MEXICO CITY — Two glowing brides in matching white gowns and four other same-sex couples made history in Mexico City on Thursday as they wed under Latin America's first law that explicitly approves gay marriage.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard was a guest of honor at the weddings of Judith Vazquez and Lol Kin Castaneda and the other couples who tied the knot in a city building, despite harsh criticism from the Roman Catholic Church and a campaign against the measure by President Felipe Calderon's conservative National Action Party.
Vazquez, a 45-year-old small-business owner, and Castaneda, a 33-year-old psychologist, signed and put their thumb print on the official documents. Then they sealed their union with a kiss amid cheers from family and friends gathered in the colonial-era building's courtyard, decorated with calla lilies, banners with the colors of Mexico's flag and a sign that read "Tolerance, Liberty, Equality, Solidarity."
"This is the mark of freedom," said Vazquez, raising her thumb.
Vazquez said she and Castaneda have considered themselves married ever since they moved in together six years ago.
"The difference today is that the state will recognize it," she said while getting her hair done at home before the wedding. "This is a victory for all. ... For us this is a day of celebration."
Mexico City's legislature passed the first law explicitly giving gay marriages the same status as heterosexual ones in December. The legislation also allows same-sex couples to adopt children.
For now the law applies only to residents of Mexico City, though a marriage performed in one state must be recognized in the rest of the country.
"Today is a historic day in Mexico City," said Judge Hegel Cortes, who officiated the weddings. "With the signing of these marriage certificates, we leave behind the traditional idea of a family and we allow for two people, regardless of sexual orientation, to get married."
Thursday's weddings are not the first of their kind in Latin America, although they are the first approved under legislative authority.
In December, two Argentine men were wed in a civil ceremony by a sympathetic governor and with court approval. But interpretations vary on whether Argentine law allows same-sex unions, and the question is now before that country's Supreme Court.
Argentina's constitution is silent on whether marriage must be between a man and a woman, effectively leaving the matter to provincial officials. A law specifically legalizing gay marriage has stalled in Congress since October.
The new law in Mexico's capital district, which is home to roughly 8 million people, has been closely watched in the United States, where same-sex marriage is legal in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
In New York, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spokesman Pedro Julio Serrano cheered the milestone.
"People in the United States can look up to Mexico City and see a courageous legislature taking a stand," he said. "It's a model to follow."
Federal prosecutors are attempting to overturn the law, which Mexico City lawmakers argue simply gives same-sex couples the rights that heterosexual couples have regarding social security and other benefits.
The Catholic Church has hotly criticized the law, especially its provision letting same-sex couples adopt children – something several couples said they are considering.
On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Mexico accused the city government of approving a "perverse and immoral law."
"It may be legal, but it will never be moral," spokesman Hugo Valdemar Romero said in a statement.
Outside the city building, about two dozen protesters held banners that read "one man plus one woman equals marriage."
"A family is formed by a father and a mother," said Teresa Vazquez, a 51-year-old homemaker and member of a group opposed to same-sex marriage. "And I don't agree with their idea that a couple of two men is a family, because it's not and it's a bad example for children."