Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage, the latest in a series of reforms in a country long regarded as one of Latin America’s most socially conservative.
Bachelet signed the proposal, which is to be sent to lawmakers, at a ceremony in the presidential palace.
She said the measure seeks to expand the definition of marriage between a man and a woman and would also expand rights for gay couples, allowing them to adopt children.
“We can’t let old prejudices be stronger than love,” she said.
Chile decriminalized gay sex in 1999 and approved civil unions for same-sex couples in 2015.
The bill came a week after Chile’s Constitutional Court upheld a measure that would end an absolute ban on abortions.
Civil unions have been recognized in several South American countries, though only Argentina and Uruguay have codified same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in Brazil and Colombia under court rulings.
It is unlikely that Bachelet will be able to push the measure through Congress before she ends her term in March next year.
However, gay right advocates celebrated the decision as an important step.
“It’s the beginning of the end of discrimination based on sexual orientation to access marriage,” said Luis Larrain, founder of the Iguales Foundation. “This day will be remembered as much as the day when women were granted the right to vote, slaves were freed or children born out of wedlock were granted the same rights.
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