In Santiago, the Chilean government overwhelmingly passed a landmark hate-crimes law 25-to-3 last night, just months after neo-Nazis brutally murdered a young gay man in a city park.

The law, which had stalled for seven years, adds heightened punishments for hate crimes and allows citizens to file discrimination lawsuits.

In March, gay 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio slipped into a coma and died after being hit with bottles and rocks before having his ear sliced off, his body burnt with cigarettes and swastikas carved in his chest. His attackers, part of a vile collective called “nazis del Centro” (“the Downtown Nazis”), are awaiting trial for murder.

President Sebastian Pinera moved the hate-crimes law off the back burner after Zamudio’s death. According to the AP, politicians also are preparing to debate the Pinera’s proposed civil-union law.

“It’s an enormous culture change for our country,” said Sen. Alberto Espina, with the center-right ruling coalition.

“Chile is a country that discriminates against Mapuche (Indians), homosexuals, that discriminates against people for their nationality and for having disabilities,” he added. “We have to assume this as a reality instead of hiding it under the rug.”

Gay activist Rolando Jimenez said the passage of the law marked “the beginning of the end”of rampant discrimination against sexual and ethnic minorities and the disabled.  “Starting today, Chile is a better place to live,” he said.

Zamudio’s death is a tragic loss, but at least it appears it will not have been in vain.

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