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News > Latin America

Same-Sex Civil Unions Legal in Chile

  • The new bill is a step in the right direction for LBGT rights, but activists will continue to push for full equality rights.

    The new bill is a step in the right direction for LBGT rights, but activists will continue to push for full equality rights. | Photo: EFE

Published 22 October 2015
Opinion

The law was passed overwhelmingly in Congress in January after years of lobbying by activists for equal rights for LGBT people.

A new law comes into force in Chile Thursday that legalizes civil unions for same-sex couples

The new law makes it easier for unmarried co-habiting couples to co-own property and make medical decisions. It will also apply to heterosexual couples.  

The bill was passed overwhelmingly in January by a vote of 86 to 23, with two abstentions.

It is seen as a major step forward for LGBT rights in the mostly Catholic country that has long been ruled by conservative laws passed during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). 

RELATED: teleSUR Special Coverge – Celebrate Sexual Diversity

The new law also allows people in civil union partnerships to claim pension benefits, to inherit property if their civil partner dies, and makes it easier to get custody of their partner's child if he or she dies. 

Government spokesman Marcelo Diaz said the law “was unthinkable a few years ago” in Chile. 

The LGBT movement in Chile has made great advances in the country in recent years. They are now protected by anti-discrimination laws covering employment, while gay people can also serve openly in the Army, gay men are allowed to donate blood and lesbian couples can have access to in vitro fertilization treatments.

Other countries in the region have already recognized gay marriages, including Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico

According to a 2013 Pew poll, around 46 percent of Chileans support same-sex marriage, while 42 percent are opposed, while Chilean youth are more in favor of equal marriage rights. A 2014 poll by Chile's National Youth Institute found that 7 out of 10 Chilean youth support same-sex marriage. 

President Michelle Bachelet has stated she supports full marriage equality rights. When she began her current term in March 2014, she vowed to prioritize the civil union bill, but said marriage rights remain her long-term goal.

RELATED: LGBTI Achievements and Challenges in Latin America

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