The LGBT legal organization Movilh launched the campaign that would eventually result in Chile's new legislation on same-sex marriage. Photo: Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel. Source: Flickr.


Chile legalizes same-sex marriage - more countries are next

On December 31, LGBTQ people cheered as the Chilean parliament, after a four-year process, finally voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Thus, Chile joined the now XNUMX countries where people of the same sex are allowed to marry each other.

The start of the debate on same-sex marriage in Chile came in September 2010, when the gay couple César Peralta and Hans Arias asked parliament for permission to marry - aware that their request would probably be rejected. With the support of the LGBTQ legal movement Movilh, the couple used the refusal as fuel to start a fight with the goal of legalizing same-sex marriage. However, it took until 2017 before the then president Michelle Bachelet presented a bill which would allow marriage even for same-sex couples.

The bill created a short-lived momentum that was lost when the conservative Sebastían Piñera took office as president in March the following year. As an opponent of same-sex marriage for many years, he surprised many when he suddenly changed his mind. In June 2021, he held a speech where he not only expressed his support for the above-mentioned bill but also made a promise to speed up the process of approving it. This finally led to the December vote, in which the proposal won by an overwhelming majority in both chambers. 

The change in the law not only means that same-sex couples are allowed to marry, but it also gives them the right to adopt children on the same terms as heterosexual couples. 

César Peralta, who started the fight more than ten years earlier, could not hold back his tears when the result was announced.

- I am so happy to have been a part of this, he says New York Times.

Change of power worries LGBTQ people

The new law will be one of the last Sebastían Piñera has time to decide on during his term, as he will soon be replaced by a new president. The choice is between right-wing conservative José Antonio Kast and the more progressive Gabriel Boric, whose views differ on many points - including same-sex marriage. While the former student activist Gabriel Boric went out with his support for the new law Former Congressman José Antonio Kast has been more critical.

- We respect democracy, but that does not mean that we change our beliefs, he says New York Times. For us, marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Former Congressman José Antonio Kast is one of two candidates in Chile's upcoming presidential election on December 19. Photo: Mediabanco Agencia. Source: Flickr.

Although the law on same-sex marriage is expected to be printed before the final presidential election on December 19, future uncertainty has cast a shadow over the celebrations for some of the country's citizens. One of those who is worried is Isabel Amor, the leader of the LGBTQ legal organization Iguales.

- The right to same-sex marriage is a glimmer of light, a bit of hope. But we have to ask ourselves what we will lose if Kast wins the election, she says The Guardian.

Cuba about to follow in Chile's footsteps

Although Chile and Switzerland are the only countries that officially legalized same-sex marriage in 2021, the debate is being conducted in several other parts of the world. One country worth keeping an eye on in this regard is Cuba. 

In September, the country's Ministry of Justice presented a new bill that opens up for same-sex couples to be able to both marry and adopt children. 30 experts have been helped to design the proposal, which was welcomed by several of the country's LGBTQ activists. One of those who showed his appreciation is Maykel Gonzales Vivero who works as head of Tremenda Nota - a digital magazine that puts a lot of focus on LGBTQ issues.

- The template for family legislation is everything you could wish for, he says in another statement Reuters.

But many activists do not dare to celebrate as it is too early to say whether the proposal will actually lead to legislation. This is not the first time Cuba has tried to introduce the right to same-sex marriage. Already three years ago, the government proposed that the constitution's description of marriage should be reformulated from "man and woman" to "two individuals". However, after protests from most religious groups, the government was forced to back down from the proposal.

Reforms are delayed in Thailand

Another country that, like Cuba, has experienced setbacks when it comes to legalizing same-sex marriage is Thailand. In November 2019, the LGBTQ movement submitted the Foundation for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights and Justice (FOR-SOGI) an application that the country's constitutional court should review the legislation on marriage. According to Thai law, only heterosexual marriages are considered valid - something that the activists in FOR-SOGI believe goes against the legislation that all citizens should be guaranteed equal civil rights. 

The message was delayed, however, and when the court finally announced its decision in mid-November 2021, it was to the great disappointment of the activists of FOR-SOGI - according to the court, the definition of marriage does not constitute a violation of the rights of the population and therefore does not need to be changed. The decision caused loud protests on social media. One of those who spoke out on the issue was Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk.

- The court's maintenance of the current marriage law makes the government's promises to promote gender equality meaningless, he writes on Twitter.

The events of recent months in Chile, Cuba and Thailand show that the road to legalizing same-sex marriage can be long as well as fraught with adversity. Nevertheless, global interest in the issue has increased markedly in recent years. It remains to be seen whether more countries will follow Chile's example, but it is certain that the debate has shown no signs of dying out in the first place.

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