December 12, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
Uruguay lawmakers approve same-sex marriage bill
Uruguay, rainbow flag, gay news, Washington Blade

A rainbow flag hung outside the Uruguayan Congress ahead of Tuesday’s same-sex marriage vote. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Poggi/Colectivo Ovejas Negras)

Uruguayan lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the South American country.

The measure passed in the country’s House of Representatives by an 81-6 vote margin more than six hours after lawmakers began debating it.

Deputy Gerardo Amarilla cited what he described as “isolated terrorists that cry homophobia before any dissenting opinion” before claiming the same-sex marriage law would further undermine the family. The Associated Press reported Deputy Anibel Gloodtdofsky of the right-wing Colorado Party was among those who planned to vote in support of the measure.

“We are ending decades of institutionalized discrimination from the state,” Deputy Nicolás Núñez said as he spoke in support of the proposal.

The Uruguayan Senate is widely expected to pass the same-sex marriage bill once it reconvenes in March. President José Mujica has said he plans to sign the measure into law.

“Today, we are a step further of becoming a more democratic and just society,” Álvaro Queiruga of the LGBT advocacy group Colectivo Ovejas Negras said. Activists and other supporters of the measure celebrated its passage in a square in front of the Uruguayan Congress in Montevideo, the country’s capital, as he spoke to the Washington Blade from Toronto where he is currently visiting family. “The LGBT population will no longer be denied an essential right such as this one. We are very happy today, and this will empower us to continue our fight for a better Uruguay without second class citizens due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Uruguay, which has allowed gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions since 2009, would become the second South American country after neighboring Argentina to allow same-sex marriage.

Gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry in Mexico City since 2010, while Ecuador allows civil unions for same-sex couples.

Same-sex couples in Colombia will automatically receive full marriage rights in June if the country’s lawmakers do not act upon a court ruling that orders them to legislate the matter. A Colombian Senate committee last week approved a measure that would legalize nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Mexican Supreme Court on Dec. 5 unanimously struck down a law in the state of Oaxaca that banned nuptials for gays and lesbians after three same-sex couples tried to apply for marriage licenses. Local advocates and observers expect the decision will eventually lead to same-sex marriage across Mexico.

Even though Uruguay is poised to become the 12th country to legalize same-sex marriage, Queiruga reiterated his group will continue to advocate on behalf of LGBT Uruguayans.

He noted the country has been on the “vanguard” of progressive social legislation in Latin America and the world in regards to divorce, workers’ rights and other issues. A non-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression took effect in 2004.

“This is the last major law that was needed to be approved for the LGBT population,” Queiruga told the Blade, noting Uruguay already has same-sex adoption, anti-transgender discrimination and civil unions laws. “We are very happy. We’ll definitely empower to continue fighting for other rights we have happens throughout the world. The trans population is most vulnerable. In Uruguay it’s no exception. This year five trans people were murdered because of their identity, so we are going to continue fighting for our rights.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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