Consular diplomacy and LGBT rights – lessons from Mexico

The inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights has become an essential part of the human rights agenda and as such it must be incorporated in consular protection policies. Mexico’s leadership on consular diplomacy and diaspora empowerment, particularly through its consulates in the United States, can provide unique assets to contribute to the strengthening of LGBT rights.

Since 2010, the Mexican Supreme Court emitted key rulings regarding LGBT rights; after recognizing same-sex marriage in Mexico City, in 2015 it ruled that state bans against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. In accordance with these decisions, in April of this year Mexico’s president presented a constitutional reform to legalize same-sex marriage in the country and make it a permanent part of the legal code. These national changes have impacted Mexico’s foreign policy, and over the years there have been different initiatives to construct a formal framework to connect with LGBT Mexicans abroad.

{mosads}Mexico has been at the forefront of consular innovations, implementing core integral empowerment programs in key areas through its 51 consular representations in the U.S. (the largest network a country has in the world); health, education, civil rights and specialized legal counsel initiatives have been constructed rendering important results and expertise. This has created a network of allies to carry out consular functions in a more effective manner; through daily interactions with U.S. authorities, community organizations, academic and financial institutions, and media, consulates connect key actors and authorities with Mexican nationals.

Following this model, Mexico has pushed towards a more visible drive to bring LGBT issues to the consular agenda. Collaborations efforts were established with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to combat bullying of LGBT youth, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) conducted training to consular officials. These steps triggered further actions by consulates in response to their own local dynamics; consulates in Los Angeles, Nogales and Kansas have engaged in coalitions to combat domestic violence, hate crimes, bullying and trafficking acknowledging the LGBT community; Los Angeles and Sacramento have participated in Pride events, and Santa Ana has been working with the Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement to address the situation of Mexican transgender women in immigration detention centers.

To continue moving forward, we now need to expand our collaboration with longstanding allies that already have an inclusive LGBT agenda. For example, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and even federal authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), are actively addressing LGBT rights as part of their overall strategies. This cohort of allies, NGOs, legal groups, attorneys, community leaders and organizations, need to be consulted and included in outreach efforts to the Mexican LGBT community.

Furthermore, Mexico should work with think tanks and academic institutions that conduct research and analysis of the LGBT community in the U.S. There is still limited information regarding the Hispanic LGBT community, even more so of the Mexican. Thus, through our consular offices data can be acquired to assist authorities to develop more accurate outreach policies, create better resources and improve consular services and programs. However, what is essential is a more visible support from the Mexican consular and diplomatic network to LGBT rights. When the head of a consular representation incorporates gender identity and sexual orientation as part of its agenda, it sends a message of awareness and a willingness to engage.

Mexico can exercise unique regional and international leadership on this subject by strengthening current programs and encouraging consulates to strengthen their local niches to engage with LGBT actors and allies in order to construct support networks. Such actions will empower the LGBT community and as a result, the Mexican community as a whole.

Vanessa Calva Ruiz is Deputy Director General Consular Protection Policies, Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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