By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

MONTEVIDEO, December 20, 2007 ( – Uruguay’s Congress unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that gives both homosexual and heterosexual couples rights similar to those granted to married couples. The measure had previously passed in the lower house of parliament and the Chamber of Senators.

Same-sex marriage remains illegal in Uruguay, but homosexual rights groups are expected to press for legalization of this as well.

Under the new law, homosexual and straight couples will be eligible to form civil unions after living together for five years. They must register their relationship with authorities to gain the cohabitation rights, including heath benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights.

The main opposition party in Uruguay, Partido National, had tried to block the legislation but failed.

Though Uruguay is widely considered the most secular nation in Latin America, its population of 3.3 million is mostly Roman Catholic (62%).

Uruguayan Catholic Bishops have stated their opposition to homosexual civil union and marriage, and reiterated that Catholic politicians have a moral duty to oppose it.

A statement from the Episcopal Conference of Uruguay (CEP) says, “In no way can homosexual cohabitation be accepted because it does not meet the basic criteria defining marriage, it is therefore unacceptable to place it in suchlike equal level.”

As reported previously by, Uruguayan homosexual rights groups had teamed up with similar advocacy groups from Argentina and Brazil to promote broad homosexual rights at the UN  through the introduction of a document called Yogyakarta Principles, which reinterprets basic human rights to include homosexual rights.

UN experts note that not a single UN human rights treaty mentions sexual orientation, and that UN member states have repeatedly rejected attempts by Brazil and the EU to pass resolutions promoting homosexual rights.

Earlier this month reported that Brazilian socialist president Luiz Lula announced the first Latin American National Homosexual Conference, through which he hopes to construct a “culture” in Brazil that is “affirming” towards homosexuality.

See related articles:

Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay Launch Radical Homosexual Rights Initiative at UN

Brazilian President Convokes National Homosexual Conference