What Mexican Catholics Can Teach Australia (and the World) When It Comes to Marriage

Mexicans celebrating the Supreme Court’s June decision to legalize marriage equality

In yesterday’s Bonding 2.0‘s post on marriage equality’s global progress as it relates to Catholics, we reported Mexico’s legalization of same-gender marriages and Australia’s failure to do so.

To many, it is a paradox that a highly Catholic nation advances LGBT rights while the land of “No Worries” is stalled after more than a decade debating the issue.

To Slate’s Oscar Lopez this seeming paradox actually makes a lot of sense and his claim reaffirms what we often say here: LGBT justice is supported by Catholics because of their faith, not in spite of it.

Lopez, who is gay and born to Mexican and Australian parents, asks “how could this happen?” in response to Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot (a Catholic) effectively killing the equal marriage bill in favor of a national referendum after 2016:

“The question remains: Why have Mexico’s socio-cultural norms helped to advance legal recognition of same-sex relationships there, while Australia’s values have impeded progress on equality?”

Lopez begins with each nation’s religious identity to find his answer, contrasting 82% of Mexicans who are Catholic with just 25% of Australians:

“If you’ve ever read Catholic doctrine or heard anything coming out of the Vatican, you’d think this would make for a very homophobic society. But when you consider that Catholic bastions like Ireland, Spain, France, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico have all legalized same-sex marriage, it’s clear that’s not quite right.

 “Catholic social values have changed dramatically. A recent Pew Research survey found that 60 percent of U.S. Catholics supported same-sex marriage, while a 2013 survey of Mexican Catholics also revealed majority support. Meanwhile, the referendum results in Ireland, where 84 percent identify as Catholic, speak for themselves.”

This widespread and increasing support for LGBT rights among Catholic populations comes from many places, but for Lopez the “most important factor” is Catholicism’s teachings on family and their influence on broader cultural norms:

“Whenever I go back to Mexico, the dozens of cousins and second cousins and third cousins I have there—many of whom I haven’t seen in years—are quick to embrace me as primo, inviting me into their homes and telling me all the family gossip. By contrast, in Australia, I didn’t even know I had family outside of my first cousins until my grandmother passed away a few years ago and other relatives sent their condolences.

“In a country where family is the basis for society, it’s harder to exclude members of the population from legal recognition. It’s harder to kick out your gay son or hate your lesbian sister. When the sacrament of marriage is the cornerstone of the family, it’s only natural that this should be a right for everyone—as in Mexico. To see the contrast in Australia, one need only look at Tony Abbott’s constant refusal to recognize the legal rights of his own lesbian sister.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t homophobic Mexican families, or that Aussie families love their kids any less because they’re not Catholic, but it is undeniable that family values have played a role in moving gay rights forward in Latin America. For us Latinos, blood is always thicker than water.”

Lopez cites minor factors as well, which you can read about at Slate by clicking here.  He is careful not to claim Australians are anti-gay given their 72% support for equal marriage rights. His conclusion about the lessons Mexico’s Catholic identity, though aimed at Australia, is more generally applicable to other nations–so that all can “fully recognize love.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

7 thoughts on “What Mexican Catholics Can Teach Australia (and the World) When It Comes to Marriage

  1. Michael Kelly August 20, 2015 / 1:17 am

    There are some interesting points in this piece – but the fact that reliable polls consistently show the people of Australia overwhelmingly support equal marriage is not a footnote. You cannot comment about Australian values and ignore the 72% of people who support same-sex marriage. This is higher than in Ireland and certainty higher than the USA. I don’t know the polls in Mexico but I doubt they would be anywhere near as high. The issue here right now is political process and certain political figures. Increasingly as will see money flowing into the anti-equality campaign here from right wing groups in the USA. The starting point of commentary on what is happening in Australia needs to be the question – how, in a country where more than 70% of people support marriage equality, is progress being stalled? Right wing groups around the world are no doubt. watching this with great interest. Let me repeat: Australians are openly PRO marriage equality – overwhelmingly so!!

  2. Michael Kelly August 20, 2015 / 2:58 am

    The other thing that it is important to note is that Australia has atrong and broad anti discrimination legislation – and same sex couples already have almost all the rights of heterosexual couples. Immigration for a foreign partner has been approved for around 15 years. Housing, employment, goods and services – all equal under the law. Churches have exemptions, but there is no question of being married in the morning and thrown out of your accommodation in the afternoon. Australian gay activists have fought these battles over many years and won. We did not jump straight to same sex marriage. All these changes were utterly uncontroversial and fully accepted by the Australian people. So much for the author’s glib claim that Australians are conservative in social issues. Also, We were the first country in the world to give women the vote, to mandate an eight hour day, to mandate vacation pay (4 weeks) and paid sick leave and we have one of the highest minimum wages in the world – and universal health care. The author has interesting comments to make about the influence of Catholic values in Mexico – but his commentary on Australia is rather poor.

  3. Friends August 20, 2015 / 10:35 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out what Australian PM Tony Abbot’s personal problem is. His very trenchant and defiant obstruction of the legal acknowledgment of same-sex marriage in his country was the lead story on the internationally syndicated “This Way Out” weekly GLBT news program. (You can hear the program online by Googling the show title.) Abbot won’t even allow his Parliament to take a “conscience vote” on this issue — which, if he would permit it to happen, would make same-sex marriage in “Oz” a done deal, by an overwhelming margin. Virtually the whole Parliament is in favor of accepting it. Something strange is “up” with Abbot — and I have no clue why he’s having such a toxic reaction against what is a virtual “fait accompli” in most of the English-speaking world.

    • Friends August 21, 2015 / 4:55 am

      Just following up: here’s an easy link to listen to the entire “This Way Out” radio program — covering the Australian situation, and lots more news about the global GLBT community:

      http://wesu.streamrewind.com/bookmarks/listen/122665/this-way-out

      Thanks to the amazing folks at Wesleyan University’s WESU-FM for archiving ALL of their aired programs — making them available on demand for an entire two weeks!

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