The northern state of Coahuila has formally legalized same-sex marriage, becoming Mexico's first state to do so by legislative approval. The congress of Coahuila, a mining and ranching region that shares a border with Texas, approved more than 40 changes to its Civil Code Monday, extending all marriage rights to same-sex couples, including the right to have children through adoption or biological means.
The law, which was first introduced in March 2013 by lawmaker Samuel Acevedo, was passed 19-1 with the support of six of the seven political parties represented in the legislature. The changes could take effect as early as next week. Acevedo said while congressional approval for the changes could be hampered by conservative and religious groups, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, the move represents a significant step forward.
“What’s important is that we changed the traditional system of marriage,” he told reporters. “The code says that marriage is a union between a man and a woman with the aim of procreation, and now it will say that marriage is a union between two people with the possibility of procreation or adoption.”
Gov. Ruben Moreira Valdez also backed the vote, turning to Twitter to congratulate lawmakers on passing the changes. Coahuila has been a pioneer of same-sex rights in Mexico for years as the first state in the country to approve civil unions for same-sex couples in 2007. In February, the state also approved adoptions for same-sex couples.
Mexico City is the only other jurisdiction in the country that has explicitly legalized same-sex marriage. A landmark ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court in 2012 declared state bans on same-sex marriage violated the federal constitution’s guarantee of civil rights -- a decision that notably drew on U.S. civil rights cases -- effectively permitting same-sex couples to marry in other jurisdictions as well.
The legalization of gay marriage in Mexico trails a broader attitude shift in favor of LGBT rights in a country with strong religious undercurrents. A 2013 survey by polling firm Paramétrica indicated 52 percent of Mexicans approved of same-sex marriage. The figure for Catholics in support of gay marriage was also 52 percent.
Mexico’s broadening support for same-sex marriage follows a trend of expanding LGBT rights across the region. Argentina in 2010 became Latin America’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage, and, soon after, Brazil and Uruguay followed suit, together making up three of the 18 countries in the world that allow same-sex marriage.