Chile gives final approval to gay civil unions

Bill gives civil partners nearly all the rights of married couples.

Lawmakers in socially conservative Chile have given final approval to gay civil unions after more than four years of legislative wrangling.

The senate yesterday (January) passed the Civil Union Accord bill by a 25 to 6 vote margin with three abstentions, a week after the lower house approved the measure.

The bill now heads back to President Michelle Bachelet to sign into law.

Government spokesperson Alvaro Elizalde hailed the bill’s passage as ‘a breakthrough that we are proud of as a government.’

The law grants gay and unmarried couples the right to inherit each other’s property, join a partner’s health plan and receive pension benefits.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) applauded the vote.

‘This is a major step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Chileans and families who can now enter into a life partnership under the law assured of benefits and rights,’ said María Mercedes Gómez, IGLHRC regional program coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean.

‘While this bill gives civil partners nearly all the rights and benefits of married couples, the ultimate goal must be full equality before the law, which includes the possibility of marriage.’

Karen Atala, a judge and board member of Fundación Iguales, said: ‘The LGBTI community, our partners, and families, are starting to see justice.

‘This law gives us legitimacy. We’re still working on gaining the full rights of marriage. We are not going to rest until we win full legal recognition for marriage, affiliation, and adoption.’

In December, Deputy Gabriel Silber Romo introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage, which is already recognized in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.

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