On Tuesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a ruling saying that all of Mexico’s 31 states must recognize same-sex marriages carried out in Mexico City.
Last week the Supreme Court upheld Mexico City’s gay marriage law after the conservative federal government challenged its constitutionality.
This latest decision does not force gay marriages to be legalized in every jurisdiction, yet the significance of this win should not be underestimated in what is a predominantly conservative Roman Catholic country.
Supreme Court Upholds Mexico City’s Gay Marriage Law
In an 8-2 decision last Thursday (one judge was absent), Mexico City’s gay marriage law was upheld. The conservative federal government, the National Action Party (PAN), challenged the law’s constitutionality on the grounds that it threatened the institution of the family.
The court rejected the challenge on two grounds. First, that each state (or in this case federal district) must be allowed to autonomously define its definition of marriage. Second, that Mexico’s constitution does not expressly define what makes a “family”.
Mexico City’s legislative assembly voted to approve same-sex marriages in December, raising the ire of many religious conservatives. Since the law took effect in March it is estimated that around 300 gay and lesbian couples have married.
The law also made it legal for same-sex couples to adopt children.
Supreme Court Rules on States Honoring Gay Marriages
On Tuesday of this week, the Supreme Court ruled 9-2 against a complaint from the attorney general’s office. The AG had argued that other jurisdictions should not be forced to recognize same-sex marriages carried out in Mexico City.
While explicitly stating that other states will not be obliged to enact same-sex marriage laws, the Court ruled that all states must honor same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. Unfortunately the Court did not detail what form that recognition should take, which has left legal scholars to speculate.
The court decision leaves uncertainty about which marital rights must be recognized by state governments.
But Arturo Pueblita Fernández, a constitutional law professor at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, said that fundamental spousal rights would apply to same-sex couples across the country, including alimony payments, inheritance rights and the coverage of spouses by the federal social security system, which provides health and pension benefits to most of Mexico’s working population.
Mexico City and Gay Adoptions
The Supreme Court must still decide on another aspect of the law, that being same-sex adoptions.
Sounding a note of caution on Tuesday, Judge Sergio Aguirre argued against same-sex couples adopting, citing concerns that children of such families might suffer discrimination.
However, given Tuesday’s ruling that states must honor same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, it seems a possibility that if same-sex adoptions are found to be lawful, the Court may rule that the parental rights of same-sex couples must also be honored by other jurisdictions, though this will no doubt be a key feature of the legal debate.
The Court is expected to rule on this issue as soon as Thursday.