Written by Kaitlin Gunter, CNN
Chilean lawmakers have unanimously approved a package of bills allowing same-sex couples to legally marry, adopt children and grant each other recognition as spouses.
The laws replace a 1987 referendum which barred lesbians and gays from openly advocating for their right to wed.
One of the bills, approved Wednesday, creates civil unions for same-sex couples. If signed into law by President Michelle Bachelet, the new laws would also end the prohibition on couples adopting and support one another when they separate.
Legislators voted down a bill that allowed gay couples to adopt children. Credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The bill has come under some criticism, with some traditionalist Christians arguing that it would impact the definition of marriage in a country where — according to some estimates — two-thirds of all marriages are between a man and a woman.
The new same-sex marriage law will still need to go through a second round of parliamentary debate before being signed into law by the President.
Chileans, however, are far from the only people to celebrate the country’s new same-sex marriage law.
Watched by hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the globe, a Chilean-led “call for marriage equality” attracted more than two million people in March last year.
More than 150 countries now allow same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Campaign , but opposition remains high in many countries, with a new survey by Pew Research finding that a quarter of Americans now think same-sex marriage should be legal.
Some countries have taken steps to allow same-sex couples to marry since laws against same-sex marriage were repealed in Chile in 2012, including Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
But despite an increasing global recognition of gay rights, some in Latin America remain critical of gay marriage. Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — the region’s only leftist leader at the time — and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff were both denounced by members of their own countries’ congress for allowing same-sex marriage.
Though same-sex marriage was legal in Argentina before Fernandez’s 2009 inauguration, it was not enforced. The legislation lifting the ban in Chile was passed in 2013 and sheen by then President Sebastian Pinera, her successor, who promised to adopt the legislation during his 2013 election campaign.
‘Evolution is good’
“The entire world has been changing in a fast and accelerated way,” Ariel Ante, head of the Chilean branch of Socialist FIDAC LGBTI Rights Movement, told CNN on Tuesday night.
As a staunch opponent of gay marriage for the past two decades, Ante said he had been for some time prepared for the eventuality of having to accept same-sex marriage laws.
“Evolution is good,” he said. “It’s human nature. When a society advances, social movements advance, all movements advance.”
Ante said that Chile’s new legalization would mean that couples would be allowed to pay the same taxes as married couples, as well as receiving the same benefits.
“When a country needs to change some of its rules, it’s best that it goes through a more transparent debate,” Ante said.
Chileans were expected to gather outside parliament on Wednesday night to celebrate the new laws.
Homosexual couples will be allowed to register children in same-sex unions. Credit: AFP/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
“We’re waiting for the final minute. We think that’s when it’s going to happen, but that remains to be seen.”
On Wednesday, however, law professor Ricardo Mona, from Santiago’s Faculty of Law, told CNN that the question of how the law would be applied remained unclear.