Social Security Rights Extended to Same-Sex Couples in Mexico

The Mexican Senate unanimously approved a bill to extend social security rights to same sex couples on November 6. The bill will change laws concerning the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE), removing the gendered language in social security policies. Although the services offered by the ISSSTE were not denied to same sex couples, the Senate’s bill ensures that all same sex couples will have access these services—which include loans, widowhood pensions, and medical services—and is a major political win for the Mexican LGBT community.  

Despite its overwhelming Catholic majority, Mexico has seen numerous attempts to expand rights to gender and sexual minorities. A landmark decision in 2015 by the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice found that all Mexican states must recognize marriage equality due to the Mexican Constitution’s guarantee of equality and nondiscrimination. While eleven states and Mexico City changed their laws accordingly, most states took measures to restrict the constitutional definition of marriage to “one man, one woman,” requiring same sex couples to seek a court order to be married. President Enrique Peña Nieto then introduced two bills to Congress seeking to enshrine marriage equality in the Constitution and the Federal Code in 2016, sparking nationwide protests and counter-protests. The initiatives failed in committee after deputies decided that it was up to the states to legislate their own policies concerning the matter. However, shifting attitudes across Latin America have brought the issue back to the forefront. For example, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that states in the American Convention on Human Rights must “[protect the] rights of families comprised of same sex couples.”

The initiative was introduced by two MORENA party senators, Martha Lucía Mícher and Germán Martínez Cázares, and is a departure from MORENA founder and Mexican President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ambiguous stance on LGBT rights. A plenary session of the Senate of the Republic voted on the bill, with 110 senators voting in favor. The initiative enjoyed unexpected support from the five senators from the evangelical Social Encounter Party—which caucuses with MORENA—and the senators from the conservative National Action Party. The initiative officially changes the terms “husband” and “wife” to “spouse” in the legal codes of the IMSS and the ISSSTE, removing any possible barriers for same sex couples accessing widowhood pensions, loans, and medical services. The initiative now moves on to the Chamber of Deputies, where MORENA Deputy Celeste Ascencio has expressed confidence that the initiative will be voted on by a plenary session quickly.

A variety of different organizations across Mexico supported the vote. Director of the ISSSTE Florentino Castro López declared that, to date, the agency has 448 same sex couples registered in its programs, explaining that the ISSSTE was the first legal institution in Mexico to offer its benefits to same sex couples, doing so in 2014 without a judicial order. Senators from every party expressed their excitement over the vote, with Senator Martha Mícher explaining why she introduced the initiative, saying, “What’s important is to take it step-by-step forward and not back.” Domestic activists rallied around the momentum brought by the vote, demonstrated by Iván Tagle, director of the Mexican LGBT association YAAJ, who said, “It’s a historical decision that sends an important message that the first initiative of the [64th] Senate has to do with sexual diversity.”