[JURIST] Chilean President Sebastian Pinera [official profile, in Spanish] on Tuesday proposed legislation [press release, in Spanish] that would legalize same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. The bill, entitled Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja, would extend inheritance and social welfare rights to same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples. Pinera insisted that marriage is between a man and a women but acknowledged that other forms of relationships are effective and that the state is obligated to recognize, protect and respect those partnerships:
This bill tries to equalize and not discriminate against opposite sex or same-sex couples, since, in both cases, it is possible to develop love, affection, respect and solidarity that naturally inspires communal living and commitment. We must understand that there is no single type of family; there are multiple forms or expressions of families. Consequently, in addition to the traditional or nuclear family consisting of parents united by marriage and children, there are many other families, such as single parents, extended, the cohabitants of different sexes or the same sex, families of blood relatives, and every one of these forms of family deserves respect and dignity, and will have the support of the state.
Several members of the president’s National Renewal Party [official website, in Spanish] did not attend the proposal introduction and signing ceremony [BBC report]. Many Chilean citizens oppose expanding the definition of marriage and Chile only recently legalized divorce in 2004.
Foreign and domestic courts and legislatures are increasingly addressing the issue of gay marriage. The Supreme Federal Court of Brazil [official website, in Portuguese] unanimously recognized legal rights [press release, in Portugese; JURIST report] for partners in same-sex civil unions in May. In April, Hungary added a prohibition against gay marriage [JURIST report] to its constitution. France upheld a same-sex marriage ban [JURIST report] in January. Uruguay remains the only Latin American country to have nationally legalized same-sex civil unions, while Argentina [JURIST report] is the only Latin American country to have legalized same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is recognized in jurisdictions in Mexico and the US and is recognized nationwide in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and South Africa [JURIST reports].