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An economist and a journalist became the first couple united under Mexico City's new gay civil union law Friday, kissing while an orchestra played ''Besame Mucho'' and police guarded their white wedding tent filled with guests. The new law, which took effect on Friday, grants same-sex couples social benefits similar to those of legally married heterosexual couples. It reflects a growing acceptance of gay culture in what has traditionally been a macho society, as well as Mexico City's willingness to join the international debate on same-sex marriage rights. The capital city is the second municipality in the country to officially recognize gay civil unions, and the first couple to take advantage of the new law was journalist Antonio Medina, 38, and economist Jorge Cerpa, 31. The two have been dating for four years and three months. They were united Friday in a plaza in front of the government offices for Mexico City's Iztapalapa borough, signing documents under a banner that read ''Civil Union Law: Your right to choose'' as dozens of supporters yelled ''Bravo!'' and waved rainbow flags.
''With this law, a history of exclusion comes to an end,'' Medina said. ''Today, the love that before did not dare speak its name has now entered the public spotlight.''
City officials also praised the event. ''Love now has one less obstacle,'' said leftist city lawmaker Victor Hugo Cirigo, one of the new law's biggest supporters.
The couple will spend the weekend celebrating at a Mexican beach, although they planned an extended honeymoon in September with a trip to Canada.
The left-dominated legislature of Mexico City, which is an independent district similar to Washington, D.C., passed the law in November. The capital city was the first in the country to approve such a law, but a similar measure later approved in the northern state of Coahuila went into effect first, at the end of January. A couple of days later, a lesbian couple officially registered their union, which is being celebrated by liberal lawmakers but condemned by the ruling National Action Party. The conservative party has filed a court challenge claiming that same-sex unions violate constitutional provisions protecting the family.
The Mexican Roman Catholic Church also has spoken out forcefully against the law. But that hasn't discouraged the hundreds of lesbian and gay couples who gathered en masse in Mexico City's main central plaza, the Zocalo, on Valentine's Day to announce their intentions to formalize their unions.
Lending support to the cause, pop star Christian Chavez, a singer with the Mexican pop group RBD, announced earlier this month that he is gay after photographs of him kissing and exchanging rings with another man in Canada surfaced on the Internet.
''I don't want to keep on lying and lie to myself because of fear,'' Chavez said in a statement posted on the group's Web site. He received an outpouring of support from fans, who lauded his courage. (Lisa J. Adams, AP)