In Mexico City, on the same day that a US federal appeals court put same-sex weddings on hold, the nation's Supreme Court upheld a law that allows gay couples in the capital to adopt children. The gay adoption decision comes a week after the court upheld the constitutionality in general of gay marriage, after it was granted in Mexico City last year.
It might be mere coincidence that the two decisions came down on the same day, but it points to a question that many are starting to ask with some incredulity: Is staunchly Catholic Latin America more tolerant than the US when it comes to rights for same-sex couples?
“As California and the United States struggle with the issue of same-sex marriage at the polls and in courtrooms, Latin America is moving more broadly toward acceptance of this basic human right,” reads an Aug. 13 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. “This is a wrenching issue for traditionally conservative and deeply religious countries, influenced by Roman Catholic and Protestant evangelical churches opposed to gay unions. But throughout Latin America, marriage is a civil institution performed by the state. The recognition that religion and civil law have different roles to perform in marriage is often painfully absent in the debate in this country; Latin American nations have hewed to that distinction and are better off for it.”
More tolerance south of the border?
Mexico's Supreme Court decision "will have resonance for courts throughout the continent for protecting the basic human rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people,” Juliana Cano Nieto, of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The move comes after Argentina legalized gay marriage and adoption nationwide in July, going further than any other nation in Latin America.
Contrast that with California, where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said gay couples could not wed, after a federal judge ruled earlier this month that same-sex marriage could resume in California as early as Wednesday, despite a 2008 voter ban called Proposition 8. With the ban, California joined some 40 other states in the US banning same-sex unions, according to Reuters.
Not so fast
But while victories for gay rights advocates in Mexico and Argentina have dominated headlines on the issue in Latin America, authors Germán Lodola and Margarita Corral in Americas Quarterly recently wrote that tolerance is not uniform in the Americas.
In fact, the US sits above most of Latin America in terms of accepting attitudes toward same-sex marriage, with the exception of Argentina and Uruguay. (Of all nations in the Americas, Canada is the most tolerant.) And, they remind readers, same-sex marriage has been banned in Honduras, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic, while the 2009 Bolivian Constitution limits marriage to a union between opposite-sex couples.
In Mexico, Monday's decision has been condemned by conservatives in the country, most notably the Catholic Church. And the court decision was in response to a challenge by the federal government that argued that Mexico City's move to allow gay marriage and adoption did not guarantee protection against social stigma for children of same-sex couples.