LGBT rights in Uruguay

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LGBT rights in Uruguay
URY orthographic.svg
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status 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, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections since 2004 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2009;
Same-sex marriage since 2013
Adoption Legal since 2009

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (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 since 1934. Anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people have been in place since 2004. Civil unions for same-sex couples have been allowed since 2008 and same-sex marriages since 2013, in accordance with the nation's same-sex marriage law passed in early 2013. Additionally, same-sex couples have been allowed to jointly adopt since 2009 and gays, lesbians and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the military.

In 2016, Americas Quarterly named Uruguay the most LGBT-friendly country in Latin America, calling the nation "a model for social inclusion in Latin America". It also hosted the first international LGBT rights conference in Latin America in July 2016, with hundreds of diplomats, politicians and activists from around the world addressing LGBT issues.[1] A large majority of Uruguayans support same-sex marriage.[2]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1934.[3] The age of consent became equal at 15, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender. However, Uruguay possesses a Corruption of Minors Law, under which charges can be brought to those manipulating minors below the age of 18 into having sexual relations.[4]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex couples have been allowed to marry since August 2013. Previously, same-sex couples could only access civil unions, which did not grant all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

Uruguay was the first Latin American country to legalize civil unions under national legislation. Under the legislation, couples must 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 slightly different form in the Senate earlier in February 2007; the bill was passed by both chambers in the same form on 19 December[5] and signed into law by President Tabaré Vázquez on 27 December.[6] It came into effect since 1 January 2008.[7]

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,[8][9][10] 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.[11] The ruling was appealed, however, and rendered moot when Uruguay's same-sex marriage law went into effect.

In July 2010, lawmakers of the ruling Broad Front announced their intention to legalize same sex marriage.[12][13][14] In 2011, the Marriage Equality Bill got introduced to Parliament. In December 2012, the bill passed the Chamber of Representatives by a vote of 81-6[15][16] and passed the Senate on 2 April 2013 by a 23-8 vote. Due to the Senate changing some aspects of the bill, the Chamber of Representatives re-voted on the bill on 11 April 2013, and approved it by a vote of 71 to 21.[17] 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 3 May[18] and went into full effect on 5 August 2013.[19]

Adoption and family planning

Since September 2009, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt. The law enabling this was approved by the Chamber of Representatives on 28 August 2009 and by the Senate on 9 September 2009.[20][21] Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.[22]

17 out of a possible 23 senators voted in favour of the move.[23] 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".[24] 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".[25] 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".[23] 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".[22] 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."[25]

Additionally, the same-sex marriage law approved in 2013 allows lesbian couples to access in vitro fertilisation.

Discrimination protections

LGBT flag map of Uruguay

Incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity has been prohibited since 2003,[26] [27] 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. The Commission is intended to recommend laws to protect against various forms of discrimination.[28]

Military service

Since May 2009, gay and bisexual people have been 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.[29]

Gender identity and expression

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.[30] [31] Sex reassignment surgery, hormone therapy or any form of diagnosis are not requirements to alter one's gender on official documents.

In October 2018, the Uruguayan Parliament passed a law allowing minors to change legal gender with parental consent. The law also established a framework to revert past discriminatory state actions, including providing monetary reparations to transgender individuals persecuted during the Uruguayan Dictatorship (estimated to be around 50 people).[32] Furthermore, it mandates that transgender people receive 1 percent of public and private educational scholarships (see also "affirmative action").[33] The law stipulates the "free development of personality according to their chosen gender identity", and calls on the Government to ensure that transgender people are treated respectfully by authorities, included in housing programmes, have access to education, and are not denied health services.

Besides male and female, Uruguayan identity documents are available with an "O" sex descriptor (for "Other"). One may also choose to leave their sex entry blank.[34]

Intersex rights

Article 22 of Law No. 19580 on violence against women based on gender (Ley N° 19580 de violencia hacia las mujeres basada en género), in force since January 2018, establishes the protocolization of interventions regarding intersex persons, prohibiting unnecessary medical procedures for children and adolescents.[35]

Conversion therapy

Adopted in 2017, the Mental Health Law states that in no case a diagnosis can be made in the field of mental health on the exclusive basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[36]

Blood donation

Gay and bisexual men can donate blood in Uruguay, irrespective of the last time they had sex.[37]

Living conditions

The "Sexual Diversity Monument" in Montevideo. In the centre is a triangular prism, reading: Honrar la diversidad es honrar la vida. Montevideo por el respeto a todo género de identidad y orientación sexual. Año 2005.

Uruguay is regarded as a global leader in human rights and LGBT rights, with legislation in place protecting LGBT people from discrimination and allowing same-sex couples to wed and adopt. The "Gay Happiness Index" (GHI) published based on a 2015 poll by PlanetRomeo lists Uruguay at rank five with a GHI score of 73, on par with countries such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.[38] Societal acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships is very high, with a 2014 poll finding that about 71% of Uruguayans supported same-sex marriage (the highest in South America and the second highest in the Americas behind Canada).[39] Nevertheless, transgender people still face discrimination and stigma. According to the State Health Services Administration (ASSE), life expectancy for transgender people is just 45 years old. About two-thirds of transgender Uruguayans have reported being victim of physical violence.[40]

The Montevideo Pride parade has taken place annually since the 1990s. In 2018, the event was attended by an estimated 120,000 people.[41] It usually is celebrated on the last Friday of September, and has turned into one of Uruguay's largest public events. Other events include Punta Pride, held annually in Punta del Este in February. Montevideo is frequently referred to as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. There are several gay bars, restaurants and pubs in the city.[42]

Summary table

Unofficial flag of the Uruguayan LGBT community
Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1934)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1934)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2003)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2008)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2013)
Adoption by single LGBT persons Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2009)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2009)
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2009)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2009)
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures Yes (Since 2018)
Third gender option Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes (Since 2013)
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2017)
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Yes (Since 2013)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes

See also


  1. ^ Uruguay Named Most LGBT-friendly Country In Latin America, NewNowNext, 26 October 2016
  2. ^ "Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes". Pew Research Center. November 13, 2014. Archived from the original on April 11, 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  3. ^ (in Spanish) Homosexualidad en la historia de Uruguay.- Por José Pedro Barrán
  4. ^ (in Spanish) Codigo Penal Archived 6 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Uruguayan Pres. To Sign Gay Unions Bill". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-20.
  6. ^ "Uruguay's President grants legal rights for gay couples". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Civil Unions Begin Next Week In Uruguay". 2007-12-28. Archived from the original on 2007-12-29.
  8. ^ "Por primera vez Justicia uruguaya reconoce matrimonio homosexual". El Pais (Uruguay). 9 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Uruguay Recognizes Marriage of Gay Couple". OnTopMag. 10 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Justicia uruguaya reconoció un matrimonio gay". Uruguay. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Jueza afirmó que la ley ya habilita el matrimonio homosexual". El Observador. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  12. ^ (in Spanish) Frente promoverá ley para habilitar el matrimonio gay Archived 5 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ (in Spanish) Socialistas quieren debate sobre matrimonio gay Archived 22 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Argentine Neighbors Uruguay, Paraguay To Debate Gay Marriage". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Uruguay House Approves Gay Marriage Bill". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Huge News For Uruguay's LGBT Community". Huffington Post. 12 December 2012.
  17. ^ "Uruguay Congress Votes to Legalise Gay Marriage". BBC News. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Desde el 1° de agosto se podrán celebrar matrimonios gay". Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  20. ^ Uruguay lawmakers approve gay adoptions
  21. ^ Uruguay approves Latin America's first gay adoption law
  22. ^ a b "Uruguay to legalise gay adoptions". RTÉ. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  23. ^ a b "Uruguay allows same-sex adoption". BBC. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  24. ^ "Uruguay passes same-sex adoption law". CNN. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  25. ^ a b "Lawmakers in Uruguay Vote to Allow Gay Couples to Adopt". The New York Times. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  27. ^ Anonymous (15 July 2003). "Uruguay: Parliament Forbids Hate Speech and Violence Based on Sexual Orientation". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  28. ^ (in Spanish) Ley N° 17.817 Archived 26 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ Uruguay To Lift Ban On Gays In The Military
  30. ^ "Uruguay approves sex change bill". 13 October 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2016 – via
  31. ^ (in Spanish) Ley Nº 18.620 DERECHO A LA IDENTIDAD DE GÉNERO Y AL CAMBIO DE NOMBRE Y SEXO EN DOCUMENTOS IDENTIFICATORIOS Archived 16 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^ (in Spanish) Uruguay aprueba una ley de vanguardia para el bienestar de las personas trans, The New York Times, 19 October 2018
  33. ^ Uruguayan Congress Approves Comprehensive Law For Trans People, teleSUR, 19 October 2018
  35. ^ "Ley N° 19580 de violencia hacia las mujeres basada en género". Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  36. ^ "Ley N° 19529 de Salud Mental" (in Spanish). Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  37. ^ (in Spanish) Donación de sangre y homosexualidad: Restricciones vigentes y cambios en la regulación
  38. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo
  39. ^ (in Spanish) Costa Rica lidera índices de apoyo al matrimonio gay en Centroamérica; 10° a nivel regional
  40. ^ Uruguay: A Global Leader for LGBTI Rights
  41. ^ (in Spanish) Miles de personas en la Marcha de la Diversidad por la Avenida 18 de Julio
  42. ^ Gay Guide To Montevideo, Uruguay

External links

  • Human Rights Organization working on promoting integration and understanding between sexual minorities and Heterosexuals as well as between foreigners and Uruguayans
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