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Obama decision on gay marriage ripples through Latin America (+video)

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In fact, support is lower in Latin America overall than it is in the US. In Latin America, respondents reported an average support level of 26.8 points on a scale of 100. That compares with 47.4 points of average support in the US, according to the LAPOP data. (Click here to read about the study's methodology and country-by-country results. Updated data is expected in coming months.) However, acceptance varies widely across the Americas, with Argentina and Uruguay showing relatively high levels of support, above the US, while El Salvador, Guyana, and Jamaica are at the very bottom.

This data shows that the more religious residents are, the less likely they are to support gay marriage. Part of the reason it has gained ground in deeply Catholic Latin America is that while the majority of residents identify as Catholic, they are not necessarily fervently religious. And at the same time, marriage is viewed in Latin America as first and foremost a civil act carried out by the state, says Simon Cazal, the executive director of the gay rights organization Somosgay in Paraguay.

Argentina has gone the furthest in the region with its 2010 national move to legalize same-sex unions. But Mexico City also grabbed headlines in December 2009 when the megalopolis legalized same-sex marriage. After Argentina, state courts in Brazil held that civil unions could be converted to marriages, and the top appeals court upheld those marriages last fall.

Those moves came after growing support for civil unions between same-sex couples across the region, first in Buenos Aires in 2002, and later in cities throughout Mexico and Brazil. Uruguay legalized civil unions nationwide, as did Brazil later.

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