Aruba just gave its same-sex couples the right to legally register their unions and to receive benefits equivalent to those afforded to married couples.

The legislature on Friday voted to recognise the unions, reports the Jurist.

Benefits include being able to make medical decisions on behalf of their partner and the right to receive pension payments after the death of a partner.

After the vote, which saw members vote 11-5 for the change, the rights will be entered into the civil code.

The constituent country of the Netherlands recognises same-sex marriages performed there, but where it is not legal for same-sex couples to be married.

The Netherlands’ supreme court back in 2007 ruled that legislation allowing same-sex unions must be recognised in Aruba.

The decision followed a row over a same-sex couple who were denied the right to register their union in Aruba.

Aruba refused to recognise same-sex marriages in 2005 although it did legalise same-sex relations between consenting adults in private.

In order for same-sex couples to be legally recognised as marriage in Aruba, they were previously forced to travel to the Netherlands and then back to aruba.

This latest development means same-sex couples can have legal recognition equivalent to marriage without having to travel to Europe.

Aruba is a 32km-long island in the Caribbean Sea that lies 27 km north of the Paraguaná Peninusla and Venezuela.

The country was granted partial independence from the Netherlands in 1986.

Although the country is self-governed it remains a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands forming a commonwealth with the State of the Netherlands and the State of the Netherlands Antilles.

The Netherlands is well-known for its liberal policies on issues such as sexual orientation.

It was one of the first countries to introduce legislation offering protection to LGBT people.

In 1993 the Dutch parliament passed the Equal Rights Law which included sexual orientation as a basis for anti-discrimination policy.

In 1998 domestic partnerships benefits were afforded to same-sex couples and in 2001 same-sex marriage was given legal recognition.