February 15, 2008

A Gay Marriage Takes Place on Both Sides of the Border

By Mariana Martínez

Just below the lighthouse in Tijuana, the couples hands play as they are about to promise each other eternal love in front of the crashing waves. Their family surrounds them, all dressed up, video camera at hand.

This would be just another seashore wedding, it if was not for the fact that the couple is in fact two women, joining their lives together in a ceremony called “the union of the sands.”

The two “brides”, are 23 year old Margarita Espinosa and 22 year old Cristian Cortés.

Margarita Espinosa, right, walks with her partner Christyan Cortes along the border wall before their wedding ceremony in what they say is the first gay marriage in Playas de Tijuana. The couple were married by a reverend from the Progressive Universal Life Church of San Diego in what Reverend Daisy Mayers said was a commitment ceremony. February 2, 2008. Photo - David Maung

Margarita is clad in a white strapless gown with flowers in her hand, while Cristian is wearing an all white pants and shirt that shows her tattooed arms, testimony of a rough life she has been able to steer back.

They both share huge smiles while being surrounded by family, friends and a few people that have gathered to watch such an unusual wedding.

Margarita and Christian met last year thru mutual friends and it was exactly under the lighthouse where they ended their first date; with their first kiss.

“Christian is my first girlfriend”, said Margarita, “It has been such a wonderful relationship that it’s only logic that it wound up here, with us performing this ceremony…I’m so excited.”

Margarita´s mother, Azucena Chávez, admits it has not been easy to accept her daughter’s homosexual lifestyle, especially because it goes against traditional Mexican education and Catholicism publicly condemns it.

“My family is split between those who accept her, and those who don’t,” Ms. Chavez explains, “but for both me and my husband, the priority is to keep our family together, no matter how they choose to live their life.”

Margarita Espinosa and Christyan Cortes kiss during their gay wedding ceremony at the border wall in Playas de Tijuana.

For Christian, the union is not only of two people, but also two cultures.

She is a US citizen, born from a Mexican immigrant family, who has never left the US, while Margarita and her family are all Mexicans from the southern state of Guerrero.

For the ceremony, some of Christian’s relatives who cannot come to Mexico because of their immigration status, traveled to Border Field Park to witness the ceremony thru the border fence.

“When we go back to the US we are going to do the paperwork to become domestic partners” she explained, “that way she can live in the US with me and her legal rights will be protected just like they are with other wives.”

Same sex marriage is still a very controversial topic both in Mexico and in the US.

Conservative and religious groups insist that marriage be defined as the union between a woman and a man, while gay rights activists consider it discriminatory for homosexual couples not to have the same social, labor and tax benefits as heterosexual couples.

Victor Clark Alfaro, human rights activist and sociology professor at SDSU admits that homosexuality is still a very controversial idea not embraced by the majority of Mexican society.

“There has been change, little by little, the population has become more sensitive and respectful, but public displays such as this wedding can unfortunately have a negative effect, creating rejection amongst the population, because they can see it as somehow grotesque”, Clark explained.

“It is very complicated issue, but as more and more families decide to embrace and support their homosexual family members, there will be more overall acceptance,” he added.

In the US just a few cities, —including San Francisco—, accept homosexual marriage as such, while in Mexico, only Mexico City and the Northern state of Coahuila have approved homosexual unions.

But in the mist of heavy debate, love runs its course, so Christian and Margarita decided to perform a “sand ceremony” with the help of reverend Daisy Mayers, representative of the Universal Church.

The couple took three bottles filled with colored sand and mixed them all in one crystal vase, to symbolize the union of their past, present and future in an inseparable one.

They exchanged rings and after the traditional kiss, they had a special announcement.

Margarita has been going to a fertility specialist and with the help of a sperm donor; they expect her to become pregnant in the next few months.

“Even if people condemn our way of life, we hope and deserve what every human wants: a steady partner, a house, a family, we have no reason to refrain from what we dream”, said Christian with her new wife by her side.

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