Argentina’s House of Deputies has approved a bill which proposes giving gay couples the right to marry.
The lower house passed the bill by 125 votes to 109 and it will now go to senators for approval.
If it passes the upper house, it will go to President Cristina Fernandez, who has promised she will not veto it.
Mexico City passed a law legalised gay marriage recently, but if Argentina’s bill becomes law, it will be the first country in Latin America to legalise the practice. The bill also proposes giving gay couples the right to adopt.
Five gay couples have already married in Argentina after judges gave them permission, although some of these marriages have been overturned.
Maria Rachid, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, is hopeful the Senate will approve the bill.
She told Reuters: “We’ve talked to the heads of the political blocs [in the Senate] and the majority are in favour of this, so we think we could get a favourable vote in the Senate as well.”
Currently, only a few areas of Argentina recognise civil unions between same-sex couples: Buenos Aires itself, the province of Río Negro in Patagonia, and the city of Villa Carlos Paz in Córdoba province.
Since the 2002 decision to allow civil unions, Buenos Aires has become one of the hotspots on the international gay-friendly tourist circuit.