It's a new day in Latin America after
the Argentine Senate approved a gay marriage bill early Thursday
Following a rancorous debate that began
shortly after noon on Wednesday and lasted more than 14 hours,
senators voted in favor of the bill in a 33-27 vote.
“I believe this has advanced equal
rights,” Senator Eugenio Artaza told reporters after the vote.
Argentina's lower house, the Chamber of
Deputies, approved the bill in May, and its president, Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner, backs the law.
Lawmakers approved the law over the
objections of the Roman Catholic Church, which had called the
movement to legalize gay marriage the devil's handiwork.
The church, to which 91% of the
population claims allegiance, rallied thousands outside
the doors of Congress as senators debated.
Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio
said the devil was behind the bill that “aims to confuse and
deceive the children of God.”
Gay marriage activists in the United
States used the opportunity to call on politicians to follow
“Today's historic vote shows how far
Catholic Argentina has come, from dictatorship to true democratic
values, and how far the freedom to marry movement has come as twelve
countries on four continents now embrace marriage equality,” Evan
Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, said.
“Key to Argentina's human rights
achievement was strong leadership from legislators and the president.
It is time we see more of our elected officials standing up for the
Constitution and all families here in the United States,” he added.
Uruguay has led the region on gay
rights. The country dropped its ban on gay troops serving in the
military and gave gay couples the right to adopt children. It also
recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions. Mexico City
approved a gay marriage law last December but the federal government
has challenged the law in court.
But Argentina now becomes the first
nation in Latin America to legalize gay marriage.
Some critics have charged that the
president peddled the issue to boost her family's political dynasty.
Former president Nestor Kirchner, now a congressman, is expected to
try to regain the presidential palace next year.
Polling shows that nearly 70 percent of
Argentinians support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.
Argentina becomes the third country to
legalize gay marriage this year. Portuguese
President Anibal Cavaco Silva reluctantly signed a gay marriage bill
into law on May 17, saying he was only doing so because lawmakers
were certain to overturn his veto. Portugal's gay marriage law,
however, forbids the adoption of children. And Iceland
replaced its system of registered partnerships for gay couples first
enacted in 1996 with marriage.