Since the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 that overturned states’ abilities to ban same-sex marriage, it’s pretty easy to forget that other countries are still fighting this fight. Currently, Australia is having a widely publicized and ultimately pointless mail-in public opinion poll. Canada, our northern and more progressive neighbor, legalized it 10 years before us. But what of our neighbor to the south?
While the Mexican federal government recognizes same-sex unions, whether to allow same-sex couples to marry is still a state-to-state issue. Currently, only five out of 31 states, as well as Mexico City, will grant same-sex marriage to their citizens. This documentary follows two men trying to become the first legally married same-sex couple in the Mexican state of Baja California.
Victor and Fernando (who is also named Victor, but he goes by his second name to avoid confusion) are hairdressers in Mexicali, the state capital. In their late-30s and early-40s, the men have been together practically forever. They never considered marriage before since it was something they just weren’t allowed to do. But as they have gotten older, and a major part of their jobs is to make so many brides look their best on their special days, Victor and Fernando began to ask, why can’t they have their own special day, too?
Director Cristina Herrera Borquez, a customer and friend of the couple, decided to film their journey. With the limitations of budget and virtually no crew to aid her, she crafts a film assembled from television news footage, interviews, and an endearing animated segment made from old photos of Victor and Fernando to tell each man’s life story.
From the onset, it was clear to them that there would be a fight, so they hired an attorney. An avid civil rights fighter, Jose Luis Marquez explains he had to carefully consider taking on the case, wondering whether people would think he was gay, too. (This has echoes of Denzel Washington debating whether to take on Tom Hanks’s case in Philadelphia way back in 1993.)
The couple is met with resistance from the state government every step of the way. The civil registrar claims she was duped into thinking their marriage license application was for a man and a woman and declares the signatures on the marriage certificate application were fake. A bomb threat just happens to be called in on the day they were to be married, and the government calls into question Fernando’s birth certificate and asks them both for HIV tests (even though they already had them done). It’s deplorable watching the state government officials intentionally look for inconsistencies and errors and then to have the gall to say this is all “normal procedure.”
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect about No Dress Code Required is watching Victor and Fernando, their friends, and the filmmaker, all just everyday people, being brave in the face of adversity, telling their government how it should work, and not letting it dictate how they should live. Whether you know the ending or not, Victor and Fernando’s story will inspire anyone who wants to stand up to this age of (mis)information.