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 by President Michelle Bachelet, published in the Official Journal of the Republic of Chile 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 Chile's ban on same-sex marriages, the Chilean Government, local LGBT groups and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights signed an 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 elections in November 2017. This agreement and a January 2018 ruling by the IACHR, stating that countries signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights are required to recognize same-sex marriages, have put pressure on the new administration, headed by President Sebastian Piñera, to legalise same-sex marriage.

In June 2021, Piñera announced that his government would sponsor the bill to legalise same-sex marriage in order to hold an urgent vote in the National Congress.[1][2]

Civil unions[edit]

Recognition of same-sex unions in South America
  Marriage and other type of partnership
  Other type of partnership
  Country subject to IACHR ruling
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal, though penalties not enforced

Bachelet's first presidency[edit]

In the January 2006 presidential campaign, both major candidates, center-left Michelle Bachelet and center-right Sebastián Piñera, voiced their support for civil unions, but the Catholic Church and many members of Congress were opposed.[3]

In October 2009, a civil union bill was introduced in the National Congress of Chile but failed to pass.[4]

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.[5]

In June 2010, Senator Andrés Allamand (National Renewal) submitted a bill to Congress to permit a "common life agreement" (Spanish: Acuerdo de Vida en Común), which would have been open to both different-sex and same-sex couples.[6] On 3 August 2010, Senator Fulvio Rossi (Socialist Party) introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.[7] 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 to 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".[8] 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 granted only to married couples, such as inheritance and certain social welfare and health care benefits.[9][10] Under Piñera's legislation, same-sex couples would be able to register their civil partnership with a notary.[11]

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.[12][13] On 7 January 2014, the Senate voted 28–6 in favor of the law,[14] 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.[15]

On 5 August 2014, a Senate committee approved the civil union bill.[16] On 7 October 2014, the bill was passed by the Senate, and moved to the Chamber of Deputies.[17]

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.[18] On 6 January 2015, a provision recognising foreign marriages as civil unions was approved in the Constitutional Committee while a clause recognizing adoption rights was rejected. The bill went to a final vote before both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies as it was amended.[19] 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.[20] 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 [aˈkwɛɾðo de uˈnjon siˈβil]) the same day. The bill was passed in both houses on 28 January 2015.[21][22] 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.[23] The bill was signed into law by President Bachelet on 13 April 2015.[24][25] It was published in the Diario Oficial de la República de Chile on 21 April 2015 and took effect on 22 October 2015.[26][27][28]

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.[34]

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.[35][36][37] The bill was approved by the Senate in October 2017 in a unanimous 15–0 vote.[38] The law took effect on 8 November 2017.[39]


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.[40]

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%).[41] 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.[42]

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[43] 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.[44]

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 the National Congress of Chile. 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 Congress kept their promise to legislate same-sex marriage.[45] 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.[46] The Chilean Government pledged to legalise same-sex marriage.

Legalization attempts (2016–present)[edit]

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.[47][48] 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."[49] In June 2017, she announced in a speech to Congress that the bill would be introduced in the second half of 2017.[50] It was later confirmed that the bill would grant married same-sex couples equal adoption rights.[51] The bill was sent to the Congress on 28 August 2017,[52][53] before being submitted to the Senate on 5 September and referred to the Constitution, Legislation, Justice and Regulation committee.[54][55]

On 19 November 2017, Chile held parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential election. According to newspaper La Tercera and local LGBT activists, a majority of the newly elected Chamber of Deputies and the Senate were in favour of same-sex marriage.[56][57] The Constitution, Legislation, Justice and Regulation committee of the Senate began examining the bill on 27 November 2017.[58][59] 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.[60]

On 17 December 2017, Sebastián Piñera was re-elected president.[61] Though personally opposed to same-sex marriage, Piñera stated that he would respect the April 2015 agreement with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, saying that "Chile's international commitments will be fulfilled".[62] In the wake of a January 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling requiring signatory nations to the American Convention on Human Rights to recognize same-sex marriage, LGBT advocacy group MOVILH urged Piñera to implement and abide by the decision.[63] In early March 2018, a spokesperson for the Piñera Administration announced that passing the same-sex marriage bill would not be a priority, but that the Piñera Government would not veto or oppose it.[62][64] In early April 2018, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights summoned the Chilean Government to a meeting to discuss the status of the measures included in the 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,[65] stating that it would continue to respect the April 2015 agreement.[66] On 17 May 2018, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Piñera signed the agreement, and pledged to continue the work of the previous administration in legalising same-sex marriage.[67]

Committee debate on the same-sex marriage bill resumed on 9 January 2019, and continued in May.[68][69] 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.[70][71] 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.[72] On 15 January 2020, the bill was approved at its first reading in the Senate by 22 votes to 16, and was sent to the Senate Constitutional Commission.[73] In October 2020, it was reported that the commission had approved 29 of the articles in the bill, with 27 remaining to be approved.[74]

On 1 June 2021, during his last annual address to the National Congress, Piñera announced that his government would support the bill and place urgency on bringing it forward to a vote.[1][2] On 21 July 2021, the Senate approved the legislation by 28 votes to 14. The bill now moves to the Chamber of Deputies.[75][76]

21 July 2021 vote in the Senate of Chile[77]
Party Votes for Votes against Absent (Did not vote)
  Independent Democratic Union (UDI) (9) -
  • Claudio Alvarado A.
  • José Miguel Durana S.
  • Luz Eliana Ebensperger O.
  • Alejandro García Huidobro S.
  • Iván Moreira B.
  • David Sandoval P.
  • Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe H.
  • Ena Von Baer J.
  • Juan Antonio Coloma C.
  National Renewal (RN) (7)
  • Rodrigo Galilea V.
  • Rafael Prohens E.
  • Marcela Sabat F.
  • Juan Castro P.
  • Francisco Chahuán C.
  • José García R.
  • Manuel José Ossandón I.
  Socialist Party of Chile (PS) (7)
  • Isabel Allende B.
  • Alfonso De Urresti L.
  • Alvaro Elizalde S.
  • José Miguel Insulza S.
  • Juan Pablo Letelier M.
  • Carlos Montes C.
  • Rabindranath Quinteros L. (Vice-President of the Senate)
  Party for Democracy (PPD) (6)
  • Loreto Carvajal A.
  • Guido Girardi L.
  • Ricardo Lagos W.
  • Adriana Muñoz D`Albora
  • Jaime Quintana L.
  • Jorge Soria Q.
  Christian Democratic Party (PDC) (5)
  • Carolina Goic B.
  • Francisco Huenchumilla J.
  • Jorge Pizarro S.
  • Yasna Provoste C. (President of the Senate)
  • Ximena Rincón G.
- -
  Evópoli (1)
  • Felipe Kast S.
- -
  Democratic Revolution (RD) (1)
  • Juan Ignacio Latorre R.
- -
  Progressive Party (PRO) (1)
  • Alejandro Navarro B.
- -
  Independents (6)
  • Carmen Gloria Aravena A.
  • Kenneth Pugh O.
Total 28 14 1

Efforts to include same-sex unions in constitution[edit]

In October 2020, Chile voted in a national plebiscite to rewrite its constitution. In a May 2021 election, voters elected the members of the Constitutional Convention, the body tasked with writing the new constitution.[78] LGBT groups are hopeful that same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples will be enshrined in this new constitution,[79] particularly as the centre-right governing coalition Chile Vamos failed to reach the third of members needed to veto in the Convention.

Attempts to ban same-sex unions[edit]

In response to the proposed legislation to recognize same-sex unions and potential legal battles brewing in the country's Constitutional Court, members of Chile's Independent Democrat Union (UDI) introduced a constitutional amendment on 11 August 2011 seeking to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman,[80] but the bill never reached a vote.

On 16 June 2016, two UDI MPs introduced a bill to amend the Constitution of Chile to ban same-sex marriage and prohibit same-sex couples from adopting.[81] The measure was not successful.

Legal challenges[edit]

Chile's Constitutional Court heard arguments on 28 July 2011 regarding the constitutionality of Article 102 of the Civil Code, which bans same-sex marriage,[82] but ruled in a 9–1 vote on November 3 that the ban was not unconstitutional.[83]

In 2012, a lawsuit was filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights arguing that Chile's same-sex marriage ban was a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights and Chile's international obligations. The Piñera Government stated its opposition to the suit in 2013. After Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated as President of Chile in 2014, having pledged to legalise same-sex marriage, 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 the case, and the government announced that they would drop their opposition to same-sex marriage. A formal agreement was signed in April but the case continued, with a lawyer for MOVILH stating that the lawsuit would live on until Chile enacted a same-sex marriage law.[46]

On 10 June 2016, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Santiago rejected another lawsuit filed by MOVILH. The court ruled that as Chilean legislation does not permit same-sex marriages, as such the Civil Registry cannot marry same-sex couples. It also stated that the opening of marriage to same-sex couples should be a decision for Congress, not the courts.[84]

In December 2018, the Supreme Court of Chile recognised marriage as a fundamental right, in a case legal experts suggested may pave the way for same-sex marriage.[85] Shortly after the ruling, a same-sex couple filed suit against the ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that it was unconstitutional and a violation of human rights.[86] On 26 April 2019, after the Supreme Court referred the case back to the Santiago Court of Appeals due to a probable constitutional violation, the latter ruled that denying the couple a marriage license was not illegal.[87] The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.[88]

Public opinion[edit]

Evolution of public opinion in Chile regarding same-sex marriage, 2014-2021. The graph shows the percentage of people agreeing to the question: "Do you agree or disagree that same-sex couples should have the right to marry?", according to CADEM Plaza Pública.[89]

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.[90] 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.[91][92]

A July 2011 nationwide CEP (Centro de Estudios Públicos) 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.[93]

An August 2012 poll by Radio Cooperativa – Imaginaccion found that 54.9% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage, while 40.7% were opposed.[94]

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted between November 11 and December 16, 2013, 46% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage, while 42% were opposed.[95][96]

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.[97]

A poll carried out in September 2015 by the aforementioned Cadem Plaza Pública found that 60% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage. Opposition stood at 36%.[98] This pollster's 2016 survey found 61% support and 36% opposition.[99] A further poll carried out in July 2017 by the same organisation found support at 61% and opposition at 32%.[100]

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.[101]

The 2017 AmericasBarometer showed that 59% of Chileans supported same-sex marriage.[102]

A poll conducted for Radio Cooperativa – 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, while 51.2% were against.[103]

A poll carried out by Cadem Plaza Pública in April 2018 put support for same-sex marriage at 64% and opposition at 34%. 2% were unsure or had refused to answer.[104] Support and opposition to same-sex adoptions both stood at 49%. In 2019, the pollster showed that support had increased to 66%, with 54% also in favour of permitting same-sex couples to adopt.[105] In 2020, support for same-sex marriage reached 74% and for adoption rights 61%.[106]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spanish: tribunales de familia;[29] Mapudungun: norümpeyüm reñma;[30] Aymara: wilamasinakar arxatir uta;[31] Quechua: yawar masikunamanta apukuna;[32] Rapa Nui: hare ture o te hua’ai.[33]
  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.


  1. ^ a b "Chile's Pinera to push same-sex marriage bill long stuck in Congress". Reuters. 2021-06-01. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  2. ^ a b Jara, Alejandra; Soto, Claudia (2021-06-01). "Piñera anuncia urgencia a proyecto de matrimonio igualitario: "Debemos profundizar sobre el valor de la libertad, incluyendo la libertad de amar"". La Tercera. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  3. ^ "CHILE: Law on Civil Union for Gays Within Reach". IPS News. 2006-05-17. Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  4. ^ "Presentaron el Pacto de Unión Civil en el Parlamento chileno". 2009-10-14. Archived from the original on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
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