November 19, 2009 / 1:21 AM / 8 years ago

Gay couple hopes wedding sets precedent in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Two Argentine men who will soon wed in Latin America's first legal same-sex marriage hope it will pave the way for other homosexual couples in Argentina to marry.

Alex Freyre and Jose Maria Di Bello were granted a marriage license last week by a judge who overruled a ban on gay marriages in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, arguing it was unconstitutional.

The couple are HIV positive and plan to marry on December 1 on World Aids Day.

"We're very happy, but also very nervous because we feel an enormous responsibility," Freyre told Reuters on Tuesday night. "It's a historic accomplishment that recognizes gay rights and opens a judicial way to remove barriers."

Argentina became the first Latin American country to allow civil unions by same-sex couples in 2002.

Civil unions in Buenos Aires and several other Argentine cities grant same-sex couples some legal marital rights, but not others such as the right to adopt. Elsewhere in Latin America, same-sex civil unions are allowed in Uruguay and Mexico City.

Freyre and Di Bello previously tried to marry in April, but were turned down by a separate judge. The new judicial ruling applies only to their case, but it will likely increase pressure on lawmakers to debate a gay marriage bill now deadlocked in Congress.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri has said he does not plan to challenge the ruling.

Gay rights groups said the decision was a victory they hope will set the heavily Roman Catholic country on the path to becoming the first to allow same-sex marriages in the region.

"Although the marriage law has not been changed, it sets a very important precedent," said Cesar Cigliutti, president of the Argentine Homosexual Community group.

Argentina's influential Roman Catholic Church criticized the judicial decision as "reckless" and urged authorities to reconsider the ruling.

Freyre said he hoped the marriage would enable him to enjoy rights granted to heterosexual married couples like tenants' rights and the opportunity to adopt children.

"We're starting a joint married life that wasn't in our plans until recently because the law wouldn't allow it," he said. "It's a wind of change. We're boosting the confidence of millions of gay and lesbians in Latin America."

Editing by Peter Cooney

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