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article imageSame-sex marriage legalized in Argentina

By Igor I. Solar     Jul 15, 2010 in Politics
Buenos Aires - The Argentine Congress approved early today a law allowing marriage of same-sex couples, becoming the first Latin American country to grant gays and lesbians the same rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage confers to heterosexual couples.
After a bitter all-night-long debate that pitted the government of President Cristina Fernandez against the Catholic Church, the project was signed into law by 33 votes in favour to 27 votes against and three abstentions. The project had received initial approval of the House of Representatives about two months ago.
On Tuesday night, thousands of Catholics and Protestants took to the streets to protest the initiative, supported by President Fernandez. Hundreds of demonstrators in favour of the project remained in front of Congress last night during the more than 14 hour-long debate, waiting for the definition of the legislators.
The new law, which was backed by both the ruling bloc and a broad sector of the opposition, reforms the civil code to allow gay marriage in a country with a predominantly Catholic population. The controversial law will also enable the adoption of children by homosexual couples, which has sparked further controversy.
Opposition Senator Eugenio Artaza told reporters after the adoption of the law:
"I think progress has been made towards equal rights,"
The political confrontation reached the church itself. Priest José Alessio was temporarily suspended by the Catholic Church for his support to gay marriage. The Archbishop of the central province of Cordoba, Carlos José Náñez, banned Alessio from the public practice of his priestly duties, including celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments of the Church while a canonical trial takes place, according to Aica on-line, a Catholic Chuch website based in Córdoba (in Spanish).
"I am in communion with God, my people and the Gospel, and that goes beyond the decision of a bishop or the Pope" said the 52 year-old priest to a local newspaper.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires argued:
“We must be careful in trying to protect the right of adults leaving aside the priority right of the children, who should be the only privileged, to have as models a father and a mother”.
Until now the only countries in the world allowing marriage between same sex couples included Holland, Sweden, Portugal and Canada. In the United States, gay couples can marry in five states and Washington DC.
So far, Mexico City was the only other city in Latin America where homosexuals have the same rights as heterosexual couples to marry and adopt children. Uruguay allows gays to adopt children but not to marry. Some Brazilian states also allow same-sex civil unions, but not marriages. The capital of Argentina had legislated locally to allow gay unions, but the law passed last night extends that right to the whole country.
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