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Chile Overwhelmingly Passes Marriage Equality

Addresses Parentage, Joint Adoption, Assisted Reproductive Technology

A family takes part in the annual Pride parade in Santiago, Chile, November 13, 2021. © 2021 AP Photo/Esteban Felix

It’s a special day for same-sex couples in Chile. Today their country becomes the 31st in the world to adopt marriage equality—and by a wide legislative margin in both the Chilean Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

The country’s new law undoes existing legal discrimination against same-sex couples in parentage, joint adoption, and assisted reproductive technology, among others. It also scraps the requirement that married transgender people divorce if they want to have their gender legally recognized.

This recognition of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Chileans is the product of years of sustained advocacy by Chilean activists.

In 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Chile had violated the rights of a mother who lost legal custody of her children for cohabitating with them and her same-sex partner. It marked the first time the regional court held that the American Convention on Human Rights disallows discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling required Chile to uphold the mother’s parental rights and the rights of children not to experience discrimination based on their parents’ sexual orientation and gender identity.

A 2015 civil union law made some progress protecting family diversity. The law allowed same-sex and different-sex couples to enter into civil unions, but did not provide equal rights, for example parentage and adoption rights.

In 2017, former President Michelle Bachelet submitted a marriage equality bill to the Chilean Congress after she signed a friendly settlement with activists who petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanding Chile provide marriage equality.

After four years of legislative political maneuvering, today the legislature approved an amended version of Bachelet’s bill, which current President Sebastián Piñera is poised to sign into law.

In the region, Chile joins Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Uruguay in providing access to marriage for same-sex couples. In Mexico, 24 states have marriage equality, while in the other 8 states, same-sex couples can marry but need a court injunction.

With this law, Chile brings its legislation in line with a landmark 2017 opinion from the Inter-American Court stating that all rights applicable to family relationships of heterosexual couples should extend to same-sex couples. All parties to the American Convention should follow Chile’s example. 

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