Skip to main content

Uruguay's senate approves same-sex marriage bill

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Dario Klein, CNN
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 0923 GMT (1723 HKT)
Gay couples observe the Senate's discussion of a bill on same-sex marriage in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Tuesday.
Gay couples observe the Senate's discussion of a bill on same-sex marriage in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Measure must be voted on by the lower house, signed by Uruguay's president
  • Catholic Church has fiercely opposed the proposal
  • Left-wing lawmakers say it's a matter of recognizing inherent human rights
  • If approved, Uruguay will become the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage

Montevideo, Uruguay (CNN) -- Uruguayan senators voted overwhelmingly in favor of a same-sex marriage measure Tuesday -- a key step that puts the South American nation on the path to becoming the 12th country to approve such a law.

Senators approved the marriage equality bill 23-8. Next week, lawmakers in the lower house, which approved a different version of the legislation late last year, are expected to vote on the senate's version.

If approved and signed by President Jose Mujica, who has indicated he supports the measure, the proposal would make Uruguay the second country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. Neighboring Argentina legalized such marriages in 2010.

It's an issue that's sparked debate and impassioned demonstrations from supporters and opponents in many countries.

Uruguay y los matrimonios gay

Legislators in France and the United Kingdom are among lawmakers worldwide weighing proposals to legalize same-sex marriage. In the United States, the question of same-sex marriage went before the Supreme Court last week, and justices are now deliberating over the matter.

The first same-sex couples walked down the aisle in the Netherlands in 2001. Since then, almost a dozen countries have passed laws allowing same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships, including Canada, South Africa, Belgium and Spain.

In Argentina, the push to legalize same-sex marriage met with fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- then the archbishop of Buenos Aires and now the pope -- engaging in a notorious war of words with the government over the issue.

In Uruguay, the church has taken a similar tack, with officials describing the measure as a harsh blow to the institutions of marriage and the family.

"Why make relative or devalue an institution that is already so injured, like the family, introducing deep modifications that are going to confuse more than clarify?" the Rev. Pablo Galimberti, bishop of Salto, wrote in a recent post on the website of the Uruguayan Bishops Council.

Uruguay's Broad Front, a coalition of left-wing political parties, backs the measure. On Tuesday, the group's president stressed that the proposed law change a civil institution and has nothing to do with the church.

"Here we are speaking about RIGHTS, with capital letters. Rights that were denied and repressed for a long time, and which a society that is trying to be modern and inclusive necessarily must recognize, to advance in equality," wrote Sen. Monica Xavier. "Rights that are inherent to people, that are not a legislative creation, but something that the law must recognize."

For years, it was rare to see gay rights issues gaining traction in Latin American countries.

Not anymore, Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, told CNN in 2010.

"Latin America currently has some of the most gay-friendly cities in the developing world," said Corrales, who ranked cities' gay-friendliness in a book he co-edited, "The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America."

In 2009, Uruguay was the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. It was also one the first Latin American countries to allow same-sex civil unions.

The measure approved by Uruguayan senators Tuesday removes the words "man" and "woman" from the country's civil code and replaces them with the word "spouse," CNN affiliate Teledoce reported.

Journalist Dario Klein reported from Montevideo, Uruguay. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta. CNN's Jason Miks contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley travels to North Korea, visiting an international wrestling festival and a slide-filled water park.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
In a raid on a luxury apartment complex, agents caught up with a French-Algerian man they accuse of bringing back terror to Europe.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic performers from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT