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Argentine Gay Couple  Legally Join in Civil Union for 1st Time

Gay activists throughout South America are celebrating a first for the continent: a civil union between two Argentine men. The ceremony took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has legalized same-sex unions. The new law has activists and religious leaders there at odds.

Complete with confetti and fireworks, two men in Buenos Aires became the first homosexual couple to legally join in a civil union in South America.

Marcelo Suntheim and Cesar Cigliutti signed the city registry together, signaling a move toward equal rights for homosexuals in the Argentine capital.

"This demonstrates a real maturity on the part of Argentine society, and this is a recognition of our basic human rights," Mr. Cigliutti told reporters.

The new law extends medical and insurance benefits and hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, but does not allow them to adopt children or receive inheritance.

However, the Catholic Church, of which four out of five Argentines are members, is strongly opposed to this new law.

"Well for us, it was really something very sad, and we don't agree with this law," said Father Alberto Bochatey, a professor of bioethics at the Catholic University in Buenos Aires. "They say, well, its not really a marriage, its only a civil union. But it looks like a real wedding, you know. It's something that is not really going with the Argentinian culture at all."

Gay activists say they plan to lobby for a civil union law to be adopted nationwide, a move the Catholic Church says it will continue to resist.