Argentina legalises gay marriage


ARGENTINA HAS become the first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage, giving same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples, including the right to adopt children.

The country’s senate approved the Bill in the early hours of yesterday morning by 33 votes against 27 following a marathon debate, which mirrored a heated national discussion on the measure.

President Cristina Kirchner welcomed the new law. She told reporters accompanying her on a visit to China: “If we think that 50 years ago women could not vote and not that long ago in the US you couldn’t have interracial marriages, and that in Argentina the only way to get married was in the church, and we found a way to change all that, we can say this is a positive step that defends the rights of minorities.”

Argentina’s Catholic Church was fiercely critical of the measure – particularly the provision allowing for gay adoption. On Tuesday it organised demonstrations across the country under the banner “Kids have the right to a father and mother”, demanding that legislators vote down the Bill.

In a letter, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires and head of the Argentine church, said the new law was not a political measure but rather “the intention to destroy the plan of God” and was promoted by “the father of lies who wants to confuse and trick the children of God”.

Argentina’s arch-conservative Catholic hierarchy has long had poor relations with the Kirchner administration. The president has said the church’s criticisms belonged to “the age of the Inquisition” and the “era of the Crusades”. The Catholic Church was backed in its opposition to the Bill by Argentina’s growing evangelical movement and the country’s Jewish and Muslim communities.

María Rachid, the head of Argentina’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Federation, said opponents had a right to protest the Bill, “but what is not right is that they try and impose this opposition on the rest of society”.

The vote is the latest, and biggest, advance in the growing campaign for gay marriage in Latin America. Last year, Mexico City became the first district in the region to legalise gay marriage. In 2008, Uruguay became the first country to legalise civil unions for gay couples, with Colombia and Ecuador since passing similar legislation.

In Brazil, the world’s most populous Catholic country, there have been attempts going back over a decade to get a Bill authorising gay civil unions through congress. Gay rights campaigners say the vote in Argentina will provide a boost to those efforts.

“I think this will make our legislator revise his ideas. He does not like to see that our legislature is falling behind,” said Maria Berenice Dias, a leading gay rights activist in Brazil.

Federal deputies backing a cross-party Bill say they now hope it will pass before the end of the year.

Both of the two main candidates in Brazil’s presidential election in October say they support civil unions for gays.