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In Latin America first, Argentina legalizes gay marriage

Argentina today became the first country in Latin America to embrace same-sex marriage nationwide. Until now, only cities had legalized such rights, as did Mexico City in December.

Demonstrators gather outside Argentina's congress during a rally to support a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Buenos Aires, Wednesday. On Thursday, the senate passed the bill 33-27, making Argentina the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP

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After more than 14 hours of a heated debate and warring words, Argentina today became the first country in Latin America to embrace same-sex marriage nationwide.

Argentina's Senate early Thursday passed the bill 33-27 to grant same-sex couples all the legal rights of marriage that heterosexual couples enjoy.

The bill had been passed in May by Argentina's lower house, and is firmly supported by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is expected to sign it into law when she returns later this week from a state visit to China.

The debate pitted traditional voices and the Roman Catholic Church against President Fernandez and widespread public sentiment. Nearly 70 percent of Argentines support same-sex marriage, according to a June survey by Buenos Aires-based firm Analogias. Just seven years ago, a poll found that nearly half of all Argentines opposed a law that legalized civil unions in the capital.

Bitter divisions

Today's debate still drew bitter divisions between supporters and opponents, as it has across the US, Europe, and pockets of Latin America.

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