In 2005, Canada became the first country in the Americas and the third in the world to legalize gay marriage nationwide. Since then, it has been held up as a counterpoint in discussions about the United States' own lack of progress on the issue. For one amusing example, check out this New York Times article entitled, "Where the United States Lags Far Behind Canada," which discusses the marriage of the first gay Marvel comic-book hero, incidentally a Canadian:
It's a signal perhaps of how far ahead Canada has moved on gay rights that Northstar came out as gay two decades ago, in 1992, at a time when in the United States, and much of the Americas, secrecy, intolerance and stigma marked gay life, and the notion of legal same-sex marriage seemed impossibly far-fetched.
But with the gay-marriage debate once again front and center as a result of Hollingsworth v. Perry -- the case that came before the Supreme Court this week on whether California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional -- the United States might want to look to its southern neighbor instead.
In December 2012, Mexico's Supreme Court issued a ruling on same-sex marriage in a case not so different from Hollingsworth v. Perry. When the state of Oaxaca passed legislation defining marriage narrowly as a union between a man and a woman (30 states in the United States have amended their constitutions with similar language), Mexico's highest court unanimously overturned the law, arguing that it constituted a violation of "the principle of equality."
Who did the court cite to support its ruling? None other than the U.S. Supreme Court:
In the celebrated case of Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court argued that "[r]estricting marriage rights as belonging to one race or another is incompatible with the equal protection clause" under the U.S. Constitution. In connection with this analogy, we can say that the normative power to get married is of little use if the opportunity to marry the person one chooses is not granted.
The Prop 8 decision is not expected until late June. And while the Supreme Court does not often look to international cases for guidance, perhaps it will make an exception for the Mexican ruling it inspired.
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