Gay marriage approved in Argentine House _ now goes to Senate over strong church opposition

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Gay marriage is a big step closer to becoming law in Argentina.

The House of Deputies approved same-sex marriage by an ample margin Wednesday and sent the legislation for consideration in the Senate. President Cristina Fernandez has promised not to veto the measure if it reaches her desk.

Gay rights activist Esteban Paulon calls it historic — the first time a gay marriage initiative has been debated in a national legislature in Latin America.

Five gay and lesbian couples already have been married by Argentine judges who say the country's constitution supports freedom of choice for couples. But other judges have overturned some of those marriages as illegal.

The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes the legislation.