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For same-sex Marriages
Legalize it!

For same-sex Marriage
Photo (Detail) © Alex Alí Méndez Díaz

By Alex Alí Méndez Díaz

The call for the recognition of same-sex marriage has become a key objective of the LGBT movement around the world. In pursuit of this goal, it has taken a different path in every country. Mexico is hardly an exception in its challenges: given the nature of the federal system into which the change must be integrated, 33 relevant laws must be re-worked.
 
At México Igualitario [Equal Mexico], the major litigation organization in Mexico to have worked in this area, we have approached it not through the romantic idea of marriage, but through the demand for equality: the conviction that the state has no right to restrict access to certain rights based on sexual orientation.

The demand to respect differences

The basis for this discourse isn’t just love (which it certainly doesn’t exclude), but also the demand for differences to be treated with respect. In this way, the normative framework is conceived as a way to meet people’s needs, rather than as the mold that measures who requires state protection.
 
Therefore, at México Igualitario, we propose changing the means by which state functions are evaluated—and, above all, changing the nature of its role in relation to the human rights of Mexican citizens.
 

In the Mexican context and its entire historical and political process, the demand for human rights has long been affiliated with proximity to party-based political power. It was impossible to imagine any progress in the human rights agenda without obtaining approval from structures of power.


 
This panorama grows even more complex if we talk about electorally unattractive demands like same-sex marriage. The country’s first reform in this area occurred in Mexico City in 2009— only after more than three decades of efforts to strengthen the LGBT movement.

In this way, the base and its political alliances brought about major legislative change in the Americas. Unfortunately, Mexico City is just one part of a vast territory dominated by other social and political conditions that halt the progress toward recognizing LGBT rights. 
 
After the reform in Mexico City, the progressive spirit disappeared: no other state proposed a similar reform, because none had the political or social capital to promote it.

Yield a new means of constructing Citizenship

Under such conditions, the fleeting impulse witnessed in the Mexican capital—based on decades of social and political work—wasn’t destined to become the path forward in pursuing the agenda of LGBT rights in Mexico. 
 
In this way, territorial, social, and political differences forced local movements to come up with new strategies toward the recognition of our rights. Given the lack of legislative inroads, compounded by a lack of willpower from politicians, we turned our attention to the judges in charge of ensuring respect for the Constitution.
 
This is how México Igualitario, a project devoted to designing legal strategies, emerged in 2010: by litigating three cases before the Supreme Court. These cases would become the legal precedents that, by appearing on the legal stage, would yield a new means of constructing citizenship. In this way, we found new ways to visualize ourselves as the LGBT population confronting a political power that has repeatedly refused to acknowledge access to marriage as an essential civil right.
 
The chance to challenge political majorities in legislative structures, while not a novelty, was pursued with such persistence by same-sex partners that it became a form of collective resistance. In doing so, it gradually and unwittingly transformed the longstanding perception of the LGBT population as less deserving of rights and recognition.
 

The result is not only an internal change within the movement, but also an outward one, in terms of our relationship with society and the state.


 
The litigation strategy showed our sector of the population a path forward that, perhaps involuntarily, planted collective awareness of how we could defend ourselves against what has historically been constituted as constant forms of exclusion and discrimination. 
 
Through the trials repeatedly set before different states across Mexico, the LGBT population has collectively reclaimed the strength that the political and social system has eroded for years, pushing us into a trench where we could only fight back.

The call for equality is getting louder

The continuous litigations have allowed other institutions beyond the inertia of parliamentary majorities to make the call for equality their own. In 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court released an important ruling on the matter: “MATRIMONIO: LA LEY DE CUALQUIER ENTIDAD FEDERATIVA QUE, POR UN LADO, CONSIDERE QUE LA FINALIDAD DE AQUÉL ES LA PROCREACIÓN Y/O QUE LO DEFINA COMO EL QUE SE CELEBRA ENTRE UN HOMBRE Y UNA MUJER, ES INCONSTITUCIONAL.” 

That same year, the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos [National Human Rights Commission] issued a statement that urged all legislative structures to modify these discriminatory laws.

All such efforts have been reinforced by Advisory Opinion 24/2017 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
 
These developments strengthened state-level movements in the sense that support from the rulings has resulted in legislative changes that would have been far more difficult to obtain by relying on political parties alone. From 2014 to the present day, 11 of the 32 local civil laws have been reformed, and the Supreme Court has intervened in five to invalidate the discriminatory laws that limit access to same-sex marriage.

For a less violent, less discriminatory World

As we can see, there is still a long road ahead. But based on this change in the dynamic between the LGBT population and the institutions that have historically discriminated against us, we are now able to organize among ourselves toward building a less violent, less discriminatory world for those of us with different sexual orientations or gender identities—a world in which having these identities won’t be a reason to see us as lesser people. 
 
At México Igualitario, we don’t expect the status quo to change automatically once the law is modified. Still, when we come together to resist in a different way, we can challenge prejudices and build a new story.    
 
Therefore, the demand for legalization isn’t only about showing the photos of happy families. It also means shaping a voice through an active resistance that will allow future generations to live in a more equal world. 
 

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