Chile inches closer to marriage equality after historic vote: ‘The time has come!’

Pride in Santiago, Chile

The lower house of the congress of Chile has approved same-sex unions, bringing the South American country another step closer marriage equality.

Chile legalised civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 2015, but the move did not grant them all of the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples, most notably automatic parenthood of children and the right to adopt.

Former president Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female leader, introduced the Marriage Equality Bill in 2017 and it was approved by the country’s upper house, but has failed to move through congress for the last four years.

This year, Chile’s current president Sebastián Piñera announced that he planned to expedite the bill, declaring: “I think we should deepen the value of freedom including the freedom to love and to form a family with a loved one.

“The time has come to guarantee this freedom and dignity to all people. I think the time has come for same-sex marriage in our country.”

Finally, on Tuesday (23 November), Chile’s lower house, the chamber of deputies, approved the same-sex marriage bill with 97 to 35 votes, according to Reuters.

The chamber of deputies made some adjustments to the bill, including adding gender-neutral language, so it will now need to be re-approved by the upper house, before heading to Piñera’s desk.

Once signed, it would become law within 90 days.

Chile’s government spokesperson, Jaime Bellolio Avaria, wrote on Twitter after the vote: “Chile advances! Red heart Today the Marriage Equality Bill was approved in the [lower house] and it is getting closer and closer to being a law.

“An achievement for the LGBT+ community and for those of us who want a fairer country, where it doesn’t matter who you love or how you identify!”

Javiera Zúñiga, of LGBT+ rights organisation MOVILH, “celebrated” the vote in a statement, adding that she had “total conviction that we are in the final stretch”.

Zúñiga continued: “We are especially happy because all the indications on parentage and same-sex adoption that we introduced in the chamber were approved by a large majority.

“We are talking about 30 years of struggle, but centuries of segregation, whose days are numbered, which will end the injustices and inequalities suffered by same-sex couples and [queer] families.”

While Chile, a majority Catholic country, is often viewed as socially conservative, public support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage has been growing in recent years.

Earlier this year a survey conducted by Plaza Pública Cadem found that 74 per cent of Chileans support same-sex couples being able to marry, and 65 per cent support same-sex couples having the right to adopt children.