December 29, 2009 in Nation/World

Gay marriage in Argentina is first in Latin America

Almudena Calatrava Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Alex Freyre, right, and Jose Maria Di Bello, pictured at their marriage ceremony on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Two Argentine men were joined Monday in Latin America’s first same-sex marriage, traveling to the southernmost tip of the Americas to find a welcoming spot to wed.

Gay rights activists Jose Maria Di Bello, 41, and Alex Freyre, 39, were married in Ushuaia, the capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego state, in a civil ceremony witnessed by state and federal officials.

“My knees didn’t stop shaking,” Di Bello said. “We are the first gay couple in Latin America to marry.”

The couple had previously tried to marry in Buenos Aires but were thwarted by city officials citing conflicting judicial rulings. Argentina’s Constitution is silent on whether marriage must be between a man and a woman, effectively leaving the matter to provincial officials.

Tierra del Fuego Gov. Fabiana Rios said in a statement that gay marriage “is an important advance in human rights and social inclusion and we are very happy that this has happened in our state.”

Many in Argentina and throughout Latin America remain opposed to gay marriage, particularly the Roman Catholic Church.

“The decision took me by surprise and I’m concerned,” said Bishop Juan Carlos, of the southern city of Rio Gallegos, calling the marriage “an attack against the survival of the human species.”

Same-sex civil unions have been legalized in Uruguay, Buenos Aires and Mexico City, but marriage generally carries more exclusive rights such as adopting children, inheriting wealth and enabling a partner to gain citizenship.

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