Chilean President Sebastian Piñera
on Wednesday signed into law a bill that allows transgender
individuals over 14 to legally change their name and gender identity
without surgery or a court order.
The legislation, which received final
approval by lawmakers in September, will take effect next year.
“We signed the Gender Identity Law
because we strongly believe that everyone is born equal in dignity,
rights and responsibilities and we should be the architects of our
own lives and live them with liberty,” Piñera said in a tweet.
“As such, we can move towards a more humane and loving society that
better respects diversity.”
Piñera's support for the bill was a
bit surprising. He served four years as president prior to the
election of Michelle Bachelet, who left office earlier this year.
During his first term, Piñera pushed for civil unions for gay and
lesbian couples, not marriage. His support, however, was questioned
by LGBT activists.
LGBT rights groups cheered the news.
“This law is a significant advance
for the rights of the trans community because it is an expressed
recognition of their identity in law,” said Fundación Iguales
Executive President Juan Enrique Pi in a statement.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
U.S.'s largest LGBT rights advocate, also issued a statement.
“This historic decision marks a
milestone for LGBTQ rights in Chile and in South America,” said HRC
Global Director Ty Cobb. “We commend the efforts of all the LGBTQ
advocates involved, including our Chilean partners at Fundación
Iguales, who worked tirelessly for five years to achieve this
victory. While this legislation removes roadblocks for many trans
people, there is still important progress to be made – especially
for transgender youth.”