Uruguay's Congress passed a bill on Wednesday (April 10) to allow same-sex marriages, making it the second country in predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America to do so.

Seventy-one of 92 lawmakers in the lower house of Congress voted in favour of the proposal, one week after the Senate passed it by a wide majority. Leftist President Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter, is expected to sign the bill into law.

However, the bill was not without its detractors.

In Uruguay, a nation of about 3.3 million people sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, critics of the bill included the Catholic Church and other Christian organisations, which said it would endanger the institution of the family.

Congressman Gerardo Amarilla for the right-wing National Party expressed concern same-sex marriage is the first step down a slippery slope.

With the legislation largely backed by Mujica's left-wing Broad Front coalition, leftist congress members argued the bill was necessary to keep up with changes in society.

Uruguay is the 12th country to pass a law of this kind, according to Human Rights Watch.

Gay rights activists in the conservative South American country had been pushing for marriage equality for years. Damian Diaz and Mauricio Coitino are a gay couple who have been together for three years. They work for gay rights and are hopeful that Uruguay's strides in gay marriage legislation will lead to a sea change in attitudes on homosexuality.

In Latin America, Argentina also has approved gay marriage and it is allowed in Mexico City and some parts of Brazil.

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