May 13, 2013 at 12:13 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
More than 50,000 attend Chilean LGBT rights march
Gay News, Washington Blade, Chile

More than 50,000 people marched for LGBT rights in the Chilean capital on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of JP Catepillán/Movilh)

An LGBT rights march in the Chilean capital on Saturday drew more than 50,000 people.

Chilean folk singer Camila Moreno; presidential candidates Andrés Velasco, Tomás Jocelyn-Holt, Marco Enríquez-Ominami and Marcel Claude and Rafael Dochao, the European Union’s ambassador to Chile, took part in the Santiago event that also commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia. Former President Michelle Bachelet, who is also a candidate to succeed President Sebastián Piñera in this November’s presidential elections, endorsed the march in a letter.

The march also took place against the backdrop of the debate over Piñera’s proposed bill that would extend civil unions to same-sex couples in the South American country.

He has yet to formally introduce it.

“The government and the National Congress should take note of these massive mobilizations that demonstrate time and time again that the majority of this country supports full equality of rights for sexual minorities,” Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh,) an LGBT advocacy group that organized the march, said. “The political class always says that it has to listen to the people, but enough of this. It is time to act.”

Neighboring Argentina is among the 11 countries in which gays and lesbians can currently marry.

Uruguay’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1. Nuptials for gays and lesbians are legal in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and 11 of the country’s other states.

Piñera last July signed an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill into law in response to outrage over the murder of Daniel Zamudio, a gay man whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis allegedly beat to death in a Santiago park in March 2012. The trial of the four men who prosecutors maintain attacked Zamudio is expected to take begin in the coming months.

Movilh spokesperson Jaime Parada Hoyl last October became the first openly gay political candidate elected in the country when he won a seat on the municipal council in the wealthy Santiago enclave of Providencia. The Chilean Health Ministry last month also lifted a ban on gay and lesbian blood donors.

Those who took part in the Santiago march also demanded the government pass a law that would allow transgender Chileans to legally change their names and sex without a court order.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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