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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 17, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 16
Same-sex civil unions now legal in Chile - First unions expected in October
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Same-sex civil unions now legal in Chile - First unions expected in October

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has signed a law that will allow Gay and Lesbian couples in the South American country to form civil unions. It will take effect in six months and the first civil unions are expected by mid-October.

'The civil union law is a vindication in the struggle for sexual diversity rights,' Bachelet said during the April 13 signing ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

Both houses of the Chilean congress passed a mutually acceptable compromise bill on January 28. The Chilean Constitutional Court upheld the bill at the end of March.

Members of MOVILH (the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation), a Chilean LGBT rights group that lobbied for a civil unions law for more than a decade, joined politicians at the signing ceremony. Transgender activist Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte also attended the signing.

'Today is a historic day for sexual diversity,' MOVILH director Rolando Jiménez said in a press release. 'The state for the first time recognizes that there is not just one way to make a family. From today the state protects family diversity and takes responsibility for historic injustices based upon prejudices and taboos that never should have existed.'

Bachelet campaigned for president supporting marriage equality and said in advance that she would sign the bill if the country's legislature passed it. In February her government announced it would no longer defend Chile's law against same-sex marriage in an international law suit.

Three same-sex couples filed suit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012, seeking to have the anti-equality law declared a violation of human rights. Lawyers for the government and those representing MOVILH are negotiating a settlement in the case and are expected to sign it later this month.

In January the Chilean Senate passed a bill that would allow Trans people to change their legal names and gender designations without sex reassignment surgery. Bachelet supports this bill and says it is a legislative priority for her Socialist government.

Bachelet was President of Chile in 2006-2010 and was reelected in 2013 to a term that will end in 2018. Chile's presidents may not serve consecutive terms.

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