December 17, 2017 at 10:07 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Ex-president wins Chile election

Sebastián Piñera, Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera on Dec. 17, 2017, won the second round of his country’s presidential election. (Photo public domain)

Sebastián Piñera on Sunday defeated his center-left challenger in the second round of Chile’s presidential election.

Piñera, a conservative, defeated Alejandro Guillier by a 55-45 percent margin. The two men won the first round of the election on Nov. 19, but neither of them received at least 50 percent of the vote.

Piñera — who was Chile’s president from 2010-2014 — will succeed President Michelle Bachelet when he takes office on March 11. Media reports indicate that Bachelet — who was president from 2006-2010 — will meet with Piñera on Monday.

Piñera signed 2012 hate crimes, nondiscrimination law

The murder of Daniel Zamudio, who was attacked by a group of self-described neo-Nazis in a Santiago park in March 2012 because he was gay, sparked widespread outrage across Chile. Piñera a few months later signed into law an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that is known as the Zamudio Law.

Piñera is the first Chilean president to meet with LGBT rights advocates. His government also introduced the country’s civil unions bill that took effect in 2015.

Piñera’s campaign manager in October met with representatives of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a national LGBT advocacy group.

Bachelet on Aug. 28 introduced a bill that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. The Chilean congress began to formally debate the measure late last month.

Piñera’s son and his former government spokesperson publicly support same-sex marriage. Advocates throughout the campaign criticized Piñera over his public opposition to the issue and his assertion that heterosexual couples should have priority in adoption.

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 medical and psychological care to her.

Piñera’s government in a 2013 brief it filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights argued against the “new definition of marriage.” It took the position in response to a lawsuit the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in Chile.

The country formally ended its opposition to same-sex marriage after Bachelet took office.

Bachelet’s government in June 2016 said it would introduce a same-sex marriage and adoption bill. This pledge was part the agreement it reached with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in its marriage lawsuit.

Bachelet has urged lawmakers to support a bill that would allow transgender Chileans to legally change their name and gender without surgery. The country during Bachelet’s second term has also played an increasingly visible role in efforts to advance LGBT and intersex rights around the world through the U.N.

“As before a new government takes office in March, we will ask for a meeting to raise our agenda and continue with the advancement of bills that are already in the congress, such as marriage equality and gender identity,” Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, told the Washington Blade on Sunday.

Chile ‘bound by’ pro-LGBT international agreements

The majority of the members of the Chilean congress after the Nov. 19 general election publicly support the marriage and trans rights bills. Advocates with whom the Blade spoke afterwards said this support bodes well for efforts to challenge any opposition from Piñera or his government if he were to become president.

“The democratic result is clear,” said Juan Enrique Pi, president of Fundación Iguales, another LGBT advocacy group, on Sunday. “We hope that Sebastián Piñera changes his opinion with respect to the recognition of rights for the LGBT community and that he carries out public policies along that line.”

Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in their marriage case, largely echoed Pi.

“Sebastián Piñera should be congratulated on winning,” Carter told the Blade. “Now he will be president of a government that is bound by international agreements to implement marriage equality and other legislative changes to bring justice to the LGBT community and perfect Chile’s democracy.”

Andrés Rivera, a trans rights advocate, agreed.

“Strategies to advance the rights of trans children, adolescents and adults will have to be reevaluated,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “They will also have to ensure they are in compliance with the commitments into which the state has entered in the U.N. and the Organization of American States and they will obviously have to concentrate their energy to advance public policies that are based on the highest human rights standards.”

Carter told the Blade that he looks “forward to working with President Piñera if he honors Chile’s obligations or else we will return to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and (Inter-American) Court of Human Rights.”

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

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