On December 21, 2009, Mexico City became the first Latin American jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage. This historic law went into effect on March 4, 2010. On August 10, 2010, the legislature announced that although same-sex couples could only get married in Mexico City, same-sex marriages are valid throughout Mexico's 31 states. Although we were still living in Morelia, Michoacán, Judy, my beloved long-time partner, and I started making plans for a Mexico City wedding ceremony. Once we decided--for other reasons entirely--to move to Mexico City, our wedding plans accelerated.
In spite of this sort of decor being extremely naco (Spanish slang for declassé), we couldn't resist hanging this huge satin-and-lace-covered heart incribed 'Nuestra Boda' (Our Wedding) in the interior hallway, just in front of our building's elevator. It was the first thing our guests saw as they arrived on our floor. Photo by Mexico Cooks!.
Mexico has long been a wedding destination for heterosexual couples. Now, of course, the same rules and regulations for getting married apply to same-sex couples, and it's expected that Mexico City will rapidly become a wedding destination for any couple who wants to tie the knot.
Suppose you and your intended live in the United States, though--what exactly is entailed in getting married in Mexico? Just remember that in Mexico City it doesn't matter if you are Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve, the rules are precisely the same.
- You are not required to be a resident of Mexico, but you are required to be in the country for at least three full business days before you apply for a marriage license. Those business days cannot include a Saturday, a Sunday, or any of Mexico's legal holidays.
- For USA residents only: at least several weeks before you travel to Mexico, each of you needs to apply for an apostilled copy of your original birth certificate. The Secretary of State's office in the state where you were born will handle the apostille for you. And what, you might ask, is an apostille? It's a legal guarantee per the Hague Convention that the original document was issued in that state. Canadians are exempt from the apostille process.
- If either of you has been married and divorced, you are also required to provide an apostilled copy of your marriage license AND your divorce decree. If you've been married/divorced more than once, the documents for each marriage must be apostilled by the Secretary of State's offices where the marriages and divorces occurred.
- All of your apostilled documents must be translated into Spanish in Mexico by a formally certified Mexican translation service called a perito (expert). In other words, even if you are fluent in Spanish, you are not allowed to do this step yourself. Be sure to allow enough time to have this done.
Very special guests: our friends (left) Judith Vázquez Arreola and (right) LolKin Castañeda. Married on March 11, 2010, they were among the first same-sex couples wed in Mexico City. Long-time feminist activists, Judith and LolKin were responsible in large part for the passage of the law legalizing same-sex marriage in the Distrito Federal. We are honored to be their friends and to have enjoyed their company at our wedding. Photo courtesy Jesús Chaírez.
In addition to the information and items listed above, you will also need:
- Your original passports plus several copies of them.
- You need the copies of your tourist cards that you'll be given on the airplane coming to Mexico. The fee for your tourist card is included in your airplane ticket. If you are driving down, you must stop at the border to get a tourist card. There is a small fee for these, around $30.00 USD each.
- You will probably be required to have blood tests and possibly a chest X-ray prior to your wedding.
- Once you are in Mexico, you will apply for a marriage license at the Registro Civil (civil registry office) responsible for the location where you will be married. If you are a same-sex couple, be sure that the registry office supplies you with the form marked 'el y el' (he and he) or 'ella y ella' (she and she). If you are heterosexual, you'll need the one marked 'el y ella' (he and she).
- If neither you nor your intended is Mexican, you will be required to have four witnesses to the ceremony, two for each of you. Your witnesses must be over age 18 and must present their passports (originals and copies) and their tourist cards three days before the ceremony.
- For legal reasons, weddings must be performed in Spanish.
- Your civil wedding in Mexico is legal in both the United States and Canada, as well as in many other countries.
- Civil weddings are the only legal weddings in Mexico. Church or synagogue weddings are always lovely and are meant to be God's blessing on the newlyweds, but they are not legal ceremonies.
- Many couples marry legally in their home countries and have a spiritual ceremony--performed by anyone of their choice--at a special Mexican destination. Beaches are very popular for this sort of ceremony. Beach resort operators are accustomed to making arrangements for these weddings.
Our situation was different in that we are long-time residents of Mexico and were not visiting from another country. Our situation was complicated by the fact that Mexico Cooks! is a Mexican citizen, while her bride is not. If either of you is a Mexican citizen and the other is not, more paperwork and more permissions are required. Get ready for a long haul--but know that it can be done, because we did it and you can, too.
The feeling as we exchanged rings and realized that we were truly married...it's hard to describe, but you can see the looks on our faces. Amazing does not begin to tell the story. Photo courtesy Tony Chinn Anaya.
I have been a life-long activist, either for or against any number of what I have considered to be worthy causes: civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, and more. For many years, it was my stance that although I did not choose to marry my partner, I believed that any gay couple who wanted to marry should have that choice. When Mexico City legalized same-sex marriage, I changed my mind. I came to believe that since we now could marry, we should marry: as a sign in the world of our love and a sign that our relationship is equal to any other couple's.
What a thrill to know that my adopted country agrees with me.
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