by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Mexico City's Legislative Assembly became the first legislative body in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage on Monday, December 21.
The bill changes the definition of marriage in the city's Civil Code. Marriage is currently defined as the union of a man and a woman. The new definition will be 'the free uniting of two people.'
The new law also allows same-sex couples to adopt children, apply for bank loans together, inherit each other's property, and be included in the insurance policies of their spouse. While Mexico City passed a same-sex civil union law in December 2006, these rights were denied to same-sex couples.
The bill passed easily, 39-20, to the cheers of supporters who yelled: "Yes, we could! Yes, we could!"
"We are so happy," said Temistocles Villanueva, a 23-year-old film student who celebrated by kissing his boyfriend in front of the Assembly's offices.
Assembly member Victor Romo called it a historic day. "For centuries, unjust laws banned marriage between blacks and whites or Indians and Europeans," he said. "Today, all barriers have disappeared."
The Mexico City Legislative Assembly, a combination city council and state legislature for a metropolitan area of almost 9 million people, is controlled by the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) which holds 34 out of 66 seats.
The right-wing National Action Party (PAN) opposed the measure, as did its Roman Catholic allies. PAN also opposed the civil union bill in 2006.
The Party of Institutional Revolution (PRI), which dominated Mexican politics prior to 2000, split on the issue, with two of its Mexico City deputies voting Yes, and two No.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a PRD member, is reportedly eager to sign the bill.
In 2000, openly Lesbian politician Enoe Uranga proposed a civil union law giving same-sex couples all the rights of married spouses. The Legislative Assembly declined to take it up in the face of opposition from PAN and the Catholic Church.
A more limited civil union bill passed in 2006 with the support of PRD and several smaller leftist parties.
While most Mexicans are nominally Roman Catholic, the Church has had relatively little political clout for most of Mexico's modern history.
The revolutionary Constitution of 1917 was resolutely secularist, disestablishing the Church, forbidding public worship, and allowing the government to confiscate Church property. Mexican authorities then used force to put down a Catholic rebellion in the bloody Cristero War of 1926-1929.
It was only when PAN candidate Vicente Fox captured the presidency in the elections of 2000 that right-wing politicians felt free to display pro-Catholic sentiments openly.
Buenos Aires became the first Latin American city to legalize same-sex civil unions in 2002. Four other Argentine cities followed suit, as did Mexico City in 2006. Uruguay has legalized same-sex civil unions nationwide.
Buenos Aires legislators introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Argentine National Congress in October 2009, but it has stalled without a vote.
Seven countries allow Gay marriages: Canada, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium. US states that have legalized same-sex marriage are Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
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