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Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage, first nation in Latin America

July 15, 2010 | 12:57 pm

Argentina senate gay marriage vote

Argentina legalized same-sex marriage in an early-morning vote Thursday, making it the first country in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic region of Latin America to grant gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. After a long and emotional debate, the Senate voted 33 to 27, with three abstentions, to approve a measure that had passed Argentina's lower house.

The vote came at 4 a.m. and scores of gay rights demonstrators erupted in cheers and applause after the results reached the crowds outside Congress in Buenos Aires.

The law allows married gay couples to adopt children and inherit wealth. With its passage, Argentina joins only the Mexican Federal District, or Mexico City, in Latin America allowing same-sex marriage, in addition to the region's former colonial powers of Portugal and Spain. In the Americas, Canada is the only other country with a similar law.

The U.S. polling blog FiveThirtyEight compiled a chart showing that 250 million people worldwide now live in entities that allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex civil unions are legal in Uruguay and in some states in Brazil and Mexico.

Leading up to the vote in Argentina, thousands joined the protests of the Roman Catholic Church and demonstrated against the law, contending as in other countries that same-sex marriage could threaten the "family unit." But President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was a strong supporter, arguing in a news interview that the legislation was a matter of applying equal civil rights among Argentina's citizens.

"But what worries me the most is the tone in which these issues are being discussed," she said, according to the blog Blabbeando, which uploaded and translated the clip. "I heard someone talk about 'God's war'! As if we were still in the time of the Crusades. ... It's not good because it establishes, as a society, a place which I don't think any of us wants to have."

Activists in neighboring Chile and Paraguay are hoping to launch a similar campaign after Argentina's vote, the Associated Press reported.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Argentina's Senate begins to debate a same-sex marriage bill. Credit: Clarin.com

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