Same-sex marriage in Argentina
|Legal status of same-sex unions|
* Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage in Argentina has been legal since July 22, 2010.
Argentina was the first country in Latin America, the second in the Americas, and the second in the Southern Hemisphere to allow same-sex marriage nationwide. It was the tenth country worldwide to allow same-sex marriage.
In the first decade of the 21st century, civil unions were made legal in four jurisdictions in Argentina: the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (since 2002), the Province of Río Negro (2003), the city of Villa Carlos Paz (2007), and the city of Río Cuarto (2009). Civil unions provide some of the rights granted to married couples and can only be entered into by couples who have lived together for a given time, usually one or two years.
On August 19, 2008, the Argentine government announced that it was allowing cohabiting same-sex couples who have lived together for over five years the right to collect the pensions of their deceased partners. This was the first time that unregistered cohabitation or rights for same-sex partners were recognized nationwide. Four Argentine labor unions have now extended National Security System medical benefits to employees' same-sex partners (the system operates jointly with unions in the health care arena); the benefits are available to members of teacher, commerce employee, executive, and air-transport personnel unions. In December 2005, a judge ordered prisons across the province of Córdoba to authorize conjugal visits for all gay prisoners and allow sexual relations between inmates who develop relationships in prison.
Two weeks before the 2009 mid-term elections, Justice Minister Aníbal Fernández issued a statement saying that he was in favor of starting a same-sex marriage debate in congress, that a gender neutral law would "end discrimination", and that "many people are demanding it." Fernández also said that former president Néstor Kirchner, late husband of current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, supported having a wider discussion on same-sex marriage in the country. President Fernández de Kirchner's position on same-sex marriage was unknown at the time. Justice Minister Fernández said he was presently "working toward" presenting a draft law to congress, and that his ministry must first "evaluate all the different aspects of the issue." The bill was never presented.
In late 2009, the Argentine Congress considered two proposals, sponsored by Silvia Augsburger and Vilma Ibarra, to change Article 172 of the Civil Code. On October 27, 2009, the same-sex marriage bills were debated in the Chamber of Deputies' General Law Committee and the Committee on Family, Women, Children and Youth. Ibarra expressed her desire to have same-sex marriage in Argentina approved by the end of 2009. Debate on the bills continued on November 5 and on November 10, before being postponed and resuming in March 2010. A survey taken at the time found that 70% of Argentines supported legalizing same-sex marriage.
On April 15, 2010, the Chamber of Deputies' General Law Committee and the Committee on Family, Women, Children and Youth recommended implementation of same-sex marriage. On May 5, 2010, the Chamber of Deputies passed the same-sex marriage bill that also allowed same-sex couples to adopt, by a vote of 125 to 109. On July 6, the Senate's General Law Committee recommended rejection of the bill. The bill was originally scheduled to be voted on July 14, After a marathon session that went into the early hours of the next day, on July 15 the Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill by a vote of 33 to 27. On July 21, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed the bill into law. On July 22, the law was published in the Official Gazette. The law grants for same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, including the right to adopt children. The first marriages were performed on July 30, 2010.
On July 27, 2012, a Buenos Aires couple, Alejandro Grinblat and Carlos Dermgerd, became the first men in Latin America to obtain double paternity of a newborn. Their baby, Tobías, is the natural son of one of the two men and was born to a surrogate mother. He became the first person in the world with a birth certificate listing two fathers.
On November 12, 2009, a court in Buenos Aires approved the marriage of a same-sex couple, Alex Freyre and José María Bello, ruling that articles 172 and 188 of the Civil Code were unconstitutional. The city Chief of Government, Mauricio Macri, said he would not appeal the ruling, but the marriage was blocked on November 30 by another court, pending review by the Supreme Court. In December 2009, the Governor of Tierra del Fuego Province, Fabiana Ríos, ordered the civil registry office to perform and register their marriage. On December 28, the two men were legally wed in Ushuaia, the provincial capital city, making them the first same-sex couple to marry in Latin America. On April 14, 2010, the marriage was declared null and void, but it technically remains legal because the decision was not communicated to the parties. The married couple said that they would appeal the court's decision if notified.
On March 10, 2010, a judge in Buenos Aires declared a second same-sex marriage, between Damián Bernath and Jorge Esteban Salazar Capón, illegal. On April 16, a third same-sex marriage between two women was annulled by a judge who ruled that the Buenos Aires Civil Registry limits marriage to a man and a woman. Administrative Judge Elena Liberatori later overturned that decision and ruled the marriage between the two women valid, ordering the Civil Registry of Buenos Aires to deliver the marriage certificate to the court.
Following the first legal same-sex marriage in December 2009, seven other same-sex couples were joined in legal matrimony in Argentina before the national law legalizing same-sex marriage took effect at the end of July 2010. The Supreme Court was hearing several cases concerning the right of same-sex couples to marry. On July 2, 2010, some media reported that the Supreme Court had a prepared ruling concerning María Rachid and Claudia Castro's case that declared articles 172 and 188 of the Civil Code unconstitutional.
Opposition to the legislation
In July 2010, while the law was under consideration, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires (later Pope Francis), wrote a letter to Argentina's cloistered nuns in which he said:
In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God's law engraved in our hearts.
Let's not be naive: This is not a simple political fight; it is a destructive proposal to God's plan. This is not a mere legislative proposal (that's just its form), but a move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God… Let's look to St. Joseph, Mary, and the Child to ask fervently that they defend the Argentine family in this moment... May they support, defend, and accompany us in this war of God.
After L'Osservatore Romano reported this, several priests expressed their support for the law and one was defrocked. Observers believe that the church's strident opposition and Bergoglio's language, which one political opponent characterized as "medieval, reactionary", worked in favor of the law's passage and that Roman Catholic officials learned from their failed campaign against the same-sex marriage law to adopt a different tone in later debates on social issues such as parental surrogacy. As of 2005, more than three-fourths of Argentines identified themselves as Roman Catholics, but less than two-fifths of them attended a religious service at least once a month.
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