President Tabaré Vázquez signed a bill Dec. 27 making Uruguay the first Latin American country to grant same-sex couples access to civil unions on the national level.
The legislation, which passed the Senate in September and the House of Representatives in November, took effect Jan. 1.
Couples must live together for five years before they can take advantage of the law, which grants spousal rights in areas that include inheritance, property ownership, pensions, parenting and health care.
The law applies to "two people — whatever their sex, identity, orientation or sexual option may be — who maintain an emotional relationship of a sexual nature [and] an exclusive, singular, stable
and permanent character without being united in matrimony."
Other Latin American localities with civil union laws include the city of Buenos Aires, the Argentine province of Río Negro, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, Mexico City, and the Mexican state of
Coahuila, which borders Texas.