LGBT Domestic Partnerships in Chile: Closer to Equality, or Separate but Equal?

This has been an important year for LGBT rights in Chile, albeit marred by tragedy. The violent murder of 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio catalyzed the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Law, which had been stuck in Congress for eight years. Today, when the discussion over legalizing domestic partnerships is on the verge of being re-opened, Movilh, the Chilean Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, inaugurated a photographic exposition in the halls of the Chilean Congress that both celebrates LGBT pride and urges LGBT people to “Salir del Closet” (come out of the closet).

The forty-square-meter exhibition by Leopoldo Correa, called “Salir del Closet,” contains thirty photographs of marches in Chile and the United States.  It also recounts historic moments in Movilh’s twenty-one years, and it features an homage to Daniel Zamudio.

“Salir del Closet”, which will be on display in Congress until July 27, was inaugurated at a very strategic moment: just when Congress is about to tackle legalizing domestic partnerships (Acuerdo de Vivir en Pareja, or AVP) again. Various formulations have floated around since 2007, but none have been approved.

To give a little more context, for the first time ever, this year’s Chilean census had an option for recognizing that one lives with his or her same-sex partner. Movilh began a campaign for this year’s census for homosexual couples living together to recognize their “media naranja” (the other half of their orange), meaning to put it on record that they were cohabitating with their same-sex partner.

The AVP (once the Acuerdo de Vivir en Comun, or AVC) would allow couples of the same or opposite sex to have their domestic partnership legally recognized through registration with a notary or the Civil Registry. While a domestic partnership would allow the two parties to administer their assets as a couple, marriage would still be legally set aside for heterosexual couples. One could say about the AVP, then, what many people in the U.S. in favor of gay marriage vs. civil unions have argued: that civil unions with no access to marriage maintains a status of “separate but equal”, which is inherently unequal.

And Chilean LGBT activists know that, without a doubt. Yet let’s hope that if the AVP is approved, it will be a step in the right direction.  Surprisingly, even right-wing President Sebastián Piñera has spoken in favor of it–while also defending marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexual couples. So let’s also hope that, if the AVP approved, it doesn’t become a “one step forward, two steps back” situation that intends to appease LGBT people by legally recognizing their domestic partnerships, yet denying them the full rights of marriage if they choose to marry—because they should have the choice.

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