Mexico City approves gay marriage

17:40, December 22, 2009      

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Gay rights activist cheer after a session at the city's assembly in Mexico City December 21, 2009. Mexico City's assembly voted to extend gay couples full marriage rights on Monday in a landmark law that is the first of its kind in Latin America, a traditionally macho and Catholic region. The bill takes a 2006 law allowing civil unions by allowing gay couples to access family social security benefits and apply for joint credits as if they were a straight couple.(Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Lawmakers in Mexico City have legalised gay marriage, the first such instance in Latin America. City legislators passed the bill 39-20, with five abstentions. The bill is now widely expected to be signed into law by the city's mayor.

Gay marriage is only allowed in seven countries,, and some parts of the U.S. while certain parts of Latin America allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

The Catholic Church and conservative groups had opposed Mexico City's move. The bill calls for a change in the definition of marriage in the city's civic code, from the union of a man and a woman to "the free uniting of two people".

Lawmaker David Razu had proposed the change to give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples regarding social security and other benefits. Mexico City's legislature is dominated by the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, which has already legalised abortion and civil unions for same-sex couples.

Members of the gay community celebrate the approval of the homosexual marriage in Mexico City.(Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Spokesman Oscar Oliver told Agence France Presse news agency that city legislators were now taking up a measure in the bill that would allow married same-sex couples to adopt children. A handful of cities in Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia permit gay unions. Uruguay alone has legalised civil unions nationwide and allowed same-sex couples to adopt children. Last month, an Argentinean court narrowly blocked what would been the continent's first gay marriage.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and South Africa are the only countries in which the legal status of same-sex marriages are exactly the same as that of opposite-sex marriages. Most nations do not impede consensual sex between unrelated persons above the local age of consent. However homosexuality is illegal in some fundamentalist Muslim areas such as Iran and parts of Nigeria where offenders may face the death penalty. Homosexuals of both genders also face widespread discrimination in many countries despite their legal status.

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