Argentina Legalizes Gay Marriage; First in Latin America

Argentina legalized same-sex marriage Thursday, offering gay couples all the same rights given to their heterosexual counterparts, including adopting children.

In a 33 to 27 vote, with three abstentions, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legally recognize gay marriage. While same-sex civil unions are recognized in Buenos Aires, parts of Mexico and Brazil and in Uruguay, no other Latin American country prior to Argentina had allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The unprecedented legislation passed despite intense opposition by the Roman Catholic Church, which is powerful in the predominantly Catholic nation. President Cristina Fernandez and her center-left government are strong advocates of gay rights and legalization of gay marriage. Fernandez has stated she will sign the legislation.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, commented that "everyone loses" with the legalization of gay marriage, according to The Associated Press. He also said children need to be raised by both a father and a mother.

Argentina now joins nine other countries in the world where same-sex marriage is legal, including Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.

In the United States, gay marriage is legal in five states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont – and federal district Washington, D.C.

This month, a Massachusetts federal judge ruled that the federal definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional. The decision opens the door for other states where gay marriage is legal to also challenge the federal definition of marriage.

The Justice Department has yet to announce if it plans to appeal the federal judge's decision and defend DOMA.

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