An increasing number of lawmakers in Latin America support recognition of gay unions, including marriage.

The trend kicked into gear two years ago when Uruguay's leftist President Tabare Vazquez signed a bill recognizing the relationships of gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, a move that has placed the tiny country at odds with its more conservative neighbors.

But Vazquez is not alone is his support for gay unions. Throughout the region, lawmakers are increasingly taking up the cause.

Despite enormous pressure from social conservatives and religious groups, including the Roman Catholic church, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard signed the region's first gay marriage law last December. Ebrard was among the officials on hand when the city's first five gay and lesbian couples exchanged vows in March.

The law only covers the 10 million Mexicans living in the nation's capital and most populous city, but the law does not impose a residency requirement. And unlike the United States, no Mexican state has defined marriage as a heterosexual union in its constitution, leaving the possibility that more progressive states might recognize the marriages.

The legislation also abolished a previous prohibition that banned gay couples from adopting children under the city's previous civil unions law.

Lawmakers in Argentina will decide the fate of a gay marriage bill on July 14. That's the day when senators are expected to take up the measure already approved by the nation's lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies (la Camara de Diputados).

Opponents of the law – mostly religious groups – are mobilizing to kill the bill. A nationwide May 31 demonstration organized by Roman Catholic and evangelical churches that oppose gay marriage is being followed by a second rally next Saturday. Organizers say they oppose gay marriage because the family consists of a mom and a dad. Fliers promoting the demonstration include the caption, “A message from the children: We want a mom and dad,” and claim millions of members. The Facebook page promoting the anti-gay marriage campaign and next week's event, We Love Mom & Dad (Queremos Papa Y Mama), has attracted nearly four thousand members.

Despite the campaign, Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner has said she would not block the measure from becoming law, if approved by senators.

A bill introduced last week in the Chilean Senate would recognize gay couples with civil unions.

The legislation faces steep opposition from lawmakers who'd rather not vote on controversial issues during an election year, but recently elected President Sebastian Pinera has backed the measure.

“It will neither undermine nor weaken the institution of marriage, nor will it create a covert type of gay marriage,” he said. “Rather, it will resolve real problems that people are experiencing.”

Pinera is considered a right-wing politician, but he has embraced gay rights. A Pinera campaign advertisement included two gay men.

Meanwhile, back in Argentina, five gay and lesbian couples have already persuaded judges to allow them to marry and 60 more challenges are pending. Leaving little doubt that the issue will continue to make headlines in the region even if Argentine senators reject the gay marriage bill.