January 23, 2018 at 4:52 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Chilean House of Deputies approves transgender rights bill

The Chilean House of Deputies on Jan. 23, 2018, approved a bill that would allow transgender adults to legally change their name and gender without surgery or a court order. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The lower house of the Chilean Congress on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow transgender adults to legally change their name and gender without surgery or a court order.

The measure passed in the House of Deputies by a 68-35 vote margin. It will now go before the country’s Senate.

Organizado Trans Diversidades, a trans advocacy group, on social media celebrated the bill’s passage with the hashtag LigAhora (gender identity law now.)

Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, and Juan Enrique Pi, president of Fundación Iguales, also applauded the bill’s passage.

“Today we advanced a bit more towards dignity and closer to full equality of rights,” said Jiménez in a statement, noting trans Chileans are particularly vulnerable to discrimination because of their gender identity.

Paula Narvaéz, a spokesperson for President Michelle Bachelet’s government, noted to La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, that lawmakers voted “against a special judicial procedure for children and adolescents” under 18 who want to legally change their name and gender.

The vote on this provision took place without the necessary quorum.

Jiménez in his statement described it as “bittersweet and contradictory to the rights of children and adolescents.” He later told the Washington Blade that he expects lawmakers to once again consider this issue before it goes to the Senate.

The vote took place two weeks after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling that recognizes trans rights and same-sex marriage. The decision is legally binding in Chile and the 19 other countries that recognize the American Convention of Human Rights.

The vote on the trans rights bill had been scheduled to take place on Jan. 16, but House of Deputies President Fidel Espinoza postponed it because of Pope Francis’ controversial visit to the country. The decision sparked outrage among advocacy groups.

It remains uncertain whether the Senate will consider the bill before President-elect Sebastián Piñera’s inauguration on March 11.

Advocates with whom the Blade spoke after Piñera’s election late last year note the majority of the Chilean Congress now supports the trans rights bill and a separate measure that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. They said these lawmakers could challenge Piñera’s opposition to these measures once he takes office.

Nicolás Levy contributed to this article from Santiago, Chile

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

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