By Oscar Lopez
MEXICO, Nov 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A bill passed this week in Mexico's Senate granting same-sex couples equal social security benefits as heterosexuals now moves to the Chamber of Deputies, where advocates expect it will be voted into law.
The vote in the country's recently sworn-in upper house was unanimous.
The amendment also included motions granting gay and lesbian couples the right to a widow or widower's pension, as well as benefits for orphans of same-sex marriages.
"The fact that it's one of the first initiatives approved in the Senate gives a very good image that this is indeed a priority," Mexican LGBT+ activist Ricardo Baruch told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wednesday. "Let's hope that for the rest of this legislature and throughout the next federal government our rights remain a priority."
President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's Morena party won a majority in both the upper and lower houses of parliament in the July 1 election. Lopez Obrador became the first president-elect in history to recognize sexual diversity in his victory speech.
Morena Senator Martha Lucia Micher Camarena, who co-sponsored the bill, said Wednesday that the reforms would be the first of many such bills promoted by her party to advance LGBT+ rights in Mexico.
"An inclusive policy that benefits the (LGBT+) population is essential," she said. "Discrimination because of how you love, or who you love, cannot be accepted in this country."
Other Morena-backed bills coming up for consideration in the Senate include an amendment which would impose up to three years of jail time for anyone who practices gay conversion therapy.
Introducing the social security bill on Tuesday, Senator Gricelda Valencia de la Mora, president of the Senate Social Security Commission, called the session "special, historic and extraordinary."
"After a process of fighting for and winning the recognition and safeguarding of the rights of (LGBT+) communities, to whom I express my total recognition and support, they are finally seeing their efforts clarified," she said.
In 2015, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, allowing gay and lesbian couples in all states the right to marry, but this decision did not grant full social security benefits to same-sex couples.
The social security bill will now pass to the Mexico's parliamentary lower house for final review, but campaigners here are confident the measure will be approved.
"I don't think there will be unanimity in the Chamber of Deputies because opinions are a little more mixed," said Baruch. "But it's definitely expected that there won't be any complications for the initiative to go ahead." (Reporting by Oscar Lopez; Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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