A bill allowing gay couples in Uruguay to adopt has been approved by the country’s Senate.

It was approved by Congress late last month and Uruguay’s adoption statute will now be modified, making it the first Latin American country to allow gay adoption.

Following the 17-6 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.”

In December 2007, Uruguay’s parliament passed legislation to recognise same-sex civil unions.

The country of 3.6m people was the first nation in South America to grant such protections, although some cities and regions throughout the continent have made similar legal provisions.

Congress passed legislation creating a civil union registry for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples who have lived together for at least five years.

In May, Uruguay lifted a ban on gays serving in its military.

The ban was imposed under the 1973-85 military dictatorship. Under it, people with “open sexual deviations”, which includes homosexuality, were banned from entering the military academies.

The ban also included homosexuality among the “mental illnesses and disorders” that legally made a person unsuitable to join the armed forces.

Another positive move for LGBT people was a measure approved last year which allows children over the age of 12 to change their names. It was aimed as trans young people.