At 4am local time, after fourteen hours of debate, with thousands of protesters outside in the frigid cold, Argentina's Senate voted to legalize gay marriage and adoption, making it the first Latin American country to do so.
Despite the protests, polls show that 70 percent of Argentines support gays having the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, though support is weaker for gay adoption.
Mexico City began recognizing same-sex marriages in December, and Uruguay and Colombia allow civil unions. But in this more sweeping case, the rights of gays and lesbians benefited from internal politics, with president Cristina Fernandez and her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, using the issue as a cudgel against their foes. According to The Economist,
The Kirchners were looking for a controversial bill they could force through the legislature to prove the government could still get its way, and they settled on gay marriage as the best candidate. The topic would unite their leftist base, and enable them to demonise opponents of the measure—particularly the Catholic church, with which they have long had tense dealings—as retrograde bigots. Although several opposition senators pushed for a civil-union law instead, which would not include adoption rights, the Kirchners characteristically made it clear the battle would be all-or-nothing.
Luckily, it wasn't at all difficult to paint opponents of the bill as "retrograde bigots," given some of the things they said. The archbishop of Buenos Aires said gay marriage was "a destructive pretension against the plan of God." He particularly opposed the adoption portion of the bill, saying a child needs a mother and a father.
Not every Catholic Argentine was thus opposed. Jose Alessio, a priest, publicly supported the bill, and was ordered to stop celebrating Mass. He has defied that order too, saying, "I feel I'm in communion with God, my people and the Gospel, regardless of whether a bishop or the Pope decides to excommunicate me."