HRC in Chile with the U.S. Embassy in Santiago
July 16, 2013 by David Contreras Turley, Senior Regional Field Organizer
Two weeks ago, I was invited to travel to Chile to work with the American Embassy in Santiago. In celebration of Pride Month, the local embassy staff supported a number of events, lectures, and meetings for LGBT groups and the community throughout Chile. Throughout the week, I had the rare opportunity to talk to progressive Chilean politicians, legislative staffers and campaigners about our mission at the Human Rights Campaign.
It was a great chance to discuss the effective organizing methods and strategies we have learned and used at HRC in our successful marriage campaigns from New York to Rhode Island. I had the honor to give three lectures, two of which were at universities in the south, and another at a law school in Santiago. Chileans were very interested to hear about the effective campaigns we built to pass marriage equality. I focused on our historic victory in New York, the lessons learned there, the formation of the marriage coalition model that we now replicate in every state since New York, and the need for strategic organizing and building partnerships with allies, especially in the faith, union and business communities.
There is significant progress to be made on LGBT issues in Chile, but the movement is alive and thriving with many active LGBT groups in Santiago and throughout the country. LGBT advocates had a recent victory with a law enacted in June 2012 when the Congress passed the Anti-Discrimination Law, which had been lingering in Congress since 2007. Under this new law, sexual minorities and transgender persons, as well as a number of other minority groups, are protected from crimes based solely on discrimination and provided protection against acts of "arbitrary discrimination" based on "sexual orientation". That said, LGBT people in Chile still face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples, such as in housing and access to health care. LGBT and minority groups are working tirelessly to promote several LGBT-related pieces of legislation through Congress, including a Gender Identity bill and a bill to provide for civil unions for same-sex couples.
One of the best aspects of my week in Chile was having the opportunity to meet with talented and dedicated local LGBT leaders, NGO’s and non-profits; these meetings were all coordinated by my US Embassy hosts. These Foreign Service Officers and Embassy Staff, who are encouraged by the Secretary of State to include LGBT issues in their diplomatic efforts, demonstrated the US State Department's commitment to the advancement of human rights and LGBT equality around the globe.
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