First gay couples tie knot under new Argentine law
By Alexandra Ulmer
BUENOS AIRES - Gay couples rushed to tie the knot in Argentina on Friday, two weeks after the country became the first in Latin America to grant them the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.
"We never thought we'd get to this point," said talent agent Alejandro Vanelli, 61, who wept as he exchanged vows with Ernesto Larrese, 60, an actor and his partner of 34 years.
"It was time for our country to embrace equality after hundreds of years of restricting the rights of so many," he said after the service at a Buenos Aires registry office festooned with rainbow-colored gay rights banners.
Guests threw rice over the newlyweds as they left the packed office, becoming the second couple to marry under the law signed by President Cristina Fernandez on July 21. It came into force on Friday.
Another couple had exchanged vows hours earlier in a northern province, and gay weddings were planned for Saturday across the nominally Roman Catholic country.
The measure, which also lets same-sex couples adopt children, puts Argentina at the vanguard of gay rights in the region and underlines the Catholic Church's waning influence in Latin America.
Same-sex couples in Mexico City won the same rights as heterosexuals to marry and adopt children in December. Uruguay allows same-sex couples to adopt but not to marry.
A few gay couples were married in Argentina prior to the law, but they had been granted marriage licenses under one-off court rulings.
Gay rights campaigners have hailed the law as a landmark sign of changing attitudes.
"I'm so proud to accompany this change in Argentine history, and on a more personal level, to accompany this couple who I've known for 34 years," said actor Carlos "Boy" Olmi, 54, who was a witness at the Buenos Aires wedding.
"Argentine society has shown real maturity in pushing through this change."
Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Xavier Briand