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Five extraordinary people, marriage pioneers
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jeff Guaracino

This article shared 6443 times since Tue May 8, 2012
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I always say that I travel to learn about myself and about other people. On a January trip, I met five extraordinary people. Here is their story. This is the first time their story has been told to the U.S. gay press.

On Nov. 28, 2011, two couples joined by eight witnesses and one brave civil judge made Mexican history. The same-sex couples married, legally, in Cancun in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo.

Two women, Patricia Viovelo, 40, and Areli Castro, 23, and two men, Sergio Arturo Monje Cruz, 42, and Manuel Rexes Chale De La Fugute, 37, are modern-day gay pioneers.

Tour operator Ron Kuijpers arranged our extraordinary meeting in Cancun. He is the owner of Gay Tours Mexico ( www.gaytoursmexico ) and the Mexican ambassador for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association ( IGLTA ) . Kuijpers was also one of the eight witnesses at this historic wedding event.

"We have been carefully planning this since the 'I Love Cancun' gay pride last year summer," said Kuijpers. Cruz chimed in we were at a private pool party after Pride with Jaime La pez Vela. Vela was the first person to be married in Mexico City.

"We have been trying first through a gathering of a mass number of signatures to get the State Government to approve the same sex marriage, but when we saw that they were not very helpful. Somehow ( the government ) put the whole request on ice, we started together with some lawyers to study the State Civil laws very carefully and finally discovered a hole in these laws," continued Ron.

The loophole in Mexican law was that the law didn't specifically say that a couple had to be a man and a woman. It was always assumed that a marriage would be between opposite-sex couples.

Kuijpers continued, "With this knowledge we found a Civil Judge who was willing to have the two couples married. This happened totally secretly and we didn't make any press publicity till three days after the wedding had took place."

During our conversation, I discovered that their search for a civil judge who would be willing to perform the ceremony took them all over the Quintana Roo. On the outskirts of the state, about two hours outside of Cancun, one lone judge agreed to perform their ceremony. It was a ceremony that almost didn't happen. At the last minute, the judge was getting nervous about the political statement this simple wedding would make. These gay pioneers promised to protect her job with their vast political connections if she performed their wedding. She is still a civil judge.

Everyone was afraid.

Four days after the secret ceremony, the group organized a press conference to announce what it had done. A press conference was easy for the media-savvy Viovelo. She owns Cyd Publicity and Entertainment, and is now running for an elected position within the Mexican government. Her wife is a college student in a Catholic University.

The press conference was risky. Under Mexican law, the government has 15 business days to revoke the couples' marriage licenses. Creating more anxiety was that even their families didn't know about the wedding. They found out about the marriage on television.

Kuijpers said, "This [ press conference and marriages ] sent a shock wave through the political society from the Quintana Roo State. [ However, ] they haven't taken any action to revoke the two weddings. Still, some political parties are almost split about what happened. But really, what we have done is using the existing Civil laws and claim the rights according to these laws."

"Yes, this is very exciting news, although it is not yet 100-percent confirmed by the state government. But since the legal period to oppose the same-sex marriage [ has passed ] … there is no other answer possible than, 'Yes its legal!' If they [ the government ] , at this point, would still oppose they would violate a federal anti-discrimination law in force in the whole of Mexico. [ It ] would [ result ] in a lawsuit against the two couples that got married. The federal human-rights department has already agreed that in case of a lawsuit they would be at the side of the two couples. So, really, it is very hard for them to turn the clock back.

"I am very proud to have been part of this 'project' right from the beginning and was one of the witnesses for one couple during the civil service in November. So we still waiting on the final words from the state government but meanwhile we are planning to have a bigger group to get married at the same time somewhere."

This mass marriage was scheduled for February but has yet to happen. The idea was to have multiple couples go to the civil judge and ask for a marriage in front of TV cameras.

After two hours of cocktails, I asked the couples where they had gone for their honeymoon. Neither couple took a honeymoon—or even a wedding gift!

Jeff Guaracino is the author of Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing and the co-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.

This article shared 6443 times since Tue May 8, 2012
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