A bill that will legalise same-sex marriage in Uruguay was overwhelmingly approved by the country’s senate on Tuesday.

Only eight senators voted against the legislation while 23 gave the proposed law their support.

“Uruguayan senators made the right decision by allowing same-sex couples to marry,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

“Final approval will enable gays and lesbians in Uruguay to marry the person they love and will strengthen the fundamental rights of everyone in Uruguay to equality and non-discrimination.”

The lower house of Uruguay’s legislature voted in December last year to legalise same-sex marriage. The Senate bill included some modifications, including a measure to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16 for everyone, instead of the present age 12 for girls and 14 for boys.

The modified law will most likely be discussed and voted upon by the lower house later in April. It is anticipated that the law will pass and that the first same-sex marriages could take place in July or August.

Once the bill is approved, Uruguay would become the 12th country in the world to allow same-sex marriage nationally.

Uruguay is not the first country in Latin America to introduce marriage equality. In 2010, Argentina’s congress approved a marriage equality law. Same-sex marriage became legal in Mexico City in the same year.

In 2011, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to partnership rights through a civil union status. Since then, some Brazilian states – including the largest, São Paulo – have begun performing civil marriages for same-sex couples.

Marriage equality legislation is being discussed in the parliaments of New Zealand, France, and the United Kingdom and is expected to pass in all three countries in 2013.

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