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Lesbians and gay men celebrate inside the Buenos Aires City Hall, December 13, 2002. Reuters TV

Buenos Aires Approves Gay Civil Unions

by Rosario Magli

DECEMBER 14, 2002. At 4 a.m. Friday, December 13, the Buenos Aires city council approved Latin America's first ever gay civil union ordinance. The historic vote — 29 to 10 with no abstentions — took place after five hours of tumultuous debate, at a time when Argentina is being shaken to the core by the most brutal social, economic and political crisis of the last half century.

The vote demonstrated Argentina's surprising capacity for change even in the midst of disaster, a sign that it may yet be able to rise from the ashes a reinvented nation and finally fulfill its brilliant promise.

A year and a half of dogged efforts by CHA (Comunidad Homosexual Argentina), the gay rights coalition, culminated in a big win, not only for the supporters of the ordinance, but, even if they don't yet realize it, for its foes, who will also benefit from living in a more inclusive society.

The Buenos Aires civil union ordinance, which will take effect in April 2003, creates a Public Register for Civil Unions and will recognize "the union freely entered into by any two [adult] persons, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, whose legal residence is in the city of Buenos Aires and who have been in a stable and public relationship for a period of at least two years." Both "will be treated similarly to spouses."

Two provincial legislators now want to extend the ordinance to the entire province of Buenos Aires.

The Buenos Aires vote puts to shame the Mexico City municipal council and the Brazilian and Colombian congresses, where similar bills have been languishing for months, if not years.

Related links:

For video coverage in CNN. In Spanish only.

For video coverage in Clarín (Argentina): Informe desde la Legislatura. In Spanish only.

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