December 6, 2012
By Jacob Combs
The Supreme Court of Mexico unanimously ruled yesterday that the wording of the marriage law in the southwestern state of Oaxaca must be construed to read that marriages in the state are “between two people,” as opposed to a man and a woman, ruling in favor of three same-sex couples seeking to wed there, Animal Politico reported.
As the blog After Marriage noted, the ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), Mexico’s highest federal court, does not immediately strike down laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples in all of Mexico’s states, since the SCJN cannot strike down laws in all the states the way the U.S. Supreme Court can. And it is unclear whether or not the ruling actually changes the law at all, with some sources noting that the ruling did not explicitly change the Oaxacan law (Article 143).
Nevertheless, the lawyer who represented the couples, Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, said that a win in the case would likely mean that other marriage equality bans in Mexico would fall as well. At this point, it is not evident whether every gay couple in the country would have to sue to obtain a marriage license, or whether future lower court rulings could establish the Supreme Court precedent in the states. Regardless, the SCJN ruling marks the conclusion of a series of legal challenges brought by same-sex couples in Oaxaca since April 2012.
In 2009, Mexico City (which is a federal district with a similar political status to Washington, D.C.’s in the U.S.) passed a law allowing same-sex couples to wed which went into effect the year later. In two landmark rulings handed down in August 2010, the SCJN held that Mexico City’s new law was constitutional and that marriages obtained in Mexico City must be recognized nation-wide.
Frontera, the largest daily newspaper in Tijuana, covered the news in a piece called “SCJN paves the way for weddings throughout the county,” writing:
“The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ordered the Oaxacan Civil Reigistry to register the marriages of three same-sex couples, a development that paves the road for the further recognition of same-sex unions in the rest of the country.
“In a unanimous vote, the First Room of the Court struck Article 143 of the Oaxaca Civil Code, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and establishes that its central purpose is procreation.”
Today, after the court’s announcement, representatives from all the major Mexican political parties in Oaxaca (including the conservative PAN), endorsed a change to Article 143 that would allow for marriage equality. ”This is a historic, watershed moment for Oaxaca,” said Elías Cortés López, a legislator from the center-left PRI party.
This welcome news is certainly something to celebrate, and we’ll follow any other developments as the ruling’s outcome is extended to other Mexican states.