[JURIST] The Uruguayan House of Representatives [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday approved [press release, in Spanish] a bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt. The House voted 40-13 in favor of the bill [El Pais report, in Spanish], which has been opposed by both the Roman Catholic Church and opposition political leaders with only a single vote on the bill from the opposition parties. The bill is supported by left-wing President Tabare Vazquez [BBC profile] and is expected to be approved by the Senate in the coming weeks. The Senate voted to approve an initial bill on July 15 and will vote again on the final version before the end of the legislative session on September 15. If the bill becomes law, Uruguay will be the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The bill includes other changes to the Childhood and Adolescence Code [text, PDF, in Spanish], which governs adoptions, including shortening the adoption process and preserving the right of minors to know their biological parents and even maintain a relationship with them. Under the proposed law, married couples or legally-recognized civil unions could adopt a child after four years of living together. The Uruguayan Children's and Adolescent's Institute of Uruguay (INAU) [official website, in Spanish], the national agency that manages matters pertaining to minors, would continue to have discretion over the adoption process.
The Uruguayan common-law relationship law [text, PDF, in Spanish] allows couples to apply to be legally recognized as a civil union after five years of living together regardless of the gender of the parties. It was enacted amid much controversy in December 2007 and went into effect in January 2008. To date, only 180 couples have applied for common-law relationship recognition, and only 20 have been recognized. Among those, half of them have been same-sex couples. In the US, adoption by same-sex couples continues to be a controversial issue. In November, a Florida court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that a ban on adopting children for same-sex couples was unconstitutional, allowing a couple to adopt two children. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] the same Florida statute in 2005 as being rationally related to protecting the interests of children, and the US Supreme Court declined to review [WP report] that decision. In November, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure [JURIST reports] prohibiting gays, lesbians, and other unmarried cohabiting couples from becoming either foster or adoptive parents.