June 2, 2017 at 12:40 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Chilean president to introduce same-sex marriage bill

United Nations LGBT Core Group, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet speaks at a United Nations LGBT Core Group event in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. Her government will introduce a same-sex marriage bill in the coming months. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Thursday said her government will introduce a same-sex marriage bill in the coming months.

La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, reported Bachelet made the announcement during a speech to the country’s Congress.

“It cannot be that old prejudices are stronger than love,” she said, according to La Tercera.

Government reached agreement with advocacy group

Chile’s civil unions law that Bachelet signed took effect in October 2015.

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

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in the country.

Chile in 2015 formally ended its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Bachelet’s government last June said it would introduce a bill by the end of this month that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. This pledge was part of an agreement it reached with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in its marriage lawsuit.

Her government in January formally began to promote a debate around same-sex marriage.

“President Bachelet today has reaffirmed the amicable solution she reached with our organization,” said Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, in a press release.

Jiménez said his organization is planning a “massive march” in the Chilean capital of Santiago on June 24 in support of same-sex marriage and a measure that would allow transgender adults to legally change their name and gender without undergoing sex-reassignment surgery or going before a judge.

Bachelet on Thursday did not mention the trans rights bill in her speech. Jiménez in his press release noted Bachelet’s government agreed to introduce the marriage measure before June 30 as part of the agreement it reached with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation.

“We only hope that the president corrects the date of the bill’s introduction,” said Jiménez.

‘We intend to hold Chile to its duty’

Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia are among the countries in the Americas in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Bachelet, who was Chile’s president from 2006-2010, during her 2013 campaign pledged to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Thursday’s announcement comes less than a year before she leaves office.

“We negotiated hard for Chile to move up the date to introduce marriage equality legislation, and we intend to hold Chile to its duty,” Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in their Inter-American Commission on Human Rights lawsuit, told the Washington Blade on Thursday.

Carter noted Chile is the first country to sign “a binding agreement that international human rights law requires nations to give everyone freedom and protection in making their families and freedom from discrimination.”

“This includes LGBT people who have suffered and continue to suffer structural legal discrimination that will be changed in a historic way if Chile fulfills its promise,” he added. “The Americas are in the vanguard on marriage equality and Chile must not be left behind.”

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who is running to succeed Bachelet, has said marriage should remain between a man and a woman. Senator Jacqueline van Rysselberghe of the conservative Independent Democratic Union party is among the most vocal opponents of nuptials for gays and lesbians in the country.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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