Mexico's Supreme Court made a landmark ruling Tuesday, August 10, in a 9-2 decision that says each of the country's 31 states must honor same-sex marriages registered in the nation's capital, Mexico City.
Supporter's note that Mexico along with several Latin American nations recently are taking the lead when it comes to the equal rights of the gay and lesbian community.
Although several cities throughout Latin America today recognize some form of same-sex civil unions, only Uruguay and Argentina have legalized gay marriages nationwide.
Mexico City was one of the first Latin American capitals to fully recognize such marriages.
Last week Mexico's high court ruled that the law allowing same-sex couples to marry in the nation's capital was constitutional.
In the recent decision two on the high court voted against the ruling, arguing that it would damage the harmony of the federal system.
In December Mexico City's local assembly passed the law, which gives gay and lesbian couples full marital rights, including the right to adopt. The law was enacted in March and since then hundreds of same-sex couples have been married.
The same-sex marriage law in Mexico City states that couples who wed can jointly apply for bank loans, inherit wealth and be covered by their spouses' insurance policies.
However Tuesday's ruling does not obligate state governments to enact same-sex marriages but does require them to recognize the legality of such marriages performed in Mexico City. It's not clear to what degree of recognition must be granted to the couples and some of the provisions may end up applying only in the capital.
Yet gay and lesbian rights activists note the ruling sets a precedent and can potentially lead to Mexico giving same-sex couples full matrimonial rights nationwide in the near future.
The Supreme Court's decision was filed against a complaint from the attorney general's office, which had said that other jurisdictions should not be required to honor marriages that were performed in Mexico City.
That argument backfired.
"What's going to happen to a same-sex couple" who marry in Mexico City "when they cross the border" to another state, asked Justice Arturo Zaldivar, who voted with the majority, as noted in the New York Times. "Does this marriage disappear? They go on vacation and they're no longer married," he said during Tuesday's discussions.
The Supreme Court in Mexico is expected to make a ruling about the legality of allowing adoption by gay couples later this week.
The fight for same-sex rights grew strong opposition from the country's Catholic Church and state governments belonging to the right-leaning National Action Party, which governs nationally.
Activists and supporters of same-sex marriage hope the recent ruling sheds light on the importance of equal rights for the gay and lesbian community. They also believe the ruling will open doors for other cities and nation's around the world to follow suit.
Photo: Gay couples and supporters celebrate the ruling on same-sex marriage, outside the Supreme Court in Mexico City, August 5 (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)