Mexico, Its Full Faith & Credit Clause and Same-Sex Marriage

23 08 2010
Supreme Court

The Plenary Room of the Supreme Court of Mexico

Earlier this month in Mexico City, the Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, MXSCt), Mexico’s highest court, debated and voted 9-2 not to declare unconstitutional certain amendments to the Civil Code of the Federal District (Mexico City) that allow same-sex marriage and adoption made by such married couples. The Procuraduría General de la República (Mexico’s Attorney General, PGR) had challenged the amendments. The opinion is still to be published; the debates were transmitted live via web and cable TV and closely followed by the public and press, and the transcripts are available at the MXSCt’s website.

One aspect of the Ministros (Mexico’s counterpart to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ( SCOTUS) Justices) of the MXSCt ruling orders that same-sex marriages – and adoptions made by such married couples – validly executed in Mexico City shall be recognized as valid in all states of the country (Mexico is a federation composed by 31 states and one Federal District: Mexico City. Currently, only the Federal District (Mexico City) performs same–sex marriages – and only one state (Coahuila) performs same-sex civil unions).

The MXSCt made a direct interpretation of article 121.IV – Mexico’s Full Faith & Credit Clause (MXFF&CC) – of the Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (Political Constitution of the Mexican United States, MXConst).  The Mexican version of the Full Faith & Credit Clause is more detailed and extended than the one in article IV.1 (USFF&CC) of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by U.S. courts to date.

Article 121.IV of the MXConst establishes that “[all] acts related to the civil status [of individuals] executed in accordance to the laws of one state shall be valid in the others.” Marriage and adoptions are clearly acts of such nature.

[On a note irrelevant to this post but crucial to attorneys licensed to practice in Mexico (as myself), article 121 also command states to recognize professional titles and licenses issued validly in any state or Mexico City: this nicety of the MXConst means once admitted to one jurisdiction, we’re admitted to all!]

Coincidently, the argument used by the MXSCt is similar to those advanced by Harvard Professor Joseph Singer and others in the context of the USFF&CC. It will ultimately be up to the SCOTUS to define whether the USFF&CC compels all states within the U.S. to give legal effects to same-sex marriages executed in one of the states that allow it. If they do so, it may probably happen in similar terms to those set up by the MXSCt in the instant case.

Abbreviations:

Mexico’s Full Faith & Credit Clause               MXFF&CC

Procuraduría General de la República         PGR

Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación      MXSCt

United States’ Full Faith & Credit Clause     USFF&CC

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