Uruguayan representative Julio Bango speaks during a parliamentary debate over Uruguay's marriage equality bill, which he co-authored, in Montevideo on December 11, 2012.
Uruguay House Approves Marriage Equality

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com December 12 2012 7:52 PM ET

Continuing to lead the continent in terms of rights for LGBT South Americans, on Monday the lower house of Congress in Uruguay approved marriage equality legislation by a vote of 81-18, according to Towleroad. The bill is expected to pass the Senate, and president José Mujica plans to sign the bill into law in early 2013.

Julio Bango, one of the bill's authors, said his legislation was simply about equality. "This is not a homosexual or gay marriage law," Bango told the BBC. "It is a measure to equalize the institution independent of the sex of the couple."

The legislation not only provides the freedom to marry to all Uruguayans, but also reforms the country's divorce laws, which previously only allowed women to renounce their marriage vows without cause, according to the Washington Post. The Post also notes that the marriage wquality law will allow all couples to decide whose surname they prefer to legally take after they are married.

In 2009, Uruguay legalized adoption by same-sex couples and legalized gender-reassignment surgery for transgender citizens. In 2007, Uruguay became the first country in Latin America to offer civil unions to same-sex couples.