The Beruti register office in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires will never have witnessed a marriage like it. On Tuesday, Alex Freyre and José María Di Bello, who met three years ago at a conference on HIV, will make history and divide a continent as they become Latin America's first gay married couple.
The ceremony will be a tribute to their determination as well as their love for each other, after a bitter three-year campaign which has divided a city, outraged Argentina's powerful Roman Catholic church and overturned the constitution.
Freyre and Di Bello's forthcoming nuptials have been debated on television, in churches and on the street. Hostile posters can be found on billboards across the city. But, in Di Bello's words, nothing can now prevent him and his partner becoming "husband and husband".
Not surprisingly, the marriage is already being hailed by equality activists as a significant triumph against the odds in a traditionally macho society. Argentina – and Latin America in general – is not known for a tolerance of sexual diversity, and violence against gays is an everyday occurrence.
"This marriage is bigger than José María and I," Freyre told the Observer. "It is a victory for all who face prejudice and discrimination across Latin America and the Caribbean. It is proof that at last the grip of the Catholic church is slipping across Latin America, the system that has kept gay communities silent and fearful is crumbling. What is happening on Tuesday is a strike against those attitudes that have repressed sexual rights across this continent for too long."
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