Jan 17, 7:30 PM EST

Lawyer says Mexican city of Mexicali finally lets his gay clients marry after long legal fight

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MEXICALI, Mexico (AP) -- The first same-sex marriage was held Saturday in this city on the border with California, after officials ended an 18-month fight that led to a Mexican Supreme Court order to permit the wedding, a lawyer for the couple said.

Attorney Jose Luis Marquez Saavedra had filed a complaint Friday against Mexicali officials after authorities again blocked the marriage despite the high court ruling. The lawyer said the city let Victor Fernando Urias Amparo and Victor Manuel Aguirre Espinoza wed Saturday and he expressed satisfaction that their rights had been upheld.

Urias also said he was satisfied the marriage had been allowed to go forward, telling local reporters that the case showed that "when people work together, this works."

Mexican federal courts have issued rulings sympathetic to same-sex marriage, but for the most part that has not translated into legalization at the local level.

The country does not have a single national civil code but rather one each for the 31 states and the Federal District of Mexico City. Thirty of those entities, including Baja California state, where Mexicali is, do not allow same-sex marriage. Only the capital and the northern state of Coahuila permit such unions.

When Urias and Aguirre first tried to marry in Mexicali in 2013, the local Civil Registry rejected them, saying Mexico's constitution recognizes only unions of opposite-sex couples. They then went to the Supreme Court and got an injunction authorizing their nuptials.

Civil Registry officials rejected their petition again, saying bureaucratic procedures had not been followed. On a third try in November, the registry said the couple had failed to attend mandatory pre-marriage counseling. Then this month, City Hall told them they couldn't attend those sessions.

Saavedra then filed his complaint Friday accusing the mayor, two municipal workers and a state employee of failing to fulfill their public duties.

In Latin America, Argentina and Uruguay are the only countries that recognize same-sex marriages. Fifteen other nations around the world also have legalized such unions.

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