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Mexican president proposes legalizing same-sex marriage

Mexican president proposes legalizing same-sex marriage
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks during an event at Rosarito Beach on May 9. (European Pressphoto Agency)

President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed Tuesday that Mexico legalize same-sex marriage on a nationwide basis, moving the country closer to joining a growing number of nations that recognize the practice.

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8:28 p.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that President Enrique Peña Nieto made his proposal Monday. He announced his proposal Tuesday.

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"This way marriage equality will be explicit in our constitution," the president declared at an event marking the International Day against Homophobia.

If the proposal wins approval, Mexico  would join several Latin American nations that have legalized same-sex marriage, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay have already legalized the practice.

Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico City and several other jurisdictions, but is not lawfully recognized in much of the nation. The president proposed constitutional changes backing a consistent standard nationwide.

Activists and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transvestite, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTTTI) communities kiss during an activity for the International Day against Homophobia in front of the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on May 17, 2016.
Activists and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transvestite, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTTTI) communities kiss during an activity for the International Day against Homophobia in front of the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on May 17, 2016.

"We cannot have in our country a situation where people have certain rights in some states and not the same [rights] in other states," the Mexican president said, outlining proposed revisions to Article 4 of the constitution and to the national legal code.

As the announcement was made, colors of the rainbow tinted the president's Twitter page and other government Twitter accounts.

The modifications, Peña Nieto said, would acknowledge as a "human right" people's ability to marry "without discrimination for reasons of ethnic or national origins, disabilities, social or health conditions, gender, religion or sexual preferences."

The move would in effect enshrine in law a decision last year by Mexico's Supreme Court, which held that state laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. The court decision, while a major step toward legalizing same-sex marriage, did not explicitly void state statutes hostile to the practice.

The president's proposal  drew immediate support from gay, lesbian and human rights groups that have long pushed for the change.

"The announcement from President Peña Nieto is of course good news," said Paulina Martinez Peredo, who heads a group fighting for lesbian rights in Mexico. "It appears that there is a disposition on the part of the government to work for the rights of homosexual persons."

In a Twitter message, Lol Kin Castaneda, a longtime activist for same-sex marriage, lauded the president's move as sending "a message of respect, equality and liberty to Mexico."

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There was no immediate reaction from Roman Catholic officials in Mexico.

The president's proposal must still pass in the National Congress and in the nation's state legislatures. However, the backing of Peña Nieto, standard-bearer of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, probably ensures broad support among lawmakers nationwide.

Same-sex marriage was already legal in Mexico City and several states, including the northern state of Coahuila and the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo.

Worldwide, almost two dozen countries, mostly in the Americas and Europe, have laws allowing gays and lesbians to marry,  according to a report last year by the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based organization.

Special correspondent Cecilia Sanchez in the Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

5:02 p.m. :This article has been updated throughout with staff reporting.

1:05 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout with additional information about the proposal.

This article was originally published at 12:24 p.m.

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