Spanish socialist Pedro Zerolo told Uruguay lawmakers and community leaders this was the country's moment to approve gay marriage, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.

Zerolo, a Madrid councilman, met with lawmakers and members of Uruguay's gay community.

Uruguay's moment to approve a gay marriage law and make history on the continent is at hand, Zerolo said on Friday.

In comments to the news agency, he added that he was proud that Spain, which legalized such unions in 2005, served as a model for an increasing number of countries.

“Spain showed that when there is political courage, promises come true. Passage inspired the United States and produced changes in the region. Next up is Uruguay, this is their moment, it is only a matter of time before the project is approved,” he said.

Representative Sebastian Sabini of the Frente Amplio, the nation's ruling party, formally introduced his bill earlier this month. Backers believe the measure will be debated in the House of Representatives this year and the legislation will reach the Senate in early 2012.

In 2007, Uruguay became the first Latin American nation to recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions. Two years later, former President Tabare Vazquez signed a groundbreaking transgender law that sets the legal guidelines for people who want to change their gender.

“In Uruguay there are already laws that help homosexuals, but marriage allows access to social benefits provided by the state,” Sabini said.

Last year, Argentina became the first nation in the region to legalize gay marriage. Gay couples in Mexico can marry in the municipality of Mexico City and their marriages are recognized throughout the nation.