Chile President Sebastian Pinera has announced he'll send Congress a bill legalizing civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Pinera announced his intentions in an interview published Saturday by daily El Mercurio.

The conservative lawmaker said his bill seeks to “protect and safeguard” the civil rights of couples living outside of marriage and “safeguard the dignity of those couples, whether of opposite sex or even the same sex.”

The announcement comes after Chile's largest gay rights group MOVILH called for a national march in support of gay marriage and suggested that Pinera had not lived up to a campaign pledge to back a civil unions bill. MOVILH's demonstration is scheduled to take place on June 25 in the nation's capital and largest city, Santiago, starting at 3PM at the Plaza Italia.

The moves come 10 months after Senator Fulvio Rossi, the president of the Socialist Party, implied the Roman Catholic Church had strong-armed four senators to withdraw their support for his gay marriage bill. Rossi insisted the church's loud criticism would not deter him and that he would not withdraw his bill. However, the measure has gained little traction.

Last year, neighboring Argentina legalized gay marriage. Gay and lesbian couples can also marry in the city-state of Mexico City and their marriages are recognized throughout the country. Uruguay is also considering a gay marriage law.