Chile Congress votes 100-0 to legalize gay marriage

Effort to codify laws aimed at equality likely to further damage the social bonds that used to bind Chileans together

Chile’s Congress voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass an amendment to the country’s constitution that will legalize gay marriage, a bid to codify laws aimed at equality in one of Latin America’s conservative countries.

The National Assembly voted 100-0 in favor of the proposal, which first passed the assembly this week, and is expected to become law in 30 days.

In addition to legalizing gay marriage, the amendment to the constitution will also add sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of a family, read the governing coalition’s proposed text.

The vote sent one of the region’s most politically diverse and socially conservative nations one step closer to reform.

“This law is fundamental because in our country the protection of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people is often under constant attack,” said Victoria Aravena, a senator who is close to the ruling coalition and was a leading author of the proposal.

It was still unknown whether the Senate would back the constitutional change, which the legislature passed on Wednesday. The change to the constitution requires the backing of the heads of both chambers.

But with Chile’s deeply conservative lawmakers divided over the issue, lawmakers now face pressure to reconcile their competing views.

Once the amendment has been ratified, Chile is set to become the seventh country in the region to allow gay marriage.

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The US state of Kentucky legalized gay marriage in 2015 and Mexico City passed a law in 2017 enabling civil unions between gay couples. The Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, last year extended adoption rights to gays.

The proposal came as Chile’s socialist president, Alejandro Guillier, struggles to keep his governing coalition united on issues like the economy.

The move is unlikely to strengthen Guillier’s grip on the Socialists, which have often gone their own way, especially on social issues.

Socialist deputies have publicly criticized the bill, arguing that the LGBT community should not be granted more rights, but the other pro-Guillier bloc, the Federal Councillors for the Good Society, have thrown their support behind the amendment, saying it was an important piece of social legislation.

“A child raised by two fathers is better than one raised by two mothers,” said Esteban Bullrich, the head of the Christian Democratic party.

However, opposition legislators in the conservative National Alliance (Aquista) party have dubbed the legislation the “gay marriage bill,” arguing that it would undermine traditional family values.

Gay marriage is illegal in all but one of Chile’s 27 states. In an apparent bid to prevent the issue from descending into political squabbling, the government agreed to hold a referendum asking the public whether it should be legalized.

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