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Film, stage, and television actor Paul Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but maintained public silence about his homosexuality.
In a ruling issued on January 29, 2014, Mexico's Supreme Court ordered that same-sex couples who have married or entered into civil unions must receive the same benefits under the nation's social security system as married heterosexual couples. The Court's ruling continues its pattern of supporting the cause of equal rights.
Michael K. Lavers reports in the Washington Blade that the ruling came in a suit brought by José Alberto Gómez Barroso, who married his partner in Mexico City in 2012. When Gómez attempted to register his spouse as a beneficiary for the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, he was denied. The case came to the Supreme Court after a lower court dismissed Gómez's case after his death.
The 3-2 decision requires the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social to extend the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive to gay and lesbian couples who have either married or entered into civil unions.
"The court's ruling without a doubt is cause for celebration," Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, a lawyer who filed lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 on behalf of three same-sex couples who tried to apply for marriage licenses in Oaxaca. "The Supreme Court has been at the forefront of taking up decisions in relation to the rights of the LGBT community in Mexico."
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 Supreme 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.
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 affirmed the principle of equal protection under the law and cited 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." He added, "the normative power of marriage is worth little if it does not 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," 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.
So far, the Oaxaca ruling has been used to achieve marriage equality in the states of Chihuahua, Quintana Roo, Jalisco, Colima, and Yucatán.
Couples in the remaining states will have to challenge state laws in order to have the right to marry in their home states. However, the issue is no longer substantive, but procedural.