Post submitted by Limor Finkel, Former HRC Global Engagement Program Coordinator

Chile took a leap toward equality on Tuesday after the Senate advanced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The bill passed out of committee with a 28-6 vote after six hours of intensive debate on the National Congress floor in Valparaíso, Chile, a city some 90 miles from Santiago along the coast.

Opponents of the civil unions proposal stood inside the Senate with signs reading, “Return to Christ.” The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH) live-tweeted the event and stated that members of extreme, Evangelical groups were escorted from the chamber after causing repeated disturbances during the hearing.

Senators claiming that civil unions are un-Christian reacted angrily after the vote, while those in favor specifically pointed to religious pluralism and tolerance on their floor speeches. “Those who are conservative should look deeply at themselves. It is not legitimate to impose ones religious views on others,” said Senator Guido Girardi during the Senate debate.

MOVILH filed a lawsuit in 2012 with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights when three same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses. The Court ordered that the Chilean government respond to the case within two months, and cabinet members within the government have in turn announced that the “process of internal consultations” has begun.

Chile’s President-elect, Michelle Bachelet, supports marriage rights for same-sex couples, and is also publicly backing a bill that would allow transgender individuals the right to legally change their name and sex on official documents without undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. The proposal also calls for hormonal treatments and psychiatric or psychological evaluations as part of the nation’s healthcare protection.

President-elect Bachelet also supports strengthening Chile’s LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination law that was pushed to the forefront after Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old gay man living in Santiago, was brutally murdered by four self-described neo-Nazis.

The civil unions bill will continue to push through the Senate in the coming weeks as various proposed amendments are considered.

Filed under: International, Marriage

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