Maria Rachid, president of the Buenos Aires-based Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans, said she has been fighting for this change for a decade. She credited the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for creating the environment in which such a change could take place.
"Now we have a government that's more open, that's disposed to listening to our demands, and that's beginning to generate some changes," she said in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires.
But Hector Timerman, Argentina's ambassador to the United States, told CNN in Atlanta that it was not so much the influence of the current president as it is the changes that have occurred since Argentina emerged from the dictatorship years of 1976-1983.
"For a Latin American country, it's an amazing story," he said, noting that things have become much more open in the past quarter century.
Whatever, the reason, this is great news. It fits within a context of broader advances for gay rights in Latin America.
Andres Duque, director of New York-based Mano a Mano and a blogger on Latino gay issues, credited Argentina with being "the first one to jump to the gate in Latin America in terms of providing rights to same-sex couples." He cited the civil unions bill of 2002 in Buenos Aires -- the first Latin American city to pass one. But he criticized the effort as incomplete, citing the fact that the law does not allow for gays to adopt.
As a number of Latin American countries have elected socialist leaders, the political landscape has become more favorable on a continent often associated with machismo and Catholicism, Duque said.
For example, Ecuador is considering a change in its constitution that would grant rights to same-sex couples, including pension rights, health benefits and social security, he said. And leftist President Evo Morales is pushing for a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In some districts of Mexico, including the capital, civil unions are allowed.