Same-sex couples inch toward sharing benefits in Mexico City

By Mayela Sanchez  |  May 21, 2013 at 4:54 PM
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MEXICO CITY (GPI)-- Lawyer Jaime López was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2008. But he did not have health insurance to cover his treatment. As a sole practitioner, López did not have access to any public social security services available in Mexico through its two social security agencies. The Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social offers these benefits to employees of private companies, and Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado offers them to government employees. David González, López’s partner of 10 years, had health insurance through IMSS and tried to enroll López as his beneficiary. But IMSS denied their request because they were not married. The laws governing the social security agencies extend benefits to only spouses and concubines. By that point, López had already had his left kidney surgically removed to prevent the cancer from spreading. Since 2008, he has been receiving medical care at the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología, a public hospital in Mexico City for people without social security. He must pay for services out of pocket. López says he does not know how much money he has spent on his medical treatment. But he has had two operations and currently obtains medical consultations, which cost 400 pesos ($33), every six months. In March 2010, López and González became one of the first four couples to marry in Mexico City, only one week after the legalization of same-sex marriage took effect in the federal district. Once married, González again attempted to enroll López as a beneficiary. But IMSS denied them again – this time because the social security law governing the agency did not recognize same-sex marriage. Since then, López has pushed for changes in legislation governing the IMSS and ISSSTE to recognize the right of same-sex couples to share social security benefits. On May 13, ISSSTE changed its internal policy to enable same-sex couples to register their spouses. But ultimately, it is up to Congress to revise the social security laws governing the agencies, the Ley del Seguro Social and the Ley del ISSSTE. López has been instrumental in legislation that the Chamber of Deputies has passed to enable same-sex couples to share benefits. He is currently working with senators to develop legislation that would clear both bodies. Three years after same-sex marriage became legal in Mexico City, spouses are still not guaranteed access to each other’s benefits because of technicalities that have stalled proposals to modify the social security laws in Congress. Some couples have found alternative legal routes to obtain this right. ISSSTE changed its internal policy in May 2013, but the Senate is still developing its proposal to modify the social security laws. Meanwhile, legal experts and same-sex couples call on judges and society to broaden their definitions of marriage to prevent discrimination. The Mexico City government recognized marriage between people of the same sex in December 2009. Since the legalization took effect in March 2010, more than 2,000 couples have married in the federal district, López says. But as López and González have learned, marriage does not carry equal rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples, such as the right to share social security benefits. Social security benefits in Mexico include health insurance, pensions, housing credits, child care and financial assistance for funerals.

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