A bill that will allow civil unions for all citizens – including same-sex couples – has received final approval in the Chilean legislature.
Though the historic decision grants legal status to stable and permanent cohabitation by two people, it does not legalise same-sex marriage.
The new 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.
Children of Chile’s cohabitating couples will now 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.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) applauded the passing of the bill.
“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 Chile’s civil society, and the political will of the government. However, while we view this decision very positively, we also recognise 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.”
However, LGBT activists in the South American country have pledged to continue the march for full marriage equality. “This law gives us legitimacy,” says Karen Atala, a judge and board member of Chile’s Fundación Iguales. “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.”
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