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In Latin America first, Argentina legalizes gay marriage

Argentina today became the first country in Latin America to embrace same-sex marriage nationwide. Until now, only cities had legalized such rights, as did Mexico City in December.

By Staff writer / July 15, 2010

Demonstrators gather outside Argentina's congress during a rally to support a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Buenos Aires, Wednesday. On Thursday, the senate passed the bill 33-27, making Argentina the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP

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Mexico City

After more than 14 hours of a heated debate and warring words, Argentina today became the first country in Latin America to embrace same-sex marriage nationwide.

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Argentina's Senate early Thursday passed the bill 33-27 to grant same-sex couples all the legal rights of marriage that heterosexual couples enjoy.

The bill had been passed in May by Argentina's lower house, and is firmly supported by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is expected to sign it into law when she returns later this week from a state visit to China.

The debate pitted traditional voices and the Roman Catholic Church against President Fernandez and widespread public sentiment. Nearly 70 percent of Argentines support same-sex marriage, according to a June survey by Buenos Aires-based firm Analogias. Just seven years ago, a poll found that nearly half of all Argentines opposed a law that legalized civil unions in the capital.

Bitter divisions

Today's debate still drew bitter divisions between supporters and opponents, as it has across the US, Europe, and pockets of Latin America.

Local television showed thousands of protesters braving the cold wintry air of Buenos Aires to voice opposition to the bill throughout the night, while supporters held candlelight vigils. The government's National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism organized a public gathering of artists to support the bill.

In deeply Catholic Latin America, the church has taken a leading voice among opponents. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio called gay marriage in Argentina a loss for everyone, saying “children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother.”

Ms. Fernandez, speaking from China, reiterated her support for the bill and her dissent with the Catholic Church over the issue. “It's very worrisome to hear words like 'God's war' or 'the devil's project,' things that recall the times of the Inquisition," she said this week.

Political calculations

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