BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Two men were granted a marriage license in Argentina's capital on Monday, breaking ground in a country and region where laws ban gay marriage.
Jose Maria Di Bello and his partner Alex Freyre won the right to get married when a judge ruled last week that a ban on gay marriage violates Argentina's constitution.
"On December 1st we will become man and man," said Di Bello, welling up in tears as a city clerk gave him the paperwork.
Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri said the city will not appeal – in effect inviting other same-sex couples to pursue their rights in court as well.
"We have to live with and accept this reality: the world is moving in this direction," Macri said Friday, adding that it is important officials "safeguard the right of each person to freely choose with whom they want to form a couple and be happy."
Freyre, 39, executive director of the Buenos Aires AIDS Foundation, and Di Bello, 41, an executive with the Argentine Red Cross, sued after being denied a license in April.
Their request was granted by Judge Gabriela Seijas, who said laws limiting marriage to "a man and a woman" violate constitutional rights of equality.
Argentina's Congress is considering changing dozens of articles in the civil code to enable same-sex marriage. The proposal has support among ruling party lawmakers but President Cristina Fernandez has yet to take a stand. The Roman Catholic Church and other Christian groups are opposed.
Currently no country in Latin America allows gay marriage, though some jurisdictions allow gay partners to form civil unions with many of the same rights.
Seijas' ruling sets no precedent beyond this case, but other gays and lesbians can cite it and hope for positive results in court if their requests for marriage licenses are denied.
"Ideally we want the bill to pass so that couples won't have to resort to this type of action," said Maria Rachid, president of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Federation of Argentina.
Buenos Aires in 2002 became the first city in Latin America to allow same-sex civil unions, and Mexico City followed in 2007. Uruguay has legalized civil unions nationwide. Spain went further, legalizing same-sex marriage in 2005.
The men – both HIV positive – plan to marry on World AIDS Day at the same civil registry in the capital's Palermo neighborhood. They told The Associated Press that marriage – and not just a civil union – is important to them because they want a shared health insurance policy and inheritance rights, among other things married couples now enjoy.