February 1, 2007 / 10:51 PM / 12 years ago

Lesbians form Mexico's first gay civil union

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - Two lesbians have formed Mexico’s first gay civil union in a landmark ceremony in one of the world’s most Roman Catholic countries.

Dressed in black jackets, Karla Lopez and Karina Almaguer, both 29, became Mexico’s first gay “civil partners” on Wednesday, in Coahuila, a mining and ranching region bordering Texas.

“It is time we Mexicans begin to discuss these type of questions, without taboos, without prejudice,” David Sanchez, the only openly gay federal congressman, said on Thursday. “It’s a very historic moment.”

Last year, a Catholic bishop in Coahuila said long-term gay couples needed legal protection, but many in Mexico’s Catholic Church strongly oppose gay civil unions.

The law recognizing gay unions, which was passed on January 11, gives homosexual couples similar rights to heterosexual married couples.

“The most important part is the right over property,” said Armando Luna, deputy legal director of the Coahuila state government.

“They can decide if the worldly goods that they have or acquire remain as personal property or if they are added to the civil partnership,” Luna said.

Mexico is the world’s second-biggest Catholic country, after Brazil.

Coahuila’s civil union law also grants social security benefits to both members of a homosexual union, an important demand of gay campaigners.

Coahuila, west of the city of Monterrey, once was part of a larger state that included Texas, which was part of Mexico before the United States annexed much of what is now the U.S. Southwest in the mid-19th century.

Mexico City legislators backed a similar law in November, which takes effect in March. Gay couples in the capital plan to form lines at each municipal office in a show of strength on the first day of civil unions there.

Sanchez, a leftist deputy, said he will introduce a bill to amend the constitution to help transsexuals officially change their sex.

Under the bill, transsexuals would be able to get new birth certificates that showed they were born as the gender they choose.

Additional reporting by Gunther Hamm

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