The Uruguay Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposed bill which seeks to legalize gay marriage in the nation.

Senators voted 23-8 in favor of the measure.

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 now heads back to the lower house, which approved it last year, for a vote on changes made in the Senate.

The proposal has the backing of the ruling Frente Amplio party.

“This is an issue of liberty, of people's choice and justice,” Senator Rafael Michelini is quoted as saying by the AP. “Liberty because the state should not meddle in who you should marry; of justice because if you marry abroad with someone of the same sex and later return to Uruguay, your marriage should be recognized.”

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.