Uruguay has become the second South American country to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill passed through legislature with an overwhelming majority.
The Uruguayan parliament voted 71 to 11 in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage overnight on Wednesday, a move which President Jose Mujica's government had backed. He is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks.
Previously, the government had allowed homosexual couples to register a legal partnership similar to that of a civil union, but without the same rights as granted to heterosexual couples. The new law will give all married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, the same legal status.
Gay rights activists celebrated the news on the square in front of the Legislative Palace in Uruguay's capital city, Montevideo.
"Today, the Uruguayan state recognizes a form of love that is different from heterosexual love but just as valid," Federico Grana, a representative of the gay rights group, Black Sheep Collective, told reporters.
"We are living a historic moment," said Grana.
No immediate comment was available from the Catholic Church, which openly opposes the recognition of homosexual unions.
In 2010, Argentina became the first South American country to recognize same-sex marriage.
kms/rg (AFP, AP, dpa)