Uruguay legalizing gay marriage, despite Catholic opposition

(Photo: Reuters / Andres Stapff)A man celebrates outside the Congress building after Uruguay's Congress passed a bill to allow same-sex marriages, making it the second country in predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America to do so April 10, 2013. Seventy-one of 92 lawmakers in the lower house of Congress voted in favor of the proposal, one week after the Senate passed it by a wide majority. Leftist President Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Lawmakers in Uruguay voted to legalize same-sex marriage this week.

The move makes Uruguay the second South American nation, behind Argentina, to put marriage equality on the books.

On Wednesday, 71 of the Lower House's 92 members voted in support of the measure.

The Senate previously passed the bill on a vote 23 to 8 earlier in the month.

Supporters of the legislation filled the galleries of the Lower House with cheers and gay pride flags.

"This is a very special day, a historic day for Uruguay," Federico Grana said to the local newspaper, El Espectador.

Grana, an activist member of 'Black Sheep' group was ecstatic after passage of the law.

"The country is settling its debts with a large number of citizens who for the simple fact of loving someone of the same sex have suffered bullying and harassment," he said. With the passage of the bill, Uruguay will be able to move beyond that.

The Roman Catholic Church has been less enthusiastic about the measure's success.

Through the Uruguayan Episcopal Conference, Catholic leadership warned politicians that they were not taking into account the legal consequences of the bill and how it may hurt society's views on family.

Before the vote, the Catholic Church released a statement that called "'marriage equality" a false pretext that slants the conversation.

"[This is] not justice but an inconsistent assimilation that will only further weaken marriage," the statement said.

Once the passed bill becomes law, gay couples will be allowed to marry in Uruguay for the first time and enjoy all the same rights and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples receive under the law.

Homosexual couples already have the right to adopt children in Uruguay.

President José Mujica is expected to sign the bill into law within the month.

Human Rights Watch said Mujica's signature will make Uruguay the 12th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage at the national level.

The bill also raised the legal age of marital consent to 16 years. It had been at the age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys.

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