July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriages after an early morning Senate vote overcame lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church.
Following a 14-hour debate, the upper house voted 33-to-27 to approve the bill, which was passed by the lower chamber in May and is backed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
“This is a very significant step on the way to equality,” said Senator Miguel Pichetto, head of the ruling coalition bloc, after the vote. “Having approved the bill is a very positive fact that moves forward the principles of equality and freedom.”
Thousands of people marched in Buenos Aires streets in the past days at rallies in favor and against same-sex marriage. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said July 8 that the proposal isn’t “a political fight but an intention to destroy God’s plan,” according to newspaper InfoBae.com.
To become law, the bill has to be signed by Fernandez and published in the country’s official gazette.
“Today’s historic vote shows how far Catholic Argentina has come, from dictatorship to true democratic values, and how far the freedom-to-marry movement has come as 12 countries on four continents now embrace marriage equality,” Evan Wolfson, the executive director of the New York-based Freedom to Marry organization, said in an e-mail statement.
The city of Buenos Aires has since 2003 allowed gay couples to enter into civil unions, which gave health-insurance benefits to spouses of city employees and forced a city-run bank to offer joint loans to same-sex couples.
Still, the law didn’t allow them to adopt or give them rights to inheritance, according to Gustavo Lopez, a lawyer of the government-run Argentine Anti-Discrimination office.
Full marriage “recognizes families that already exist and protects them,” Lopez said. “The state has an obligation to protect all families.”
Mexico City allows gay marriage and permits same-sex couples to adopt. Uruguay permits civil unions.
To contact the reporter on this story: Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Walsh at email@example.com