Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel addressed the Mexican Senate on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to advance LGBT rights in the country of some 120 million people.
On the third day of his first official visit to Mexico, Bettel, one of the only openly gay heads of state in the world, also spoke about the importance of women’s rights.
“I know that Mexico – and I don’t say this just to please you Mr. President – is more advanced than other countries on all these issues,” Bettel told senators.
“(But) Mexico City doesn’t represent the whole country, of course. And there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Gay marriage was legalized in Mexico City in 2009, and in 2015, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional.
But less than half of Mexico’s 32 states currently allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, and homophobia and transphobia remain persistent.
Bettel’s candid discourse on LGBT+ issues was seen by some as a landmark moment for gay rights in Mexico.
“It’s a historic speech,” Genaro Lozano a political scientist and commentator who often writes about LGBT+ rights told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We’ve never heard a speech that was so pro-LGBT rights and so pro-women’s rights from any foreign dignitary in the Mexican Senate.”
Lozano, whose column in the local Reforma newspaper on the significance of Bettel’s visit was mentioned by the Luxembourg leader, said the speech could help drum up support for LGBT+ rights among lawmakers.
“I think his message resonated a lot with the Senate, in a congress which I think has the most number of allies to feminist and LGBT issues in its history.”
Among those allies is Patricia Mercado, a senator from the Citizens’ Movement party who has recently promoted a bill to ban gay conversion therapy in Mexico.
Bettel’s speech could bring LGBT+ rights further into the mainstream of Mexican politics, Mercado said.
“It takes us out of the margins,” she said.
“With his presence, with this speech, it says that no, we’re actually at the center of what it means nowadays to be a society which thinks about its people, which respects its people, and its diversity. It helps us a lot.”
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Bettel’s speech in the Senate follows meetings with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, as well as Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Monday.
“We share with Luxembourg the conviction for an advanced [LGBT+] agenda,” Ebrard said on Twitter following the meeting.
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 news.trust.org