A group of 171 senators and deputies in Brazil have joined a “Parliamentary Front for the LGBT Community,” which will promote the legalization of gay marriage, Spanish news agency EFE reported.

The effort is helmed by Senator Marta Suplicy and Congressman Jean Wyllys, Brazil's first openly gay lawmaker.

Wyllys, who parlayed a 2005 Big Brother Brazil win into a political career, is also an outspoken gay rights advocate. A member of the socialist-inspired P-SOL party, Wyllys has said he's received homophobic threats on social networks, including Twitter, for backing the intiative.

Suplicy, 66, is the former Mayor of Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and the world's sixth largest, and a member of the Worker's Party (Patido dos Trabalhadores). She studied in the United States, first at Michigan State University and later at Stanford University.

Argentine National Deputy Vilma Ibarra, who played a prominent role in last year's effort to legalize gay marriage in her country, and the Spanish socialist Pedro Zerolo were on hand at Tuesday's announcement.

Zerolo urged lawmakers to “stay the course” on equality and “make possible what seems impossible.”

He told EFE that he was “proud” that Spain, which legalized gay marriage in 2005, served as a model for an increasing number of Latin American countries.

“Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay are already on that road and Brazil, which is a key country in Latin America and the world, is not included,” Zerolo said.

Currently, gay and lesbian couples cannot legally marry in Brazil, where marriage is regulated by the federal government, not the states, but the gay community has won significant rights through the courts.