By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
The First Chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court ruled yesterday that homophobic expressions are not protected under freedom of expression.
Mexican news outlet Milenio reports that in 2010 Armando Prida Huerta, the publisher of Puebla newspaper Síntesis, took Enrique Núñez Quiroz, the publisher of rival publication Intolerancia, to court, charging him for “moral damage.” The charges came after Núñez published a column in which he referred to Prida as a “puñal” (a regional slang term similar to “fag”) and claimed that all Síntesis employees were “maricones” (faggots). Two lower courts ruled in Prida’s favor and ordered Núñez to pay damages; when Núñez appealed both decisions, the case reached the Supreme Court.
In yesterday’s landmark 3-2 decision, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that expressions such as as “maricones” or “puñal” “constitute discriminatory statements even if they are expressed jokingly, since they can be used to encourage, promote and justify intolerance against gays.” Andres Duque at Blabbeando translates the statement issued by the court:
In this sense, the First Chamber determined that homophobic expressions or – in other words the frequent allegations that homosexuality is not a valid option but an inferior condition – constitute discriminatory statements even if they are expressed jokingly, since they can be used to encourage, promote and justify intolerance against gays.
For this reason, the Chamber determined that the terms used in this specific case – made up of the words “maricones” and “puñal” – were offensive. These are expressions which are certainly deeply rooted in the language of Mexican society but the truth is that the practices of a majority of participants of a society cannot trump violations of basic rights.
In addition, the First Chamber determined that these expressions were irrelevant since their usage was not needed in resolving the dispute taking place as related to the mutual criticism between two journalists from Puebla. Therefore it was determined that the expressions “maricones” and “puñal”, just as they were used in this specific case, were not protected by the Constitution.
It should be noted that the First Chamber does not hold that certain expressions which could be taken as having homophobic intent in abstract can never be validly used in scientific research or in artistic works. That does not, in itself, imply employing hate speech.
Duque notes some Mexican legal pundits — such as La Jornada‘s Jesús Aranda — posit that “the ruling might be limited to the use of homophobic expressions in media when the intent is to cause derogatory harm. Their interpretation of the ruling is that ‘the words maricón and puñal when used in a journalistic article constitute discriminatory terminology and are part of homophobic discourse towards gay people.'”