Recognition of same-sex unions in Chile

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Chile has recognized civil unions since 22 October 2015. 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 was signed into law on 13 April 2015 and was published in the Official Gazette on 21 April 2015 and took effect on 22 October 2015.

In April 2015, in response to a lawsuit filed before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage ban, the Chilean Government, local LGBT groups and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights signed a friendly agreement, wherein the Government pledged to legalise same-sex marriage. A bill to this effect was introduced to the National Congress in August 2017, but failed to pass before March 2018, when a new government was inaugurated. This agreement and a January 2018 ruling by the IACHR, stating that countries signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights must legalise same-sex marriage, have put pressure on the new administration, headed by Sebastian Piñera, to legalise same-sex marriage.

Civil unions[edit]

Recognition of same-sex unions in South America
  Other type of partnership
  Country subject to IACHR ruling (Venezuela: only Guaidó administration accepts jurisdiction of IACHR)[1]
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal, though penalties not enforced

Bachelet's first presidency[edit]

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.[2]

In October 2009, a civil union bill was introduced but failed to pass.[3]

Piñera's first presidency[edit]

During his run-up to the presidency in 2009, Piñera vowed to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and included a same-sex couple in one of his televised campaign ads.[4]

In June 2010, Senator Andrés Allamand (National Renewal) submitted a bill to Congress to permit a "Commonlife Agreement" (Spanish: Acuerdo de Vida en Común), which would be open to both different-sex and same-sex couples.[5] On 3 August 2010, Senator Fulvio Rossi (Socialist Party) introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.[6] 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".[7] 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.[8][9] Under Piñera's legislation, same-sex couples would be able to register their civil partnership with a notary.[10]

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.[11][12] On 7 January 2014, the Senate voted 28–6 in favor of the law,[13] 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[edit]

When Michelle Bachelet again took office as president in March 2014, she made passing Piñera's civil union bill a priority.[14]

On 5 August 2014, a Senate committee approved the civil unions bill.[15] On 7 October 2014, the bill was passed by the Senate, and moved to the Chamber of Deputies.[16]

The name of the bill was changed to Civil Union Pact (Spanish: Pacto de Unión Civil) on December 17, and Congress reiterated their intention to hold the final vote by January 2015.[17] 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 went to a final vote before both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies as it was amended.[18] 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 a joint committee of both houses.[19] The committee reached an agreement in regard to the text of the bill and changed its name to Civil Union Agreement (Spanish: Acuerdo de Unión Civil) the same day. The bill was passed in both houses on 28 January 2015.[20][21] Several lawmakers asked the Chilean Constitutional Court to verify the bill's constitutionality, which was upheld by the court in a ruling released on 6 April 2015.[22] The bill was signed into law by President Bachelet on 13 April 2015.[23][24] It was published in the Official Gazette on 21 April 2015 and took effect on 22 October 2015.[25][26][27]

Chile's civil union provisions enable couples to claim pension benefits and inherit property if their civil partner dies as well as more easily co-own property and make medical decisions for one another. All disputes and conflicts involving civil partners are dealt with by the Family Courts.[a] The Government estimated at the time of the law going into effect that some two million Chilean couples cohabiting could have their unions legally recognised. In the day following the law going into effect, approximately 1,600 couples signed up to register their unions.[33]

On 1 December 2016, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved, with six abstentions, a bill to grant couples who enter into a civil union five days off, as newly married couples have.[34][35][36] The bill was approved by the Senate in October 2017, in a unanimous 15-0 vote.[37] It took effect on 8 November 2017.[38]


From January to December 2016, 7,338 civil unions were performed in Chile. Of these, 75% were between heterosexual couples, while the remaining 25% were between same-sex couples. 41% of all these unions took place in the Santiago Metropolitan Region. 9,535 civil unions were performed between October 2015 and December 2016.[39]

21,189 couples had formed civil unions by October 2018, three years after the law went into force. Of these, 16,483 were opposite-sex couples (or 77.8%), 2,253 were lesbian couples (or 10.6%) and 2,453 were gay male couples (or 11.6%).[40] The statistics for same-sex couples by region are as follows: 58 in Arica y Parinacota, 93 in Tarapacá, 199 in Antofagasta, 72 in Atacama, 149 in Coquimbo, 646 in Valparaíso, 2,621 in Santiago, 216 in O'Higgins, 143 in Maule, 0 in Ñuble,[b] 242 in Bío Bío, 79 in Araucanía, 48 in Los Ríos, 102 in Los Lagos, 6 in Aysén, and 32 in Magallanes.[41]

Year Same-sex unions Heterosexual
Female Male Total
2015 277 358 635 1,562 2,197 28.9%
2016 767 888 1,655 5,683 7,338 22.6%
2017 666 639 1,305 4,972 6,277 20.8%
2018[42] 744 748 1,492 5,786 7,278 20.5%
Total 2,454 2,633 5,087 18,003 23,090 22.0%

Same-sex marriage[edit]


President Michelle Bachelet introduces the same-sex marriage bill to Congress.

Michelle Bachelet declared on 11 April 2013 that she supported same-sex marriage and would seek to legalise it if elected president in the November 2013 presidential elections. Bachelet, who was previously president of Chile between 2006 and 2010, won the election on 15 December 2013.[43]

On 10 December 2014, a group of senators from various parties joined LGBT group MOVILH in presenting a bill to allow same-sex marriage and adoption to Congress. MOVILH had 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 (see below). The group suggested that they would drop their case if Bachelet's Congress keeps their promise to legislate same-sex marriage.[44] On 17 February 2015, lawyers representing the Government and MOVILH met to discuss an amicable solution to the same-sex marriage lawsuit. The Government announced that they would drop their opposition to same-sex marriage. A formal agreement between the two parties and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights was signed in April 2015.[45] The Chilean Government pledged to legalise same-sex marriage.

On 1 July 2016, the Government announced that it would begin consultations on a same-sex marriage bill in September 2016, with the aim of finalising it by mid-2017 and said it views a ban on same-sex marriage as a human rights violation.[46][47] President Bachelet stated before a United Nations General Assembly panel in September 2016 that the Chilean Government would submit a same-sex marriage bill to Congress "in the first half of 2017."[48] In June 2017, she announced in a speech to Congress that the bill would be introduced in the second half of 2017.[49] It was later confirmed that the bill would allow same-sex couples equal adoption rights.[50] On 28 August 2017, the bill was sent to the Congress.[51][52] The bill was formally submitted to the Senate on 5 September and referred to the Constitution, Legislation, Justice and Regulation committee.[53][54]

On 19 November 2017, Chile held parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential election. According to La Tercera and local LGBT activists, a majority of the newly elected Chamber of Deputies and the Senate are in favour of same-sex marriage.[55][56]

The Constitution, Legislation, Justice and Regulation committee of the Senate began examining the bill on 27 November 2017.[57][58] Two days prior, an estimated 100,000 people marched in Santiago in favour of the bill's passage. Participants included many lawmakers and diplomats, including presidential candidate Alejandro Guillier.[59]

On 17 December 2017, Sebastián Piñera, who is personally opposed to same-sex marriage, was re-elected president.[60] Piñera did, however, state that he will respect the April 2015 agreement with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, saying that "Chile's international commitments will be fulfilled".[61] In the wake of a January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, which requires countries signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights to legalise same-sex marriage, LGBT advocacy group MOVILH urged Piñera to implement and abide by the decision.[62] In early March 2018, a spokesperson for the Piñera Administration announced that passing the same-sex marriage bill will not be a priority, but that the Piñera Government will not veto or oppose it.[61][63] In early April 2018, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights summoned the Chilean Government to a meeting to address the status of the measures included in the friendly agreement reached in April 2015. The meeting took place in the Dominican Republic on 3 May 2018. The Government informed the Commission of the situation as to the same-sex marriage bill, and what position it intended to take.[64] Shortly prior to 3 May, it officially announced that it will continue to respect the April 2015 agreement.[65] On 17 May 2018, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Piñera signed the friendly agreement, and pledged to continue the work of the previous administration in legalising same-sex marriage.[66]

Committee debate on the same-sex marriage bill resumed on 9 January 2019, and continued in May.[67][68] In May 2019, Senate president Jaime Quintana said that the same-sex marriage bill, along with a bill permitting same-sex couples to adopt, would have priority in the Senate agenda.[69][70] In July 2019, upon assuming his role as chairman of the Constitution Committee, Senator Felipe Harboe (PPD) began fast-tracking the procedure of the same-sex marriage bill, as opposition parties announced their intention to push for debate in Congress before going into recess in February 2020.[71] On 15 January 2020, the bill was approved at its first reading in the Senate by 22 votes to 16, and will now go to the Constitutional Committee.[72][73]

Attempts to amend Constitution[edit]

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, seeking to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman,[74] but the bill never reached a vote.

On 16 June 2016, two Independent Democratic Union MPs introduced a bill to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and prohibit same-sex couples from adopting.[75]

Legal challenges[edit]

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,[76] but it ruled in a 9-1 vote on November 3 that the ban was not unconstitutional.[77]

In 2012, a same-sex marriage lawsuit was filed before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Piñera Government stated its opposition to the suit in 2013. After Michelle Bachelet, who pledged to make same-sex marriage 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 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 was signed in April and the case continued according to MOVILH's lawyer who stated that the lawsuit would live on until Chile enacts a same-sex marriage law.[45]

On 10 June 2016, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Santiago rejected another lawsuit filed by MOVILH. The Court argued that Chilean legislation does not allow for same-sex marriages and as such the Civil Registry cannot marry same-sex couples. Furthermore, the Court explained that opening marriage to same-sex couples should not be decided by the judiciary but by the other branches of government.[78]

In December 2018, the Supreme Court of Chile ruled that marriage is a fundamental right, in a case legal experts believe may pave the way for same-sex marriage.[79] Shortly after the ruling, a same-sex couple filed suit against the ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that it is unconstitutional and a violation of human rights.[80] On 26 April 2019, after the Supreme Court referred the case back to the Court of Appeals of Santiago because of a probable constitutional violation, the latter ruled that denying the couple a marriage license was not illegal.[81] The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.[82]

Public opinion[edit]

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.[83] 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.[84][85] A 2014 poll showed that 70% of youths supported same-sex marriage.[86]

A July 2011 nationwide CEP poll found that 52% of Chileans were in favor of granting legal rights to same-sex unions: 18% supported granting civil marriage to same-sex couples, while 34% preferred giving same-sex couples a "legal union". When the question was slightly rephrased, 57% of Chileans were against same-sex 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 same-sex 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.[87]

An August 2012 poll found that 54.9% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage, while 40.7% were opposed.[88]

According to a Pew Research Center survey, conducted between November 11 and December 16, 2013, 46% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage, 42% were opposed.[89][90]

According to the Chilean pollster Cadem Plaza Pública, at the end of 2014, 55% of Chileans were in favour of same sex-marriage, whilst 39% were against.[91]

A poll carried out in September 2015 by the aforementioned Cadem Plaza Pública found that 60% of Chileans supported same sex-marriage. Chileans opposed to marriage between same-sex couples were at 36%.[92] This pollster's 2016 survey found 61% support and 36% opposition.[93] A further poll carried out in July 2017 by the same organisation found support of 61% and opposition at 32%.[94]

A 2016 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study poll, published in April 2018, found that 79% of Chilean eighth graders (13-14-year-olds) supported same-sex marriage. The study also included four other Latin American countries, of which Chile had the highest level of support: Mexico was at 78%, Colombia at 63%, Peru at 48% and the Dominican Republic at 38%. Chile's was a 21% increase from 2009.[95]

The 2017 AmericasBarometer showed that 59% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage.[96]

A poll conducted for Cooperativa e Imaginaccion, between 24 and 27 August 2017, found that 62.2% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage, 34.8% were against. In the same poll, 47% supported same-sex adoption, 51.2% were against.[97]

A poll carried out by Cadem Plaza Pública in April 2018 found support for same-sex marriage at 64% and opposition at 34%. 2% were unsure or had refused to answer.[98] Additionally, support for and opposition to same-sex adoptions were both at 49%.

A 2019 Cadem Plaza Pública survey showed that 66% of Chileans were in favour of same-sex marriage and 54% in favour of permitting same-sex couples to adopt.[99]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spanish: tribunales de familia;[28] Mapudungun: norümpeyüm reñma;[29] Aymara: wilamasinakar arxatir uta;[30] Quechua: yawar masikunamanta apukuna;[31] Rapa Nui: hare ture o te hua’ai.[32]
  2. ^ The region of Ñuble was created from the northern portion of the Bío Bío region in September 2018, only a few weeks before these numbers were published. In comparison, four opposite-sex civil unions were registered in the region as of October 2018.


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