SANTIAGO – This week, two LGBT activist groups stepped forward and asked that the Chilean government promote a measure to legalize same-sex marriage. Civil unions between same-sex couples have been legal in Chile since 2015, but same-sex marriage is still illegal. Although a bill was passed in 2017 by former president Michelle Bachelet to redefine marriage in Chile as “a union between two people,” the bill is still officially under debate by the current government.
On Sept. 9, the Equals Foundation filed its request for the government to promote the measure to legalize same-sex marriage. The Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) joined the request the following day.
According to its website, the mission of the Equals Foundation is “to work to achieve the full inclusion of sexual diversity in Chilean society.” The legalization of same-sex marriage is therefore imperative to achieve their aim of inclusivity and equality of people of all sexualities.
Differences of Opinion
LGBT activists claim that the dismissive rhetoric of the Chilean government is detrimental to the humanity of LGBT people and actually hinders their rights.
Speaking to CNN Chile, President of the Equals Foundation Juan Enrique Pi said that he would ask President Piñera to “cease in this constant intention to perpetuate discrimination against the families of lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.” Activists claim that Piñera’s administration is damaging the LGBT population in not actively attempting to solve the issues of their community.
In a recent article, Movilh highlighted examples of this damaging rhetoric. One involved Deputy Camila Flores who said, “Marriage is between a man and a woman and it seems to me today that Chileans have many other priorities than to be talking about this matter, which affects just a minority of Chileans.”
It is expected that the push to legalize same-sex marriage will be met with resistance, especially by the more conservative administration members in Piñera’s government, who appear to have backtracked on the promises made by President Bachelet during her term when she introduced the Marriage Equality Bill in 2017.
In May 2018, a CADEM survey found that 65% of Chileans support same-sex marriage, demonstrating that the majority of the population are supportive of LGBT rights. This is not being reflected in Piñera’s administration.
LGBT Rights in Chile
Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Chile, a number of other rights protect the LGBT community.
Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1999, and since then the Chilean government has gradually introduced laws that serve to protect its LGBT population.
Among other things, the government implemented anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2012, it officially recognized civil unions in October 2015, and it passed laws against discrimination based on gender expression in 2018.
Nevertheless, many issues surrounding LGBT rights in Chile, not just the legalization of same-sex marriage, remain to be determined. These include prohibiting conversion therapy and legalizing joint adoption by same-sex couples. Thus, a single LGBT person can adopt a child, but in the eyes of the law a same-sex couple cannot: instead, such a couple can apply to adopt a child, but only one person will be the legally recognized parent of the child.
As another example, hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity have been illegal since 2012, yet hate speech in this regard is not illegal.
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.