The Uruguayan Senate voted yesterday, 2nd April, to pass a bill legalising marriage between couples of the same sex.
After seven hours of debate, the bill won unanimous approval by senators of the Frente Amplio (FA) party and partial endorsement by those of the opposition parties, Partido Nacional and Partido Colorado. The legislation passed with a total of 23 to 8 votes in the Congressional upper house.
The legislation recognises marriage between homosexual couples by defining how the state constitutes marriage. The law states, “Civil matrimony is the permanent union, arranged under law, of two people of different or the same sex.” The bill also includes modifications of the country’s Civil Code to equalise the marital status of same-sex couples with that of heterosexuals, by replacing the words “man” and “woman” with “spouse”, for example.
The same-sex marriage proposal will now be returned to the Lower House for approval, and if it passes, will then be signed into law by President José Mujica, who has indicated support for the bill.
The Catholic Church has announced its disapproval of the Senate’s decision, stating that the measure devalues the institution of marriage. Senator Monica Xavier responded to these claims stating that the bill does not, in fact, diminish the sanctity of marriage nor have to do with religion at all, stating, “Here we are speaking about ‘rights,’ with capital letters. Rights that were denied and repressed for a long time, and which a society that is trying to be modern and inclusive necessarily must recognise, to advance in equality.”
Since 2007 Uruguay has begun approving more rights for homosexual people, including legalising enlistment in the armed forces and allowing for same-sex civil unions. In 2009 Uruguay became the first country in the region to allow for homosexual couples to adopt children.
If the lower chamber of Congress approves the bill, Uruguay will become the 12th country in the world to legalise gay marriage and the second in Latin America, after Argentina did so in 2010.