Rodrigo Iván Cortés is a former member of the Mexican Congress and leader of political advocacy organization Frente Nacional por la Familia (“National Front for the Family” or “FNF”).
Beginning in September 2022, the FNF expressed concern on Twitter that a bill presented by Salma Luévano, a Congressional representative who identifies as transgender, constituted a grave violation of the rights to freedom of speech and religious freedom in Mexico. The bill aimed to penalize the propagation of Christian teaching on sexuality as a form of “hate speech”. It garnered significant attention when Luévano presented the bill wearing the vestments of a Catholic bishop.
Luévano filed a complaint against Cortés, arguing that a series of 9 social media posts on Twitter and Facebook constituted a violation of the right to be acknowledged as a woman and a “denial of identity”. Mexico’s Specialized Regional Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power found that the posts constituted gender-based political violence, as well as digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence against Luévano. The Chamber held that criticizing a transgender woman constitutes “undermining the political and electoral rights of women, and the unencumbered exercise of their public office”. This lower court ruling has been appealed to the Superior Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power (the highest constitutional court of the country for electoral issues), which is the court of last instance in Mexico for Cortés’ case. A judgment is expected soon.
Luévano, together with transgender-identifying representative María Clemente, has gained notoriety for fomenting unrest within Mexico’s Congress, including an incident where Clemente, supported by Luévano, physically wrestled with the president of the chamber to force him into relinquishing control of a congressional meeting in an attempt to force the expulsion of another lawmaker. Clemente also prompted international outrage by Tweeting explicit videos of Clemente’s own “sex work,” citing a right to freely share this kind of content on digital platforms.
Luévano and Clemente are members of the MORENA party, which has promoted constitutional amendments to enshrine “sexual rights,” without age distinctions, which would include minors; a proposal that the FNF criticized in one of the social media posts.
Like Cortés, Mr. Gabriel Quadri, a federal Congressman in Mexico, was accused of “gender-based political violence” for his Tweets regarding transgender ideology and fairness for women. Quadri expressed concern that men identifying as women are claiming spots reserved for women in Mexico’s Congress. He has been criminally charged for this following an accusation by Salma Luévano.
The Superior Chamber of the Federal Electoral Court rejected Mr. Quadri’s appeal and confirmed the sanction imposed by the lower court, forcing him to delete the tweets, pay a fine, issue a public apology, and registering him as a “gender based political offender”. ADF International submitted a petition to the Inter American Commission for Human Rights for Quadri’s right to free speech. He is waiting for the Commission to declare the case admissible.
“Disagreement is not discrimination, and peaceful dissent should never be penalized as violence. It is deeply disturbing that Cortés, who is exercising his right to peaceably share his views on a matter of significant current debate, has been convicted as a violent political offender when in fact it is his opponents that have a history of perpetuating unrest within Mexico’s political institutions,” stated Kristina Hjelkrem, legal counsel for ADF International, which is providing legal support to Cortés’ defense.
“Free speech is greatly threatened in Mexico at this time, and it has hit a crisis point with courts imposing severe censorship sanctions for the peaceful expression of views as evidenced by this egregious case. Unfortunately, Cortés’ case is far from an isolated incident,” said Hjelkrem.
“More and more, we are seeing the Mexican government violate its citizens’ fundamental and constitutional right to freedom of speech. Cortés spoke out, peacefully, in support of self-evident truth, and for that, he has been convicted as a violent offender and subjected to onerous punishments. Censorship is not compatible with a free society,” Hjelkrem added.