From Alaska to Patagonia, supporters of same-sex weddings won important legal victories in recent days. And I would bet that — despite strong Roman Catholic Church opposition — gay marriages will be legal in most countries of the hemisphere sooner than you think.
Mexico's Supreme Court ruled Aug. 5 that Mexico City's six-month-old law authorizing same-sex marriage is constitutional, rejecting an appeal from federal prosecutors. Five Mexican states have passed laws allowing same-sex weddings recently, and the Supreme Court ruling is expected to drive several others to do so shortly.
On Aug. 4, a San Francisco federal judge overturned California's ban on same-sex marriages, drawing celebrations there. The case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court, which would decide if gays have a constitutional right to marry in all U.S. states.
Gay marriages are already legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.
On July 21, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex weddings. Bills to legalize gay marriages have been introduced or are in the process of being drafted in Chile, Peru, Colombia, and several other countries in the region.
Elsewhere, since the Netherlands legalized same-sex marriages in 2001, it has been followed by Belgium in 2003, Spain and Canada in 2005, Norway and Sweden in 2009, and Portugal and Iceland earlier this year.
Catholic Church bishops have called same-sex weddings "abominable," arguing among other things that the scriptures call on people to grow and multiply, and that one of the essential goals of marriage is procreation.
In addition, many Roman Catholic priests say legalization of gay marriages would set a dangerous precedent, and that homosexuals could get inheritance and other rights through civil unions or other legal arrangements.
Where will we draw the line? We could soon have marriages between three, four or twenty-five people. Or we could have marriages between humans and animals, Rev. Alfred Cioffi, a Catholic priest and professor of Bioethics told me in a television show. "Forcing the legalization of gay marriage amounts to destroying the concept of marriage," he said.
Supporters of gay marriages respond that gay marriages are nothing new — Roman Emperors are said to have married male partners 2,000 years ago — and that the Bible has several other passages calling for equality and fairness that back their case.
As for the argument that gay marriages set a dangerous precedent, they respond that the same was said by opponents of inter-racial marriages before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized such weddings in 1967.
Whites and blacks have been marrying ever since, often producing very successful children — such as the current president of the United States, they argue.
As for the most contentious issue regarding same-sex weddings — adoptions — supporters of same-sex marriages say there are no scientific studies proving that adopted children of gays have a greater propensity than others to become homosexuals. On the contrary, many children raised by gay couples are heterosexual, they say.
My opinion: Same-sex marriages will soon be legal virtually everywhere, because of business reasons.
The gay tourism market makes up for about 15 percent of the world tourism market, according to some estimates, and few countries are going to miss the chance to lure it.
Mexico's Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara told me last week that gays on average spend more money — and more time — on vacations than heterosexual couples, and that her country will actively go after this market. The U.S. gay tourism market alone spends $65 billion a year, she said.
Not surprisingly, as a promotional stunt, Mexico City authorities rushed to offer a free trip to their city to the first Argentine couple who got married under Argentina's same-sex marriage law. The race for the lucrative gay tourism market has just begun.
As it often happens, what started as a civil rights crusade will end up prevailing for pure economic reasons.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Andres Oppenheimer is a Miami Herald syndicated columnist and a member of The Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1999 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the 2001 King of Spain prize, and the 2005 Emmy Suncoast award. He is the author of Castro's Final Hour; Bordering on Chaos, on Mexico's crisis; Cronicas de heroes y bandidos, Ojos vendados, Cuentos Chinos and most recently of Saving the Americas. E-mail Andres at email@example.com. Live chat with Oppenheimer every Thursday at 1 p.m. at The Miami Herald.