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Photo by Eduardo Verdugo / AP
Photo by Eduardo Verdugo / AP

Mexico's first openly Nonbinary magistrate found dead
Mexico's first openly Nonbinary magistrate and prominent Queer activist, Ociel Baena, was found dead at home in the central state of Aguascalientes, Mexican authorities said on Monday.

Baena, who used they/them pronouns, was celebrated across Latin America for their work to advance the rights of the Queer community. In October 2022, Baena was sworn in as a magistrate on the Aguascalientes state electoral tribunal in front of the rainbow flag, according to a photo they shared on X under the caption "Making history."

Mexico's Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez said authorities are investigating the cause of death. "We don't know yet ... if it was a homicide or if it was some kind of accident," she said during the president's regular morning press conference.

The Aguascalientes state prosecutor's office said in a statement that Baena's body was found along with that of another person, whom local media identified as Baena's partner.

Preliminary findings showed no evidence of a third party at the scene and that the deaths could have been a "personal matter," the statement said.

The authorities are carrying out a forensic analysis to determine the cause of death, the office said.

In Baena's honor, Queer activists are planning vigils and demonstrations on Monday night in Aguascalientes, as well as Mexico City, Monterrey, and other major cities.

Human rights organizations are calling for an investigation into whether Baena's death was related to their gender identity.

The former chief justice of Mexico's Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldivar, said he deeply lamented Baena's death. "We lost a strong voice for equality and the rights of LGBTI+ people," he said in a social media post.

Latvia's President Edgars Rinkevics — Photo by Bebeto Matthews / AP  

Latvian parliament legalizes same-sex partnerships
On Thursday, Latvia's parliament voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions, providing them with legal recognition but fewer rights than married couples.

Homosexuality remains a divisive topic in Latvia, where legislators in 2005 changed the constitution to define marriage as only allowed between a man and a woman.

The new legislation, which is due to come into force in the middle of next year, allows same-sex couples to register their partnership with a notary. It allows such partners hospital visitation rights, as well as some tax and social security benefits.

But Kaspars Zalitis, a Gay rights activist, noted that same-sex couples would still not be able to adopt children and would continue to face inheritance issues.

"This is a great beginning... Latvia is not one of the six countries in the European Union that have no recognition for same-sex couples," he told Reuters.

Latvia's parliament elected President Edgars Rinkevics as the first openly Gay head of state in the European Union in May, despite 45% of Latvians telling a 2019 Eurobarometer poll they would be uncomfortable with having a Gay or Bisexual high-ranking official.

The 2019 poll found 54% of Latvians uncomfortable with having a Gay or Bisexual colleague, while according to a 2023 Globsec poll, only 40% of the country supports legalizing same-sex rights such as marriage.

Justice Minister Inese Libina-Egnere said the parliament did not intend to provide civil union partners with similar rights to married couples.

"We are acknowledging that we have families which are not married, and this is the way they can register their relationship," she told Reuters. "The political will is to have a really specific kind of registered partnership."

The top Latvian court ruled in 2020 that the country must recognize nonmarried families, and 46 same-sex couples successfully petitioned the courts to get recognized as family units, public broadcaster LSM said.

Latvia's neighbor Estonia legalized same-sex marriage in June.