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Uruguay legalizes marriage equality

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – The Uruguay Senate voted 28-8 today to approve a marriage-equality bill.

In December 2012, the lower house of Congress voted 81-6 in favor of a bill. President José Mujica has vowed that he will sign the bill into law.

Uruguay will join Argentina as the only two South American countries to provide marriage for all its citizens. Same-sex marriage is offered in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and parts of the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

The marriage bill in Uruguay breaks with Hispanic tradition by allowing all couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, to decide whose surname will go first when they name their children. Laws in Hispanic countries often require that children carry two names, with the father’s last name coming before the mother’s last name.

The bill also revises language in marriage and adoption laws to be gender-neutral.

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry in the United States, congratulated the people of Uruguay.

“Freedom to Marry applauds the people of Uruguay and their government for moving forward into a future in which all loving and committed couples can share in the freedom to marry and the meaning and protections marriage brings to families," he said.

"Uruguay’s vote today to move past civil union to marriage itself, Argentina’s enactment of the freedom to marry in 2010 and the Mexico Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last month in favor of the freedom to marry -- citing the U.S Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia -- all are inspirations and examples decision-makers here in the United States, including our Supreme Court justices, should swiftly follow to get the U.S. where it needs to be.”

Uruguay is swiftly becoming one of the most progressive nations in South America, where its residents are proud of a secular tradition in governing and where the Roman Catholic Church is less influential in politics than in other Latin countries.

Last year, Uruguay became the first Latin American nation to legalize abortion. This year, Uruguay is debating whether to legalize marijuana and have the government take charge of sales as a way to raise money and drive illegal traffickers out of business.