Uniting two people, dividing a continent

Left-wing lawmakers stomp on conservative toes with gay marriage bill

Mexico City lawmakers made a leap yesterday to become the first city in Latin America to allow gay marriage, passing a bill that is widely expected to be signed into law by the leftist mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, of the Democratic Revolution Party.

However, the left may be going a little too far for the liking of strongly conservative and Roman Catholic Mexico, not to mention the whole of Latin America. The bill, although it has given hope to liberals across the continent, threatens to pull the two sides further apart.

The assembly has already stepped on conservatives' toes with a number of unpopular decisions, including legalising abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. That decision was followed by a backlash, with the majority of Mexico's other 32 states enacting legislation stating life begins at conception. Roughly 90 per cent of Mexico's 108 million-strong population identify themselves as Catholic.

Moreover, while certain cities in South America do permit same-sex civil unions, the halting of possibly the continent's most controversial marriage earlier this month is a reminder that there is only so much that Latin Americans are willing to accept.

The Argentinians Alex Freyre and José Maria di Bello were to be married on 1 December after they were granted a marriage licence by a city court judge who ruled that it was unconstitutional for civil law to stipulate that a marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. The ruling, which was greeted with furious debate in the media and hostile posters across Buenos Aires, was halted by another judge.

Despite the murmurs of discontent, it appears that Mexico City legislators, who have also already legalised abortion, have more up their sleeve. According to the BBC, a spokesman told the AFP news agency that city legislators were now including a measure in the bill that would allow married same-sex couples to adopt children.

President Felipe Calderón's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, has vowed to challenge the gay marriage law in the courts. Church leaders are also expected to pressure Ebrard to veto the bill.

"Recognising homosexual civil unions as marriage goes against the public good and the emotional development of our children," Giovanni Gutierrez, a PAN city lawmaker, told the Financial Times.

 

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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