Argentina has become the first country on the South American continent and the tenth country worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage.

The law before the Argentinian Senate had the backing of the President, Cristina Kirchner, and had already passed the country’s Congress.

Despite the Catholic Church in Argentina calling tens of thousands of conservative protesters onto the streets and a senate debate lasting 14 hours, the bill was passed in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Making things even more uncertain was that a senate committee had already voted nine-to-six the previous week to reject the bill in favour of another which would have created civil unions for same-sex couples.

The new marriage equality law also allows same-sex couples in Argentina to adopt.

Australian Marriage Equality’s Peter Furness said that Australia had been shamed by Argentina’s Senate vote for marriage equality.

“The Australian Government has brought shame and dishonour on this nation by not allowing same-sex couples to marry when an increasing number of other countries do”.

“The Argentinian Parliament has supported marriage equality because it is an important, mainstream, democratic reform – something the Australian Government has yet to grasp.”

Australian Marriage Equality will now write to President Cristina Kirchner, asking her to explain to Prime Minister Julia Gillard what Furness called, “the democratic values that underpin equality like the separation of church and state.”

Argentina joins South Africa, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands in legalising same-sex marriage – which is also legal in five US states, Washington DC and Mexico City.

In related news, Finland has announced plans to introduce marriage equality by 2012, while Luxembourg’s Minister of Justice may introduce a same-sex marriage bill as early as this week.

Nepalese MPs continue to draft a new constitution which is expected to make their nation the first in Asia to define marriage as a union of two people regardless of their sex.

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