April 13, 2015 at 9:50 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Chilean president signs civil unions bill

Chile, Michelle Bachelet, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, center, on April 13, 2015, signed her country’s civil unions bill into law. (Photo courtesy of Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday signed a bill into law that will allow gays and lesbians in the South American country to enter into civil unions.

“The civil union law is a vindication in the struggle for sexual diversity rights,” said Bachelet during the signing ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

Members of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group that has lobbied for a civil unions law for more than a decade, were among the advocates from the Movement for Sexual Diversity and other groups who joined politicians at the ceremony. Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte, a transgender rights activist, was also in attendance.

“Today is a historic day for sexual diversity,” said Rolando Jiménez, director of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, in a press release. “The state for the first time recognizes that there is not just one way to make a family. From today the state protects family diversity and takes responsibility for historic injustices based upon prejudices and taboos that never should have existed.”

The measure received final approval from Chilean lawmakers in January.

Bachelet — who publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples — signed the measure less than two weeks after the Chilean Constitutional Court upheld it. Her government earlier this year announced it would no longer oppose nuptials for gays and lesbians in a lawsuit before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that three same-sex couples filed in 2012.

Fundación Iguales, another Chilean LGBT advocacy group, on its Twitter page applauded Bachelet and ministers of her Socialist government for their “urgency and dedication” in support of the civil unions bill.

Advocate discusses trans rights bill with Bachelet

The Chilean Senate in January voted to advance bill that would allow trans people in the South American country to legally change their name and sex without sex reassignment surgery.

Bachelet during her 2013 election campaign indicated she supports the measure.

Rivera told the Washington Blade on Monday that he discussed the trans rights bill with Bachelet after she signed the civil unions bill, which is slated to take effect in October.

“I spoke with the president about the discrimination that trans children and adolescents suffer and the importance of incorporating them into the gender identity bill,” said Rivera, noting he also raised the Chilean government’s commitment to pass the measure this year. “The president expressed her concern over the situation of the trans children and adolescents and she committed to a meeting that we will have to analyze situations and strategies.”

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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