MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that two homophobic words commonly used in Mexico to humiliate gay men are not protected as freedom of expression under the constitution, allowing those offended by them to sue for moral damages.
The magistrates voted 3-2 late Wednesday in favor of a journalist from the central city of Puebla who in 2010 sued a reporter at a different newspaper who had written a column referring to him and others as a “puñal” and “maricones.”
“Puñal” is a slang term used in some regions of Mexico akin to calling someone a “fag,” and “maricones” is a reference to “faggots.”
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.
La Jornada reported that the ruling might be limited to the use of homophobic expressions in the media when the intent is to cause derogatory harm.
Alejandro Brito, director of Letter S, a gay rights group, said that the resolution will lead to a more respectful way of referring to gay people but that it falls short of having an impact on the mentality of anti-gay Mexicans.
“This will inhibit the use of the words in public forums and the media, and that’s very positive,” Brito said. “But this doesn’t mean that the person who stops saying these words will stop being homophobic.”