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Argentina legalises gay marriages

world Updated: Jul 16, 2010 01:25 IST

Argentina’s Senate passed a gay marriage bill on Thursday, clearing the way for the country to become the first in South America to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Following more than 14 hours of charged debate, during which thousands of Argentines protested outside the Congress, the upper house voted 33-27 for the proposal, with three abstentions.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez supports gay marriage on human rights grounds and is expected to sign the bill into law after her return from a state visit to China. It cleared Argentina’s lower house in May.

Tens of thousands of opponents, from children to elderly nuns, braved near-freezing temperatures to protest outside the Congress since Tuesday, snarling traffic in Buenos Aires.

Debate on the bill began in early afternoon on Wednesday and spilled into the early hours of Thursday.

Several hundred gay marriage supporters also stood vigil awaiting the vote.

Opinion polls show a majority of Argentines support gay marriage.

Only a small number of countries permit same-sex marriage, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal and Canada.