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Uruguay lawmakers vote to legalize gay marriage; nation becomes third in the Americas to do so

BY PABLO FERNANDEZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Uruguayan lawmakers voted Wednesday to legalize gay marriage, making the South American country the third in the Americas to do so.

Supporters of the law, who had filled the public seats in the legislative building, erupted in celebration when the results were announced. The bill received the backing of 71 of the 92 members of the Chamber of Deputies present.

"We are living a historic moment," said Federico Grana, a leader of the Black Sheep Collective, a gay rights group that drafted the proposal. "In terms of the steps needed, we calculate that the first gay couples should be getting married 90 days after the promulgation of the law, or in the middle of July."

The "marriage equality project," as it is called, was already approved by ample majorities in both legislative houses, but senators made some changes that required a final vote by the deputies. Among them: Gay and lesbian foreigners will now be allowed to come to Uruguay to marry, just as heterosexual couples can, said Michelle Suarez of the Black Sheep Collective.

President Jose Mujica, whose governing Broad Front majority backed the law, is expected to put it into effect within 10 days.

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