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Legal recognition of same-sex marriage on the rise in South America

April 11, 2013

Uruguay's legislature voted overwhelmingly to legalize gay marriage April 10, making it the second South American country to do so after Argentina, and the third nation in the Americas after Canada.

In response to recent activity in Uruguay, marriage equality advocates are now pushing for new consideration of a bill that would formally recognize same sex unions.

Celebration breaks out across Uruguay
"We are living a historic moment," said Federico Grana, a leader of the gay rights group that drafted the proposal, reported the Wall Street Journal. "In terms of the steps needed, we calculate that the first gay couples should be getting married 90 days after the promulgation of the law, or in the middle of July."

Under the new law, which is referred to in Uruguay as the "marriage equality project," a single set of rules will govern all marriages within the nation regardless of couples' sexual orientation. The terms "husband" and "wife" will be replaced by the neutral term, contracting parties. Gay couples will be given autonomy to decide which surname to use after marriage, and will be allowed full adoption rights and access to in vitro fertilization. 

The law's broader effects raise the national age for legal marriage to 16, previously girls in Uruguay could marry at as young as 12 and boys could we after their 14th birthday, noted the Journal. Women's rights in divorce also saw and expansion as both men and women will be able to unilaterally request a divorce.

The law faced opposition from the Roman Catholic Church in Uruguay, which urged legislators to vote their conscience when considering fundamentally changing the definition of marriage. Conservatives like Senator Gerardo Amarilla also opposed the law, claiming it debases traditional marriage.

The battle moves to Chile
Boosted by Uruguay's decision, same sex marriage advocates in Chile are now pushing for new consideration of a plan to recognize homosexual unions first proposed by President Sebastián Piñera in 2011. The Life Partner Agreement would allow gay couples to register their partnership with a notary, according to UPI, but it has been stalled in the Chilean legislature for over a year. 

"Equal marriage in Uruguay exemplifies the changing mentality of Latin American society," spokesperson for Chile's Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation Oscar Rementería told The Santiago Times. "It sends a message to politicians and the government here that same-sex couples need legal protection too."

Debate on that subject continues in the Chilean Congress. Those who want to discuss same-sex partnership with friends and family around the world should consider picking up an international calling card and dropping the people they care about a line. 

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