Civil unions will become legal for the first time across Chile on Thursday.
Although still behind Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and parts of Mexico – all of which have legalized same-sex marriage, unions are a milestone achievement in one of Latin America’s most conservative countries.
“I’m really proud that we can obtain something in my country … that we acquired in Spain more than six years ago. Because it was really sad to arrive in Chile and see that we were nothing,” activist Roxana Ortiz told the New York Times, the Chilean shares a home with her Spanish partner Virginia Gómez.
“We haven’t even had time to give out our invitations, but we are happy as we are finally going to make our dream come true.” She added.
Chile may have returned to democracy in 1990, but it was the last country to legalize divorce in the Western hemisphere in 2004. President Michelle Bachelet has unveiled plans to rewrite the country’s outdated constitution, written under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, as abortion remains illegal in the country.
However polls have shown that only around a quarter of Chileans support same-sex marriages.
“Chile’s approval of civil unions will show people that it isn’t something terrible, by signing into this union, different and same sex couples will have access to a framework which offers legal protection with their own rights and recognition,” Rolando Jiménez, head of Chile’s Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh) told El Universo.
Rolando added that unions signaled a “profound and positive change” for Chile.
A new campaign and web site will also be launched this week, explaining citizens’ rights when signing into a civil union. The campaign will also outline that civil unions are accessible to heterosexual couples.
Some 1,600 couples have already signed up for the ceremony.
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