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July 13, 2011

Chilean government to propose legal recognition for gay and straight unmarried couples

The government of President Sebastian Pinera Sa of Chile will present a bill to the national legislature that would grant legal rights to gay and straight couples who have lived together for more than one year, according to La Tercera and the English-language Santiago Times. The proposed status would be called "Acuerdo de Convivencia No Matrimonial" (ACNM), translated as Non-Marital Cohabitation Agreements.  

President Pinera was elected as the conservative alternative to a more progressive incumbent. In last month's March for Sexual Diversity, demonstrators protested Pinera's failure to keep his promise to back a civil unions bill. He has now announced his intention to submit the legislation, although it was unclear whether his party (UDI) would support it. Similar bills have been introduced in the Chilean Congress since 2009

If the bill passes, Chile (yellow on the map, along with Venezuela, which also has pending legislation) will join Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay (light blue) in having laws similar to civil unions or the French PACS for unmarried partners. Argentina has legalized same-sex marriage (dark blue).

From The Santiago Times:

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera passed his proposal that allows for gay partners who live together for at least a year to apply for civil union to members of his Alianza coalition on Monday.

After increasing demands for the president to address the issue, he released details of the “Acuerdo de Conviviencia No Matrimonial,” or Non-Marriage Living Agreement (ACNM), so that members of both the Renovación Nacional (RN) and the Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) parties can examine the proposal before Piñera’s team submits a formal proposal to Congress.

The preliminary text of the agreement calls it “a contract that two people, of the same or different sex, can celebrate with the idea of regulating their relationship.” The ACNM states that the couple must sign the agreement before a notary and that the contract must be validated within 15 days before the Civil Registry. One of the main prerequisites is that the couple must have lived together for at least a year.

Members of the UDI have already responded to the president’s proposal, saying that the gay community doesn’t need as much special recognition as one thinks.

“Today, the society is not prepared for this kind of thing,” UDI deputy Cristián Letelier told Radio Bío Bío. “It’s a reality; the sexual minority is largely in the more affluent sectors of society.” In that sense, Letelier said he was open to some benefits such as inheritance rights. “But to sign a document and have some sort of ceremony at the registry office, I think that does not conform to the reality of the facts,” Letelier said.

A couple of weeks ago, the UDI decided to develop its own proposal called the “Pacto de Acuerdo Recíproco” (PAR), which seeks to protect the identity of marriage. However, the president made it clear that the recognition of civil unions pledged during the campaign requires a regulation as defined in the ACNM. As a gesture, he allowed the UDI time to review his proposal before finalizing the initiative.

The proposal also stipulates that the couple won’t be approved if one of the contracting parties is already married or has already signed a pact with another person but has not legally dissolved it. The agreement can be terminated through death, marriage or a mutual agreement signed by both partners.

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Comments

FYI: There's a same-sex marriage case pending in the Chilean Constitutional Court right now. Also, there is a case from Chile before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on a denial of custody to a mother because she is a lesbian.

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