December 8, 2014 at 12:09 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Same-sex marriage bill introduced in Chile

National Congress of Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT advocates and Chilean lawmakers on Saturday introduced a same-sex marriage bill. (Photo by the Photographic Collection of the Library of the National Congress of Chile; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Chilean lawmakers and an LGBT advocacy group on Saturday introduced a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the South American country.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation said in a press release the measure that it and Congressman Gabriel Silber Romo of the Christian Democratic Party have proposed would change “a man and a woman” to “two people” in Chile’s marriage law. The proposal would also replace “husband and wife” with “spouse” and amend the concept of procreation to “raise children.”

“With this bill we are looking to eradicate the historic discrimination that affects people simply for loving and living with someone of the same sex,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in its press release. “Respect for family diversity is at the heart of this bill that we celebrate with backing throughout the political world and also with the broad support of citizen organizations.”

The same-sex marriage bill’s introduction comes against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on a separate measure that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

The Chilean Senate in October voted to advance the measure — known by the Spanish acronym AVP that roughly translates into life partner agreement in English. Members of the Chilean House of Deputies have yet to vote on the proposal.

President Michelle Bachelet backs the bill.

She also publicly supported marriage rights for same-sex couples during her 2013 presidential campaign.

Advocates, Bachelet government discuss marriage lawsuit

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012 ruled in favor of lesbian Judge Karen Atala who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband seven years earlier because of her sexual orientation. The Chilean government subsequently apologized to Atala, paid her $70,000 and offered her medical and psychological care.

The Movement for Homosexual Liberation and Integration in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of three Chilean gay couples seeking marriage rights. Then-President Sebastián Piñera’s government argued against what it described as the “new definition of marriage” in a brief it filed with the lawsuit in November 2013.

Members of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation and representatives of Bachelet’s government discussed the marriage lawsuit during a meeting that took place in Santiago, the Chilean capital, on Nov. 25.

The outcome of the meeting has yet to be made public.

“We want to contribute significantly to the government’s interest in amplifying the debate about these issues and thus advance the approval of this norm,” said Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, after the introduction of the same-sex marriage bill. “The marriage equality law is part of a presidential agenda for the first time, and it therefore provides the best conditions for the advancement of equality. The current marriage law is homophobic because it excludes people based on their sexual orientation. Today we are moving forward towards the end of this unjust reality.”

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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