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article imageArgentina Witnesses Latin America's First Same-Sex Marriage

By Chris Dade     Dec 29, 2009 in Lifestyle
The world's southernmost city, Ushuaia, capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province, was the location on Monday for the first same-sex marriage in Latin America.
Alex Freyre, 39, and Jose Maria Di Bello, 41 had, as Sky News reports, originally planned to marry on December 1, World AIDS day.
Marrying on that day would have been particularly significant for Mr Freyre and Mr Di Bello as both men are HIV positive and actually met at an HIV awareness conference. The Associated Press confirms that Mr Freyre is the executive director of the Buenos Aires AIDS Foundation whilst Mr Di Bello is an executive with the Red Cross in Aregentina.
In November the couple obtained a marriage license from a judge in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires which would have allowed them to exchange vows in the country's largest city on their chosen date.
However a federal judge subsequently overturned the decision of the first judge, delaying the wedding of Mr Freyre and Mr Di Bello.
There are conflicting reports as to why the second judge reached the decision to suspend the wedding, Sky News stating that in Argentina marriage is considered to be a commitment that only a man and woman can enter in to, there is no reference to same-sex marriage being illegal as such, whilst the Associated Press notes that the Argentine constitution makes no mention of same-sex marriage, leaving the decision as to whether such a ceremony can be performed to the officials in the country's cities and provinces.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide explains that same-sex marriage is not recognized by the civil code in Argentina, adding that the constitution does not expressly forbid marriages between two people of the same sex.
One governor sympathetic to the predicament of Mr Freyre and Mr Di Bello was Fabiana Rios, for two years the most important politician in Tierra del Fuego province and currently the only female governor in Argentina. Ms Rios bestowed residency of her province upon the two men enabling their wedding to proceed on Monday, despite some initial legal objections from officials in Ushuaia.
Ms Rios issued a statement saying that same-sex marriage "is an important advance in human rights and social inclusion and we are very happy that this has happened in our state". Meanwhile Mr Di Bello and Mr Freyre explained:We're extremely excited and happy about what this means for all gays and lesbians in Argentina.
We weren't going to give up until we married
Bishop Juan Carlos Romanin from Rio Gallegos, another city in the south of Argentina, was somewhat less enthusiastic about the marriage of Mr Freyre and Mr Di Bello, saying that it was "an attack against the survival of the human species". The Roman Catholic Church in Latin America has been vocal in its opposition to same-sex marriage.
Back in 2002 Argentina became the first country in Latin America, a region described as conservative by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, to allow civil unions between two people of the same sex, although ceremonies are only performed in certain parts of the country, but a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has yet to be voted on in the country's Congress, having been introduced to the legislature, which consists of a 72-seat Senate and a 256-seat Chamber of Deputies, in October.
Digital Journal reported last week on how lawmakers in Mexico City had become the first in Latin America to vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Same-sex civil unions are at present legal in Mexico City and elsewhere in Latin America they are legal in Uruguay and some states in Mexico and Brazil. In addition Buenos Aires, the city in which Mr Freyre and Mr Di Bello had intended to marry, is one area of Argentina that allows civil unions . Uruguay also permits adoption by same-sex couples.
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