October 20, 2020 at 12:02 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Chile advocacy group withdraws from marriage agreement with government
Chile, gay news, Washington Blade
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), an LGBTQ advocacy group in Chile, has withdrawn from an agreement it reached with the country’s government over marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

An LGBTQ advocacy group in Chile has withdrawn from an agreement it reached with the country’s government over marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who were seeking marriage rights in Chile.

A law that allows gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions took effect in 2015. The government of former President Michelle Bachelet — who is now the U.N. high commissioner for human rights — the following year said it would introduce bills to extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples as part of an agreement between it, Movilh and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Chile, Roxana Ortíz, Virginia Gómez, gay news, Washington Blade
Virginia Gómez, left, and Roxana Ortíz speak with reporters in Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 22, 2015, after they entered into a civil union. A law that allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions took effect that day. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Chilean Senate in January advanced a marriage equality bill that Bachelet introduced in 2017.

Chile’s Constitutional Court in June ruled against a lesbian couple who sought recognition of their marriage in Spain.

Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups noted the decision, among other things, says the inability for same-sex couples to legally marry in Chile does not constitute discrimination because “a homosexual person can contract marriage in Chile if they do it with a person of the opposite sex.” Human Rights Watch also points out the ruling compares marriage equality to “marriage of African countries” and says allowing same-sex couples to marry would mean the “destruction” of marriage.

The Senate’s Constitution, Legislation and Justice Committee on Oct. 16 held a hearing on the marriage equality measure. Movilh on the same day in a press release noted its withdrawal from the agreement with the government.

“If (President Sebastián Piñera reverses course, we are willing to resume the dialogue with the government to reactivate the agreement that the State signed with Movilh,” said Movilh spokesperson Oscar Rementería in the press release.

Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents Movilh in their Inter-American Commission on Human Rights lawsuit, on Sunday told the Washington Blade he is “very pleased that Movilh has convinced the chairman of this (Senate) committee to take up the bill.” Carter nevertheless added he and Movilh “remain concerned about a number of poison pill amendments that have been offered and by the fact that the president’s representative couldn’t make the time to come to this important meeting and the president couldn’t give this important project the priority that is due.”

La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, reports the bill has 25 amendments that marriage equality supporters and opponents have proposed. Jaime Bellolio, a spokesperson for the Piñera administration, was invited to testify at the hearing, but he did not attend.

“The president and his ministers have so thoroughly failed to uphold their government’s obligations under an agreement signed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that we have terminated that agreement and the commission will proceed to hear our client’s complaint that Chile is failing to uphold its obligations under international law to guarantee marriage equality,” said Carter.

Sebastián Piñera, Chile, gay news, Washington Blade
President Sebastián Piñera (Photo public domain)

Piñera reportedly reconsidering marriage equality position

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. Chile is among the countries in which the decision is legally binding.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Oct. 2 held a hearing on marriage equality in Panama.

Carter noted to the Blade that “all of the commissioners present made strong statements about Panama’s obligations, and so we are confident of success there and ultimately in the Inter-American court.” Carter also cited media reports that suggest Piñera’s government is reconsidering its position towards marriage equality in Chile.

“I hope that rumors are true that the president is reconsidering his policy of obfuscation and obstruction and will join the rest of the civilized world in granting marriage equality and ending sexual orientation discrimination,” he told the Blade.

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

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.