Another marriage suit on its way to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

It’s looking increasingly likely that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is going to have to decide whether same-sex couples’ right to marry is protected by international law.

Activists in Costa Rica have announced that they’ll start the process of suing their government after a civil union bill was blocked by conservative members of the country’s legislature. Their suit would join one filed earlier this year by three couples in Chile. And the Mexican lawyer who successfully sued on behalf of three couples from Oaxaca, Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, told me earlier this month that he’s also preparing to go to the Inter-American Court to broaden the ruling to allow same-sex couples to marry across Mexico.

Though the United States does not recognize the authority of the Inter-American Court (big surprise), most Latin American countries do. If the court were to rule that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the American Convention on Human Rights, it could lead to equal marriage rights across the region. Continue reading

Rush to the court house in Mexico

Less than a week after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled against Oaxaca’s ban on gay marriage, new couples are beginning to sue for the right to marry throughout Mexico.

A story appeared the same afternoon of the court ruling that same-sex couples tried to get marriage licenses in Toluca, capital of the State of Mexico (which is next to the federal district of Mexico City).

And activists who have been studying the issue for months are laying the foundation for court cases nationwide. Continue reading

Mexican Supreme Court statement on landmark marriage ruling

This statement from the Mexican Supreme Court just came across explaining a little about what it meant last week when ruling that three same sex couples from Oaxaca have the right to marry. I’m on a bus and unable to translate it this second, but here it is in Spanish.

México D.F., a 5 de diciembre de 2012

INCONSTITUCIONAL QUE EN OAXACA MATRIMONIO TENGA COMO FIN PERPETUAR ESPECIE, ESO ATENTA CONTRA AUTODETERMINACIÓN DE PERSONAS Continue reading

More on Mexican marriage technicalities

Unless you’re seriously interested in the technicalities of how the Mexican Supreme Court’s ruling will lead to universal marriage rights in Mexico, you can stop reading now.

The bottom line is that Wednesday’s rulings will almost definitely lead to marriage being available to same-sex couples in every state, but it’s going to take a lot of suing before we get there.

I wrote yesterday about how it takes more than one court ruling to change a law in Mexico. With the three cases decided in favor of same-same sex couples on Wednesday, the court will still need to rule in favor of couples in two more cases to form what is known as “jurisprudencia,” precedent that binds all judges to strike down bans on same-sex marriage. Five cases decided the same way equals jurisprudencia.

The AP wrote yesterday evening that this actually means the judges must find in favor of two more Oaxacan couples to create jurisprudencia that would bind only Oaxacan judgesWhat’s more, they’d have to find in favor of five couples in each of Mexico’s other 30 states to create jurisprudencia that binds every state. 

That might be true. Or maybe not. It turns out it’s not entirely clear right now how this kind of ruling changes Mexican law. Continue reading

The road ahead for gay marriage in Mexico

I noted yesterday that the Mexican Supreme Court ruling striking down Oaxaca’s gay marriage ban didn’t mean that same-sex couples will immediately be able to marry across Mexico. That’s because in the Mexican legal system it takes more than one ruling to force a general change in the law—this is a big difference from how the legal system works in the United States.

Geraldina de la Vega, one of the lawyers who worked on the Oaxacan suit, has a great explanation of what happens now at Animal Politico. It’s in Spanish, so here’s a summary:

The court’s ruling only applies to the three couples who filed suit—for now. The court said that the law defining marriage as between a man and a woman must be interpreted as between two people, and therefore the registrars must allow the three couples who filed suit to marry. Continue reading

Oaxacan marriage case takes law student to the Supreme Court

Alex Alí Méndez Díaz

Alex Alí Méndez Díaz

The Oaxacan marriage lawsuit now pending before the Mexican Supreme Court wasn’t the result of years of careful legal planning. It began with a couple who wanted to get married and a law student who thought he could win in court despite warnings from LGBT activists to drop the case.

The law student, who is now pursuing advanced study in Mexico City, is Alex Alí Méndez Díaz. He told me the story of the case in a coffee shop just off the Zócalo in Oaxaca City the day after the Supreme Court was supposed to have ruled. The court had put off the case for at least another week, so he was still on edge.

Méndez was working as part of the Frente Oaxaqueño por el Respeto y el Reconocimiento de la Diversidad Sexual, an LGBT activist collective, to plan a pride march in 2011 when he met a gay couple from Etla who wanted to get married. The Mexican Supreme Court had recently ruled that marriages performed under Mexico City’s 2010 gay marriage ordinance must be recognized nationwide.

“The debate [over gay marriage] was very fresh,” Méndez said. “So these guys said to me, ‘We want to get married but we don’t want to leave to get married in [Mexico City]. Can we get married here in Oaxaca?’” Continue reading

About that Mexican Supreme Court ruling…

The Oaxacan Front for the Respect and Recognition of Sexual Diversity had scheduled a roundtable in Oaxaca City Wednesday night to discuss a landmark ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court about whether couples could marry in the state.

But the court didn’t rule on Wednesday, even though it had put the case on its public calendar.

At the Oaxaca event, the main lawyer in the case, Alex Alí Méndez Díaz said he was hopeful this was a good sign. This case is actually one of three Oaxacan marriage cases pending before the court, and it is scheduled to rule on the second on December 5. If the cases are combined, it could mean an even more significant ruling is in the works.

That’s because it takes more than one ruling for the overturn a law in the Mexican system. (This is a little confusing for Americans, so stay with me.) If the court were to rule in the first case that the couple, Lizeth and Monteserrat, can marry, that would only affect them: Lizeth and Montserrat would be able to register their union, but no other same-sex couples could. But a similar ruling in a second case could trigger the process by which the law is changed for everyone. So if it allows two (or three) same-sex Oaxacan couples to marry, the state’s marriage statute could be on its way out for good.

The outcome is complicated, though, because yesterday was the last session for one of the justices, and a change in personnel could shake things up.

Of course, there could also be no special reason for the delay–the court had a couple other big cases on their docket for yesterday, and it could have simply decided it was more than one session could handle. We’ll just have to wait another week to find out.

Mexican Supreme Court could strike down law against same-sex marriage Wednesday

The Mexican Supreme Court could rule Wednesday that state laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violate the country’s constitution.

The court ruled in 2010 that marriages performed under a Mexico City ordinance must be recognized nationwide. But same-sex couples still can’t marry in most of the country.

If the court sides tomorrow with a lesbian couple from Oaxaca, Lizeth and Montserrat, it could start the process of undoing barriers to same-sex marriage in all of Mexico’s 31 states.

“If we win this case, practically any couple in Mexico could marry” regardless of what their local laws say, explained Alex Ali Mendez Diaz, legal director of the Oaxacan Front for the Respect and Recognition of Sexual Diversity. Continue reading

Gays in Mayan Chiapas? A (colorful) conversation.

I’d arranged to meet Chip at five. “We can do coffee at Na Bolom or margaritas at El Paraiso,” he’d said when I’d called him on our walk into San Cristóbal from our cabin just outside of town.

“You know this town better than I do,” I said.

“It depends whether or not you want margaritas.”

The woman who was renting us the cabin in San Cristóbal de las Casas recommended I connect with Chip. He is an American who’d won a MacArthur Genius grant for his work on Mayan textiles in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. She thought he might know something about gays in the indigenous communities. This could be an interesting conversation—I was coming from getting my hair cut by a kid from one of the more indigenous parts of neighboring Oaxaca state, where he was telling me homosexuality is accepted and trans women are revered.

I found El Paraiso, a block from the main cathedral, with deep blue and beige stucco walls. The restaurant was empty except for one bearish man who looked like he could have been Mr. Natural’s cousin. He had a long, scraggly ponytail and a full beard that almost reached his chest.

“Chip?”

He stood, smiling so faintly I barely detected it beneath his mustache.

“How long have you been working in Chiapas,” I opened after getting settled at the table.

“Forty years,” he said. “It was a town of 14,000 people. There were no stoplights, no restaurants, and one bar.”

“How did you come here?”

“By accident,” he said, reaching for some peaunuts. He spoke so softly I could barely hear him.

“By accident?”

He was traveling with a friend who had a friend who was working down here, so they swung by. He was so impressed by the textiles that he stayed.

I told him about my project.

“I don’t know much, but I have some stories,” he said. A neatly dressed waiter in a white shirt and black vest came over and Chip ordered us two margaritas. They came out in enormous, shallow blue glasses filled with pebbles of ice, too much salt coating the rim.

“One time I took a gay couple to Zinacatán,” said Chip, Continue reading

Yucatán to legalize same-sex marriage?

After a last round of interviews with leaders of Colombia Diversa in Bogotá, I’ll fly to Mexico tomorrow. I’m starting in Quintana Roo (home of Cancún), which was the second jurisdiction in Mexico to legalize gay marriage. Now legislators in the neighboring state of Yucatán are hoping to follow suit.

The coordinator of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática in the state government, Bayardo Ojeda Marrufo, has announced that he will introduce a “universal marriage” bill on November 20 instead of the domestic partnership measure he originally proposed.

Though the PRD does not have as strong a presence in Yucatán as it does in Mexico City—where the party won passage of a gay marriage bill in 2009—Ojedo Marrufo said this week that he believes the party can build on its progressive history in Yucatán:

We were the first on the vote for women, we were the first on the subject of abortion, and, I believe, that it is time-—not having political overtones right now, not having electoral campaigns—now is the moment that we work on this subject.