Chile moves toward legalizing same-sex civil unions


Residents participate in a Gay Pride Parade in Santiago, Sept. 29, 2007.


Victor Ruiz Caballero

It was an unheard of strategy during Chile's last presidential campaign: Show gay men holding hands and lesbians kissing each other on prime-time TV.

And the ads came from Sebastian Pinera, the conservative candidate in a Catholic country, where divorce was only legalized in 2004.

The gay community could only wonder whether it was all for show.

A year and a half later, Pinera is president. And it seems he's finally about to make good on his promise to legalize same-sex civil unions.

He presented a proposal to members of his coalition yesterday that would allow gay partners who have lived together for a year to apply for civil unions, reports the Santiago Times.

Party members can examine the proposal before Pinera formally submits it to Congress.

Last month, more than 50,000 people paraded through the streets of Santiago in support of gay rights. Chile's largest gay rights group MOVILH said it was demonstrating against Pinera's unkept promise to back a civil unions bill.

Last year Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage. Same-sex civil unions are legal in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay.

And as gay rights gain traction across the continent, cities — including Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Rio — are trying to position themselves as gay tourist destinations

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