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April 22, 2011

Uruguay set to be 2nd with marriage in South America

Montevideo, Uruguay--The Frente Amplio, the ruling party with a majority in both houses of Parliament, has put forward a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Uruguay.

If it passes, the country will become the second in South America with full same-sex marriage, after Argentina.

MP Sebastián Sabini, the author of the bill, told El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper, “We do not focus so much on the issue of gay marriage but of equal marriage regardless of sex, gender or religion.”

The bill would replace mention in the civil code with “spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife,” so it would cover transgender people as well. In addition, it would grant parental rights and obligations to someone married to the biological parent of a child.

The bill is expected to handily pass the Chamber of Deputies within months, and the Uruguayan Senate by the end of the year.

Uruguay passed a civil union law in 2007, the first in South America, and its immediate neighbor to the west, Argentina, passed the continent’s first same-sex marriage law in 2010. Homosexuality has been legal in Uruguay since 1934, and the age of consent is the same whether it’s same-sex or opposite-sex activity.

Same-sex couples can jointly adopt children, and both incitement to hatred and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are outlawed.

The country also allowed open enrollment in the military by gays and lesbians in 2009, a year and half before President Barack Obama signed a repeal law for “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the United States.

The same year, the country passed a law allowing birth certificates to have names and genders changed for transgendered people over 18.

If the marriage law passes, Uruguay will join Canada, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands and Mexico D.F., the capital of Mexico. While only the capital performs same-sex marriages, they are recognized nationally.

Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. all allow same-sex marriage, while Rhode Island, Maryland and New York recognize marriages performed in other jurisdictions where they are legal.

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