MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica’s has signed the country’s marriage equality bill into law, making the South American country the 12th nation in the world and third in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage.
Mujica signed the bill last Friday, and the law takes effects August 1, reported El Pais.
The measure was approved April 10 with the support of 71 members of the 92-seat Senate chamber. The lower house approved the bill on Dec. 11, 2012 by a vote of 81-18.
Uruguay becomes the third country in the Americas after Canada and Argentina to eliminate laws making marriage, adoption and other family rights exclusive to heterosexuals.
Whereas some other countries have carved out new territory for gay and lesbian couples without affecting heterosexual unions, Uruguay has created a single set of rules for all people, gay or straight. Instead of the words “husband and wife” in marriage contracts, it refers to the gender-neutral “contracting parties.”
the measure also updates divorce laws in Uruguay, which in 1912 gave women only the right to unilaterally renounce their wedding vows as a sort of equalizer to male power. Now either spouse will be able to unilaterally request a divorce and get one.
The law also changes the age when people can legally marry from 12 years old for girls and 14 for boys— people of either gender would need to be at least 16.
Prior to Uruguay’s vote in April, 11 other nations around the world had legalized same-sex marriage. Since then, New Zealand and France have approved marriage equality laws that will take effect later this year as well.