Predominantly Catholic Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage

Predominantly Catholic country Argentina legalized same-sex marriage on July 15, after 14 hours of a marathon debate in the Senate, reports CNN.com. Argentina is the first Latin American country to do so, following the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, also predominantly Catholic countries.

The new law "gives same-sex couples equal marriage rights, including the ability to adopt children," says CNN.com, and is "backed by the center-left government of President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, who has said she will sign it."

The Associated Press reports that Maria Rachid, president of the Argentine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender federation, said, " "From today onward, Argentina is a more just and democratic country...The law "not only recognizes the rights of our families, but also the possibility of having access to health care, to leave a pension, to leave our assets to the people with whom we have shared many years of life, including our children," she said.

Prior to the law’s passage, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio led a concerted campaign by the Catholic Church against the bill, saying "children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother." Around 60,000 people marched to Congress in protest.

The capital city Buenos Aires is now expecting "a wave of gay weddings..Some gay business leaders are predicting an economic ripple effect from an increase in tourism among gays and lesbians who will see Argentina as an even more attractive destination," says the AP report. "Gays and lesbians who have already found Buenos Aires to be a welcoming place to live will likely rush to the altar, but same-sex couples from other countries will need to live in Argentina before becoming eligible, and the necessary residency documents can take months to obtain."

The 33-27 Senate vote split the ruling party and the opposition. "Sen. Juan Perez Alsina, usually a loyal supporter of the president, called marriage between a man and a woman "essential for the preservation of the species," reports AP. But Sen. Daniel Filmus  said, "Society has grown up. We aren’t the same as we were before," comparing "the discrimination closeted gays face to the oppression millions suffered under Argentina’s dictatorship years ago," and urging "fellow senators to show the world how much Argentina has matured."

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