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Surprise Celebration: Argentina Performs Latin America's First Gay Wedding

By L.K. Regan

Gay marriage is illegal in Argentina. In fact, since last week, Mexico City is the only place in Latin America with gay marriages on the books, and theirs don't start until next year. Even so, Latin America has seen its first true gay wedding this week, not in Mexico City, but in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. What the heck is going on?

Alejandro Freyre, 39, and Jose Maria Di Bello, 41, had in April begun a legal challenge to Argentina's ban on gay marriage. In November, Buenos Aires Judge Gabriela Seijas ruled that the Argentine civil code's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional; he ordered that Freyre and di Bello be granted a marriage license. The government in Buenos Aires did not appeal the decision, and the men planned their wedding for December first, World AIDS Day. (Both are HIV+.) But just before the wedding, a different court in the Argentinian capital blocked the nuptials, triggering an appeals process likely to end up in the nation's Supreme Court next year.

Freyre and Rios were determined not to wait that long, however, and they found support in Fabiana Rios, governor of the southern Argentinian territory of Tierra del Fuego. Rios offered her protection for the wedding by citing an inconsistency in Argentine law. In short, while the legal code bans gay marriage, the national constitution is silent on the matter. As a defender of the constitution, Rios felt she had the authority to grant a special dispensation that would be, as she said, "an important advance in human rights and social inclusion." The wedding went forward Monday in Ushuaia in southern Argentina.

The happy couple were clearly thinking of their successful wedding in terms of its larger political implications (both are members of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans). Following the ceremony, di Bello spoke about his sentiments: "We're extremely excited and happy about what this means for all gays and lesbians in Argentina." And Freyre added, "We're the first, but we won't be the last. There are hundreds of legal appeals that we hope will have the same outcome." Here's hoping that 2010 is the year of the gay marriage on every continent and in every nation.