The Senate voted 23-8 on Tuesday in favor of the bill, which would make Uruguay the world’s 12th nation — and the second in Latin America — to legalize same-sex unions.
The measure also allows couples, gay or straight, to decide whose surname goes first when they name their children, breaking with a tradition that has held for centuries across Latin America, where in nearly every country, laws require people to give their children two last names, and the father’s comes first.
“It goes beyond homosexuality, it’s about a law where everyone shares the same rights and obligations,” said Federico Grana, a lawmaker in the ruling Frente Amplio coalition and a member of the Black Sheep Collective, a gay rights group that presented the bill’s first draft.
The Roman Catholic Church opposes the proposal, but the church has little political influence in secular Uruguay, which became the first Latin American country to legalize abortion last year.
President Jose Mujica has been pushing for liberal-leaning proposals in his mandate and says he plans to sign the marriage bill into law.
The bill must first return to the lower house for approval on changes made by Senate lawmakers.
In recent years, Uruguay has moved to allow same-sex civil unions, adoption by gay couples, and to allow gay members of the armed forces.
Developing story, check back for updates.