“A historical dawn!” exclaimed Canal 5 Noticias news anchor upon receiving the final count of Argentine’s Senate vote on the bill granting marriage rights to same-sex couples. It was 4:06 AM in Buenos Aires when legislators voted in a slim majority (33-27) to approve the measure. Previously passed by the lower house, the bill now encountered its last major hurdle before heading to the President’s desk.
Outside in the streets, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community cried and cheered in celebration after anxiously waiting 14 hours in the frigid cold for the heated debate to end.
The narrow vote on the marriage bill in the Argentine Senate is representative of the hard fought campaign to ensure equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in the country. Having endured strong opposition from the Catholic Church, which organized mass rallies and protests in opposition to the bill, marriage equality supporters received a decisive boost from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who advocated for the bill’s passage and promised to sign into law once it reached her desk.
Yet despite the stiff opposition and the previous court setbacks, Argentines were able to usher in the landmark piece of legislation. Heralded as the first South American nation to pass legislation granting marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples, Argentina will soon become the seventeenth jurisdiction in the world, and the second in Latin America (after Mexico City), to allow gay and lesbian couples to legally wed. In light of this momentum, following the federal court decision striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by a Massachusetts federal judge last week and the recent poll finding of majority support for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in California, I believe we too can be triumphant in California and in the rest of the nation.
But the uphill struggle to win marriage back will take the work and strength from all of us, whether you are LGBT-identified or straight. Our first and most important step requires us to live our lives truthfully as openly LGBT people and allies while simultaneously engaging in fruitful and productive conversations with our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers and neighbors about the importance of supporting equal rights for all.
In Argentina, where Catholicism is recognized as the official religion and over 90 percent of the population identifies as Catholic, we’ve also learned that Catholics and Christians alike are not necessarily opponents of marriage equality. Similarly, we must move away from scapegoating a minority group of all linguistic, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, and instead focus our energy on moving public opinion on the issue.
Much like the fight for equal marriage rights in Argentina, we must exercise determination and perseverance. While we should celebrate in solidarity with the LGBT community in Argentina in this victorious moment for social equality, we must also resolve to recommit ourselves to talking to everyone around us about our nation’s promise of full equality for all.