Chile legalises same-sex marriage and adoption in historic vote

·2 min read
A couple smile during a rally after the bill for same-sex marriage was approved by the Chilean senate  (Getty)
A couple smile during a rally after the bill for same-sex marriage was approved by the Chilean senate (Getty)

Chile has legalised a landmark law granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, in a momentous victory for gay rights activists in an historically Catholic country.

The legislation was passed by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the parliament on Tuesday to approve a marriage equality bill that also includes legalisation for adoptions by same-sex couples.

With this Chile has become the 31st nation in Latin America and sixth in South America to allow same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, the bill was approved by the Senate with 82 votes in favour and 20 in against with two abstentions. Following the landmark vote, several deputies in the Chamber hugged, including some from opposing parties.

The equal marriage bill has stalled in Congress for four years after first presented by left-leaning president Michelle Bachelet and remained neglected until it was given urgent status by President Sebastián Piñera. Mr Piñera’s support came as a surprise to everyone as he had long argued that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

The law will allow gay couples with parental rights, which was until now prohibited under the Civil Union act.

Mr Piñera in his annual speech to Congress on 1 June said: “I think the time has come to guarantee that freedom and that dignity to all people.”

People celebrate waving rainbow flags during a rally after the bill for same-sex marriage was approved (Getty)
People celebrate waving rainbow flags during a rally after the bill for same-sex marriage was approved (Getty)

“I think we should deepen the value of freedom, including the freedom to love and to form a family with a loved one. Also the value of the dignity of all relationships of love and affection between two people,” he added.

Senators initially approved the marriage equality measure on 21 July and deputies approved it on 23 November, but modifications introduced by the deputies required a joint committee of both houses to resolve their differences.

Changes that were agreed are the recognition in Chile of marriages of same-sex couples performed abroad and the definition of marriage as “a solemn contract between two people” rather than between a man and a woman.

The passage of the law has stunned conservative presidential candidate José Antonio Kast while his rival and left-wing candidate Gabriel Boric voted in favour of the bill in the capacity as a lawmaker. A runoff between the two is scheduled on 19 December while they remain at odds at a number of issues, including same-sex marriages.

“We respect democracy, but that doesn’t mean we change our convictions,” Mr Kast said disagreeing with the law. “For us, marriage is between a man and a woman.”

But activist Isabel Amor hailed the verdict, saying: “I am tremendously moved. I am finding it difficult to keep my composure. It’s been a long race.”

MOVILH, one of the major campaigner group of the law said in a tweet: “After centuries of abuse the doors of justice, equality and dignity have opened to same sex couples.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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