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consider filing challenge to Mexico City civil union

consider filing challenge to Mexico City civil union

Mexico's ruling conservative party is considering filing a legal challenge to Mexico City's new law recognizing gay civil unions, saying it violates a clause in the country's constitution protecting the family, legislators said Friday.

The law was published in the city's official gazette on Thursday, making it the first such law in the history of the conservative, predominantly Roman Catholic country. It will take effect 120 days from that date.

City assemblyman Miguel Angel Errasti said his National Action Party--the party of President Vicente Fox and president-elect Felipe Calderon--is determining whether the new law can be challenged on constitutional grounds.

Article 4 of Mexico's constitution covers the rights of spouses, children, and the family and states that ''men and women are equal before the law. This will protect the organization and development of the family.'' Errasti argues that the new Mexico City law is unconstitutional because the article mentions only men and women in relation to marriage.

City legal counsel Maria Estela Rios, however, called the argument ''absurd'' because the law guarantees legal rights for same-sex couples but does not legalize same-sex marriage. ''There is no attack against the concept of the family,'' Rios said. The law ''just involves recognizing that there are other forms of unions that have existed for many years.''

Errasti did not say when his party would decide on whether to file the constitutional challenge--the only legal avenue to overturn the law.

The law allows same-sex couples living in Mexico City to register their civil union with authorities, granting them inheritance rights and other benefits typically given to married couples.

The measure has been severely criticized by the Roman Catholic Church and conservative groups in the country, which is 90% Catholic. The Mexican Council of Bishops has said the law is the first step toward legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption by gays, while the conservative National Parents Union called it ''aberrant.''

While homosexuality is still taboo in many rural parts of Latin America, the region's urban areas are becoming more tolerant. Mexico City joins the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires and the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul in legalizing same-sex civil unions.

At the national level, lawmakers in Costa Rica and Colombia have debated but not passed similar measures. (AP)

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