LGBT rights in Uruguay

LGBT rights in Uruguay

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1934
Gender identity/expression Transgender people allowed to change legal gender without a diagnosis, hormone therapy or surgery resulting in sterilization
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections since 2004 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage since 2013
Adoption Legal since 2009

LGBT rights in Uruguay are among the most liberal in both South America and the world. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal with an equal age of consent law since 1934, anti-discrimination laws in place since 2003. Gays and lesbians have been allowed to serve openly in the military and jointly adopt children since 2009, and civil unions have been allowed for same-sex couples since 2008 and civil marriages since 2013, in accordance with the nation's same-sex marriage law passed in early 2013.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1934.[1] Then the age of consent became equal at 15, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender. However the corruption of people under the age of 18 is criminalized as well, since 1994.[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

On 11 April 2013, Uruguay's lower house voted to legalise same sex marriage,[3] completing the legislative process to enable same-sex couples to marry in the nation. The legislatively approved law was signed by President Jose Mujica on May 3,[4] and went into full effect on August 5, 2013.[5]

Uruguay was the first Latin American country to legalize civil unions under national legislation. Under the legislation couples would have be together for at least five years and sign a registry. The couples will receive health benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights. The bill was passed in Parliament on 30 November 2007 after having been passed in a similar form in the Senate earlier in February 2007; the bill was passed by both chambers in the same forum on 19 December[6] and signed into law by president Tabaré Vázquez on 27 December.[7] It came into effect since 1 January 2008.[8] Following the approval of a bill, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples are allowed to enter into a civil union after they live together for at least five years, and will be entitled to get some of the benefits that married couples are afforded.

In July 2010, lawmakers of the ruling Broad Front announced intension to legalize same sex marriage.[9][10][11] In 2011, the Marriage Equality Bill got introduced to Parliament and in December 2012, passed in the Chamber of Deputies by a vote of 81-6[12][13] and passed in the Senate on 2 April 2013 by a 23-8 vote. The legislatively approved law was signed by President Jose Mujica on May 3,[4] and went into full effect on August 5, 2013.[5]

In June 2012, a judicial court in Uruguay granted recognition to a same-sex marriage licensed in Spain, creating a paradoxical situation in which Uruguay recognizes same-sex marriages established in any country but Uruguay[14][15][16] and Uruguayans who marry elsewhere can petition a judge to recognize their marriage under Uruguayan law. The court also held that local laws permit same-sex marriage, even if they do not say so explicitly.[17]

Adoption and family planning

See also: LGBT parenting

Since September 2009, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt. The law enabling this was approved by the House of Deputies on 28 August 2009 and by the Senate on 9 September 2009.[18][19] Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.[20]

17 out of a possible 23 senators voted in favour of the move.[21] After the vote, Senator Margarita Percovich said: "It is a right for the boys and the girls, not a right for the adults. It streamlines the adoption process and does not discriminate".[22] Diego Sempol, a representative of the gay rights group, Black Sheep, said: “This law is a significant step toward recognizing the rights of homosexual couples”.[23] Nicolas Cotugno, archbishop of Montevideo had previously said it would be a "serious error to accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples", claiming it was "not about religion, philosophy or sociology. It's something which is mainly about the respect of human nature itself".[21] He also claimed: "The Church cannot accept a family made up of two people of the same sex. These are people who unite and live their life together, but the Church does not consider that a family. A child is not something you make. I don't want to be too harsh in my comment, but with all due respect, a child is not a pet".[20] Senator Francisco Gallinal of the National Party claimed: “The family is the bedrock of society and this measure weakens it. For us, allowing children to be adopted by same-sex couples is conditioning the child’s free will.”[23]

Discrimination protections

Incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity has been prohibited since 2003,[24] [25] and in 2004 an anti-discrimination law was passed to create an Honorary Commission to Combat Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and other forms of Discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Commission is intended to recommend laws to protect against various forms of discrimination.[26]

Military service

Since May 2009, gay people are allowed to serve openly in the military of Uruguay, after the Defence Minister signed a decree stating that military recruitment policy would no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.[27]

Transgender issues

In October 2009, a law was passed allowing transgender people over the age of 18 to change their name and legal gender on official documents, so that it is in line with their gender identity.[28] [29]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal (Since 1934)
Equal age of consent (Since 1934)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) (Since 2003)
Recognition of same-sex couples (Since 2008)
Same-sex marriages (Since 2013)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples (Since 2009)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples (Since 2009)
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military (Since 2009)
Right to change legal gender (Since 2009)
Equal access to IVF and surrogacy for all couples and individuals (Since 2013)
MSMs allowed to donate blood

See also


  1. (Spanish) Homosexualidad en la historia de Uruguay.- Por José Pedro Barrán
  2. (Spanish) Codigo Penal
  3. "Uruguay Congress Votes to Legalise Gay Marriage". BBC News. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  5. 1 2 "Desde el 1° de agosto se podrán celebrar matrimonios gay". Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  6. "Uruguayan Pres. To Sign Gay Unions Bill". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-20.
  7. "Uruguay's President grants legal rights for gay couples". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  8. "Civil Unions Begin Next Week In Uruguay". 2007-12-28. Archived from the original on 2007-12-29.
  9. (Spanish) Frente promoverá ley para habilitar el matrimonio gay
  10. (Spanish) Socialistas quieren debate sobre matrimonio gay
  11. "Argentine Neighbors Uruguay, Paraguay To Debate Gay Marriage". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  12. "Uruguay House Approves Gay Marriage Bill". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  13. "Huge News For Uruguay's LGBT Community". Huffington Post. 12 December 2012.
  14. "Por primera vez Justicia uruguaya reconoce matrimonio homosexual". El Pais (Uruguay). 9 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  15. "Uruguay Recognizes Marriage of Gay Couple". OnTopMag. 10 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  16. "Justicia uruguaya reconoció un matrimonio gay". Uruguay. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  17. "Jueza afirmó que la ley ya habilita el matrimonio homosexual". El Observador. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  18. Uruguay lawmakers approve gay adoptions
  19. Uruguay approves Latin America's first gay adoption law
  20. 1 2 "Uruguay to legalise gay adoptions". RTÉ. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  21. 1 2 "Uruguay allows same-sex adoption". BBC. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  22. "Uruguay passes same-sex adoption law". CNN. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  23. 1 2 "Lawmakers in Uruguay Vote to Allow Gay Couples to Adopt". The New York Times. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  25. Anonymous (15 July 2003). "Uruguay: Parliament Forbids Hate Speech and Violence Based on Sexual Orientation". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  26. (Spanish) Ley N° 17.817
  27. Uruguay To Lift Ban On Gays In The Military
  28. "Uruguay approves sex change bill". 13 October 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2016 via
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