Marriage and Latin America: Updates from Uruguay, Mexico, and Colombia

It's been a momentous autumn for the freedom to marry - and not just the campaign to win marriage in the United States. Around the globe, dozens of countries are seeing record levels of support for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage - and national legislatures and courts are moving in favor of respecting gay and lesbian couples with the same protections as different-sex couples. But the campaign to win marriage has galvanized particularly remarkably in Latin America, where three countries made major advances in the past few weeks. Here's a run-down of the movement in Mexico, Uruguay, and Colombia.

Mexico

On Friday, the Mexican Supreme Court issued a ruling that struck down the ban on marriage for same-sex coules in Oaxaca, a southern state in the country. According to the legal system in Mexico, however, it takes more than one ruling in a particular situation to stimulate a general, sweeping change to the law. It takes five identical rulings in five different cases to set a national precedent in the state. Since the Oaxaca lawsuit was filed on behalf of three same-sex couples, that means that a national precedent for the freedom to marry in Mexico requires two more rulings in favor of marriage for same-sex couples. The three couples who brought the lawsuit will be able to marry and have those marriages respected throughout the country just as different-sex couples can. 

Here's some analysis from Geraldina de la Vega, a lawyer who worked in the Oaxaca lawsuit, who spoke about the case with After Marriage:

The court's ruling only applies to the three couples who filed suit-for now. The court said that the law defining marriage as between a man and a woman must be interpreted as between two people, and therefore the registrars must allow the three couples who filed suit to marry.

But, de la Vega writes, this type of "sentence does not have general effects; its effects are limited to the [people] who brought suit. Although an injunction is determined that a law is contrary to the Constitution, the judgment will have effect only for those who filed the claim."

If the court rules the same way in five different cases, binding national precedent is set, which in Mexico is known as jurisprudencia: "interpretation of an obligatory nature for all other federal judges and for local judges."

Read more at After Marriage.   

Uruguay

Last night, the lower house of the legislature in Uruguay voted in favor of advancing a bill to pass the freedom to marry across the country. Eighty-one of the 87 Uruguayan representatives voted in favor of marriage. Now, the bill will advance to the Senate, where it is widely expected to pass.

Deputy Nicolás Nuñez commented on the movement today in The Washington Blade. He said, "We are ending decades of institutionalized discrimination from the state.  

Since 2009, same-sex couples in Uruguay have been allowed to share in civil union, which affords them some - but not all - of the protections and responsibilities of marriage. 

Colombia 

Last Wednesday, the Comisión Primera, a committee in the national Senate in Colombia, approved a measure by a 10-5 vote that would extend the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in the country. The bill now advances, where it will face three additional votes.

In late July 2011, the national Colombian Court ruled that the Colombian Congress must pass marriage or an equal alternative for same-sex couples before June 20, 2013, or else the Court would automatically allow any judge or notary to formalize a marriage between same-sex couples. 

Same-sex couples in Colombia currently can share in civil union, which affords some - but not all - of the protections and responsibilities of marriage.  

Learn more about international developments on the freedom to marry on our International page.