that it paves the way to marriage equality throughout the country.
However, the Mexican Supreme Court does not strike down state laws en masse as the United States Supreme Court does. Rather, the ruling in the 2012 case can be used as a binding precedent to challenge the marriage laws in other states, as it has been in Chihuahua. Hence, couples in the remaining states will have to challenge state laws in order to have the right to marry. However, the issue is no longer substantive, but procedural.
It is anticipated that the next state in which same-sex marriage will be permitted is Yucatán, where a District Court recently ordered the state to permit a same-sex couple to marry.
Mexico's steady march toward marriage equality is part of the recent progress toward equal rights in the nation.
In December 2009, Mexico City's legislature passed a bill permitting same-sex marriage. The bill, which defines marriage as "the free uniting of two people," was quickly signed into law by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. The law permits same-sex couples to adopt children, apply for bank loans together, and be included in the insurance policies of their spouse, as well as the rights that were provided in the domestic partnership law.
The law was bitterly denounced by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and challenged as unconstitutional by Mexico's federal government, but after the nation's highest court refused to intervene to stay the law, the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in March 2010.
In August 2010, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of same-sex marriage in Mexico City. On a 9-2 vote, the Court also ruled that the same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City must be recognized in all 32 Mexican states.