They are perhaps Mexico’s best-known gay couple: one a soap opera actor, the other a theater producer. They were happy enough just being together, until things got better and they could wed.
And while it has not been easy, even though they had the law on their side, now Felipe Najera and Jaime Morales are the predominantly Catholic country’s first same-sex couple to be able to adopt a child through a public institution — though others have adopted through private agencies. Their daughter Alejandra is a year-and-a-half old.
The sprawling metropolis of Mexico City legalized gay marriage in 2009, although the rest of the country has not yet done so.
Morales, a 55-year-old architect turned theater producer, said when he and Najera saw all the work that lawmakers put into getting the law passed, they decided to get married and did so in 2010.
“It was not something we needed. We were already an established couple. But we think that this struggle had to be reflected in an event,” said Morales, who has been with 47-year-old Najera, a regular in the showbiz tabloid press, for 13 years.
But starting a family was not easy, even though the law says gay couples can adopt children.
Najera said a lot of government agencies in Mexico City have nevertheless failed to update their rules and regulations to allow for the right to adoption.
They hit nothing but roadblocks when they went to the DIF, a national program for arranging adoptions.
So in 2012, they turned to the Mexico City attorney general’s office and, after undergoing a thorough evaluation, were deemed fit to raise a child.
Najera, with a baby bottle in his hand while Alejandra played out in the yard, said authorities wanted to make sure he and Morales were psychologically fit and balanced.
He challenged critics of the idea of two men raising a child, saying heterosexuals are not necessarily that good at it and, in fact, often fail.
“All the children who are abandoned or awaiting adoption come from heterosexual relationships,” he said.
Morales explained that he and his husband took people’s prejudices into account in deciding whether to adopt a boy or a girl, before opting for the latter.
“We thought a girl would have it easier than a boy adopted by two men. If the boy turns out to be gay, (people will say) we passed it on to him, or the really sick minds could even think that we might rape him,” Morales said.
“The world is changing but not that much,” he added.
After gay marriage was approved in the Mexican capital, prosecutors with the federal government filed suit in the Supreme Court to try to have the law deemed unconstitutional. They failed.
In fact, the court ruled that three couples that wanted to wed in the southern state of Oaxaca could do so, even though local law did not allow for it. That set a precedent for homosexuals anywhere in Mexico to be able to get married if they fight it out in court.
Gay couples in five other Mexican states plan to use this route to wed, according to a lawyer who specializes in the issue.
But whatever the law may say, gay marriage does not in fact guarantee the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples in Mexico.
For three years, Najera battled the national actors’ union because it denies his husband and daughter the medical insurance it grants to spouses and kids of heterosexuals.
In the end, the union was found to be discriminating against gays and it agreed just days ago to give the same rights to homosexuals as it does to its heterosexual members.
Advocates say more than 2,000 gay couples have wed, but only a dozen or so receive social security benefits.
And they got those benefits by going to court and receiving rulings that are handed down on a case-by-case basis, with no blanket legal precedent established. So gay couples have to fight it out on their own.
There are other hiccups as well: gay couples have trouble getting the same tax breaks as heterosexuals, or inheritance rights, or taking out a joint loan, or making medical decisions for a partner if he or she is incapacitated.
Najera says he would love to perform in a soap opera addressing the problems of gays in Mexico but laughs and acknowledges: “I don’t have the money to produce it.”