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Mexican gays poised to make demands for change

In this story: Cardenas July 27, 1997
Web posted at: 9:34 p.m. EDT (0134 GMT)

From Mexico City Bureau Chief Chris Kline

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Mexican elections earlier this month were widely viewed as a breakthrough for many of the country's disenfranchised. Among those who stand to gain: Mexico's gay community.

During the elections, gays threw their support behind leftist opposition candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, winner of the first election for mayor of Mexico City this century. Home to 8.5 million Mexicans and undisputed nerve center of national life in Mexico, Mexico City has been ruled up to now by mayors hand-picked by the president. Since 1929, they have been members of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Like many other Mexicans, gays view Cardenas' victory as proof of Mexico's transition to true democracy, giving them the chance to demand social equality as never before.

'We want to achieve equality'


Deputy Patria Jimenes is the first openly lesbian candidate to win a congressional seat on a ticket championing gay rights. "We want to achieve equality and equal rights for gays and lesbians in keeping with the rest of society," Jimenes, a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, said.

Her non-gay political ally, Deputy Edgar Sanchez, says the responsibilities of a pluralistic society are clear. "Democracy means respect for diversity, respect for the different," he says.

But Jimenes says Mexican gays face prejudice, violence and official indifference. "Where violence and murder are concerned, and the victims are gay, these are cases not normally investigated because authorities believe they lack moral justification. So we can say justice has not been done on our behalf," she said.

AIDS treatment becomes an issue

Mexican gay advocates also condemn what they see as the government's gross negligence in providing adequate medical care for the growing number of AIDS victims. They complain that only the rich can afford treatment for AIDS.

Many Mexican gays blame sexual discrimination and societal hostility toward them on the machismo of Mexican culture and the unwavering policies of the Catholic church.

'This will damage society'

The Catholic activist group Pro-Vida, which began as an anti-abortion movement, is opposed to the notion of Mexican gays gaining political power.

"They encourage what we call indecent humanism -- everything outside of normality, the ordered, the ethical in life, which they will try to put forward in Congress as something moral and natural, so they can get married and adopt children," said Pro-Vida spokesman Jose Manual Cruz. "This will damage society."

Mexican gays in turn say Pro-Vida voices extremist views, and there's nothing contradictory about being both gay and devoutly Catholic.

Some gays are confident enough to express their sexual preference in public. But many gay Mexicans feel compelled to stay in the closet to protect their jobs and social standing.

Mexico's gays admit there's a long way to go before they can overcome second-class citizenship and earn the respect they believe is their natural right. But now with a voice in Congress of their own and an ally in the Mexico City mayor's office, they say they refuse to be left out any longer.

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