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Two thousand ecstatic supporters cheered, threw rice, and waved rainbow flags, as 500 queer couples kissed.

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Thousands attend mass gay wedding in Mexico City on Feb. 14, 2001. Luis Castillo


Bush, Fox, Gays and Triumphant Love

by Juan Pérez Cabral

FEBRUARY 21, 2001. Love reigned triumphant in Mexico last week. Less than 48 hours before the quickie Bush-Fox lovefest at the Mexican President's ranch, some 500 lesbian and gay couples were symbolically wed on Valentine's Day at a massive public ceremony in front of Mexico City's majestic Palace of Fine Arts.

While two thousand ecstatic supporters cheered, threw rice, and waved rainbow flags, queer couples kissed and proudly showed their notarized symbolic wedding certificates.

Organizers scrambled to cope with the unexpectedly huge turnout and the fierce media crunch. At some point, they ran out of certificates and had to improvise. One organizer stood on top of the "public registry" desk where couples were signing their names and begged the media to back down so the ceremony could proceed.

wedding guestEarlier, speakers had called for gay couples to get the same health, housing, inheritance and other rights heterosexual couples enjoy, and denounced the Catholic Church for opposing the bill. Messages of support from prominent intellectuals and artists were read.

The Valentine's Day gay mass wedding was one of the most joyful and politically significant public events staged in the Mexican capital since Vicente Fox was inaugurated President last December, ending 77 years of one-party rule by the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional).

With it, Mexico's growing gay rights movement was vividly flexing its new-found political muscle in support of a bill that would recognize gay civil unions in Mexico City's Federal District, the first such bill in the history of the country.

The Federal District has an area of 575 square miles, and a population of about 9 million. Mexico City, its capital, is also the nation's capital and its political, cultural, and financial center. With more than 20 million people, a quarter of the country's population, Mexico City is the second largest, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Since the early 1980's, it has extended well beyond the Federal District to the north.

While the civil partnership bill will not apply to city-dwellers who live outside the Federal District, it will have a profound impact on them, since most work there. Mexico City's dominance guarantees that it will also have a huge impact on the country at large.

The bill is sponsored by Enoé Uranga, the only openly lesbian member of the Federal District's Legislative Assembly. Uranga spoke at the mass wedding flanked by bodyguards, after she received death threats, no joke in a country where on average a brutal homophobic murder reportedly occurs every three days.

Her bill is supported by 183 queer, women's and human rights groups. It would allow partnerships between two people of the same or different genders, as well as between three or more people who are not in a nuclear family. It is not a "gay marriage" bill, its proponents emphasize. And it does not allow adoptions.

Uranga's small Social Democracy Party is part of a left-leaning coalition headed by the majority Democratic Revolution Party, which controls the Federal District's Assembly. Signaling a jockeying for the gay vote, similar bills have been announced by two other coalition parties. One bill, by the Democratic Revolution Party, was announced in December and quickly withdrawn when gay groups complained that they had not been consulted. Uranga said she hoped that all three parties could agree on a single bill.

Even then, passage is not assured. The two big national parties, the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), which supported Vicente Fox, and its arch-rival, the ousted PRI, each holds 11 seats in the Assembly. Not enough to block the bill on their own, but enough to cause some mischief. Both are more socially conservative than the Assembly's left coalition, with the PAN harboring a vitriolic clericalist, homophobic right wing. Ironically, it is Vicente Fox's election, with its promises of democratization, that has probably quickened the pace of gay rights in Mexico.

The gay civil partnership debate has been raging in Mexico for the past three months. It has galvanized queers and rendered them unusually visible, riveted a divided public opinion, and sent the powerful Catholic Church and the far right into a tizzy.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera CarreraIn a rare attempt at sarcasm, Mexico City's humorless Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera recently wondered out loud if queer unions may not lead to marriages between men and animals. In Mexico City, where gays are shedding shame, derision is rapidly losing its sting.

But the Cardinal, the anti-abortion Pro Vida, the Neanderthalic wing of PAN and other rightist big guns have not yet realized this. They keep screaming their heads off, careening between moral indignation, venomous invective and silly attempts at ridicule. Still, like a dying dinosaur, the queer-shocked Mexican clerical right is a powerful force, capable of doing great damage, once it figures out what's going on and how it can stop it. Which should happen any time now.

Meantime, back at the ranch, Vicente Fox has managed to live one more day without getting sucked into the Mexico City queer wedding blowout. He's a devout Catholic. And PAN helped him become President. But he has bigger fish to fry. Like turning Mexico into a first world country, keeping his high approval ratings, and bidding good-bye to his pal George W. Bush.

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