December 1, 2009 / 10:46 PM / in 8 years

Argentine gay couple vows to reverse marriage ban

(Recasts, adds details, quotes)

By Luis Andres Henao

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 1 (Reuters) - A gay Argentine couple vowed to keep fighting for the right to get married after a last-minute court ruling dashed their plans to hold Latin America’s first legal same-sex marriage on Tuesday.

Alex Freyre, 39, and Jose Maria Di Bello, 41, were granted a marriage license by a city judge two weeks ago. That ruling gave approval for the two men to wed in the capital despite a national policy defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

But a national judge on Monday ordered the suspension of the ceremony, which had been planned for Tuesday, saying that the city judge had no power to make the earlier ruling.

The couple, dozens of friends, gay rights activists and curiosity seekers gathered at the civil registry office on Tuesday to protest the ban.

"Our rights and everyone’s rights are being violated if the marriage can’t go forward," said Di Bello, carrying a bouquet of roses. He and Freyre, both HIV-positive, wore red sashes to mark World AIDS Day, which they had picked as the day to get married.

The Roman Catholic Church in Argentina had criticized the earlier judicial decision to let the couple marry and had urged authorities to reconsider.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, considered a possible presidential candidate in 2011, refused to appeal the first court decision, arguing the time is right for the region’s first same-sex marriage.

But on Tuesday gay rights activists said they were disappointed that the mayor’s office did not actively resist the second court ruling.

"The wedding’s been suspended but we’re appealing to the Supreme Court today so we can figure out which court ruling to follow," said Ivan Pavlovsky, spokesman for Macri.

Maria Rachid, the couple’s lawyer, told Reuters that the ruling blocking the wedding was "illegitimate."

"We’re going to ask for the annulment of the judge’s decision to suspend the wedding and going to sue her for abuse of power and for ruling against the law," Rachid added.

Argentina in 2002 became the first Latin American country to allow civil unions by same-sex couples.

Civil unions in Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities grant same-sex couples some legal marital rights, but not others such as the right to adopt children.

Elsewhere in Latin America, same-sex civil unions are allowed in Uruguay and Mexico City.

(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Sandra Maler) ((luis.a.henao@reuters.com; +54 11 4510-2505; Reuters Messaging: luis.henao.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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