by Rex Wockner
The U.S. consul general in Tijuana, Steve Kashkett, held a cocktail reception and meeting with about 50 members of Tijuana’s LGBT community June 28 at his residence in the city’s upscale Chapultepec neighborhood.
It was a first for the Tijuana consulate. Staff members said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had encouraged U.S. diplomats around the world to reach out to local gay communities during “pride month.”
Kashkett said he has had a strong connection with gay people since his days working in a bookstore in Amsterdam. He said the consulate is interested in knowing how it can help local LGBT people achieve their rights, and he forcefully stated that local U.S. diplomats want to be there for the gay community.
The consulate’s programs coordinator, Hector Vindiola, said the goal of the gathering was to “open up the dialogue in order to support the protection and advancement of (LGBT) rights in Tijuana.”
About 200 people work at the Tijuana U.S. consulate general.
Several San Diego LGBT activists were invited to the event, but only three attended. News reports about drug-related violence have left some Southern Californians unwilling to visit Baja California in recent years. The two cities are about 15 miles apart.
Tijuana has long had a well-developed gay bar and club scene. It has had a gay pride parade for 16 years, though marchers never have totaled more than 1,000 in the city of 1.6 million people. In recent years, LGBT cultural organizations have formed and cultural events have become more common, sometimes with support from governmental agencies. For the past two years, there has been a large, outdoor, two-day gay festival in the center of downtown, separate from the pride parade.
Tijuana does not, however, have LGBT political organizations, and the gay community does not seem to be politically active in an organized way. Last year, when the Baja state Chamber of Deputies in Mexicali, the state capital, seemed poised to enact a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, reporters struggled to find anyone who understood the details of what was going on. The measure apparently died when the Chamber of Deputies changed hands in an election and the amendment was never transmitted to the state’s municipal councils for ratification.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico City, and a federal Supreme Court ruling mandated that those marriages must be recognized in all states. There is no indication the federal ruling has been tested by any gay couple in Baja California.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party that won control of the Baja Legislature does not seem to have an anti-gay agenda, while the National Action Party that lost control of the chamber is generally viewed as conservative and moralistic by many LGBT Tijuanans.