Mexico City’s Nonchalance Toward Gay Marriage is Catching on in South America

Mancera marrying 26 gay couples in July.


Mass same-sex marriages, presided over by the mayor? Yes, and then some.

MEXICO CITY — In Mexico’s modernizing capital, the word these days seems to be “keep calm, and marry on,” a nonchalance toward gay marriage that’s slowly catching on across Latin America.

Pushing that message, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera stood witness recently to the mass wedding of 58 lesbian and gay couples, who said their vows in unison.

"This is one more event in … the city of freedoms,” Mancera, who presided over a similar ceremony in July, told the 74 women and 42 men taking the plunge. Mexico's capital is “a city that is concerned about and working on moving ahead,” he said.

MassgayweddingThe latest gay nuptials took place at a museum just blocks from Mexico City’s central plaza — and from the cathedral pulpit of Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who has railed against gay unions as “perverse” affronts to Mexican families and the “divine project.”

But this city’s left-leaning government has been poking the eyes of Catholic leaders and other cultural conservatives for more than a decade now. Promoting diversity — sexual, political, religious — is official policy here. The Mexican capital in many ways has set the pace of social change across Mexico and the region.

Mancera told the newlyweds at the March 21 mass wedding the city is determined to push equality issues "step by step." He announced an initiative to make it easier for people to legally change their gender.

Mexico City legalized gay marriage in late 2009. Less than a year later, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the rest of the nation must recognize those marriages.

That said, same-sex unions remain illegal in most of Mexico. As in the United States, the federal system here leaves the definition of marriage up to state legislators, or the municipal council in the case of Mexico City’s federal district.

But advocates in the past year have won court rulings forcing recognition of gay marriages in several states on a case-by-case basis. Those decisions give activists hope that judges can nudge state governments toward recognizing marriage equality.

Mexicocity“We have advanced very quickly,” said lawyer Luis Guzman, 33, a leading activist in the conservative western city of Guadalajara who married his long time companion in one of Mexico City's first gay weddings. “These four years have been very important to us.”

“The courts are the easiest way to do it,” Guzman said. “The local legislatures don't want to touch the issue.”

Despite enduring discrimination, courts and congresses are changing laws and attitudes toward gay rights elsewhere in Latin America.

“There has been a gay rights revolution that has stretched from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande," Omar Encarnacion, a political scientist at Bard College in New York, noted on a recent blog post in The New York Times.

Well, perhaps not quite a revolution.

The culture clash over gay unions regionwide has been at least as fraught as that in the United States. With gay equality entwined here with a growing awareness of human rights of every kind, courts and activists across the region have been prodding reluctant lawmakers and societies alike.

Many societies remain outright hostile to same-sex couples, as GlobalPost’s Simeon Tegel reported last year. And violence stalks gays throughout the region.

“There are some advances, but they are hand in hand with backlash,” says Maria-Mercedes Gomez, Latin America coordinator for the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“We still have a long, long way to go, still far from a heavenly situation on human rights.”

Yet Latin America provides three of the 17 countries that have legalized gay marriage worldwide. The Argentine capital Buenos Aires started the charge allowing same-sex marriage in November 2009. Argentina's congress legalized it nationally in 2010 and Uruguay's did so last spring. Chile's lower congressional chamber currently is debating a senate-approved “life partnership agreement,” a form of civil union.

Bypassing legislators, a Brazilian judicial panel ruled last year that gays could not be denied marriage licenses, effectively legalizing the unions. The ruling is being challenged and congress may yet rescind or modify it.

Some form of civil union are legal in Colombia and Ecuador. Chile's lower congressional chamber currently is debating a senate-approved “life partnership agreement,” a form of civil union.

2_mexicoOutside Mexico City, gay marriages have been recognized as legal since 2011 in Quintana Roo, the state on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula that includes Cancun.

Three other states, including Jalisco, of which Guadalajara is the capital, allow civil unions. A federal court in late 2012 ruled that Oaxaca state's vague legislation rendered the marriages of three gay couples legal.

“We are recognizing realities," said Hector Maldonado, director of Mexico City's Civil Registry, which records marriages. "This is a defense of the freedom of expression, the freedom to love.

"The changes here make it clear that people have to push for their rights," he said. "Now they have to push it in the states as well."

Such attitudes remain well ahead of the average citizens. But one nationwide poll revealed last year that a slight majority of Mexicans now at least don’t opposed gay marriage or civil unions.

Public attitudes in part are shaped by religious leaders, which despite Pope Francis’ more conciliatory language, in Mexico have been almost uniformly hostile to same-sex unions in Mexico.

"Truly Mexico is suffering a lot of bad things, flu, violence, poverty, unemployement and together with these comes news of a bad and perverse law," Rivera, Mexico's highest-ranking Catholic clergyman, said when the gay marriage law was passed.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the capital’s marriages are valid nationwide, the prelate said that "de facto or supposedly legal unions between persons of the same sex are immoral, as they contradict the divine plan."

But, at least in key parts of the capital and other big cities, public opinion seems to be steadily shifting toward acceptance.

Mexico City's gay pride parade each June draws tens of thousands of marchers and thousands more spectators, including many families.

Gay men at times seem to own the Zona Rosa, or Pink Zone, which until the capital's disastrous 1985 earthquake was the city’s nightlife mecca.

Smooching same-sex couples have become common on the street and subway, where gay men often gravitate to the last car of the trains, far outnumbering straight riders.

Such public displays of affection seldom draw stares in this city of 9 million, even more rarely a public rebuke.

“It depends of course upon what part of the city you are in,” said Samuel Villanueva, a 29-year-old sales clerk, who strolled with his veterinarian partner through a recent lunchtime throng in the Zona Rosa, their arms across the small of one another's back.

“But there isn't so much discrimination any more,” Villanueva said. “There are gays in every family, in every neighborhood. People are starting to realize and accept that.”


  1. Dan Cobb says

    There once was a time when the majority of families had 5+ kids… and many of those families had as many as 10 or more kids. This was a typical farming family from one to two generations ago. Had human population continued to have such staggering growth rates, one has to wonder what the impact of carbon footprints of an additional 6-8 billion people would have been. Somehow, in nations that have processed the notion of science and “cause and effect”, there is increasing understanding –even if for many that understanding is subconscious– that this planet cannot sustain human population growth rates that we had in the past.
    For this reason, it may well be that many societies that are increasingly better educated are understanding that gays pose no threat to the survival of humanity! With the exception of uneducated/superstitious Africa and of some brutish and bullying cultures of eastern Europe, there seems to be a world-wide softening of attitudes towards gay people.

  2. Dan Cobb says


    No one said that Mexico is in South America!

    What if I said, Mexican cuisine is catching on in Texas! Does that mean that I think Texas is in Mexico? I don’t think so!

  3. james st. james says

    Yes, I see a pattern. Many places in the world are more sophisticated than the U.S. A long time ago Mexico had a much higher literacy rate than the U.S. Many Spanish cultures and Europeans in general, in spite of their christian historical, hysterical backgrounds are much more aware of the truths of human behavior and sexuality.

  4. says

    Encouraging indeed!

    More and more young people are coming out, and even things like Instagram are remarkably spreading messages and concepts of diversity and inclusivity around the world, and in previously-dismissed places. It’s all good news, and only a determined-to-remain-Closeted westerner could see a negative in this.


  5. Rick says

    “Yes, I see a pattern. Many places in the world are more sophisticated than the U.S”

    Yeah, other WHITE countries with minimal non-white populations compared to the US.

    Northern and Western Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Israel.

    And the one and only country on the African continent with any degree of tolerance of gays at all, namely South Africa, is, not coincidentally the one and only country in Africa that has a significant white population.

  6. UFFDA says

    All the countries of the Middle East, most of Eastern Europe and Russia and its neighbors are white and virulently anti-gay. See a pattern? There isn’t any.

  7. Max says

    Rick, can you please elaborate? I am from Mexico City, so I’m curious as to how you explain the supposed correlation between skin color and acceptance of marriage equality.

  8. Sergio says

    “That said, same-sex unions remain illegal in most of Mexico. As in the United States, the federal system here leaves the definition of marriage up to state legislators, or the municipal council in the case of Mexico City’s federal district.”

    It’s good that some progress has been made, but all Mexican-Americans know that Mexico is roughly equivalent to the U.S. in this regard. Oh well.

  9. MichaelJ says

    Ditto what JAMES ST. JAMES wrote, that many other countries in Europe and Latin America are “much more aware of the truths of human behavior and sexuality” than the US. Willful ignorance is such as strong force in American culture.

  10. Rick says

    “All the countries of the Middle East, most of Eastern Europe and Russia and its neighbors are virulently anti-gay. See a pattern? There isn’t any.”

    Kind of surprised at your response if you are the real UFFDA and not an impostor.

    Of course, nobody would consider Arabs and Persians “white” and I attribute the lagging on the part of Russia and Eastern Europe to the after-effects of Communism.

    Regardless, the point was not that all whites are non-homophobic, but rather that there is not even a concept of “gay”, much less any beliefe in “gay rights” outside of the Western world.

    The concept of “gay rights” like the concept of “gay” itself (as opposed to homosexuality) is largely a Western cultural creation.

  11. Tyler says

    JMartindale, LittleKiwi doesn’t post racist rants. Rick impersonates Kiwi by taking his username/link and post racist crap. The only truly visible and verifiable racist on this site is Rick.

  12. Derrick from Philly says

    Hi, JMartindale,

    as Tyler just told you, it’s never Little Kiwi posting anti-Mexican (or anti-any nationality/race) comments. It’s someone with the original posting name of Rick.

    The b.tch is crazy…and not in a fun way.

    And Rick, don’t f.ckin’ give us a lesson what is and what isn’t “South America”. Mexico may be a North American country but it appears that its language and customs (and good-looking men) are most comparable to LATIN AMERICA.

  13. JMartindale says

    Tyler, who are you to tell me what Little Kiwi believes and what he posts? His comments about Mexicans and about urging people to commit suicide speak for themselves. Awful, cruel stuff to write!

  14. Robotron says

    Cardinal Rivera: your “divine-project” isn’t so divine,dude.And you’re another v member of the pedophilia laden Roman Catholic Church and your hysteria is lame and tired and fewer people are paying attention to your ilk as time goes on. In other words organized ,mainstream religion is losing ground and way faster than thought possible. It’s long overdue (as in 2+ centuries) that people no longer will be emotionally blackmailed /manipulated by the drivel that religious people spew forth disguised as Godly inspiration. It is humans using the concept of a Higher Power to manipulate,control,enslave mentally/emotionally /financially/politically the masses. And now organized religion is being exposed as the fraud that it is !!!

  15. Tyler says

    JMartindale, I’m telling you with certainty that the actual LittleKiwi would never post those racist comments. Only Rick posts such blatantly racist comments. But now that you bring in the suicide thing and refuse to listen to reason, I realize that you too are just another alias of Rick.

  16. studd says

    Actually Rick is kinda right, outside of the West Homosexuality is somewhat unknown as the West knows it. A la M. Foucault’s History of Sexuality. And even in some parts of the West, i.e. the Mediterranean like Southern Italy and North Africa male and sometimes female Homosexuality is a behavior not an identity to this day.
    Also, he is right to point out that its the hipper or connected “white” elites in Latin American who are going along with the new gay rights agenda of the “West.”

  17. studd says

    Rich is waaaaayyyy off in seeing the issues in E. Europe as devolved from Communism, in fact in E. Germany GDR homosexuals (and nudest etc) had more freedom in the 1950s and 1960s than in the West. Its just scapegoating due to social breakdown that lead political leaders to attack queers.

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