Uruguay has become the latest Latin American country to legalize gay marriage, following in the footsteps of Argentina, which introduced gay marriage in 2010. With a majority vote of 23 out of 31, the Uruguayan Senate on April 2 said yes to a bill that not only authorizes gay marriage but also improves adoption processes and streamlines divorce procedures.
The LGBT victory in Uruguay is the result of a two-year campaign. It started with the drafting of the law, whose authorship included activist and lawyer Michelle Suarez, of the LGBT collective Ovejas Negras. The text was then shared with other organizations in other social justice fields, such as women’s rights.
Once the text was sent to all political parties and parliamentarians, local governments, political and social organizations organized meetings and discussions throughout the country, attracting intense media interest, both in Uruguay and abroad. When the bill was submitted through parliament, Ovejas Negras garnered support and commitment from both government and opposition.
The project was passed by the lower house in December 2012, but government decided to postpone the vote at the last moment due to pressure from the conservative opposition. This resulted in a public protest against the civil registry in Montevideo and expressions of support from society at large. It worked. This week the Senate fulfilled its public commitment to approve the project and the Chamber of Deputies will give final approval next week.
“The decision is part of an advancement of the political system as a whole. In the last ten years, society has moved forward on these themes. Undoubtedly this is a step towards legal equality in Uruguay, although we still lack equality policies,” Ovejas Negras’ Maurício Coitiño told 429Magazine.
According to Coitiño, it is less hard to be LGBT in Uruguay these days. Political advancements such equal marriage and the previous law of gender identity have helped the LGBT community to feel more equal and to demand rights, he said. However, he noted there’s still work to be done for LGBT youth expelled from education and transsexual people.