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.
Lizeth and Montserrat are one of three couples from Oaxaca whose cases are pending before the Supreme Court. They won a favorable ruling from a lower court judge who said that the law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples violated protections against discrimination.
Key to the success of this case was the precedent established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in February 2012 in the case of Karen Atala Riffo y Niñas v. Chile, said another lawyer who worked on the case, Geraldina Gonzalez de la Vega.
The Inter-American Court found that the government of Chile violated the human rights of lesbian woman by denying her custody of her children because of her sexual orientation. The court ruled that the Inter-American Human Rights Convention “prohibits … any rule, act, or discriminatory practice based on sexual orientation.”
Vega cautioned that a victory in the Oaxacan case this week will not immediately open the civil registries to gay couples nationwide—Mexican legal rules mean there would have to be many more court battles before same-sex marriage becomes available nationwide. But, she said in an email, “it would say that the rule that says that marriage is only between a man and a woman is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.”
And that means that bans on same-sex marriage in every state could fall once they’re tested in court.
The ruling is expected midday tomorrow, and activists are feeling confident.
“After a year and a half of work the case will be resolved, and everything appears to indicate that we will win,” Mendez wrote me.
Update: The Supreme Court did not rule on Wednesday as planned, and the lawyers in the case are now expecting a ruling on Wednesday, December 5.