'Love is love:' Chile Congress passes same-sex marriage in historic vote

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Chile in a historic vote, just weeks before a divisive presidential election.

 People react at the Chamber of Deputies as the Senate vote to approve a same-sex marriage bill in Valparaiso, Chile December 7, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/RODRIGO GARRIDO)
People react at the Chamber of Deputies as the Senate vote to approve a same-sex marriage bill in Valparaiso, Chile December 7, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/RODRIGO GARRIDO)

Chile's Congress on Tuesday passed a law to legalize same-sex marriage in a milestone for the conservative South American nation after a lengthy legal process, just weeks before Chileans head to the polls in a divisive presidential election.

"Today is a historic day, our country has approved same-sex marriage, one more step forward in terms of justice, in terms of equality, recognizing that love is love," Minister of Social Development Karla Rubilar said after the vote.

Chile's Senate and lower house of parliament both voted in favor of the bill on Tuesday, which had previously been partially approved in November before the Senate sent it back to a committee to clarify ambiguities.

Current President Sebastian Pinera, who is not able to run for reelection, has backed the bill and is expected to sign it into law soon.

The vote culminates a process that began in 2007, when then-President Michelle Bachelet pushed Congress to pass a same-sex law. Chile is now poised to join over 20 countries globally with legal same-sex marriage, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay in Latin America

 A couple reacts with their daughter outside the Congress as the Senate vote to approve a same-sex marriage bill in Valparaiso, Chile December 7, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/RODRIGO GARRIDO) A couple reacts with their daughter outside the Congress as the Senate vote to approve a same-sex marriage bill in Valparaiso, Chile December 7, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/RODRIGO GARRIDO)

Chile will elect a new president on Dec. 19, choosing between progressive Gabriel Boric and social conservative Jose Antonio Kast, a practicing Catholic.

While Kast has said he disagrees with same-sex marriage, he had said he would have signed the bill into law anyway had it been passed by Congress during a potential presidency of his.

Chile has long had a conservative reputation even compared with its deeply Catholic Latin American peers. Still, a strong majority of Chileans now support same-sex marriage and Chileans have shown signs of moving left on social and cultural issues in recent years.

Civil unions have been permitted in Chile since 2015, which affords same-sex partners many but not all the benefits of married couples, like the right to adoption.