Mexican pro-life leader in court for criticizing trans legislator

gavel Credit: Zolnierek / Shutterstock

Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family (FNF) in Mexico, said he will appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights if the Superior Chamber of the Electoral Court of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF) rejects his appeal and upholds his Feb. 22 conviction by the Specialized Chamber of the same entity.

Cortés’ appeal was on the agenda of the Superior Chamber for May 3 but at the last minute the judges did not address the case. It is expected that the court will reschedule it in the coming days.

The FNF president had criticized Salma Luévano, a trans woman, for disrespectful remarks the federal legislator made regarding religious leaders who engage in so-called hate speech.

The Specialized Chamber found the pro-family leader guilty of “political violence against women based on gender,” saying that his criticisms of Luévano “were offensive and discriminatory by rejecting gender identity and devaluing the performance of the federal congresswoman, which constituted digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence against her.”

The incident dates back to Sept. 21, 2022, when Luévano appeared before the federal Chamber of Deputies (lower house) dressed as a bishop to promote the bill the lawmaker was introducing against so-called hate speech.

“With this outfit I intend to make myself noticed, on behalf of my population, and tell religious leaders, who coincidentally are the majority of upper-class white cisgender (i.e. heterosexual) men, enough of the speeches against our rights. With this initiative we will make them see reason,” Luévano said.

In response, the FNF and the Citizens Initiative platform charged on social media that “the transsexual deputy (congressman) Salma Luévano” with his act not only “insults the believers of a religion but insults all of Christianity.”

Cortés stated in a video that Luévano is “a man who describes himself as a woman, who demands respect, but it is exactly what he does not give; he asks for what he does not give, with tremendous disrespect.”

These and other posts critical of Luévano were removed from social media by order of the Grievances and Complaints Commission of the National Electoral Institute (INE) in November 2022.

Luévano subsequently filed a complaint against Cortés and the FNF.

On May 2, the day before the Superior Chamber was due to discuss the appeal by Cortés and the FNF, Luévano shared on Twitter that he had held a meeting with Felipe Fuentes Barrera, one of the judges of the Superior Chamber of the TEPJF who must decide the case.

In his tweet, the legislator described his meeting with Fuentes Barrera as “excellent” and said that they talked “about the importance of Affirmative Actions for the # LGBTTTIQ + population.”

The letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transexual, two-spirited, intersex, and queer.

“The #RainbowQuotas are here to stay!” Luévano added.

‘A terrible injustice’

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Cortés announced that if his appeal were rejected, he would take his case to international venues, to “the Inter-American System” of Human Rights.

In Mexico, in electoral matters, the highest judicial body is the Superior Chamber of the TEPJF, while in other cases appeals can go to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation.

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For Cortés, one of the irregularities in the proceedings against him is precisely that it is “a case that has nothing to do with elections.”

Luévano, he noted, is “a person who is a member of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, who is not a candidate for any office at all but who is holding an office. In my case, I am not a candidate for anything, nor is this within the context of any campaign.”

“Therefore, this case should not have been accepted, because it’s not an electoral matter,” he pointed out.

“If the Superior Chamber decides that the verdict of the (Specialized) Regional Chamber remains final, it would be committing a terrible injustice,” the FNF president stressed. 

Cortés said that, if his appeal is rejected, the court “would be going above the Constitution and international treaties” including the Pact of San José, as the American Convention on Human Rights is also known.

The Specialized Chamber that sentenced him, the pro-family leader pointed out, “already violated two elements that are fundamental” since “it would be violating on the one hand freedom of speech and on the other the right of all citizens to participate in the democratic conformation of the laws in Mexico.”

Cortés said that “the context in which this case occurs” was “the video that I made as president of the Front from the Chamber of Deputies in the month of September when Luévano, with a costume like a drag woman pope or woman bishop, introduced a bill which clearly goes against religious freedom.”

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The use of the term “hate speech,” warned the pro-family leader, aims to “prohibit and punish the speech they hate.”

Months ago, the Superior Chamber of the Electoral Court of the Federal Judiciary, in a case also promoted by Luévano, ruled against federal congressman Gabriel Quadri of the opposition National Action Party (PAN), who criticized on social media that “trans” persons occupy the seats reserved for women in the Federal Congress.

Since 2019, Mexico has a law that requires equal representation of men and women in all branches of government. In the 2021 elections, two “trans” congressmen who identify as women occupied seats in the Chamber of Deputies reserved for women.

The court decision could lead to Quadri seeing his political career cut short and unable to run for public office in the coming years.

For Cortés, “it’s clear that they seek to cancel the voice but also prohibit representation,” something that, he indicated, is seen “in authoritarian regimes.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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