Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mexico City Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage

The BBC reports here on the vote by Mexico City's leftist city legislature to legalize gay marriage. The mayor is widely expected to sign the bill. The language changes the definition of marriage from a relationship between a man and woman to "the free uniting of two people". The bill passed 39 to 20 with five abstentions.

Gay rights has been an increasingly popular issue in Mexico's capitol recently, with gay pride parades drawing thousands, according to the Associated Press report in the Boston Globe on the vote. The bill was urged in order to provide same-sex couples equal rights with heterosexual couples in such matters as benefits, adoption, bank loans and inheritance, which civil unions, already allowed in Mexico City, failed to provide. According to the Globe version of the AP report:

Only seven countries allow gay marriages: Canada, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium. In the United States, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Iowa permit same-sex marriage.

Argentina’s capital became the first Latin American city to legalize same-sex civil unions in 2002. Four other Argentine cities later did the same, as did Mexico City in 2007 and some Mexican and Brazilian states. Uruguay alone has legalized civil unions nationwide.
Both articles report plans from the opposition party, which is the majority nationally to challenge the vote, and opposition from conservative groups and Catholic church spokesmen. But the BBC report notes that:
A handful of cities in Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia permit gay unions.

Uruguay alone has legalised civil unions nationwide and allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.

Last month, an Argentinean court narrowly blocked what would been the continent's first gay marriage.

In a last-minute challenge, a court referred the case to the country's Supreme Court, which is due to rule on the issue.
This is worth watching. The image is of local gay rights activists celebrating the vote in Mexico City, from the Boston Globe.

In the meantime, I missed blogging about the District of Columbia voting to legalize gay marriage there, on December 15. On December 18, the mayor signed the bill. The vote was 11 to 2 in favor of legalization. The mayor signed the bill in a Unitarian church which has been a welcoming place to same-sex couples. But all legislation in the District must be ratified by Congress within 30 days. There seems to be little taste among the majority Democrats generally for removing this vote, according to the A.P. report.
Opponents, however, said the issue is far from settled. Members of a group called Stand4Marriage, led by local pastor Bishop Harry Jackson, have met with members of Congress to urge them to oppose the bill.

An attorney for the group, Cleta Mitchell, said that after the bill goes to Congress, the group will ask the district's board of elections to allow a referendum on the ballot asking voters to overturn it.

But they face an uphill battle.

The group Mitchell represents made a similar request this summer, when the city passed a law recognizing gay marriages legally performed in other states. The board declined to put the issue on the ballot, citing a city human rights law that bars discrimination.

Jackson said Tuesday he believes this time the group has an "airtight legal case."

"If it gets to the vote, we win," he said, referencing the other states where residents overturned same-sex marriage laws.

The group also has another avenue of attack. It has lawsuit pending from earlier this year, when it tried to get an initiative on the ballot in D.C. asking voters to define marriage as between a man and a woman. There, too, the elections board cited the human rights law in keeping it off the ballot. A hearing in that case is scheduled for January.
(from the A.P. report on the original vote on Dec. 15, written by Jessica Gresko).

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