Recognition of same-sex unions in Chile
Chile does not legally recognize same-sex unions currently. On 28 January 2015, the National Congress approved a bill recognizing civil unions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples offering some of the rights of marriage. The bill is now awaiting presidential signature to become law.
In December 2014, a group of senators from various parties introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption.
Bachelet's first presidency
During January 2006's presidential campaign both President Michelle Bachelet and center-right candidate Sebastián Piñera voiced their support for civil unions, but the Catholic Church and many members of Congress were opposed.
During his run-up to the presidency in 2009, Piñera vowed to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and included a gay couple in one of his televised campaign ads.
In June 2010, senator Andrés Allamand (National Renewal) submitted the Acuerdo de Vida en Común (AVC) ("Commonlife Agreement") to Congress. AVC was a civil unions agreement that would be open to any two people regardless of sex. On 3 August 2010, senator Fulvio Rossi (Socialist Party) introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the country. During the first week of September 2010, several senators backing the bill stated they would withdraw their support after talks with members of the Evangelical Church, and instead announced support for the civil union bill introduced by senator Allamand.
In May 2011, president Piñera stated that he was in favor of an upcoming bill which would legalize a form of civil union; his stated intent was to “protect and safeguard [...] the dignity of those couples, whether of the opposite or even the same sex”. Piñera introduced a bill to Congress in August 2011 allowing registered cohabitation, known as Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja (Life Partnership Agreement). This would give unmarried partners many of the rights now enjoyed only by married couples, such as inheritance and certain social welfare and health care benefits. Piñera’s legislation proposed the creation of a Common-Law Agreement (Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja, AVP), which would allow same-sex couples to civilly register their partnership with a notary. Chile's national LGBT rights group, the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), said it was cautiously optimistic the measure would pass.
In response to the proposed legislation and potential legal battles brewing in the country's Constitutional Court, members of Chile's Independent Democrat Union introduced a constitutional amendment on 11 August 2011, that sought to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
On 10 April 2013, the Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja law creating civil unions in Chile was approved by the Senate's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, on a 4-1 vote. On 7 January 2014, the Senate voted 28–6 in favor of the law, but the bill was not voted on by the Chamber of Deputies before the end of the parliamentary session in March 2014, despite it being a priority issue for Piñera.
Bachelet's second presidency
Michelle Bachelet declared on 11 April 2013 that she supports marriage equality and will seek to legalise it if elected president in the November 2013 presidential elections. Bachelet, who was president of Chile between 2006 and 2010, won the election on 15 December 2013.
When Bachelet took office in March 2014, she made passing Piñera's civil union bill a priority issue as well. Legalising same-sex marriage remains a longer-term goal of Bachelet's administration.
On 5 August 2014, a Senate committee approved the civil unions bill. On 7 October 2014, the bill moved out of the Senate and is now scheduled for a final vote in the Chamber Of Deputies within the coming weeks.
On 10 December 2014, a group of senators from various parties will joined MOVILH in presenting a bill to allow same-sex marriage and adoption to Congress. MOVILH has been in talks with the Chilean government to seek an amiable solution to the pending marriage lawsuit brought against the state before the Inter American Court of Human Rights. The group has suggested that they would drop the case if Bachelet's Congress keeps their promise to legislate same-sex marriage.
The name of the bill was changed to Civil union pact (Pacto de Unión Civil) on December 17, and Congress reiterated their intention to hold the final vote by January 2015. On 6 January 2015, a provision recognising foreign marriages as civil unions was approved in the Constitutional Committee while the child adoption clause was turned down. The bill will go to a final vote before both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies as it was amended. On 13 January, the full Chamber of Deputies reinserted the adoption provision. On 20 January 2015, the Chamber approved the bill on a vote of 86 to 23 with 2 abstentions. On 27 January, the Senate rejected all the Chamber's amendments, so the bill was headed to the joint committee of both houses. The committee reached the agreement in regard to the text of the bill and changed its name to Civil union agreement (Acuerdo de Unión Civil) the same day. The bill was passed in both houses on 28 January 2015, and is currently awaiting approval from the President.
Challenges in court
Chile's Constitutional Court heard arguments on 28 July 2011, regarding the constitutionality of Article 102 of the Civil Code that bans same-sex marriage but it ruled in a 9-1 vote on November 3 that the ban was not unconstitutional.
In 2012, a same-sex marriage lawsuit was filed before the Inter-American Court Of Human Rights. Piñera's government stated its opposition to the suit in 2013. After Michelle Bachelet, who pledged to make marriage equality a reality was inaugurated as President of Chile in 2014, the LGBT rights group MOVILH announced that they would seek an amicable solution to the case with the state. On 17 February 2015, lawyers representing the Government and the LGBT rights group MOVILH met to discuss an amicable solution to the same-sex marriage lawsuit before the Inter-American Commission Of Human Rights. The Government announced that they would drop their opposition to same-sex marriage. A formal agreement will be signed in April and the case will still continue according to MOVILH's lawyer who stated that the lawsuit will live on until Chile enacts the law.
An April 2009 poll concluded that only 33.2% of Chileans were in favor of allowing same-sex couples to be married, with 65.2% opposed. However, support among young people was much higher: according to a study by the National Youth Institute of Chile, 56% of people aged between 15 and 29 supported same-sex marriage, while 51.3% supported same-sex adoption. A more recent poll showed that 70% of youths support same-sex marriage.
The July 2011 nation-wide CEP poll found that 52% of Chileans were in favor of granting legal rights to same-sex unions: 18% supported granting civil marriage to gay couples, while 34% preferred giving same-sex couples a "legal union". When the question is slightly rephrased, 57% of Chileans were against gay marriage where "the same rights as a heterosexual couple are guaranteed" and 27% in favor, while support for a "legal union" of same-sex couples was higher at 35%, with 57% against. In all questions, support for gay unions was higher among the younger and better educated. In the case of adoption of children by a lesbian couple, 24% were in favor and 61% against. Support was lower for male gay couples: 20% in favor and 64% against.
An August 2012 poll found that 54.9% of Chileans support same-sex marriage, while 40.7% are opposed.
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- Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
- Religion in Latin America Appendix A: Methodology