Chile is preparing to introduce long awaited legislation to provide unions to same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexuals, but whether the legal framework will be enough to satisfy demands for equality remains to be seen.
A draft form of the legislation obtained by La Tercera has the new institution entitled the “Non-Marital Cohabitation Agreement” (NMCA) and would allow same-sex couples who have cohabited for more than a year to enter into a union whereby they could automatically share certain economic benefits and have their legal status as a couple recognized. As suggested above, such unions would be open to opposite sex non-married couples too.
Describing the introduction of NMCA legislation as “imminent,” La Tercera also points out that Chilean conservative party the UDI has begun drafting its own, much narrower legislation designed to explicitly state that same-sex couples are not to be classed as married per the predominantly Catholic nation’s definition of what marriage is.
The NMCA already does this by virtue of the fact that it grants no adoption rights and very few of the rights open to married couples. In fact, the legislation has been criticized as mere lip-service from President Sebastian Pinera who had pledged to grant same-sex couples a legal status.
The legislation has been termed by many in the international media as a “civil unions” bill, but it would seem far closer to the language of domestic partnerships as originally introduced in California before they were widened to become more inclusive.
That the legislation will be lacking in protections and rights rather seems the point: this is distinctly not a same-sex marriage bill and is designed so that the government can, at least for a time, put off larger discussion around same-sex marriage while citing the unions as progress enough for the short term.
However, the NMCA may not be enough to placate same-sex couples in the country.
June saw group Movimiento Chileno de Minorias Sexuales lead a national march for marriage equality.
Also, majority public support for legal recognition of same-sex partners in Chile has been strong since 2004. Same-sex marriage still polls considerably lower than civil unions, but equal rights seems to be the central focus, something the NMCA as shown in the draft will not come close to providing.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Chile in 1998 but no form of legal recognition for same-sex couples currently exists. Also, LGBTs are not explicitly protected by LGBT anti-discrimination legislation though may be covered under standard legal protections. Legal gender change recognition for trans people was affirmed as the result of a 2007 court case.
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