The Uruguayan Senate today passed a bill which would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, and which is expected to be approved and signed into law.

The bill to legalise same-sex marriage passed the Senate 23 votes to 8, and equal rights groups have said that it is “nearly certain” that Uruguay will become the next nation to allow equal marriage.

The legislation as it passed today underwent slight modifications since passing the House in December, and the changes are expected to be passed by the Deputies, as well as President José Mujica, who said he intended to sign it into law.

The Marriage Equality Law, approved on 11 December by the lower house, was backed by the governing coalition.

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, commented on the bill’s passage via a statement

He said: “Freedom to Marry applauds the people of Uruguay and their government for moving forward into a future in which all loving and committed couples can share in the freedom to marry and the meaning and protections marriage brings to families.

“Uruguay’s vote today to move past civil union to marriage itself, Argentina’s enactment of the freedom to marry in 2010 and the Mexico Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last month in favor of the freedom to marry — citing the U.S Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia — all are inspirations and examples decision-makers here in the United States, including our Supreme Court justices, should swiftly follow to get the U.S. where it needs to be.”

In recent years, Uruguay has moved to allow same-sex civil unions, adoption by gay couples, and to allow openly gay members of the armed forces.

Uruguay’s neighbour Argentina legalised equal marriage in 2010.