On Nov. 28, 2011, two same-sex couples, eight witnesses and one brave civil judge made Mexican history. The couples married, legally, in Cancun in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Patricia Viovelo, 40, and Areli Castro, 23, and Sergio Arturo Monje Cruz, 42, and Manuel Rexes Chale De La Fugute, 37, are modern-day gay pioneers.
Tour operator Ron Kuijpers arranged our meeting in Cancun. Kuijpers is the owner of Gay Tours Mexico (www.gaytoursmexico.com) and the Mexican ambassador for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. He was also one of the eight witnesses at this historic wedding event.
Kuijpers said they’d been planning the wedding since the Cancun gay Pride last summer, where they had met Jaime López Vela, the first person to be married in Mexico City, at a pool party.
“We have been trying first through a gathering of a mass number of signatures to get the state government to approve the same-sex marriage, but ... [the government] put the whole request on ice,” Kuijpers said. “We started together with some lawyers to study the state civil laws very carefully and finally discovered a hole in these laws.”
The loophole was that Mexican law didn’t state that a couple had to be a man and a woman: It was assumed a marriage would be between opposite-sex partners.
Kuijpers continued, “With this knowledge, we found a civil judge who was willing to have the two couples married. This happened totally secretly and we didn’t make any press publicity ’til three days after the wedding had taken place.”
Their search for a civil judge willing to perform the ceremony took them all over Quintana Roo. On the outskirts of the state, about two hours outside of Cancun, a lone judge agreed to perform their ceremony — and it almost didn’t happen. At the last minute, the judge got nervous about the political statement this simple wedding would make. The couples promised to help protect her job. (She is still a civil judge.)
Everyone was scared.
Four days after the secret ceremony, the group organized a press conference to announce what they had done. After what they’d been through to be married, the press conference was easy for media savvy Viovelo, who owns a publicity company. She is now running for office in Mexico and her wife, Castro, is a university student.
The press conference was risky. Under Mexican law, the government has 15 business days to revoke a marriage license. Creating more anxiety was that even their families didn’t know about the marriages: They found out about them on TV.
“This sent a shockwave through the political society from the Quintana Roo state,” Kuijpers said. “But they haven’t taken any action to revoke the two weddings. Still some political parties are almost split about what happened. But really, what we have done is using the existing civil laws and claiming the rights according to these laws.
“Yes this is very exciting news, although it is not yet 100-percent confirmed by the state government. But since the legal period to oppose the same-sex marriage [has passed] ... there is no other answer possible then, yes, it’s legal,” Kuijpers said. “If they, at this point, would still oppose, they would violate a federal antidiscrimination law, which is in force in the whole of Mexico. [It] would [result] in a lawsuit against the two couples that got married. The Federal Human Rights Department has already agreed that in case of a lawsuit, they would be at the side of the two couples.”
Though the two couples still await a final decision from the state government, there are plans in the works for more marriages.
“We are planning to have a bigger group to get married at the same time somewhere,” Kuijpers said.
The idea was to have multiple couples go to the civil judge and ask for a marriage in front of TV cameras. Though it was slated for February, it has yet to happen.
If you’re planning a trip to Cancun, check out February’s “Outward Bound” column at www.epgn.com. If you’d like to get married in Cancun, visit Cancun Gay Wedding (www.cancungaywedding.com).
Jeff Guaracino is author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing” and co-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.