At 4 am on July, 15, 2010, after a fourteen hour long debate, the Argentinean Senate approved the law that authorizes same-sex marriages. 33 senators voted in favour of the bill, 27 against and 3 abstained. Argentina thus became the first Latin American country and one of the few around the world to legalize gay marriage.

The debate became very heated at times. Every senator had the chance to speak; topics like homosexuality and what it means to be homosexual, religion, traditional family values and discrimination were discussed.

The new law grants homosexual couples the same rights, responsibilities and protections as heterosexual couples. From now on, same-sex couples will be able to adopt children and inherit wealth, for example.

Adoption proved to be a highly controversial issue. Some senators supported the idea that homosexual couples should be able to adopt children. In reality, under the current adoption legislation no one is required to state their sexual orientation, which means that homosexuals were able to adopt. The difference is that now they can do it as a couple.

This law faced fierce opposition by the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical organizations. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, campaigned actively against the passage of this bill by sending out a letter to every parish and Catholic school urging congregations to participate in the protest march to be held on July 13. The march drew 60,000 people but these efforts eventually proved futile.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, actively supported the law. With their usual confrontational style, the couple rebuked the Catholic Church saying that “it was time for religious leaders to recognize how much more liberal and less discriminatory the nation’s social mores have become”.

Some political observers and members of the opposition accused the Kirchners of opportunism as this law might be seen as an achievement of the current administration (although it actually was proposed by the opposition) and thus improve Mr. Kirchner’s chances of wooing liberal voters when he runs for president in 2011.

Politics aside, one thing is clear: there has been a shift in Argentinean society towards equality and broad-mindedness in the last decade or so and the grip of the Catholic Church on the country’s affairs is not as strong as it used to be.

La Nacion daily newspaper
The Daily Telegraph
The New York Times

Photos: La Nacion

About the author

Ana Astri-O’Reilly is from Argentina, where she lived until five years ago. She currently lives in Dallas, USA with her British husband, but they move a lot. Previously a translator and English and Spanish teacher, Ana first started writing to share her experiences and adventures with friends and family. She speaks Spanish, English and a smattering of Portuguese.