TV & Radio
Gay couple tie knot in first Mexico City civil unions
By Gunther Hamm
Fri Mar 16, 8:18 PM ET
Two gay lawyers celebrated a civil union in Mexico City on Friday, becoming the first legally recognized homosexual couple in the traditionally macho capital of one of the world's most Catholic countries.
Dressed in somber suits, Alejandro Diaz and Rafael Ramirez tied the knot in a short ceremony held in a city council building, the first since the city approved a law permitting civil unions in November.
After signing papers and listening to a short speech from a local councilor, Diaz, 27, said "Married." Ramirez, 31, said "My husband." They hugged but declined to kiss.
"The era of plurality and diversity is permeating Mexico City," Julio Cesar Moreno, the local councilor who oversaw the ceremony, told dozens of wellwishers and journalists.
Throughout the day, around 10 gay couples exchanged vows in the city.
In Iztapalapa, one of Mexico City's poorest neighborhoods, journalist Antonio Medina, 38, was united with Jorge Cerpa, 31, a bank employee. The two kissed and raised their hands triumphantly after the open-air ceremony.
A man wearing felt angel wings then handed them flowers to the strains of a small string orchestra.
Homosexuality has long been frowned on in Mexico and in most of the country, boy-meets-girl soap operas help mold traditional notions of love.
However, it is now not uncommon to see same-sex couples holding hands in increasingly liberal Mexico City, although assaults on gays remain common.
Civil unions allow any two people, gay or otherwise, to form a partnership protecting property, pension and inheritance rights. The country's first civil union of a gay couple took place in the northern border state of Coahuila in January.
Civil unions fail to give all the legal rights of marriage, most notably the right to adopt children.
With a majority in the municipal assembly and control of the mayor's post, leftists in Mexico City are briskly passing laws liberalizing gay rights, abortion and euthanasia.
Catholic Church officials have called the moves "Hitlerian" and warned believers not to vote for the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution.
"A Catholic who votes for one of these (politicians) has a huge lack of values," said Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Mexico City archdiocese, the world's largest.
Medina said the church should not get involved in people's private lives.
"We respect people's beliefs but we believe the church should not climb into anybody's bed," he said to cheers from a crowd of guests and local dignitaries, some waving rainbow flags often used as a symbol of gay pride.
Mexico's Catholic Church leads the world's second-biggest Catholic population after Brazil. Some 90 percent of the country's 107 million people call themselves Catholic and conservative evangelical groups are also winning adherents.
First gay couple unites in Mexico City
By LISA J. ADAMS, Associated Press Writer
Fri Mar 16, 10:06 PM ET
An economist and a journalist became the first couple united under Mexico City's new gay civil union law, kissing while an orchestra played "Besame Mucho" and police cordoned off streets around a white wedding tent filled with guests.
The new law, which took effect on Friday, grants same-sex couples inheritance rights and social benefits similar to those enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. It reflects a growing acceptance of homosexuality in what has traditionally been a macho society, as well as a willingness by Mexico City — the second municipality in the country to legalize same-sex unions — to join the international debate on gay marriage.
After dating for four years and three months, journalist Antonio Medina, 38, and economist Jorge Cerpa, 31 were united in front of the government offices for Mexico City's Iztapalapa borough, signing documents under a banner that read "Civil Union Law: Your right to choose."
Dozens of supporters, including several couples who plan to register their own same-sex unions soon, waved rainbow flags, showered the couple with flower petals and yelled "Bravo!" Firecrackers exploded nearby.
"With this law, a history of exclusion comes to an end," Medina said. "Today, the love that before did not dare speak its name has now entered the public spotlight."
The left-dominated legislature of Mexico City, a semi-independent zone with some of the same powers as states, passed the law in November.
The capital was the first in the predominantly Roman Catholic country to approve such a law. A similar measure went into effect in January in the northern state of Coahuila and a lesbian couple registered their union shortly thereafter.
Coahuila state lawmakers from the conservative party of President Felipe Calderon have filed a court challenge claiming that gay unions violate constitutional provisions protecting the family.
The Catholic Church in Mexico also has spoken out forcefully against the law.