A Mexican court ruled on October 19 that the federal government must grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple living in the United States. The authorities should embrace the decision, which is consistent with Mexico’s obligations under international law and its own stated commitment to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
The couple, both Mexican citizens, applied for a marriage license in May at the Mexican Consulate in New York City, where they live. Couples living abroad must request a marriage license from their consulate. This straightforward administrative procedure takes less than a week for most different-sex couples. But the consulate turned away the same-sex couple in New York on the grounds that the 1928 Mexican Federal Civil Code does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The October 19 ruling, from the Second District Civil Court, found that the denial was based on a discriminatory interpretation of a civil code article setting the minimum age for “a man” and “a woman” to marry. But the Supreme Court has established that under article 1 of the Mexican Constitution, authorities should interpret the law in a way that “is most protective of human rights.”
The ruling rightly rejected the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s argument that the New York couple suffered “no true harm” as they could “go to Mexico City to get married there.” But nearly 12 million Mexican citizens live abroad. It is unreasonable and discriminatory to expect same-sex couples to travel thousands of miles to accomplish what different-sex couples can do in a matter of hours.
A 2015 Supreme Court of Justice ruling found that constitutional principles of equality and nondiscrimination require all states in Mexico to recognize same-sex marriage, though only 12 states, including Mexico City, do so without an additional court order.
The October 19 ruling is consistent with Advisory Opinion 24 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which establishes that parties to the American Convention, including Mexico, “must ensure access to all the legal institutions that exist in their domestic laws to guarantee the protection of the rights of families composed of same-sex couples, without discrimination.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Attorney General’s Office, and/or the Federal Congress have two weeks to challenge this ruling. They shouldn’t. Instead, they should keep Mexico at the forefront of progress on LGBT rights.