Thousands of opponents of same-sex marriage, including Tijuana's new Roman Catholic archbishop, gathered for a rally in the city Saturday to protest Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's proposed constitutional reform favoring the right of couples to marry regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
The morning march to City Hall was one of dozens of such protests across Mexico that took place Saturday, drawing a combined hundreds of thousands of citizens. The demonstrations come on the heels of a series of legal victories scored by proponents of same-sex marriage in states across Mexico.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico City and nine of the country's 31 states. The Mexican Supreme Court last year ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, but that decision doesn't automatically invalidate each state's prohibition. Amid pending legal challenges to the remaining 22 bans, same-sex couples can marry by getting a personalized injunction from a federal judge.
In Tijuana, participants in Saturday's peaceful protest chanted "Viva la familia natural" — "long live the natural family" — as they walked in an unbroken stream that stretched for several blocks along Paseo de los Heroes through the city's Río Zone. They were of all ages and came from all corners of the city, many of them members of Catholic parishes or evangelical Christian congregations.
"Marriage is between a man and woman for the purpose of procreation," said Ariadna León, 39, a Catholic and mother of two from Ampliacion Guaycura in eastern Tijuana. "We are asking for the respect of the nucleus of society, which is the family."
The rally was organized by the National Front for the Family coalition.
Ricardo Cano Castro, a spokesman in Baja California for the coalition, said it has been supported by about 1,000 groups, including schools, orphanages and antiabortion organizations. The Roman Catholic Church has openly backed the cause and encouraged its faithful to join the protests Saturday, but its leaders have insisted that the church is not an organizer.
The issue is a sensitive one, as advocates for same-sex marriage have accused the church hierarchy of violating Mexican laws that stipulate a separation of church and state.
"It's very clear how these civil society organizations are being used to promote the positions of churches," said Alex Ali Méndez, an attorney who has led the legal fight across Mexico on behalf of same-sex couples petitioning to marry.
While freedom of expression exists in Mexico, "the standards for that freedom of expression are different when exercised by religious groups and those involved in public worship," Méndez said.
Andrés Cruz, president of Comunidad Cultural de Tijuana LGBTI, a group that supports same-sex marriage, said the protesters "are creating hate, and this leads to physical aggression" against people in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.
Quietly taking part in Saturday's demonstration was Tijuana's Roman Catholic archbishop, Francisco Moreno Barrón, together with his predecessor, Rafael Romo Muñoz, at his side.
The Tijuana Archdiocese was named in a complaint submitted last week at Tijuana City Hall by Méndez's organization, Mexico Igualitario, and Comunidad Cultural de Tijuana LGBTI. The complaint to Mexico's Interior Ministry accused the archbishop of violating Mexico's Constitution when he publicly encouraged participation in the protests.
"We have the right to defend our values," Moreno said in a recent homily, as he spoke of his intention to join the march in Tijuana.
Dibble writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.