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Lesbian couple
registers as Mexico's first same-sex civil union

Lesbian couple
registers as Mexico's first same-sex civil union

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A lesbian couple registered what officials called Mexico's first same-sex civil union on Wednesday in the northern city of Saltillo.

A lesbian couple registered what officials called Mexico's first same-sex civil union on Wednesday in the northern city of Saltillo. The couple, Karina Almaguer and Karla Lopez, traveled to Saltillo, Coahuila, from their home state of Tamaulipas to register as a "civil solidarity union" under a newly passed law that made Coahuila the first of Mexico's 31 states to grant recognition to such unions. Television footage showed the couple smiling broadly and shaking hands with officials after the simple ceremony at a registrar's office.

Coahuila state assemblywoman Julieta Lopez Fuentes, who served as an official witness at the civil ceremony, said that the law, passed earlier this month, allows people from other states to register such unions in Coahuila. "Same-sex couples from other states have been asking for information about formalizing their unions," said Lopez Fuentes. "Right now we haven't heard about any foreigners asking for information, but anyone who is interested would have to show they are [legally] staying in Mexico."

"The object of this law is that unions of people of the same sex be legally regulated and recognized so that they can have some security in their future," she said. Lopez Fuentes said it was the first same-sex civil union in Mexico. In November, Mexico City, which as a semi-independent capital zone has some of the same powers as states, passed a similar measure, the first in the nation's history, but that law will not go into effect until mid March.

Lopez Fuentes said that state registrar Alicia Rivera, who performs some functions equivalent to a justice of the peace, registered the union on Wednesday. The law, which provides gay couples with numerous social benefits similar to those of married couples, was approved by the Coahuila state legislature January 11 by a vote of 20-13. Coahuila governor Humberto Moreira later signed the bill into law.

The laws have been sharply criticized by the Roman Catholic Church and the conservative National Action Party of President Felipe Calderdon. While homosexuality is still taboo in many rural parts of Latin America, the region's urban areas are becoming more socially liberal. Mexico City and Coahuila join 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. (Juan Montano, AP)

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