"To marry or not to marry?" For Latin America's gays and lesbians this is not the existential dilemma that it is for most heterosexual couples. It is the object of an intense political struggle waged country by country. With some notable exceptions, same-sex couples across the region cannot enjoy conjugal or parental rights.
At the same time, homosexuality is not illegal in any country in Latin America except Guyana. In Cuba, the legal status of lesbians and gays is somewhat ambiguous. This situates the region somewhere in the middle ground of global attitudes-more liberal than Africa and Asia, but much less tolerant than Europe. But for those facing discrimination, that is small comfort.
Some of the region's most enlightened laws for lesbians and gays have been passed in Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico. The Civil Union Law 1004 passed by the city of Buenos Aires in December 2002 guarantees all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, the right to register their unions with the Public Registry for Civil Unions. To qualify, applicants must prove that they are a resident of Buenos Aires and have been involved in a stable and public relationship for at least two years, or they must have children together. Farther south, authorities in the Patagonian province of Rio Negro extended in April 2003 the same rights and obligations to same-sex couples already enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
The Cohabitation Law of Mexico City, approved in November 2006, grants same-sex couples marital rights identical to those established for common-law relationships between men and women. The decree specifically includes pension, inheritance and guardianship rights. In the Mexican state of Coahuila, Decree 209, dated January 2007, states that adults of the same or different sexes are recognized as "civil companions" and a family entity. The decree grants inheritance and alimony rights, among others, but prohibits adoptions.
BREAKING NEW GROUND
In Uruguay, a law signed by President Tabaré Vásquez in December 2007 grants certain legal rights to all cohabiting couples living together for at …