For a lesson on marriage equality, look to Mexico (which looked to the U.S.)

In 2005, Canada became the first country in the Americas and the third in the world to legalize gay marriage nationwide. Since then, it has been held up as a counterpoint in discussions about the United States’ own lack of progress on the issue. For one amusing example, check out this New York Times article ...

ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2005, Canada became the first country in the Americas and the third in the world to legalize gay marriage nationwide. Since then, it has been held up as a counterpoint in discussions about the United States' own lack of progress on the issue. For one amusing example, check out this New York Times article entitled, "Where the United States Lags Far Behind Canada," which discusses the marriage of the first gay Marvel comic-book hero, incidentally a Canadian:

It's a signal perhaps of how far ahead Canada has moved on gay rights that Northstar came out as gay two decades ago, in 1992, at a time when in the United States, and much of the Americas, secrecy, intolerance and stigma marked gay life, and the notion of legal same-sex marriage seemed impossibly far-fetched.

But with the gay-marriage debate once again front and center as a result of Hollingsworth v. Perry -- the case that came before the Supreme Court this week on whether California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional -- the United States might want to look to its southern neighbor instead. 

In 2005, Canada became the first country in the Americas and the third in the world to legalize gay marriage nationwide. Since then, it has been held up as a counterpoint in discussions about the United States’ own lack of progress on the issue. For one amusing example, check out this New York Times article entitled, "Where the United States Lags Far Behind Canada," which discusses the marriage of the first gay Marvel comic-book hero, incidentally a Canadian:

It’s a signal perhaps of how far ahead Canada has moved on gay rights that Northstar came out as gay two decades ago, in 1992, at a time when in the United States, and much of the Americas, secrecy, intolerance and stigma marked gay life, and the notion of legal same-sex marriage seemed impossibly far-fetched.

But with the gay-marriage debate once again front and center as a result of Hollingsworth v. Perry — the case that came before the Supreme Court this week on whether California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional — the United States might want to look to its southern neighbor instead. 

In December 2012, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a ruling on same-sex marriage in a case not so different from Hollingsworth v. Perry. When the state of Oaxaca passed legislation defining marriage narrowly as a union between a man and a woman (30 states in the United States have amended their constitutions with similar language), Mexico’s highest court unanimously overturned the law, arguing that it constituted a violation of "the principle of equality."

Who did the court cite to support its ruling? None other than the U.S. Supreme Court:

In the celebrated case of Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court argued that "[r]estricting marriage rights as belonging to one race or another is incompatible with the equal protection clause" under the U.S. Constitution. In connection with this analogy, we can say that the normative power to get married is of little use if the opportunity to marry the person one chooses is not granted.

The Prop 8 decision is not expected until late June. And while the Supreme Court does not often look to international cases for guidance, perhaps it will make an exception for the Mexican ruling it inspired.

Marya Hannun is a Ph.D. student in Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter at: @mrhannun.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.