BY SARAH LOFSTROM '19
This past week, over ten thousand people took to the streets in Guadalajara, Mexico to protest legislation that would allow for same sex marriage in Mexico. The legislation proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto on May 17, Mexico’s National Day Against Homophobia, would allow for same-sex marriages across all thirty-one states of Mexico, as it is currently only allowed in ten states.
During the protests on Saturday, a photojournalist took a photo of a 12-year-old boy standing in the street facing the mob of anti-LGBTQ protesters with hands raised in an expression of silent resistance.
Manuel Rodriguez, who took the now viral photo, first thought that the boy’s motives were not serious. The crowd eventually reached the boy, at which time his mother pulled him aside. As reported by NBC, Rodriguez asked the boy what his motive was for his actions, to which he replied that his uncle was gay and he did not like that [the protesters] hate him. The photo echoes the iconic Tiananmen Square photo of 1989, also depicting a singular peaceful figure standing up in support of human rights in the face of a daunting larger force.
The protests were primarily organized by the National Front for Family, a Catholic coalition of various conservative religious groups and civil society organizations. The group has organized over 100,000 signatures to petition against the proposal.
While Mexico’s Supreme Court has declared laws limiting marriage to a union between a man and woman unconstitutional, gay marriage is still banned under local laws in two-thirds of Mexico’s states. Same-sex couples wanting to get married in states where it is banned under local law may still do so, but only after acquiring a court injunction, according to The Guardian.
Legally, same-sex couples in Mexico are able to get married where they want, despite the varying processes that depend on local state legislature. However, the social climate in Mexico speaks to the larger issue of LGBTQ discrimination. Twenty-six people have been killed in the LGBTQ community in Mexico this year, as stated by the Citizen Commission Against Hate Crimes. According to BBC, marches of this scale over government legislation regarding social and religious change have not been seen in Mexico since the 1930s.
While homophobia has been seen in Mexico throughout the years, it has become particularly prominent in the political landscape of Mexico in past few months. The shootings at Pulse nightclub, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL., this summer, re-ignited many of the conflicts between various sections of the society in Mexico.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, individuals discriminating against the LGBTQ community through slurs such as those chanted during various soccer matches across the country were condemned. Despite the condemning, Mexican newspaper headlines soon began to bear slogans such as “Homophobia kills,” and “Gays, fanaticism, and murders in Orlando.”
According to Public Radio International, Mexico is primarily Roman Catholic, and its church leaders vehemently oppose same-sex marriage. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, Elio Masferrer Kan, a religious expert at the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, said, “the conflict front and center with the church is an intelligent strategy on the part of the government to avoid getting to the bottom of the bigger, more complicated question in the country.”
Catholic European countries, such as Spain, Portugal and Belgium have all absorbed same-sex marriage into their culture and legislation.
When asked to share her viewpoint on the issue of LGBTQ issues in Mexico, Katia Kiefaber ’17, who spent part of her summer in Mexico, comments that, “the president is trying to adapt to the times and stay relevant to the current issues and culture of his people and those of the world, but because Mexico is so heavily Catholic, the tension between Church and state regarding same sex marriage will continue for a while to come.”