Chile’s president has vowed to push a same-sex marriage bill that is stalled in Congress, a surprising move that stunned his conservative allies.
“I think the time for equal marriage has come,” said Sebastián Piñera, whose popularity has plummeted after street protests and a worsening economy.
The country’s LGBT community has long pushed for the legislation in the historically Catholic country.
But one of the president’s allies labelled the decision as a “betrayal”.
The country approved civil unions between same-sex couples in 2015, allowing them to register for a Civil Union Agreement (AUC) that gives some legal benefits.
A more universal legislation to allow same-sex marriage, presented by former left-leaning President Michelle Bachelet in 2017, has for years languished in Congress, dominated by President Piñera’s conservative coalition.
In his annual State of the Union address, President Piñera said he would give “urgency” to the bill, saying it was time to “guarantee this freedom and dignity to all people”.
“I think we should deepen the value of freedom, including the freedom to love and to form a family with a loved one. Also the value of the dignity of all relationships of love and affection between two people,” the right-wing leader said.
Oscar Rementería, a spokesman of the Movilh group that campaigns for LGBT rights, said the announcement was historic, adding: “Without a doubt, same-sex marriage is at our doorstep, and its approval will improve the lives of… same-sex couples.”
But the move faced strong criticism from members of the president’s coalition. They included evangelical lawmaker Leonidas Romero from the National Renewal (RN) party, who said on Twitter: “It is a lack of respect and a tremendous betrayal for the Christian world.”
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