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Chileans overwhelmingly reject new constitution

Document would have enshrined LGBTQ rights in country



More than 100,000 people attended a Pride protest in Santiago, Chile, on June 25, 2022. Chileans on Sept. 4, 2022, overwhelmingly rejected a new constitution that would have enshrined LGBTQ rights. (Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Velásquez)

Chileans on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a new constitution that would have enshrined LGBTQ rights in an unprecedented way.

Upwards of 80 percent of Chileans in October 2020 voted in favor of changing the constitution. 

More than 60 percent of them rejected the new constitution in Sunday’s referendum. Slightly more than 38 percent of Chileans voted to approve it.

The need to change the current constitution, which is a legacy of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, arose after social unrest in 2019 that exposed long-standing standing inequalities in the South American country.

The new constitution, which a Constitutional Convention with an equal number of men and women and eight openly LGBTQ members, was drafted in one year. Gaspar Domínguez, a gay doctor, was the Constitutional Convention’s vice president. 

There were several points of disagreement.

One of the constitution’s most controversial amendments called for Chile to become a plurinational state that would have recognized the existence of the different indigenous people in the country. The “rejection” groups argued the recognition of indigenous people would have created a privileged group and divided the country.

This discourse permeated the debate over the constitution.

President Gabriel Boric’s government said the referendum went well in terms of participation, public transportation and the functioning of the institutions that helped carry it out. The results were available a few minutes after the polling stations closed.

Boric addressed the country from La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, in a nationally broadcast speech after the results were known.

He valued the high participation and celebrated the “triumph of democracy.” At the same time, however, he said the “constituent process has not ended.” 

Boric said his government will “agree as soon as possible on the terms of the new constitutional process,” alluding to the fact that the Pinochet-era constitution must be changed. Those who supported the “rejection” option have also committed themselves to find a new way to change the constitution.

Congresswoman Emilia Schneider, a Boric supporter who is the country’s the first openly transgender member of Congress, on Twitter acknowledged the “hard result” of the referendum.

“The constitution of the dictatorship does not unite us and we could not build a majority around the proposal for which we voted,” said Schneider. “The cycle of changes is not over. Citizens demand social rights and more democracy. It is urgent to give answers.”

“The constituent process does not end here. It is time for those on the side of rejection to assert their commitment,” she stressed. “From tomorrow we must work for a new democratic process, with parity, with indigenous peoples and (a) participatory (process.) Chile has spoken and we need a new constitution.”

Most LGBTQ organizations and activists in Chile urged voters to “approve” the new constitution because it would have extended explicit rights to the community for the first time. These would have included the recognition of non-heteronormative families outside of marriage, the right to gender identity and expression, nondiscrimination and reproductive rights.

Alessia Injoque, director of Fundación Iguales, an organization that works with the Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Blade “the new constitution, if approved, would have represented a very significant advance in the protection of our families, in freedom to live authentic lives and without discrimination.”

“It is regrettable that this advance will not be consolidated, but it is time to recognize the result and work so that these rights are part of the next process,” Injoque lamented.

Injoque in response to a question about the possibility of a new constituent process to draft a new constitution said “in politics the doors are never completely closed.”

“It is difficult to think that we will have such a clear opportunity, with such a strong constitutional proposal on LGBTIQ+ rights, but we will continue working until we achieve full equality and the same freedoms,” said Injoque.

Javiera Zuñiga, the spokesperson for the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, another LGBTQ rights group in Chile, told the Blade the draft constitution had “unprecedented positive elements” and there was “an excessive confidence that all citizens felt highly represented by the text.”

“Certainly in what follows in the constitutional process, it will be fundamental to achieve greater consensus on the matters that did not convince Chileans on this occasion,” said Zuñiga.

“The matters related to substantive equality that were included in the proposal are not part of the conflictive elements in the proposal, such as nondiscrimination, respect for identity and equality of rights are quite well installed among Chileans as basic principles of the society we wish to build,” added Zuñiga. “I believe that this has been one of the greatest gains of the process.”

Zuñiga said Movilh “will continue to contribute to (the constituent process and) nurture it and achieve for the community nothing less than what this proposal considered.”


South America

Advocacy group urges Chileans to vote against proposed constitution

Fundación Iguales says proposal does not sufficiently protect LGBTQ people



Fundación Iguales Executive Director María José Cumplido. (Washington Blade photo by Esteban Ríoseco)

Chile’s proposed new constitution has generated concern and criticism among the country’s LGBTQ activists who say it would not sufficiently protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities.

Fundación Iguales, one of the country’s most prominent LGBTQ rights organizations, has urged Chileans to vote against the proposed constitution in the referendum that will take place on Dec. 17.

The plebiscite is the second attempt in less than three years to change Chile’s constitution in the wake of widespread protests and social arrests that took place in October 2019. 

Chileans on Sept. 4, 2022, rejected the Constitutional Convention’s proposed constitution. This rejection initiated the 2023 process in which the ultra-right won the majority of seats in the Constitutional Council, the body that wrote the new text on which Chileans will vote in December.

Fundación Iguales Executive Director María José Cumplido explained the reasons behind her organization’s position. 

“Our position as a foundation is to vote against this proposal because of the conscientious objection without limits, the lack of a robust nondiscrimination principle, a misconception of the best interests of children and adolescents and the weakness in the sexual and reproductive rights of women and pregnant women,” she told the Washington Blade.

Cumplido warned the lack of a nondiscrimination principle in the proposed constitution could lead to a State that does not focus on implementing public policies to prevent discrimination. Cumplido said this omission could translate into a lack of training for civil servants, insufficient sex education and obstacles to access to justice, among other consequences.

Paloma Zúñiga, a former constitutional counselor for the leftist Democratic Revolution party who participated in the constitution drafting process and is an LGBTQ ally, told the Blade there are serious problems with the draft in regards to queer issues.

“First, (there is) an overly broad conscientious objection could allow discrimination on religious grounds in education, health care, commerce, among others,” she said. “For example, a restaurant could expel a lesbian couple for kissing, a hospital could refuse to treat a trans person or not allow LGBTQ students in classrooms.”

Zúñiga added a second concern is “the absence of a nondiscrimination principle robust enough to oblige the state to prevent discrimination considering that violence against queer people has increased.” The final issue, according to Zúñiga, is “the weakness of the rights of children and adolescents, especially in terms of their autonomy and free development of personality, which could directly affect trans children.”

Cumplido agrees with Zúñiga regarding the problems the enshrining of conscientious objection in the new constitution could bring. The activist highlighted international examples, such as the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case in the U.S., where conscientious objection was used to reopen debates on rights already democratically resolved. This legal precedent could be replicated in various situations in Chile, especially given the breadth of the amendment.

Zúñiga, who belongs to a political party that supports President Gabriel Boric, said “we must vote against it because it is a great risk and setback for LGBTQ people and the rights conquered in recent years.” 

“As a left sector we did everything possible to eliminate the amendments that harmed LGBTQ+, and even improve their quality of life through a new constitution, but the Republican Party with its majority blocked all our attempts,” she explained.

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South America

Javier Milei elected Argentina’s next president

Libertarian economist’s lack of clarity over LGBTQ rights has sparked concern



Javier Milei (Screen capture via YouTube)

Libertarian economist Javier Milei’s victory in the second round of Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday came as a blow to the country’s LGBTQ community.

Milei defied expectations with his victory over the ruling party’s candidate, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, by a 56-44 percent margin. This result indicates significant support for Milei’s ideas, which include liberal economic policies and limited government.

LGBTQ activists, however, have expressed apprehension over Milei’s controversial positions in the past and others he articulated during the campaign. They did not specifically include issues related to sexual and gender identity, but activists nevertheless remain concerned. 

Milei, for example, said he would eliminate the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity and the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism. (Alba Rueda is Argentina’s first-ever Special Representative on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. She was previously the country’s first undersecretary of diversity policies in the Women, Gender and Diversity Ministry. Rueda is the first transgender woman to hold a senior position in the Argentine government.)

“The people’s vote has had a clear message, which was to get Peronism and Kirchnerism out of the government, all the anti-Peronist vote was gathered and concentrated in Milei,” Esteban Paulón, a prominent LGBTQ activist who won a seat in the country’s Congress last month, told the Washington Blade. “Peronism suffered the worst election in history in many of the provinces it even governs, some like the province of Buenos Aires where it barely won by 100,000 votes, by 1 percent, and that evidently shows an exhaustion of the political proposal of Peronism’s political proposal for the country.”

Paulón said Argentines “without a doubt … voted for an option of deep, radical change, after the failure of the political proposals that have governed the country in the last 20 years.” Paulón said voters focused more on economic issues as opposed to Milei’s “social agenda linked to the reduction of rights, opposition to equal marriage, feminism, etc. and gender laws.”

“It is true that this result legitimizes many of these positions,” he said. “We will surely see in the coming weeks and months an increase in this type of statements.”

Milei during the campaign spoke in favor of more limited government and economic policies that would encourage individual freedom. His critics have noted a lack of clarity over his positions that could have implications on the progress that Argentina has made on LGBTQ rights over the last several years.

“Now, it is also true that even though people did not vote for Milei because of his anti-rights proposal,” said Paulón. “Yes, many anti-rights people come to the government, led by Vice President-elect Victoria Villarroel, who is a negationist who vindicates the military dictatorship and vindicates illegal repression.” 

The LGBTQ community is now cautiously awaiting how policies will develop under Milei’s leadership. Activists are urging the president-elect to address and ensure the continued protection of the rights based on gender identity and sexual orientation and to promote inclusion and diversity in all spheres of Argentine society.

“Now it is time to organize as a collective,” said Paulón. “We must obviously be mobilized and attentive to the different situations that may arise and in my case as congressman, to dialogue a lot with related, transversal sectors from different political forces … [and] to resist within the framework of democracy.” 

“A period of much resistance, of intense work in the case of Congress is coming,” he added. 

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South America

Prominent Chilean activist Luis Larraín dies at 42

Former congressional candidate diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January



Luis Larraín, the co-founder and former president of Fundación Iguales, a Chilean LGBTQ advocacy group, passed away from Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on Nov. 18, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Luis Larraín)

Luis Larraín, a prominent LGBTQ rights activist in Chile, died on Saturday after a battle with blood cancer. He was 42.

Larraín, along with writer Pablo Simonetti, in 2013 co-founded Fundación Iguales. Larraín was the group’s president until he stepped down in 2017 to run for the Chilean Congress.

Larraín in January announced doctors had diagnosed him with an “aggressive” form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His family on Friday released a video in which Larraín said he had not responded to the third treatment he had undergone.

“They gave me the first three doses and they unfortunately did not show any results,” he said. “Given that there are no more treatments available and thinking about my quality of life, talking a lot with my family and friends, I have decided to be sedated to spend this last moment in peace, without feeling the effects of cancer destroying my body.”

“I wanted to say goodbye to everyone, thank you for being aware of what was happening to me,” added Larraín. “I hope that you continue with your fight, whether in health, in sexual diversity or in any field.”

“Luis’s legacy will endure in this country’s history today and always,” tweeted Fundación Iguales. “Rest in peace.”

Chilean politicians and activists in the country and elsewhere in Latin America also mourned Larraín.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, another Chilean advocacy group, in a statement said Larraín’s “contribution to nondiscrimination and to the causes of sexual and gender diversity shine like a star.” President Gabriel Boric retweeted a statement from Camila Vallejo, his government’s general secretary minister, in which she said she met Larraín in Congress when he was urging lawmakers to support LGBTQ rights “in this conservative country where he grew up.”

“I remember your bravery in those days,” said Vallejo. “I mourn your passing and I extend my deepest condolences to your loved ones and those with whom you were close. Thank you Luis.”

Larraín’s wake will take place in Santiago, the Chilean capital, on Saturday. His funeral will take place on Sunday.

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