(New York) – The Uruguay Senate, in approving a bill on April 2, 2013, to legalize same-sex marriage, has moved to guarantee marriage equality and diminish discrimination, Human Rights Watch said. The vote was 23 to 8. Uruguay would be the 12th country to approve same-sex marriage nationwide.
The lower house of Uruguay’s legislature voted in December 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage. The Senate bill included some modifications, including a measure to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16 for everyone, instead of the present age 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Human Rights Watch urges all countries to eliminate child marriage and to adopt 18 as a minimum age for marriage for both sexes.
“Uruguayan senators made the right decision by allowing same-sex couples to marry,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Final approval will enable gays and lesbians in Uruguay to marry the person they love and will strengthen the fundamental rights of everyone in Uruguay to equality and non-discrimination.”
The modified law will most likely be discussed and voted upon by the lower house later in April. It is anticipated that the law will pass and that the first same-sex marriages could take place in July or August. The lower house should move to pass this bill swiftly, Human Rights Watch said.
Uruguay is not the first country in Latin America to introduce marriage equality. In 2010, Argentina’s congress approved a marriage equality law. Same-sex marriage became legal in Mexico City in the same year. In 2011, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to partnership rights through a civil union status. Since then, some Brazilian states – including the largest, São Paulo – have begun performing civil marriages for same-sex couples.
Dittrich, a former member of the Dutch Parliament, initiated the debate on marriage equality in the Dutch Parliament in 1994. After heated debates in parliament and in society at large, the Netherlands implemented same-sex marriage legislation in 2001, becoming the first country in the world to approve gay marriage.
Other countries have followed suit. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and parts of Mexico and Brazil as well as in nine states in the United States (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia).
In June the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to issue decisions in two cases, in which arguments were heard on March 26 and 27. Hollingsworth v. Perry challenges California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. United States v. Windsor concerns the denial of more than 1,000 types of federal benefits and programs to same-sex married couples under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.