Mexico City (AFP) - Thousands of people marched throughout Mexico Saturday to protest President Enrique Pena Nieto's initiative to legalize gay marriage.
The National Front for the Family -- a coalition of conservative religious groups -- called for the protests, and is also planning a mass march for September 24 in Mexico City.
"Long live the family, in the image of the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus and Saint Joseph," read one sign at the protest in the city of Puebla, the capital of a central Mexican state with a strong Catholic presence.
"Papa + Mama = Happy Family," read another sign at that protest, where many of the protesters dressed in white and carried pink, blue and white-colored balloons.
Some 5,000 people marched in Veracruz, where some engaged in verbal clashes with gay rights counter-protestors.
Thousands of people of various religious denominations also turned out to protest in the streets of the northern border city Ciudad Juarez.
In May Pena Nieto announced a constitutional reform that would legalize same-sex marriage across Mexico. Several other Latin American countries already allow such unions.
The announcement followed a Supreme Court ruling last year declaring that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Currently only a handful of the country's 31 states and Mexico City allow such weddings.
The National Front for the Family group strongly opposes same-sex couples adopting children, and also opposes teaching about homosexuality and transsexuality in school sex education classes.
A gay rights advocacy group said that homophobia has surged in Mexico since Pena Nieto's proposal.
The Citizen Commission against Homophobic Hate Crimes said at least 26 people from the LGBT community were killed so far this year.
The group reported 44 anti-gay murders in 2015, down from 72 in 2014.