In a historic vote, a bill permitting same-sex marriage passed in both houses of Chile’s National Congress on December 7th, joining the country with the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Uruguay in actualizing victory for marriage equality in Latin America. Center-right President Sebastián Piñera backed the bill and signed it into law on December 9th, saying, “All couples who so wish, regardless of their sexual orientation, will be able to live, love, marry and form a family with all the dignity and legal protection they need and deserve.”
The bill’s passage into law suggests a monumental shift in social attitudes in a country that has long maintained a conservative reputation, even among continental peers with majority Roman Catholic populations. According to Reuters, Minister of Social Development Karla Rubilar echoed Piñera’s sentiment, emphasizing that the law advocated that love is love, represented an important step forward for justice and equality, and went beyond the limited rights and protections enabled by civil unions, which have been permitted in Chile since 2015. In addition, the law vindicates the decades-long efforts of LGBTQ+ rights groups, which have sought to heighten visibility for Chileans with marginalized sexual and gender identities and diminish instances of legal and social discrimination against these individuals. The Huffington Post reported that the Chilean Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation recently surveyed 1,878 same-sex couples and found that nearly 83% of them planned to wed once permitted.
For the children of same-sex couples, the law presents an opportunity for legal validation for both parents. Previously, only one of two individuals in a same-sex partnership could adopt and hold parental legal rights and responsibilities. Isabel Amor, executive director of the equality group Iguales, said, “Not only will people who have a same-sex relationship be able to marry, but hundreds of children and adolescents will get recognition for their two mothers or two fathers.”
The law will take effect in March 2022 and coincide with the start of a new presidential chapter for Chile. Based on the results of the December 19th runoff between progressive Gabriel Boric and social conservative José Antonio Kast, this new chapter could lead the nation to two very different political futures. Whatever happens, social equality has undeniably achieved a citizen-directed victory, which will lay the foundation for continued transformation. The photographs of Chileans celebrating outside the houses of Congress last week, embracing one another and waving the iconic rainbow stripes of the pride flag, represent Chile’s fierce dedication to unity in the fight for equality and representation. This will prove vital in the months ahead.
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