If You Think Chile’s Civil Unions Means Support For Marriage Equality, You’re Wrong

Last Tuesday, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera sent a bill to Congress proposing legislation that would recognize gay civil unions, granting them inheritance rights and other privileges currently reserved for heterosexual marriages.

Two days later, Chile’s Independent Democrat Union introduced a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. But is this amendment a backhanded response to Piñera’s legislation or actually a way to do his dirty work?

Though members of Independent Democrat Union refused to attend last week’s signing ceremony—where President Piñera put his John Hancock on the legislation for life-partner agreements—they also know that the President opposes full marriage equality. In fact, Piñera has repeatedly said, “I deeply believe that marriage is by nature between a man and a woman,” though he adds, “that conviction does not prevent me from recognizing that other forms of affective relationships exist.”

As it seems, the proposed amendment would not nullify life-partner agreements which, “allow gay and straight couples who have lived together for more than one year to enter the union.” Instead it would add the following sentence banning same-sex marriage to the Chilean Constitution: “In guaranteeing and protecting the family, only one man and one woman have the right to marry.”

Defining marriage as a man and a woman does absolutely nothing to protect those couples against divorce—but who cares? Some words are like magic! Just say them and bippity-boppity-boo you can have a pumpkin carriage, glass stripper pumps, horse-mice, and a perfect storybook wedding with a full protection guarantee. Ain’t language grand?

A 2009 poll showed more than 65% of Chileans support gay civil unions, but only 33% supported marriage equality. For young Chileans, that support goes up to 56%. But despite increasing public support, the Chilean LGBT community continues fighting for the inclusion of gender and sexual orientation into the country’s civil-rights amendments. (Last year the government released a controversial PSA calling domestic abusers “faggots.”)

Although Piñera hasn’t called for a full-out constitutional ban on marriage equality himself, in some ways the proposed amendment fulfills his already vocalized wishes. A politician who says thing and does another? Color us stunned.

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