Marriage Equality Law a Major Step Forward for LGBTI Rights in Uruguay

Update: April 11, 2013:  Freedom House applauds the passage of the marriage equality legislation by Uruguay’s Congress on April 11 -  a major step forward for LGBTI equality in the country - and President Jose Mujica is expected to put the law into effect within the next ten days.


April 2, 2013 - Freedom House applauds the Uruguayan Senate for voting today to pass a marriage equality law and urges other countries in the region to follow its example by expanding marriage rights to all couples regardless of sexual orientation. By a 23-8 vote, the Senate approved the measure, which President Jose “Pepe” Mujica has affirmed he will sign into law. With the passage of the law, Uruguay will become the second country in Latin America and the 12th in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

The proposed law was passed by the lower legislative chamber in December 2012, with 81 of 99 members voting in favor. In addition to allowing for legally recognized marriage for non-heterosexual couples, the law would replace the words “marido y mujer” (husband and woman) with “contrayentes” (contracted parties) in marriage contracts, and allow married couples—regardless of their sexual orientation—to decide which surname will be placed first in naming their children.

“The passage of this law is a critical step forward for LGBTI rights in Uruguay,” said Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs at Freedom House. “Once again, Uruguay has provided a positive example for other countries to follow, which will hopefully lead to further social, political, and legal progress for LGBTI communities throughout Latin America.”

While the Catholic Church and a vocal political minority strongly opposed the law, it was passed with broad popular support: polls show that Uruguayans support the measure by 53-32 percent, with nearly 70 percent of people aged 16-44 backing the law. Uruguay was the first country in the region to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples, passing a national civil union law in 2008. Uruguay was rated “free” in Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom in the World survey and its 2012 Freedom of the Press survey.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2013: Uruguay

Freedom of the Press 2012: Uruguay