Members of President Michelle Bachelet’s administration on Tuesday met with representatives of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, an LGBT advocacy group, in Santiago, the Chilean capital, to finalize “an amicable settlement” in the case filed in 2012 on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in the South American country.
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in a press release it posted to its website said the government’s decision to end opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights case is part of a broader agreement that includes the introduction of a same-sex marriage bill in the Chilean Congress.
“We left the meeting very satisfied,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation. “We appreciate the government’s good disposition towards our proposals and principles, which stress that marriage equality is a human rights issue.”
Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights case, also attended Tuesday’s meeting.
“We have reached an agreement in principle,” Carter told the Washington Blade on Tuesday during an interview on Skype from Santiago.
Civil unions ‘skim milk’ marriages
The meeting took place less than a month after a bill that would allow same-sex couples in the South American country to enter into civil unions received final approval.
Former President Sebastián Piñera backed civil unions, but his government argued against the “new definition of marriage” in a brief it filed in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights case in late 2013. Representatives of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation last November met with members of Bachelet’s administration to discuss the lawsuit.
“The civil union law represented a significant advance in the rights of same-sex couples in Chile,” Carter told the Blade. “Working on it together with members of the Congress and the president’s team and various ministries provided an opportunity for thoughtful progress on each of the very many aspects, or the very many rights and obligations of marriage.”
“It will nevertheless always end up being a second-class or skim milk marriage,” he added. “So as long as marriage is available to anyone, it should be available to everyone on an equal basis.”
Jaime Parada Hoyl, a gay councilman in the wealthy Santiago enclave of Providencia, echoed Carter when he spoke with the Blade after the Chilean House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the civil unions bill on Jan. 21.
“Chile today should be discussing marriage equality with good legislative work, and above all with political will,” said Parada.
Same-sex marriage ‘a right to other rights’
Javier Soto, a pastor from the resort city of Viña del Mar, is among the most outspoken critics of the expansion of relationship recognition and other rights to LGBT Chileans.
He said God sparked a massive forest fire in the coastal city of Valparaíso last April because lawmakers were considering the civil unions measure.
Soto frequently confronts Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation. The Chilean government last month announced it had filed a complaint against the pastor after he allegedly threatened gay Congressman Claudio Arriagada Macaya.
Carter told the Blade he did not see Soto when he left Tuesday’s meeting in Santiago.
“The legal sphere is what matters,” said Carter. “Civil, legal marriage is a group of rights that’s a right to other rights.”
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation on its website said the group and the government will sign a formal agreement in April.
It remains unclear when the Bachelet administration and the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation will formally introduce the same-sex marriage bill in the Chilean Congress.
Carter told the Blade the lawsuit before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will move forward in spite of the Chilean government’s new position.
“We’re going to continue the fight,” he said. “We are not going to drop the case until marriage is enacted in Chile.”