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Mexico City joins front lines of the gay marriage debate

By Anne-Marie O’Connor
Washington Post / March 4, 2010

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MEXICO CITY - The Mexican wedding may never be the same.

Today, this sprawling megalopolis will catapult to the front lines of gay rights in Latin America, when a city law legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption goes into effect.

The prospect of gay marriage has sent tremors through the Catholic Church, drawn the opposition of President Felipe Calderón and his conservative National Action Party, and spotlighted the power of Mexico City’s center-left Democratic Revolution Party leaders to advance a liberal agenda that contrasts with provincial traditionalism.

Mexico allows the federal district of Mexico City to pass its own laws, and the metropolis of more than 20 million people has become a major battleground in the culture wars playing out across the Americas.

In recent years, the city’s Legislative Assembly has recognized civil unions and no-fault divorce, legalized abortion in the first trimester, and given terminally ill patients the right to refuse treatment.

Now, as conservatives protest, gay couples from Xochimilco to Polanco are making plans to tie the knot.

Mexican actress Jesusa Rodríguez will marry her partner, Liliana Felipe, after 30 years together.

“The important thing is that this law grants equality,’’ Rodríguez said.

Many marriage-minded gay couples are preoccupied by concerns about the security of their loved ones.

Reyna Barrera, 70, had a breast removed two months ago, and although she is weak from chemotherapy, she is busy planning her wedding to her partner of 36 years, Sandra Ponce.

“This way, she is protected,’’ said Barrera, a literature professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “She will get my pension, our house, everything from the life we built together.’’

The Legislative Assembly passed the gay marriage act by a broad majority in December.