Argentina Becomes First Latin American Country to Approve Gay Marriage

After a heated debate that lasted until 4 a.m. in the morning, Argentina is set to become the first country in Latin America to recognize same-sex marriage. The Senate approved the measure following the foot steps of the lower house, and President Cristina Fernandez is certain to sign the measure into law. Nearly 70 percent of Argentinians support marriage equality according to polls even in face of strong opposition from the Catholic church. Will the rest of Latin America follow?

The New York Times reports that the Cathloic church staged mass protests against the measure with tens of thousands of people. One cardinal even called gay marriage a "destructive attack on God's plan."

"They are portraying this as a religious moral issue and as a threat to 'the natural order,' when what we are really doing is looking at a reality that is already there," President Kirchner shot back at Church leadership. "It would be a terrible distortion of democracy if they denied minorities their rights."

Mexico City recognizes gay marriage, and Uruguay and Colombia have legalized civil unions, but Argentina has become the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage.

Nearly 70 percent of the population supports the measure, even in a society dominated by the Catholic church.

"Argentina is a country with a fairly recent history of dictatorships, an overwhelmingly Catholic population (at least in name), and pervasive social conservatism, with extreme restrictions on abortion rights similar to those found on much of the continent," explains Glenn Greenwald at Salon. "The Catholic Church in Argentina vehemently opposed the enactment of this law. But no matter. Ending discrimination against same-sex couples is understood as a matter of basic equality, not social progressiveness, and it thus commands widespread support."

However, some lawmakers compared discrimination against homosexuals to the country's plight under dictatorship.

"What defines us is our humanity, and what runs against humanity is intolerance," said Sen. Norma Morandini.

So will other Latin American countries follow step? Legal rights for same sex couples have been considered in Costa Rica, a debate over civil unions is currently brewing in Brazil, Ecuador recognizes civil unions as equal to marriage but bans gay marriage in name.

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