Chile President Sebastian Pinera on
Tuesday introduced a bill to legalize civil unions for gay and
lesbian couples, the AP reported.
Pinera's bill would allow gay and
straight couples who have lived together for more than one year to
enter a legal contract called the Life Partner Agreement (Acuerdo de
Vida en Pareja).
The president signed his bill to the
cheers of gay rights activists and sent it along to Congress for
their approval. But angry leaders of his center-right coalition
refused to attend the signing ceremony.
Pinera, who is fulfilling a campaign
promise to back a civil unions bill, told daily El Mercurio
last month that 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
The move comes more than a week after
1,000 people took to the streets of Santiago to protest the proposed
legislation. Opponents argue the union will undermine marriage
or be used as a stepping stone to legalize marriage between two
persons of the same sex.
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 Mexico. Uruguay
is also considering a gay marriage law.