Chile legalises same-sex marriage at fraught political moment

Santiago, Chile Published: Dec 07, 2021, 11:32 PM(IST)

Even prior to the Taliban's return to power, LGBT people reported a number of abuses because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet, as soon as the Taliban, who had ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, regained control, the situation dramatically worsened. Photograph:( AFP )

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Chile’s new law will enable same-sex parents to have parental rights over the biological or adopted children of a spouse and creates standard rules on inheritance and other financial matters

Lawmakers in Chile on Tuesday legalized same-sex marriage, a landmark victory for gay rights activists that underscores how profoundly the country’s politics and society have shifted in the past decade.

By overwhelming majorities in both chambers, lawmakers put the unions of same-sex couples on par with others, making Chile the 31st nation to allow same-sex marriage and taking a significant step toward consolidating it as the norm in Latin America.

President Sebastían Piñera, a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, startled the political establishment in June by coming out in favor of such unions. He urged Congress to prioritize passing a bill that had languished for years, ensuring the legislation will be among the last achievements of a turbulent presidency.

The measure will be signed into law at the final stretch of Chile’s presidential race, in which the leading candidates are bitterly at odds on a vast array of issues, including same-sex marriage.

While the movement for same-sex marriage has advanced slowly in much of the world in recent years, the vast majority of Latin Americans now live in countries where those unions are legal. In some large nations, including Brazil and Mexico, the right has been conferred by the courts.

The fight to extend the right to marriage to same-sex couples in Chile began in September 2010, when César Peralta and Hans Arias, a couple who were raising two children, walked into a government office in Santiago and asked to be married, knowing full well their request would be denied.

It was the first salvo of a legal battle that unfolded for more than a decade before judges at home and abroad.

Chile’s new law will enable same-sex parents to have parental rights over the biological or adopted children of a spouse and creates standard rules on inheritance and other financial matters.

Peralta and Arias split up in 2014. But Peralta said the dissolution of the relationship does not make Tuesday’s victory any less significant. While they were in the public spotlight, the couple endured ridicule and criticism, including from Chileans who said they should not be allowed to raise Peralta’s two biological children.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “I confronted people who said the state should take away my children.”

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