Español Chile has become the seventh country in South America to legalize same-sex civil unions. On Wednesday, January 28, the Senate passed the Civil Union Agreement bill with 25 votes in favor, six against and three abstentions. The bill also applies to unmarried heterosexual couples.
After nearly four years of legislative battling, the approved bill would give homosexual couples many of the legal rights afforded to married couples.
“Civil unions are an essential institution for unmarried couples that live together,” said government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde. “This is a legal status that does not discriminate and that will be applied to all types of couples, and most importantly, that recognizes the different types of families we have in our country, giving protection to all of them.”
The bill, still pending Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s signature, creates a legal contract between two people that share a home. Among the changes, it will allow civil union partners to inherit each other’s property, join a partner’s health plan, and receive pension benefits.
“There’s been a profound cultural change in Chilean society, which is reflected in [the fact that] a majority of people disapprove of discrimination and segregation based on someone’s sexual orientation or their gender identity,” Rolando Jimenez, spokesman for LGBT rights group Movilh, told Reuters.
Compared to other countries in the region, Chile has been slower to change its laws regarding the rights of gay couples. It was not until 1999 that the Chilean Congress decriminalized gay sex, and later passed a controversial hate-crimes law in 2012.
“I feel very proud that we took this historic step,” said Senate President Isabel Allende, daughter of the late former President Salvador Allende. “I believe we’ve made progress for the respect, the rights, and the dignity of people.”
Argentina and Uruguay are the only South American nations to fully recognize marriage between homosexual couples.