December 12, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Big news out of Uruguay, where a marriage equality bill passed the lower house of Congress last night by an incredible 81-6 vote margin, the Washington Blade reported, with 12 of the chamber’s 99 members not present. The bill moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily after the upper chamber’s new session begins in March. President José Mujica supports the bill, and plans to sign it into law.
The Uruguayan House of Representatives debated the bill for more than six hours, but the actual equal marriage rights portion of the legislation passed quite early. A more contentious aspect of the bill, the AP reported, was a proposal to allow all couples in Uruguay (same-sex or opposite-sex) to decide which parent’s last name is used first when naming their children.
In Latin America, children are traditionally given two last names, with the father’s coming first. When Argentina passed marriage equality in 2010, for example, the law mandated that children of same-sex couples would take their parents’ last names in alphabetical oder, while leaving intact the requirement for opposite-sex couples that the father’s last name go first.
As the AP reported, even Deputy Anibal Gloodtdofsky of the conservative Colorado Party voted in favor of the measure, telling the AP, “It’s an issue that will generate confusion in a society that has forever taken the father’s name. But these changes in society have to be accepted.”
Álvaro Queiruga of the Uruguayan LGBT group Colective Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep Collective) told the Washington Blade that his country’s vote keeps Uruguay on the “vanguard” of equal rights in Latin America. Uruguay already allows same-sex couples to obtain civil unions and adopt, and has non-discrimination legislation in place with protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Meanwhile, in the United States, New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, introduced legislation that would put marriage equality up for a popular vote as it was in Maine, Maryland and Washington this year. Democratic leaders in the state, who successfully passed a marriage equality bill early this year only to have it vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, oppose a ballot vote on the issue. Christie supports it. From the New Jersey Star-Ledger:
Gusciora (D-Mercer) said he also has opposed putting marriage equality up to referendum. But the assemblyman — New Jersey’s first openly gay legislator — said his constituents asked him to change his mind in light of last month’s election results.
“I am the last person who believes civil rights should be on the ballot, but civil rights delayed is civil rights denied,” Gusciora said. “The timing is right. There is broader acceptance.” Fellow Democratic lawmakers and the state’s leading gay rights advocate immediately panned Gusciora’s bill without reading it, predicting it would be a costly endeavor likely to fail.
In other news, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, told the Chicago Tribune that he hopes legislators in the state will send him a marriage equality bill when they reconvene in January. Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s chief sponsor, however, said that the bill may be crowded out by other priorities in the lame-duck session.