Chile's President Michelle Bachelet this week sent to the national congress a bill that would legalise marriages and adoptions by same-sex couples.
It is the latest in a wave of liberal reforms that she was determined to launch before ending her term next year. It follows last week's historic approval by the constitutional court of a new law easing the country’s ban on abortion. That bill will allow abortion in cases of rape, threat to the mother’s life or deadly birth defects.
“It cannot be that old prejudices are stronger than love,” she said as she publicly signed the bill on Monday to submit it for debate in the legislature. “That is why, just as I promised, Chile is today taking a historic step by signing the marriage equality bill.”
"We do this to guarantee an act of justice, that those who wish to share their life can do so in the way that they decide, with complete freedom, pride and joy," Bachelet added.
Chile legalised same-sex civil unions under Bachelet in 2015. The president, who is facing low approval ratings, and her Nueva Mayoría coalition controls congress, but the process of passing the law is expected to be drawn out and last into the next legislature after she leaves office in March 2018.
Her conservative rival, former president Sebastian Piñera, hopes to run as the candidate for opposition coalition Vamos Chile in the November 19 presidential election and is favoured by most pollsters to be elected as Bachelet’s successor. He opposes the marriage reform and has said he would reverse the law on abortion if elected.
“There should not be discrimination, but at the same time the essence of an institution such as marriage should be respected, which has always been about conserving the human race,” he said.
Largely Catholic Chile is considered a relatively socially conservative country within Latin America. Divorce was only legalised in Chile in 2004.