gay rights, gay couple, same sex adoption

Uruguay Gives the OK for Gay Adoptions

September 10, 2009 05:00 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
In a first for Latin America, Uruguay has legalized adoption for same-sex couples. The legislation underlines Uruguay’s progressive nature and opens the door for other Latin American countries to follow suit.

Uruguay Legislates for Gay Rights

In a groundbreaking ruling that pleased gay rights activists and drew opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, Uruguay approved a bill this week that “set a standard for the region by allowing same-sex couples to adopt children,” Federica Narancio reported for McClatchy Newspapers.

As Narancio reports, the bill was approved 17-6 in Congress, with the ruling leftist party Frente Amplio leading the vote. “Whether the couple is gay or not should not be a matter of consideration,” Sen. Margarita Percovich from Frente Amplio told McClatchy. “What matters is if the family is able to educate and stimulate the child to grow as a fulfilled human being.”

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, openly expressed opposition to the bill. In August, Archbishop Nicolas Cotugno of Montevideo issued a statement warning about the consequences that gay adoption could have for society. "The adoption of children by homosexual couples is not a question of religion, philosophy or sociology. It has to do with respect for human nature itself,” the Catholic News Agency quoted him as saying. “To accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples is to go against human nature itself, and consequently, it is to go against the fundamental rights of the human being as a person.”

Bishop Pablo Galimberti of the Diocese of Salto also voiced his objection to the law. “We believe the adoption law we had so far is the right one, because it respects the idea that a child must be adopted according to the natural law, that indicates that a marriage between a man and a woman offers the best conditions to raise a child,” he told McClatchy.

In spite of Catholic opposition, however, it is expected that the bill will be signed into law soon.

Background: Popular reception of the bill

The Uruguayan Senate approved an earlier version of the bill in 2008. A national poll that followed revealed that only 35 percent of the local population was in favor of the bill. When compared to an earlier poll about the issue conducted in 2005, however, “the opposition to the measure fell drastically from 72 percent of Uruguayans against same-sex adoption to 49 percent against it,” Juan Carlos Doyenart, social analyst and director of Interconsult, told McClatchy.

Although more than 60 percent of Uruguayans identify themselves as Catholic, their reaction to issues such as same sex-adoption shows them to be less conservative than other countries in Latin America.

Historical Context: Progressive Uruguay

Uruguay is a predominantly Catholic country but it maintains a “progressive and secular culture” due to an influx of European immigrants, especially from Spain, in the 20th century, professor Adolfo Garce of Montevideo University told Agence France-Presse. Uruguay was the first “largely Catholic South American” country to approve divorce in 1907 and to give women the right to vote in 1932, Yanina Olivera reports for AFP.

The same-sex adoption issue is no different, exemplifying the country’s innovative approach. “Uruguay has a long tradition of leading the way in civil rights and has shown a desire to move ahead quickly on such questions,” Garce told AFP.

According to CNN’s blog The CNN Wire, current Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez approved a series of progressive laws last year, such as a “measure allowing children aged 12 or older to change their names” for the benefit of transgender or transsexual youths.

Similarly, Uruguay legalized same-sex civil unions in December 2007, another Latin American first.

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