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Chilean gay and lesbian couples are set to enter legal civil unions today as new laws grant same-sex couples to register and gain legal protections previously not afforded to them under the law. The registry expects nearly 2,000 couples will register. The heavily Catholic country estimates that nearly two million people are “co-habitating,” but 1,600 have already registered. The new laws are surprising for the Latin American country as the government only legalized divorce in 200. Although only 25% of the people in the country are in favor of gay and lesbian marriage, a majority are in favor of the civil unions.
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Mauricio Ruiz has made history in the South American country after he announced during a news conference that he is gay. The 24-year-old is now the first openly gay service member in the Chile, and he said the decision has “not been easy,” but he hopes that by coming he help fight discrimination in the country. The armed forces completely has his back and Ruiz made it clear to all LGBT people in the southwestern country that there is “no reason to hide.” “We can do anything, be marines or in any branch (of the military). We can do whatever profession, and we deserve as much respect as anyone else,” he told reporters. “In life there’s nothing better than to be yourself, to be authentic, to look at people in the eye and for those people to know who you are.” [BBC]
Currently gay marriage is not legal in Chile, but it has the full backing of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
Photo of Daniel Zamudio. Image via Facebook.
It may have taken more time than the global community would have liked, but Chilean President Sebastian Pinera officially signed anti-discrimination legislation into law Thursday, three months after a gay man was beaten to death by his attackers. The legislation, though, has a long history. It was first introduced seven years ago, and it was largely ignored. But after the death of Daniel Zamudio, Pinera urged that Congress expedite the passage of the stalled bill. Finally in May it was approved. The death of the young man caused international pressure as well for Chile to raise the severity of crimes against gay and lesbian people to hate-crime status.
“Without a doubt, Daniel’s death was painful but it was not in vain,” Pinera said at a press conference joined by Zamudio’s parents. “His passing not only unified wills to finally approve this anti-discrimination law but it also helped us examine our conscience and ask ourselves: have we ever discriminated someone? … After his death we’ll think twice, thrice or four times before we fall prey to that behavior.” [AP]
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Just a week after the brutal death of a gay man last Wednesday in Santiago, Chile, the House of Deputies approved an anti-discrimination law that will protect sexual minorities (it was first proposed seven years ago!). The bill, passed in a narrow vote 58-56, will now go on to be finalized in a commission consisting of senators and House lawmakers. The bill was most likely moved so quickly through approval because of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera (who we wrote about when we last went to Santiago in 2009). He urged lawmakers to get the bill approved after 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died March 27. [WaPo]
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On Tuesday, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Government of Chile for its 2003 Supreme Court ruling which stripped Karen Atala, a lesbian mother and judge, of custody of her three daughters on the basis of her sexual orientation. The Court ruled that Chile must pay $50,000 in damages to the judge, in addition to $12,000 in court costs. This is the first time the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ever heard a case specifically regarding sexual orientation or gender identity.
IGLHRC, MADRE, and the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law co-authored a brief for the Court, arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity should be found to be a protected class under the American Convention on Human Rights as held under international law. Attorneys from Morrison and Foerster focused on the custody issue at hand, arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity not be a factor in custody determinations. The brief was joined by 13 other organizations. This week’s ruling upholds both arguments. [NYT] [IGLHRC]