Daniel Aguilar/Reuters
Gay rights activist cheer after a session at the city's assembly in Mexico City, Monday. Mexico City's assembly voted to extend gay couples full marriage rights, on this same day, in a landmark law that is the first of its kind in Latin America, a traditionally macho and Catholic region.

Mexico City move to allow gay marriage irks some residents

Lawmakers approved a bill Monday to allow gay marriage, making Mexico City the vanguard of Latin America's coalescing gay rights movement. But the move angers many in the socially conservative Catholic country.

In legalizing gay marriage, Mexico City is now the vanguard of the coalescing gay rights movement across Latin America.

With a vote of 39-to-20, legislators in the capital approved a bill that will make Mexico City the first city in Latin America to approve gay marriage – angering the Catholic Church and politicians from the nation´s conservative ruling party.

The bill redefines the definition of marriage, paving the way for same-sex couples to wed as early as February. Leftist mayor Marcelo Ebrard, from the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), now must sign the bill into law, which he is expected to do.

Members of Mexican President Felipe Calderón's National Action Party (PAN) have said they will fight the measure in court, as has happened in the US. The bill follows other controversial moves in left-leaning Mexico City, which also legalized abortion in a woman´s first trimester of pregnancy.

But it also comes as deeply Catholic Latin America has increasingly embraced gay rights, once taboo. Buenos Aires became the first city in the region to legalize civil unions when it did so in 2002. Other cities in Mexico and Brazil have followed. Uruguay has done so nationwide. But no place in Latin America currently allows gay marriage.

Marriage between gays has been legalized in a handful of countries, including Canada and Spain. Some US states permit gay marriage, though the right has been fought and rebanned in other states.

Mexico City's move beats an effort in Buenos Aires, where the region's first same-sex wedding was anticipated earlier this month but then delayed over contradictory court rulings. Activists there have vowed to fight forward, and Mexico City's legislature may add fuel to their battle.

The Mexico City bill would change the definition of marriage in the city civic code from that of a union between a man and woman to "the free uniting of two people." It would also allow gay couples to adopt and be included on one another's insurance.

While gay activists and many politicians praised the move, others condemned it.

"They have given Mexicans the most bitter Christmas," Armando Martinez, the president of the College of Catholic Attorneys, was quoted as saying in the Associated Press. "They are permitting adoption [by gay couples] and in one stroke of the pen have erased the term 'mother' and 'father.' "

That sentiment is echoed on the streets of Mexico City.

"These things, like gay marriage, are not familiar to us here like they are in Europe," says city resident Roberto Nava, explaining that he is troubled by bill because he sees it as a political tool to capture votes instead of a reflection of a changing society. "What is hardest for me to accept is the adoption of children by two men."

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