RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Chile is just one step away from becoming the eighth country in the region to legalize same-sex marriage after the Senate gave the green light this Wednesday to a bill presented in 2017, which must now be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies.
By a large majority (28 votes in favor out of a total of 43) in a historic session that ended with applause, senators approved the legislative initiative that, in addition to calling same-sex unions marriage, allows adoption and parenthood.
In recent years, the project has become one of the biggest fights of LGTBI collectives in Chile, where same-sex couples can only unite since 2015 under the Civil Union Agreement (AUC) figure, which does not recognize parental rights.
“We are the closest we have ever been in the history of Chile to family equality for same-sex couples. Today we celebrate one more step towards a resounding victory for all of society,” said the executive director of Fundación Iguales, Isabel Amor.
The legislative initiative also changes the concept of mothers or fathers to that of parents, recognizes unions contracted abroad, allows the order of children’s surnames to be defined, and eliminates homosexuality as grounds for divorce, among other aspects.
“Today we are taking an important step after 30 years of struggle, demonstrations and two international lawsuits against Chile for prohibiting equal marriage,” said Rolando Jiménez, activist of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh).
If approved in the next few weeks in the Chamber of Deputies, where it is expected to have a majority of support, Chile would join Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and several Mexican states.
“A HUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT”
The project was presented in 2017, during the second term of socialist President Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018), and was stuck for more than four years.
In January 2020, the Senate decided to approve the idea of legislating gay marriage. Still, it did not advance in the face of fierce opposition from the right-wing parties of the ruling coalition.
Its recent reactivation comes after the conservative Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, said on June 1 in his last public accountability before leaving office in March 2022 that “the time has come” to approve it and granted “urgency” to its processing.
“Equal marriage makes us much more tolerant, much more understanding, much less discriminatory, and makes us live in peace with ourselves,” said Rodrigo Galilea, one of the four pro-government senators who voted in favor.
For the president of the Senate, the opposition Christian Democrat Yasna Provoste, “it is not a value project, it is a human rights project, and human rights are not defended depending on whether they suit me or not, but rather they are defended with conviction.”
The surprising support of Piñera, who refused in 2019 to give urgency to the same project and accelerate its processing, fell like a pitcher of cold water pitcher on the parties that form the coalition with which he governs, especially the ultraconservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI).
“The definition of marriage does not seek to discriminate, it simply seeks to respect the nature of such contract (…). It is not discrimination when it seeks to equalize situations that are not equal”, assured Luz Ebensperger (UDI), one of the senators most opposed to the bill, which has broad support among citizens.
According to a recent Ipsos poll, 65% of Chileans believe that gay marriage should be allowed, which places Chile as the Latin American country with the second-highest popular support, behind Argentina (73%), the first country in the region to legalize it in 2010.