On December 21, 2009, Mexico City became first Latin American jurisdiction to recognize, in its civil legislation, the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Mexico City’s marriage-equality law was the result of years of collective social struggle for diversity and the defense of human rights. It was a fundamental test of the principles of the democratic left that has governed Mexico’s federal district for nearly 15 years.
Before the passage of marriage equality, same-sex couples who wanted legal recognition of their relationships only had the 2006 Ley de sociedad de convivencia. While the law recognized the right to same-sex marriage, by creating a separate union for gay couples it arguably justified discrimination.
The first article of the Mexican Constitution defends the right to equal treatment, and Mexico City’s reform approach was based on that principle—rather than expanding marriage rights. Since then, marriage-equality reforms have been enacted in different jurisdictions and countries across the Americas. They are a sign of the times, and their Marriage-equality reform is another sign of the times, and their spread will be as inexorable as that of the recognition of civil rights for people of all ethnicities, of the right of women to vote, and of so many other rights that have been recognized in the pursuit of guaranteed equality.
The reforms do not reflect the will of political elites; rather they illustrate the capacity of civil-society groups to move from protest to proposal, and from there to a direct impact on the design of public policy.
The future will depend on the ability of groups in each jurisdiction to set aside their differences, focus on a common reform agenda, and develop an open dialogue with all of society.
Without such coordination, however, it will take many more years to achieve a transformation that guarantees a social contract of true justice and equality.