Mexico City lawmakers voted to make their city the first in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriages. But the move has many opponents around Mexico. Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Jose Carreno, a contributor to the Mexican newspaper Excelsior.
MARCO WERMAN: Another kind of change is sparking a lot of debate in Latin America. The issue of same-sex marriage is up for discussion in several countries in the region. Yesterday lawmakers in Mexico City voted to legalize gay marriage in the Mexican capital, and the city's mayor is expected to sign the bill into law. That would make Mexico City the first city in Latin America to officially recognize same-sex marriages. Not all Mexicans are behind the move, though. The Catholic Church and conservative groups stand in staunch opposition. Jose Carreno contributes to the newspaper Excelsior. He joins us from Mexico City. Is this a real departure for Mexico City, Jose? I mean there's been a law since 2006 that allows civil unions.
JOSE CARRENO: Very much. Mexico City is the exception to the rule in the country. There has been a conservative tide if you want to use the word in terms of social issues. A number of proposals to legalize abortion in the country has been defeated in a number of states. So this has been like the greatest exception.
WERMAN: Are we seeing like an example of Mexico City leading the nation? I mean, could this law pass in other cities or smaller towns in Mexico? Could it go national?
CARRENO: Obviously Mexico City is like the heart and conscience of the country in many ways. Now having said that, it is also maybe the only region of the country where the Center Left party has a majority big enough as to impose itself without any need to deal with the opposition. The vote was about 39-20. Usually that is exactly the kind of majority that the Left has in the local Congress. So I do not believe that at this point at least, that kind of result might be possible in any other city of the country.
WERMAN: Now I noted earlier that conservative groups and the Catholic Church are against this gay union law. What about Mexicans in Mexico City? Where do they stand on this?
CARRENO: There is some kind of acceptance if you want to use the word in terms of okay, they are here, they exist, they live, and they in many cases may be relatives to us. Marriage and the adoption of children is very much a symbolic issue for the Catholic Church, but not for most Mexicans. I mean the number of Mexicans that believe in couples without being married, it is huge all across the Socialist platform. Now having said that, for the Right it is a very important, very symbolic issue, and that might be used against the Center Left in national elections.
WERMAN: Now speaking of national elections, our listeners may remember that the past two Presidential elections in Mexico have been won by a candidate from the Conservative Pan Party. Given that the Mayor of Mexico City, Marcello Ebrard is behind this measure, and he's considered a possible Presidential candidate, what are the probable political implications of this stance?
CARRENO: Marcello Ebrard in this case and the Left are trying to build up support one constituency at a time. So I think Ebrard is trying to create a big alliance. Now if this would be enough to take the candidacy of the left, that's a different story.
WERMAN: Let's talk about this gay marriage bill at the social level a second. I don't know if you know the journalist David Lida, but he's got this fascinating book ?First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, Capital of the 21st Century.? And he sheds a little light on some of this, perhaps. He says in the evening after a long afternoon of drinking, it's quite ordinary in a cantina to see men with their arms around in each other boozily professing their love for one another. He also quotes somebody who says that it's common in Mexico City for a married woman to believe that her husband might have an adventure with another man. I'm just wondering if this bill is simply responding to an already very out society in Mexico City.
CARRENO: If you come to Mexico City, there are areas of the city where the existence of gay people is very, very open. You go to what is the Zona Rosa, Pink Zone in Mexico City, and you have as many flags of gay pride as you could find in the [PH] Poncercon in Washington, or the Soho of New York City. They are a fact of life.
WERMAN: Is this bill a nail in the coffin of Mexican machismo?
CARRENO: It is still there and it's still going to be there for a while, but you could reasonably say that this is one of the nails in that coffin.
WERMAN: Jose Carreno is a contributor to the newspaper Excelsior. Good to get your thoughts on this. Thanks a lot.
CARRENO: Thank you very much.