The Chilean Senate approved debate for a preliminary marriage equality bill on Wednesday, a historic step for the nation’s LGBTQ community.
With 22 votes in favour and 16 against, the Senate approved “the idea to legislate” a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, which will be now be reviewed in further detail in the upper chamber. After, if passed, the legislation would have to be passed through the lower house Chamber of Deputies, where it is expected to face intense opposition from conservative lawmakers, who tend ally with President Sebastián Piñera.
“In a historic vote, Chile took an important step toward equality,” said Senator Felipe Harboe, of the opposition Party for Democracy (PPD), after the measure passed.
A bill for marriage equality would have been unthinkable in the 1990s, but Wednesday’s decision in the Senate signals a long-awaited outcome for Chile’s LGBTQ community.
"While this is a first step of many, it was a difficult one. This advance definitely opens the door for total approval," said Oscar Rementería, spokesman for the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), one of the most active LGTBQ groups in Chile.
"Today we make small but important progress with legislation that brings us closer to being a more just country. It is a good sign for democracy in Chile and for the equal rights of all its inhabitants," according to the president of the Fundación Iguales, Alessia Injoque.
The Chilean State pledged in 2016 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to legislate in favour of equal marriage and against discrimination against an LGTBI group after a complaint from Movilh.
The approved bill was first presented to Congress in 2017 by former president Michelle Bachelet, after the Chilean State adopted the legal framework of a case filed by Movilh in 2016 with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), but discussion since then had been continually postponed by Piñera.
The first milestone for the Chilean gay community came in 2015 when the Bachelet government promulgated the Civil Union Agreement (AUC), which legalized civil unions between gay couples and gave them equal obligations and rights, save for adoption.
Nearly 30 countries worldwide have the adopted marriage equality, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Ecuador.