Uruguay gay marriage vote postponed until April

Gay rights ribbons flutter outside the Uruguayan Congress Gay rights campaigners criticised the delay in voting on the bill

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Uruguay's Senate has delayed until April a vote on a bill that would legalise gay marriage, amid calls for further analysis of the proposal.

The Marriage Equality Law, approved on 11 December by the lower house, was backed by the governing coalition.

But faced with demands for more discussion, senators opted to postpone the vote until after the summer recess.

If passed, the law would make Uruguay the second Latin American nation after Argentina to allow gay marriage.

Gay rights groups criticised the delay and dozens of people demonstrated outside the Congress building in Montevideo.

"Today is not a good day for Uruguayans, for all Uruguayans, because what is at stake is the kind of society we want," lawyer Michelle Suarez told the Spanish news agency Efe.

Ms Suarez, who drafted large parts of the bill, said the Senate's decision was just a "loss of time" as "nothing would change in the country in four months".

The governing Broad Front coalition, which has a majority in both houses, issued a statement after Wednesday's senate sessions stressing that all their senators would vote for the bill.

But "out of respect for the parliamentary minorities", the draft law would be sent for discussion by a commission, the statement said.

The move highlights the controversy the proposed law has generated among some sectors of society in Uruguay.

In recent years, Uruguay has moved to allow same-sex civil unions, adoption by gay couples, and to allow gay members of the armed forces.

Uruguay's neighbour Argentina legalised gay marriage in 2010. Same-sex marriages have been legal in Mexico City since 2009.

In May, Brazil's Supreme Court voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing same-sex couples the same legal rights as married heterosexuals.

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