Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is going to put legalizing marriage equality at the top of her agenda for next year.
On Wednesday, Bachelet told a United Nations General Assembly panel on LGBT rights that she intends to send a bill making same-sex marriage legal to Congress in the first half of 2017, according to Reuters.
The bill would also propose measures to strengthen LGBT rights within Chile, including reforming the country’s nondiscrimination laws, Bachelet said. By legalizing marriage equality, Chilean same-sex couples could qualify for additional welfare benefits or state life insurance rights. The move would also clarify how laws governing adoption apply to same-sex couples.
Bachelet’s announcement comes less than two years after Chile’s Congress legalized same-sex civil unions in January 2015. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several Central and South American nations in recent years, including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and parts of Mexico.
As in those other nations, the Roman Catholic Church remains one of the largest and staunchest opponents of same-sex marriage within Chile. But Chile has also lagged behind its neighbors when it comes to adopting progressive positions on social issues. For instance, the country was the last in the Western Hemisphere to legalize divorce, and is one of the few that still outlaws abortions in all cases, with no exceptions even in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Bachelet said that it is becoming “increasingly clear that a family is a family,” adding: “I believe we needs to expand people’s rights, and LGBT people have to have the same rights as everyone.”
Bachelet also vowed to continue pushing ahead with her efforts to pass legislation around social issues, such as LGBT rights, in order to keep the campaign promises she made when elected.
“I don’t lead the country thinking on my popularity,” she said. “I lead the country according to the promises I made and the commitments I took with people during the election, and they voted for that.”
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