Vote in lower house of Congress makes Uruguay the third country in Americas and 12th in world to allow gay marriage

Uruguay’s Congress has voted to legalise same-sex marriage, making it the second country in Latin America and the third in all the Americas to do so.

Seventy-one of 92 lawmakers in the lower house voted in favour of the proposal, one week after the senate passed it by a wide majority. President Jose Mujica is expected to sign the bill into law.

“I agree that family is the basis of society but I also believe that love is the basis of family. And love is neither homosexual nor heterosexual,” said opposition lawmaker Fernando Amado of the centre-right Colorado party.

Uruguay is the 12th country to pass a law of this kind, according to Human Rights Watch. In the Americas, Argentina and Canada have approved gay marriage, and it is allowed in Mexico City and some parts of Brazil, as well as nine states of the US.

In Uruguay, a nation of about 3.3 million people, critics of the bill included the Catholic Church and other Christian organizations, which said it would endanger the institution of the family.

“We are opposed to this bill because we understand it distorts and changes the nature of the institution of marriage,” said opposition lawmaker Gerardo Amarilla.

Damian Diaz, a 25-year-old teacher who is in a committed relationship with a man, said he was heartened by the move.

“We’re definitely going to feel now that we live in a place where we’re recognized for who we are, where we get more respect and more acceptance,” he told Reuters Television.

Roughly half a million people marched through Paris in January to protest against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, underscoring opposition to the measure in parts of Europe.

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