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Social Issues
Uruguay Legalizes Marriage Equality; It’s Now The Law In 12 Countries Worldwide
April 11, 2013
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Uruguay just became the third country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, after Canada and Argentina, and the 12th worldwide.

The "marriage equality project" bill passed with the backing of 71 members of Uruguay's 92-seat Senate chamber, and a large crowd that gathered to watch the vote broke out in cheers. Leftist President Jose Mujica (who is a fascinating guy) is expected to sign the bill into law.

"We are living a historic moment," said Federico Grana, a leader of the Black Sheep Collective, a gay rights group that originally wrote the proposed bill.

"In terms of the steps needed, we calculate that the first gay couples should be getting married 90 days after the promulgation of the law, or in the middle of July," he told Al Jazeera.

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As well as legalizing same-sex marriage, the new law allows foreign couples to come to Uruguay to get married (just as heterosexual couples can).

In fact, the law will rewrite Uruguay's marriage rules in a lot of ways: now, instead of referring to "husband and wife," marriage contracts will use the words "contracting parties."

All married couples will be able to choose which spouse's surname comes first when they have kids, and all couples can adopt and undergo in-vitro fertilization.

As well, Uruguay's divorce laws, which are pretty interesting, will get an update.

In 1912, the country decided that only women would be allowed to unilaterally renounce their wedding vows, as a way of equalizing the power imbalance between men and women. Under the new law, either spouse will be able to unilaterally request a divorce and get one.

And the new law will raise the minimum marriage age. People of either gender must now be at least 16 to get married. Existing laws in Uruguay allow girls to marry at 12 and boys at 14.

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Nationalist senator Gerardo Amarilla, who voted against the bill, said it "debases the institution of marriage" and has an impact on the family and its "role in procreation."

And the Catholic Church, traditionally a big influence in Uruguay, where 53 per cent of people are Catholic, said that legalized same-sex marriage is "not justice but an inconsistent assimilation that will only further weaken marriage."

Now that the bill is to become law, Uruguay joins 11 other nations that have legalized same-sex marriage. Here are the others, with the date when they changed their laws:

Netherlands (2001)
Belgium (2003)
Spain (2005)
Canada (2005)
South Africa (2006)
Norway (2009)
Sweden (2009)
Portugal (2010)
Iceland (2010)
Argentina (2010)
Denmark (2010)

Back in February, the BBC put together this map of countries that had legalized marriage equality, and those where some states had done so. Check that out below:

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Related:

Battle Over Marriage Equality In America Goes Before U.S. Supreme Court

Celebrating Equality: PFLAG To Honour Outstanding Allies Of Gays & Lesbians

Thousands March Against Marriage Equality Bill In France

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