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Judge aims to bar first Latin America gay wedding

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A last-minute court ruling Monday cast doubt over whether two Argentine men will be able to wed as planned in Latin America’s first legal gay marriage.

Alex Freyre and Jose Maria Di Bello were granted a marriage license earlier this month by a Buenos Aires judge who overruled a ban on gay marriages in the capital city, arguing that it was unconstitutional.

The couple planned to marry at the city registry office on Tuesday, but the eleventh-hour ruling ordered the ceremony’s suspension.

“The decision I have adopted should not be interpreted as ... discrimination against the rights of homosexuals,” Judge Marta Gomez Alsina wrote in the ruling, saying the first judge did not have authority to give the couple permission to wed.

But Freyre and Di Bello vowed to go to the registry office Tuesday and try to go ahead with the wedding. “We have a firm and irrevocable ruling (granting us permission),” they said in a statement. “They’ve only managed to postpone it.”

The city’s attorney general’s office said the ruling was being reviewed but that no final decision had yet been taken on what the next step might be.

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

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

Argentina’s Roman Catholic Church criticized the initial judicial decision to let the couple marry as “reckless” and urged authorities to reconsider the ruling, but Mayor Mauricio Macri said he would not challenge the ruling.

Gay rights groups, which are lobbying for the country to become the first in the region to allow same-sex weddings, said Monday’s ruling was a setback.

“One day before the wedding a second judge suspends it,” said Cesar Cigliutti, president of the Argentine Homosexual Community group. What we need a concrete law, not to depend on a judge.”

Editing by Cynthia Osterman