Amid heavy political controversy, Uruguay’s Senate on Wednesday unexpectedly postponed a vote on a marriage equality bill until its next session in April.
The bill, which passed on Dec. 11 by a wide margin in the lower house of Congress, would modify the Civil Code to state that “marriage is the permanent union between two persons of the same or opposite sex.”
All 26 Senators were present, and voted unanimously for the postponement, reported Spanish international news agency EFE.
Supporters anticipated an easy vote in the Senate, and President Jose Mujica said earlier this month he planned to sign it into law early next year.
The Senate, which is currently in parliamentary recess, convened a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss a dozen bills, including the “Marriage Equality Law,” but opponents asked for the vote to be postponed until the Senate’s first meeting in April to allow more time “to study the proposal.”
The law, if approved, would also allow all couples, gay or straight 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.
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.
The new proposal would make Uruguay the second nation in Latin America and the 12th in the world to legalize gay marriage, after The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark.