Prominent LGBT Activist to Run for Chile Congress

A prominent LGBT rights advocate in Chile has announced he is running for a seat in the country’s congress.

Luis Larraín, who is the co-founder and former president of Fundación Iguales, declared his candidacy for the Chilean House of Deputies in an interview that La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper.

Larraín, 36, is a member of Ciudadanos, a centrist party that former Finance Minister Andrés Velasco founded in 2013. Larraín would represent the Providencia, Ñuñoa, Macul, San Joaquín and La Granja areas of the Chilean capital of Santiago if he is elected.

“We are in a moment in which people are very suspicious of politics,” Larraín told La Tercera.

Larraín was among the 30 LGBT rights advocates from around the world who attended the Human Rights Campaign’s inaugural Global Innovative Advocacy Summit that took place last spring in D.C. He formally stepped down from Fundación Iguales last month.

“We congratulate and wish only the best to our founder and ex-president, Luis Larraín Stieb, in his quest to represent the citizens of the communes of Providencia, Ñuñoa, Santiago, San Joaquín, Macul and La Granja in the House of Deputies,” said Fundación Iguales in a statement that it released after Larraín announced his candidacy. “We know that he is doing it from a great tradition of public service that we know and we have no doubt that he will continue to contribute to the transformations that the country needs.”

Claudio Arriagada, who was the mayor of La Granja from 1992-2002, in 2013 became the first openly gay person elected to the Chilean congress when he won a seat in the House of Deputies. Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, another Chilean LGBT advocacy group, lost his bid to represent the Santiago suburb of Conchalí in the same legislative chamber.

Providencia Municipal Councilmember Jaime Parada in 2012 became the first openly gay candidate elected in Chile.

Zuliana Araya, a transgender activist, had legally changed her name when she won re-election to the Valparaíso City Council in 2012. Alejandra González won re-election to the Lampa Municipal Council outside of Santiago last year.

Larraín: We must be in congress

The country’s civil unions law took effect in October 2015.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, another Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in the country.

President Michelle Bachelet in 2015 formally ended its opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples. She has also pledged to introduce a marriage bill in congress before June 30.

A recent poll indicates 64 percent of Chileans support the issue.

The Chilean Senate’s Human Rights Commission last August approved a Bachelet-backed bill that would allow trans Chileans to legally change their name and gender without surgery or a court order. Further legislative progress on the measure and efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Chile remains slow.

Larraín told the Blade on March 16 during a telephone interview from Santiago that having another openly gay person in congress can spur further debate on marriage and the trans rights bill. He added he can also use his experience as the former president of Fundación Iguales to advance these issues.

“It is not only important to have alliances in Congress,” said Larraín. “We must be in congress.”

National elections will take place on Nov. 19. A runoff will take place on Dec. 17 if none of the presidential candidates receive a majority of votes in the first round.