LGBT Movement stalls in Mexico?

After legalizing same-sex marriage in two states and winning nationwide recognition for these unions through the court, it sounds the Mexican gay rights movement has lost unity and direction.

That was the message from Antonio Medina in a conversation I had with him last night. Medina is a Mexico City-based activist and journalist who helps run Letra S, a monthly supplement to the newspaper La Jornada covering sexuality and HIV issues.

But perhaps the bigger news from this interview is that I can, in fact, do a telephone interview in Spanish. (At least that was what I was most excited about when I got off Skype at 9:30 last night, exhausted but sure that I really did understand everything Medina said.) I’ve done reporting before in Mexico, but doing it on the phone–and not having been in a Spanish-speaking country for more than two years–I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull it off and I was more than a little nervous about the fact that we’re leaving for South America in just about two months.

Medina and his partner, an economist named Jorge Cerpa, were the first couple to register as domestic partners under a law Mexico City passed at the end of 2006. (They chose to be the first because no one else wanted to take the step, and Medina was worried about how it would look if no one used a right the movement had faught so hard for.) Full marriage was legalized three years later with leadership from the leftist PRD Party, and  Mexico’s high court later ruled that these marriages must be recognized nationwide.

Gay marriages are also now performed in the state of Quintana Roo–home of Cancún–thanks to some very clever activists, who realized that the state’s marriage laws actually were written without references to gender.

But the victories by LGBT rights activists–that also include a domestic partnership law in Coahuila–provoked an organized counterattack from the Catholic Church, Medina said, and the gay marriage bills that had been introduced in other states stalled. And the activists in other states are not well equipped to make an organized push.

“The reality is that in the vast majority of states, activists have neither the strength nor the level of organization that the Distrito Federal has,” Medina told me. And, because anti-gay violence is more common in other states, he said, “It is a very frightened kind of activism.”

Medina also said that the movement in Mexico was divided (“sectorizado“) over what issues matter most, and that it hadn’t found a way to unify around a common agenda.

The movement, he said, “is moving, with all honesty, in a way that is a little bit unequal. There is a very active movement in Mexico City, but … we’re not all advancing in unison, to a more-or-less standardized track. I think that is our big problem–we haven’t agreed on the minimums that we can achieve as a collective.”


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