After more than two years of deliberation, Congress moves forward on Life Partner Agreement, but conservatives promise to oppose gay marriage.
In its first session of 2014, Congress took a significant step for gay rights when the Senate approved legislation on same-sex civil union, as emotional supporters cheered and evangelical opponents held up banners with biblical messages aimed at lawmakers from the stands of the upper house.
Senators voted in favor of the Life Partner Agreement (AVP) late Tuesday evening with 28 votes in favor, six against and two abstentions. The bill will now pass to a constitutional committee before returning to Congress on Jan. 20.
The country’s leading LGBTQ organization hailed the outcome as significant step toward passing a law which “the majority of the country” wants.
“We are happy for this significant progress towards bettering conditions and equality for all families, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identification of its members,” a Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) statement read. “Today we have made one more step in the struggle for civil unions, which we began a decade ago. What was a dream is now becoming real.”
Introduced to Congress in August 2011 by the administration of President Sebastián Piñera, of the center-right National Renewal (RN), the bill has endured a drawn-out two years of debate and stalling, mainly because of stiff opposition from the RN’s coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party.
Tuesday’s legislative advance was hailed as a triumph by the Piñera administration with government spokeswoman Cecilia Pérez, who sat in on the session, describing it as a historic step towards transforming Chile into an inclusive country, “independent of sexual orientation.”
However, some UDI senators who supported the bill did so with reservations, fearing it may lead to gay marriage.
Those concerns have led Movilh to downplay hopes the bill could become law before Piñera leaves office in March. Should the AVP bill continue to languish in Congress, however, the LGBTQ will be calling on incoming President-elect Michelle Bachelet to go a step further during her administration.
The Socialist Party (PS) candidate ran on a platform which promised to send a same-sex marriage bill to Congress following an “open debate” on the issue.
But Movilh remains skeptical of the former president as well, as spokesman Oscar Rementería told The Santiago Times early Tuesday.
“When Michelle Bachelet was last president [2006-2010] she promised three things regarding sexual equality, none of which her administration delivered,” he said. “As such, we cannot have complete confidence that she is going to deliver what she promises this time around.”
Meanwhile, the topic of same-sex families has been a major talking point in Chile in 2014 after a a high school student with same-sex parents achieved the highest possible score on the mathematics section of the university placement test (PSU) held in December last year.
Since receiving his marks, Alexis Héctor Castillo has used his success to advocate for gay rights and marriage equality.
“We are a totally normal family which deserves respect,” he told El Rancagüino last week. “I have never been teased or anything like that, but I know that it happens to others, and that there are some who raise serious concerns about the results of marriage between homosexual couples. I have two mothers and I achieved the highest possible score, I have a family and we are happy.”