Chile’s legislature this week gave final approval to a bill authorizing civil unions for unmarried partners, including same-sex couples, a move that comes after four years of debate. The initiative is expected to be signed by President Michelle Bachelet in the coming days, which would make Chile the sixth country in Latin America to have union rights for same-sex couples.
Under the new law, which passed by a vote of 86 to 23 Wednesday, unmarried partners in civil unions will be able to share many of the same rights enjoyed by married couples, including rights to pensions, property, inheritances and health plans, and have elevated priority in child care cases. Once it’s signed by President Bachelet, Chile will join Ecuador and Colombia in recognizing civil unions for same-sex partners.
Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina have gone further to approve full marriage rights for same-sex couples. A separate bill for same-sex marriage was introduced in Chile’s Congress in December, but has yet to face a vote.
“This doesn’t cast aside the fight for marriage legislation for all Chileans, which is the larger hope for our community and which we will put all our efforts into in 2015,” Luis Larrain, head of Chilean advocacy group Fundación Iguales, said in a release. But he noted the organization was “happy that the state recognizes, for the first time, that a same-sex couple also constitutes a family and deserves protection.”
President Bachelet openly supported same-sex marriage rights during her presidential campaign. Legislation protecting Chile’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from discrimination and hate crimes has also advanced in recent years, particularly after the high-profile death of Daniel Zamudio, a gay man who was beaten to death by a neo-Nazi gang outside Santiago in 2012. Bachelet has also publicly announced support for strengthening legislation against hate crimes, including those committed upon LGBT groups.