A gay marriage bill in Uruguay is expected to clear a critical hurdle on its way to becoming law as the Uruguay Senate reconvenes on Tuesday.

Senator Luis Rosadilla of the ruling Frente Amplio party earlier confirmed that the measure will be debated in the upcoming session. Other reports state that the chamber could vote on the issue as early as Tuesday.

The “Marriage Equality Law” seeks to modify some 20 articles of the Civil Code, including whose surname goes first when children are named.

The bill cleared the nation's lower house in December and President Jose Mujica has expressed support for it.

After passage in the House and an initial nod in the Senate late last year, leaders agreed to postpone debate on the issue following an outcry from opponents who said they needed more time to study the proposal's text.

The House will need to vote on alterations made to the bill in the Senate, but the changes are not controversial.

Uruguay currently recognizes gay couples with civil unions. After a couple has lived in a “stable relationship” for 5 years, they may petition the government for the recognition.

If the marriage law is approved, Uruguay would become the 12th nation to legalize such unions. In South America, only Argentina has extended marriage to gay couples. But inroads are being made in several other countries, including Mexico and Brazil. Colombia is currently debating the issue.