Two men were granted a marriage license in Argentina's capital on Monday, breaking ground in a country and region where laws ban gay marriage.
Jose Maria Di Bello and his partner Alex Freyre won the right to get married when a judge ruled last week that a ban on gay marriage violates Argentina's constitution.
"On December 1st we will become man and man," said Di Bello,
welling up in tears as a city clerk gave him the paperwork.
Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri said the city will not appeal
- in effect inviting other same-sex couples to pursue their rights
in court as well.
"We have to live with and accept this reality: the world is
moving in this direction," Macri said Friday, adding that it is
important officials "safeguard the right of each person to freely
choose with whom they want to form a couple and be happy."
Freyre, 39, executive director of the Buenos Aires AIDS
Foundation, and Di Bello, 41, an executive with the Argentine Red
Cross, sued after being denied a license in April.
Their request was granted by Judge Gabriela Seijas, who said
laws limiting marriage to "a man and a woman" violate
constitutional rights of equality.
Argentina's Congress is considering changing dozens of articles
in the civil code to enable same-sex marriage. The proposal has
support among ruling party lawmakers but President Cristina
Fernandez has yet to take a stand. The Roman Catholic Church and
other Christian groups are opposed.
Currently no country in Latin America allows gay marriage,
though some jurisdictions allow gay partners to form civil unions
with many of the same rights.
Seijas' ruling sets no precedent beyond this case, but other
gays and lesbians can cite it and hope for positive results in
court if their requests for marriage licenses are denied.
"Ideally we want the bill to pass so that couples won't have to
resort to this type of action," said Maria Rachid, president of
the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Federation of Argentina.
Buenos Aires in 2002 became the first city in Latin America to
allow same-sex civil unions, and Mexico City followed in 2007.
Uruguay has legalized civil unions nationwide. Spain went further,
legalizing same-sex marriage in 2005.
The men - both HIV positive - plan to marry on World AIDS Day at
the same civil registry in the capital's Palermo neighborhood. They
told The Associated Press that marriage - and not just a civil
union - is important to them because they want a shared health
insurance policy and inheritance rights, among other things married
couples now enjoy.