Argentina OK’s Same-Sex Marriage
by David Gibson
With a July 15 vote by its Senate, Argentina became the first nation in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. The Senate voted 33-27, with three abstentions, in favor of a same-sex marriage bill strongly supported by the nation’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
The vote, confirming an earlier vote of the government’s lower house, meant that married same-sex couples would be accorded the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children, a provision of the law much discussed and debated in Argentina.
A law legalizing same-sex marriage in Mexico City, Mexico, took effect March 4 this year. But Argentina is the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Civil unions according same-sex couples many or most of the rights and responsibilities of marriage are recognized in Uruguay and some states in Mexico and Brazil.
Argentina’s Catholic bishops opposed the same-sex marriage legislation in forceful terms. Prior to the Senate’s vote, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires encouraged members of the clergy to call upon Catholics to protest the legislation on grounds that, if enacted, it could “seriously injure the family.”
The cardinal said that adoption by same-sex couples would deprive children “of the human growth that God wanted them to be given by a father and a mother.” He has described same-sex marriage proposals as actions that “confuse and deceive” God’s people.
President Fernandez viewed the legalization of same-sex marriage as a way of protecting the rights of a minority. The level of church-state tension over the issue was apparent when she said that Cardinal Bergoglio’s remarks about it were reminiscent of Inquisition times.
A spokesman for the Buenos Aires Archdiocese said the church will not perform religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples and is not required to do so. He indicated that the nation’s bishops would examine issues related to the new legislation, including the adoption of children, during an upcoming meeting.
When a judge in Argentina ruled in favor of same-sex marriage early this year, Cardinal Bergoglio spoke out, insisting that the ruling violated Argentinean law, which defines marriage as a civil bond involving one man and one woman. Judge Elena Liberatori ruled that a same-sex couple seeking to marry should be allowed to do so.
When the mayor of Buenos Aires indicated he would not appeal Liberatori’s ruling, Cardinal Bergoglio responded that the city leader’s position, binding him to defend the law, required him to do so.
The church throughout the world defends marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and opposes efforts to redefine marriage or to accord same-sex marriage the status of a human right. At the same time, the church calls attention to the dignity of homosexual persons and opposes any unjust treatment of them.
Mexico City’s recently enacted same-sex marriage law defines marriage as “the free union of two persons.” An editorial in the March 7 edition of Desde la Fe, an archdiocesan publication, charged that the city’s government was pursuing an agenda of radical changes in areas such as same-sex marriage and abortion law, while failing to find solutions to the social problems that damage people’s lives.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City said that the legalization of same-sex marriage reflects an individualistic vision of the family, as well as a society that does not “support the true needs of households.”
About the author
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.