Chile's Approval of Civil Unions for All People is Step Forward on LGBTI Rights

For Immediate Release
28 January 2015

Media Contact: Suzanne Trimel, Communications  Director, +1-212-430-6018

(New York, N.Y.) – The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today applauded the Chilean legislature’s vote to allow civil unions for all people, including same-sex couples. The historic decision grants legal status to stable and permanent cohabitation by two people, without regard to either person’s sex or gender. The bill does not legalize same-sex marriage.

“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. “It shows the dedication of the Chilean civil society, and the political will of the government. However, while we view this decision very positively, we also recognize the legal limits for civil partnerships. 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.”

The Chamber of Deputies approved the bill with 78 votes in favor, following Senate approval. This final legislative step gives a green light for the bill to become law with President Michelle Bachelet’s signature.

The approved text comes after four years of deliberation and is based on recommendations from civil society organizations, including Fundación Iguales. Most importantly, the law expands the concept of family, assuring that the legal status of individuals entering the agreement is modified in the Civil Registry and that Family Courts implement the new processes. Under this law, children in cohabitating couples will be considered relatives by affinity and, if one of the parents becomes disabled, a family judge has the discretion to grant a civil partner custody of the children, without giving priority to biological family bonds. This law also guarantees child and family benefits, social security, and life-insurance benefits.

Karen Atala, a judge and board member of Fundación Iguales, said: “The LGBTI community, our partners, and families, are starting to see justice. Eleven years have passed since the Supreme Court of Chile ruled to take my daughters away from me because of prevailing stereotypes and prejudice.  It was the prejudices—and not our lives--that made lesbian relationships illegitimate and deemed our families to be anomalies. 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.”