Mexico is one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of LGBTQ+ rights today.
A recent study found that it has, in fact, had more openly LGBTQ+ politicians and has passed more anti-discrimination legislation than the USA. The same study also found that in Mexico, identifying religiously with Catholicism does not affect the protection of LGBTQ+ rights unlike further north of the border.
Additionally, adoption by same-sex couples was also declared a constitutional right by the Supreme Court in 2015 when the regional ban in the Mexican state of Campeche was overruled, as was equal marriage in 2016.
Despite the Supreme Court declaring any type of marriage discrimination unconstitutional, advances in the application of the law are met with resistance in many states and 2/3rds of all states have extremely costly and slow judicial procedures in place that heterosexual couples do not have to undergo.
Studies by various NGOs have also found that Mexico is the second most violent country for LGBTQ+ people in the world after Brazil, with 218,000 homophobic and transphobic murders reported in the last twenty years.
What do soon to be president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the 64-year old ex-mayor of Mexico City who promoted a left-wing populist discourse throughout his campaign, as New York Times reported, and his supporters have to say about these issues then?
AMLO joined Morena, the party under which AMLO presented himself as a presidential candidate, after years of disenchantment with the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party). Morena dates to 2010 and ideologically identifies with progressive left-wing values.
Their party rhetoric is centred around the principles of ending the oppressive, corrupt regime that only benefits the Mexican elites, and defending those living in poverty through respect and promotion of democratic values, and they even have a Secretary of Gender and Diversity.
However, in their party declaration, their position on protecting LGBTQ+ rights is unclear. On several occasions, they declare that they will respect cultural, religious and political diversity and that they will fight against discrimination based on “sex, race, ethnic origin, religion, social class, and political beliefs”. Not once do they acknowledge diversity in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity, and they do not recognise these factors as forms of discrimination.
They also declared on several occasions their support for religious freedom which provides a defence for conscientious objection on religious grounds to LGBTQ+ rights.
Juntos Haremos Historia, the coalition that led AMLO to victory in the recent presidential elections, includes the Partido Encuentro Social (Social Gathering Party), a conservative evangelical party. They believe in the preservation of the traditional family and take a strong stance against abortion and equal marriage, claiming that equal marriage is an attack against life itself.
Their alliance with AMLO has created fears among the LGBTQ+ community that Encuentro Social members could be given influential positions within the government that would put at risk rights to adopt and to marry.
A complicated past and present
AMLO himself is not considered as an ally by the LGBTQ+ community, due to his past behaviour and his attitudes throughout the electoral campaign.
Earlier this year, Mexican actor and LGBTQ+ activist Diego Luna spoke out against AMLO after he declared his intention to put the right to equal marriage and abortion to the popular vote, which could have terrible consequences in a country where only 36% of the population agree with equal marriage according to a study conducted by newspaper el Financiero. He is also remembered for his obstruction of the Society and Cohabitation Law in 2001 which sought to extend legal protections to same-sex couples for the first time.
There has been no mention or defence of trans rights throughout the campaign by either AMLO or his political affiliations, which is particularly worrying considering Mexico City is the only state in which it is legally permitted to change genders and only under the restrictive conditions of having already been operated on.
What can we expect?
A normalisation of extreme homophobic discourse in the public political sphere, although possible, is unlikely as the type of homophobia AMLO and his allies promote is subtler in nature. It is one that does not consider the rights of the LGBTQ+ community as guaranteed but as a topic for political debate.
His intention to hold referendums on the continuation of equal marriage may very well become a reality with the support of powerful conservatives such as the Partido Encuentro Social, but ex-head of government Miguel Ángel Mancera has pointed out that as these rights are protected by the Mexican constitution, changing them will not be easy.
It is possible therefore that these declarations calling for a popular referendum on equal marriage and abortion may well have been a stunt to captivate votes during the election without considering the practical implications of such an action. Only time will tell.