On January 20, the Chilean House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a civil unions bill for same-sex couples.
According to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera (link in Spanish), the AVP (Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja, meaning “life partner agreement”) bill passed with a vote of 86 to 23, with two abstaining.
The South American country’s Senate approved the AVP bill in October 2014, and it is expected to ratify the final version of the legislation before the end of January. It was originally introduced in 2011 by then-President Sebastián Piñera.
The final stop for the AVP bill is the desk of President Michelle Bachelet, who has stated that she will sign it into law. Her platforms during her 2014 campaign for a second term included strengthening laws against anti-LGBT discrimination and hate crimes, and support for transgender rights. She also said regarding marriage equality, “I believe we have to make it happen.”
Government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde told La Tercera after the vote, “This is a good sign regarding Chile as a country in which there is no discrimination, and the different types of families are recognized. Through this regulation, legal recognition and protection are given to the different forms of cohabitation that exist in our country.”
LGBT-inclusive laws in Chile currently lag far behind public opinion. In September 2014, a poll from Chile’s National Youth Institute (INJUV) showed that over 70 percent of Chilean youth support same-sex marriage, and 64 percent approve of allowing gay couples to adopt. Among the general population, a 2012 poll in Movilh Chile (link in Spanish) revealed that over half (54.9 percent) of respondents said they were in favor of marriage equality.
The AVP bill is not without its critics—pastor Javier Soto has claimed that the fire that tore through the port city of Valparaíso in April 2014, killing at least a dozen people, was sent by God as a warning against passing the legislation. (According to the BBC, however, “Fires are frequent in central Chile, where summer sends temperatures soaring.”)
The president of Chilean LGBT advocacy group Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, Rolando Jiménez, said in a statement, “We dedicate this day, this moment, to the gay and lesbian families that have suffered a historic burden of misunderstanding and prejudices… Despite this, these families never ceased to love. On the contrary, their love was strengthened.
“Today it will be the state’s turn to strengthen them and protect them on equal terms.”