Metro Weekly

Chilean Congress votes in favor of same-sex civil unions

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Chile’s Congress has approved a law which will introduce civil unions for same-sex couples, AFP reports.

While Chile has, particularly in recent years, made great progress with LGBT rights — it has anti-discrimination laws covering employment and other areas, gays can serve openly in the military, gay men are allowed to donate blood, and lesbian couples can have IVF treatment — it has refrained, until now, from offering legal recognition to same-sex couples. The law, which has been in various stages of the political process for almost half a decade now, grants legal status to unmarried couples, including inheritance rights, pensions rights and the enrolment of spouses in health plans, as well as legal protection in child custody cases.

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The law has two final hurdles to clear before it becomes final. President Michelle Bachelet must sign it into law — though this is a given, as Bachelet has previously stated her support for the legalization of same-sex unions. “Eight years ago I spoke about civil unions, and we made preparations in that direction. The world has progressed, I think Chile has progressed,” she stated in a TV interview in 2013. “Marriage equality, I believe we have to make happen.” Once signed by Bachelet, the law passes to Chile’s Constitutional Court for approval.

Luis Larrain, head of Fundacion Iguales, a gay rights group, stated: “We are happy that the state recognizes, for the first time, that a same-sex couple also is a family and deserves protection.”

Once the law takes effect, Chile will join neighbors Colombia and Ecuador in recognizing same-sex civil unions. However, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay all recognize same-sex marriage, on a par with heterosexual marriage — something unlikely to occur in Chile, at least in the interim, due to the country’s predominantly Roman Catholic population.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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