After more than 14 hours of debate that lasted into the early morning, Argentina’s Senate voted 33–27 to pass a measure legalizing same-sex marriage on July 15, 2010. The legislation, known as the Marriage Equality Bill, affords same-sex couples equal marriage rights as heterosexual couples. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, signed the bill into law on July 21, 2010, making Argentina the first country in Latin America to approve same-sex marriage.
The new legislation will revise the country’s marriage law, Article II of the Argentina Civil Code, by replacing the words “man and woman” with the word “couple” and afford gay and lesbian couples the right to inheritance, pension rights, rights related to social security, and the right to adoption—by far the most controversial aspect of the new law. While the measure passed through the Chamber of Deputies, Argentina’s lower chamber, in May 2010, it was unclear whether it would be approved by the more conservative Senate. Opponents of the bill in the Senate offered up a competing bill that would have legalized civil unions but prohibited same-sex couples from adopting or electing in-vitro fertilization. That bill would have also permitted any civil servant to “conscientiously object” to the registry of a same-sex couple, but it was turned down during a procedural vote.
The proposition to legalize same-sex marriage also faced strong opposition by the country’s religious right. In a public demonstration held in the capital city of Buenos Aires the day before the bill’s passage, Catholic and evangelical leaders gathered 60,000 followers in front of the Congress building to rally against the bill. Buenos Aires Archbishop, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who led the campaign, stated that “children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother.”
Despite religious opposition to the bill, the vote to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples mirrors public opinion on the issue in Argentina, with polls showing support of more than 70 percent for marriage equality. Indeed, the debate over same-sex marriage has been viewed as a human rights issue, with many supporters comparing the discrimination faced by gays and lesbians to the oppression suffered by millions of Argentineans under the country’s previous dictatorial rule. “We are taking an important step for equal rights and reinstating dignity to a sector [of the population] that has been humiliated and discriminated against by unequal treatment in front of the law,” stated Deputy Vilma Ibarra, the primary sponsor of the bill.
Granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples has gained significant headway in Argentina over the past few years. A total of nine same-sex marriages have been granted in Argentina, although the majority has been overturned by the courts. The city of Buenos Aires first approved civil unions for gay couples in 2002, followed by the northern city, Villa Carlos Paz, and the southern province of Rio Negro. Then in November 2009, a Buenos Aires judge granted equal marriage rights to a gay couple—the first in South America—after their marriage license, granted by a provincial governor, was denied by a civil registry. Another gay couple was granted the right to marry by a civil registry in Buenos Aires in April 2010, less than a week before the Marriage Equality Bill was voted on by the Chamber of Deputies. Both of these marriages were later annulled by separate courts. The Senate’s passage of the Marriage Equality Bill, however, places Argentina among the ten countries in the world that recognize same-sex marriage, including Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.
“From today onward, Argentina is a more just and democratic country,” said Maria Rachid, president of the Argentine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Federation after the historic vote. “[The law] not only recognizes the rights of our families, but also the possibility of having access to health care, to leave a pension, to leave our assets to the people with whom we have shared many years of life, including our children.”
 Karina Grazina, “Argentina Approves Landmark Gay Marriage Bill,” Reuters, 15 July 2010, accessed 18 July 2010, <http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66E1IH20100715>; see also Bob Mondello, “Gay Marriage a Human Rights Issue in Argentina,” National Public Radio, 15 July 2010, accessed 18 July 2010, <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128545987>.
 “Q&A: Argentina Gay Marriage Law,” BBC, 15 July 2010, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267>.
 Michael Warren, “Argentina Gay Marriage Law: First Country in Latin America to Approve Same Sex Marriage,” Huffington Post, 15 July 2010, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/15/argentina-gay-marriage-la_n_647129.html>.
 Mondello, “Gay Marriage a Human Rights Issue in Argentina.”
 Martín Bravo, “Fuerte Debate en Diputados de la Ley de Matrimonio Gay,” Clarin.com, 5 May 2010, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://edant.clarin.com/diario/2010/05/05/sociedad/s-02191544.htm>.
 AFP, “Buenos Aires Okays Gay Marriage in Latin America First,” Google News, 19 November 2009, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h3uQ-wS3P8IMaEqrTgi1uyoWS3Pw>.
 “Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies Approves Marriage Equality Law,” LBTQ News, 5 May 2010, accessed 18 July 2010, <http://lgbtqnews.com/gaynews/argentinas-chamber-of-deputies-approves-marriage-equal_BYB.aspx>.
 “Q&A: Argentina Gay Marriage Law.”