Buenos Aires: An Argentine judge paved the way for gay marriage when she granted a homosexual couple permission to marry in a first for Latin America, the world`s biggest Catholic region.
Buenos Aires, known for its active if low-key gay movement, yesterday became the region`s first city to approve civil unions for gay couples in 2002. It was followed by Villa Carlos Paz in the north and the southern province of Rio Negro.
Those civil unions grant gay couples some, but not all, the rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. Yesterday`s ruling by Judge Gabriela Seijas ordered the civil registry to make official the marriage of Alejandro Freyre, 39, and Jose Maria Di Bello, 41, who had been denied their request because they were both men.
It could increase pressure for lawmakers to take up a stalled gay marriage bill in Congress.
"We are very happy, moved, but we also feel the heavy weight of responsibility because it`s not just about us, it`s encouraging legal equality in Argentina and the rest of Latin America," Di Bello said.
The couple had filed a complaint in April. In the rest of Latin America, Mexico City, the Mexican state of Coahuila and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul also allow civil unions for same-sex couples. Uruguay became the first country in the region in late 2007 to legalise civil unions for gays. In January 2009, the Colombian Constitutional Court recognised a series of rights for homosexual couples, including social welfare rights.